Are you thinking about sending your toddler to preschool? The experts from top international preschools in Singapore weigh in on the benefits of an early years education.
Having a kid is no easy feat – after conquering the world of solids and attempting potty training, it’s time to make serious decisions about preschool. For many of us, the minute our child turns two (or in some cases, even earlier) means we need to start our school search. And, as painful as it is to come to terms with bub not being a squishy baby anymore, deciding to send them to preschool is pretty serious business. After all, according to top learning experts, it could set them up for success in the future. And as parents, that’s all we really want, right?
We had a chat with learning experts from some of the top international preschools and nurseries in Singapore to understand the concept of preschool and how it may benefit our children.
White Lodge International Preschool and Childcare
Preschool helps children develop their problem-solving skills, cognitive abilities, language, and social and emotional development. These help ensure that graduating preschool children can transition to primary school with ease. Jayne Nadarajoo, founding director of White Lodge, shares more…
What do children learn at preschool?
There is a strong focus on the social and emotional development of children, which typically follows the Nurturing Early Learners framework. This is delivered through a range of subjects, including arts and crafts, literacy, music and movement, drama and sensory activities.
At what age do you think we should send our kids to preschool?
The earlier the better! At White Lodge, we offer weekly parent and child programmes for ages from six months to 2.5 years that are 90-minute, parent-accompanied programmes. The objective? To help these young children prepare for our school’s drop-off programmes, which start at 18 months with a playgroup class. It is important that children are allowed to explore new places and new people from a young age.
Blue House Nursery & International Preschool
According to Sarah Woon, Blue House Nursery & International Preschool‘s head of school, preschool students experience a community of learning fuelled by a strong image of the child and supported by the fundamental belief that children learn best from hands-on experiences. In this setting, they will gain memorable experiences and learn valuable skills they can take through their learning journey, beyond their education, and into life thereafter. Here, she gives us the lowdown on the benefits of preschool and nursery…
What’s a typical day like for a preschooler at your school?
A typical day for a preschooler at Blue House is filled with potential surprise, discovery, questioning, ownership and agency as is to be expected with an emergent curriculum that places children’s interests and abilities at the fore. Responding to what has engaged them during the days or weeks before, we prioritise observing and analysing children’s interests and queries as they make sense of the opportunities that surround them.
What kind of materials do the children have access to?
Varied and authentic materials create an understanding of the resources on offer in this world. We use them in creative outlets such as construction play, collage, printing and sculptural architecture to help children express their ideas and test theories pertaining to how materials work together. The children also have access to many artistic mediums and recyclables that beg to be brought to life through a child’s imagination. It also gives them time to work solo in deep concentration or with a friend or two.
Could you share some tips on how to prepare our kids for preschool?
Generally, children can adapt and assimilate well in a caring and nurturing environment, where educators go that extra mile to make them feel welcome. Visiting the school and attending an orientation session along with your child helps them understand that this is a safe space where they can explore and learn without inhibitions. Besides this, parents can read storybooks (listed below) and talk about the exciting activities that await them in preschool.
- The Kissing Hand by Audery Penn
- I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusacks
- Owl babies by Martin Wadell
- Llama Llama misses mama by Anna Dewdney
- Preschool, Here I Come! By David J Steinberg
Invictus International School
Nursery gives students the opportunity to be challenged and to flourish to the best of their ability, even at a young age. At Invictus, students are immersed in a bilingual English and Mandarin environment for the entire school day, learning the language in a play-based whole child development curriculum. The best part? Its stringent teacher selection process ensures that teachers are worthy role models who are truly passionate about early childhood education. Fiona Chan, founding principal of Invictus Kindergarten (Hong Kong) Ltd., shares more:
How can parents prepare their children for preschool?
Visit the preschool together with your child. Schedule a school tour and let your child experience the preschool first-hand, then visit a few more times before your child starts classes. These trips can increase your child’s comfort with and confidence in a new setting. You can also help your child understand what a preschool is by reading a storybook to them about a preschool or making friends at school.
Be creative and try to use pretend play to explore the idea of a preschool. You can act out common routines such as changing shoes, singing songs, washing hands and eating snacks. Reassure your child that preschool is a good place where they will have fun and learn. You can also try to accompany your child on their first school day to understand the school routine and have a chat with the teachers. This way, you can share your child’s daily habits at home, such as what to do when they are upset, things they like or dislike and so on.
Brighton College Singapore
Preschool provides children with a wealth of opportunities and experiences that cannot easily be provided in the home environment. Children spend a vast amount of time learning through their play which, according to head of Pre-Prep at Brighton College Singapore, Trisha Ferguson, is the best vehicle for learning. She believes it supports the development of peer -to-peer interaction, resulting in accelerated progress of social skills, and the earlier the interactions with others, the better. Here, Trisha tells us more…
How do I choose a curriculum that would best suit my child?
There are many choices, such as the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), Montessori, Reggio Emilia and so on, all of which have a strong focus on learning through play. It is important for parents to develop a knowledge of which curriculums will transcend successfully at different universities across the world. It may seem early to be considering this but it is advisable to know the path you would like your child to take as early on as is possible. Parents should also take into consideration the specialist aspects within the curriculum – for example, outdoor learning, music, physical education and so on – and of those, which are most important to their child. In addition, parents should always opt for school tours and to meet the leadership and teachers of any potential schools. When visiting a school, you are able to see the curriculum and much, much more.
What makes a good preschool teacher?
They have a true passion for their vocation – teachers who enjoy what they do are happy teachers. They want to have fun, explore, support, facilitate and to see their children progress and develop as healthy and happy individuals. As well as building strong relationships with parents, they recognise every child is unique and develops at different rates and stages. Teachers who know children well will have an astute understanding of each child’s strengths and areas for development and can therefore truly personalise learning for each child.
When choosing a preschool, as well as ensuring your children’s care needs are met, you may also want to consider the opportunity for social, emotional, physical and cognitive growth. Senior leader Kerry Ely at Repton Schoolhouse believes it’s important to find a school that focuses on the holistic development of the child, nurtures their curiosity and teaches them social skills to build their self-esteem and confidence. Here’s what else Kerry has to say about preschool education…
What’s a typical day like for a preschooler?
A typical day at Repton Schoolhouse is filled with visits to the playground, stories, pretend play, songs and rhymes, construction and small world play, art and craft. Children learn by doing. They are more likely to understand and remember skills and concepts learned through participation, exploration and experimentation involving real-life objects and experiences. Staff assess where each individual child is within their developmental stage and facilitate learning experiences appropriate to them. As the children move through the school from Nursery to the Kindergarten level, the days feature more structure and challenge as the children are prepared for entry to ‘big school’.
At what age should we start sending our kids to preschool?
The age your child starts their early schooling is an individual family choice. If you work full-time, this decision might come up earlier than if you have a full-time caregiver at home. Parents need to consider if they want child care or a preschool/kindergarten experience that provides a more structured setting, beginning the foundations for learning and opportunities for growth.