Children learn tons through games, activities and outdoor play. From encouraging creativity and exploration, to aiding in motor skills development, studies show the benefits of a play-based learning approach are endless. We’ve done the legwork and rounded up some of the top international preschools, learning centres and fun programmes for your little one!
Rain Trees International Kindergarten
This school’s ethos is centred around children learning through play. They have a large outdoor garden and play areas and spacious classrooms for fun indoor activities like reading and craft.
The curriculum is based on the British Early Years Curriculum. The children learn through seven areas: literacy; communication and problem-solving; reasoning and numeracy; expressive arts and design; personal, social and emotional development; physical development; understanding the world. This ensures they build a solid foundation of preschool skills to get them ready for primary school. During the school day, the children enjoy various hands-on and exploratory activities within and out of the classroom, such as baking, reading, cycling and water play.
Rain Trees also organises a number of both schoolwide and class-only trips throughout the year, depending on the topic of learning. Past students have gone to the beach, the supermarket and the Botanical Gardens.
Timings here are flexible; the younger children (two to three year olds) are typically in school from 9am to 12pm, while the older ones (four to six year olds) end at 2.30pm. Those between two to four years old who have dropped their midday nap can also choose to stay until 2.30pm if they are ready for a longer day.
Centre Stage School of the Arts
This Drama UK supported creative arts school was founded in 1999 on a simple concept – that creativity in children is important. The school provides courses, weekly programmes and one-off workshops for children in drama, dance, musical theatre and more. Their newest course, Out of the Box, is a creative play-based programme for two and three year-olds. Running three mornings a week, the programme offers free play and creative arts sessions. Students are treated to activities like dance, music-making, singing and puppetry.
Centre Stage has two centres; the main centre based just off Portsdown Road, has six drama studios, two dance studios and a black box theatre. A second centre on the East Coast is home to two drama studios and one dance studio.
Centre Stage is open 9am to 6pm, from Monday to Saturday, while Out of the Box runs from 9am to 12pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
15 Woking Road
Swallows & Amazons Kindergarten
At Swallows and Amazons, teachers help to make each day an enriching and meaningful experience for the children. Teachers create the learning environment for the children to explore and engage with. The curriculum is based on themes with an emphasis on the emotional development of the children, their EQ. Themes grab the students imagination and sense of enquiry.
The outdoor area provides many opportunities to run, climb, cycle and explore. Swings, climbing frames, trikes and bikes, mini kitchens and the sand pits allow the children to explore different environments and practice different skills. The children also maintain an edible garden per class and learn to sow, plant and take care of herbs and vegetables. Indoor activities are designed to stimulate the students innate sense of wonder and awe and build confidence and self-esteem.
Monday to Friday, 7.30am to 4pm. Extended hours are available upon request.
Ready Steady Go Kids
A fun and engaging programme to get the kids active? Sign us up, please! This Aussie company runs a multi-sport and exercise course targeted for pre-schoolers. Apart from running classes at preschools across Singapore, Ready Steady Go Kids also conducts classes on weekends at The Cage Sports Park and Kovan Sports Centre.
During each lesson, the children will learn motor skills and basic fundamental movements through sports. All the activities are structured to be bite-sized and with some repetition so students can refine their techniques. Sports include cricket, soccer, tennis and hockey. Warm ups, stretches and sports skills are taught during each lesson. Your child will practise balancing, spatial awareness, hand-eye coordination, running, jumping, throwing and catching.
Classes run on a term basis – 10 to 12 weeks, with five sports covered each term.
Kaleidoscope Therapy Centre
This therapy centre offers an environment specifically designed to allow children to play at their own pace, through physical exploration and sensory experiences. Sensory gyms provide movement opportunities for children with developmental delays, so they can balance, swing, jump, build and grow their confidence by gaining mastery of their environment. There’s also an art room for children to participate in activities that focus on touch experiences and self-expression.
Alongside occupational therapy, speech language therapy and creative therapy sessions, Kaleidoscope has an early intervention program that focuses on developing a child’s social-emotional needs, communication skills and attention; using a play-based approach. The therapy centre also runs workshops for parents and teachers on the importance of playing, and how to support a child to learn through play.
Most of the updates can be found on their Facebook page.
Australian International School
New campus alert: the AIS Early Learning Village is set to open in July 2017! Designed to encourage natural exploration and inquiry through play-based learning, this new space will feature classrooms with a dedicated outdoor space, complete with sandpits, creative project tables and sensory play equipment.
An inquiry-based approach using the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) and the Australian Early Years Framework (EYLF) is introduced from 18 months, encouraging curiosity and wonder while enabling a seamless transition to primary school. Classroom activities are supported by a comprehensive specialist program, including daily Mandarin, Smart Steps perceptual motor program, drama, art and music using the renowned Orff method.
The Echidnas class (four year olds), regularly plays with Outlast blocks, a system of interlocking wooden blocks and planks. They build towers, ramps, roads and bridges, and in doing so they learn about problem solving, collaboration and simple structural principles. The Platypus class (two year olds) play with water and fill objects of different shapes and sizes, discovering the concept of volume while having fun and getting wet.
The school day runs from 8.45am to 3pm for Early Years (18 months to five years old)
White Lodge promotes a learning through play approach through indoor and outdoor experiences and opportunities. There is a focus on playtime twice each morning. Children get to play in large open spaces in the garden and gyms, developing their gross motor skills. A mix of both quiet areas (like reading corners) and more active areas (outdoor playground) accommodate different temperaments and needs of the children. Within the classrooms, there are play areas filled with blocks, books and puzzles, for them to touch, try and learn.
There is also outdoor play equipment like climbing frames, swings, slides, trampolines, sandpits, well stocked libraries and cooking facilities for weekly cooking lessons. These play areas facilitate the development of language, scientific and mathematical skills. There are four field trips a term and educational excursions planned for additional learning.
8am to 5pm with two, three of five-day programmes:
8.30am or 9.15am to 12.15pm, 8.30am or 9.15am to 2.15pm
Child minding from 2.15pm to 5pm.
For many children, learning a new or unfamiliar language can seem daunting. That’s not the case at Little Mandarins! This language centre has made a name for themselves in the international school community for classes where kids learn through play. With over 10 years of experience teaching Mandarin to non-native speakers, this centre uses games, arts and crafts, music and rhythm to make learning the language fun!
Set in the beautiful greenery of Loewen at Dempsey Hill, their large classrooms have lots of space to play lesson-based games and activities. Modified games such as musical chairs, passing the message and “Simon Says” are embedded in the lessons to keep the children active and engaged throughout the lessons. Passionate, native-Mandarin speaking teachers run these highly interactive sessions with a maximum of eight students per class, enabling the teachers to provide personal attention to each child. Classes start from 18 month old toddlers all the way up to adults.
Besides holiday camps, there are also programmes for students of different ages and language stages.
Shaws is all about learning through adventure and play. The curriculum is project-based, so the children get to explore and research on topics that interest them, thus letting them gain valuable insights about real world topics.
Play is an important element in the curriculum; every activity has a learning element in mind, but to the children, they are having fun playing. During waterplay, as the children are scrubbing socks in a big bucket of soap suds, they are exercising their muscles and learning about matching while they pair together their pair of socks. As the children scoop mud from a container to another, in the mud kitchens, the children are learning about capacity. Sport is also an important component. Weekly sports sessions are run by Shaws Little League who hone their mini athletes sporting skills and abilities. Throughout the year, students enjoy at least 10 excursions, which are in line with the learning projects.
School starts at 8.30am and parents can opt for the half day (ends at 12.30), extended day (3.15pm) or full day (5pm).
Five locations islandwide
Arts Kidz Preschool
This arts-focused preschool aims to foster creative thinking in young children. They have recently opened a tinkering studio, which provides kids with another avenue to explore, discover and form original ideas. Combining the International Primary curriculum with a specialist arts and language programme, the school promotes an inquiry-driven education for children from 18 months to six years old. Children get to enjoy activities in the realm of performing arts, music and movement, speech and drama, and outdoor play. Students also learn second languages, such as Mandarin, Japanese or Korean.
A number of school excursions are planned across the year. Previous excursions have included visits to Singapore landmarks, gardens and parks as well as ecological-farms, water parks, trampoline parks and more. At Arts Kidz Bukit Timah, the Nursery 2, Kindergarten 1 and Kindergarten 2 children go on monthly excursions to Bukit Batok Nature Reserve. The young explorers encounter birds, colourful butterflies, monkeys and orchids.
Tiong Bahru campus: 9am to 3.30pm
Bukit Timah campus: 9.30am to 3.45pm
Tiong Bahru campus
67A Eu Chin Street,
Tiong Bahru Community Centre (Level 2)
Bukit Timah campus
262/264 Upper Bukit Timah Road,
#01-03/04 Old Fire Station
See our Kids section for more.