What parent doesn’t love it when their child heads off happily to preschool. And, again at the end of day when their little one proudly shows off the day’s creations (we adore a finger painting as much as the next Mum and Dad). But what goes on behind those brightly coloured preschool doors? Here we find out from eight preschools and learning centres in Singapore. Often, it seems, children think they’re simply having fun, but in fact they’re truly learning in every moment.
Swallows and Amazons Kindergarten
Inquiry-based learning, underpinned by the British Curriculum.
A typical day:
At Swallows and Amazons Kindergarten, a day’s learning is all about balance. Children get stuck into, and reap the benefits of, both structured and unstructured play activities. What’s more, they’re encouraged to take ownership of their play activities and, in turn, of their learning, which, the school says, can instil a positive lifetime habit.
The preschool classroom set-up generally includes three or four learning corners based on the learning objectives of the day; these objectives lean heavily towards engaging and stimulating activities for the children, and may include puzzle play, tracing or working in small groups or on a one-on-one basis to achieve a predetermined learning objective; or it could be games such as, “What’s the Time Mr Wolf” or musical chairs. Unstructured activities may include junk modelling using recycled material or painting on blank paper, block play, or playing in the “home corner”, which may be set up as a farm, doctor’s surgery or supermarket where children themselves decide how to play.
Unstructured, or free play also happens outdoors where children have a daily 40 to 45 minutes (under the watchful teachers’ gaze) to invent their own games and burn off some energy with fun toys such as hula hoops, footballs as well as toy houses, trikes and scooters. Structured sports games, obstacle courses or playing counting games also happen outdoors. No wonder they sleep well at night!
Monday to Friday, 7.30am to 4pm. Extended hours are available upon request.
The Grandstand (South Carpark Entrance), 200 Turf Club Road
A blended Montessori approach incorporating elements of self-directed and structured learning.
A typical day:
From the moment they step inside, children are engaged with age-appropriate structured and unstructured activities designed to capture their hearts and minds, and to master essential academic and life skills. In free play, children are encouraged to make their own decisions and to choose from materials – toys are placed on low shelves. As peers join in their play, children hone pro-social skills such as sharing and taking turns, all under the careful watch of their teachers. Everyday activities, even things as simple as washing hands, can foster self-help skills and also teach children to be environmentally conscious by turning off the tap.
Throughout the day, structured, large-group learning sessions are also crucial for children to develop their aptitude for academic learning. The preschool teacher uses a variety of tools such as pictures, storybooks and even multimedia to engage the children. They are encouraged to join in or even lead discussions on topics that can range from the community to animals around the world; this allows children to practice language skills, increase their confidence and boost their general knowledge. From time to time there are special festive celebrations, field trips to look beyond the classroom, water-play activities and special events (who doesn’t love dressing up?).
School starts at 8.30am and parents can opt for the half day (ends at 12 noon), extended day (3pm), afternoon session (1.30pm to 5.30pm) or full day (5.30pm).
Various locations across the island
Curriculum: A multi-faceted curriculum founded in theories and research on early childhood education and development.
A typical day (according to Nursery 2 student, Jalyn):
“‘Good Morning Jalyn, your temperature is 36.8!’ reports a staff member as I walk through the door and join my friends for breakfast. We talked about the variety of vegetables we discussed during class yesterday, and we are excited to learn more today!
Once in the classroom, my teacher passes around a covered basket containing mystery objects for us to touch and smell; to me they felt tough and smelled like grass. My friends shouted out different answers, ‘Carrot? Cabbage? Broccoli?’ Our teacher revealed the items were different types of vegetables – from which we made salad and ate it alongside lunch.
After a nap, we had snacks and went for our enrichment classes. We were looking forward to our outdoor play session and the vegetable hunt our teacher mentioned during the class meeting. I found one toy vegetable near the slide and brought it to the teacher; she asked me to describe it to my friends so they could guess.
Soon, I saw a familiar figure walking towards me – it was Mummy! She asked me what I did today; I just said, ‘PLAY!’”
School starts at 8.30am and parents can opt for the half day (ending at 12 noon), extended day (3pm), afternoon session (1.30pm to 5.30pm) or full day (5.30pm).
Various locations across the island
Extra! Find out more about Learning Vision and chat to the team at the The Learning Vision Roadshow on 8-10 September at The Star Vista (Atrium).
Australian International School (AIS)
The preschool curriculum at AIS, taught in the purpose-built Early Learning Village, draws on the principles of the Reggio Emilia philosophy that places the child at the centre of the learning experience and uses the environment as the third teacher.
A typical day:
The day kicks off at 8.15am when the class comes together with the teacher to discuss the day ahead. A range of learning activities is offered in the classroom, plus a variety of different outdoor and indoor play opportunities; there is a strong focus on play-based learning. For example, children engage in block play, which teaches them about the principles of mathematics – shape, space, measurement and geometry (always fun when combined with play!) The unique environment at the Early Learning Village is designed in such a way that it ignites curiosity and wonder, and encourages each child’s exploration of the world around them.
Later in the morning, children may take part in specialist programs such as Mandarin, Smart Steps, swimming or drama – these help to build a range of physical and cognitive skills and develop confidence and communication. After setting the table, everyone eats lunch together in a ‘family style’ – this promotes social skills and responsibility for physical wellbeing through food and nutrition. The afternoon is quieter and children have the option to rest or engage in activities such as Art or reading.
Many children leave at 3pm, or, children on the flexible timetable can take part in a variety of CCAs such as robotics, ballet and drama. They may take the school bus home, or be collected by Mum or Dad – with lots of stories to tell.
The preschool day runs from 8.45am to 3pm for Early Years (18 months to six years)
3 Chuan Lane
Integrated curriculum incorporating elements of the Primary Years Programme (PYP), UK, US and Australian preschool education frameworks.
A typical day:
Days kick off with free play – an unstructured opportunity for children to initiate their own play, and for teachers to introduce learning concepts through mathematics, language, social and motor activities. Once settled, children enjoy a 10-minute movement activity, followed by “circle time” when they gather to welcome their friends, talk about the day and the activities they can look forward to.
Teachers use a “plan-do-review” structure to share the daily routine with children using visual cards – this helps children feel safe and develop a sense of control over their learning – while understanding what is expected of them, and when.
White Lodge has a structured framework for preschool learning – for example, daily lessons in Mandarin, which is taught through games, rhymes and songs on subjects and themes children can relate to – balanced with unstructured play time when children are free to investigate and explore music and movement, art, indoor and outdoor play. This is an important time for children to learn how things work, solve problems, use their imaginations, and practice skills they have learned. When they speak to their parents at the end of the day, they always have much to share with them.
8am to 5pm with two, three or 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.
Seven locations throughout Singapore
One of the first play-based preschools in Singapore, Shaws’ students learn through adventure and exploration with hands-on activities that allow for them to experiment, think creatively and innovate.
A typical day:
Outdoor play is encouraged every day and both free play as well as planned activities led by teachers promote physical development. In the classroom, the learning environment is planned to promote and encourage play, through the use of play-based learning centres as well as “provocation areas”, which invite children to play, both individually and collaboratively.
On any given day, play-based activities are used in mathematics or literacy activities – for example, using playdough to practice letter formation, using cars and trucks to learn measurement, or learning ordinal numbers by having a sack race outdoors. On messy play day, the children move from one play station to another, getting their hands dirty scooping and pouring, washing their cars with foam, making goop and slime, fishing for ducks – all of this without them even knowing about the many physical, social and cognitive skills they’re picking up along the way.
Celebrations held throughout the year include Math Day, Mother Goose Day and Eric Carle Day, where the children dress up in character, and get to play games to reinforce various learning concepts, in a fun way! Shaws’ children are highly motivated and actively involved in their own learning and well-equipped with problem-solving and communication skills.
Preschool starts at 8.30am and parents can opt for the half day (ending at 12.30pm), extended day (3.15pm) or full day (5pm).
Extra! Read Shaws’ expert tips for handling preschooler behaviours at home
Five locations islandwide
One World International School (OWIS)
International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP)
A typical day:
Being ‘one with the world’ begins with the youngest learners at One World International School and the aim of educators is for happy, inquisitive and caring students to be actively engaged in constructing their own understandings of the world.
Day-to-day activities follow the IB Primary Years Programme and well-defined early learning goals which engage students in exploration and investigation through fun play-based learning. These are both child-led, and adult-initiated. The learning environment is set up to encourage indoor and outdoor learning, developing each child’s independence and responsibility in literacy, mathematical development, discovery and the arts through a cycle of inquiry (Unit of Inquiry).
An example of this being carefully designed engagements to offer opportunities to apply their understanding of shapes to collectively create a Christmas tree. Experiences are rich, stimulate the senses and facilitate different learning outcomes – we use water play to measure, or to take turns to explore floating and sinking and mixing materials.
Every day, teachers work with parents to lay secure foundations for each child’s lifelong journey of discovery and provide a safe, stimulating and nurturing place of learning.
8.30am to 2.50pm.
696 Upper Changi Road East
New campus: 21 Jurong West Street 81
Extra! OWIS’s second school, known as Nanyang Campus, will open in Pioneer in the island’s west in January 2018. Find out more about their curriculum and low school fees.
Global Indian International School (GIIS)
Global Montessori Plus Program utilising the Multiple Intelligence Approach
A typical day:
Daily activities vary across the three age groups, Nursery and Junior Kindergarten and Senior Kindergarten, but they follow a similar routine. On arrival, temperature checks are done by the school nurse, then students leave their school bags in their classrooms and proceed to the assembly hall for daily prayers, music, movement and Brain Gym exercises.
Next, they move to their respective classes for “circle time”, where the teacher spends time discussing topics in a cozy setting. Depending on their class timetable, students may have language classes (Hindi or Tamil) or English, Maths or Environmental Awareness. Every class spends structured learning time in the Montessori Room to reinforce topics that they’ve learnt from their teacher.
Following a snack break, students may spend time in the Reading Room, indoor play or outdoor area to engage in free unstructured play.
The teacher will usually end the day with more songs, and a story or two. From time to time there are fun days such as Messy Day, Rainbow Day, Make-a-Difference Day, along with Singapore’s regular special celebrations, including Mother’s Day, National Day and Deepavali, for example.
Three locations across Singapore
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