6 Habits of Happy Parents – How to Find Joy in Parenting

habits of happy parents

Amidst our duty to raise successful children, finding joy in parenting may pose as a challenge. As parents, our children are the centre of our universe and we take great joy in seeing them live in their happy moments. Apart from the effort we put in to raise them to be happy, well-adjusted individuals, psychologists confirm that parents have a great role to play to set a good example to their children on how to live a happy, fulfilling life.

As with most things in life, living life to the fullest is easier said than done – especially when raising children comes with a whole new set of challenges. To help you fill your life with joy and love and to achieve a great balance in parenting, we offer you the following tips:

1. Get help when it’s needed

When it comes to parenting, there’s always an endless list of things to do in a day – from arranging your children’s pick-up and drop-off from school to making sure that meals are prepared for the family and that the house is in order. Add in a full-time job to the equation, and getting it all done by yourself could prove to be challenging and may leave you worn out and unsatisfied by the end of the day.

Here’s how to do it: As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child” – know that parenting and running a household need not be a two-person show and that it is perfectly fine to get help when it is needed. This could involve asking for help from family and friends or getting a live-in helper or nanny who can share the load of house chores and childcare with you.

2. Set aside some time for fun!

Giving your children the greatest life lessons and experiences does not need to be a serious affair. In fact, renowned educator Maria Montessori once said that “Play is the work of the child” and it is through play that children learn best about the world around them during the early years. So, here’s a reminder for you to inject some fun in the activities that you plan for your children throughout the week. After all, this also gives you the chance to destress, recharge and feel good about life all over again.

Here’s how to do it: Plan for some fun activities during the week that serve a learning purpose to your children. This includes the likes of exploring the Singapore Botanic Gardens where they get to learn and experience nature first-hand, or taking a trip to the museum for an educational journey about our country and its humble beginnings.

3. Be happy with what you have

The grass may be greener over the other side, but that does not necessarily mean that having the best things in life – for example, better-behaved children, a bigger house, or nicer car – will make you happier. The key to your happiness lies in counting your blessings in life instead of focusing on what you deem as the “shortfalls”. For all you know, you might be living the dream life in the eyes of someone else.

Here’s how to do it: Resist the temptation to compare your children to that of your friends, or to check their growth and development against the “standard guidelines”. Every child develops differently and at their own pace, with unique strengths and weaknesses. Focus on those instead and work together with your child based on where his/her passion and interests lie to help him/her become the best that he/she can be. At the same time, do not neglect your spouse. Make time for quality bonding sessions to keep your marriage and relationship alive – this also gives both of you the opportunity to recharge and carry out the role as parents to your children.

4. Be flexible with the rules

Rules are created to teach your children values such as self-discipline and learn the value of giving our best in everything that we do. However, as the person who decides on the rules, you get the flexibility to tailor those rules to each of your child’s needs and personalities. As it is often said that when it comes to parenting, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution that will apply for all children – our job is to nurture them based on their abilities and do our best to impart good values and important life lessons to them.

Here’s how to do it: Get to know the strengths and weaknesses of your child and what motivates them to move forward. For example, your five-year-old might be motivated with screen time upon completing the day’s activity sheets, while the only push factor to get your seven-year-old to complete his/her homework is a healthy snack. You can use their likes and preferences as a hook to encourage learning and to create happy moments at home with your children – just as long as you are consistent in applying them

5. Focus on what lies ahead

We all have parenting goals that we work towards to and we try our best to do the right things when raising our children. However, during the toughest times, we either find ourselves losing our temper, being inconsistent and/or blaming ourselves for not doing a better job at raising our children. In line with the popular idiom, “Let bygones be bygones”, sometimes we need to remind ourselves to let go of past mistakes and focus instead on what you can do to be there for your children during the crucial growing up years.

Here’s how to do it: We are all learning to be the best that we can be for our children, and that there are days when things do not go as planned. Do let those tough days go and get on with life as a mum or dad by thinking of what to do next instead of pondering on what has been done. This can involve spending quality time with your children to get to know them better or plan a fun family bonding activity for the weekend.

Whatever you choose to do, remember that these tough moments will not last forever and with this, the highlights of parenting your children while they are young (i.e. the frequent “I love you” that they say so willingly) will be rare as the years go by. So, do use this time to cherish the precious moments and carry on with the journey.

6. Make time for hugs and kisses

Here’s another great reason to plough through the toughest moments of parenting while your children are young. As mentioned before, these moments do not last long and at this age, they can be easily diffused with something as simple as a hug and kiss. Apart from melting the tension from the situation, hugging and kissing also helps to spread those “feel good” feelings between you and your child.

Here’s how to do it: Gather your child for a cuddle every chance you get, even when they are unhappy or are adamant at throwing tantrums for as long as possible. You’ll be surprised how quickly this can turn around a sticky situation. But do note thatthis “secret weapon” may not work for long as your child grows up – so, seize the moment and use it to your advantage while you can!

This article was first published on the MindChamps blog.

Want to know what makes MindChamps PreSchool the Number 1 Choice of Singapore parents? Click here for more details and to schedule a visit to your preferred centre!

 

Social Skills for Children – An Age-by-Age Guide

Children Playing

Other than teaching our children how to be grateful in life, we explore an age-by-age guide to developing social skills for children.

According to Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, as quoted by the Ministry of Education Singapore, the cognitive development theory viewed children as active, self-motivated and willing to learn.

Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky in turn built on this notion and highlighted that “social interaction plays a fundamental role in children’s learning and development.”

He advocated the view of a social child as someone who is intelligent, strong, active and competent. He proposed that learning and development take place when children interact with their peers, teachers and other adults.

Indeed, both psychologists are expounding the benefits of children possessing strong social skills, in that not only is the child able to communicate well with peers and adults, but that this aids learning as well.

Through the following list, we will explore how children of different age groups are capable of different social skills. Hence, when you are teaching your child about the importance of interactive skills, check out the following list to guide you towards the appropriate set of skills according to your child’s age.

As Your Child Turns Three

When your child is at this age, he should be able to show and communicate a larger scope of emotions to you. This includes the likes of telling you what he wants, making eye contact and keeping quiet when someone else is talking.

As Your Child Turns Four

A child at this age might understand some rules of play, such as if the play activity goes in a full circle, your child will wait for her turn. She should be able to go beyond baby words to speak to you in  simple vocabulary. Don’t be alarmed when she asks whether her dolls ‘want chocolate or ice-cream’ – this  is her way of communicating at this age.

As Your Child Turns Five

By this age, your little one enjoys mingling  with other children, as he shows some degree of self-awareness, like being aware of gender play. He might chatter and mimic the adults during impersonation.

As Your Child Turns Six

At this age, your child could play with her friends more independently and ask to visit the bathroom before she makes a mess. She becomes skilful in asking for her portion of things, is sporty when it comes to play and demonstrates fairness and sincerity. She will likely be ready to help out with basic chores, like beating an egg and gathering the family for dinner.

As Your Child Turns Seven

Your child is now able to display appropriate feelings, like feeling upset for his friend when the latter is unwell, and sharing his belongings. You will be able to detect more in-depth what he’s conveying through his body language.

He doesn’t play the blame game as much, and has learnt to be a better listener, understands multiple perspectives and is more aware of how others perceive his actions. Do note that he may still be uncertain as far as being fair is concerned, so give him some time and he will mature in this respect.

The list above displays children’s social skills generally. Some children may mature faster, while others take longer. However, the list serves as a useful guideline.

Be Involved as a Parent

As a parent, you can be involved in your child’s social skills development in more ways than one. The following are some ways, as extracted from Talking with the Sky by award-winning authors, Brian Caswell and David Chiem.

  • Communication is a two-way street. It is recommended that we communicate with them, not to
  • When talking with your [pre-schooler], ask just one question at a time.
  • Allow the young to finish speaking, instead of attempting to anticipate their answers.
  • Avoid the temptation to interrupt their answers, even if the words suggest a response.
  • Social signs can be confusing, but the meaning of a touch is generally unambiguous. For example, a hand laid softly on the arm or the shoulder, or the back of the fingers touching or running softly down the cheek.
  • Constructive criticism is a positive way to offer criticism because it encourages growth and development. Giving constructive criticism to a child involves using an ‘I’ rather than a ‘you’ statement. E.g. ‘I really feel that…’ [versus] ‘You have caused X to happen.’

Imagine that your child understands the concept of respect and is not afraid to ask questions in class about what he/she does not know. Your child will soon develop a comprehensive understanding of the subjects in school, which enables him to interact well with teachers and classmates alike. This is what we encourage at MindChamps, for children with higher levels of EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) certainly perform much better in school and this contributes directly to their self-esteem and confidence.

This article was first featured on the MindChamps blog.

 

These Top 3 Qualities Will Help Your Child Grow Up to Be Successful

Little Boy In BlueImparting values is a vital component of parenting today

The values you impart in the early stages of your child’s life will help him/her grow up to be a self-confident and independent adult. Up to the age of seven, children are like sponges, absorbing everything around them. This imprint period is the best and most important time to help them form values and learn a sense of right and wrong.

Values influence how children behave in the classroom, interact with peers and develop ethical standards and even good manners. It’s certainly an aspect of parenting that every loving and hands-on parent must focus on.

Examine your own values and determine what’s important for your family and what values you want to see in your children. List them on a family bulletin board and place it somewhere visible in the home! Here are the top 3 qualities that will give your child a head start in life:

1. Respect

If you respect your child, he will learn to respect himself as well as others. Respect helps children build self-esteem and feel secure. You can demonstrate respect by asking your child for his opinion on where to go for family outings or what to cook for dinner. You can teach your child to respect other people’s things by not letting him rummage through your drawers and cupboards, or asking for permission before taking someone’s belongings.

2. Responsibility

Teaching a child to be responsible helps her learn to take care of herself, excel in school, and work diligently at a job someday. Teach your child how to keep her toys after play. Do it with her, not for her. Remember to give appropriate praise after that to reinforce positive behaviour. If your child loses a favourite toy she was responsible for keeping, don’t immediately buy her a new one. Read books to your child where the main character is responsible, and explain what the character did afterwards.

3. Resilience

Resilience allows your child to overcome adversity and maintain a healthy self-esteem even when things go wrong. Teach your child not to give up by encouraging him to try again, whether it’s a block tower that keeps falling over or a word he can’t figure out how to read. Model resilience by letting your child observe you hard at work, or do something difficult like fixing up a computer or mastering a recipe.

We live in a society that emphasises the importance of academic success. However, it is important to recognise that intentionally imparting values is a vital component of parenting. Indeed, it is the values taught that will help them navigate the inevitable challenges that arise and ultimately guide them towards success.

©2017 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

Article contributed by Judith Xavier, Focus on the Family Singapore.

This article was first published on the MindChamps blog

20 Ways to Instill Good Manners in Your Child

little girl with good manners

Manners are not hard to come by, as long as we start inculcating them in our children when they are young. Just take the example of Japan, where it is reported that in Japanese schools, manners come before knowledge. It is generally known that the objective for the first years of school focuses not on knowledge or grades, but on inculcating manners and fostering character development in students.

While we may not have a similar case like that of Japan, we can still be effective in teaching our young ones on ‘how to have manners’. Having manners leads to positive aspects in other areas, including being grateful and developing patience. You can see how this is achieved through the following list on ‘manners for kids’.

1. Say good morning and goodnight, or find creative ways of greeting at rising or going to sleep: ‘Love you Dad’, say good morning with a kiss, hug, peekaboo! and more.

2. In the old days of the Cantonese culture, children are to greet all adults seated at the dining table before eating. Perhaps this is a good culture to reinstate. Say ‘Grandpa, Grandma, Dad and Mum, let’s eat.’

3. Eat your meals at the dining table, not in front of the TV.

4. Avoid talking with your mouth full.

5. Do not take the best foods for yourself. Take your designated portion, and leave the other portions for others.

6. When the meal is over, say thank you. This is so that we do not take food and its preparation for granted.

7. Say please when requesting for items and thank you when receiving them.

8. Receive presents with both hands.

9. When queuing up, don’t jump the queue; wait patiently for your turn to come.

10. Don’t interrupt others; let them finish talking or if you really need to interrupt, raise your hand to request to speak.

11. While on the bus with Mum, move to the back and don’t block the exit. This is courtesy to everyone who, like you, wants to go home.

12. Be a good listener when others are talking to you. Do not look to the right or left or past the speaker as you’ll appear disinterested, or rude.

13. Knock on the door that you wish to enter.

14. Close the door behind you.

15. Don’t leave things lying around. Pack up when you have finished playing.

16. When you are at home, keep noise levels down. Bear in mind that Dad and Mum may be resting after a long week or Grandpa and Grandma may be sleeping in during the weekend.

17. Greet others, whether they are relatives or Dad and Mum’s friends when you see them. A nice ‘Uncle’ and ‘Auntie’, or gege (big brother) and jiejie (big sister) for the younger people, will make their day.

18. Refrain from plucking flowers from plants. By doing this, you are destroying someone’s labour of love, as flowers do not grow overnight. So, do leave the flowers there for everyone’s admiration.

19. When your friend lends you her toys or books, play or read them with care. Don’t return them in a dilapidated state.

20. Remember to wear a smile. A smile is positively infectious, and the recipient of your good manners will indeed be joyous with your act of kindness – and happiness.

This article was first published on the MindChamps blog.

The Ultimate Parenting Tip for A Great Start to the Year

Happy Family In Red

With highly packed schedules for work and school in addition to a myriad of external commitments and other social activities, years pass by in the blink of an eye. A typical Singaporean family has a variety of activities and gatherings to attend, from music and swimming lessons to tuition classes – the list goes on.

As parents, we might have a clear idea as to why we choose certain activities over others. However, these motivations also need to be communicated to our children, which is why there is a need to come up with a family mission statement and vision.

A family mission statement and vision may sound contrived to some, but it is an effective way to keep the family focused on undertaking meaningful activities while setting the family up for a purposeful year ahead. Here are a few ways to get started:

Think like a visionary coach

As parents, we have to resist the urge to talk down to our kids. We can’t dictate a family mission statement to our children. We must communicate in an affirming manner like a visionary coach – one who has a clear idea of what she is aiming for with his or her team. This type of coach communicates his or her vision and owns it. This is where a mission statement can be really powerful.

How to write a family mission statement

Set a date for a family meeting. Write up “Family Mission Statement” on the agenda.

As a family, discuss what values you are going to live by and what character traits you aim to show.

The list of words below might be helpful:

Celebrations are valued

Community focused

Creativity is valued

Generosity

Learning is valued

Healthy

Hospitality

Loving

Loyalty

Music is valued

Obedience

Respect

Responsibility

Time together

Brainstorm these questions as a family when coming up with your family vision and statement:

  • What will the atmosphere or flavour of your home be?
  • What do we hope our kids will treasure as memories when they grow up?
  • What words would your family like to use to describe the relationships between family members and those outside your immediate family?

Then, organise the ideas and analyse the suggestions. Decide which ones gel best with the family and come up with a final draft of your family mission statement. The following statements might help.

Our family is about ___________.

We always value _____________________.

To those within our family, we will _______________________.

To those outside our family, we will ______________________.

A family mission statement will be a helpful reminder to the entire family throughout the year. It can influence the way we allocate our family’s resources, in terms of time, energy, finances, and the many talents and gifts that each of our family members has been blessed with. In this way, instead of mindlessly rushing from one activity to another and chasing individual goals, each year is spent meaningfully in ways that would draw the whole family closer together.

©2016 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

Article contributed by Elvira Tan, Focus on the Family Singapore

This article was first published on the MindChamps blog

5 Ways to Celebrate Chinese New Year with the Family

cny

As the 2017 Lunar New Year is fast approaching, with 28, 29 and 30 January declared public holidays, we’ve prepared a line-up of activity ideas to help you usher in the Year of the Rooster  right here in Singapore, plus some tips  should you choose to travel during the period.

Importantly, Chinese New Year (CNY) is family time too, so check out the list to find out how you can enjoy a meaningful time with your loved ones.

1. Food Galore

Essentially, CNY does not arrive until a fortnight later, but you can begin to prepare for the feasts now. As most Chinese celebrations involve abundant amounts of food, the most important celebration on the Chinese calendar is no exception.

Head down to Takashimaya Square B2 now and select excellent quality seafood and delicious pastries as well as snacks. Check out their gifts with purchase and cooking demonstrations that are sure to delight the whole family. And lo and behold, lohei, the quintessential Singaporean (and possibly Malaysian) concoction that lets you toss a selection of vegetables, sweet condiments and raw fish together is available here too. So, if you hope for some auspicious blessings, bring a pack home, toss your way up with the family and loudly proclaim Chinese idioms for promotions, health, providence, provision and more.

CNY in Singapore essentially excludes no one. Among colleagues and friends, you will find our fellow citizens baking pineapple tarts, peanut cookies, love letter rolls and cornflake cookies for sampling and purchase. Some elderly get into the act too, so this really is a time to shower blessings on the folks.

2. Chinatown

What is CNY without a visit to Chinatown? The markets are up, offering locals and tourists alike goodies and accessories to dress up the home, including couplets written out in red paper and calligraphy, CNY plants, bak kwa, Chinese sausages and more.

Usher in this Year of the Rooster with the Chinatown Countdown which is happening on 27 January 2017. In addition to performances by celebrities or wushu (martial arts) performances, there will be a lighting of firecrackers after which the night will come alive with fireworks.

3. River Hongbao

A favourite for the whole family that will be taking place from 26 January to 4 February 2017, take a walk down River Hongbao surrounding the Floating Platform @ Marina Bay, where lion dances, yummy treats and one-of-a-kind hand-crafted lanterns  designed by artisans from China are on display for the whole family.

4. Dress Up

CNY is also referred to as the Spring Festival in China, because it does indeed hail the arrival of spring. This means that winter clothes can be put aside to make way for attire with vibrant colours, and one can look forward to family gatherings with happy chatter, lots of food and the exchange of angpows (red packets filled with cash).

Red is the most popular and auspicious colour, although it’s not unusual to see pastel and other bright colours in Western wear or cheongsams. Do avoid black ensembles though, as the colour is associated with bad luck.

Metro department store at Paragon and Centrepoint are popular places to get Chinese styled clothes or cheongsams for CNY, or head to Chinatown’s Yue Hwa.

5. Travelling Time

 If you choose to travel during the festive season, regional countries make a great choice. However, you may want to do some research and avoid places that close almost entirely during CNY. This includes Hong Kong and some parts of Malaysia, where you literally see shutters everywhere; the exception is if you are celebrating with friends or family who reside in these countries.

And yes, there is a ‘thought-provoking’ question on most people’s minds, and that is “Do we still need to give out angpows during CNY if we’re away?” Well, since you are physically not in the country, it proves acceptable to not give them out. However, as the saying goes ‘It’s more blessed to give than to receive’, you might want to prepare some and hand them to a family member to give out to your parents or a close friend. They will be comforted that you’ve thought of them, and with this, you can truly say ‘Happy New Year!’

This article was first published on the MindChamps blog.

Play is Important in More Ways than One

Boy on a swing

For children to enjoy an enriching childhood, it is essential for them to be given sufficient time to discover both the world and themselves in a fun and age-appropriate way. If we deny children the time to play, we stifle their ability to learn later in life by inhibiting the development of essential neural networks related to association, problem-solving and even the recognition of ’cause and effect’.

The ‘play gap’ is a result of our society becoming preoccupied with merely measuring instead of truly educating young people – but it is important to realise, as Einstein once wrote, “Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that be counted counts.”

Young children learn by experiencing the world ‘hands-on’. They are sensory/emotional learners, whose stage of cognitive development is unsuited for the misguided ‘tutoring’, drilling and cramming to which too many children are subjected. It’s unfortunate that in our society today, children are deprived of the important pleasure of play because adults, with the best of intentions, seek to provide them with a ‘head start’ to education by sending them for various ‘enrichment’ classes. Sadly, many of these programmes attempt to treat children as ‘little adults’, with methods that leave the child bored, frustrated and stressed – and these emotions can colour all later learning experiences and affect the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being and personal growth of children unfavourably.

It is important for kids to have enough time to play

Some say, ‘Play is the real work of childhood.’ If we grasp this simple concept – if we understand that what many adults see as a ‘waste of time’ is actually Nature’s way of building the cognitive capacity and intellectual frameworks upon which all later learning is built – then we would not even ask the questions above. Rather, we would make as much time as possible available for play – both ‘free’, unsupervised play and what we at MindChamps call ‘crafted play’ (play activities into which certain essential learning concepts have been subtly included).

As long as the child has sufficient time for other necessary activities, such as sleep, having meals, etc., parents should not introduce a cap on playtime.

Is there an age where kids should switch their focus from play to study?

Perhaps it is good to ponder the question, ‘What is the purpose of study?’ Is it to pass exams, or is there a more fundamental need to learn to control the mass of information and the demands of a competitive, globalised society? If we think it is the former, then we are living in the past, and our children will struggle to cope with the ever-more-complex world which confronts them. If we see education as preparing children for whatever world they will face in 15 or 20 years’ time, then we will be more interested in making sure that foundation skills and learning strategies are in place, and the foundations for all these skills and strategies lie in play – not in rote learning and drill.

It is essential for parents to first ensure that their children develop an internal framework that makes them ready to learn, want to learn and love to learn before they are compelled into a regime of study. And the ideal age for children to develop this internal framework is during their time in pre-school and before they start primary school. This is the reason why MindChamps developed a unique preschool curriculum which nurtures all the key foundations of learning and out-of-school programmes for young children, focusing on creating the fun, experiential, active and ‘hands-on’ foundation activities that children enjoy. Thus, children will be able to develop the love for lifelong learning, possessing techniques to cope with their studies when they enter primary school.

What are some appropriate play activities for pre-schoolers?

Young children are ‘sensory-emotional’ learners. Their brains have not yet developed the complex neural networks required to process abstract concepts. They make connections (literally) through what they can touch, hear and see – and through how they feel, emotionally.

This is what we, at MindChamps PreSchool, call ‘Crafted Play’. Essentially, there are two types of play:

1. Free Play – Where children, while supervised, are left basically to their own devices in a space which ideally has many sources of stimulation (toys, balls, blocks, drawing equipment etc.) and physical activities (climbing frames, mats, slides etc.), and learning is random and wide-ranging.

2. Crafted Play – Where the activities, while allowing the child the latitude to Explore, Experience, Experiment and Enjoy, are given just enough structure to lead towards a particular learning outcome (numeracy skills, language/literacy skills, social skills, or perhaps a new ‘understanding’), without removing the all-important ‘play’ elements. In numeracy skills, kids take part in ‘real life’ money exchanges where they buy bananas as a snack, for instance.

Both forms of play are equally important, and both should be encouraged.

At MindChamps PreSchool, we employ Crafted Play in every key learning area, from literacy and numeracy to age-appropriate scientific concepts and even social/communication skills. Using our unique ‘Play-Stations’ (not the electronic kind), we can introduce children to a range of experiences and lifelong learning behaviours that the ‘drill and kill’ approach to teaching can never match.

Book a visit @ MindChamps PreSchool today!

Article contributed by Brian Caswell, Dean of Research & Programme Development at MindChamps.

This article was first published in the MindChamps blog.

Top Ways to Encourage Your Child to Learn Chinese

MindChamps Chinese PreSchoolHow do you encourage your child to learn Chinese? The learning of Chinese has myriad benefits. First of all, in Singapore, it is an academic requirement for children to study and do well in a mother tongue for PSLE. And since Chinese has long been, and is increasingly a language for business expansion, trade, engineering, tourism and cultural understanding, the learning of the language transcends academic achievement to wide usage in many aspects. In fact, it is a known fact that Mandarin is the most widely spoken language in the world.

Some children may not enjoy learning Chinese, especially when some perceive it to be the more difficult of the two languages (the less difficult being English) and because Mandarin is an entirely different language altogether, with different intonation and writing system.

Let’s find some ways to encourage your child to learn Mandarin, so that he/she becomes inherently interested in the language and culture, not just because you told him/her so.

1. Lay the Foundation by Being Positive about the Language

Show your child how Chinese can inspire, especially in that it is a modern language of tremendous relevance.

Bring your child to Kinokuniya and show her the comic books that she can read. If you are taking Singapore Airlines on your next holiday, flip open the KrisShop catalogue that is choc-a-bloc with latest gift items for children, drawing her attention to the descriptions for the products that are written in English as well as Chinese. Read them together, possibly replacing some difficult words for her and to encourage her, buy her the right gift.

2. Teach Your Child About the Culture as well as the Language

The Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan Dance Theatre Limited, SHHKD, for example, seeks to cultivate an understanding and appreciation for Chinese dance by developing Chinese dance as an accessible art form for the larger community of all age groups and abilities, from toddlers to adults.

Learning about dance is a fine way to introduce your child to the language as well, as the instructions will point her in the right direction, literally.

While we could devote hundreds of pages to Chinese cuisine, we will leave that to you and your child’s culinary pleasure. Instead, we suggest that you bring your child to authentic Chinese restaurants pertaining to different dialect groups, to enjoy delicious steamed fish with shallots, fried noodles, Hakka abacus dish and more.

To teach him the art of Chinese cuisine, you can also indulge in dim sum, from learning to use chopsticks to pick up dainty morsels to the unique way of tapping two fingers as a way of saying ‘thank you’ when the waiter pours the tea.

And since Lunar New Year is round the corner, why not let him be a vital part of lao yusheng (raw fish tossing)? Prep your kid to recite auspicious words as the family tosses away, teaching him to say kwaigao zhangda (to grow up quickly) and dajia yiqilao (let’s do it together!).

3. Help Your Child Develop Natural Literacy Skills

Research from Professor AE Cunningham, University of California, Berkeley shows that children who come from homes where parents have dedicated time to giving them regular, enriching reading and writing experiences have significant academic advantage over children who have not had these experiences.

It’s important to point out here that some parents believe that making their children memorise characters and isolated words (or ‘phonics’) is the way to introduce reading to their children. This is monotonous to the child.  In addition, this kind of learning simply makes children ‘decoders’ of what they learn, not a ‘reader’ who understands what he is reading or one who is excited about reading.

Consider this: “Research does in fact show that preschoolers who have better letter naming and recognition skills tend to become better readers later on [and] these skills are best developed through ‘natural literacy activities’, not drill and memorisation. There is no evidence that memorising alphabet letters out of context predicts later reading skills.” (Raver & Zigler, 2004)

Here are the top natural literacy activities that create the best readers and writers:

I. Read to your children every day – this exposes him to multiple language structures, a wide vocabulary and the sheer joy of language.

II. Engage in conversation with your child frequently – this expands her spoken vocabulary. Research shows that strong verbal skills are linked to strong reading skills.

III. Point out written language in your environment – For example, point out writing on things such Chinese shop signs, packaging and posters. This connects the written word with useful and important information.

IV. Arrange play dates with friends – This encourages social interaction and will expand your child’s Chinese vocabulary through negotiation, discussion and role play.

V. Ensure your child observes you reading – When you read in front of your children you are being a strong role model, communicating that you value reading.

VI. Make your home a ‘literacy rich environment’ – Ensure you have plenty of reading materials available at home such as a bookshelf of age appropriate books, in addition to other forms of reading materials such as magazines, newspapers , brochures and on computers, as e-books.

VII. Have a set of magnetic characters on your fridge – This encourages your child to spontaneously manipulate letters and begin forming words.

If you are not a fluent speaker of Chinese, why not take this opportunity to learn the language together?

According to Brian Caswell, MindChamps Dean of Research and Programme Development: “At MindChamps Chinese PreSchool, we cultivate the necessary skills within our pre-schoolers so that they can become enthusiastic life-long speakers, listeners, readers and writers. We also develop their confidence in both written and spoken Mandarin and English. Our approach is based on the latest scientific research into language acquisition and the importance of a child’s engagement with language, rather than the discredited “drill and kill” approach.  As such, we have incorporated age and developmentally appropriate fun and engaging activities and programmes such as MindChamps Reading & Writing, The Love for Chinese Language and Chinese Cultural Appreciation.”

This article was first published on the MindChamps blog.

The Right Dairy for Your Growing Child

benefits of dairy for children There are many benefits of dairy for children that far outweighs our reliance on processed food and sugar, salt and fat, which could lead to obesity and diabetes. Even children without such issues need access to chemical-free, organic and biodynamic foods.

What’s more, as your child is growing right now, it’s important to get them to eat the right foods to support their growing bones and teeth, eyesight and other vital functions. One key area of nutrition lies in the importance of dairy foods in a child’s diet.

Researcher Malcolm Riley from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation(CSIRO) in Australia pointed out that “Dairy foods contain a package of essential nutrients including calcium for strong bones, protein for growth and development, riboflavin for eyesight, iodine for brain function and more”.

The CSIRO research also found that over 60% of children between the ages of two and 16 years did not meet the minimum dietary guidelines for dairy foods in Australia, despite being a country with relatively high dairy consumption (approximately 231 kilograms per person per year). In many Asian countries, including Singapore (whose average annual consumption is only 32 kilograms), the per capita consumption of dairy among children is observably lower.

Give Your Child Quality Dairy Products for Better Health

By giving your child the highest quality milk, yoghurt and low-fat cheese, you are ensuring that he/she gets the best possible start nutritionally.

Not all dairy products are of the same quality. It is important to avoid exposure to chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics and artificially-introduced hormones. It is also advisable to avoid UHT (or long-life) milk, because the ultra-high temperatures used in the UHT process can destroy vitamins and produce a particular taste that your child might dislike.

It is not difficult to source high-quality organic and biodynamic dairy products from a reputable source. There are organic shops totally devoted to such products, or supermarkets that have sections reserved for such products.

If you prefer low fat versions of such foods, do source for them, as this helps in the management of total fat intake which can decrease the risk of associated obesity and chronic health conditions.

As not all school canteens provide such items, be sure to pack it for your child, although some portions may be eaten at dinnertime. Include an ice-pack if you are packing them into your child’s breakfast or lunch in our tropical climate. Know the amount of such dairy foods that children should consume of every day.

Article contributed by Brian Caswell, Dean of Research & Programme Development at MindChamps

This article was first published on the MindChamps blog.