A quality early childhood education can increase your child’s cognitive development, improve behaviour and predict future school performance. That’s why it’s important to choose a good preschool or early childhood programme. But how can you tell which preschool in Singapore is right for your child?
The teachers, environment and policies guide the school’s activities and effectiveness. To learn more about the kindergarten programme, review the school’s website, schedule a tour and talk to other parents. Look for the following 17 signs as you evaluate schools and choose one that will cater to your young child’s growth and development.
17 Features of A Good Preschool Programme in Singapore
1. Child-centered programme. Children learn at their own pace and take an active role in learning at a good kindergarten. Rather than direct learning, teachers can partner with your child’s learning journey. Free play, an inquiry-based curriculum and age-appropriate playground equipment are three of the many ways a child-centred programme nurtures your child and boosts academic, emotional and social development.
2. Welcoming atmosphere. Diversity is a core reality of today’s global economy and OWIS classrooms. Young children can begin to understand diversity, appreciate differences and practise compassion in a welcoming preschool atmosphere. At OWIS Nanyang, students of all backgrounds belong and are fully welcomed and encouraged to engage in all activities.
3. Well-qualified teachers. Because early childhood education is a time of unprecedented growth, teachers must be able to guide, shape and assist your child’s development properly. Well-qualified teachers possess professional training, certification and experience in preschool learning. They also understand early childhood development and give your child opportunities every day to grow academically, emotionally and socially.
4. Inquiry-based curriculum. Children are naturally curious about the world around them. An inquiry-based curriculum, like the IB PYP curriculum offered at OWIS, encourages children to pursue their interests, ask questions and explore outcomes. Rather than sit through long teacher-led lectures, your child investigates the classroom, chooses activities and guides their learning based on interests and curiosity.
5. Creative, open-ended activities. When children decide how to play with objects and invent their own games, they practise their creativity and develop problem-solving skills. These and other open-ended, innovative activities boost engagement and give your child the autonomy to make their own fun and explore interesting ideas.
6. Free and unstructured playtime. Your child can develop their critical thinking abilities, practise creativity, learn to communicate, and solve problems during free and unstructured playtime. Indoor and outdoor free time also expands your child’s social skills and increases physical exercise. A good nursery and preschool offers free playtime and encourages unstructured play during the day.
7. Voice and choice in learning. Give children leadership over the lessons and projects they engage in, and they own their learning. With voice and choice, your child becomes more engaged, excited and eager to attend school every day. Your child’s confidence increases as well, as they demonstrate learning in individual and unique ways.
8. No cookie-cutter types of activities. Every child learns, processes and retains information differently. A personalised education treats your child as a unique individual. Experiments, projects and playtime activities ignite the five senses and encourage your child to touch, listen, explore and test. While learning in meaningful ways, your child develops critical thinking skills, creativity and personality.
9. Small working groups. Right from nursery school level, the early years class sizes at OWIS Nanyang is intentionally small, and we further boost learning with small, focused groups. Your child has time to practise new skills, develop communication and pursue interests with a few peers. Small groups promote learning and boost cooperation, compromise and compassion, foundational skills your child needs later in life. There are no more than 18 students in an OWIS preschool classroom with two teachers.
10. Positive, kind approach to discipline. A positive, kind approach to discipline provides clear guidelines, expectations and consequences in advance. Teachers also reinforce problem-solving skills, seek to resolve problematic behaviour before it starts and model respectful communication. Your child experiences belonging, feels appreciated and recognised and becomes more responsible, independent and empowered with positive, kind discipline.
11. Reading time with teachers and librarians. To boost your child’s cognitive skills and preparation for academic success, choose an early childhood programme that features plenty of reading—books open doors of wonder and knowledge to children. Reading time also supports the development of your child’s curiosity, language, vocabulary, auditory perception, concentration, logical thinking, emotional regulation, imagination and creativity.
12. Teaching phonics through games and other activities. A foundation in phonics during the early years prepares children to read efficiently. Games and fun activities also make learning phonics fun and reinforce phonics concepts in ways that your child will retain. As a bonus, your child also learns how to take turns, share and communicate while playing phonics games and activities.
13. No standardised worksheets or workbooks. Give students opportunities to play and think for themselves, and they develop critical thinking, collaboration and creativity skills. That’s why we don’t use standardised worksheets or workbooks at OWIS Nanyang. Your child gains confidence as they learn through play; while moving and asking questions, considering diverse theories and thinking independently.
14. Hands-on maths learning with manipulatives. Tactile and visual manipulatives are effective methods to teach maths. As they play, children use their reasoning and thinking abilities to figure out relationships between numbers. By exposing your child to manipulatives in preschool, you help them develop an understanding of maths that forms a foundation for future learning.
15. Multiple hands-on activities. Young children learn by doing, which is why hands-on experiential activities are an essential part of an excellent early childhood programme. Clay, blocks, paints, water and sensory play are examples of hands-on activities. At OWIS Nanyang, we also provide small-world stations that invite your child to learn, discover and develop as they actively play.
16. All-day engagement and activity. Small bodies and minds are made to move. Children develop motor skills, core strength, social skills, emotional regulation and academic preparedness through physical and mental activity. All-day engagement and activity promotes learning and helps your child gain essential skills for future education.
17. Respectful and inclusive environment. Every child learns in different ways and at different rates. Respectful and inclusive preschools honour every child’s needs and cultivate a sense of belonging, social-emotional learning, empathy, compassion, self-esteem and communication. Good kindergarten teachers are role-models of the behaviour they wish to nurture and offer a variety of open-ended play supports.
At a good preschool, your child will learn organically as they begin to make sense of the world around them. Your child will be curious, eager to explore and learn new things, and happy to go to school every day. A play-based programme with a structured and recognised curriculum will also help your child learn and grow socially and academically. This foundation prepares your child for success in elementary school and beyond.
At OWIS, we offer our early learners a play-based and child-centric programme. We provide a variety of activities that support the development of your child’s academic, emotional and social skills. Contact us to learn more and to schedule a virtual tour of our early childhood programme.
(This blog was originally written in collaboration with Ms Niki Wallis, former Senior Coordinator – Early Childhood, OWIS Nanyang.)