You want the best for your child.
You’ve big dreams for the little one.
Like attending an elite secondary school in Singapore like Raffles Girls School. And then one of the national universities in Singapore. And perhaps even an overseas university.
Looking at your 3 year old kid, you want some way to build a strong foundation of cognitive skills so that she is ready to conquer the world.
The only thing is…
It’s not that simple in Singapore.
Parenting, can be crazy
Singapore is one of Asia’s leading first-world cities, but that also comes with a caveat. It’s one of its busiest too. And as a parent, you’ve probably been there.
Where you feel like you’re trying to juggle a million things at once, and you’re not exactly sure what to do next.
You’ve got to race to the office by 9am, but before that, you’ve had to wake the kid, dress the kid up for preschool, bring (or lop them over your shoulder) them to the preschool, and race quickly to the office.
Then you’ve got to bring them back.
On the weekends, you’ve to plan little dates for them around the island, scooch together with other mums sitting on grubby chairs, waiting for children to end their art classes.
And now, you’re surrounded by other kiasu parents talking about how they are sending their 3-year-old to other enrichment classes.
Is your kid going to lose out because he hasn’t gone there?
When I used to counsel parents
When I was working in the social services, I used to counsel parents who faced difficulties with their children. These 8 year olds wouldn’t want to listen to their instructions around restricting the use of screens.
You’ve been there.
Struggled to pull your phone off your kid, or even switch off the screen they are watching?
You’d be forgiven if you’ve switched off the internet modem before too.
It’s never easy.
But there’s a better way.
How parents can raise someone without ‘educational’ devices
When Steve Jobs was once asked by a reporter about device use in their family, the answer was startling.
Nick Bilton, the reporter, commented, “Your kids must love the iPad, right?”
“They haven’t used it. We limit the amount of technology our children use at home.
Here’s how, starting with better educational toys you can buy for them.
Finding the right store is hard
With Singapore’s emphasis on academic excellence, finding toy, rather than tuition shops can be tough.
Furthermore, most resources are dedicated to helping children to ace exams, rather than helping them to have better play. That means you’re likelier to find assessment papers, rather than exciting toys for your child’s latest adventure.
But there are some undiscovered gems around. What should you look for?
Shops that allow your child to try the toys
Look at most toy store chains, and you would see toys put inside a cling wrap, or a box, and all the child can do is shout for you, his parent, to buy it.
Imagine if your child could actually play with the toys.
Well, look no further.
Better Play is a play space founded by two parents of young children, focused on Montessori toys.
Whilst their main business is in providing spaces, they also do have little bits of toys around their display shelves that you can pick up, and look at.
Having been there with some kids, I can personally attest to how much kids just love playing with the toys there. Watch them make the whole place messy with their play, and (fortunately) you not having to clean up!
Lego, in Vivo City
|Lego store in Vivo City
|VivoCity, Unit 02-90
|1030 – 2130
|Buying lego toys
Ah, who can forget our dearest Lego toys?
Growing up, I used to spend hours on end with little Lego soldiers, with a tank, and then shooting arrows out of those tanks.
You would probably have seen your kids do that too.
We may not exactly know the benefits of Lego, (beyond it being terribly expensive for a bunch of plastic bricks,) but what it does for the child’s creativity can be incredible.
For one, Lego encourages a child to create, and ideate with his hands, seeing ideas come to life in the palm of his hands. Often, this idea of prototyping and having the courage to get things wrong can be difficult for adults.
Starting from young can put your child on a better foundation to try in future.
More importantly, Lego teaches grit and resilience. Having hundreds of bricks around you can be an apt reason to throw up your hands and cry.
But as we’ve seen people who tinker for hours with Lego, not giving up despite the hundreds of other things you can do, children can build incredible amounts of resilience from playing with Lego.
Toy fairs littered around the island
Nah, we’re not going to recommend Boutique Fairs by now since most already know them.
But what we want to recommend is the idea of toy fairs around the island.
Often toy stores are started by parents who find it difficult to find the toys their children want, and end up making a business out of that.
But with every child being so unique, it’s true that not one toy fits all.
Having the chance to visit other smaller, independent, toy retailers can be a chance to let your kid learn.
Crane is a coworking space, and a community for creators.
This means that rather than the traditional, buttoned up hot desks you see in most coworking spaces, on weekends, the space is transformed into a fair-like marketplace.
It can be a beautiful way to discover your next favourite toy for your child.
Of course there’s us!
And then there’s us.
We like to think that our toys are great for children to build their cognitive and motor abilities, with an open-ended style of play.
One of our favourites is the Avdar Gym, which prompt children to get off their bums, and start racing up the climbing wall, or the trapeze.
You might wonder how this prompts greater cognitive ability. It encourages children to problem-solve in real time.
You can see them biting their lips, brows furrowed in concentration, as they try to figure out where to put their hands and feet to get up.
It may seem something simple to you, but this process is important for their growth into young, confident students.
Mind you, Raduga Grёz is not a decoration item, but a toy for your child.
Founder Inna Prokhorova, who is based in Russia, shares about how she wanted the toys to be different from the loud, garish colors that you would often see in children’s toys.
You can see the calming colors of the toys.
Even when they are messily strewn about the room, the soft colors make the place look strangely calming.
These toys encourage your child to use their creativity to design something they have never done before.
But remember, parenting can’t be outsourced to toys
Think about toys, and some of us may think that all we need to do as parents is find the right toy, and our child will be forever engaged by it.
But that’s not what children want. Children want, and need our attention, especially in their early years.
I remember one of my most heart-wrenching moments came when I was seated at a bus stop. A child was trying to catch his mum’s attention, constantly clawing at her arm, or poking her.
But the mum was on her phone, and kept telling him to stop.
The child fell silent, and the trip remained silent for the rest of the journey.
I think something broke there.
Parenting is a lifelong journey. And toys are the medium through which we relate to our children. Let us not just focus on it being a way to ‘get’ our kid higher marks, or into better schools, but really, as a way to cherish these precious moments we have together.
Your child only grows up once.
Miss that, and it will never come back again.