Why should family time be on your priority list?
You love your family and you spend so much time and effort in giving them the best of every material thing that you can afford. You count every minute as precious and make investments to secure the financial future of your family. But you still find that sometimes the family may not be as close or happy and that makes you think, what have I have missed?
Perhaps, you missed the most important thing that your family needs, your time. Spending time with your loved ones is the best investment you can ever make. We’ve heard it a hundred times before – quality trumps quantity every time.
It creates memories to cherish forever
How clearly do you remember the first bicycle that dad bought you or perhaps it was a video game? But the most fun was the time spent with him learning to ride the bike or shooting down demons in some fantasy universe. Be it the memories of helping your mother bake goodies for Christmas or your grandma telling you bedtime stories, every memory of the time you spent with your loved ones is something you cherish. Spending time with family creates memories for both parents as well as children, and these are the very memories that influence and inform choices as children grow into adults.
Makes your children feel loved
It’s a tough world to grow up in. Hence, sometimes we get so anxious in raising successful children that we often forget the real meaning of spending quality time with them. Spending time with children doesn’t include rushing them to school, followed by coaching classes, extracurricular activities and homework supervision. It means being fully engaged with your child in any activity that makes him feel loved and wanted. When children feel loved and valued by parents, they feel positive about themselves and grow up to be confident individuals.
Helps in the all-round development of children
Research indicates that early parent-child interactions contribute positively to the brain development of the child. Ninety percent development of a child’s brain takes place during the first three years. Hence, when parents engage in small activities with their toddlers like peek-a-boo, playing catch, puzzles and filling a bucket with toys, they are helping their child to learn and develop.
Develops a sense of security in the child
What a child at any age seeks the most is a sense of security. Family time assures your child of that security. You don’t need to wait to find time for luxurious activities to make it meaningful for your children. Take a short walk to the shops, help your child build a lego spaceship, or give tips to your son while playing a backyard game of football with him. Children tend to share more about their day while they are enjoying an activity with mum and dad.
A natural way of spending time with your family is to have dinner together. The US National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) conducted a study and found that teenagers who do not have frequent family dinners are “twice as likely to use tobacco, nearly twice as likely to use alcohol, and one and a half times more likely to use marijuana.” Teenagers usually like to spend more time with their friends. So, family mealtime can be a natural way to connect with them without making them feel interrogated. You can use this time to talk, share your own childhood stories, connect with them, observe any changes in their behaviour and spot the cause of any potential issues. Do not worry if you have a packed schedule and cannot be present regularly for family dinners. Aim for 2 to 3 family dinners a week. Also, try to engage the entire family from adults to children in menu preparation, grocery shopping and cooking on a weekend.
Go for outings
If you are an adventurous parent, then taking your family on excursions or short holidays is not only a good way to refresh yourself but also a good time to strengthen your family bond. Studies reveal that families that enjoy activities together have strong emotional ties and greater ability to overcome adverse situations as a family. Spending time with the family and understanding each other also helps in the development of the child’s emotional intelligence. Your child is likely to develop a positive behaviour and learn social skills by regularly interacting with parents and siblings.
Invite parents home
Not only your children but even your parents and spouse need your time. If your parents stay with you, having meals together can be a fun time for sharing family anecdotes and other valuable lessons that inculcate a sense of belonging with the family. Family members of all ages tend to eat better if they have meals together. It is also a good time to try new food. Children are more likely to enjoy the food that parents like to eat.
If your parents stay away, invite them home on weekends or visit them. Loneliness is also a reason for their ill health or sickness. Spending quality time with parents is very important for their mental and emotional well-being as well. Take your children with you to visit your parents. Grandparents love to share stories and play with their grandchildren. The lessons passed on by grandparents are the ones children remember forever. They also learn to live a balanced life and value their parents when they see you doing the same to your parents.
Last but not least, make time for your spouse and keep working on the marriage. Appreciate each other and take the time to discuss your day. A good understanding between a husband and wife is the foundation of a strong family. Always remember, happy parents raise children who grow up to be happy adults.
Is there an optimal age for preschooling?
Most of the preschool start enrolling children at the age of 3 years, but does that mean your child is ready for it? More importantly, are you ready for it?
The readiness of your child to join a preschool is not determined by his age. It might be tempting to look at a set of interesting activities and conclude that your child will be able to do it. But the important question is: Is your child ready to part with you and join a structured programme along with other children of his age group?
Experts suggest that preschool is an experience that should not be missed. As a parent you want your child to have a solid foundation to start with. But it is equally important to analyse its benefits and pitfalls before you decide to put your child in a preschool.
Preschools help your child develop social skills
The benefits of preschools isn’t just limited to just academic growth of your child. Some parents tend to push their children to join a preschool thinking their children will get ahead in academics. Contrary to general belief, the most important benefit of a preschool is that children learn to socialise and interact with other children and teachers. It inculcates the love for learning in children and teaches them how to share, adjust and get along with their peers.
Playdates and outings are not always enough for the child’s social development. At preschool, your little one learns to get along with other children and resolve his own conflicts without the intervention of parents.
You cannot replicate the same environment at home
The comfort, free play and values that kids receive from staying at home cannot be denied. At the same time, preschool offers an organised learning environment that cannot be created at home. It offers the right mix of structured and unstructured activities to enhance the growth and development of your child.
Even if you decide to teach your child at home, it is very difficult to stay consistent with your efforts. You have to intentionally work on teaching your child the skills that other children are learning at school. The curriculum at preschool is composed of activities and materials that entice the children to remain engaged and help them learn unconsciously.
Your child learns to trust and build relationship with others
A toddler is usually very attached to the caregiver and has a difficult time being with other adults. Some of them might even feel strange in the presence of friends and family members. Going to preschool gives your child the opportunity to interact with other adults apart from you. He will be able to talk and voice his concerns to teachers. Hence, it fosters a feeling of trust and the child feels assured even when you are not around. Patience is also an important virtue that the child imbibes during his journey at school. Children are used to undivided attention from the family and the caregiver. Whereas, at preschool, they need to wait for their turn as there are other children who require the same attention.
It prepares them for smooth transition to school
Preschool provides an environment that prepares your child for a smooth transition to kindergarten and school. Getting up on time, eating lunch by yourself, following the instructions of teachers, playing and getting along with other kids, and learning in the class are few activities that prepare the child for his daily routine at school. In short, it bridges the gap between home and primary school.
Handling the anxiety of separation
If your child is not ready for preschool, he might go through separation anxiety and stress that makes you feel guilty about your decision. Going to school is a big change in the schedule that your toddler has become accustomed to. He sees new people around and takes time to trust and understand teachers and peers.
As a parent, you need to be prepared to handle difficult mornings when your child doesn’t want to go to school. Kids might get sick, throw tantrums or put up fights in the initial days to stay home. Be prepared to handle these challenges and take extra care of your child in these initial days.
Difficult daily schedule and timings
While some preschools have a flexible schedule, others demand that a strict routine be followed. This might make it difficult, especially for working parents. Moreover, the high cost involved in before and after school facilities make it a tough call for parents. You might need to leave soon or start early depending on the schedule of your child.
Packing lunch and other toiletries
The best thing about having a caregiver at home is that you have everything ready for the child at home. From daily meals to changing of diapers, you don’t need to worry about anything. This is not the case when your child starts going to preschool. You are responsible for preparing food and packing it according to preschool’s instructions. You might also need to pack spare clothes or a blanket in case it is required by the school.
Preparing your child for preschool
Before you decide to put your child in preschool, do your research.Talk to teachers, principal and friends who have experience with their children attending preschool. Learn about the goals of the preschool for your child’s age.
If your child is not yet ready to join a preschool, do not worry about it. Try to instil anticipation and enthusiasm instead of anxiety and distress. Build a positive environment at home where you talk to your kids about the fun they will have in preschool and new friends that they will make. Children feel secure when you introduce an idea to them before executing it.
Helping the child to become independent is another important step towards getting him ready for preschool. Encourage them to do small activities like brushing their hair or putting on their shorts. This gives them a sense of accomplishment and they feel comfortable moving on to the next level. After all, self-confidence is the best virtue that can ease your child’s journey through all his schooling years.
Learning in the lap of nature at TCH U-Thant
The children’s house is proud to present its brand-new preschool in the heart of Kuala Lumpur – TCH U-Thant – a beautiful building nestled among tall green trees. Indeed, nature is at the very core of the preschool. This comes from the fact that there is a deep connection between children and nature. With curiosity and imagination, the outdoors become a big unexplored playground.
Remember the time you took your children outdoors to play in the lap of nature, how much they enjoyed jumping in puddles, building leaf mountains, playing at the beach and climbing trees? Pebbles, seashells, grass, rocks, the rain, plants, trees, and sand — none of these came with a guide so our imagination took hold and we were liberated into many, many worlds.
The rustling of the leaves stimulates the sense of hearing and the fragrance of a flower stimulates the sense of smell; nature stimulates creative instincts and sensory development of the child. Hence, you cannot ignore the importance of nature play in the all-round development of your child.
Sensorial play vital
However, today most children are bound by tight schedules and extracurricular activities. Their first interaction is often with the TV, a tablet or computer. Interacting with nature is restricted to occasional visits to the playground or animated movies about nature. Sadly, they are isolated from the beautiful experiences of nature and develop distaste or fear of heat, cold, rain, and other natural things. This is the beginning of many modern day problems in children like rising cases of obesity, poor eyesight due to continuous exposure to artificial light of screens, plus the loss of opportunity to build resistance and immunity.
Learning through nature is not an occasional tour of man-made parks, but a part of the every day life where they are given the opportunity to grow in a secure and loving, carefully prepared environment that gives them the freedom to learn by choosing their own materials.
At The children’s house U-Thant, the Montessori Method recognises the significance of nature or play-based learning in the early years. Every activity is carefully designed to encourage the social, cognitive, emotional and physical abilities of the child. Most of all, it triggers the sense of curiosity and creativity in children, which helps them develop problem-solving skills required to be successful. Dr Maria Montessori wrote about it in the The Absorbent Mind: “Only through freedom and environmental experience is it practically possible for human development to occur.”
U-Thant maximises nature play
The Montessori Method believes that every child is born a sensorial explorer, and that’s why The children’s house U-Thant not only incorporates the elements of indoor learning but also provides the best environment for outdoor learning for the little ones. The spacious compound of U-Thant coupled with the exclusive facilities creates a huge outdoor space that is filled with the latest and ‘funnest’ playground equipment that will create a constant opportunity for adventure, not to mention learning.
Then there is the Alfresco Dining Area! Yes, you read that right, the children will get to dine in the cool air and enjoy the freshness of the surroundings under the shade of the surrounding trees.
One of the key features of The children’s house U-Thant is The Atelier Tree. The Atelier Tree is this massive tree with an atelier built around it. Children can enjoy nature while they get busy with their art and craft projects. It is a beautiful space where even the adults will feel inspired to show their gifted side as they work surrounded by full glass windows and roof. This ensures that everyone working in the atelier gets sufficient sunlight and can enjoy the outdoors to get inspiration for creating artwork. All the original work will then be displayed in the Children’s Art Gallery. The gallery will display the children’s masterpieces in an effort to not only appreciate but also encourage creativity in the children.
The children will no doubt enjoy another key feature of the school – the Wet & Wonderful water play! We all know that children love to play with water and the water play area at U-Thant gives children the opportunity to get imaginative with water! Your child is going to wake-up every morning raring to go to preschool!
Come on over for a tour of The children’s house at U-Thant. You will find the environment at U-Thant is specially prepared to let your child move freely and interact with nature. As children interact with the environment and learn to take care of their surroundings, a sense of responsibility and kindness develops. Eventually, children learn to identify their emotions, express them, and respond effectively. They develop great self-esteem and it drives them to follow their passion and be the best version of themselves. And isn’t that what each of us want for our children?
An stirring story of determination and courage
Maria Montessori was a courageous girl breaking the conventional barriers of education set up for those of her gender in the 1890s in Chiaravalle, Italy.
As a little girl, she initially aspired to become an engineer. But once she graduated from higher secondary school, she was determined to become a doctor. Despite her parents wishes to make her a teacher, Maria wanted to enter the field of medicine, which was dominated by men. Maria joined the University of Rome in 1890 and became the first woman to join a medical college in Italy.
Due to the gender bias, Maria faced many obstacles during her study and finally qualified as a doctor in 1896. Dr Montessori was very competent and treated patients from all social classes with the same the respect. She was also a member of Women’s Rights Movement and later joined a research programme at the University of Rome in the psychiatric clinic. Gradually Maria got interested in education and her studies led her to observe and question the teaching methods of children with intellectual disabilities.
A revolution in early childhood education
Maria got the opportunity to further investigate and improve the teaching methods when she was appointed as the co-director of Orthophrenic School. The school admitted a number of children with different disorders and developmental disabilities. She decided to approach the task in a scientific manner by analysing and observing the different teaching methods to find the one that was best for the children. Maria passionately worked throughout the day and compiled her notes at night.The unexpected progress of the children made the programme a big success.
In 1901, Montessori began her study in anthropology and educational philosophy and joined as a lecturer at the Pedagogic School of the University of Rome. During this period of development in Rome, parents were out for work all day while the children created havoc at home. Hence, Maria was approached to keep the children engaged so that they do not damage the newly constructed apartments. Maria willingly accepted the opportunity to open a childcare centre for the poor families. This led to the establishment of her first Casa dei Bambini (‘Children’s House’), which started on the 6th of January 1907. While people did not expect much from this project, Maria felt her vision would be realised one day: “I had a strange feeling which made me announce emphatically that here was the opening of an undertaking of which the whole world would one day speak.”
She brought some of the material that she had developed for children in the Orthophrenic School. Soon she introduced many new activities and other materials but only decided to keep the ones that engaged the children. She realised that when children are placed in an environment that supports their natural development, they have the power of self-education. The young children progressed brilliantly and the news of Montessori’s education approach started spreading rapidly throughout Italy.
Spreading the Montessori Method worldwide
In 1909, Montessori conducted the first training session in her educational approach for 100 students.
This was followed by the establishment of a number of Montessori schools, societies and training programmes all over the world. Maria was soon occupied in public speaking and lectures in different countries but she decided to give up these commitments and remain devoted to her primary purpose.
During the same period, the rise of fascism in Europe caused a huge loss as all Montessori schools in Germany were closed by the Nazis in 1933. After she refused to be a part of Mussolini’s plans to incorporate the Montessori schools into youth movement for fascists, he closed down all her schools. In 1939, Maria and her son went to India to run a training course for 3 months in Madras. But due to the outbreak of the war, she was put under house arrest and her stay was extended to a period of 7 years. However, Maria’s passion could not be shaken by the circumstances and she used the opportunity to train over a thousand teachers in India.
After her return to Europe, Maria was asked to address Unesco with the theme of Education and Peace. This was followed by her nomination for the Nobel Prize Award in 1949. She believed: “The child is capable of developing and giving us tangible proof of the possibility of a better humanity. He has shown us the true process of construction of the human being. We have seen children totally change as they acquire a love for things and as their sense of order, discipline, and self-control develops within them… The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind.”
The Montessori Method of education created a century ago still remains relevant despite the development and changes in education. Montessori education is based on the principle of respect for the child. Maria Montessori believed that when children are respected and given the freedom to choose the material they want to work with, they have the power to educate themselves. Over a period of 100 years, the Montessori Method has enabled the all-round development of hundreds and thousands of children, making them contributing members of society.