Building Blocks (BB) is our pilot home-based parents outreach programme organised in collaboration with Temasek Foundation. It aims to share evidence-based parenting tips, with a hands-on focus, to enhance children’s early literacy skills.
In this third feature, we have Tsuraiya, owner of a business running enrichment programmes and selling educational products for kids, as well as a mother of a 22-month-old boy. Here, she shares about her parenting experience and how the BB programme has benefitted her and her son!
What kind of challenges do you face the most as a parent?
One thing I would say is trying to find time to play with the kid, especially because I have my own business and currently it’s work from home. So I’ve been trying to juggle time, to find time, to make sure that when I attend to him there’s no distractions. Another thing would be to find proper materials to use for his developmental play.
How do you deal with such challenges?
In terms of trying to find quality time with him, most of the time I will really try to make some quality time to play with him; set aside the time, don’t think about work, maybe half an hour to one hour just to play with him. Now as he’s 22 months, he is able to understand when I say “sorry, now Mummy has to work” after I finish playing with him, and then he would try to give me time to do my work after that. I try to make him understand so when he hears the word “work”, it means “cannot disturb Mummy”.
How much time do you spend with your child, and how?
In the morning I’ll try to spend about 1 hour of quality time, usually to read books, and in the afternoon I’ll ask my mum or my husband or another caretaker to help take care of him. In the evening I’ll try to play some games with him or bring him out for another hour; at night it’ll be another quality 1 hour. So, on average it’s about 3 to 4 hours a day, totally undistracted.
Can you share with us an important tip for other parents?
First thing, I’m a person who really loves books, so from young when my son was still a baby I will try to find books and make sure that he is very familiar with them. Another thing I learnt after my son has already grown up a bit was that actually, when he was a baby he was supposed to be looking at books with high contrast colours like black, white - this is something I didn’t know beforehand. So now I share these tips with my friends, in terms of reading and being familiar with books.
Another thing I realised is that because he's had lots of exposure to books as well as speech (because we always talk with him; even though he doesn’t seem to understand, we just keep doing so), his speech development at 22 months has been quite good. He can count, knows the alphabet, differentiate colours, and when he wants something he knows how to ask for it using “please, thank you”. So I realised the exposure really works.
Name one most memorable time you had with your child.
The first time he said the word “mummy”!
How have you enjoyed the Building Blocks programme so far?
I truly enjoyed it. I think firstly the programme has been laid out in such a way that it is very systematic so it was easy for me to follow, especially with the breakdown of DIY Fridays and Tips Thursdays, so I know what to look forward to every day.
In terms of the products given, some of them were items we hadn’t thought about broader uses for. For example, take the rubber ducky - we use it in water play in the bathtub, but we didn’t think “oh, we can use it for sing-along, pretend play etc!”. The fishing rod was also actually something I wouldn’t think of buying because at first I was wondering, what can you do with it? Then after Learning Vessels laid out how you can use it, from cooking and pretend play to helping with gross motor skills, that’s when I realised it’s only one toy but you can expand it to a lot of uses. So it really opens my eyes!
Which of the BB content do you find most useful?
I truly loved the Tips Thursdays. I learnt a lot of things, in terms of tantrum [management] and speech & development; I learnt the most [from it]. But in terms of having the most fun, I think it is the DIY Fridays! I didn’t do everything to be honest, but the ones I did with my son, he truly enjoyed it. I did them together with him and he loved the shadow play because I think the light-black colour contrast made it very fun. He loved the Post-it Match DIY (for learning his ABCs) very much too, and that’s whenI realised he already knows the alphabet.
Did you put any of the content on Building Blocks to practice?
Yes, I think the slogan of “15 minutes a day, 3 times a week” is really effective as it helps me to put less pressure on myself, because sometimes I feel maybe I’m not spending enough time with my son. From there, once there is less pressure , it’s no longer trying to spend time and then wondering if it’s enough or not, as long as you know there’s a