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 certain milestone he’s supposed to reach and he has reached it. I think it really helps because parents are always overthinking!
Another thing is that there’s a lot on the Building Blocks Facebook page about what books you can get at the library. I think that helps because sometimes when I go to the library, I am confused and don’t know what books I should get, so at least it helps me to focus on the types of books I can go and find.
The core content was also very well presented. The acronyms (eg. E.E.E.R.I, PETAR) helped me as a parent in remembering how I am supposed to approach and do the activities, especially quality reading, with my child.
[Sidenote: In our first few core videos, we introduced the building blocks of early (or emergent) literacy such as oral language, vocabulary, story structure and the alphabet. In a following video, we also shared that parents could help their child’s language development by practicing EEERI (Explain, Expand, Extend, Repeat, Imaginary play) during play time and PETAR (Point, Explain, Think Aloud, Ask Questions, Recall)]
How did practising the Building Blocks content benefit your child?
In the past, he tends to have more free play and when I play with him, I’m not sure if he’s getting the full benefit of that play. But right now when we take a toy and play with it, I can see that, for example with the rubber ducky, he can pretend to have a conversation with the toy and it helps with his cognitive development. There are a lot of hands-on activities which help promote his gross motor development as well.
Would you suggest the Building Blocks programme to other acquaintances and why?
Yes, definitely! I think it’s very beneficial especially for us parents who are not as well-informed about what things you can do with the child. Also, we could fit the programme into our busy schedules as parents, because of the way that it was broken down. Another thing is that you get items that you can use with your child, that if let’s say you see it outside, you might not be pushed or motivated to buy for your child to play. I think one good thing was because it was given to us, we are somewhat ‘forced’ to teach, describe and tell our child how to play with it. It helps to open your mind, as a parent, to how you can expand the ways to play with the child!