Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Nurturing Creativity and Resourcefulness through Play

This was taken when Dolly just turned 4.

She made this bracelet for herself with playdoh, inspired by a piece of mine.

This girl will secretly open my jewellery collection when I am not around to pick out each piece to examine and admire. Since she could not wear one of mine and when she asked me to buy her one, my consistent reply was to wait till her birthday or she could write to Santa for it, which means more waiting, she decided to act.

On a whim one day, she asked for a new tub of playdoh and got to work. By the time she was done, she proudly showed off her creation and announced that now, she had also found a way to have her own jewellery. Haha..

I love her resourcefulness and creativity. On a daily basis, she exhibits a high level of problem-solving ability. When she was younger, whenever she encountered a problem during her creation process, she would ask for help. With more experience and confidence now, she would just walk around the house looking for solutions.

Besides the bracelet, she had also made herself many crowns and wands with recycled materials I have lying around in the house, when she felt strongly she needed them to be a convincing queen or princess. On days when she was a heroine and needed a cape, she found ways to attach towels or blankets to her attire.

As I am typing this post, she is busy creating a paper crocodile for a show that she is preparing for us later. I love how she is always keeping busy with so many little ideas and projects, and how she is forever seeking out new inspiration and solving the problems she encounters.

She is just like her brothers, who are constantly creating something. I am convinced that this is made possible because of all the skills they acquired since they were little, through the way I introduced the lapbooking activities, all kinds of hands-on activities and crafts and how I have always opened their eyes and minds to the possibilities of every object they came across.

Creativity is a skill that can be nurtured and like all skills, the earlier we start, the more practices they get, the better they become.

Resourcefulness can be honed only if we refrain from solving every problem they encounter.

Without laying the foundation for critical thinking early on, it is tougher for children to effectively problem-solve. The ability to ask themselves the right questions and identifying the crux of the problems they encounter also affects their chances of finding suitable solutions.

The more resourceful and creative they are, the better they get at problem-solving and the more self-confident and resilient they become. As a result they are more willing to embrace challenges they may encounter. With each obstacle removed independently, their self-confidence and self-esteem improve by leaps and bounds.

It is a virtuous cycle. As parents, how we interact and respond, what activities and how we introduce them all have a tremendous impact on how our kids learn through play.

Now that I have found the tried-and-tested methods which deliver the results that I am after, I am most thrilled to be able to share them with the parents of my lapbooking classes. I cannot wait to impart and empower these parents all my knowledge that I have amassed from my 12 years of relentless research into best practices and valuable coaching experience from having personally coached hundreds of children and watched them grow from "tiny acorns" into the outstanding boys and girls they are now.

Recently, over 10 parents of my ex-tinyacorns have contacted me voluntarily. Their older kids are now all doing really well in schools, most topping their classes and/or cohorts and excelling in areas outside academics too. I am grateful that these parents are all returning with their younger/youngest kids so they can also benefit from my programme.  My oldest student is already in Secondary 1! How time flies!

Looking at the new students last weekend reminded me once again of how much potential each and every one of them possesses and how valuable time is to accelerate their pace of learning. 

When the child is under 4 years old, a mere 3 to 6 months of accelerated learning can provide the child with tremendous head start as the brain growth for kids between 0 - 3 years and 4 - 6 years is not linear but exponential. Ages 4 to 6 is another important period of development for gains in language literacy and higher order thinking skills (H.O.T.S). Lay a strong foundation in language literacy and H.O.T.S before the kids enter Primary school and the next 6 years of school curriculum will be a piece of cake to most, hence providing them the much-needed time and energy to advance their skills and pursue other interests.

Now that I am part of the learning journey of my new "kids", I am both inspired, excited and humbled at the same time. The ball is now in my court. And I have laid the first layer of nourishment for my "tiny acorns" last weekend when we had our first lesson.

Monday, October 24, 2016

National Spelling Championships 2016

This took place in April.

The RHB-Straits Times National Spelling Championship 2016.

In my boys' school, the P4 to P6 would be invited to sit through a selection test in school every year. The kids have to spell 20 words and out of the over 800 pupils, only a handful will be picked to represent the school in the first round of the spelling competition.

I understand that usually only 2 or 3 in Primary 4 and 5 would be picked and the remaining top spellers would be from Primary 6 classes. And most of these seniors will be from the same class - the only top class. The school selection is purely based on merits, so it is all very fair.

While I know that my eldest has a gigantic vocabulary and has never had problems spelling big words, I had never paid any attention to this competition in the past. Being in an academically competitive school means that there is stiff competition amongst peers for every opportunity to represent school. So it was a pleasant surprise when he came home one afternoon to inform me nonchalantly that he was one of the 15 selected, along with another 8 from his class.

He went to the First Round and competed against 1800 students from all over Singapore.

With such fierce competition, and this being his first time, we did not expect more especially after we learnt from fellow parents that 2 of his classmates are competing for their third consecutive year. These must be the previous top spellers of the cohort. Experience does matter a lot for such events since winning counts on one's ability to remain calm in addition to his ability to spell.

But he conquered the First Round, as one of the 119 Spelling Warriors! And the only 4 left from his school to make it to the second round - the Zonal Round.

The second round was much harder as they had to spell in front of an audience. Unlike in the paper and pencil round where pupils can correct their spelled words, in this second round where they spelled into the microphone, they were eliminated the moment they spelled one word wrongly.

Unfortunately he fumbled and his journey ended here. It was a word that we knew he could spell, but he just did not manage to that day. Perhaps the nerves got the better of him that moment he was the focus of everyone's attention. Still, we were extremely proud and pleased that he gained some experience. The results did not matter much really, since there could only be one eventual winner and he did make it all the way to Zonal round which was still quite a feat for a first-timer.

We are already grateful for the many lessons he could learn from this valuable experience. His best friend, who was competing for the third consecutive year, did eventually make it to the Final round and emerged #7 nationally this time. So there was still plenty for us all to cheer for.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

5-year-old Invents: The Spider Web Maker

We always teach our kids not to waste resources and always recycle whenever possible.
As a result, they have been trained to keep an eye out for items that can be recycled.

Dolly came across a piece of paper with a big circle in the middle and decided to create something with it, so the paper would not go to waste.

30 min later, she brought it to me with a great story.

"This is a spider web maker. In case there are lots of insects in the house, we can make spider webs with this machine and insects will be trapped by the webs. Just press the buttons on the frame and the colourful part in the middle will spin so fast that spider silk will shoot out from it and form a web."


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