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Young Singapore Parents Share Important Attributes They Look For When Choosing A Preschool For Their Children

A good preschool experience helps prepare children to succeed in their future educational journey.

This article was written in collaboration with Kiddiwinkie Schoolhouse. Kiddiwinkie Schoolhouse is a leading premium infant care and preschool brand with an emphasis on purposeful play and the  Inquiry-Based learning approach for every child. All views expressed in this article are the independent opinion of based on our research. You can view our full editorial policy here.

Education is an important building block for every child growing up in Singapore. In fact, under the Compulsory Education Act, primary education is compulsory for all children above the age of 6 years who are Singapore citizens and reside in Singapore.

While education at age 6 or younger isn’t compulsory, this does not mean it is any less important. Attending a preschool is vital to helping our children develop their communication skills, emotional maturity, curiosity to learn, physical development, and many other important life skills in their early and preschool years. A good preschool experience also helps prepare children to succeed when they start primary school.

As such, it should be no surprise that for many parents in Singapore, selecting a preschool for their young children is an important decision.

Parents may also have their own attributes that they value when selecting a preschool. To understand what some of the common attributes are, we spoke to three young parents about what they looked for when choosing a preschool in Singapore for their children.

Marcus Ho. Dad to twin boys, aged 4

Raising a child is never easy. Having to raise twins makes it twice as challenging. From longer feed times to having to buy two sets of everything, parents of twins must navigate through the stages of parenting with additional layers of complexity.

With twin boys aged 4, Marcus, who runs his own digital agency business, has to balance being a hands-on dad while managing his business. From moving to a bigger home with more space for the children to enduring 14-hour flights with the twins, Marcus has his fair share of battle scars as he and his wife do their best to raise their boys while juggling their own careers.

Timothy: What were some of the non-negotiables for you when choosing a preschool for the boys?

Marcus: No academic pressure or homework for our boys. They’re kids, and kids need to play. We want an environment that focuses on play, and a school that focuses on parent-teacher partnership.

Timothy: You shifted to a bigger place for the family. Was distance from the preschool also a factor for your move?

Marcus: Absolutely. We have twins, and convenience was the #1 factor for us as well. We do not want to feel like there should be a rush to school every morning. The school that the boys go to is within 3-minute walking distance – it’s perfect for us (and them)!

Timothy: What were some key attributes that attracted you to the preschool?

Marcus: The large outdoor area that the school has, and the word-of-mouth recommendation from the community.

Timothy: Were there any challenges for the boys when they started school?

Marcus: Not really – they were comfortable from the first day. I guess having twins help in that sense since they have each other!

Timothy: Was cost a concern for you since the price will be twice as much with the twins?

Marcus: Our decision-making criteria were in this order: (1) Convenience, (2) the School’s environment and philosophy, and then (3) Price. It also helps that the area we live in is very community-driven, so the kids are together in school, and in the evenings, we often see each other in the park as well.

Timothy: Learning at a young age should be fun and we always want our kids to be curious. How do you and the preschool help in creating the environment?

Marcus: We try our best to be involved in activities that our kids are in. So if they are in school and learning about their five senses (as they are now), then we try to make up games around them. Most of them are silly games, but who cares? We have fun too.

Christina Yuen. Mom to two young girls, aged 3 and 1

As a Chinese-Australian who is living and working in Singapore, Christina very much considers Singapore as her second home. We first met Christina at a co-working space in Singapore that provides babysitting services for parents of infants and toddlers so that parents can have a space to work while their little ones are being cared for.

It was important for her children to have the chance to learn about different cultures and languages, including Chinese, while they are in a preschool in Singapore. What is also important is for her daughters to have an enriching experience in their preschool, and to engage well with their friends and teachers so that they can adapt to different learning environments in the future, be it in Singapore or Australia.

Timothy: Raising kids overseas can be challenging, especially since you can’t rely on help from your parents or other family members. What challenges did you and your husband had to overcome since both of you are working in Singapore and have young children?

Christina: It’s definitely no walk in the park and some days are harder than others, but in a way, we are lucky that we had our first child during COVID and thus never had (or were able to get) any external help. I think it would have been harder to manage if we had a taste of having help and then not had it after that.

For me, one of the main challenges was not being able to have any off days or take some time out for ourselves. Now that our second child is almost a year old, managing two kids with just one adult has become manageable, and this allows one of us to have some time to do our own thing. For example, my husband, Steve, can go out on bike rides, or we take turns squeezing in a quick jog at night when the girls are asleep.

Timothy: Did your husband and you discuss about whether the kids should attend preschool in Singapore or Australia?

Christina: Definitely! Our initial plan was to go back to Australia, and for the longest time, we had planned it around when the older one starts preschool – to return to Australia. We understand how the education system works and we miss our family! Recently, we have decided we might extend our stay for a few more years in Singapore. One of the biggest factors in extending our stay is the safety, convenience, and love of Singapore.

Timothy: What are some important attributes that you have when selecting a suitable preschool?

Christina: As we do not have help, proximity and convenience to our home are probably the biggest factors when choosing a preschool. Price is, of course, another consideration. Another area I highly value is how the preschool operates and their curriculum. It doesn’t bother me much in terms of academics or what they learn per se, but more so for how they learn it and the values a school wants to instil in a child. I also care a lot about whether we feel comfortable with a school and know that our child is in good hands.

Timothy: As a foreigner, are there any additional difficulties you face when finding a preschool for your girl?

Christina: We don’t speak Chinese (Mandarin) and mostly speak Cantonese and English with our girls, so the Chinese language barrier and whether our girl would be able to keep up is a concern we have.

Dinesh Dayani. Dad to two young boys, aged 4 and 2

As part of Singapore’s education system, our children are taught to be bilingual. Whether it’s Chinese, Malay, or Tamil, students will study their own mother tongue language.

As an Indian of non-Tamil ethnicity, Dinesh studied Chinese in primary school. Though his Chinese proficiency is basic, it has been useful for him as a working adult as it allows him to communicate with Chinese-speaking clients and colleagues.

Now a father to two young boys, Dinesh also hopes his children can learn Chinese in school. In fact, his older son is currently learning Chinese in his preschool, and Dinesh teaches and learns alongside him, with occasional help from Google.

Timothy: As kids growing up, most of us presume that Indians will learn Tamil in school. How did you end up learning Chinese in primary school?

Dinesh: Within the Indian community in Singapore, Tamils form a large majority. This is why Tamil is offered as a Mother Tongue in schools. I am Sindhi (a different sub-race but categorised as Indian), and my Mother Tongue is not Tamil.

While it was not as common when I was younger, my parents could also have selected other Indian languages like Hindi (which is actually the most commonly spoken language in India). However, these classes would have to be taken on the weekends at our own time and at additional expense.

My parents had the unenviable job of deciding which language to select as my second language. They felt that learning Chinese in school would be the most beneficial out of the other options. This also means that I can learn Chinese in primary school with all my other Chinese friends and don’t have to attend another language class on the weekend.

Editor’s Note: According to MOE, Non-Tamil speaking students of Indian ethnicity can apply to study Non-Tamil Indian Language (Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi or Urdu). These language classes are not provided by MOE and are usually conducted outside of school premises and hours.

Timothy: How was the experience learning Chinese, especially since none of your family members speak the language?

Dinesh: It was not easy. Since my parents could not guide me, they did the next best thing – hiring a tutor to help with my homework and to make sure I would not fall too far behind in school.

In school, it was quite isolating at first. I remember on my first day in primary school, one of the teachers insisted that I should be sent to another Mother Tongue class. However, it did get better over time. In another instance, I remember one of my Chinese teachers praising the fact that I was trying to learn the language (despite knowing that I was struggling).

Through the years of learning Chinese, I also got to know several Chinese friends who similarly struggled with the language. Many of them did not speak the language and/or had parents who could not guide them at home. Of course, I was also most likely to forge closer friendships with these students.

Timothy: Your older son is attending a preschool that teaches Chinese. Was that something you wanted for him leading to you to choosing the preschool and the subject?

Dinesh: Having gone through the process myself, I recognise the difficulties. I vividly remember one time when I just started crying inconsolably during Chinese tuition. I was probably around 8 or 9. I don’t exactly remember why.

While I don’t wish to overwhelm my children, I do believe that with the right support, they can become relatively proficient. I also have to accept that regardless of the second language they take, they will need support because our family only speaks English at home.

Timothy: Did you consider enrolling your child in other preschools that may offer Indian languages such as Hindi? 

Dinesh: No. Firstly, we prioritised putting our children in a school within walking distance of our home. This way, my parents could help send and/or pick him up when needed. If we narrowed our requirements too much, it would be challenging to find a nearby school.

Even if we considered other Indian languages such as Hindi, which would be much closer to our actual Mother Tongue (which is Sindhi as well), I don’t have a strong background to support my children in learning it at home.

Placing our children in a preschool that only offers Hindi would also limit their interaction to students of the same cultural background. We preferred sending our children to a school where they would also learn about other cultures and make friends of diverse backgrounds. This is also what they will experience when they eventually go to primary school.

Timothy: Besides being able to learn Chinese, what were some other criteria you look for when choosing a preschool for your son?

Dinesh: Like many other parents I know, our main criteria was to find a school within walking distance. We also looked at the programme and reputation of the school, its learning facilities and its teachers.

We went for an open house at the school and were happy to see our child warming up to the learning environment and the warm and friendly teachers. That helped us make our decision.

Timothy: Your wife works at an international school. Was there a consideration to send your son to the international school that your wife is teaching at?

Dinesh: To us, there are more advantages to sending our son to a local preschool. One of the main ones is that we think he will be better prepared to enter a local primary school.

My wife also works at a preschool at the opposite end of the island (from where we live). The distance was another major consideration. Moreover, being nearer to our home gave us more flexibility in sending and picking him up from school.

Being ready for primary school is an important area that parents in Singapore value. How has attending a preschool prepare your son for when he eventually attends primary school?

Dinesh: Initially, my wife and I had some doubts about sending our son to N1. He was born in December, and we felt that he may lag compared to other children, especially those born earlier in the year. He would be barely 2 years old, while some of his friends might be nearing 3 years.

The first 2 to 3 weeks were difficult. He was constantly crying and wanted to come back home. The teachers also agreed it was perhaps too early for him. We decided that if he could not adapt in the next few weeks, we would withdraw him.

We tried very hard to engage him about his day at school. In the subsequent months, we saw a 180-degree switch in his outlook towards school. He wanted to go – to meet his friends and teachers. After about 6 months in, teachers shared that he has become one of the more vocal children and displays a sense of humour in his work (which I’m pretty sure wasn’t a compliment!).

I’m glad we eventually enrolled him in N1; he’s grown so much in the past year. Besides constantly learning new things, he is also much more confident and willing to try new things.

I think this has built a positive outlook on learning and made him a more resilient person – which are skills that will help him acclimatise to new learning environments.

Convenience Is Key

Having spoken to all three parents and experiencing it myself as a parent, I think it’s safe to say that for many Singaporean parents, distance from the preschool is likely one of the key attributes we care about. This is why all three of the parents we spoke to decided to enrol their children in preschools near their homes.

Preschools like Kiddiwinkie Schoolhouse, a leading premium preschool in Singapore that has 9 preschool centres strategically located in the northern, southern, eastern, western and central parts of Singapore, will naturally be able to provide convenience to parents and children that are highly sought after.

Enjoying The Process Of Learning

Besides convenience, another area that all parents want for their little ones is for them to enjoy the process of learning. For all three parents, ensuring that their children have fun playing and learning in school was important.

For Marcus, an environment that focuses on learning through play is important. Marcus does not want his children to feel any academic pressure at a young age and would prefer for them to enjoy the process of learning.

Having ample outdoor space also helps in providing a conducive environment for children to play and have fun.

This is why preschools like Kiddiwinkie Schoolhouse develop curriculum that focuses on giving children the opportunity to learn through play and exploration. The school’s curriculum taps into purposeful play during the early years and progresses to guided inquiry-based learning, which encourages children to be curious and seek to explore topics that are relevant and of interest to them. Throughout their learning, they build children’s resilience in the areas of physical, mental, and social-emotional to bring out the best in each child.

Inculcating The Right Values

For Christina, the values that the school inculcates in her children are important. She also wants her child to have the right environment to learn so that she can gain the self-confidence to interact with their friends and teachers.

Kiddiwinkie Schoolhouse hopes to instill positive values through its lessons to help develop a child’s resilience in the physical, mental, emotional and social aspects of life. There is also exposure to different cultures around the world, which is valuable for children who will get to experience a rich multi-cultural immersion programme.

A Bilingual Environment

Another important aspect of learning in Singapore is being bilingual. For Kiddiwinkie Schoolhouse, its curriculum is designed to be bilingual, with an equal focus on both English and Chinese. For parents who want their child to be bilingual, a good grasp of both languages from a young age is vital. Even for non-Chinese like Dinesh or non-Singaporeans like Christina, they are still keen for their children to be learning Chinese in their preschool, as they believe the language will be useful for their kids.

If you want to find out more about the preschool programme and the values that each preschool hopes to teach their students, it will be worthwhile to arrange for a tour or attend a preschool open house.

For parents who are interested in finding out more about what the Kiddiwinkie Schoolhouse curriculum is like and the learning environment that it has to facilitate learning in school, why not sign up to attend the open house that will be happening on 15 and 29 April 2023.

Alternatively, you can also book a school tour with Kiddiwinkie Schoolhouse to find out more about how they can support your child in the early years of learning.