Saturday, March 1, 2014

Playing in Singapore

Currently, there is a worldwide movement acknowledging the importance of play in the development of children. Playeum, or The Play Museum places several play stations in an enclosure emulating the concept of museum without walls. The aim is to provide multi-disciplinary cultural experiences for families and such a concept is well-received because Playeum has found its sponsorship in major cities.

                                  Parents and children collaborating at the pictorial wall

According to the organizer's flyer, Playeum has found its way to Melbourne through ArtPlay Arts Grant in 2011, won a Traiblazer Award presented at the British Museum, London, in 2010, and earned a Whitmore Drawing Inspiration Award, London, in 2009. In Singapore, Playeum became a reality at Tampines Central Community Complex, on 23 February 2014. It was a well-organized event attended by many parents and close-knit family members along with young children.
                                  Playeum at Tampines Central Community Complex Feb. 2014

There are many play stations set up for children to create, innovate, shape and design with confidence. Some of the playful activities included drawing on a large pictorial wall, using flour to mold various shapes with plastic casts, assembling hand-made designs on cards as part of the creative display for the wall mounted on the stage, and running through a maze of cloths to draw on the paper found in selected panels.

Designing on a T-Shirt is another interesting play form that offers much scope for creativity. Young children were captivated by the task. Some put their hard work to practical use by wearing the shirt immediately after they had put their heart and sweat into the designs.
                                          Molding with flour was a captivating activity at Playeum
The Guest-of-Honor, Mr. Heng Swee Keat, Minister of Education in Singapore, was present at the Community Centre. In his speech, he informed parents that unstructured play is an important part of a child’s life. At present, schools in Singapore are also putting emphasis on the EAGLES Award that speaks of students' leadership achievements as an integral part of holistic education. EAGLES stand for Edusave Award for Achievement, Good Leadership and Service which is awarded to Singapore students based on their co-curricular activities and contribution to community services over a one-year period.

At the Community Complex, many parents picked up useful tips from experts who shared some of their observations from studying children at play. One panelist shared her findings that all children wanted to be with their parents as indicated in their narratives for the pictures they drew, which always contain a participating parent event though the parents were not made visible in the picture. Another expert noticed that a child might develop a routinized feeling towards extracurricular classes  that they are enrolled in if they are not provided with their own play time. Going to a music lesson, for example, is not the same as playing the instrument on their own and recognizing their particular strength in the musical genre.
                                          A sense of satisfaction: wearing a self-designed T-shirt

More importantly, an expert also informed that pre-school children lacking drawing ability may indicate a lack of confidence due to the fear of drawing something incorrectly. The resolution is simply to encourage the child to draw openly according to her own view. Confidence would eventually develop from the drawing task. Another expert reminded parents that it is acceptable to have play-talk with young children as a form of bonding. Conversation need not always be a question-answer formulaic sequence. Questions may lead to more questions as a form of interactivity between parents and children.

The message is clear from Playeum that as part of a normal childhood, children must be given the space to explore with colors, glue, flour, paper, ribbon, cloth, straws, etc., not least because such behavior might not be readily available nor would it be a welcome way for some children to spend time at home. The organizers might have generated the realization that it is alright for children to make a mess during play and have fun through the experience even though there is no practical outcome simply because such activities are part and parcel of the personal development in childhood.
I still remember how American television programs such as Sesame Street and The Electric Company enhanced my own command of alphabetical compositions and counting in English. Puppet characters like the Count, Cookie Monster, Ernie and Big Bird successfully reinforced my English counting and spelling that I painstakingly learned in primary school with plenty of fun via rhythmic beats and melodious tunes.

Playeum reminds me that, despite a nightmarish experience in primary school, my language development was rescued by means of playful methodology such as mimicking a cartoon's words, or aping the puppet characters' pronunciation through pseudo-personification. The joy of watching and listening to English on television was all the more important because English as a subject was only spoken occasionally during contact time for a total of 4-5 hours a week many decades ago. One might recall the mimicking effort of a three year-old girl learning to sing in formal Mandarin phrases while dancing in front of the television according to the Chinese music video (Sew, 2013). 

Readers of this blog entry are welcome to share their experiences of playing or playful activities that have contributed to their language or personal development.

Further references


Sew, Jyh Wee. (2013). Sing to read. Grammar Gang.

Jyh Wee Sew
Centre for Language Studies
Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
Kent Ridge Campus, National University of Singapore


Jyh Sew said...

I also observe that the children at Playeum did not request for digital gadgets such as Iphones or Ipads. Playing around with objects among themselves made them share or wait for their turn to access play things such as glue sticks, color pencils and scissors, which is very different from a full control of a digital instrument absolutely alone.


Jyh Sew said...

Just for the record, my favorite actor-teacher in The Electric Company in the 70s was Morgan Freeman, who is currently a leading male actor. He was a hilarious person on the television show as he read or spoke in different styles and intonations over the same sentences