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TK Letchumy

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Ng and Shaelyn. Photo: Curious Child Center

Curiosity is a strong desire to know or learn something. Children are naturally curious and curiosity is the fuel that drives their learning.

With this in mind, former Miss Universe Malaysia, Carey Ng founded the Curious Child Center.

The childhood education centre uses the Reggio Emilia approach which provides enriching programmes for curious children.

It also aims to support parents wanting a good work-family balance.

Therefore, Ng chose Common Ground in Citta Mall, one of the fastest growing co-working space providers in Malaysia, as the location for her centre.

She said she wanted to support a community in which parents can achieve their goals while someone trusted took care of their children in an enriching way.

The environment is the Third Teacher

The centre has a vibrant interior which is specially curated for developing children’s creativity and encouraging curiosity.

There is a junior theatre for budding young artists which can also be utilised for story telling sessions.

A ball pit and sand pit provides space for sensory play  – a type of play that encourages mindfulness, relaxation and learning about their world.

Additionally, a music wall made up of pot and pans and tupperwares allows children to explore sound and music.

Finally, there is also a study area for learning and colouring activities.

Ng, who is mum to 1-year-old daughter Shaelyn Rey, says: “My focus is to create stimulating programmes for them because it is important for children to find their own tools and explore the environment around them before they reach full problem-solving potential.”

The Reggio Emilia Approach

Sensory play encourages mindfulness and relaxation among others

The Reggio Emilia approach is an educational philosophy focused on preschool and primary education.

Teaching is student centred and children are seen as strong, capable and resilient.

It is  based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community and emphasises exploration and discovery through a self-guided curriculum.

“Curious Child Centre believes in nurturing the biggest asset that is innate in the child, their curiousity! It is a language that is often lost when we are moulded over time. We believe strongly in the Reggio approach and how it equips children for school and life,” said Ng.

Photo: Curious Child Center

The programme

Curious Child Centre caters for babies as young as six-months-old up to children  six-years of age.

They have qualified teachers and a head nurse to care for the children.

“We create a home-like environment and hope to bring a safe amount of exposure to the kids in preparation for the real world. Children need an honest, fun, happy and resourceful environment to maximise their potential and learning in the long term,” Ng explained.

Among the tailor-made programmes are:

  • Baby Explorer: a sensory exploration and parent-baby bonding programme that stimulates the baby’s development;
  • Language Class:  a fun learning programme that includes bi-weekly Mandarin classes;
  • Little Chef: a programme that teaches about nutrition, food science and preparing a simple meal; and
  • Little Scientist: a programme that helps children discover science through DIY projects and exploring the natural surroundings.

Here, children will learn language and literacy, Math, art and craft, speech and drama, physical movement, music and movement, natural science, imaginative play and more.

Photo: Curious Child Center

The small teacher-to-child ratio classrooms provide ample opportunity for child-led investigative learning and project based approaches. The emphasis therefore is always on exploring and creating.

“We also have occasional workshops such as kids yoga and hip hop dance. My hope is to see both children and parents reap from our services,” Ng said.

Curious to know more? Visit the centre at Jalan PJU 1a/48, Pusat Perdagangan Dana 1, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia or call 0167513329 for more information.  Further details on their site here.

In recent times, the Hand Foot Mouth Disease (HMFD) has been raising concern throughout the country, with increasing number of cases reported every day.

The Health Ministry has confirmed that from January to August 3rd, a total of 43,250 HMFD cases have been detected. It said however, that there had been a decline since the the beginning of August nationwide. There had been previously been an average of 73 cases weekly.

Some schools in several states like Penang and Sabah have been temporarily closed due to the outbreak and the ministry has cautioned schools that stay open to maintain cleanliness to avoid the disease from spreading further.

The ministry has even directed teachers and operators of kindergartens, nurseries and pre-schools to screen children in its efforts to contain the spread of HMFD.

This flurry of activities surrounding the disease, further fueled by recent reports that trolleys and toys at shopping malls have been identified as among the main causes of the spread of HFMD, has raised alarm among parents.

Not Just Annoying, but Dangerous

This alarm turned to real fear as the country saw the first HFMD-related death.

A 17-month-old boy who was admitted to a private hospital in Bayan Lepas, Penang on Jun 3 after experiencing flu, breathing difficulty and mouth ulcers, died in Penang on Jun 6 after his condition worsened.

On July 21, another toddler from Kampung Pangtray, Daro, Mukah in Sarawak, died, believed to be due to HFMD.

Malaysian parents may not be relatively familiar with the disease, and are trying to protect their children from the disease as much as possible.

However, the Health Ministry has released guidelines on the disease for parents and health practitioners, so they can understand the disease better and prepare for any eventualities well.

Consultant Paediatrician and Exco Member of the Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA) Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail, shares some information and pointers on the disease with makchic.

1. What is HFMD?

HFMD is a typically benign but infectious disease caused by a virus. A number of viruses in the Coxsackie A & B and Enterovirus groups cause HFMD.

Enterovirus 71 has been associated with outbreaks of the disease that can cause neurological or brain involvement. However, Coxsackie viruses usually causes fever, malaise, rash, and small blisters that ulcerate and can also rarely cause inflammation of the heart.

2. How does the disease spread?

HFMD is moderately contagious. It spreads by direct contact with secretions from patients. Secretions could be saliva, secretions from skin vesicles, nasal discharge or even faeces and urine.
Close exposures to patients who cough or sneeze will help spread the disease. It can also be transmitted through things that have been touched or handled by patients.

A person is most contagious during the first week of the illness.

3. Who can get the disease?

Anybody who had been in contact with a patient or with belongings contaminated by patients can get it. This applies to both children and adults.

4. What are the symptoms of HFMD?

Symptoms include initial fever or sore throat and refusal to eat. Typical red raised rashes with fluid (vesicles) on hands, feet and/or buttocks. The rashes can also spread to other areas and can cover a greater part of the skin. Ulcers in the mouth will be noticed when the patient refuses to eat or drink.

5. Can the disease be prevented and treated?

There is no vaccine available for the disease. The only way to prevent the disease is to avoid contact with infected patients. Those who are infected can take medicine for fever or pain and must keep themselves rested and hydrated.

6. How can it be fatal?

Although the great majority of cases subside with symptomatic treatment, death can occur if the virus, especially the Enterovirus 71, attacks the brain or heart. Death is caused by inflammation of these organs.

7. Why there is a sudden surge in the disease in Malaysia?

There has always been a low baseline number of cases occurring throughout the year. However, there are certain peaks at certain times and the circulating viruses will also differ with time of the outbreak. Having said so, there is no particular reason why there is a sudden surge of cases of HFMD in parts of the country.

8. How can we protect ourselves?

Avoid close physical contact with those infected with HFMD. Do not share food or cutlery with others. Avoid going to places where we know there are HFMD patients.

Practise healthy lifestyles by eating nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains to improve your immunity.

The CDC also recommends the following preventitive steps to reduce risk of infection:

Wash your hands. Wash often and carefully, especially after using the bathroom, preparing food or drinks, and changing diapers. (And teach your children this too!)

Avoid close contact with infected people. Avoid hugging, kissing, or sharing cups or utensils.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. Wash surfaces with hot, soapy water, apply a solution made by adding 2 tablespoons of bleach to 4 cups of water, then rinse and dry.

If we recall our childhood, most of us must remember having crayons somewhere in the house. They may have been broken to pieces – alas! – but there were always crayons stashed away somewhere or filled into an old tin or pencil box.

Colouring with crayons is not only fun – and makes for sweet childhood memories – it is also highly beneficial for children. It hones children’s fine and gross motor strength, tool use and sensory processing.

But that’s not all. Children also learn pencil grasp, line awareness, hand-eye coordination and dexterity, while increasing their endurance, creativity and task completion.

The dangers of crayon sticks

Despite the many benefits of these beloved sticks of coloured wax, crayons have been mired in controversy for containing toxic ingredients and being harmful to children.

In 2015, United States’ Environmental Working Group (EWG) Action Fund found asbestos fibers in four brands of children’s crayons and two kids’ crime lab kits.

EWG’s report stated that children can inhale the fibers while using the crayons and any child exposed to asbestos is 3.5 times more likely than an adult to develop a lung disease caused by asbestos exposure, known as mesothelioma.

Keeping this in mind, a Malaysian mother, Yvonne Kong, set out on a quest to create something that enabled her children to continue doing what they loved doing safely.

Broken crayons

In 2016, the 40-year-old mother of two was collecting and recycling all the broken crayons lying around their house.

“Have you seen children throwing away perfectly good crayons away because it had snapped in half? It happens a lot in my house and I thought it was such a waste.

“Not only that, I realised that the crayons available in the market today are not only in traditional, boring stick shapes, but it also contain unhealthy ingredients which can be harmful
to our children. That was when I decided to recycle them,” she said.

Kong said her experimentation with broken crayons was very simple – sorting them into moulds, melting them by baking them and repurposing them more interestingly.

“We used to purchase boxes after boxes of crayons from the bookstores for my kids to doodle at an early age. I started experimenting with them when I discovered they could be re-melted and made into novelty shapes. I was happy that not only I could minimise wastage as a result of broken crayons, I could also make them more fun and exciting!” she said.

Making safe crayons

Kong then started thinking about the safety aspects of the crayons and started experimenting at home.

“With the idea of creating them into novelty shapes, I started experimenting. After a few months, I finally found the perfect recipe to make safe crayons.

“I made the crayons out of beeswax and non-toxic colours. They do not contain paraffin waxes, lead, asbestos and others ingredients which can be toxic and potentially harmful to our health in the long run.

“I made the crayons into novelty shapes like animals shapes, which makes it more exciting for a child to colour. It wasn’t easy. But it’s been very rewarding to see that we could produce and provide to parents and their kids today. These are healthy, fun and safe crayons to doodle, colour and play to their wildest imaginations,” she said.

ChubbyFingersPlay

She started selling her own range of crayons by opening ChubbyFingersPlay, a handmade novelty crayon store in Malaysia.

“The response has been very encouraging, and I am very happy to see young parents, grandparents, uncles and aunties purchasing our safe crayons as a healthier option for their loved ones,” she said.

One of the biggest reason the crayons are a hit with her customers is because of the assurance that children will be safe if they accidentally ate the crayons or took a bite of it out of curiosity.

This is because these safe crayons contain coloured mica, which actually makes them edible.

Although this doesn’t mean that you can feed the crayons to children purposely! Practise caution at all times, Kong emphasised.

“Young babies should not be left unsupervised with the crayons. Do try to avoid the incidents of ‘eating’ the crayons as it could be a choking hazard to your children. But, should your child ingest a ChubbyFingersPlay it really does help to know that your child will be perfectly fine,” she added.

Inspiration

Kong’s number one inspiration to start up her crayon store is her children.

“I spend a great deal of time with them since they were young, observing them. And so I saw the gaps which needed to be filled. I also saw what I can do to help other young mothers who are always on the lookout for healthier options for their kids.”

She added that it is the important to encourage children to doodle away so they strengthen their motor skills, rather than taking the crayons away from them for making a mess.

Check them out here:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chubbyfingersplay/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chubbyfingersplay/

Photos: ChubbbyFingersPlay