Many Malaysians remember a childhood infused with nature. Climbing trees in our kampung, holidays on the beach, or running around in playgrounds and biking on dirt paths. In this day and age, and in our hectic city environments, how can we bring nature to our young children?
The children’s house’s brand-new preschool in the heart of Kuala Lumpur recently – The children’s house U-Thant – prides itself on making nature a core element. We visited this beautiful preschool nestled among tall green trees recently, and explored its inspired space and facilities. If it is truly a ‘A Montessori Cottage in the City’, what are the elements and principles behind this preschool?
Outdoor Play and Nature are Crucial
In his book ‘The Last Child in the Woods’, author Richard Louv talked about the ‘nature-deficit disorder’, highlighting the developmental effects nature has on our children. He documented how modern life has changed dramatically in the last two decades. The book details how today’s children and families have limited opportunities to connect with the natural environment.
Many scientific studies have documented the enriching benefits of connecting to nature. We now know daily contact with nature supports children’s development in every major way – intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually and physically (Kellert, 2005). It improves eyesight, supports creativity and problem-solving, and enhanced their cognitive abilities.
Studies have also found that children played more cooperatively in green areas, had improved self-discipline, and enhanced peace and self-control. Research by Burdette and Whitaker also shows that children were healthier and happier when they had regular opportunities for free and unstructured play outdoors.
In TCH U-Thant, its spacious compound has many exclusive facilities and the latest and ‘fun-nest’ playground equipment. This makes for endless opportunities to play and learn. There is even an alfresco dining area, where children get to dine under the shade of the trees!
The incredible Atelier Tree – a massive tree with an atelier built around it – is one of the key features of TCH U-Thant. It is a beautiful and calm space with full glass windows and roofs. This allows children to enjoy nature while they get on with their arts and crafts projects.
The children get sufficient sunlight and take in inspiration from the outdoors to create their artwork. All their original work then gets displayed in the Children’s Art Gallery.
Creativity and The Arts
Art is a high priority at TCH U-Thant, and it cannot escape you anywhere you turn. Other than the Atelier Tree and the Art Gallery in the foyer, the preschool also has an art specialist who focuses on creativity and the arts for its children.
The preschool is a firm believer of the arts benefiting children, and that it helps them to develop and grow as an all-rounder. This is in line with the school of thought that the arts helps children with improving their motor skills, as well as their cognitive and language development. Plenty of findings out there also support the fact that children develop visual-spatial skills, cultural awareness and become more innovative when allowed to blossom with art.
Jean Van’t Hul of The Artful Parent also points out that art encourages children to focus on small details and look beyond the obvious. “Open-ended, process-orientated art is nothing but an endless opportunity for making choices, coming to conclusions, second-guessing decisions, and evaluating results. Children become more comfortable with uncertainty and remain flexible thinkers”. These abilities help children in their first steps in Math and Science education and much more.
Seamlessly combined with their emphasis on nature and the outdoors, the TCH U-Thant preschool’s take on art education can only allow its children to flourish in creativity. As it believes that the arts is another way for children to express their thoughts, this will also mean happier, healthier kids.
Designated Spaces For Kids
The Montessori Method recognises the significance of nature or play-based learning in the early years. Unsurprisingly, this preschool embraces this in every opportunity.
The school has designed every activity and space carefully to encourage children’s social, cognitive, emotional and physical abilities. Thoughtfully planned and decorated, its rooms are exciting havens for play and learning.
Dr Maria Montessori wrote in The Absorbent Mind that “only through freedom and environmental experience is it practically possible for human development to occur.” And this is observed in the most fun way with TCH U-Thant. Their amazing water play area was a great hit during the preschool’s launch! No doubt it will also be a most loved feature for the children. As most parents know, kids cannot get enough of playing with water.
Cooking and Culinary Arts
When you think about a cottage, you also think about wholesome and authentic experiences. Do you imagine your household filled with good and nourishing homemade meals for the family? Possibly made by your own Junior Masterchefs?
Well, nature and the arts may be TCH U-Thant’s mainstay, but the preschool also has a laudable emphasis on cooking and culinary arts for children. It has a Little Chef Studio! The school believes children can become more thoughtful, independent and confident by learning how to cook.
It will be a space where children can follow recipe directions and use kitchen equipment safely. They will also clean up after cooking and learn about responsibility – this will help cultivate patience, responsibility, curiosity and communication skills.
Children do not learn in isolation as learning at TCH is integrated. As such learning to cook or bake will also involve measuring ingredients, reading recipes and recognising numbers. This helps kids understand concepts like Mathematics and Science.
The preschool takes advantage of the fact that cooking is a way to introduce health and healthy ingredients with children. Involving them at a very young age in the kitchen will arm them with vital know-how and good lifelong habits.
A Montessori Cottage in The City
Life can be hectic in the city, but this preschool has made every effort to become an oasis of calm and fun for children.
The children’s house was the first place in Malaysia ever to introduce Montessori education in 1986. It has been teaching tens of thousands of children for more than 30 years. But it is clear that with its green, spacious and purposeful facilities, TCH is upping the stakes with this U-Thant offering.
By Nellie Liang
This is a sponsored post presented by Global Educare Sdn Bhd