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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.

The kids in our family ‘talk back’ by our ‘Asian standards’.

Scene 1: Mom is desperate to convince the reluctant eight year old to learn Mandarin.

The unwilling kid ‘talks back’: “Mom, my goal is to work in NASA in the United States. By the time I work there, people will be speaking more Spanish than English. I should learn Spanish instead, and drop Mandarin”.

Mom tries to stifle guffaws and acknowledges the factual accuracy of the demographic projection.

Mom also  looks up the most desirable space agencies to work with together with said child. Mom still hopes it is one where he has to be proficient in another language.

Scene 2: Mom forgets to bring a snack when picking up the six-year-old after school.

Hangry (Hungry + Angry) kid shouting: “Mom, you are not being caring. You are forgetting the global goals of zero hunger! We have to go to the school café now to get me a snack.”

Mom acknowledges the son’s anger and reminds the son to say his “please” if he requests for something and not shout.

Mom engages with the child on the issue of poverty and socio-economic inequality.

How Dare you Talk Back to Me

Our kids may seem disrespectful to some.

However, we also view our kids challenging us as a way to engage with them, their learning, and our own learning. With more evidence pointing towards the neuro-plasticity in the ability to change our brain support learning, it is important that we model a growth mind set. It is thus important that as parents we model ongoing learning, and an attitude of perfecting the practice.

We also view this as learning to disagree agreeably. After all, a crucial skill in carrying out our professional and personal life is collaboration skills that require the exchange of ideas in a logical, rational and passionate manner to persuade and convince.

Let us Talk about this

I believe that children are natural critical thinkers. They are also curious beings, which explains why drains can be so interesting to a four year old. Our role as parents is to nurture their curiosity and critical thinking. The challenge, however, is to keep the exchanges and disagreements polite. Our family practices trying to turn heated agreements into loving exchanges by reminding ourselves:

That it is Not about Winning

The sign “Your Reaction is More Important than Who Is Right” hangs in our home. Winning an argument by shouting is not approved our family. For parents and kids alike.

To Stop and breathe

Like any human being, kids will naturally protest and argue if they are moved away from a pleasurable activity – like reading or playing. Clashes often happen when parents need to keep to schedule and get the kids moving.  We practise transitioning from one activity to another by agreeing on a set time, and setting the timer. When the timer rings, we (get a bloody) move on.

A Calm Corner

We have a corner in the house with a comfy chair. One kid decorated the big ‘calm corner’ sign, whilst the other invited an invented a ‘calm-angry-ometer’ using recycled material. We go/get sent there to calm down, take a break from the discussion. It has worked most times.

Ask “Is this a good fight?”

We tell our kids that our role as parents is to keep them safe and healthy, and there are areas that are non-negotiable. However, we also try to balance our family principle of challenging authority with the incessant contrary behaviour of children pushing the boundaries. This question is asked by way of stopping and thinking, before engaging in a potentially heated discussion.

Chatting Time

We try  to develop a deeper connection with our kids during those precious moments at bedtime, when the lights are off. We talk about the day, and what we are grateful for. This is where important aspects of our child surface, like the challenges they are having with a friend, or a big question about God. Having the lights off also works to mask a puzzled or annoyed look that can be quickly neutralised by a caring response.

We hope that more than ever, keeping our children engaged with us in their many ways will keep their communication channels open with us. For when the struggles in life gets hard, they know they can always, always turn to us by talking back.

 

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Squeals of excitement would be the best way to describe the reaction from Alex when he discovered what was in the mysterious box of goodies that had arrived. We tore open the bubble wrap and packaging. He was delighted to see his name on the top of the box.

When we opened it, the first thing we saw was the ‘playbook’ with all the instructions of the activities in store. The booklet opens with a fun riddle. For each game, experiment or task, there is a quick visual reference about how long it takes to prep the task, how much adult involvement is required and how messy the activity will be. I definitely scanned through this quickly to decide which ones we could do there and then, and which ones we needed to save for later.

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After that there are clear visuals of the materials needed and step-by-step guides on how to assemble the items. Because all of the props are separated in packages of various size, colour, label and material, it’s a bit like Christmas opening all these up!

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The theme of Alex’s box was air, and so he learnt a lot about air pressure with a series of seemingly simple but nevertheless mind-blowing (eyes agog at the discovery!) experiments involving tubes, bottles, balloons, food colouring, plasticine and straws. His favourite prop by far was the dropper, because obviously, all scientists need to have their own droppers.

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All in all?

Some activities took 20 minutes, while others were done in less than one. All in all, I would say there was a couple of hours’ worth of engagement here, with opportunities for expansion if you supplement this with Internet research, books or videos on the topic.

As a parent who isn’t very DIY when it comes to hands-on learning with my child, Atom & The Dot is a godsend, and I would’ve signed up immediately for a year’s subscription, except they don’t do international shipping at the moment.

For those of you in Malaysia, however, I highly recommend Atom & The Dot if you have a 5-8 year old that you want to give a present to, whether it’s your own child, or niece or for a birthday party you’re going to. It’s pretty much guaranteed to be a fun learning experience for everyone involved.

What we like:  They even have a recycling programme for all the bits and bobs in the boxes – that’s what you want to see in any company working in the 21st century economy.

What could be improved? One suggestion I would make to Atom & The Dot is to include references to find out more about the topic.

 

Rating: ★★★★★

 

By Uma.

Uma is a Malaysian mum who works in teacher education. She has a six-year-old son, Alex, and currently lives in Singapore. 

 

Pictures from Atom & The Dot