An interview with Singaporean Daisy Ng, Founder of Trinity Kids, an award-winning pre-school chain in Malaysia.
They say motherhood is a life-changing experience. It was indeed for Daisy Ng, mother of two, whose own preparation for motherhood led her to open her own preschool premised on three principles: a multilingual global perspective, a wholesome diet, and a play-based approach to learning that emphasises creativity.
Singaporean born-and-bred, Daisy was an investment banker based in London and Hong Kong before her husband’s work moved the family to Kuala Lumpur. In a bid to better prepare herself for motherhood when she became pregnant, Daisy enrolled herself for a Diploma in Early Childhood Education (Montessori) and went on to pursue a health coach certification, specialising in family nutrition and prenatal wellness.
“I wasn’t deliberately preparing for entry into the preschool business. I was simply preparing myself for motherhood. It so happens that these were prerequisites to become a licensed preschool operator in Malaysia,” she shares.
In fact, it was the difficulty she faced in searching for a suitable preschool for her children that prompted her to start her own preschool, Trinity Kids Malaysia, which is committed to providing children good nutrition, an internationally rigorous trilingual curriculum, and plenty of room to grow as an individual and opportunity to learn through play.
These three elements, she says, are the best gifts that parents can give to their children to start them off “right from the start”.
A highly regarded preschool that has received numerous accolades for its unique curriculum, Daisy delves deeper into how Trinity Kids’ play-based approach to learning can benefit children’s future learning outcomes.
“Learning through play is structuring lesson that follows the child’s natural instinct to have fun and delivers learning outcomes in a way most receptive to him or her. When the child is having fun, he or she grasps the concept immediately. We then reinforce the concepts with different activities that allow the child to apply what he or she learns,” she explains.
She distinguishes this approach from formal education, where learning is structured according to subjects and topics, and there are intended learning outcomes in each lesson. The formal approach is a more passive form of learning where a teacher stands in front of a class and delivers the intended learning outcomes, while the pupils are expected to commit these to memory and their supposed understanding of the material is reinforced through homework and exams.
In contrast, homework, quizzes, and assignments are given only for clear purposes at Trinity Kids – to involve parents, to reinforce concepts taught, and provide application opportunities.
In fact, Daisy goes as far as to ensure that at least 25% of each day at her preschool is dedicated to play and social time. It is during these unstructured play times, that the children are free to choose whatever games or activities they wish to play. Such an unstructured play time is conducted during the first 30 minutes of school and helps children to socialise and learn about each other.
“I observe that our children thus spend their excess energy in a physical way before class, establishing and deepening friendships at the same time. They are calmer when class begins and displays longer attention span. Their communication and social skills improve too.”
These unstructured play sessions are complemented with structured play and creative sessions such as gym, craft, music, culinary, and sensory activities. These adult-accompanied activities contain specific outcomes and interaction with the child is required to prompt the children.
Yet, despite the recognition and acclaim Trinity Kids receives, Daisy shares that the preschool’s strong emphasis on play can become a source of worry for some parents, especially those with children approaching primary school age. Although these parents do believe in the importance of play and recognise its benefits, uncertainty and anxiety creeps in when the thought of primary school, along with its perceived heavy and challenging workload, looms over their heads.
“They observe the amount of homework, number of tests and exams to be high in primary school. Some tell us they are concerned their child cannot cope with the stressful culture if they are too comfortable in a play-based preschool.”
In response, Daisy espouses her strong belief that nurturing a mindset and attitude towards learning goes far beyond just school – it’s for life.
“Instead of conditioning our children to think that school is hard, learning is a chore, a job will be tough… We should inculcate in them a joy for learning and rouse an excitement within them to anticipate future challenges and tackle them head on. We should never condition our children to get accustomed and accept something unpleasant as a way of life.”