Giving children the best possible start can make all the difference to their eventual success, and Singapore Children’s Society will do just that. The Society, now a KidSTART Agency, will reach out to children from low-income households in Bedok and Geylang Serai to help better their prospects.

KidSTART seeks to give children a good start in life by empowering families to build strong foundations for their children and fostering positive child development outcomes. Its outreach and engagement programmes start early – from the time a woman is pregnant – and see the child through to school-going age.

It provides holistic and age-appropriate support, including in the areas of nutrition, child development and parent-child interaction.

It takes a village to raise a child, and KidSTART acts as both a connector and mobiliser. It provides families with the support they need whilst drawing on their strength and the belief that parents are the best educators for their children.

Ahead of being appointed to deliver the programmes, the Society’s KidSTART team attended the Foundational Training programme for KidSTART practitioners conducted by Nanyang Polytechnic in collaboration with the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH). This training programme equips practitioners implementing the KidSTART programme with multi-domain competencies across child development, health and social services.

Domains for health included immunisations for children, child nutrition, common paediatric conditions, and maternal mental health. Social services covered social work and case management, as well as working with families with young children from low-income backgrounds. The cognitive, language, physical, social and emotional development domains were covered under the early childhood segment.

There was also a week-long KidSTART Foundational Training Learning Journey to provide participants with a better understanding of the ground realities of implementing KidSTART. These training sessions were held virtually over Zoom.

In March, the team attended a course on the Abecedarian Approach in Early Childhood Education Programmes under KidSTART, conducted by the Singapore University of Social Sciences.

The Abecedarian Approach (AA) is a set of evidence-based teaching and learning strategies aimed at promoting and fostering strong adult-child interactions. This in turn promotes the child’s learning and overall development.

For Ms Abigail Teo, a KidSTART Child Enabling Executive at Community Services & Programmes @ Children’s Society, the Abecedarian Approach helped her draw a reserved four-year-old preschooler out of her shell. She drew on one of the four key elements in the approach – Language Priority – with the child during one-on-one free play and contact time, using those moments as an opportunity to interact, play, talk, listen, and learn.

Language Priority uses the 3N strategy: Notice what a child is doing and vocalise it (“I see that you are playing with animals. I see a lot of sheep”); Nudge the child with a gentle suggestion or idea relating to what he or she is already doing (“Shall we count how many sheep there are?”); and ‘Narrate’ what the child is doing (“Well done! You counted five sheep in this farm”).

“The child was able to have fun and enjoyed the interaction with me. She also started repeating and saying some words,” says Abigail. “Seeing the theory and Abecedarian Approach strategies in action was definitely an encouraging moment.”

Click here to read the story in Chinese.