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         Understanding and learning about the world - 3 to 4 years

At this age, your child is learning to think, understand and solve problems fairly quickly. He is starting to reason and see things in connections. Children enjoy learning because everything is new to them. They are little Scientists and Mathematicians in their own right. At this age, they are curious about anything and everything.

This is a great time to let them investigate and experiment under your guidance and supervision. Through new experiences, children explore, discover and interact with different people, things, cultures, places and community.

This is where you play the important role of helping your child know more about the world beyond his immediate surroundings. From the local plants and trees you see in your neighbourhood to the great diversity of marine life at the aquarium, it is important to give your child the opportunity to be exposed to different enriching and meaningful experiences.

A trip to the museum or a day at the bird park will let your child appreciate the beauty and diversity of life. Build on your child’s interest and curiosity – let him be inquisitive, and explore life with him. Discover new things together whether it be learning about new facts online, in books or from educational children’s programmes.

WHAT YOU CAN DO?

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​​​Love for animals
Cultivate a love for animals. Bring your child to the nearest pet shop to view different domestic pets, sparking their interest and knowledge of different animal species. Talk to your child about the different characteristics of each animal, in terms of colour, size and shape. Make comparisons! For instance, rabbits have long ears whereas cats do not. Talk to your child about how to care for animals. This will help instil a sense of responsibility in her. Visit the library to borrow books on animals.
 

​See reflections through other surfaces! ​​​Show your child that mirrors are not the only surfaces that can reveal her reflection! As you walk past buildings together with your child, show her how she can see herself in windows under certain lights. The same goes for a still pond or puddle of water. Together, try to identify other surfaces that can show her reflection!
 
Reflections!

Sort colours in a colour grid

​​​​​​​​​​​Sorting colours can be fun! Draw  10 squares on a sheet of paper to create a large grid. Colour each square a specific colour. Your child can tear or cut out pictures from magazines and glue them in the box with the corresponding colour.
Sort a variety of items

​​Gather a large variety of objects to sort and classify to enhance visual discrimination. Use different coloured and sized buttons, bottle caps, bread tags or even figurines. Ask you child to suggest how he can sort the objects. This could be based on shapes, colours or even sizes.
~ Ms Peggy Zee, Early Childhood Mathematics Specialist
​​Water displacement!
​​Discover concepts like displacement through playing with water! ​​​Fill a large container mid-way with water and make a mark at the water level. Challenge your child to make the water level rise to the top of the container. Let your child drop stones and pebbles of different sizes and point out how the water level rises with each additional object!
 

Set up a laboratory for experimenting with colours! Prepare small containers of multi-coloured water prepared by adding different food colouring! Let your child go wild as they watch the colours change when they mix it up! Provide a variety of containers so that they can learn how to grasp and carry the containers without spilling or dropping them!
 
Play a coin matching game!

​Teach your child to recognise numbers in daily routines! Point and say out the numbers of floor levels as the lift goes up or down; or highlight bus numbers as you wait for your transport. You can even draw attention to the price tags when you buy your groceries in the supermarket!
~ Dr Pamela Sharpe, former Associate Professor in the Early Childhood and Specialised Education Academic Group at NIE/NTU Singapore
 
Recognise numbers in daily routines

Sorting objects can help develop numeracy!

Sorting objects can help develop early numeracy skills! Encourage your child to sort objects based on their different attributes (e.g. colour, shape, size or type) or by combinations of attributes (e.g. colour and shape or size and type). Slowly introduce comparative terms into the activity (e.g. bigger than or longer than).
~ Dr Pamela Sharpe, former Associate Professor in the Early Childhood and Specialised Education Academic Group at NIE/ NTU Singapore
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Help your child to see relationships between objects through matching activities! For example, match body parts (e.g. two hands, two feet) or similar objects (e.g. two shoes, two forks, two spoons). Advance to sorting activities which require your child to choose items that are different from the rest. Introduce vocabulary such as "same" and "different".
~ Dr Pamela Sharpe, former Associate Professor in the Early Childhood and Specialised Education Academic Group at NIE/ NTU Singapore.
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Match body parts to help your child see relationships between objects!

Provide opportunities for your child to have real-life encounters so that he can experience learning first-hand. These encounters will enable children to be fully involved using as many of their senses (sight, sound, touch, taste and smell) as possible. Participate in these experiences with the child so that the learning process for children will not just be about gaining knowledge but also about sharing emotional and social experiences together.
~ Mrs Jacqueline Chung, Senior Principal, St James' Church Kindergarten
 
Provide your child opportunities for real-life encounters!

Encourage your child to ask questions about what he observes around him. Resist the temptation of providing factual answers and respond by asking questions so that your child can develop the ability to think and reason for himself. The ability to balance sharing knowledge and asking questions is a delicate skill that requires you to listen deeply to your child's questions and to his answers. It requires sensitivity to know when to carry on probing further, when to offer hints, when to supply answers, when to pause for 'think time', when to revisit the questions (especially if some immediate questions are not age-appropriate), and when/ where to look for answers.
~ Mrs Jacqueline Chung, Senior Principal, St. James' Church Kindergarten
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Encourage your child to ask questions (three to four years)

Observe dried leaves

Learn about the life cycle of a plant together. When noticing dried leaves on the ground while walking together with your child along the road, suggest growing a little plant together and see how leaves transform from fresh green leaves to dried leaves. Place some green peas in a cup with moist cotton wool. Talk to your child about the changes taking place. This will also develop your child's observation skills.
~Mrs Jacqueline Chung, Senior Principal, St James' Church Kindergarten
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Making tea

Brew tea or coffee together! When making tea or coffee, observe and discuss with your child what happens to dried tea leaves or ground coffee beans when steeped in hot water. Add milk or creamer and watch for changes. Help him understand the changes that are taking place using all his five senses.
  
Go on a Nature Treasure Hunt! Bring your child to nature parks or reservoirs and see if you can spot plants and birds regularly seen there. The parks' information boards will show you which these are. Bring a drawing block and some colouring pencils too.
 
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Nature treasure hunt!

Grow a plant!

Grow a plant! If your child does not like eating vegetables, try growing some together. He'll be more willing to eat the fruits of his labour. Beansprouts are easy to grow and require minimal maintenance. You can talk about the life cycle of the plant too!
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Make a weather chart! Have your child draw and cut out pictures of a sun, a cloud and rain, and to write out labels "sunny", "cloudy" and "rainy". On a vanguard, write "My Weather Chart" and "Today is a _________ day". Each day, talk about the weather and have your child pick the right picture and label to stick onto the weather chart.
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Draw a sun

Pick a topic and go deep! For example, if your child likes birds, go to the library and pick out different genres of books on birds. Introduce a variety of birds to him. Birds that fly such as mynahs, pigeons and sparrows, as well as birds that don't fly, such as penguins and ostriches.
Pick a topic and go deep!

Learn about the sun, moon, stars and planets. Talk about how the sun is associated with day and moon with night. You can also bring your child’s attention to the stars and learn about different planets in the vast galaxy.  This expands your child’s knowledge and appreciation of the world beyond his immediate surroundings.
 



 

 

 

 

 

Understanding water Find out where our water comes from. Now that your child can ride a tricycle, bring him to a nearby reservoir or the Marina Barrage to learnn about the importance of water conversation. You can also have a picnic or go kite-flying there. ​

Involve your child in everyday chores. Let your child help you set the table, put the cutlery, plates and bowls in their right places. Let him use the vacuum cleaner or broom under your supervision. He will be interested to know how these work. This helps him to acquire the habit of helping out with household chores while learning about his home environment.
Satisfy his curiosity! If your child is interested in a certain topic such as the solar system, animals or plants, this is a good time to visit the library to borrow informational books or go online to find out more. Build mini experiences in his area of interest. Give your child the space and time to explore and be curious. Your child is embarking on a wonderful journey of discovery!
Ask and answer questions! Your child will be asking a lot of "why" questions and it takes patience to answer all of them. It is alright to admit that you do not have all the answers. Bond with your child by finding the answers together. This partnership in learning new information enhances his curiosity and thinking skills.
Date and time. Calendars and clocks are great for learning about months of the year and the concept of time. Start with the days of the week, followed by the months. Talk about the month your child is born in, festivals and holidays. Use clocks to differentiate between day and night. Involve your child with familiar sequence of routines enhances his awareness of time.

Cut, paste, and arrange shapes and sizes! Your child will love to create pictures using circles, squares, rectangles and triangles. Using construction paper, cut these out in different colours and sizes. Talk about the different shapes and colours when creating the pictures. You may also ask your child to sort the shapes according to ascending and descending sizes as an additional activity.

 

Create your own sorting and matching tray! Place different items, such as plastic cutlery, bottle caps, or pasta on a big rectangular surface, such as the lid of a box or table cloth.  Place no more than ten items at a time. Remember not to overcrowd the tray. Your child can learn to match, pair and count according to the colours and shapes on the tray.

Be a builder! Collect egg carton boxes, bottles, and tissue boxes and use them to build robots, buildings, cars, or anything your child wants! In the process, your child learns to experiment and assemble things using glue, scissors or scotch tape. This is a great way to learn about shapes and sizes too.

Be a Scientist and Mathematician too! Bake with your child and show her how the ingredients come together when she mixes flour with water, adds colouring and sees the cake rise in the oven. This is a good time to introduce volume and weight such as how many teaspoons of sugar or cups of water to add into the mixing bowl. Count the number of cupcakes you have made together. This is a great way to include numeracy and science into activities.

Cultivate a positive attitude towards the world. For instance, if your child finds ants crawling in a single line fascinating, talk to him about it. Explain to him that ants work in teams, and that what they are doing is similar to queuing up and being orderly. You can also bring your child to the library to find out more about ants. This is a good time to remind him to be gentle to insects and animals.

Discover how and why things happen. What does it mean if the skies are grey? It means it is going to rain. Let your child see the differences between a sunny day and a rainy day. What do you do on rainy days? Do you stay indoors? Try putting on a raincoat and taking a walk in the rain with your child. Breathe the fresh air and listen to the pitter-patter of raindrops over your umbrella. Talk about how rain makes things wet. Ask your child if he prefers wet or dry weather. Knowing your child’s preferences can help you plan activities and outings better.

Explore new places. Bring your child to places such as Little India and Chinatown to learn about the various ethnic groups in our multi-racial society. You can talk about the different skin colours and emphasise the importance of mutual respect for one another. You can also introduce different languages by showing your child how words look in Tamil or Chinese.



Walk with a magnifying glass. Young children love adult instruments. Get a magnifying glass and go exploring in the Botanic Gardens, parks or the reservoirs with your child. You can talk about different plant species and compare shapes and colours of their leaves, the texture of tree bark or how tall or short the tree or plant is. Collect different types of fallen leaves and bring them home to make prints. You can also bring pieces of paper and crayons to make bark etchings. Buy some seeds (such as beans) and grow them at home. It’s never too early to learn about life cycles and plants.



Cultivate a love for animals and nature. Go to the zoo to introduce different animal species and their care to your child. At the zoo, talk about the different animals and point out their features -- a giraffe has a long neck, elephants are big and round. You can also talk about the prints they have on their bodies and the texture of the skin. The Singapore Zoo has a section for young children to interact with rabbits, chickens and ponies too.



 

 

 

 

 

(Image courtesy of Wildlife Reserves Singapore )