More Than Just a Place for Food

Kinderland Preschool, located at Yio Chu Kang, turns its cafeteria into a learning environment where kids get to pick up important self-help skills and develop independence.

Kinderland YCK Self -Help Kitchen
Self-Help Kitchen at Kinderland Yio Chu Kang

Most of us would have fond memories of queuing to buy our favourite food and drinks from the various vendors during recess time in school. But this experience only takes place from Primary School onwards. The children enrolled in Kinderland Preschool’s Yio Chu Kang campus, however, have an early head-start in this experience and more.

Inspired by the pre-schools in Japan, Kinderland revamped its cafeteria to introduce a buffet-style restaurant setting where kids learn how to serve themselves and their peers. The self-help kitchen initiative is presently open to children aged 5-6 years old at Kinderland, but kids as young as 4 years old will get to experience it starting from Term 2 onwards in 2017.

Mealtimes at Kinderland YCK are wonderful to witnessMealtimes at Kinderland YCK are wonderful to witness

The school’s senior principal Ms Amy Lim said that this initiative is aligned with Kinderland’s mission of helping children develop in a holistic manner through nurturing essential life skills. Dispositions that are crucial to children’s development – PRAISE (Perseverance, Reflectiveness, Appreciation, Inventiveness, Sense, Engagement) – are weaved into all aspects of Kinderland’s curriculum, including meal times.

She explained that young children are highly inquisitive, and learn most effectively when placed in settings that allow exploration and experimentation. The pre-school would be an ideal place to introduce self-help skills to young children and instil values such as ‘sense of responsibility’ and ‘appreciation for the efforts of your peers’.

Such a learning environment is especially relevant in today’s fast-paced society.

“The adults in the children’s lives are usually in a rush and cannot afford to slow down. Some children lack self-help skills simply because they are overly well-taken care of and receive support in all aspects from caregivers and domestic helpers. For instance, being shuttled in prams rather than walking, getting dressed by caregivers, or having their dining utensils put away for them after each meal,” said Ms Lim.

Children collect their own foodChildren collect their own food 


Mealtimes are amazing to witness at the Kinderland cafeteria and the children’s independence in serving their own food is to be applauded. Routines include collecting their own cutlery, getting the right amount of food, finding a seat at the table and returning their trays to a designated point. Good hygiene habits are also instilled as the children instinctively knew to wash their hands with soap before collecting their food and after their meals, with little prompting from their Educators.

Children collect their own foodChildren collect their own foodChildren collect their own food

Apart from being a place where children learn how to serve themselves, the kitchen also introduces the concept of responsibility. Every day, two children are designated as class helpers who have to set up the dining area for their peers during breakfast, lunch and tea. They lay out water tumblers, paper napkins as well as forks and spoons on each table for their friends to use during and after their meals.

To ensure safety and facilitate the learning process, Early Childhood (EC) Educators at Kinderland guide the children through each step of the way. Accidents do happen, but the children quickly learn to prevent them through daily practice. They are also taught problem-solving skills that are native to this context, such as how to use a cloth to clean up food spillages.

Children use a cloth to clean up after their mealsChildren use a cloth to clean up after their mealsChildren return their plates after their meals

In order to add more colour into the journey of discovery, EC Educators at Kinderland also use the kitchen to host cookery lessons. Through these lessons, children learn how to make food such as sushi and kebabs. The space is also used for food carnivals where kids get to play the roles of vendors, selling and serving food.


Learning self-help skills early in life positively impacts children’s development and better prepares them for the future. Establishing self-help skills promotes independence, which contributes towards the development of self-esteem and mental wellbeing in young children.

When children are presented with opportunities to make choices, perform tasks for themselves, and take on greater responsibilities, they gradually develop a sense of themselves as competent members of society. In addition, as children progress to higher education levels, they would be required to exercise independent learning, lack of which would impact academic outcomes.

The children set the tables for their peers as part of the learning processThe children set the tables for their peers as part of the learning process
The children set the tables for their peers as part of the learning processThe children set the tables for their peers as part of the learning process

Apart from the self-help kitchen, Kinderland has also rolled out similar initiatives in the pre-school to help children become more independent. For example, the ‘STREAM Through Nature’ programme encourages children to think analytically and creatively while honing their technical and practical skills through project work. Kinderland’s ‘Little Entrepreneur Programme’ provides K1 and K2 students with opportunities to plan and run their own ‘businesses’ to raise funds for charity.

“Imparting the basic concepts of entrepreneurism at early stages through simple activities helps to reinforce concepts that children learn in class. They learn to appreciate teamwork as they work together. It also reinforces mathematical concepts such as measurement, quantity and space,” explained Ms Lim.

“Children also learn social responsibility and the importance of helping the less fortunate when the funds they have raised during this project are donated to Kinderland’s selected beneficiary.”

Children also serve their peers during mealtimesChildren also serve their peers during mealtimes

The self-help kitchen has been well-received, with the children finding the process of getting their own meals fun and exciting. In fact, the initiative has even yielded health benefits – the EC educators have noticed that the kids are drinking more water than before as they are given the choice to decide for themselves.

Parents have been supportive of the initiative too and pleasantly surprised at the self-help skills that their children managed to pick up. Ms Carmen Goh, whose daughter Chloe Hannah Tan attends school at Kinderland, said that the self-help kitchen has become her daughter’s favourite place in school. Chloe has even nicknamed the kitchen “Kinderland Restaurant”.

Ms Goh wrote in a testimonial: “Every morning, she eagerly awaits the highlight of the day, which is to have breakfast with her classmates at the new canteen. I think she has certainly become more independent with this buffet-style dining concept

“In my opinion, this is a daring yet successful move by Kinderland YCK. I personally appreciate that Chloe gets to make food choices and diligently sticks to them. This is especially important to us as she has been an extremely fussy eater since the introduction of solid food to her diet. The canteen environment is also very pleasant, clean and welcoming. There have been a number of times when even I was tempted to slip in to join the queue!”