Press Releases

Over 49,000 Children Dedicated 1.4 Million Hours to Community Service

14 Sep 2019

Record set for the largest number of people playing cardboard shakers to remind all to care for the environment

Over 49,000 children from 820 preschools participated in the 5th edition of the President’s Challenge ‘Start Small Dream Big’ movement initiated by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA). Collectively, they dedicated some 1.4 million hours to planning and implementing community service projects. Some 32,000 parents also joined their children for the good cause. The movement has allowed children and their families to meaningfully contribute their time and resources to give back to the community.

2 In line with Singapore’s Bicentennial celebration, the theme for this year is ‘Learn from Our Past, Dream of Our Future’. The children engaged the community, especially our seniors, through various projects. Many pre-schoolers showed their appreciation to the Merdeka and Pioneer Generation by visiting senior citizen homes and spending time with them. For example, children from Injenius Preschool and TwinkleKidz at Bendemeer put up performances, played games, and engaged in craft activities with seniors at Lions Befrienders’ Senior Activity Centres. They received support in the planning and preparation of programmes from their teachers and parents. The children learned not only the values of caring and respect for our elders, but also how our elders had contributed to building Singapore into what it is today.

3 These small acts of kindness echo SG Cares’ call to build a stronger community so that we can have a better home for all. Other meaningful community service projects under ‘Start Small Dream Big’ included befriending students at the Down Syndrome Association (DSA); showing kindness and appreciation by gifting care packs and thoughtful cards to community workers; and caring for our environment through recycling, gardening, litter-picking, and zero-waste efforts.

4 This year, the children raised over $300,000 in cash donations for various community organisations, including President’s Challenge benefitting agencies such as AWWA, Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore, Food from the Heart, PERTAPIS Children’s Home, and Singapore National Paralympic Council.

‘Start Small Dream Big’ in the Singapore Book of Records

5 The ‘Start Small Dream Big’ community came together today to celebrate the finale of this year’s movement and show appreciation to community partners for their support. The event ended on a high note, with more than 1,000 children, teachers and parents setting a new record in the Singapore Book of Records for the “Most Number of People Playing Cardboard Shakers”. Participants had hand-crafted musical instruments using recycled materials. This was part of their efforts to remind all to care for the environment. In commemoration of this year’s Bicentennial, the children included heritage designs on their shakers to reflect our nation’s rich history and diverse cultures.

6 President Halimah Yacob, who graced the Finale event, said, “It is heartening to see our young initiating ideas on how to serve the community, and sharing that enthusiasm at home with their family members and friends. I hope they will continue to dream big and work together to make Singapore a more caring and inclusive home.”

7 Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development, who hosted the Ceremony, said, “Values are best inculcated from a young age. Through the ‘Start Small Dream Big’ programme, we are encouraging our preschools to make values education a significant part of our children’s holistic early childhood education”. 8 The public can read stories contributed by participating centres on the children’s ‘Start Small Dream Big’ projects at More information on ‘Start Small Dream Big’ can be found at



1.SSDB Appreciation Ceremony

Twenty-one partner organisations were presented with appreciation plaques for their contributions in various ways to ‘Start Small Dream Big’ (SSDB) 2019. Some of these include provision of resources for our SSDB centres, organising programmes and activities for the preschool children and teachers, and collaborating with them on their projects.


2. Performances by SSDB centres

Children from three centres showcased their SSDB projects through performances on stage.

a) Injenius Preschool

The children’s project, “Creative Hands & Loving Hearts”, was about appreciating and caring for our seniors who have contributed to Singapore’s development. In commemoration of the Bicentennial, children performed a skit to show how they have learned from the elderly to be contributing members of society. This was followed by a dance titled 'Bottles of Love', which the children dedicated to the elderly from Lions Befrienders who were present in the audience. The children had earlier visited and interacted with the elderly, with parents supporting them in the planning stage and contributing gifts for the elderly.

b) Bright Juniors Pte Ltd (Jurong East)

The children’s project focused on advocating for inclusivity in society and promoting better understanding of people with disabilities. The children sang and incorporated sign language into their performance, and the audience were encouraged to sing along with sign language as a way to show inclusivity in our society. The children’s parents joined in activities that encouraged understanding and empathy towards persons with disabilities. They also organised a carnival to raise funds for AWWA, a beneficiary supported by the President’s Challenge.

c) YWCA Ang Mo Kio Child Development Centre

The children’s project, “Animal Agents”, was on providing opportunities for children to be kind and compassionate through caring for animals. They performed a “Celebratory Dance” from a “movie” they created for their SSDB project.  Their dance signals the accomplishment of each rescue mission of animals in need. Four of the main cast went on stage with their parents or a fashion show in “superhero” outfits that they created together. As part of their project, the children visited the Resorts World Sentosa S.E.A. Aquarium to learn more about protecting wild animals and took turns caring for their classroom’s pet animals.

3. SSDB in the Singapore Book of Records

This is the third consecutive year that the ‘Start Small Dream Big’ community sets a new record in the Singapore Book of Records. Over 1,000 children, teachers, parents and community partners gathered at the Finale event to set a record for the “Most Number of People Playing Cardboard Shakers”. Children created these musical instruments using recycled materials such as toilet rolls, kitchen rolls, egg cartons and tissue boxes to raise awareness on caring for the environment and promoting a sustainable future for Singapore. In commemoration of the Singapore Bicentennial, the children also added heritage-inspired designs on their handmade shakers to reflect Singapore’s history and diverse cultures. President Halimah Yacob and Minister Desmond Lee joined the SSDB community in this record-setting event.

In 2017, SSDB set a record in the Singapore Book of Records for the “Largest Word Formation Made of Pledge Cards”, while in 2018, it set a record for the “Most Number of People Wearing Bucket Hats”.

4. SSDB Exhibition

Partners and participating SSDB centres showcased their collaborative projects through fun activity stations at the Early Childhood Exhibition at Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre from 13-14 September 2019.OVER 49000 CHILDREN DEDICATED 1.4 MILLION HOURS TO COMMUNITY SERVICE

Annex B

1. What is “Start Small Dream Big”?

“Start Small Dream Big” was initiated by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) as a movement to encourage pre-schools to create authentic platforms for children to innovate, problem-solve and use their unique strengths to help others. It was first launched in 2015 as part of SG50 and the 15th anniversary of President’s Challenge, an annual series of fund-raising and volunteer activities. Participating centres design and implement community service projects for children over a period of six months.

2.What are the objectives of “Start Small Dream Big”?

As a society, we aspire to nurture each child holistically, including character building, so that they are well-prepared for life-long learning, active and responsible citizenry, and success in later life. Through “Start Small Dream Big”, we encourage young children to use their own resources and creativity to give back to society, and in the process, instil the spirit of giving and good values such as care for others, humility, kindness and compassion.

3. How many children have participated and how much has been raised for “Start Small Dream Big” over the years?


4. What is the age range of children that participated in “Start Small Dream Big” and what is expected of the children?

The children are mainly from the K1 and K2 levels (i.e. 5-6 years old). The pre-schools are encouraged to involve and guide the children in developing, planning and implementing community projects. Under the guidance of teachers, the children play an active role in deciding who they want to help and what they want to do.  Parents are encouraged to be involved in supporting their child’s community projects.

5. What kind of support did ECDA provide to the participating centres?

ECDA provided a resource package to all participating centres. The resource package included pledge cards, bucket hats, stickers, hanging mobiles, Resource Guides, reflection journals, posters, and a personalised centre banner. ECDA also linked pre-schools to community partners and created a platform for centres to share their projects.

6. How many parents were involved in ‘Start Small Dream Big’ this year?

Over 32,000 parents and family members of the 49,000 participating children were involved in SSDB this year. ECDA has always strongly encouraged SSDB centres to involve parents in their children’s community service efforts so that parents can play an active role in their children’s holistic education. ​​