Parents in Puchong have recently been busy checking for info on Kiddy123 so our team decided to go on-site to help parents find the answer to the most frequently asked question: “What are the good kindergartens in my area?”
After surveying the sprawling neighbourhood of Bandar Puteri, we moved on to nearby Puchong Jaya and Pusat Bandar Puchong. Our team had the opportunity to interview the principals of an amazingly wide cross-section of preschools, with teaching methods and programmes ranging from Montessori to Waldorf to HANKidz’s preschool programme, Brain Dance, HANZ Education, LPC Thinker, etc.
Our report on Bandar Puteri was published in two parts two weeks ago. Here’s our report for Puchong Jaya and Pusat Bandar Puchong. Read on to see the gems we discovered for you and your little one.
Note: The preschools below are listed in alphabetical order.
When we walked into R.E.A.L Kids Puchong Jaya, it was as if we had stepped into a little town for children. Colourful flags decorated an airy “town square” (concourse) in the centre of the towering 3-storey building where 350 little “town folks” carry out their daily activities under the care of their two mayors (principals) and more than 30 town councillors (teachers). It was the most impressive preschool we have ever seen!
The senior principal, Ms Janet, smiled at our amazement, “This a purpose-built centre, so we had the luxury of being able to decide what we want in terms of structural design and facilities. We had put in round structures, flowing curves, and spiral staircases to attract the children’s eyes and to stimulate their minds.” Indeed, looking up from the “town square” at the classrooms above and the canopy of trees outside, we had the feeling of endless space to grow and learn.
We also examined R.E.A.L Kids’ wide range of BM, English and Chinese readers that cover common daily activities such as going to the market, taking care of a pet, etc. Ms Jessica, the principal, explained that the books are aimed at experiential learning, using everyday issues or events children can relate to. The school also offers a complete Mandarin programme that builds a solid foundation for children who will be going to Chinese-medium schools later on. In fact, the set-up in this centre is intentionally designed to be similar to a primary school so that the children will be well-prepared when they enter to Primary One.
That said, we realise that the children here enjoy much, much more than just a formal school setting. We visited the Computer Lab, with its ceiling-high glass windows that look out into the greenery outside (to relax their young eyes), and saw children using computer programmes to explore colours and shapes to compose their own designs, and to work on educational activities and games. In the Music Room, we saw tambourines, drums, castanets, maracas, triangles, etc., enough instruments to form a children’s band.
Outside visits are also organised to provide further exposure for the children. The children see how bread is made, how chocolate is produced, and what it means to be working in a factory. There is also a year-end canteen day when each child brings a specified amount of money to buy things from “shops” operated by the teachers. Ms Jessica explained, “This is when we teach them the value of money, and about problem solving and decision-making. When they have a limited budget, they have to calculate and learn decision-making -- whether to buy that nice drink or that cute rubber. Of course, our teachers will be there to guide them.”
With all these extracurricular activities, plus additional facilities, i.e. swimming pool, gym, indoor and outdoor playgrounds, library, Multiple Intelligences Room, and Science Corner, this centre provides everything that a parent could wish for their child’s development.
Tadika Anak Riang in Puchong Jaya certainly lives up to its name. When Kiddy123’s team arrived at the kindergarten, we were greeted by a group of happy, cheerful children who behaved as if they were in the best place in the world!
When we met the principal, Ms Juliet, we found out why. Ms Juliet had such gentle eyes and the sweetest smile -- unlike our everyday image of a school principal – and when she spoke, we clearly saw that she loves children. A Montessori-trained teacher, Ms Juliet believes it is very important to lay a strong foundation for children. She said, “I usually advise parents to start their child in kindergarten at 4 years old. That is the best time for the child to enjoy school and for parents to enjoy relating to their child’s first exposure to new things and new friends.”
Her 3 to 5-year olds use Montessori apparatus to help them to focus and to train their young fingers before they progress to the pencil grip. When they are 6, Ms Juliet progresses them to more academic content, especially where languages are concerned. For English, phonics, words and phrases are taught; where Mandarin is concerned, the children learn the basic strokes and simple characters; for Bahasa Malaysia, alphabets, “sukukata”, and sentences are introduced. Story telling is also a key component in learning languages.
Living skills is incorporated into Ms Juliet’s syllabus together with sensorial programmes for the younger children where they learn by touching, listening, tasting, smelling and identifying colours and shapes. “I believe that learning living skills make children smarter. They are better able to relate to practical life and are more conscious of the world around them. We have a Cultural Room where the children have weekly “Show & Tell” sessions to talk about things around them. Another highlight for the children is project work. We take them for excursions twice a year, such as to the Ostrich Farm, where they are exposed to new experiences, new sights and sounds. When they come back, they report on what they have learnt from the trip,” said Ms Juliet.
Ms Juliet’s care and concern for children is seen in her making sure that all her students are screened for problems in seeing colours and in hearing, especially as remedial action can be more effectively taken in helping them when problems are detected early. Tadika Anak Riang also accepts children with mild autism. Ms Juliet explained, “I understand the worry and anxiety that parents with special needs children go through and we are prepared to give the children extra time and attention to help them.”
The seven colours of the rainbow printed on the name card of Tadika Seri Cahaya’s Principal Ms Kelly remind us of the many programmes that the students enjoy in this kindergarten – Toddlers & Kindy Montessori, Little Scientists, Euler Maths, Oxford English, Music & Movement, plus UCMAS Mental Arithmetic and Global Art & Creative for the children who stay back for extra classes.
Ms Kelly said, “Our learning programme integrates the National Standard Preschool Curriculum and the Montessori Approach, but we added the other programmes to enhance the learning of English, Science and Maths.”
“The English programme is interactive and fun with equal emphasis on listening, speaking, reading and creative writing, while for the Science programme, we incorporate fun and easy science experiments into their daily lives so that they learn scientific principles without even realising it. Every 4 to 6 year-old child has his/her own science kit, while the younger ones will learn simple concepts like hot and cold, sweet, sour, bitter, etc. We use Euler Maths because it introduces the children to the basic concepts of Maths through hands-on learning experience and focuses on visual understanding, connections and number sense. If they enjoy Maths at this early age, it will have a powerful effect on their interest and confidence for learning Maths at higher levels,” explained Ms Kelly.
Tadika Seri Cahaya also emphasises on languages, especially reading in Bahasa Melayu, English and Mandarin for the 4 to 6-year olds. To encourage them to read, there is a whole library of story books from Kohwai & Young for the children to enjoy. “Reading habits must be inculcated when they are still young, so that it will be effortless for them when they enter primary school,” said Ms Kelly.
For parents who want their children to stay back for extra classes, Ms Kelly uses the UCMAS programme, which is designed to boost brain power and stimulate young minds using abacus and mental arithmetic in a way that children find engaging and fun. It enables children to look at mathematical problems in a different way.
Extra classes are also available for Art. Ms Kelly uses the Global Art & Creative system which also includes creative drawing to enhance the child’s mental development and broaden the scope of imagination. Ms Kelly said, “Learning art is not necessarily because parents want their children to become artists one day, but to let them have positive learning experiences in art. This develops imagination, promote creativity and innovative thinking, and increases self-esteem in the child.”
It certainly looks like the children in Tadika Seri Cahaya can enjoy a rainbow of opportunities!
When we turned a corner and saw this beautiful preschool, we couldn’t believe our eyes! Tucked away in the Wawasan 2 residential area, HANKidz Leadership Preschool’s majestic school building stood tall amidst shady fruit trees and exotic plants, while its spacious grounds looked like a child’s dreamland, with promises of endless fun and excitement.
We learnt that HANKidz Leadership Preschool, a landmark in Pusat Bandar Puchong for the past 20 years, had started 2016 with a new team of educators, new teaching methods, and new programmes. Principal Xue Yi said, “Our team, comprising myself, Pui Yeen in charge of the modules, and Amy in charge of new intakes, took over this school with a vision to make a difference in the life of every child who walks through our doors. We decided that we want to build future leaders not just workers. We believe that a good education should not only be measured by how well the child scores in exams, although academic excellence is also our goal, but more importantly whether the child would be able to confidently face the challenges of the 21st century as a responsible, morally upright citizen and leader. Being a leader not only means leading people but also about having inner leadership, i.e. being a leader in his/her own life rather than just following the crowd. We are preparing our children for life!”
In selecting their teaching staff, Xue Yi and her team had taken pains to get teachers with a heart for children. Besides teaching Maths, English, BM and Chinese, Tadika Wawasan Melodi’s teachers and trainers incorporate moral values and leadership elements into the syllabus using HANKidz’s unique experiential learning methodology. The success of these programmes is seen in feedback by parents that the children really love coming to school, enjoy their time with their teachers, have become more independent, and have gained self-confidence. Xue Yi explained, “The children love our fun experiential learning environment where they learn through exploration and self-discovery. Our lessons are very hands-on with lots of activities, stories and games.
“We support and nurture the children’s growth and creativity by allowing them to form a greater realisation of the world around them. Our self-sustaining agro farming project helps the kids experience how nature creates life plus see the whole life cycle process. After harvesting what we grow, we use our farm produce to cook lunch so that the children understand where their food comes from and become aware that they must be responsible to protect nature from man-made disasters.”
The teachers’ involvement in the children’s personal growth and development does not end there. “Parents are the key people in their child’s life, therefore we also want to equip parents with the tools and skills to encourage their child in learning and practising the principles of leadership on a daily basis,” said Xue Yi. Such commitment to their students is hard to find!
“I trust you” are the three most important words to Taska Wawasan Murni’s principal Ms Yunics in all her 20 years in the nursery and kindergarten business. Starting with a nursery, she later launched her kindergarten because the parents of her nursery children wanted their little ones to remain under her care until they enter primary school.
“When it was time for the children in my nursery to be transferred to a kindergarten, their parents told me: ‘I trust you. Please let my child continue here.’ So I started a kindergarten. Almost all the children in our kindergarten grew up in this nursery. Later on, when their baby brothers and sisters were born, their parents asked me to help them by providing baby care too. That’s why Pristine Baby Care was set up – all under one roof,” said Ms Yunics.
It was easy to see why parents had so much confidence in her. The 3-storey shop house in Puchong Jaya was spotlessly clean, bright and cheerful, with CCTVs on every floor. We noticed that the children had a lot of space plus personal attention as class sizes are small – 2 teachers to 8 students for the nursery and kindergarten. For the baby care section, there were 2 carers to 4 infants for the 2 to 6-month olds, 2 carers to 6 infants for the 7 to 16-month olds, and 2 carers to 8 toddlers for the 17 to 24-month olds. Super low ratios! Ms Yunics also mainly select and hire local Malaysians as carers for the infants.
Ms Yunics is also very selective about the methods and programmes she uses. For her nursery, she uses the Montessori Method and Glen Doman flashcards, while her kindergarten children get to enjoy Grolier’s Logico and Fun Thinkers programmes, which help in developing their thinking skills. For teaching languages, she uses Scholastic’s phonics programme for English, Sistem Cahayaku for Bahasa Malaysia and Odonata’s books for Mandarin. She is proud to say that all her students are ready to read by the age of 3.
But, at the end of the day, it is not so much the methods and the programmes as the fact that parents feel safe with Ms Yunics. Her motherly demeanour speaks of common sense and practicality and they know they can trust her to do the best for their child. She closely tracks the development of every child under her care and is always ready to meet up with the parents whenever there is a need. She even takes it upon herself to advise parents not to take their child for too many holidays as his/her lessons will be affected -- so comfortable is the relationship she has with her students’ parents.