Sunnytots Playhouse may look like your usual early childhood education centre, but children here learn more than just Languages, Maths, Music & Movement, and Art & Craft. Housed in two first-floor shoplots in Desa Sri Hartamas, Sunnytots was set up nine years ago by sisters Michelle and Maggie Low to provide children with an integrated and holistic curriculum. Michelle, who has a Masters in Psychology majoring in child development, brought with her more than 10 years of training and practical experience in early childhood education, counselling, and child development, while Maggie ably managed the day-to-day operations to create a warm, safe and homely environment for the children at Sunnytots.
Ms Michelle told us, “Our curriculum is based on the National Standard Preschool Curriculum with a mix of Montessori and programmes such as the Australian R.I.C. reading programme. We offer the usual academic subjects, but we believe it is very necessary for us to provide support in the non-academic aspects that are so crucial to children today, namely, character building, team work, living skills, and socio-emotional development. In fact, the earlier we start on these aspects, the better for the child.”
To do this, Sunnytots select teachers with the right personality, passion for teaching, and a love for children, besides having the right qualifications. Ms Michelle went on: “We have to train our teachers to educate the children in the areas I mentioned. For example, the children are taught to respect others in their speech and actions. When a child does not behave properly, our teachers do not directly reprimand, but gently help the child to understand how his/her classmates and teachers feel when the undesired action takes place. Also, when a child cries, we don’t make them feel that it is wrong. We must acknowledge that one can feel sad and it is alright to let our emotions out. The important thing is one must learn to solve the problem after that.”
To help the children to be independent, parents of the 5- and 6-year olds are encouraged not to join in the school’s field trips. “We do this because we don’t want the children to cling to their parents. They will soon be going to primary school, and this helps to prepare them to do things by themselves,” explained Ms Michelle.
“Children who have been with Sunnytots are very independent, very outspoken but respectful to others, able to work in a team, and are aware of their personal safety. We teach them about their body and the correct words for parts of their body where only certain people can touch; no baby language here. We also teach them that they must respect others and not touch others inappropriately,” she added.
Where academic work is concerned, Ms Michelle is very firm that children should be taught according to the milestone they are at, and not pushed beyond what is appropriate for their age: “For example, we are careful that children should not start writing before their fine motor skills are developed. That is why we encourage even young children to learn to eat by themselves. It is one way to develop their fine motor skills and will help them to hold a pencil properly later on.
“We also don’t do Standard One work here. We assure parents that once their child is self-confident and has self-esteem, he/she will know how to adjust to the new work in primary school. We want the children to be independent learners. Perhaps they will suffer a little initially, but they will certainly be able to catch up.”
The children also have activities to develop their eye and hand coordination such as water pouring. Good daily habits such as cleanliness and neatness are inculcated by showing the children how to eat properly, how to pack their own bags, how to sweep the floor, etc. Activities such as eating, singing and gym are carried out in mixed age groups so that older children can learn to relate to the younger children and vice versa.
All in all, Sunnytots’ holistic programme has proven to be a success as parents have testified to improvements in their child’s character and behaviour. Another plus point is that Sunnytots also accepts slow learners and children with mild autism. With her years of training, Ms Michelle is qualified to screen children with various learning disabilities and has been a blessing to many parents with her advice on the appropriate measures to take for their little ones.
Find Out More About Sunnytots Playhouse, Desa Sri Hartamas
We scouted for a few schools before deciding on Sunnytots Playhouse for Brandon, our eldest. It was a new milestone for Brandon and for us too, as parent. At that time, I was a little worried on how the school will cope with Brandon not the other way round. Being the only child at that time, Brandon was mischievous, naughty, defiant, active you name it Brandon definitely made it on the Naughty list (even until today). Brandon settled in Sunnytots in no time and receiving calls and messages from Teacher Maggie or Principal Michelle about his “daily mischief” started too. From a just a school, Sunnytots became a second home for Brandon. Teacher Mary, Teacher Janani and Teacher Effy did an excellent job of keeping Brandon at his toes while nurturing him endlessly and tirelessly. We became very close to the teachers and Brandon is in good hands.
Besides the personal touches, we were satisfied with Sunnytots’ academic programme which Brandon excelled really well and that continued till date. 3 years passed like a breeze, soon it was time for Brandon to move on to big boys’ school. Last day of school in Sunnytots was definitely emotional and sad day. With heavy heart, we bid Sunnytots and Teacher Maggie adios. Teacher Maggie and I kept in touch since then. She and the rest of teachers are just wonderful we have grown beyond teacher parent relationship. They are my second family.
When it was time for our little Alexis (our second) to start school, without a doubt and in a heartbeat I called Teacher Maggie to inform her Alexis will be joining Sunnytots. We were both overjoyed as family reuniting again. I can always count on Sunnytots and its teachers and they have not failed me since. Some of the teachers who taught Brandon are still there, Teacher Mary, Teacher Janani, Teacher Effy and of course Teacher Maggie. Alexis, like Brandon enjoy going to Sunnytots and love Teacher Effy to bits.
Even though Brandon is in “big boy’s” school now he still misses Sunnytots everyday and longing to go back to Sunnytots just for Teacher Maggie’s famous dish, potato chicken. Thank you Sunnytots, for giving Brandon such wonderful memories and taking such good care of Alexis.