September 21, 2020
Photos by: Caroline Chia | Words by: Judith Tan

(Photo above) Yu Hsin Ying, 5, (left), and Lirthika Karthigayan, 6, are Stay Safe Heroes at PCF Sparkletots Braddell Heights. Stay Safe Heroes were introduced to all PCF Sparkletots preschools in June.

Safe distancing is this year’s buzz phrase and key to stop the spread of Covid-19. It is hard enough for adults to truly understand safe distancing, so how do we go about explaining it to kids? Here is how these childcare centres and kindergartens do it.

Showing Affection with High-fives and Flying Kisses
It is the nature of children to want to express themselves freely, so it was rather hard to explain to them why they could no longer do so at Winchester Infant Care and Preschool.

“It did not help as staff at Winchester used to give hugs and kisses. We now give high-fives, flying kisses, smiles, and boisterous ‘hellos’. It lifts their spirits instantly,” co-founder and principal Valerie Francis says. 

“Children also love showing affection to other children, therefore we had to explain why they needed to limit hugs and kisses for the time being,” she adds.

K1 children stand in line before their teacher, Ms Raiya Gomez, 32. While it has been challenging for both teachers and children to abide by the safe distancing measures, Winchester Infant Care and Preschool has adopted a fun approach through games and other activities.

(Above) K1 children stand in line before their teacher, Ms Raiya Gomez, 32. While it has been challenging for both teachers and children to abide by the safe distancing measures, Winchester Infant Care and Preschool has adopted a fun approach through games and other activities.

Children are more apt to practise safe distancing if it somehow feels fun. To help the children understand safe distancing, the school places markers, a metre apart, to encourage them to only step on the markers when moving around certain areas in the school. 

“We foresaw challenges, especially when getting our children cleaned in the toilets, so we blocked off use of alternate sinks, and placed little stools in the toilets, a metre apart, for children to sit on while waiting for their turn. It was these little things that unconsciously encouraged the children to practice good distancing and maintain hygiene within the school,” Ms Francis says. 

“With some, it takes longer to understand and process everything, as well as fully accept their surroundings. Nonetheless, with patience and diligence, many of our children no longer need to be told to wear masks, to practice good hygiene, and to keep their distance.”
Ms Valerie Francis, co-founder and principal of Winchester Infant Care and Pre-school

“We praise them for following the rules and doing their best to adjust. With some, it takes longer to understand and process everything, as well as fully accept their surroundings. Nonetheless, with patience and diligence, many of our children no longer need to be told to wear masks, to practice good hygiene, and to keep their distance,” she says.

Games and Butterfly Wings to Understand Safe Distancing
A few children at MY World Preschool faced initial challenges with wearing masks for extended periods. They tended to play with their masks and face shields. To help them cope, the teachers appealed to their vivid imagination through creative activities.  

The children at the different centres now take turns to become Student Safety Ambassadors, Chief Enforcement Officers or CEOs, Captain Safety and Covid Warriors to allow them to take ownership and responsibility on Covid-Safe behaviours.

Another creative way is to have the children wear butterfly wings.

Preschool educator, Ms Danielle Jansen, 27, (right) teaches her K1 class about first-aid. To encourage the children to keep their wings on, some teachers wear them as well.

(Above) Preschool educator, Ms Danielle Jansen, 27, (right) teaches her K1 class about first-aid. To encourage the children to keep their wings on, some teachers wear them as well.

“These wings help the children understand safe distancing through creating a ‘space’ between their friends and themselves. That is, one child’s wings cannot touch another child’s as part of the game,” says Head of Operations at MY World Preschool, Jane Choy, adding that the “flying kisses and smiling eyes” help to communicate the teachers’ or their friend’s care, at the same time minimising the risk of transmission. 

The teachers themselves proactively used games and unleashed their creativity in their sharing of the fundamentals of Covid-Safe ABCs. 

“Some of the innovative ways include games like Snakes and Ladders and Bingo to ensure that the children adequately understand the need to keep apart,” Ms Choy says.

Learning the ABCs of Being Covid-Safe
The Covid-Safe ABC song and dance led by Stay Safe Heroes have become part of the daily routine at this PCF Sparkletots centre at Braddell Heights. 

“It was taught and demonstrated in fun ways with PCF Sparkletots’ very own Stay Safe Heroes, to help the children learn and understand the content of the song. It also serves as a great daily reminder for the children to adhere to the measures in place,” says the centre’s principal, Krisnaveni Palanasamy Krishnasamy.

It has now become a norm for the children to remind each other to keep a safe distance of a metre apart, wash their hands frequently, wear masks properly and store them properly when not in use, and to remain in their own designated groups at all times. 

Six-year-old Lirthika Karthigayan, a Stay Safe Hero at PCF Sparkletots Braddell Heights, speaks to her K2 classmates about the importance of keeping their hands clean.

(Above) Six-year-old Lirthika Karthigayan, a Stay Safe Hero at PCF Sparkletots Braddell Heights, speaks to her K2 classmates about the importance of keeping their hands clean.

The children also take turns playing Stay Safe Heroes and Ms Krisnaveni says during class discussions on Covid-19, teachers will assess the readiness of children who are prepared to take on the role of Stay Safe Hero. These are children who are very aware of the responsibilities that come with the role.

“They are empowered to lead and carry out the activities in the classroom, under the supervision of the teacher. They are also tasked to help guide their friends who may not fully understand the safety measures in place, and to encourage the correct behaviour. This helps them develop leadership and communication skills,” she says.

“As the children get to take turns to be Stay Safe Heroes, they start to develop a collective understanding on the centre’s core values of graciousness, respect, integrity and teamwork as they help each other in leading the daily sessions on safety measures.”

“As the children get to take turns to be Stay Safe Heroes, they start to develop a collective understanding on the centre’s core values of graciousness, respect, integrity and teamwork as they help each other in leading the daily sessions on safety measures.”
Ms Krisnaveni Palanasamy Krishnasamy, principal of PCF Sparkletots at Braddell Heights

Ms Krisnaveni says no child is left behind, not even the shy, quiet ones.

“We buddy these children with a confident Stay Safe Hero or a teacher to help in conducting the activities. After a few trials, these children will develop the confidence to come forward voluntarily to become a Stay Safe Hero,” she says.

The Stay Safe Heroes initiative is across all PCF Sparkletots preschools.


 

The Storytellers

  • Caroline loves photography and trekking, and never turns down a trip to the mountains.

  • Judith Tan is an accidental journalist who fell in love with telling other people’s stories.

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