centres of attraction

From waterfront playgrounds to inclusive classrooms, these new preschools distinguish themselves from the competition. STEPHANIE YEO finds out more.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

From waterfront playgrounds to inclusive classrooms, these new preschools distinguish themselves from the competition. STEPHANIE YEO finds out more.

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Mindchamps Preschool @ Punggol Northshore

What’s special Spanning 15,000 sq ft, this is the largest Mindchamps preschool to date.

Housed within the Marina Country Club, it boasts a huge 3,584 sq ft playground (pictured) with a waterfront view, no less. And with a capacity of 141 children, there’s space aplenty.

The preschool has a Gourmet Moments room, where children prepare different types of food, from fruit salad to sushi. This helps hone their creativity, associative thinking ability, communication skills, observation and inquiry skills as well as cognitive development, explains a spokesman.

It also has a well-stocked library with English and Chinese titles, an eco-pond, where kids learn about environmental sustainability through aquaponics, and a gym, where it holds its signature Neuro-mooves programme. The opening date could not be confirmed at press time.

How much The full-day programme costs $1,780 per month for playgroup level, and $1,680 per month for nursery and kindergarten levels. Fees are before GST.

Find out more www.mindchampspreschool.org

E-bridge Pre-school at Edgedale Plains

What’s special This was the first of five mega childcare centres to open in Singapore this year – and it was full the day it started in May.

Built by anchor operators, such mega centres offer affordable options for young families in HDB estates where demand for childcare is high.

And large it is – it sits on 53,820 sq ft of land with a built-up area of about 45,100 sq ft, and can accommodate some 500 children.

With so many kids in one place, hygiene and safety are paramount. The centre has temperature scanners similar to those in airports, as well as a special sanitation system that has been tested to reduce the transmission of infectious diseases like hand, foot and mouth disease, which is common in preschools.

Various sections can also be closed off if there’s a disease outbreak. The boundary road around the school will be closed to vehicles during school hours, so kids can explore freely.

Architecturally, it’s divided into five “pods” that are said to roughly mirror the five elements. According to a report in The Straits Times, there’s a water-play area, a sand pit that represents the earth element, and a mockcooking area for “fire”.

The corridors between the sections appeal to the senses, with wind chimes lining one, and jars of dried spices in another. Its rooftop houses a hedge maze, and there’s an herb garden behind the school.

As E-bridge is the anchor operator arm of premium preschool brand Etonhouse, it offers an enquiry-based programme and learning isn’t confined to the classroom.

Each class has two teachers, one speaking in English and the other in Mandarin, to foster bilingualism.

How much Full-day childcare is $720 per month, while full-day infant care is $1,275. Fees are before GST.

Find out more www.e-bridge.edu.sg

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My First Skool Waterway Point

What’s special Located within the Waterway Point shopping mall, this centre opened in February. Billed as a “jumbo” centre, it occupies some 17,739 sq ft of space and can fit up to 375 kids.

Classroom spaces are generous here, and each has learning corners covering language and literature, numeracy, drama, and science.

Each classroom also has its own workshop space, where the children can explore art with various materials.

Stocked with various craft materials, it allows kids to experiment with a variety of media. At the centre’s launch, portraits of Vincent van Gogh and replications of his The Starry Night painting – painted by the kids – hung on display.

Parents can sign their kids in and out of the school by themselves, thanks to the tablets at the front desk in the entrance. Here, they can also input their child’s temperature when they check in each morning.

To improve parent engagement, My First Skool introduced an e-portal for parents to check their child’s progress. Teachers take pictures and record videos of the kids as they go about their activities, then upload them to the portal.

The Piazza, where the nursery and kindergarteners dine, also doubles as a place for kids to have cookery lessons. It’s set up like a canteen, with a low counter and window separating the seating area from the kitchen. K2 children “buy” their food from the server and carry it to their seat.

My First Skool has three other jumbo centres scheduled to open this year – the one in Edgefield will accommodate roughly 200 students, another in Jurong West will take in about 300, and a third in Sengkang West will enrol just over 500 students.

How much Full-day infant care is $1,348.20 per month after GST, while full-day childcare costs $743.12 per month after GST. The centre is full, with a “long” waiting list, Young Parents was told when we called the hotline in late June.

Find out more www.myfirstskool.com

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Chengzhu Mandarin Kindergarten

What’s special Launched in January, this preschool is part of the well-known Julia Gabriel Group, which launched the Chengzhu brand of Mandarin enrichment in 2012.

Located in Rochester Mall next to Buona Vista MRT station, the 6,000 sq ft centre can accommodate up to 100 children. It offers a four-hour programme from Nursery 1 to Kindergarten 2.

Aiming to provide the “best Mandarin learning environment possible”, the preschool immerses Nursery kids in an all-Mandarin environment; an hour of English is included from K1 to prepare them for primary school.

There are eight classrooms and a room dedicated to music, speech and drama and Chinese cultural arts classes, which are taught by specialist teachers. It also has the Storyhouse (pictured), a cosy and colourful children’s library designed to engage your kids.

How much $3,600 per term of 10 weeks for nursery levels, and $4,200 per term for kindergarten.

Find out more www.chengzhu.edu.sg

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Skool4kidz Yishun Large Childcare Centre

What’s special This is another of the five mega childcare centres opening this year, and is slated to start this month, when Young Parents called to check.

Its 21,420 sq ft built-up space stretches over two storeys and is said to be three times as big as the average childcare centre, according to a Straits Times report.

The preschool will have a community garden where students can harvest vegetables and herbs for their meals. A glass panel separates the kitchen and its al fresco dining area, so the children can see how their meals are prepared.

It has covered and outdoor play spaces, including a waterplay area in the atrium, as well as an atelier (art studio).

How much Full-day infant care is $1,360 per month, while full-day childcare is $770 per month.

Find out more http://skool4kidz.com.sg

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Kindle Garden

What’s special This may be Singapore’s first full- fledged inclusive preschool, according to a report in The Straits Times. Operated by voluntary welfare group AWWA and funded by the Lien Foundation, it’s a place where specialneeds kids learn alongside other children.

Thirty per cent of its 75 places are set aside for little ones with special needs. The centre in Lengkok Bahru had a waiting list of over 100 special-needs kids and 25 other children, The Straits Times reported in April.

The facilities are designed so that everyone can learn together. A toy car, for example, is big enough for a wheelchair-bound child to enter and play in it with able-bodied friends.

While kids experience the same lesson, learning goals are personalised for each child.

While 14 other preschools take in children with special needs under the Integrated Child Care Programme, they only admit those with mild to moderate disabilities and don’t offer therapy.

Kindle Garden, on the other hand, admits children with mild to severe special needs, including those with autism. Its staff of 12 includes a speech therapist, occupational therapist and early intervention teacher.

The response from the community has been nothing short of heart-warming. AWWA chief executive Tim Oei told The Straits Times: “We took great pains to say that there are kids with special needs. But that was not a hindrance (to parents). To them, it’s like – so? And some felt – better still, it is different.”

How much Full-day childcare is $980 before GST.

Find out more www.kindlegarden.com.sg

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Mulberry Learning Centre

What’s special This 10-year-old preschool brand has opened three centres since late last year, two of which are in western Singapore.

Its Alexandra centre in Hoy Fatt Road spans some 11,000 sq ft, with fulllength windows and an almost 2,000 sq ft indoor playground (pictured, top right) – the largest one among its branches. It can fit about 170 kids.

Over in Jurong East, its Creative preschool sits within the Creative Resource building in the International Business Park. Its expansive 14,000 sq ft space can accommodate about 335 children, making it the largest of its centres by enrolment.

Besides large, bright classrooms and extensive infant care facilities, it has a reading nook (pictured, right) where kids can get comfortable with a book.

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Mulberry claims to be the only preschool in the world to offer the Habits of Mind pedagogy – 16 dispositions, such as persisting and thinking flexibly, that critical thinkers use in problemsolving. Students in the Gifted Education Programme are said to use this as well.
Mulberry also has a new centre within the Cairnhill Community Club. It’s the only one with a baby spa as part of its infant-care programme.
How much Full-day child care ranges from $1,500 to $1,800 per month, while full-day infant-care fees are $1,600 to $2,200. Fees are before GST and depend on location.