It’s often said that the early years are some of the most important of any child’s development. Research shows that this is especially true for the first five years of a child’s life, in which their main way of learning is through play. This can in turn set the precedent for a child’s lifelong learning, health and behaviour.
In this, ensuring your child gets the most out of their early years is one of the most important tasks any parent can have. Much of this has to do with exposing your child to environments and situations in which they are able to learn through play. This could be anything from exposing them to outdoor stimuli, encouraging the exploration of different types of play, and other external prompts, such as listening to music to train the ear.
Many schools in Asia are beginning to offer programmes to encourage such play. Ranging from reputable, established institutions to preschools dedicated to raising the child, these are focused on exposing young learners to as much as possible before they begin their schooling years.
Here are some of the best schools in Asia focusing on the importance of experiences:
Singapore American School
Singapore American School (SAS) sets up young learners for success through one pivotal strategy: providing them with first-hand experiences that require the use of their senses. Its Early Learning Centre is guided by a singular principle: the belief that children are capable, curious learners. This, mixed with a Reggio-inspired philosophy — in which children are thought to communicate through 100 languages — guides their learning.
Learning happens in a variety of ways throughout the day, encouraging students to be curious, to have time to play, wonder and learn. Children join a move and groove class, have regular play with the environment, and are encouraged to interact with their teachers and peers at every opportunity. This helps build strong relationships and instils values of respect and clear communication from the get-go.
Interspersed with this is a daily Chinese class, in which children are taught the basics of the language. Research has proven that adopting a second language at an early age helps boost the parts of the brain involved in problem-solving, critical thinking, memory, concentration, and multi-tasking. In turn, this creates children who have enhanced creativity and mental flexibility.
The result? Deeper levels of involvement and information retention. This ensures that by the time they are set to move on to begin their first years of school, children have the mental, physical and emotional qualities to thrive in a classroom environment — setting them up for more success for years to come.
Australian International School, Singapore
Just a 10-minute drive from Orchard Road, the Early Learning Village (ELV) at the Australian International School, Singapore (AIS) was designed specifically for children aged two months to five years old. Learning here is guided by inquiry. This is based on the philosophies of Reggio Emilia and the IB Primary Years Programme, which align with the principles of AIS.
Occupying a space within the ELV is the Infant Care Pod — a stimulating, safe space for babies and infants to take their first steps. Teachers adapt to each child’s needs by getting to know their preferences and routines. This involves establishing a trusting partnership with their family, so as to match the care little ones receive at home.
We know that children discover by playing; therefore, they are encouraged to pursue every curiosity under the watchful eyes of trained staff. When they move on to preparatory school, teachers scaffold learning with resources and activities that capture that inquisitive spirit.
Early years learning at AIS provides a safe, supportive space for children to investigate the world around them. This shapes authentic children who are fiercely independent yet deeply connected to their community. When it’s time to progress to primary school, students transition seamlessly from the ELV thanks to a sharing of values across the two campuses. Join the AIS team at the Online Open House or book an online consultation session to see how your child would fit here.
Branksome Hall Asia
It may be Asia’s only girls’ IB Continuum School, but Branksome Hall Asia nurtures both little boys and girls in its co-ed Junior School. The first stage is the Early Years Programme, which kickstarts the educational journey with a structured, play-based approach. It sets the foundation for problem-based, technologically-driven learning in later years.
The focus areas for Junior Kindergarten Prep and Junior Kindergarten classes include communication and culture. For example, the English and Information Technology departments work hand-in-hand to develop and accelerate language acquisition, allowing children to pick up the basics of English, Korean, and Chinese.
Collaborative teaching and learning is also a major theme at Branksome Hall Asia. This can be seen in the meaningful school projects put together by faculty and students from junior, middle, and senior schools. One project, called “Empty Bowls,” raises awareness on hunger and poverty. Not only did it initiate thought and engagement, but it also taught students that they could improve the lives of others. Powerful lessons such as these may reach students at every level thanks to direction from experienced educators.
Students here love the magnificent facilities, which include an Olympic-size swimming pool and an official football-size AstroTurf Field. There are dance studios, tennis courts, and even a driving range, completing the charm of this boarding school on South Korea’s Jeju Island.
*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International