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KidStart programme for low-income families to benefit 5,000 more children in next 3 years: Desmond Lee

SINGAPORE — Many more families will soon benefit from the Early Childhood Development Agency’s (ECDA's) KidStart programme, which helps children from low-income and vulnerable families.

KidStart programme for low-income families to benefit 5,000 more children in next 3 years: Desmond Lee

Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development, said on Sept 13, 2019 that the KidStart programme will be expanded to reach 5,000 more children in the next three years.

SINGAPORE — Many more families will soon benefit from the Early Childhood Development Agency’s (ECDA's) KidStart programme, which helps children from low-income and vulnerable families.

The agency is raising the income ceiling for eligible families and expanding KidStart to more districts, Mr Desmond Lee announced at an Early Childhood Conference on Friday (Sept 13).

The Minister for Social and Family Development also unveiled other initiatives, including a bigger push to give more preschoolers access to outdoor play areas.

The KidStart programme was introduced by the ECDA in 2016. Presently, it benefits 1,000 children from low-income families living in Kreta Ayer, Bukit Merah, Taman Jurong, Boon Lay and Geylang Serai.

In the next three years, it will be significantly expanded to reach 5,000 more children, Mr Lee said.

The monthly household income ceiling for KidStart will be raised from S$1,900 to S$2,500. The agency also plans to expand the initiative to more neighbourhoods from April 2020.

Priority will be given to rental-flat communities in Community Link centres such as Kembangan-Chai Chee and Marsiling, ECDA said in a press statement on Friday.

The KidStart programme also helps families at the prenatal stage, with trained officers visiting families before a baby is born to support the pregnant mother and impart skills and knowledge on health, nutrition and child development.

The ECDA will be expanding its KidStart Home Visitation Programme to the National University Hospital. Previously, it worked with just the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) to conduct the home visits.

Dr Winnie Goh, who is a senior consultant from the division of medicine at KKH, said that its care team follows the mother through her pregnancy until the child is three years old. During this period, the team assists the mother with practical knowledge on topics ranging from “nutrition, pre-delivery preparation, breastfeeding, care of a newborn to parent-child interaction”, Dr Goh said.

'IMMENSE BENEFITS' FOR CHILDREN TO LEARN OUTDOORS

At the conference, Mr Lee also announced that two preschools in Bukit Batok’s West Ridges precinct and Jurong West Street 93 precinct will be involved in a pilot initiative to bolster outdoor learning opportunities for children.

Two preschools in those areas located in Housing and Development Board (HDB) void decks will be transformed into outdoor learning spaces where children may learn and play.

This could include introducing community learning gardens, creating outdoor learning trails or developing an extension from the preschool to an open area that the children could explore, Mr Lee said, adding that outdoor play offered “immense benefits for childhood development”.

Responding to queries on how the pilot will be conducted, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Social and Family Development said that ECDA and HDB are working with a design consultant to develop the prototypes that will be introduced in the schools. The consultant will also work with preschools, teachers, parents, children and members of the community to develop and refine the prototypes to meet their needs.

Ms Mona Tan, who helped to develop the pilot outdoor learning workshops for preschool teachers, said that she hopes to see more children outdoors exploring the environment with their teachers through the initiative.

Ms Tan, who is also a senior lecturer at the National Institute of Early Childhood Development, added that many of the learning opportunities available indoors can also be conducted outdoors.

“The outdoors is a classroom without walls. It is still a learning platform. It shouldn’t be the case that once you are out of the classroom, you don’t learn anything. We need to shift our teachers’ mindset so that they know learning in the outdoors is as good as learning indoors,” she said.

Some preschools are already embarking on this move.

Last year, Minister for Manpower and PAP Community Foundation (PCF) executive committee chairperson Josephine Teo announced that more experienced-based learning opportunities outside of the classroom will be rolled out to about 6,000 children attending PCF Sparkletots — the largest preschool operator here with 360 centres across Singapore.

TODAY understands that the trials will take place in the next few months. ECDA and the HDB will monitor the effectiveness of the initiative and may consider expanding it to other preschools in the future.

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Desmond Lee childhood KidStart programme low-income families

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