“So much to do, so little time.” This famous line uttered by the White Rabbit in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ aptly describes the lives of children in Singapore. Between training for academic excellence and cultivating their many talents, our kids are left with little time to develop life skills. Yet, these are essential know-hows that will give them the confidence to navigate the real world.
UNICEF defines life skills as “psychosocial abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life”. Or to put it more simply, like Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, a life skill is “a skill that is necessary or extremely useful to manage well in daily life”.
So what are some life skills we should equip our children with? Here are some suggestions:
According to the World Health Organization, drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, with children aged one to nine years old experiencing the highest drowning rates.
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Where we live, beach excursions and pool parties are popular activities among kids. Little ones also love the slides and splashing water buckets at public swimming pools and other water playgrounds. How do we let them have fun without worrying excessively about their safety?
Send them for swimming lessons from young! Choose a reputable swim school such as Pacific Swim Team, which has turned more than 10000 students into confident swimmers since it was established over 20 years ago.
The school is one of the few here to offer certifications from three organised bodies – SportsSG, Singapore Lifesaving Society and Singapore Swimming Association. Students can even take up an openwater course for SwimSafer, which only three percent of instructors in Singapore are qualified to teach!
Parents will be glad to know that Pacific Swim Team is the only swim school in Singapore to hire extra lifeguards whenever possible to ensure its students’ safety. The school accepts children from three years old and up, with fees for its group sessions starting from $70 per month – a very affordable rate for learning a skill that is beneficial for life!
Pacific Swim Team
Our children may be good in mathematics – nod to our world-famous Singapore Maths – but being financially literate is another thing altogether. Kids can be great at memorising the multiplication table, but have no concept of saving and spending within their means.
Managing money is a life skill that if picked up from young, offers a strong foundation for making good financial decisions in adulthood.
We can start conversations about money with our children using kid-friendly tools like SquirrelSave’s Squirrel Treehouse, which explains financial basics such as spending, saving and sharing, and needs vs wants in a way that is simple enough even for pre-schoolers to understand! These concepts are presented through animated stories about a family of cute squirrels, in realistic settings such as the supermarket and restaurant.
SquirrelSave even lets our little ones put their learning into practice through KidSave, where children under the age of 18 can have their savings invested on SquirrelSave’s AI-managed investment platform – with their parents’ help of course! Parents will need to set up an investment goal for each child and decide on the risk profile setting. Kids can then watch their investments grow and become even more motivated to save!
The best part? There is no minimum investment amount. A child can get a global investment portfolio even with just $1 in his or her account!
One of the life skills that every child should acquire is problem-solving. Being able to tackle problems and work out solutions on their own allows children to be independent decision makers. The process, which requires them to pick themselves up from initial failures and try again, also encourages lateral thinking and develops their resilience and confidence.
As parents, we can look out for opportunities to let our kids problem-solve in daily life situations. Instead of rushing to their aid to pull Teddy out from under the bed or find the “missing” textbook, we can take a step back and give them time and space to come up with their own solutions.
For a more structured approach in honing this essential life skill, why not sign the kids up for robotics and programming classes? Programming is basically about getting computers to execute solutions to problems. At technology education centre Nullspace, children get to code their own games and command robots to perform tasks – fun challenges in the area of problem-solving!
Instead of providing complete LEGO assembly instructions like some other centres, Nullspace prefers to let its students work on a given problem before providing suggestions for improvement. This allows them to take more responsibility in the problem-solving and decision-making process, boosting their confidence.
Besides weekly classes, the centre also holds robotics summer camps for children aged six to twelve years old.
With a two-pronged strategy – professional coaching coupled with teaching moments at home – our children can look forward to success in real life.
Not all life skills need to be serious, analytical types like problem-solving and managing money. Learning how to cycle enables children to relax, have fun with others and sport a healthy lifestyle!
A study by Cycling UK found that 82% of parents have taught their children to ride a bicycle, with 70% believing that cycling is a vital life skill.
The problem with teaching our own children how to cycle is that it is back-breaking work with countless heart-stopping moments! If you prefer to take it easier, consider sending the kids for professional lessons.
Biking Singapore offers no-fall, no-stress and no-contact private classes that turn 90% of beginners into confident cyclists in just two classes! The remaining 10% usually just need a couple more lessons to be proficient.
Departing from the traditional hold-and-let go method, Biking Singapore employs a three-stage technique – manoeuvring, gliding and pedalling – developed by the school’s chief coach Tony Loo. Classes are always fun and engaging for the kids, who flourish under the patient encouragement of their coaches.
With one-to-one classes, kids benefit from the full attention of their coaches and the flexibility of choosing locations that are convenient for them. Group classes are also available for children who prefer to learn with others, though mastery of the skill will take a slightly longer time.
While Singapore is known to be one of the safest countries to live in, ‘low crime doesn’t mean no crime”, borrowing a slogan from one of Singapore Police Force’s older campaigns.
It is a good idea to train our little ones in self defence. Not only does the skill bolster kids’ sense of security, it also gives us parents greater peace of mind.
Social enterprise Kapap Academy offers lessons for children from five to thirteen years old through the Kapapkids Programme, which teaches kids how to protect themselves from being bullied or kidnapped. Children will learn personal protection skills that are age-appropriate and defensive in nature. This empowers them to fend off an attack by an adult and create an opportunity to escape.
Kapap Academy is set up by Master Teo Yew Chye following the death of his brother, who was attacked on the streets, with the social mission to empower “ordinary people with realistic personal protections skills”. The academy’s unique self defence system draws from various martial arts including Kapap, American Catch Wrestling, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Dynamic Combat Method and Mixed Martial Arts.
While knowing self defence helps kids to keep themselves safe, possessing first aid skills enables them to save others. This is a great responsibility and sends children the message: You are never too young to make a difference!
Equipping kids with first aid know-how also teaches them to be selfless, putting aside their own fears or discomfort to help others when the need arises.
Children from seven to twelve years old can attend the First Aid For Kids Workshop organised by the Singapore Emergency Responder Academy. Through videos, demonstration and role-play, they will learn how to use a first aid box, perform basic CPR and bandage wounds.
Singapore Emergency Responder Academy
Picking up a life skill that can save lives – definitely well worth our children’s time!