Do you believe in teaching your child about your shared heritage and Singapore’s past?
Jermaine from @Tiffany_Basket might change your mind about how it will benefit your child. She shares advice to parents on fun ways to incorporate heritage learning and also suggests various places to go. Her children even role-played a night-soil collector. I’m sure the richness of Singapore’s past will stick indefinitely.
Find out more about the hows and whys behind teaching children about heritage in our interview with Jermaine.
Tell us about yourself and your story behind @Tiffany_Basket.
Hello! I am Jermaine. I am an educator and a mom with two active boys, aged 7 and 4.
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While I have been reading to my firstborn since his baby days, it was becoming a challenge to get a young inquisitive toddler to sit through a book.
My research led me to “story baskets”, a wonderful literacy tool to engage young children with short attention span and reluctant readers in reading through interactive and playful storytelling activities.
So, I started presenting our bedtime stories in various baskets, bags and boxes filled with finger puppets and objects from around our home that are related to the books we are reading. I often get my boys to help tell the story through dramatic play – using the finger puppets, they role-played as different characters in the story, sometimes making up their own.
Tiffany Basket (@Tiffany_Basket ) was first created to document our bedtime stories and the gird has since expanded to include our thematic home-learning activities, dramatic play and outdoor adventures.
For an introduction of story baskets, check out Empowered Educator’s page.
Why #SGHeritageforKids? What are your goals in inculcating the learning of heritage and culture?
I love History and all things “old-school”. Since young, I was influenced by the fascinating stories told by the elders in my family about my great grandparents sojourning to Nanyang (what olden Singapore was known as in Mandarin) and the “good old kampong days”.
Heritage and culture anchor our sense of identity and continuity as a family, a community and a nation. I believe heritage learning should start from home because essentially, our history consists of the stories of our parents and grandparents, which have shaped us into who we are today whilst providing a sense of rootedness and belonging to this land.
Having worked in the museum for a few years in my career as an educator, I hope to share my knowledge and expertise in heritage learning for families and children with the wider community through this handle.
How can we reinforce and extend learning beyond the museum trip?
How do we unpack seemingly heavy historical content into bite-sized learning for kids?
#SGHeritageforKids was created to inspire and encourage sharing of learning resources and play ideas related to Singapore’s history and heritage for parents and educators. Our young children may not be able to understand the historical events and concepts immediately but I believe this early experience will lay the foundation for later learning.
For parents who are keen to engage their children in heritage learning from young, I would suggest starting with your very own family history. It is fun to embark on a journey of self-discovery together if you are not familiar with it yourselves.
2. Trace your family tree or get your children to interview their grandparents or even great-grandparents about their childhood and growing up years.
My boys have been asking about my kampong days ever since I showed them photographs of little me living in a kampong.
You could also get your kids to create a museum of everyday objects that are representative of everyone in the family! It could be a family photograph, a movie ticket or a torn piece of fabric from your smelly blanket.
3. Read together!
Support our local writers and children’s books based on Singapore heritage and culture! We usually start on a new learning theme with books and extended activities that could be related to art and craft, sensory play or any other hands-on activities.
For children ages 2 and below
- We Can by Ben Lai
- Afternoon Tea at Raffles Hotel by Vella Chang
- SG A to Z – Singapore through the Alphabet
- Early Learning at the National Museum of Singapore
- Find and Seek Singapore
- The Nursery Rhymes Project 1 & 2 – Paint Our Songs (Chinese)
For children ages 3 and above
- Secrets of the Heartland by Don Bosco
- Lion City Adventures by Don Bosco
- Pura the Cat by Tan Soon Meng
- The Birthday Party by Linda Gan
- There was a Peranakan Woman who lived in a Shoe by Gwen Lee
- Samsui Girl, Wayang Girl, Gasing Boy and Coolie Boys by Ho Lee-Ling
- What’s inside the Red Box? by Phua San San
- Little Wayang Kid by Raymond Tan
- Heritage picture book series by Quek Hong Shin
- Stacey series by Lianne Ong
- Timmy and Tammy series by Ruth Wan
- Jayden and Janelle series by Seema Dadlani-Ramchand & Harsha Dadlani-Dhalani
- Sam, Sebbie and Di-Di-Di Series by David Seow
- Prominent Singaporeans Series (featuring Elizabeth Choy, Lim Kim San, Goh Keng Swee, Joseph Schooling)
- Harry Series by Patrick Yee
- Traditional Occupations series by Patrick Yee (Chinese)
- Getting to know Old Singapore Series by Francis Wong Hooe Wai (Chinese)
For children ages 7 and above
- A Narrow Escape by Shekinah Linn
- Singapore City Trails by Lonely Planet
- The Little Singapore Book by Sim Ee Waun and Joyceline See Tully
- Tiger Tales by Sim Ee Waun and Joyceline See Tully
- Secrets of Singapore series by Catherine Tan, Lesley-Anne & Monica Lim
- Get Curious – The Official Interactive Family guide to the National Museum of Singapore
For children ages 10 and above
- Attack of the Swordfish and other Singapore Tales
- Singapore Favourite Stories by Leon Comber
- Understanding Singaporeans series by Edmund Wee
- Mr Midnight Series by James Lee
- Out and About Singapore by Melanie Lee
- Pop Lit Series – The Malay Annals
- Pioneers of Singapore – Builders of a Better Tomorrow
- The House on Palmer Road by Si-Hoe S.S and Sim Ee Waun
3. Celebrate traditional festivals
Family tradition reminds us that we are connected to a bigger story – it gives children a sense of security and identity!
Festivals are microcosm of what we and our community represent. Let our children not grow up only knowing Halloween and Christmas from popular commercial adverts.
Make it a family tradition to celebrate our traditional ethnic festivals together! Talk about festive food and their significance, play traditional games or go on heritage walks and feel the festive vibes at Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Little India.
Here’s my younger one playing pitch-pot infrontof our lantern shop.
We learnt about festive food-related to the Mid-Autumn Festival and their symbolism. You can easily find water caltrops, baby taros and pomelos at the wet markets during festive season.
Get your little ones to practise their fine motor skills while packing food into a tiffin carrier!
Get hands-on, play masak-masak!
I love playing masak-masak (game of make-believe in Malay, usually with cooking toys) when I was a child. Becoming a mother gives me an opportunity to play masak-masak all over again, this time with two very obliging playmates.
Dramatic play offers context for meaningful engagement. As an educator, I observe young children to learn best in contextualised and immersive settings that offer hands-on tactile experience. Set up your own dramatic corner at home, it could be just the Ikea play kitchen! Get your kids to role-play as different historical and mythical characters.
Check out some locally-themed dramatic playsets we had created!
This old-school barbershop was one of the earliest locally-themed dramatic centres we had. My reference was a hair salon I frequented as a child in the 1980s and 1990s.
In celebration of our hawker culture and food heritage, we pretended to be street peddlers and hawkers from the 1950s. I also shared with the boys that their great-grandfather makes the best kopi-o and used to sell kopi-o and breakfast at the entrance to our kampong.
Other than food, occupations is another entry point to heritage learning for us. In the picture, my older boy is pretending to be the night-soil collector. It also allows opportunity for compare and contrast, to understand how much our society has progressed with time.
What are some useful resources aside from your page for learning about festivals and customs?
Our public libraries are our most important resource in heritage learning. It is where I get most of our books for and do my research on the various festive learning themes we have featured.
Other than our public libraries under National Library Board, Singapore Global Network, National Heritage Board, National Archives, Singapore, National Gallery, Singapore and the various museums and heritage institutions also have many wonderful family learning resources for download on their websites.
- National Library Board Singapore’s Infopedia
- National Heritage Board ROOTS.SG
- National Museum of Singapore
- Asian Civilisation Museum
- Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall
- Malay Heritage Centre
- Indian Heritage Centre
- National Gallery, Singapore
- National Archives, Singapore
- Singapore Global Network
Which festival is your sons’ favourite? What activities did they enjoy the most?
Their favourite is still the recent Mid-Autumn Festival that has just passed. They are still pretending to be Hou Yi and playing pitch-pot, trying to perfect their skills and get all five sticks into the pot. Other than Mid-Autumn Festival, we also celebrate other ethnic festivals, such as Hari Raya Puasa, Hari Raya Haji, Deepavali, etc, where we will put up festive decorations at home, dress in ethnic costumes and go on heritage walks together.
Where do you recommend for a Little Day Out for learning Singapore’s history and heritage?
I would definitely recommend the National Museum of Singapore for a special day out with your little ones. My older boy celebrated his birthday with a visit to the Story of Forest interactive installation at the museum although we have visited countless times.
We usually like to pair the museum trips with an outdoor experience, which could be a nature trail or urban arts and heritage walk. Below are some proposed itineraries of family outings:
National Museum of Singapore. William Farquhar Garden and Fort Canning Park
Asian Civilisation Museum, followed by a walk around Singapore River
Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, Zhong Shan Park
Gallop Extension of Singapore Botanical Gardens, Botanical Gallery and Forest Discovery Centre
Exploring Kampong Glam
Here’s a picture of our art corner, inspired by our visits to National Gallery, Singapore and Botanical Gallery at the Gallop Extension of Singapore Botanical Gardens.
Other than museums and heritage institutions, you could also embark on a heritage trail in the parks. We especially enjoy trekking at Thomson Nature Park, which also possesses a rich cultural heritage as the site of a former Hainan Village and rambutan plantation while Labrador Nature Reserve has war relics that shed light on our military history. During the National Day weekend, we went on a fantastical hunt for merlions around Singapore, and that brought us to the Mount Faber Park and One Fullerton Merlion.
Let your child’s first experience of heritage learning start with you! Begin engaging them from an early age at home, with parents and grandparents, bonding over family conversations, traditional festivals and shared memories. Join me at @Tiffany_Basket and #SGHeritageforKids for inspiration and play ideas to engage your little ones in heritage learning!
#SGHeritageforkids with @Tiffany_Basket
Thank you, Jermaine, That was a very inspiring piece and we are thankful that Jermaine has shared her expertise, experience and resources so graciously with us.
Follow her at @Tiffany_Basket and include the hashtag #SGHeritageforKids when you bring your little ones about exploring and hopefully embracing more of their identity with every little activity.