SINGAPORE — Families with young children yesterday took part in Singapore’s first family festival celebrating unstructured, free play.

The event, Back to Play! — A Tampines Learning Initiative, sought to demonstrate the value of open-ended play experiences for young children and bridge the gap between play and learning.

Highlighting the importance of play in early childhood development, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who was Guest of Honour at the event, said: “Play time is not a waste of time – in fact, play brings very important values in developing the self-confidence and social skills of our children, in stimulating their curiosity to explore the world around them and in nurturing their creativity.

“That is our approach in our MOE kindergartens and in our lower-primary education,” added Mr Heng, who is Adviser to Tampines Grassroots Organisations. The Education Ministry had said earlier its new kindergartens will feature a learning principle of purposeful play.

At the festival, held at Tampines Central Community Club, families took part in various activities such as a children’s maze, visual arts, LEGO and messy play. Parents also pledged their commitment to give their children more unstructured playtime. To date, some 150 pledges have been collected online with a target of 500 virtual and physical pledges to be achieved over the next month.

To help raise awareness about the benefits of unstructured play, a parents’ talk was conducted. Guest speakers, including Dr Christine Chen, President of the Association for Early Childhood and Educators (Singapore) and Playeum co-founder Sumitra Pasupathy, shared their experiences and expertise related to play in early childhood. Additional reporting Channel NewsAsia

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