A five-year-old makes a cupcake for the first time, following a step-by-step guide with the help of diagrams, another child pens a note to his family on a piece of paper he made himself using recycled paper, newspapers and magazines while another student observes a trail of ants during a neighbourhood walk.

At NTUC First Campus’ My First Skool, these hands-on activities pique the students’ curiosity about the world around them. These activities also encourage them to interact with their peers and learn concepts such as measurement, estimation and number sense while having fun.

Most importantly, the children are never alone throughout the whole process, with early childhood educators guiding them every step of the way.

For 29-year-old deputy centre lead Jazlyn Choo, social interaction and a hands-on approach are essential in helping children develop critical everyday skills and discover what they are capable of achieving. Educators are crucial facilitators in this journey of discovery, she says.

The role of an early childhood educator extends beyond teaching his or her students how to read and write.

“Along with the families, the teachers lay the foundation in helping children grow cognitively, socially and conceptually,” she says.

Her students not only learn about the external world, but also learn to be more self-aware.

“During a disagreement between children, for example, educators can step in to guide them in managing their emotions and channelling their thoughts on how to forgive, negotiate or take things one step at a time,” she says.

Growing with her charges

In the early childhood education industry, learning and growing is a two-way street. While Ms Choo may be guiding her students towards their developmental milestones, she, too, benefits in the process.

“I am able to tap into my inner child to experience things like a child would for the first time and witness the moments when a child overcomes challenges,” she says. “These experiences allow me to grow as an adult as I help my charges grow as children.”

Given an educator’s pivotal role in a child’s formative years, Ms Choo emphasises the importance of looking for opportunities to upgrade and keep up with the latest trends and news in the sector. Some professional development courses include Early Childhood Development Agency scholarships and training awards, and Professional Development Programmes.

“Being an early childhood educator goes beyond having the love for children. Planning, observation and reflection is also needed,” she says. However, with perseverance, the journey is worthwhile.

“The children make me a stronger teacher by challenging me to find ways that will help them the most.”