When Ms Marvic Morales lifts a bubble wand and gently blows through the centre, chaos immediately turns into order as all 12 toddlers turn their gaze upon the iridescent bubbles floating across the classroom.
A few minutes after getting the group to quieten and focus, some of the young children start getting restless again. Ms Morales takes out another teaching tool — a tambourine — and starts shaking it.
These are some ways the 29-year-old toddler teacher attracts and holds the fleeting attention of her toddler playgroup at Safari House Preschool Toa Payoh.
“We must stay alert and be energetic enough to keep up with children who, at this age, love running around, climbing tables and are more accident-prone because they lack spatial awareness,” Ms Morales says.
After seven years in early childhood education, she has grown more patient, dedicating weeks to teach batches of 18- to 30-month-olds simple life skills such as washing their hands and feeding themselves.
How does she deal with temper tantrums in toddlers? One technique is to distract the child with a new activity. For example, whipping out a toy puppet whenever she needs. Once the child is pacified, she would try to find out the reason for the outburst.
“It’s important to be a good communicator by using age-appropriate words so that the child can understand you,” she says.
To teach misbehaving toddlers about consequences, she would get them to sit on the Thinking Chair (marked with a sad face) at a safe spot with no distractions within the teacher’s view for one to two minutes, so that they can reflect on their actions.
At Safari House Preschool, videos, e-gadgets and e-media are excluded from the toddler playgroup curriculum. Instead, they spend the entire session interacting with teachers like Ms Morales, picking up language skills through songs and storytelling sessions.
She adds: “Tablets don’t stimulate the children’s imagination; tablets don’t teach them to think of consequences. Neither do tablets offer any face-to-face interaction. Teachers just need to be more interesting than technology and provide experiences that cater to the children’s curiosity.”