Community involvement for preschoolers
When we talk about community involvement, we think about “giving back to the community”. Volunteering is not only meaningful but it is also a great way to meet new people and have new experiences. Preschoolers may seem too young to do so, but they too can do their part. This will also help them in their socio-emotional development and to increase their care and concern for their community and beyond. Currently there is the annual President's Challenge initiative, Start Small Dream Big, launched by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) that many preschools take part in. The older preschoolers, mainly the five to six year olds, that take part are involved in the decision making process and the execution of these community service projects. Some of these community service projects can be pretty large in scale and require the involvement of more people. It also requires more planning and collaboration with the various community organisations. They, therefore, may not be suitable to be done as a family unit. However, it is still possible for you to do something similar together with your child. In this article, we will be sharing some of the possible volunteering opportunities, suitable for preschoolers, that you and your child may be interested in!
The activity can be as simple as picking up trash. Most of our streets and roads are clean and mostly free of trash but that cannot be said of our beaches. Trash found on the beach comes from a variety of sources and they come in together with the monsoon season. Currently there is an organisation called “Trash Hero Singapore” that organises beach clean up sessions on a monthly basis and they invite family units to join them too. This is an activity that older preschoolers can definitely be involved in and helps them to understand the environmental issues that we face and be more mindful of the waste that we produce, especially from single-use products. It is possible to involve the younger toddlers if they are able to don a mask and wear gloves without feeling uncomfortable for too long. Extra care must also be taken as there may be glass shards or metal pieces that may cut anyone. If joining their weekend sessions is not possible or you want to have more flexibility in the time management, it is also possible to do the cleanup on your own. If you are intending to complete it on your own, do check out the National Environment Agency (NEA) portal to read up on the guidelines given on the web page. There is more information to know about the dos and do-nots of beach clean ups before starting on it.
Another organisation that welcomes older preschoolers is “The Food Bank Singapore”. The group hopes to end food insecurity by the year 2025 and is therefore actively trying to educate the younger generation about this issue so that more will take action in their cause. They have a junior club workshop that allows for as young as 5 years old to join them during ad-hoc volunteering opportunities held every quarter during the primary school holiday breaks. As the group is specifically for younger children (5 to 9 years old), the activities will be better suited for the age group. Preschoolers will get to have some hands-on activity after understanding more about the organisation and learning about their cause. A registration fee is required to join the workshop too. After this session, they may be more mindful about food wastage and also take the initiative to check if there are any excess food items that have been stored in some corner at home. If their expiry dates are after 4 weeks, these food items can be donated to the food bank.
If you have a pet dog at home or if you and your child or children are dog lovers, an alternative option to volunteering is to reach out to “Therapy Dogs Singapore''. This organisation uses Pet Assisted Therapy (PAT) to engage on a weekly basis with different organisations to help children, the elderly and people with disabilities. They allow for family volunteering, so a family unit can come together to join their cause. However, as this therapy is mainly reliant on the assistance of a dog, it is important that everyone involved in this session feels comfortable being around them and handling them. There is also a requirement for their volunteers to commit to at least 4 visits (1 hour each) in 6 months, to at least 1 specific institution. Therefore, it is not a suitable option if you are not comfortable with a slightly more regular or long-term commitment or if you are unsure of everyone's comfort level with an animal.
Apart from volunteering, community involvement can also simply mean being involved in the community. This means joining the activities that may be happening in your neighbourhood. As urban farming starts to be more popular and the idea of volunteers working together to maintain their community garden becomes more common, this is another area that preschoolers can be involved in. It is another way to learn about sustainability and to be environmentally friendly. This idea may have sprouted in a few different areas but may not be available everywhere at the moment. However, if they have a keen interest in it, it is possible to start with something small first by working with your direct neighbours. Another way is to participate in community activities during national holidays. While childcare centres usually celebrate these national holidays in school, there may be other celebratory events going on around your neighbourhood. They can take the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. Joining these activities also helps in building a bond with the community and developing a sense of identity as a Singaporean. This give-and-take process with our community will continue to benefit both our preschoolers and the community as long as we continue to have the heart and mind to do something. So, let’s start today!
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