Tucked away in the leafy Burghley Lifestyle Hub in Serangoon Gardens, Chicky & Olive Learning Centre is the only preschool of its kind in Singapore.
What makes it special? Founded by Sophie Wong, its innovative approach to teaching French, English and Mandarin allows little ones aged 16 months to 5 years to express themselves in whatever words or phrases that naturally come out.
Whether it’s “I am putting on my chaussettes” or “Je met mes socks”, at Chicky & Olive, there are no arbitrary rules requiring young children to speak in one language or the other, depending on the class or day. Such “code-switching” is very normal, explains Sophie, who speaks six languages herself (including three Chinese dialects!). She developed this bespoke approach after working in early childhood education for more than 15 years, first in Hong Kong and then at the respected Lycée Français de Singapour.
Sophie’s own upbringing – being raised in Yemen and Djibouti and schooled in France and the U.K. – makes her uniquely empathetic to children from diverse backgrounds living in Singapore. “I just want them to be happy,” says the kind-hearted head of school while giving a recent tour of the colourful, light-filled campus.
What’s more, Sophie takes care to provide lots of outdoor time along with fun enrichment opportunities for students such as swimming. Bonus: Swimming is even covered by the regular school fees!
Find out more about Chicky & Olive in the gallery, below. Intrigued? Sign up for one of its upcoming Open Houses – this 6 and 13 April, 2019, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. – to check out the school and meet Sophie in person.
“At Chicky & Olive, we aim to educate children intellectually, physically, emotionally and socially by recognizing individual differences, promoting self-esteem and fostering respect with peers and adults,” shares Sophie.
She selected this location for Chicky & Olive because of its grassy and sandy play areas, with multiple tyre swings and a dedicated sand play station, as well as flexible indoor learning spaces that include a soft, safe toddler gym. Class sizes are kept very small, and all have two teachers and an assistant present.
Beyond that, Sophie wanted the school to be convenient to the many French-speaking parents who live around Serangoon Gardens.
“Our goal is to improve children’s language in their native language and, in turn, let them get accustomed with another foreign language, allowing them to express themselves freely and learning through recreational activities,” says Sophie.
As such, Chicky & Olive offers four different programmes, based on children’s age and developmental stage:
- Le Playgroup Curriculum: For tots aged 16 to 30 months, this play-based programme uses age-appropriate materials to foster positive self-concepts. (16 students, max; M-F, 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.)
- Trilingual Kinder: Called Le Jardin d’Eveil, or the “Garden of Awakening”, this programme caters to kids 2 to 4 years wanting to learn English, French and Mandarin Chinese. (18 students, max; M-F, 8:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.)
- Le Playschool Curriculum: Also intended to “awaken” your LO’s five senses, this English-Mandarin structured playgroup is for 2.5 to 4.5 year olds. (14 students, max; M-F, 1 to 4 p.m.)
- Le Weekend Playschool: For the same ages as the Le Playschool Curriculum, this English-conducted programme is held on Saturdays. (14 students, max; Sat., 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.)
While drawing circles may seem easy to an adult, they take practice for petits enfants. Blessed with an open-floor plan, Chicky & Olive allows its children to spread out for such hands-on projects.
Here, all of the learning is presented as play. As Sophie points out, “Circles lead to shapes, and shapes not only lead to art, but math and writing skills.” In the Arctic-based game shown in the previous slide, players were practicing cooperation, social skills, numeracy and fine motor skills.
Playing games are especially important at this age. Why? “Learning how to be patient, to listen, to not be too bossy and, to even winning and losing gracefully makes for a better well-rounded human being,” she says.
The former features a heated swimming pool and caring, experienced instructors, who work with Chicky & Olive’s young students once a week on Friday mornings. (Unlike many schools, the swimming lessons don’t cost extra here.)
Sophie is currently negotiating a similar set up with the martial arts classes for students aged 4 and 5. And, as the Taekwondo Institute notes on its site, “We want each of our members to view the dojang as his/her home as a martial artist. Every member is allowed unlimited access to the school and classes during our extensive school hours.” Cool!
As noted, you’re invited to tour Chicky & Olive’s creative, friendly and captivating environment on two dates this April 2019. There, you can see for yourself how little ones enjoy learning through “games” like classifying objects based on colour (shown here) or creating visual art representations using bottle caps (like in the photo, at top).
“With our creative and holistic methodology, we adapt every child’s learning needs, providing them with a basic foundation for any path they choose in the future with help, guidance and motivation,” explains Sophie.
Need more incentive? Chicky & Olive is offering a 1-Day Free Trial for prospective students. Parents may choose one programme for each child (child must be between 16 months and 4 years at the time of the trial)*.
*Free trial is only applicable to new students, not ones who have been previously enrolled in any of Chicky & Olive’s programmes.
More on The Finder:
Don’t miss out! Like our Facebook page for event updates and more.