How To Give Your Children A Head Start In Life

Stay-at-home mum of three Genevieve Tay believes in giving her children a head start in life. Not only do her kids — Amelia Ng, 10; Amanda Ng, 9; and Nicholas Ng, 8 — go to Shrewsbury International School in Bangkok that is known for their academic rigour, they are also dedicated participants in a number of extra-curricular sporting activities such as swimming, gymnastics, athletics and tennis. In this interview she shares more about why she believes in exposing her children to as many classes and opportunities as possible and how she teaches them to balance work, passion and play.

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Mummyfique: At what age did the children begin enrichment classes and why?

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Genevieve Tay: All three of my children started early. I sent them to Julia Gabriel (a drama school) for playgroup classes before they were one. I felt that it gave them the opportunity to explore a different environment while learning and interacting with other children.

What activities and enrichment classes do the children partake in currently?

The kids are currently pursing these sports: swimming, gymnastics, athletics and tennis. Academically, the international school curriculum is very well-rounded and thorough.  The balanced approach between creative solutions, rote learning and project-based assignments gave us the opportunity to explore other extra-curricular activities for the children without having to focus on academic enrichment classes.

How far ahead did you start planning their extra-curricular activities and the classes that you wanted to expose to them and why?

Swimming was the first sporting activity we started the kids on as we wanted to introduce water safety to them. The children progressed well and before we knew it, they were competing. They enjoy the social bit that comes with mixing around with their friends and cheering them on during meets.  It really doesn’t matter what the results are as long as they try their best and are having fun!

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Amanda practicing gymnastics.
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Nicholas practicing gymnastics.

Other sports came into the picture when we were based overseas (Thailand).  For example: they got involved with gymnastics because every day when they walked past the school gym and saw other kids practice, they asked if they could try. My requirement is that if they want to try, they have to commit and not just try once or twice and then give up. They have stuck to it for three years now and have been competing for their school. They enjoy the new skills and routine that comes with it but most importantly they enjoy the friendships that they forge from participating in meets. They don’t just have friends from their own school but also from other schools and overseas.

They were also given the opportunity to try football.  The girls and Nicholas enjoyed it so much they asked for lessons when we came back for summer holidays.

As for running, likewise, they took part in school meets and did well. I asked if they wanted to continue with running and they said yes! I try to find classes that have programmes that are nurturing. Not only do they train the kids hard, they take note of their strength and try to encourage them when they find some things challenging.

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From all the sports they have taken part in over the years, we have seen how mature they have grown. During one of the last school competitions before the school year ended, my eldest ran with her good friend. She didn’t want her good friend to not win this final race and so she held the girl’s hand and together both girls dashed to the finishing line.  They both came in first place for that 2km race. Although there was only one trophy, my daughter decided her friend should have it as her friend was moving back to the UK.  It was heartwarming to see how much sports has taught my 10-year old over the years.

How important do you think it is to give your children a head start in life by exposing them to the best classes, instructors, programmes and why?

It depends on what parents want for their child.  For us, we wanted them to explore and try different games and activities and to be able to give them the option to choose what they want to pursue.  If they show commitment and talent in an area, I am more than happy to support and give them the right tools and opportunities.

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I understand that you would travel with the kids just so they partake in competitions and the best training programmes. That takes real dedication! Why do you think it’s important to do so?  

Travelling for meets gives them the opportunity to compete against other athletes. It is at these competitions that they realise that there are children who may be better than them at the sport and through that they learn how not get too complacent.  There are also many learning opportunities for them, such as the preparation before the meet where they learn discipline and how they must put in the effort and train hard so as to be able to do their best.  Travelling with the school allows them to be independent (e.g.  learning how to pack). More importantly, the children feel very proud to be able to represent their school in meets.

How do you help your children balance school, enrichment, sport and play? 

Having a timetable helps.  They know when they need to train, when their classes are and when they need to get their school work done. Once they finish up whatever they need to do, the rest of the time is play time!

What are some tips you can share with other mums on how to motivate your children?

Always check in to make sure they are happy and enjoying whatever they are doing. There will be days they dread the training or classes but being there for them, encouraging and reminding them why they’ve chosen to do something is important. The support of good coaches and a well-planned program helps as it means that the children are less likely to be feel frustrated because they are not able to progress or hit a road block. We always try to teach them to persevere and to give their best and share with them that the end results are not important but rather, what matters most is the learning and journey.

This story was brought to you by Aptamil.

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