BY NPR OCT 2017 When the drinking water in Flint, Mich., became contaminated with lead, causing a major public health crisis, 11-year-old Gitanjali Rao took notice.
"I had been following the Flint, Michigan, issue for about two years," the seventh-grader told ABC News. "I was appalled by the number of people affected by lead contamination in water. She saw her parents testing the water in their own home in Lone Tree, Colo., and was unimpressed by the options, which can be slow, unreliable or both.
"I went, 'Well, this is not a reliable process and I've got to do something to change this,' " Rao told Business Insider.
Rao tells ABC that while she was doing her weekly perusal of MIT's Materials Science and Engineering website to see "if there's anything's new," she read about new technologies that could detect hazardous substances and decided to see whether they could be adapted to test for lead.
She pressed local high schools and universities to give her lab time and then hunkered down in the "science room" — outfitted with a big white table — that she persuaded her engineer parents to create in their home.
And she set about devising a more efficient solution: a device that could identify lead compounds in water and was portable and relatively inexpensive. 
As she explains at lightning speed in her video submission for the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, her device consists of three parts. There is a disposable cartridge containing chemically treated carbon nanotube arrays, an Arduino-based signal processor with a Bluetooth attachment, and a smartphone app that can display the results.
Here is how it works.
The carbon nanotubes in the cartridge are sensitive to changes in the flow of electrons. Those tubes are lined with atoms that have an affinity to lead, which adds a measurable resistance to the electron flow.
When the cartridge is dipped in water that is clean, the electron flow doesn't change and the smartphone app shows that water is safe to drink. But when the cartridge is dipped in contaminated water, the lead in the water reacts to the atoms, causing resistance in the electron flow that is measured by the Arduino processor. The app then shows that the water isn't safe to drink.

Rao dubbed the device Tethys, for the Greek goddess of fresh water."Clean water always tastes good," she says at the end of her video. "The tool allows easy testing at home or by agencies for quick detection and remedial actions. It can be expanded in the future to test for other chemical contaminants in potable water. I hope this helps in a small way to detect and prevent long-term health effects of lead contamination for many of us."
Her solution was so ingenious that this week, Rao was named"America's Top Young Scientist" in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge — a distinction that comes with a check for $25,000.
For the past three months, Rao and nine other finalists in the competition had been paired with scientists at 3M who helped them work from a theoretical concept to a physical prototype. Rao was matched with Kathleen Shafer, a research specialist who develops new plastics technologies.
Rao plans to save some of the prize money for college but use the rest to invest in her device to make it commercially viable.


Working animal is an animal, usually domesticated, that is kept by humans and trained to perform tasks. They may be close members of the family, such as guide dogs or other assistance dogs, or they may be animals trained to pull carts or logs.  logging elephants. Most working animals are either service animals or draft animals. They may also be used for milking or herding.Some, at the end of their working lives, may also be used for meat or other products such as leather.

 The strength of horses, elephants and oxen is used in pulling carts and logs. The keen sense of smell of dogs is used to search for drugs and explosives as well helping to find game while hunting and to search for missing or trapped people. Several animals including camelsdonkeys, horses and dogs are used for transport, either riding or to pull wagons and sleds. Other animals including dogs and monkeys provide assistance to blind or disabled people.
On rare occasions, wild animals may be not only tamed, but trained to perform for novelty or entertainment purposes.

Military animals The defensive and offensive capabilities of animals (such as fangs and claws) can be used to protect or to attack humans.
  • The guard dog barks or attacks, to warn of an intruder
  • War elephants were trained for battle in ancient times and are still used for military transport today.
  • Dolphins and sea lions carry markers to attach to mines as well as patrolling harbors.
  • On land, dogs can be trained to find landminesRats, which are lighter and less of a risk to set the mines off, have recently been used more frequently.
  • Homing pigeons transport material, usually messages on small pieces of paper, by air.


LIM BO SENG : Lim Bo Seng was born in Fujian China, 1909. He immigrated to Singapore. He was a loyal patriot who took part in fund-raising to raise funds to help China in the war against Japan in 1937.

Being the head of the labour union in Singapore, he provided the British government with labourers for the war effort before the Japanese invasion. When the Japanese troops began advancing towards Singapore from Malayan, he and his men dynamited the Causeway.

Just before the fall of Singapore to the Japanese on 11th February, Lim Bo Seng left his seven children to the care of his wife. He went to India where he was trained to fight in the jungle and later recruited resistance fighters for Force 136. Force 136 was a special operations force formed by the British in June 1942 to infiltrate and attack enemy lines. Some local Malays were also recruited into the force. 

In 1943 to set up an an intelligence network in Malaysia. According to historical sources, to avoid detection by the Japanese, secret messages were smuggled in empty tubes of toothpaste, salted fish and even in the Force 136's members' own diaries. To avoid identification by the Japanese, Lim Bo Seng even pretended to be a businessman at checkpoints.

In 1944 Lim Bo Seng was captured by the Japanese. Despite being tortured by the Japanese, Lim Bo Seng refused to reveal the names of the people who worked with him against the Japanese. In prison, Lim Bo Seng often shared his food with the other prisoners. Due to the lack of food and unhealthy living conditions in the prison, Lim Bo Seng fell ill and he died at the age of 35.

In 2003, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) infected over 8,000 people and claimed over 700 lives worldwide. In Singapore, from March to May 2003, SARS raged. Schools in Singapore closed as a precautionary measure against the new virus. People were jailed for breaking their Home Quarantine Orders. Shopping malls and restaurants were deserted.

During that period of time, though the Medical staff in Singapore 
risked their lives to save patients from SARS, they also faced prejudices from the people around them; strangers, friends and even family members. These people were afraid that if they were around the Medical staff, they might contact SARS. They avoided taking lifts with the Medical staff, they refused to sit next to them in crowded food courts and one doctor even had to stay with a colleague because his parents kicked him out of the family home.

Despite all the prejudices and risks the Medical staff faced, they continued to fight the battle against SARS, trying hard to win the battle. Sadly, some of them have even died doing their medical duty. The four SARS heroes and heroines in Singapore were Jonnel Pabuayon Pinera, an overseas Filipino working as a nurse in Singapore, Singaporean physicians, doctors Alexander Chao and Ong Hok Su and nurse Hamidah Ismail. The four of them had unselfishly disregarded their own safety in the midst of looking after SARS patients. They died fighting SARS in Singapore.

All the rest of the Medical staff in Singapore are to be regarded as heroes and heroines who despite knowing the deadly dangers of SARS, bravely risked their lives to battle against our common enemy, SARS.


How do we build strength of character in our children? I asked my younger daughter this question, and this was her reply: "For me, I learnt from your words and actions. You preached kindness and respect and I saw you practising it as you interacted with staff and students as a principal. Even when you had to discipline the naughty students, it was always done with kindness and respect. What struck me most was the joy you brought to people. So as a child, I learnt that joy was the result of treating people with kindness and respect. I think that really shaped me."

Often, adults are not aware of the impact of their actions. For instance, if a parent curses other drivers on the road, children in the car will think that it is acceptable and do likewise when they get angry. In our day-to-day lives, we need to be more conscious of our own behaviour, even when it is not directed at our children, such as our response when something unexpected happens.

Dr Helen LeGette, a leader in education with more than 30 years of experience, says in her book, Parents, Kids & Character: "it is critically important that those who are attempting to influence children's character in positive ways 'walk the talk'." If we want our children to grow up to be good and useful citizens, we need to inculcate the right values and habits. If we teach them to focus only on themselves, they will grow up self-centred, thinking that the world owes them a living. Dr LeGette believes that good character is both taught and caught, so it is equally crucial to talk to our children about our personal and family's values. She explains: "If we want children to internalise the virtues that we value, we need to teach them what we believe and why. In the daily living of our lives, there are countless opportunities to engage children in moral conversation."

Building character must be the work of both parents and schools. It does not just happen. We must work hand-in-hand to impart the same values. If we fail to do that, our children will be confused. For example, a teacher was teaching her students to show care by giving up their seats to the very young, elderly and pregnant on public transport. One eager student pledged to practise this on his way home. However, the next day, the student was downcast and refused to share his experience when asked. He explained later in private that his mother had told him off for giving up his seat. The poor child was perplexed.

Schools provide learning experiences through activities such as Values in Action. For example, South View Primary School embarked on a project, "Make it Right for a Better Ride" with LTA and SMRT to spread the message of graciousness and kindness when commuting. Parents, teachers and pupils went to an MRT station to give out stickers with messages on gracious behaviour to encourage commuters to queue up in an orderly manner and to give up seats to those who needed them more.

We can actively support the efforts of schools by spending quality time with our children or as a family. In primary school, suggested activities can be found in the Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) workbook, which accompanies the textbook. The CCE syllabus is designed based on pupils' daily experiences and is primarily taught in the mother tongue languages. If a family uses English as the language for family time, these books are also available in English and can be purchased where CCE textbooks and workbooks are sold.

Dr LeGette knows that children who have limits at home and parental expectations of good character have a much greater chance of success in school and in their future careers. Since we want to set our children up for success, it is vital that we put a strong emphasis on character building.
So how do we build the character of a child? My advice is to:
• Teach the meaning of the values
• Enforce acceptable standards of behaviour in line with the values taught
• Advocate the values regularly by reading stories that demonstrate them
• Model the values through your own action and words

This will set behaviour boundaries to shape your child's character. It is certainly no easy task as it takes time and effort, but we know character counts in life, and your children are counting on you. After all, as the saying goes: "Character is how you behave when nobody is looking."


The Long road to Olympic Gold
When he was younger and wanted to swim faster, Olympic 100m butterfly champion Joseph Schooling would imagine a shark coming after him. In hindsight, the image is apt. His - and his parents' - journey to Olympic glory has been far from a smooth one in calm waters. In fact, it felt at times like danger also lurked around the corner.

While many can picture that glorious moment when he stood atop the podium, Majulah Singapura playing, not many know about the turmoil the Schoolings faced, and the pain they had to put up with, for him to succeed.

His road to Rio began during a family gathering some time in the mid-1990s, recalled his mother May, when Joseph's grand-uncle Lloyd Valberg had a chat with him. Till this day, May and her husband Colin believe that that was when the seeds of Joseph's Olympic dreams were sowed. "Joseph knew from a young age that he wanted to go to the Olympics, and I think it started from that conversation with his grand-uncle Lloyd," she told The Sunday Times previously. "But when a kid comes to you and says he wants to go to the Olympics, you think, okay," she said, rolling her eyes.

Schooling's natural affinity in the pool was evident from a young age. Close friend and national swimmer Teo Zhen Ren, who is a year older, recalled how, even as a nine-year-old, Joseph was always the favourite whenever he raced.

"At that time, everyone already knew about him. He was beating boys older than him in almost every stroke," said Teo, a freestyle specialist. "I remember losing to him in a 50m freestyle race and being very upset."

There is also the now famous story of how Joseph woke his father up in the wee hours while on holiday in Malaysia, because he wanted to go swimming. From then, Colin, a businessman, took his son's aspirations seriously. But he also told Joseph in no uncertain terms: "If you want to choose this lifestyle, you better be serious about it and give 100 per cent."

But it wasn't just Joseph who had to commit to that journey towards Olympic glory. His parents were very much part of the ride. For them, support has meant more than just paying lip service to that dream. "It's important to also participate," Colin, 68, said. "It's not just taking them to training. So we always try to be there for his training and watching his races, we read up on the sport so we can understand what he's going through."

This is why Colin's office is a vault of swimming books, filled with titles such as Championship Swim Training by Bill Sweetenham and John Atkinson, which looks at stretching a swimmer's potential. There are also folders meticulously filled with results from each of Joseph's races, so they can track every single personal best and meet record that Joseph sets.

Colin even created some training aids to help his son early on. This included a drag chute, attached to a swimmer's waist, to build strength through resistance training. There was also a contraption with a rubber ball which was supposed to condition Joseph to tuck his chin in when he surfaces to breath.

Being supportive also meant parting with their only child in 2009, when the Singapore Swimming Association closed its Centre of Excellence (COE), a programme which brought the nation's best talent together to train.

The Schoolings were already contemplating sending him abroad. With the COE's closure, they decided to take the plunge and send him to the Bolles School in Florida. Even if it was part of the greater goal, the change was hard to take, with May fiercely against the decision at first.

There was also the matter of finances. Flights, accommodation, living expenses and school fees totalling more than $1 million would sap the Schooling's finances. May practically exhausted her savings and they had to sell an overseas property to finance Joseph's dreams. Pointing to the pants she was wearing, May said: "We save where we can. I've been wearing this pants for almost 30 years."

Joseph recalled those early years: "It was really hard, I was homesick all the time. I would call and say I want to come home. They give unconditionally and I couldn't have two better role models to help me on my life forward. "

They decided one parent would be with Joseph at any one time. Slowly, he got used to life in the US, blossoming into a star while training alongside future Olympic champions Ryan Murphy and Caeleb Dressel, and under the world-class coaching of Sergio Lopez at the Bolles School in Florida.

Joseph seemed on track to shine at the 2012 Olympics, when he was the only swimmer to qualify for the Games on merit. Yet, in London, he would hit the lowest point of his nascent international career. Moments before his 200m fly heats, his caps and goggles were deemed to have flouted competition rules and he had to scramble for new ones. It rattled him and he clocked more than two seconds off his then-personal best time of 1min 56.67sec.

Teo said the incident hurt his friend. "Joseph was definitely affected by that. He had massive expectations not only from the public but also himself. He was planning to qualify for the final actually." Joseph sunk to what he called the "lowest point of my life". He hated swimming, he said "nasty things" to Lopez and he was unmotivated. "Sergio should've given up on me but he didn't. He stuck with me. He, my family and close friends dug me out of that hole," he said.

Joseph clawed his way back bit by bit. At the 2013 World Championships, he set two national records and reached the 200m fly semi-final. That same year, he was granted national service deferment till the Rio Olympics.

If that put more pressure on the youngster, it rarely showed. At the 2014 Commonwealth Games, he clinched a silver in the 100m fly, Singapore's first swimming medal at the quadrennial meet. A month later, he won three medals at the Asian Games, including Singapore's first men's swimming gold since 1982.

The next year saw a flawless SEA Games when he swept nine golds from nine events in front of an expectant home crowd. Any doubts about his world-class ability were erased at the World Championships last August, when he finished third with a new Asian record time of 50.96 seconds, confirming one thing - that the bigger the stage, the better he swims.

Then came the Olympics, where, as a dark horse, he was the top qualifier from the heats and the semi-finals. Yet, there was still lingering doubt just before the final. But he remained focused on his mission, dedicated to realising his childhood dream to emerge victorious.

These days, he need not fear sharks. He is now the big fish.


Toys are not merely playthings. Toys form the building blocks for our child’s future. They teach our children about the world and about themselves. They send messages and communicate values. And thus, wise parents think about what foundation is being laid by the toys that are given to their kids.
Wise parents also think about the number of toys that children are given. While most toy rooms and bedrooms today are filled to the ceiling with toys, intentional parents learn to limit the number of toys that kids have to play with.
They understand that fewer toys will actually benefit their children in the long-term:
1. Kids learn to be more creative. Too many toys prevent kids from fully developing their gift of imagination. Two German public health workers (Strick and Schubert) conducted an experiment in which they convinced a kindergarten classroom to remove all of their toys for three months. Although boredom set in during the initial stages of the experiment, the children soon began to use their basic surroundings to invent games and use imagination in their playing.
2. Kids develop longer attention spans. When too many toys are introduced into a child’s life, their attention span will begin to suffer. A child will rarely learn to fully appreciate the toy in front of them when there are countless options still remaining on the shelf behind them.
3. Kids establish better social skills. Children with fewer toys learn how to develop interpersonal relationships with other kids and adults. They learn the give and take of a good conversation. And studies have attributed childhood friendships to a greater chance of success academically and in social situations during adulthood.
4. Kids learn to take greater care of things. When kids have too many toys, they will naturally take less care of them. They will not learn to value them if there is always a replacement ready at hand. If you have a child who is constantly damaging their toys, just take a bunch away. He will quickly learn.
5. Kids develop a greater love for reading, writing, and art. Fewer toys allows your children to love books, music, coloring, and painting. And a love for art will help them better appreciate beauty, emotion, and communication in their world.
6. Kids become more resourceful. In education, students aren’t just given the answer to a problem; they are given the tools to find the answer. In entertainment and play, the same principle can be applied. Fewer toys causes children to become resourceful by solving problems with only the materials at hand. And resourcefulness is a gift with unlimited potential.
7. Kids argue with each other less. This may seem counter-intuitive. Many parents believe that more toys will result in less fighting because there are more options available. However, the opposite is true far too often. Siblings argue about toys. And every time we introduce a new toy into the relationship, we give them another reason to establish their “territory” among the others. On the other hand, siblings with fewer toys are forced to share, collaborate, and work together.
8. Kids learn perseverance. Children who have too many toys give up too quickly. If they have a toy that they can’t figure out, it will quickly be discarded for the sake of a different, easier one. Kids with fewer toys learn perseverance, patience, and determination.
9. Kids become less selfish. Kids who get everything they want believe they can have everything they want. This attitude will quickly lead to an unhealthy (and unbecoming) lifestyle.
10. Kids experience more of nature. Children who do not have a basement full of toys are more apt to play outside and develop a deep appreciation for nature. They are also more likely to be involved in physical exercise which results in healthier and happier bodies.
11. Kids learn to find satisfaction outside of the toy store. True joy and contentment will never be found in the aisles of a toy store. Kids who have been raised to think the answer to their desires can be bought with money have believed the same lie as their parents. Instead, children need encouragement to live counter-cultural lives finding joy in things that truly last.
12. Kids live in a cleaner, tidier home. If you have children, you know that toy clutter can quickly take over an entire home. Fewer toys results in a less-cluttered, cleaner, healthier home.


Last year, there were 241 accidents involving children aged 12 and below. It was 199 in 2014 and 188 the previous year. The children could be pedestrians or on a vehicle. Of the cases last year, seven were accidents at school zones, up from four in 2014 and two in 2013.
The Traffic Police (TP) have taken a series of measures to address the trend. Last year, a road safety corner was established at St Hilda's Primary School in Tampines. The corner provides information to children and parents on good road safety practices, such as identifying blind spots.
The TP have since ramped up education efforts for pupils with the launch of road safety corners in three more schools, making them more accessible to pupils and educators islandwide.
The primary schools are Zhenghua, Qihua and Gan Eng Seng in the West, North and South zones respectively. Said Parliamentary Secretary for Education Faishal Ibrahim: "Although fewer children were injured in traffic accidents, every case is still one too many."
He was speaking at the closing of the annual Shell Traffic Games - a competition to test students' road safety knowledge - yesterday at St Hilda's Primary School.
"We can avoid and prevent needless tragedies by educating our children to practise road safety habits from a young age," he added, urging motorists to be patient and cautious as the young may not be fully aware of hazards around them.
Singapore Road Safety Council chairman Bernard Tay said the authorities have also added markings and red textured surfaces to roads in school zones to remind motorists to slow down.
Penalties for errant motorists in school zones have also been increased, and managers of worksites with heavy vehicles have been informed to be more careful and to avoid these zones during peak hours, added Mr Tay.
But parents also play an important part, said Dr Faishal.
By next year, school trips to the Road Safety Community Park in East Coast Park will include a virtual reality (VR) experience to simulate crossing the road, complete with 360-degree videos and an interactive game.
The VR experience for children was unveiled at the launch of the fifth Singapore Road Safety Month on Friday (May 26), alongside two VR titles for motorists and motorcyclists to brush up on road safety at driving centres. They were developed by the Traffic Police and Singapore Road Safety Council (SRSC) in partnership with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), tech giant Samsung and Harley- Davidson.
Mr Adrian Lim, IMDA director of the sectoral innovation group in education, said that VR offers a safe and controlled environment to teach road safety, since "it's impossible to bring 40 kids to the roadside to show them how to cross the road".

But with the VR technology, he said, they would be better able to understand concepts such as the blind spots of heavy vehicle drivers.Assistant Commissioner Devrajan Bala, deputy commander of the Traffic Police, said: "Children will always be a vulnerable group."
Meanwhile, the Road Sensibility VR experience guides motorcyclists in practising safe riding behaviour, while Eyes On The Road puts users in the seat of a driver who gets distracted by his electronic device and is killed in an accident.
They will both be made available at driving centres here by next year.
The VR experiences complement two new posters which warn pedestrians and motorists not to use phones and other electronic devices when crossing roads or driving.
Home Affairs and Health Parliamentary Secretary Amrin Amin said: "Our efforts to improve road safety have to go beyond infrastructure enhancements like school zones or Silver Zones, and beyond ensuring that drivers keep to speed limits and obey traffic rules."
He said efforts must also include outreach to three groups identified as particularly vulnerable on the roads - motorcyclists, elderly pedestrians and children.
SRSC chairman Bernard Tay said: "Hopefully, children can bring home (these messages) and teach parents and grandparents about road safety." He added: "Eventually, when it (VR) is useful, we will have it for the elderly as well."
Last year, 62 motorcyclists and pillion riders were killed, and more than 5,000 were injured, while accidents involving elderly pedestrians numbered 268 last year, up from 224 previously. In all, there were 141 deaths on the roads and 8,277 accidents with injuries.



Arts events are targeting children to start them young and turn them into the next generation of arts lovers. Every January, the Singapore Art Week, an annual celebration of visual arts, draws about 100,000 visitors to its art fairs, exhibitions and indie events championing art forms such as street art and printmaking.

To grow the number of those arts lovers into the future generation, four programmes this year – the art week’s fifth edition – are targeted not at well-heeled arts aficionados or the hipster crowd, but at those who are more familiar with crayons, colouring books and doodling covertly on bedroom walls.

Two offer visual art experiences or activities for children as part of programmes surrounding a larger exhibition or art fair. The other two events are Tanjong Goodman, an open house at the Goodman Arts Centre taking place tomorrow and on Sunday, as well as tomorrow’s The Art Of Stories organised by Playeum Children’s Centre for Creativity, which has installations and activities centred on the theme of stories.

In planning the activities for children, these organisations employ different strategies and pedagogies in order to engage them in meaningful ways. At Singapore Contemporary, parents can trawl the art fair halls while their children aged three to 11 create paintings, drawings and other art projects under the supervision of teachers at Kids Art Studio. There will also be 45-minute art tours for children aged five to 11.

At the Singapore Biennale, contemporary art is presented to appeal to adults and children. Programmes and materials are developed “with younger audiences in mind”. The museum’s assistant curator, Ms Andrea Fam, 29, says there will be artist folios to “guide younger visitors through each artwork concept”.

At Playeum Children’s Centre for Creativity in Gillman Barracks, children are consulted when it comes to designing the activities. The centre’s executive director Anna Salaman, 45, says: “Much of the inspiration and qualification for our ideas come from some of our most trusted advisers – the children themselves.”

Museums run by the National Heritage Board (NHB), such as the National Museum of Singapore and Singapore Philatelic Museum, organise family-friendly activities regularly. There is also the annual Children’s Season in May and June with dedicated programming catered specially for the young ones. The National Arts Council observes that art activities for young children tend to be multi-disciplinary, incorporating visual arts, hands-on craft and performing arts.
It will be launching a Children’s Art Centre, which will offer multi-disciplinary art activities for families and schools, at Goodman Arts Centre.

The National Gallery Singapore, which has a dedicated 1,000 sq m children’s wing called the Keppel Centre for Art Education, also has plans to inaugurate an art biennale for children in May. While organisers and art educators say that exposure to art activities can lead to long-term art appreciation in children, they urge parents to play an active role too.

Mr Kennie Ting, 39, NHB’s group director of museums, encourages parents to do research before a trip to the museum. For instance, they can download resources from the museums’ websites. Visual artist Wong Seet Fun, 42, who runs nine-year-old art education company Art Loft, urges parents to look out for open-ended activities that allow children to make decisions, such as what they want to draw and the materials to use. “Never get children to colour in pre-drawn drawings, which trains only hand-eye coordination and not creativity,” adds Wong, who is a mother of three.

“In a society where there’s so much pressure from work and school, to know and like an art form is really important. You can then express your emotions through the arts. We teach the young ones about this avenue instead of sending them to therapy later in their lives.”


Today's playgrounds get kids to take risks, fall and toughen up. More parents and childhood experts are advocating less coddling and more freedom for kids to explore, problem solve and create their own play - even if it means bruises.

At Playgrounds, Luke Rodrigues finds himself challenged to navigate stairs that are higher and slides that are steeper than usual, plus obstacles more complicated for a child of his age. His parents are constantly on the lookout for playgrounds and areas around Singapore that challenge their only child’s “physical, thinking, social and emotional skills”. Their favourite so far – at Tiong Bahru Park, an adventure playground rigged with a flying fox and a merry-go-round “which teaches children to cooperate with one another”.

The Rodrigues are among a growing number of parents and early childhood educators who believe that playgrounds should be a place where children can learn to take risks, overcome the limits of their fear, problem solve and play with minimal supervision. And if that means scraped knees and muddy shirts, well, that’s part of the process. parents should step back from supervision and rulemaking, to allow their children to socialise, fail and figure things out on their own. When we make rules at the playground, little do we know that we’re making our children conform. So the question we have to ask ourselves is if we want them to be creative – or if we want them to conform and be the same.”

Both the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and the National Parks Board (NParks) have in recent years upped the ante in playground design. In 2018, for example, the extension of the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden will feature a rainforest adventure, where children can go “exploring a network of canopy tree huts and rope bridges nestled in the tree tops”, and attempt a flying fox down while then trying to “climb up, over and under a log challenge”, according to NParks’ group director of parks Chia Seng Jiang.

Said Mr Chia: “Our more popular playgrounds with a greater diversity of play sets include Sembawang Park, West Coast Park and Pasir Ris Park. In recent years, NParks has also put in place features in our parks to encourage exploration and stimulate the imagination of children.” These other spaces include the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Extension and Coney Island Park, while plans are in the works also at Jurong and Admiralty Park to allow more exploration play, Mr Chia added. As for playgrounds in public housing estates, in his post, Prime Minister Lee mentions a forest-themed playground in Bukit Panjang and a military-inspired design in Choa Chu Kang.

Mrs Sharon Pereira has mixed feelings about letting her two-year-old roam unsupervised in a play area. Said the mother of six: “Some playgrounds have an element of risk and danger which are not positive, such as those in some shopping centres with no proper barriers around the play area, especially when it is crowded with strangers. “Obviously I want my child to take risks, make new friends and learn how to share and take turns … but when you have a two-year-old, you find yourself being a bit more cautious.”

Another mother of a two-year-old, Ms Lydia Ng, 38, said: “I am definitely slightly concerned about the risk of injury and cultivating too much of a risk-taking mindset in a young child who doesn't understand danger. My son uses butter knives to cut things and nowadays, grabs bigger, sharper knives whenever he sees them.” But, Ms Ng also believes that being overprotective can be detrimental, and overall, “I would still prefer more adventurous risky play over safe play any day, because I think the benefits outweigh the risks”.


Kids Against Malaria is an inspiring project by the kids (ages ranging from five to 11) who study music and the arts at the CIAMO school for arts and music in the city of Ouidah in the West African nation of Benin. With the help of their teacher/songwriter Sim D' Souza, school co-founder, Sarah DuPont, and an international super team made up of film maker Jon Fine, Grammy winner and world renowned grande dame Angelique Kidjo, and musicians spanning from Brooklyn to Benin, the children have given us a video and song to be used in combatting of one the world's great killers, malaria.

One of the most potent tools used against the contraction and spreading of malaria, especially in places where there just isn't the infrastructure or money for other options (such as adequate sewage systems), is education. Normalizing the use of netting, purchasing said nets, water safety instruction, and encouraging those who are ill to immediately see a doctor does tremendous work to cutting down infection rates.

The song (and accompanying video, beautifully shot and educational) is a wonder. The message is vital but besides that the song is a jam; the kids are adorable, the production of both song and video perfect, and the fantastic performances by both the kids and the more established luminaries, make the video eminently re-watchable. Which is exactly the point. The goal was to give a voice to the kids and empower them. About a year ago, Angelique's brother, Dah Kidjo (Director of the CIAMO School), emailed me and Sarah a rough acoustic demo of a song that the school's music teacher Sim D'Souza had written with the students. The song's beautiful melody and the kid's voices immediately captured my attention."

"We took all of those tracks to Benin expecting to record the children's chorus but were surprised to find the kids from CIAMO had learned all the rhythm section parts so we recorded more bass, drums and rhythm with the Ahouansou Family Band (the kids playing in the beginning of the video). And we recorded the CIAMO kids choir at the CIAMO School in Ouidah (and also shot the video while we were in Benin too).

Finally, I wanted to know how others could get involved. Jon says, "At this point it's an awareness campaign that is targeted to the most vulnerable communities in Benin. With help from UNICEF, the Peace Corps, USAID, and local health agencies in Benin, the song is currently being shared throughout the country via radio, TV, online and soon there will be ringtones distributed locally for free via cell phone providers." And Sarah says, "The goal is to work with our partners to scale up the project to not only create awareness about malaria treatment and prevention across Africa but to again bring attention and support from the rest of the world to be part of the voice to end this crippling disease. Proceeds generated from the song and any donations made via the website "" will go directly to 3 organizations: UN Nothing But Nets Foundation, Harvard T.H. Chan Defeat Malaria Research Initiative and CIAMO School of Art & Music in Ouidah."

In the words of Angélique Kidjo: "I am a great believer in music as being the ultimate weapon to break silence and to move things forward. You hear the joy the children have in singing this song. It is about time we really tackle the eradication of malaria in this world.


"Mommy, you're not saving the Earth." Mira folded her 6-year-old arms at me as I cleaned the stove while the water ran idly in the sink. She was right. I told her so and turned off the tap.

My kids -- Mira and 3-year-old Miles -- have turned out to be excellent ambassadors for the three R's: reusing, recycling and reducing. They know that a pair of scissors, a rubber band and some markers can transform a paper towel roll into a fashionable set of binoculars. And when we're out and about, we never toss an empty water bottle in the trash simply because a recycling bin is out of sight; Mira, for one, advocates bringing the plastic bottle home and disposing of it properly.

These are great first steps, but I'm continually in search of new ways to encourage earth-friendly activities around the house. After all, just last summer I still fielded requests to fill the kiddie pool daily, and I often caught a little one standing in front of an open fridge leisurely assessing its contents. So I asked some eco-minded moms for tips on encouraging conservation and reducing waste among the younger set. Here's what they said.

1. Enlist your kids' imaginations.
Before you recycle a soda bottle, cardboard box or glass jar, ask your kids if they think there's a way to reuse it. For inspiration, consider what Sheri Amsel's kids created with a 2-liter plastic bottle. Amsel, author of 365 Ways to Live Green for Kids: Saving the Environment at Home, School, or at Play -- Every Day!, helped them create terrariums filled with plants and the occasional small creature. They also used them to store marbles, rocks and action figures.

2. Give them responsibility.
Looking for the perfect starter chore for your young kids? Put them in charge of recycling. Let them decorate each bin -- paper, plastic, glass -- with pictures, stickers and designs. Then make a game out of recycling, suggests Morgan McKean, blogger at and mother of 5-year-old Jamil.
"Gather several disposable items from around your house, hold them up in front of your children and ask, ‘Recycle or trash?'" says McKean. This teaches kids about recycling, but it also shows them how much waste winds up in the garbage bin. And that might spark ideas for ways to use less!

As kids get older, they'll outgrow sorting games like this one. Amsel suggests putting older kids in charge of collecting the redeemable recyclables. Their incentive? They can keep whatever money they make at the recycling center.

3. Make it fun.
To get her 5-year-old son to use less water, McKean uses a game called Beat the Timer. Whenever he's watering plants in the yard or using the shower or sink, McKean sets a timer and challenges him to finish before the buzzer goes off. "This makes water conservation fun and establishes a pattern for respecting water and our limited supply of it," she says.
"The same can be done with the refrigerator door, I realized. Now my kids count to 10 once they open the door. If they haven't figured it out by then, they get what mommy picks."

4. Lead by example.
Last but not least, be a good model. "As much as we want kids to do it on their own, they really model after us," says Amsel. "So if we reuse things and talk about why we're reusing them, kids pick up on that."



The road to health in Singapore will start early. All pre-school children will have at least one hour of physical activity a day, including time spent in the sun.

They will also be served healthy meals that include fruit. Once a key law is passed, pre-schools will no longer be allowed to offer unhealthy eating options.

These recommendations from the NurtureSG committee to get children and youth to grow up healthy - both physically and mentally - have been accepted by the Health and Education Ministries. Some are already being rolled out.

With obesity rates among children going up and chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension on the rise, the committee was tasked with finding ways to improve children's health. Among the issues that the committee addressed were mental health problems, eating habits, and the lack of sleep and exercise.

Obesity rates among children have risen from 10 per cent in 2010 to 12 per cent in 2015. "So very often you can see young children on their handheld devices," said Dr Lam. "That has also resulted in children not exercising enough and leading a more sedentary lifestyle."

The committee decided to get the fitness ball rolling with pre-schoolers, who will have at least one hour of physical activity every day. All pre-schools must provide healthy meals and a minimum duration of physical activities as part of their licensing requirement.

Schools from primary to junior college levels will be encouraged to lend out sporting equipment, like footballs, so children can have "unstructured play" during recess, after lessons, and even on weekends.

Dr Lam added that more time outdoors for the young might also reduce the high rate of myopia. By the time they finish their studies, seven in 10 children here are myopic.

He also touched on a relatively less-discussed issue. Children here do not sleep enough. Half the teens don't get the recommended eight to 10 hours of sleep while one in three sleeps less than 5-1/2 hours each night, said Dr Lam. This affects their mental abilities, and increases their risk of obesity. Students will be offered tips on the importance of having enough sleep.

Children of all ages will be given the chance to be more involved in physical activities at school, starting in pre-school. Under new rules to be introduced by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), full-day pre-school programmes must devote at least an hour to physical activity every day.

NurtureSG, a task force set up to help young people adopt healthier habits, also recommended that older children be given more opportunities to get active outside formal curriculum time. For instance, they should be allowed to borrow sports equipment for games after school hours or during recess time.

Schools will also work with parents and alumni groups to organise physical activities on weekends. In addition, the Health Promotion Board is planning a pilot programme to train students at institutes of higher learning to lead activities such as workouts for their peers.

Explaining the rationale for these changes, Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min, who co-chairs the NurtureSG task force, said: "So often you can see young children on their handheld devices... and that has resulted in children not exercising enough and leading a more sedentary lifestyle."

One school that already encourages its pupils to get active is Xinmin Primary, where pupils can borrow sports equipment such as footballs, skipping ropes and hula hoops before school or during recess time. Said Mr Mohamad Azreen Mohamad Kusnin, who is the school's subject head for physical education: "We feel that this sort of unstructured play builds their fundamental skills. "It also gives them extra motivation to lead a healthy lifestyle."