Photos in collaboration with Deborah Quek

The big question I sometimes get is, "What do parents of very young children need to be aware of today to prepare their children for tomorrow?"

Having interacted with many parents of young children, a common theme I hear is that parents are inundated and overwhelmed by the myriad of voices, perspectives and choices out there. They often feel stressed that they might not be making the best decisions for their children.

This causes some parents to adopt a "more is best" or "just in case" approach, in the hope that their children will not miss out on exposure and opportunities for learning.

Children today face a rapidly changing world, in part due to technology. They are exposed to a wider variety of experiences through social media and digital gadgets. So, should parents introduce their children to digital gadgets? If they don’t, will their children "miss out"? How much exposure to digital gadgets is too much?

My advice is that very young children should be interacting with people more than gadgets. It is through these human interactions that children develop social and emotional skills, which are far more critical than content knowledge acquired from gadgets.

Children today also lead much busier lives, with many activities scheduled for them. Families are also busier and more stretched, trying manage work and family requirements.

It is, however, important to keep in mind that children should not be pushed to do too much too early. Learning to read, write and count very early is not necessarily an indicator of learning ability and future academic success.

Early gains do not necessarily last or predict academic performance in later years. It is much more important that children acquire positive learning dispositions like perseverance, reflectiveness, appreciation, inventiveness, a sense of wonder and curiosity, and engagement, ideally modelled by significant adults in their lives.

In addition, parents should focus on developing their children’s "executive function skills", as described by Ellen Galinsky in her book, Mind in the Making:The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs.

These are the seven "essential life skills" she writes about:

1. Focus and self-control

2. Perspective-taking

3. Communicating

4. Making connections

5. Critical thinking

6. Taking on challenges

7. Self-directed and engaged learning

how to prepare for tomorrow

Attention to the social and emotional development of children is vital for their growth and learning. Children need to have space and time to be children – to play, to imagine, to create – without fear of having to perform tasks perfectly.

Children should not be made to feel like they have failed, but rather that making mistakes is a natural part of learning. Children should be allowed to enjoy their childhood – a carefree time in life unlike any other.

As parents, we should embrace and find joy in our children’s often innocent and humorous responses. Children’s lenses are different from those of adults.

They see things fresh for the first time, with wide-eyed wonder and amazement. They are naturally curious and, if allowed to, will ask endless "whys" that never cease to intrigue.

These are elements of childhood that we need to preserve and celebrate rather than to rush children into a future that often we are not always even clear about.

While it is true that parents need to prepare for their children’s future, it is important that we realise that children live in the now. For tomorrow to be shaped, it is what happens today.

Dr Jacqueline Chung is the Academic Director at Anglican Preschool Services, overseeing St. James’ Church Kindergarten and Little Seeds Preschools. She holds a PhD in early childhood education and is an Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) Fellow.