Parenting

What Should Parents Give Children: Top 5 Essential Gifts

byFitri Handa Yani
  • Dec 27, 2023
  • 8 mins
two children

For many parents, children are the best gift you are given, and naturally, out of unconditional love, parents often ask themselves, "What should we give our young ones to ensure their happiness and success?" With limited resources and the rising costs of raising children, we’ve shortlisted the top 5 gifts for your child.

Education is an important aspect of every Singaporean’s life, and spending on it should be a priority. In Singapore, children start attending school as early as 2 years old. Undeniably, providing the best education for your child is almost akin to providing him with the best future and makes it to the top 5 things any parent can and should give to their child.

The essence of education goes beyond just gaining literacy and numeric knowledge. It teaches your children to form opinions, process information, and develop personal judgement skills. With guidance, this is a lifelong skill that will aid in all their life decisions. Education also plays a critical role in building confidence; as children master reading and writing, and excel in their academic pursuits, their self-belief strengthens.

The cost of education in Singapore is hefty, but there are ways to save costs without compromising your child’s education.

  1. Most Singaporean students are eligible for bursaries such as Edusave Merit Bursary, Edusave Character Award, and Edusave Good Progress Award. These bursaries are given to those with good grades, character and progress in school.
  2. The Ministry of Education provides financial assistance to needy Singapore Citizen students regardless of their financial background so everyone can benefit from the best opportunities in education.
  3. Find out if your children really need the extra help. If they need help understanding concepts taught in school, one option is to try out online tuition. Tutors often charge lesser as they do not have to make a trip to their tutees' place. Tutees can also save on transport fees and learn in the comfort of their homes without the need to travel to tuition centres or their tutor’s place.

In the broader scope of educational choices, selecting the right path in Singapore is paramount due to its diverse landscape. Public schools, known for their rigorous standards, adhere to the Ministry of Education's curriculum, providing a strong educational foundation. International schools offer a global perspective with International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes and various international curriculums, ideal for families seeking diverse educational experiences. Specialised schools like SOTA and Singapore Sports School cater to artistic and athletic talents, balancing these with academic learning.

When choosing a school, factors such as a child’s learning preferences and extracurricular interests are crucial to consider. Resources like the Ministry of Education's website and our guide to choosing primary schools can guide you in making informed decisions about what you should give your child in their educational journey.

Celebrating your child's milestones often includes giving gifts and rewards. As a parent, witnessing their excitement and happiness when receiving something special, especially an item they've eagerly anticipated, brings immense joy.

Question is, what gifts and rewards should you be showering your children with?

Everyone has received gifts in the form of toys or the latest gadgets. Looking beyond those material gifts, an alternative reward you can give to your children is in the form of experience, such as doing volunteering work to cultivate compassion. In an article featured by The Straits Times, families spoke of their volunteering experience and how it has helped them find a sense of purpose in life. Volunteering as a family not only helps young minds develop important values such as empathy and ability to care for others, but also allows your family to bond.

As parents, you are often too focused on giving your children the best education and tend to overlook the importance of teaching them empathy through first-hand experience, so why not start now by introducing volunteerism as a form of reward?

Some examples of age-appropriate volunteer opportunities include family-friendly activities like beach clean-ups or participating in community gardens for younger children, which are both fun and educational. For older children, more structured programmes such as volunteering at local charities or participating in environmental conservation projects can be highly beneficial.

These activities not only foster a sense of empathy and social responsibility but also help to strengthen family bonds. Organisations like the Singapore Red Cross offer a range of volunteering opportunities suitable for different ages and interests, making it easy to find the right fit for your family.

enrichment classes

A growing number of parents are valuing the development of their children’s right brain — the creative side — as an essential skill for a well-rounded upbringing. Signing your kids up for enrichment classes is one way to cultivate their creativity. However, too many classes may cost you a lot of money and their energy. For instance, piano lessons can cost around S$170/month and a ballet lesson can cost between S$30-S$80/month at a CC, never mind a private dance school. As these enrichment classes often cost a pretty penny, you must make the choice of what is best for your child.

What is more important is for you to provide your children with a lot of opportunities in developing their creativity and curiosity in the early years. Most of the time, this does not need to involve expensive and structured enrichment classes. You do not need to fork out big bucks to give your child the best start in life. Perhaps you could set aside some time to plan for low-or no-cost activities such as a visit to the Botanic Gardens to learn about plants and nature. It is a way to encourage them to be more mindful and observant of their surroundings. In the process of learning about the environment, you can also stimulate their creativity by asking them to collect different types of dried leaves for art and craft. When children are relaxed, they learn the most.

Allowing your children to have the freedom to engage in activities they really enjoy at a young age not only helps them in the development of a healthy brain but also encourages them to interact with the world around them. In fact, 85% of Singaporean parents surveyed by The Asian Parents believe that children are born with an intrinsic value of creativity and 99% of them agree that a child’s creativity can be enhanced through play. Hence, the activities planned for children should be implemented through play and not assessment books.

So instead of stressing over which enrichment classes to send your children to, maximise the growth of their creativity and process skills with outdoor classrooms.

Giving your children holiday experiences makes this list because holidays give your children a view into the world beyond this tiny red dot. It opens their eyes to new experiences, new cultures, new beliefs. Travelling gives your children a learning experience beyond the four walls of their classroom. Going on hikes allows you to teach them about geography, leaves, trees and flowers that they may never see in Singapore. Going to a museum to teach them history, appreciation of art, architecture – all these come to life in front of their eyes, which beats any education through a computer screen. There is so much to explore, and so much to experience.

On top of that, travelling also allows parents to give their child undivided attention – which we all know is so difficult to do when not on vacation. With no work obligations and chores waiting to be done, you can spend quality time building on your relationship with your child.

Travelling is also one of the best ways to instil curiosity in your children. It encourages them to explore beyond their comfort zones and open their mind to ask ‘why’. Why do people in Japan slurp their food so loudly while we are taught to eat quietly at home? There are many teaching opportunities, with the best lesson being acceptance of other culture’s customs. Perhaps with these lessons you instil in your children, the world will become more accepting in the years to come.

Although travelling can be expensive, cheaper alternatives also fulfil the same objectives. Take a trip across the causeway or stay within South East Asia; what matters is how you make the most of your trip for your child.

For instance, regional destinations like Penang and Bali offer a wealth of learning opportunities at a reasonable cost. Penang's rich cultural heritage provides a vivid history lesson with its well-preserved colonial architecture, vibrant street art, and temples. Visiting George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, resembles a practical history class. Similarly, Bali’s diverse natural landscapes, from rice terraces to volcanic mountains and coral reefs, offer an ideal setting for hands-on learning in environmental science and biology.

These destinations are not just getaways but real-world classrooms where children can engage with history, culture, and nature in an immersive and engaging manner. Actively exploring them allows children to develop a deeper understanding of different cultures and ecosystems, turning travel into a meaningful and educational adventure. For more travel inspiration, look up our list of budget-friendly countries for the whole family.

retirement plan

While it’s essential to ensure you have sufficient money to provide for your child now, it is also important to spend on yourself to keep yourself healthy and happy while planning for the future.

Research shows that if Singaporeans want to retire comfortably by age 50, the amount to have by then is S$2.42million. Thus, it is also vital to ensure you have financial stability and a retirement plan in the long term. As you do so much for your children to ensure their best future, it is crucial to take care of yourself. This way, you are giving your children the freedom to pursue the future they want without needing them to factor their parents’ financial position into the equation. Should they wish to take a gap year to explore the world, they would be free to do so because you can provide for yourself. If they are given the opportunity to bring their career overseas, they will do so with peace of mind that their parents can care for themselves financially. Their love for entrepreneurship may lead them to start a business, and having your own retirement plan will assure them to take risks in their start-up.

Thus, your retirement plan would definitely be a gift for your children!

Bringing up a child is more than just money. You are responsible for the guidance of your children, and the best thing you can give them is ultimately your unconditional love and time. So, start planning early to focus on and cherish the moments together. Learn more about how to plan your finances better for your family.

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