Education Starts from Home

In the journey of education, parents are the initial guides, laying the foundation from birth and extending their role as a child steps into formal schooling.

Active parental involvement in children’s learning and education is a cornerstone for their holistic development. Research underscores the important role that hands-on engagement plays in shaping a child’s academic success and overall well-being.

“When parents actively participate in their child’s learning journey, this fosters a sense of security and confidence in the child,” says Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail, Chairman of the Positive Parenting Programme. “Children whose parents are hands-on in their education tend to perform better academically, exhibit improved social skills and display a higher level of motivation. These children are also more likely to develop a life-long love for learning.”

Hands-on involvement goes beyond just helping with homework; it involves fostering a conducive learning environment at home, engaging in conversations, and participating in educational activities. The positive impact is not confined to academic achievements but extends to emotional and psychological resilience.

“As children navigate the complex landscape of education, having parents who are actively involved provides crucial support. It enhances communication skills, problem-solving abilities, and critical thinking. The bond formed through hands-on engagement becomes a solid foundation for a child’s future successes,” Dr Zulkifli says.

He adds that parents can also participate in extracurricular activities, such as attending school events, volunteering for field trips, or getting involved in parent-teacher associations, which can help forge a deeper connection among parents, children, and the school community. This engagement goes beyond the classroom, enriching the overall educational experience.

Being hands-on with a child’s learning is not just about imparting knowledge; it is about taking a keen interest in what’s going on in your child’s life, as well as instilling a passion for learning and nurturing well-rounded individuals equipped to face life’s challenges. Dr Zulkifli says: “Parental involvement is the key that unlocks a child’s full potential, paving the way for a brighter and more fulfilling future.”

Holistic development starts at birth

Parents play an active role in their child’s learning right from infancy. Consultant developmental paediatrician Dr Cindy Chan says infants start learning from the moment they are born. With their senses, including the sense of touch, hearing, smell and sight, infants are constantly learning through their interactions with the people around them and their environment. By engaging infants through positive stimulation of a baby’s senses, parents can really encourage cognitive development from a very early age.

“Early attachment and bonding between parent and child are crucial for an infant’s mental health and holistic development,” Dr Chan explains. “By being attentive and responsive to your baby’s needs, your baby will in turn learn to tune in and respond to the emotions and social cues of others. When this emotional and social connection is strong, it gives your baby the best start in their world.”

She also stresses how a secure social and emotional attachment lays a strong foundation for your baby’s language development. “In the first few months, your baby’s language development is stimulated by mostly non-verbal interactions. There is a lot of eye contact, physical touch, and playful or soothing vocalisations between you and your baby – whether during daily routines such as bathing, feeding, playing together or putting her to sleep.

“Before a child is able to use verbal language to communicate with other people, he or she learns to communicate in other ways and this begins with interactive play, even as a newborn. Interactive play is very social and emotional. It’s about connection. Even before words are understood, an infant will start learning how to interpret facial expressions, body language, and how to anticipate what someone else is thinking or feeling. All these will help provide a solid foundation to developing spoken language and two-way communication later on.”

Dr Chan suggests parents should provide playtime activities that nurture fine and gross motor development. “From tummy time and reaching out for sensory objects, to climbing and playing in the outdoors, these physical abilities will be necessary to go on to develop the skills they need to explore and learn from their exciting world. At the same time, as difficult as it will be for parents, it is essential that parents allow children the opportunities to make mistakes and learn from their own mistakes, within a sensible and safe environment. This will nurture diverse problem-solving skills and a positive growth mindset when children are faced with challenges in life as they grow.”

Dr Chan further encourages reading with young children as this can have a profound positive effect on their language and cognitive development. “Parents can establish a simple reading routine even from infancy. The simple act of pointing to pictures while reading and incorporating facial expressions or playful gestures is setting the stage for vital learning to take place.”

She recommends spending short spurts of time reading. “You don’t have to sit and ‘formally’ read for half an hour with a toddler. Just a few minutes of looking through a picture book together will make a very positive impact. Equally important is that you promote lots of eye contact, give your child lots of social and communicative cues, and encourage him to respond. This is also very helpful to train his attention span as he grows.”

“Parents further contribute to their child’s learning by establishing structure and predictable routines at home. Consistent meal times and a predictable sleep routine are essential to provide young children with the necessary nutrition and rest they need to learn,” Dr Chan adds.

Finally, Dr Chan agrees that many infant and young children are now being exposed too early to screen gadgets, and excessively so. “The problem with a screen device is that it does not watch for your baby’s social and emotional cues and respond in flexible ways. It is very different from interacting with, and learning from another human.”

“Technology in education can be very useful, but the key is YOU need to be the first point of connection for your child from the early years. Technology cannot replace your presence and it cannot take the place of human-to-human communication and socialisation. If you choose to integrate tech into your child’s early years, then ensure that you are present to engage your child in a socially interactive manner, with tech as a supplement to their learning,” Dr Chan concludes.

The preschool years

President of the Malaysia Association of Registered Early Child Care and Development (MyECCD) Pn Anisa Ahmad says that when little children grow into toddlers and pre-schoolers, it is vital that parents continue to engage with them in joint activities such as reading, drawing, singing, storytelling, reciting rhymes and playing games.

“When reading together with your toddler or young child, allow them to choose which story book they’d like to read, even if it is the same book every day! For older children, you can take turns reading passages in a book. For younger children who can’t read yet, ask them to make up a story from pictures. Have them tell you more about what they are thinking. When parents give positive feedback and ask open-ended questions, you are boosting your child’s interest, creativity and critical thinking skills,” Pn Anisa shares.

She adds that it is important that parents “walk the talk”. That is, don’t just expect your child to want to read. You need to be a model for reading.

“There are other simple things you can do. Nursery rhymes are helpful for early literacy and language development. You can also label objects in your home. This shows the importance of reading and writing. Help your child build background knowledge on a topic. Talk about everyday experiences, show your child pictures, and tell them stories or ask them to tell you their story. This can increase their curiosity and readiness to learn at school.”

When it comes to Mathematics, Pn Anisa says it is never too early for kids to start learning! “As early as 2 years old, children are ready to explore the world of values and objects, grasping concepts like ‘two is more than one’ and understanding big and small. It’s a key time to impart basic concepts and important values.”

Learning to count is a great introduction to Maths for toddlers, the educator says. Counting fingers and toes from one to 10 is particularly fun when accompanied by counting-out rhymes such as “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe.” Pn Anisa says that parents should incorporate counting in their daily activities such as when serving out food onto plates – two scoops of rice, three pieces of chicken, one glass of milk.

“To help your child understand groups, you can sort things based on categories, such as colour, size, shape, texture or use. For instance, have them separate their toys according to colours, sizes or spoons from forks.”

In fostering good manners and social aptitude, parents play a crucial role in teaching their children the art of expressing gratitude with “please”, “thank you” and “I’m sorry”. Additionally, imparting the basics of polite greetings with a simple “hello”, emphasising the importance of refraining from touching others’ belongings, instilling tidiness in personal possessions, and cultivating patience in waiting for their turn are fundamental lessons. Though seemingly straightforward, these principles serve as the essential foundations for effective social interaction.

Pn Anisa says that learning about the body and its functions also starts at home. “Begin by teaching children the names of their body parts using proper vocabulary. It’s essential to impart the functions of these body parts and emphasise that it’s not appropriate for others to look or touch. At the same time, guide them to understand the importance of not looking at or touching others without permission.”

Asking for consent from your child is important, according to Pn Anisa. “Ask your child ‘Do you want me to shower you today?’ or ‘I will unzip your dress so that I can shower you, will that be ok?’ This will help the child to understand the importance of asking consent before doing certain things and to teach our child that it is okay to say ‘No’ if they feel uncomfortable about something. This will lead to a better understanding of safe touch and bad touch.”

Pn Anisa also emphasises the importance of acknowledging that readiness for formal education varies on a personal timeline. She advises parents to play a proactive role by creating a nurturing home environment where children feel safe, understood and stimulated. She says: “Parents who actively engage in play and communication with their young children, and participate in their daily activities, can meet their child’s emotional needs while also fostering the development of motor skills, creativity and critical thinking. This contributes to a well-rounded educational foundation for their child.”

As children advance through various grade levels, parents play evolving roles in enriching their educational journey and facilitating seamless transitions between school years. Active involvement in various aspects, including interactive play and reading in early childhood to fostering good manners and social skills, are the building blocks to academic success and holistic development, affirming that education does indeed start at home!


With Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail, Chairman of Positive Parenting Programme

Dr Cindy Chan Su Huay, Consultant Developmental Paediatrician

Pn Anisa Ahmad, President of Malaysia Association of Registered Early Child Care and Development (MyECCD)

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