Housewife Melissa Lee, 21, is thankful to have picked up some parenting skills over the past five weeks in a playgroup session.
"I've learnt that it's important to talk gently and keep calm, even if I'm frustrated when the child whines. It's helpful that there are facilitators who role-play how we should interact with children," said the first-time mother, who has a 10-month-old daughter, Mathilda.
"Initially, she was not used to new environments and would not allow strangers to carry her. But now I notice she's somehow more sociable."
Mathilda is one of 280 young children from disadvantaged families who have benefited from KidStart, a government scheme which started in July to help such children get a leg-up in life.
The three-year pilot scheme is led by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and $20 million has been set aside for it.
Amount of money set aside for three-year pilot scheme KidStart.
Number of areas where KidStart is being piloted - in Kreta Ayer, Bukit Merah, Taman Jurong, Boon Lay and Geylang Serai.
About 1,000 low-income children up to age six are expected to benefit. They live in five areas where the scheme is being piloted - Kreta Ayer, Bukit Merah, Taman Jurong, Boon Lay and Geylang Serai.
The scheme was first announced during the Budget speech in March, and ECDA gave an update yesterday about how it works and has progressed so far.
The playgroup session, called KidStart Group, is one of three components of KidStart being piloted. This is for children up to three years old and their parents, who learn parenting skills and how to strengthen the bond with their children.
Because the concept behind the KidStart Group sessions is new here, a five-week trial was held from Oct 1. A total of 33 children and 29 parents took part, going for weekly sessions at the volunteer-run We Love Learning (WeLL) centre at a void deck in Henderson.
ECDA said the response has been encouraging, with 80 per cent attendance on average per session.
Partners involved in the trial include EtonHouse International Education Group, National Library Board and family service centres.
Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said on the sidelines while visiting a session yesterday that it was vital to have community partners involved.
"When we say it takes a village to raise a child, it's true, because the partners can bring their different expertise to this," he said.
The KidStart Group sessions use evidence-based curricula from Australia and the US, and ECDA said it will use learning points from the trial to finalise the curriculum for sessions that will be rolled out in the other pilot sites next year.
The other two components of KidStart are regular home visits and enhanced pre-school support.
Under the regular home visits, staff from KK Women's and Children's Hospital or ECDA have dropped in at the homes of 50 infants and their parents or primary caregivers. This will continue until the child turns three.
During the visits, the parents receive support in skills and knowledge about stages of a child's growth, health and nutrition.
The enhanced pre-school support component has about 200 children across selected pre-schools run by PAP Community Foundation and NTUC First Campus receiving help so far. Staff from the pre-schools help to monitor the child's attendance, address barriers that hinder the child from attending pre-school, and look out for the child's developmental needs.