Yes, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

Ex-principal says keeping active is good for the brain

Mrs Carmee Lim believes music and movement are crucial to the development of young children. PHOTO: MINDCHAMPS

SHE is best known for her 12 years as the principal of Raffles Girls' School (RGS).

But 15 years after leaving the post, and at the age of 75, Mrs Carmee Lim is still working in education.

After studying for a master's degree in early childhood development, she is now mentor principal at MindChamps Holdings, a mind development institute that trains students on how to learn and also runs pre-schools.

Mrs Lim will be one of the speakers at The Straits Times Education Forum on June 27.

Having delved into brain science, Mrs Lim has become an advocate of creative education, particularly in the fields of music and movement.

She says research shows that they can contribute significantly to a child's cognitive, social and emotional development.

"The capacity of the infant brain to learn is phenomenal. Appropriate early childhood programmes not only help the child's brain develop in a timely fashion, they also contribute to physical, emotional and social development."

Music, dance, gymnastics, art and even just free play can all contribute, she says, adding: "The more they are stimulated, the better it is for their growth."

Mrs Lim chairs the board of Soul Inc, a social enterprise that helps people from all walks of life, including those with special needs, to play and create music with the help of technology.

"Music's rhythmic patterns provide exercise for the brain and help develop memory. Who among us learnt the ABCs without the ABC song?" says Mrs Lim, who composes music and plays the piano and drums.

Playing music develops concentration, memory and listening skills, she believes, while singing songs repeatedly helps children learn basic speech patterns. Learning rhymes gives children a phonological awareness that is crucial to learning to read and write.

Mrs Lim does pilates and step aerobics and believes movement "is key to stimulating brain development in young babies and children, encouraging the creation of neural connections.

"Moving around, through, under, over, into spaces and negotiating objects is one of the best ways to teach young children spatial awareness".

Mrs Lim will be joined by two speakers from the United States at the forum: paediatrician Dana Suskind, and founder of the National Institute for Play in California, Dr Stuart Brown.

Dr Suskind set up a programme to close the language gap for disadvantaged children in Chicago. The Thirty Million Words Initiative encourages parents to provide a rich language environment for their children. It refers to a key finding in a landmark 1990s study which found that a child from a poor home hears 30 million fewer words by the age of four, compared with children whose parents are professionals. Dr Brown will speak on the importance of getting children to play.

Philanthropic organisation Lien Foundation is the presenting sponsor of the forum, with POSB Bank as a partner. The Straits Times' inaugural education forum last year was attended by 300 parents. This year's event will be held at the Raffles City Convention Centre.

For more details on the forum, go to

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2015, with the headline All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Subscribe