What are Singapore parents’ perception of play in the early years?





Play, Holistic development, Preschool education, Parent education, Teacher education


International research indicate that play is the most effective way for children to learn and develop physically, cognitively, socially and emotionally as well as reduces stress and enhances confidence, curiosity and creativity. Despite the importance and benefits of play for children’s learning and development, play seems to be vanishing from preschool classrooms globally (and in Singapore) for various reasons.   It is believed that one of the reasons for this phenomenon could be the lack of parents’ support for children’s play due to their high expectations and demand for academic achievement and the lack of their awareness or understanding on the importance of play in children’s development.  Hence, the key purpose of this exploratory study is to gather data from parents on their perception of play and holistic development in Singapore preschools.  Data were collected from 30 parents through interviews using a semi-structured questionnaire. The data collected were transcribed verbatim and coded and subsequently, organised by research question and analysed and interpreted constructively and reflexively.  The findings of the study revealed that although most Singapore parents understood and recognised the importance of play and holistic development in the early years, some of them wanted preschools to prepare their children academically for primary school. Parents also shared a list of factors which supported or impeded their support for children’s play and some of them felt that they could benefit from parent education programmes. These findings highlight the importance of the school-family-community partnership in the education of young children in Singapore.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...


Babuc, Z. T. (2015). Exploring parental perceptions and preferences about play: A case study in Erzurum. Procedia – Social and Behavioural Sciences, 197, 2417-2424. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.07.304

Bach, D., & Christensen, S. (2017). Battling the tiger mother: Pre-school reform and conflicting norms of parenthood in Singapore. Children & Society, 31(2) 134-143. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/chso.12162

Bautisa, A., Ng, S. C., Múñez, D., & Bull, R. (2016). Learning areas for holistic education: kindergarten teachers’ curriculum priorities, professional development needs, and beliefs. International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy, 10(1), 1-18. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s40723-016-0024-4

Bergen, D., & Fromberg, D. P. (2010). Play and social interaction in middle childhood. Early childhood education: Annual editions. McGraw-Hill.

Berthelsen, D., Brownlee, J., & Karuppiah, N. (2011). Teachers’ beliefs and practices in early childhood education in Singapore. Pearson Education.

Bogden, R. C., & Biklen, S. K. (2003). Qualitative research for education: An introduction to theories and methods. Pearson Education.

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2008). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1191/1478088706qp063oa

Brownlee, J., Berthelsen, D., & Segaran, N. (2009). Childcare workers' and centre directors' beliefs about infant childcare quality and professional training. Early Child Development and Care, 179(4), 453-475. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/03004430701217688

Bubikova-Moan, J., Næss Hjetland, H., & Wollscheid, S. (2019). ECE teachers' views on play-based learning: A systematic review. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 27(6), 776-800. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1350293X.2019.1678717

Bullard, J. (2017). Creating learning environments for learning: Birth to age eight (3rd ed.). Pearson Education.

Clouder, C. (2004). A push for early academic instruction: A view from Europe. Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice, 17(1), 1-17.

Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2011). Research methods in education. Routledge Falmer.

Coleman, J. S. (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital. The American Journal of Sociology, 94, 95-120. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/228943

Creswell, J. W. (2008). Educational research, planning, conducting and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (3rd ed.). Pearson Education.

Dockett, S., & Perry, B. (2001). Starting school: Effective transitions. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 3(2), 1-18. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2002.3.1.9

Ducusin, R. J. C., & Dy, M. F. R. (2016). Parental perceptions on the importance of play in early childhood. Journal of Human Ecology, 5(1), 1-18.

Ebbeck, M., & Chan, Y. Y. Y. (2011). Instituting change in early childhood education: Recent developments in Singapore. Early Childhood Education Journal, 38(6), 457-463. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-010-0435-8

Ebbeck, M., & Warrior, S. (2008). Image of the Singapore child. Early Childhood Education Journal, 36(3), 247-251. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-008-0278-8

Epstein, J. L. (2011). School, family, and community partnerships: Preparing educators and improving schools (2nd ed.). Westview Press.

Fisher, J. (2008). Starting from the Child (3rd ed.). Open University Press.

Gunnarsdottir, B. (2004). From play to preschool: Are core values of ECEC in Ireland being undermined by 'schoolification'?. International Journal of Early Years Education, 22(3), 242-250. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09669760.2014.960319

Hamersley, M., & Atkinson, P. (1983). Ethnography: Principles in practice. Routledge.

Howard, J. (2010). Early years practitioners' perceptions of play: An exploration of theoretical understanding, planning and involvement, confidence and barriers to practice. Educational and Child Psychology, 27(4), 91-102.

Hui, D. L. L., Hon, H., & NIemi, H. (2014). A contextualized account of holistic education in Finland and Singapore: Implications on Singapore educational context. Educational and Child Psycholog,, 23(4), 871-884. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40299-014-0189-y

International Association of Play. (2010). Promoting the child's right to play. http://www.harryshier.net/docs/IPA_Global_Report_full.pdf

Jeynes, W. (2012). A meta-analysis of the efficacy of different types of parental involvement programs for urban students. Urban Education, 47(4), 706-742. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0042085912445643

Keung, C. P. C., & Cheung, A. C. K. (2019). Towards holistic supporting of play-based learning in kindergartens: A mixed method study. Early Childhood Education Journal, 47, 627-740. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-019-00956-2

Kiger, M. E., & Varpio, L. (2020). Thematic analysis of qualitative data: AMEE Guide No. 131. Medical Teacher, 42(8), 846-854. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/0142159X.2020.1755030

LeCompte, M., & Preissle, J. (1983). Ethnography and qualitative design in educational research (2nd ed.). Academic Press.

Lim-Ratnam, C. (2013). Tensions in defining quality preschool education: The Singapore context. Educational Review, 65(4), 416-431. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00131911.2012.707641

Makovichuk, L., Hewes, J., Lirette, P., & Thomas, N. (2014). Play, participation and possibilities: An early learning and child care curriculum framework for Alberta. Childcare Framework, Alberta, Canada. https://education.alberta.ca/media/482257/play-participation-and-possibilities-reduced.pdf

McNeal, R. B., Jr. (2014). Parent involvement, academic achievement and the role of student attitudes and behaviours as mediators. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 2(8), 564-576. DOI: https://doi.org/10.13189/ujer.2014.020805

Mertens, D. M. (1998). Research methods in education and psychology: Integrating diversity with qualitative & quantlitative approaches. Sage Publications.

Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis (2nd ed.). Sage.

Ministry of Education. (2003). Launch of Preschool Curriculum Framework. https://www.moe.gov.sg/media/press/2003/pr20030120.htm

Ministry of Education. (2012). Nurturing early learners: A curriculum for kindergartens in Singapore. Ministry of Education.

Ministry of Social and Family Development. (2020). Statistics on Singaporean children not attending a preschool. https://www.msf.gov.sg/media-room/Pages/Statistics-on-Singaporean-children-who-have-not-attended-preschool.aspx

Moore, D., Edwards, S., Cutter-Mackenzie, A., & Boyd, W. (2014). Play-based learning in early childhood education. . In Cutter-Mackenzie (Ed.), Young children's play and environmental education in early childhood education (pp. 9-24). Springer. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-03740-0_2

Nowell, L.S. Norris, J. M., White, D. E., & Moules, L. M. (2017). Thematic analysis: Striving to meet the trustworthiness criteria. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 16(1), 1-13. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1609406917733847

Nunez, J. C., Suarez, N., Rosario, P., Vallegjo, G., Valle, A., & Epstein, J. L. (2015). Relationship between perceived parental involvement in homework, student homework behaviours, and academic achievement: Differences among elementary, junior high, and high school students. Metacognition and Learning, 10(3), 375-407. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11409-015-9135-5

Parmar, P., Harkness, S., & Super, C. M. (2004). Asian and Euro-American parents' ethno-theories of play and learning: Effects on preschool children's home routines and school behaviour. International Journal of Behavioural Development, 28(2), 97-100. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01650250344000307

Peterson, S. S., Portier, C., & Murray, A. (2017). The role of play at home and in kindergarten and grade one: Parents' perceptions. Journal of Childhood Studies, 42(1), 1-10. DOI: https://doi.org/10.18357/jcs.v42i1.16882

Preston, T.P., Macphee, M. M., & O-Keefe, A. R. (2018). Kindergarten teachers' notions of parent involvement and perceived challenges. Journal of Education, 53(3), 546-566. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7202/1058416ar

Pyle, A., DeLuca, C., & Danniels, E. (2017). A scoping review of research on play-based pedagogies in kindergarten. Review of Education, 5(3), 311-351. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/rev3.3097

Pyle, A., Prioletta, J., & Poliszczuk, D. (2018). The play-literacy interface in full-day kindergarten classrooms. Early Childhood Education Journal, 46(1), 117-127. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-017-0852-z

Pyle, A., Pyle, M. A., Prioletta, J., & Alaca, B. (2020). Portrayals of play-based learning: Misalignments among public discourse, classroom realities and research. American Journal of Play, 15(1), 53-86.

Qing, A. (2021). Singapore students say parental and self-expectations: Fomo are sources of stress. https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/parenting-education/singapore-students-say-parental-and-self-expectations-fear-of-missing

Rentzou, K., Slutsky, R., Tuul, M., Gol-Guven, M., Kragh-Müller, G., Foerch, D. F., & Paz-Albo, J. (2019). Preschool teachers’ conceptualizations and uses of play across eight countries. Early Childhood Education Journal, 47, 1-14. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-018-0910-1

Resnick, M. & Johnson, A. T. (2020). Discussion-case analysis for facilitating pre-service teachers' exploration of play in the early childhood classroom. Networks: An Online Journal for Teacher Research, 22(3), 1-34. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4148/2470-6353.1320

Tan, C. T. (2007). Policy developments in preschool education in Singapore: A focus of the key reforms of kindergarten education. International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy, 35(1), 35-43. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/2288-6729-1-1-35

Tan, C. T. (2017). Enhancing the quality of kindergarten education in Singapore: Policies and strategies in the 21st century. International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy, 11(7), 1-22. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s40723-017-0033-y

Toub, T. S., Rajan, V., Golinkoff, R. M., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2016). Guided play: A solution to the play versus discovery learning dichotomy. In D. C. Geary, & D. B. Berch (Eds.), Evolutionary perspectives on child development and education (pp. 117-141). Springer International Publishing/Springer Nature. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-29986-0_5

United Nations Children's Fund. (2018). Learning through play: Strengthening learning through play in early childhood education programmes. UNICEF. https://www.unicef.org/sites/default/files/2018-12/UNICEF-Lego-Foundation-Learning-through-Play.pdf

Wang, S., & Aamodt, S. (2012). Play, stress, and the learning brain. Cerebrum, 2012(12). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3574776/#:~:text=As%20Wang%20and%20Aamodt%20describe,in%20the%20years%20to%20come

Warash, B. G., Root, A. E., & Devito, M. D. (2017). Parents' perceptions of play: A comparative study of spousal perspectives. Early Child Development and Care, 187(5-6), 958-966. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/03004430.2016.1237511

Weisberg, D. S., Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Gollinkoff, R.M. (2014). Embracing complexity: Rethinking the relation between play and learning: Comment on Lillard et al., (2013). Psychological Bulletin, 139(1), 35-39. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/a0030077

Whitebread, D., Bsilio, M., Kuvalja, M., & Verma, M. (2012). A report on the value of children’s play with a series of policy recommendations. https://www.csap.cam.ac.uk/media/uploads/files/1/david-whitebread---importance-of-play-report.pdf

Winton, P.J., Brotherson, M. J., & Summers, J.A. (2008). Learning from the field of early intervention about partnering with families. In M.M. Cornish (Ed.), Promising practices for partnering with families in the early years (pp. 21-40). Information Age.

Yongbeon, K., & Fung, F. M. (2021, June 6). Commentary: Parents play an outsized role in academic stress children face. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/commentary/parents-academic-stress-psle-students-exam-children-1825846




How to Cite

Karuppiah, N. (2022). What are Singapore parents’ perception of play in the early years?. Journal of Childhood, Education & Society, 3(2), 200–211. https://doi.org/10.37291/2717638X.202232176

Funding data