When the air turns too hazy, forcing school closure, parents have to get busy - thinking of how to keep their children occupied indoors.
When the haze kept her three- year-old son out of preschool two Fridays ago, Mrs Adeline Tan did not panic. The 34-year-old housewife took out a book on cardboard- box activities and proceeded to make a cardboard aeroplane with her son, Noah.
Over three hours in the morning, she cut the cardboard box while he put stickers on the box and painted it.
"He played with his creation the whole afternoon and still plays with it every now and then," she says.
Over the past year, she has compiled a list of at least 50 activities she can engage him in to enhance his development. These include counting games, art and craft and sensory play, an example of which involves the use of a sensory bin filled with beans and plastic animals.
Stay-at-home mother Justina Tey, 34, prefers to let her children play on their own.
She says of her three sons, aged six, four and 1 1/2, who are homeschooled: "I believe play is best when it is self-initiated and selfdirected. They are pretty good at keeping themselves occupied.
"They play separately or together and can think up imaginary situations such as picnics and pretending to be pirates."
She has also put up long stretches of paper on the wall of her dining room for her sons to doodle on.
And, inspired by a visit to a farmers' market in Germany, she helped her sons set up their own farmers' market, complete with fake food produce, a cash register and fake money and credit cards.
But when her children get cranky or start fighting, planned activities are useful for distracting them, she says.
In fact, parents do not have to worry about coming up with creative play ideas for their children. Experts say parents could run out of ideas before the children do.
According to Ms Anna Salaman, executive director of Playeum, a non-profit group which promotes creativity in children, studies show kids are significantly more "divergent" in their thinking.
She says: "They have a deeper capacity than adults to come up with new ideas. They are innately creative."
Parents still have a role to play, she adds, especially at the beginning - to act as facilitators who ask their children the right questions to get them thinking.
Moreover, parents can help fire up their children's creativity by allocating a permanent space for them to make new things and filling the space with diverse resources organised into baskets, drawers and other containers. These resources can be anything that is found around the home, from bottles and cards to corks and chopsticks, says Ms Salaman.
They can also provide paper and art materials, along with tape, glue, string and rubber bands.
Housewife Sara Pillay, 46, has two containers at home that are filled with used toilet paper rolls, discarded wrapping paper and egg cartons, among other things.
During the recent school closure, her five-year-old son created a Formula One pit stop out of egg cartons and toilet rolls, while her seven-year-old daughter made a storage container for her toys out of plastic cups and toilet rolls.
Another parent, financial planner Kelvin Ang, 39, has a similar plastic box at home for his four-year-old daughter and two sons, aged nine and 10.
He and his wife are not overly concerned about keeping their children engaged at home.
"They will find things to play, either separately or with one another. They can play the same thing over and over again in different ways. It's more likely that adults are bored of being stuck at home with nothing to do," he says.
Aside from creative play, Dr Sirene Lim, an early childhood education expert from SIM University, says it is also important for parents to look at physical play, which can be conducted indoors.
She believes that gross and fine motor skills are two neglected categories in children's development. These skills are crucial to young children's cognitive and socio-emotional development.
Her suggestions: Get a child to dance to his favourite music, for instance, or do rope-skipping to develop gross motor skills.
Play that can hone a child's fine motor skills include kneading dough, stringing beads and making collages.
For sensory water play, fill a receptacle, such as a basin, with water and throw in various objects such as filters and sieves for the child to play with.
To gear up for more hazy days ahead, Mrs Tey has ordered sensory play kits from an online store.
She says: "I figured they would be great for hazy days. The children also need to exercise, so we'll probably borrow a trampoline from my dad for them to bounce their energy away."
This article was first published on October 04, 2015.
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