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Fann Wong's secret for getting her son to lose interest in screen time

Fann Wong's secret for getting her son to lose interest in screen time

You know Fann Wong as a glamorous fashion icon and a household name on local television.

Over the June school holidays however, the 48-year-old star was just like any other Singapore parent as she played and bonded with her son Zed at an indoor playground.

Dressed down in a casual sweater-and-jeans outfit, Fann was at the official opening of Kiztopia on June 15 with her active five-year-old.

Spanning a whopping 18,000 square feet at Marina Square, it is the largest indoor edutainment playground in a mall here for children aged 12 and below.

At the event, it was clear that Fann is as hands-on and comfortable in her role as Zed's Mummy as she is on the reel screen. She gamely joined her son for some car racing action at Pio's Drift, one of the 18 play zones designed to aid child development.

Mother and son were soon lost in their world of pretend play as they chugged along in their mini vintage cars and even made a detour to top up gas at a cute petrol kiosk. Never mind that the celeb mum looked a tad awkward - and far from glamorous - navigating a kid-sized toy car.

In an interview with Young Parents, Fann shares that play has always been an important part of Zed's learning and development. In fact, her son prefers low-tech play to screen time.

How does she do it? We get the celeb mum's take on parenting and her strategies on engaging her active kid through play.



Far from being the stereotypical Asian Tiger Mum, Fann believes that Zed learns best though lots of play time. As a baby, Zed's first exposure to the 26 letters of the alphabet was from playing on a giant play mat.

"As he was crawling around on the mat, Grandpa would point out A, B, C…," Fann shares.

Now that he is older, Zed's playtime consists of playing pretend, going outdoors, baking as well as sports such as swimming and jumping on a trampoline.

Whether her son's playtime is structured or unstructured does not matter as long as he is fully immersed while playing, she adds.

"Even for me, my work on the film set is a large playground. We play (at work) but it is important to do it in a professional way. I believe it is the same with kids. As long as they are very engaged in their play, they are learning."



Fann limits her son's screen time. But unlike many parents, she doesn't have to deal with him having a meltdown when she withholds the smart phone or tablet.

This is because screen time is not Zed's first choice of play, Fann shares.

In fact, screen time is so far from her son's mind that she had to persuade him to use the inflight entertainment on a recent family trip to Perth. He initially declined watching cartoons or movies during the five-hour flight.

"For five hours, my son was reading and was bored. On the way back to Singapore, he still didn't want (screen time). I felt a bit sad for him and tried to show him how the inflight entertainment works. Luckily in the end, we found a video game he liked," she says.

Fann thinks that having access to lots of hands-on and fun playtime is the reason why Zed does not care for screen time.

"Before the June school holidays, I was already planning where, when and what to do (with Zed). As long as kids are not bored, they would not think of playing with the iPhone," she says.

To keep him stimulated during the school holidays, Fann planned play dates, outdoor and cooking activities.

She also has several nifty tricks up her sleeve to keep Zed occupied at home.

"I would place books at different corners. I also have a standing easel with coloured markers and drawing materials. Everything is accessible to Zed and he can choose to do what he likes."

Fann also reads to her son every night before bedtime, and is committed to the routine even when she is exhausted after work.

"Sometimes I'll fall asleep while reading to him and he would have to wake me up. I carry on because I think this routine helps him cultivate his love for reading. Now, he would pick up a book to read on his own," she shares.



Rather than adhere to a fixed discipline style, Fann says she has a "freestyle" parenting approach. It is fluid and changes as her son grows and develops.

"I don't go by the book. Every child has their unique personality and they are always changing, so I feel there's a need to change your parenting style as they grow," she shares.

"When Zed was a baby, we could cajole and coax him into doing certain things. Now that he is older, we explain why he shouldn't do certain things. For example, we teach him it is important not to be late for school because we have to respect people's time and not let them wait for you."



Between Fann and her husband of 10 years, actor Christopher Lee, Fann lets on that Daddy tends to be the stricter parent.

"Chris is the bad cop and I'm always the good cop," Fann shares with a laugh.

While Chris might tell Zed off for doing something naughty, Fann prefers a more empathetic approach. She believes that despite his young age, Zed probably knows and feels bad whenever he does something wrong.

"I always tell Chris not to scold him and use another approach to explain to our son why he is wrong. Just give him the assurance that we'd be there for him, we understand why he did it and that he should not do it again," she says.

That said, Fann says she sometimes gets Daddy to "settle the problem" or uses his name, for instance when Zed is uncooperative and doesn't want to leave the house for an appointment.

"The moment he hears me calling ba ba (father in Chinese), he would go 'no, no, no' and quickly put on his socks and shoes," she says.



While some celebrity parents shy away from posting their kids' photos online, Fann and Christopher have no issues sharing snapshots of their happy family life on social media.

According to Fann, her social media platform is an extension of her personality, and "a diary" for her parenting journey.

"When my son grows up, he can look at the photos and captions. He can read about how he grew up and my feelings at various stages," she explains.

"I don't care how other people view me. It is something I want to leave for my son, something for him to remember when Mummy is no longer around."

This article was first published in Young Parents.

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