Little Rayen’s first word was neither “mama” nor “dada”. He said “hello” – and he was only three months old. And on the same day, he said his second word: “Okay.”
“You know, he wasn’t mumbling. My husband and I heard him clearly but I couldn’t believe my ears,” mum Kristal Tan, a managing director, recounts her first child’s amazing development milestone. “I even thought it was eerie.”
Rayen continues to defy conventional milestones. At 12 months, he could recognise all 26 letters in the alphabet and arrange them in reverse order.
On his first visit to the library when he was 18 months old, he took a book from the shelf and started reading aloud: “This is my car. My car is red…”
Everywhere Kristal took him, other mums and dads would ask: “How did you teach him that?”
Isn’t he a genius?
Stories like Rayen’s are the kind that never fail to get parents all worked up. Just get a few mums together and they instinctively pull out the comparison charts.
What is becoming more common, though, is a push to have “super” kids. Yes, your precious prince cannot be just an average baby who is “on target” – he has to be smarter, faster and more capable.
If you think parenting seems to be a competitive sport these days, you may not be wrong.
Popular motivational speaker Adam Khoo, whose has two daughters, admits: “Before we had kids, my wife and I always said, ‘Let’s not become one of those kiasu parents.
“But once we started hearing ‘Oh, so-and-so’s baby can already read or run’, we can sometimes forget that children develop at different rates. It makes us want to do everything to give our little ones a head start.”
This urge to accelerate development is fuelling a boom in baby enrichment classes, where a three-month-old can attend neuro-linguistic sessions and six-month-olds join music and movement workshops.
Am I doing enough?
Like many other parents, stay-at-home mum Jeanelle Tan signed up Ashlyn Faith Yeo with an enrichment school when she was eight months old.
The weekly classes offer activities that supposedly help develop a child’s memory, creativity and the ability to perform quick calculations.
Jeanelle says her daughter could do simple addition and rattle off names of planets when she turned two, and is now an avid reader.
Going by conventional development charts, most kids progress to this level when they’re about five.
As for Kristal, she takes turns with her husband and two domestic helpers to stimulate the kids at home, as well as outdoors. She has another child Joy, whom she says is also proving to be an advanced learner.
Kristal is a strong advocate that kids discover and have fun through their five senses: taste, smell, sound, sight and touch. Rayen and Joy also attend Mandarin and Dutch classes (their dad is from Holland) two to three times a week.
But veteran educator Patricia Koh is concerned that kids are skipping stages of development, and missing important milestones that are crucial to developing their full potential.
Patricia adds: “Children must be given lots of experiences with their large motor skills before they can develop their fine motor skills. They must crawl before they start to walk and talk.
“It’s sad that more parents are being persuaded to believe that it is more important for their kids to learn algebra than to crawl.”
Next page: What if my kid is slower?