#MYStayHome: Malaysian parents build obstacle course for their kids in their porch

There are many ways children can have fun while staying indoors. — Photos: Grace Tan

When the government extended the movement control order (MCO) till April 14, entrepreneur and mother-of-three Grace Tan had to put on her creative thinking cap and come up with ideas to entertain her three young children.

“We live in Miri, and our home isn’t too far from the beach. My kids love outdoor activities. In the evenings, they enjoy going to the playground by the beach, cycling, or on long walks, ” says Tan, 36.

But for the past two weeks, her children - Heng K Jin, eight, Heng K Lynn, six, and Heng K Shwen, four, have been cooped up indoors. And like many parents, Tan has to think of ways to keep them busy.

The last thing she wants is her children arguing over the TV remote control, or watching too many TikTok videos.

You can't touch this: In the Spiderweb game, K Shwen moves across the coloured strings, utilising the openings to complete the task.You can't touch this: In the Spiderweb game, K Shwen moves across the coloured strings, utilising the openings to complete the task.

To battle the boredom blues, she created an obstacle course in her porch for her children. It features simple tasks like unzipping a string of zippers, popping water balloons, carrying a ping pong ball in a spoon, hopscotch and crossing a wooden plank.

Before creating the 10-point obstacle course, she brainstormed the idea with her IT manager husband Robert Heng, 46, and her children.

“I asked the kids to think of activities that involve different body movements. I got them to suggest some simple exercises that I could incorporate into the obstacle course, ” says Tan, who turned to Google for ideas to create simple fun games for her young children.

She also incorporated a few essential life skills like critical thinking and engaged learning into the game.

Through hopscotch and carrying a ping pong ball in a spoon, her children can improve their balancing skills. By unzipping zippers, the children are honing their fine motor skills.

“After a few rounds of unzipping the zippers, my son started thinking out of the box. He slowly learned that by using both hands, he could finish the task faster.

“I added the task of bursting the balloon so the kids could soak in some fun at the end of the obstacle.”

It took the family three hours to build the obstacle course.

“For most of the obstacles, I got the children involved. My son knows how to plane wood, and he managed to do it nicely to ensure there weren’t any wood fragments, ” says Tan, who likes do-it-yourself projects.

She also worked with her children to create a snakes and ladders game on large sheets of paper.

“I got them to analyse the game of snakes and ladders and encouraged them to create a similar game on paper. I realised that by allowing them to take charge of the activity, they were able to pick up analytical skills much faster, ” observes Tan.

The Heng siblings are happiest when playing snakes and ladders.The Heng siblings are happiest when playing snakes and ladders.

K Lynn enjoys playing the snakes and ladders with her siblings.

“I like to play snakes and ladders because its fun. Usually, K Shwen, K Jin and I have a colouring competition to see who can colour the most unique looking snakes and ladders.”

Like most other families, the children spend a fair bit of time studying, completing their homework, reading storybooks and helping their mother cook.

As a working mother, Tan says it isn’t easy to juggle between work and family commitments.

“Initially, it was tough for me to take care of the kids and concentrate on work. But during the first week of the MCO, my husband and I came out with a timetable comprising elements like outdoor playtime (in their house compound), learning activities, free play and quiet time.

“During quiet time, I work. Thankfully, my children have adhered to this routine well, ” says Tan, the co-founder of Bare Nuhcessities, a personal care brand for children.

She adds that staying home together has brought some positive changes to the family.

“Our children are slowly learning about their parent’s job scopes and responsibilities. Getting our children involved with our daily work provides them with an opportunity to learn new things each day.

“I used to be a naggy mum who would continuously remind my kids to wash their hands. These days, the kids will automatically wash their hands. Even my youngest will sing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song happily every time she washes her hands.”

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