KUALA LUMPUR: When parents are in a quandary over the best way to provide a conducive environment for children below five years old to grow and achieve their best potential, the newly launched “Thrive by Five – My Anak” (Tb5-My Anak) parenting app provides a solution.

The app, which was developed by the Malaysian Association of Professional Early Childhood Educators in collaboration with the Minderoo Foundation in Australia, was launched on March 11 at Segi University in Kota Damansara.

It was officiated by representatives from the ministries of Women, Family and Community Development, Health and Education, as well as the Australian High Commission and the Community Development Department.

Developed to boost a child’s brain potential by the age of five, Tb5-My Anak was initiated by the Minderoo Foundation in partnership with the Brain and Mind Centre of the University of Sydney.

It has over 100 parenting tips such as games, songs and dances from the various cultures in Malaysia, that are also in four languages. It also has tips for better health and nutrition.

The app encourages regular and frequent interactions between parents, caregivers and their children, and its content is supported by a scientific framework that was developed on best practices, backed by research from the Brain and Mind Centre and tailored to fit Malaysia’s unique socio-cultural environment.

Minderoo Foundation senior partnership manager Susan Schofield said: “Even though Malaysia is an upper-middle income nation, our research revealed challenges around early childhood education (ECE), expressed by local ECE educators. This involves the lack of parental and stakeholder support and commitment, as well as limited resources on multicultural education materials and learning aids. Child malnutrition also continues to be a problem in Malaysia.”

Schofield worked with Dr Hayley LaMonica from the Brain and Mind Centre to develop the content for the app.

Schofield said the Minderoo Foundation had started developing the Thrive by Five International Programme in 2021 to raise awareness globally about the importance of frequent and quality interactions between parents, caregivers and children within the first five years.

The National Population and Family Development Board’s Family Wellness Division director Fauwaz Hasbullah, who delivered a keynote speech at the official launch, said: “Children are our assets and among the indigenous communities, children are treated as the king of the community. They represent our hope for the future and are instrumental in the sustainability of humanity.

“Yet, as we look around the world, we find the emphasis has been given to national education but not to those children under the age of five. There is a void in terms of parenting skills and attention given to their development. Thus, the Tb5-My Anak parenting app, with localised content, will bridge the gap.”

Two parents, who are currently using the app, spoke to theSun.

Ilbeth Lim, a 42-year-old A Level lecturer at an international school in Kuching, has three children aged four to 10.

She said the most engaging activities in the app are community and health information.

“When I bring all my three children out into the park, I used to be so focused on their safety but now using the app has changed my focus to engage with my four-year-old.”

Lim added that her youngest child is taught how to interact with the environment.

“In terms of health, the app teaches us to wash our hands and feet,” said Lim, who added that the app is a boon for her and that she shares the information with other parents.

Meanwhile, Melanie G Willard, a 33-year-old kindergarten teacher in Tuaran, Sabah, said her only son, who is 18 months old, has benefited the most from her use of the app.

“On weekends, he plays with his five-year-old sister and the app teaches me how to improve communication with his sister if they engage in the same activity, whereby both can play the bicycle together. Even football is a game they enjoy together.”

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