Best Tools for Your Children to Learn Coding

Are you literate? If you’re reading this, you definitely are. But are you literate in a 21st-century sense?

“A computer science education is literacy for the 21st century,” said Mayor Bill De Blasio on the announcement for the “Computer Science for All” program at NYC public schools. In fact, people are starting earlier and earlier in the education of computer science, and it’s not without reason. Children may not grow to be full-fledged programmer overnight, but learning coding isn’t just for future computer scientists either. Coding not only challenges and teaches children logical thinking and problem solving skills, but also frees their imagination and creativity, as long as they do it in the right ways -- Dearest has sorted out a list of great ways for you to help your kid start today and have fun learning.

Daisy the Dinosaur

Daisy would probably be the most adorable dinosaur you’ve ever seen. Other than her cuteness, she can also familiarize your child with coding basics. The free, fun app has an easy drag & drop interface that children of all ages can use to animate Daisy and make her dance on their screens. By playing with Daisy, kids will intuitively come to understand the concepts of objects, sequencing, loops and events by solving the challenges of the game.



If your child has outgrown the games in Daisy the Dinosaur, then Hopscotch should be the next challenge! Awarded as one of the best apps for families by Parents Magazine, Hopscotch allows your talented little ones to take an initiative and make things that they enjoy. According to the developers of this block-based language, blocks are the favored way to learn to program from Harvard and MIT to and Google. Therefore, Hopscotch is deliberately designed to help kids learn coding logic and concepts through blocks before diving into the syntax of coding languages. It serves as a blank canvas for you to create your own games, art, or stories, and even includes an online community where you can upload your work and access unlimited tutorial materials.



Designed and maintained by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, Scratch is a programming language and an online community where children code programs and share interactive media ranging from games, animation, to stories, and virtually anything they can create using the programming language. Instead of learning coding by staring at a computer screen on your own, in the Scratch community you can explore and experiment with other Scratch users from various backgrounds. By sharing their work in the online community, members can get feedback and learn from each other, and thus maximizing their creative and coding potentials. Meanwhile, you don’t have to be online to take advantage of Scratch’s learning opportunities -- you can download the Scratch offline editor and play with codes even without Internet access.



Another great tool of learning coding, Kodable is not a game or program-building platform but a more organized curriculum for elementary students from 4 to 11 year old. Available on iOS devices, Kodable app is a student companion app to the award-winning Kodable Curriculum. It is designed to take students from learning to think like a programmer in kindergarten to writing real JavaScript by the 5th grade. Even if you are not a computer science expert, you can still use Kodable to teach your child coding because it includes the fundamentals of every modern programming language in an inviting way. With engaging and entertaining scenarios such as outer-space explorations and meeting with aliens, your little one is bound to have loads of fun learning.

Image source: Daily Mail (

Image source: Daily Mail (

For more fun ways that encourage active STEM learning, check out Dearest’s favorite educational tools for children ranging from infancy to teenage! If you have suggestions, you are also more than welcome to share with us in our community of passionate educators and loving parents.





Dearest After-School Series: Manhattan Country School

For this week’s “Dearest After-School Series,” we are featuring Manhattan Country School’s after-school program. Ms. Chawon Williams, the director of the after-school program, gave us an in-depth look at how their program impacts the social and emotional development of students.

Manhattan Country School (MCS) is a co-educational, independent day school that follows a curriculum that is deliberately progressive and incorporates a ‘country’ perspective on issues, particularly regarding sustainability and interdependence. Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ideals, the school envisions its students to gain academic excellence, intellectual freedom, social awareness, self-confidence and first-hand knowledge of the natural world. At MCS, thoughts on how to create change through their commitment to social justice and diversity remain a constant goal.

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With that in mind, the MCS after-school program was designed to focus on social and emotional development, while fostering a hands-on learning environment for its students. It is an opportunity for different grades to interact, learn from each other and form friendships. We reached out to the director of the said after-school program, Ms. Chawon Williams, to get more information about what happens after the bell rings at MCS.

The after-school program is based upon a ‘whole child approach,’ wherein students are encouraged to learn beyond the four corners of their classrooms to prepare them for long-term development. Different age groups are mixed together to encourage cross collaboration and for older students to practice leadership. With a total population of 268 students, there are around 60-65 students who participate in the after-school program each day. The students in the program are mostly from the lower school, with 30-50% being kindergarteners.

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Starting at 3:00 pm, from Mondays through Thursdays, students begin the program with snacks and supervised free play followed by a 2-hour enrichment class. There are 4 to 5 different classes offered each day and students can partake in the class of their choosing. These cover the staples such as African drumming, theater, and chess, but also include more diverse offerings such as robotics, ‘advanced magic’, and Mandarin. They can also participate in sports such as tennis, or fitness classes like yoga and dance. One of the more popular offerings is a fashion design class that incorporates math into art. Aimed to develop confidence and encourage self-expression, the culminating activity is a fashion show for the students to showcase their own designs. Another new addition this fall is a ‘playgroup' class called, Kids Club, that serves as an educational filler for kids who want a more relaxed setting to play and socialize after a long day in school. While they promote mixed age grouping, certain classes such as animation and coding are offered for the upper school kids only, as it requires more advanced skills. The rates for after-school classes are kept reasonable to allow families to take advantage of their enrichment classes. The full program costs around $1700 per semester.

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MCS believes in establishing long-lasting relationships with the students, parents, and teachers. A lot of thought is put into determining the mix of classes to be offered every year. According to Ms. Williams, they study the student population and their interests, while considering the skills and knowledge of the MCS teachers. Their teachers are also given the opportunity to create classes, and even MCS alumni come back to teach at the after-school program. Third-party providers are only hired for classes that need a specialization or technique to learn, like coding.

One of the main goals is to provide support for the families which became the driving force in starting this after-school program. MCS is actually one of the few schools that does not charge parents for late pick-ups, instead believing that the program works best with a culture of mutual respect and cooperation between parents and faculty. They also offer an emergency childcare service to accommodate last-minute changes in parents’ and caregivers’ schedules. 

There are many schools that offer after-school programs, but what makes them unique, Ms. William says, is the vibrant community they’ve built together. She believes the success of the program is attributed to the inclusiveness and support of the parents and teachers for the students. MCS might be one of the smaller schools in Manhattan, but it focuses on building the right environment for building individual's social and emotional skills. Every person is engaged, and even after 10 years of working with MCS, Ms. Williams has always believed that the number one priority should be the children - for them to learn and have fun while doing so.

6 Fun Activities You Can Do with Your Child for Earth Hour

Every day we sit in well-lit architectures, stare at electronic screens, or breath in and out artificially conditioned air. Don’t you just miss the natural light -- or even natural darkness -- once in a while? If so, you’d probably want to join the Earth Hour this year, which is coming up on March 25, 8:30 p.m.

Organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Earth Hour is a global movement for saving energy to protect the planet. This annual event encourages individuals, households, and businesses to turn off their lights for an hour, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. in one day in late March, to raise awareness of preventing climate change.

If you’re staying at home with your children, Earth Hour is an excellent opportunity to tell them a bit about environmentally-conscious lifestyles, as well as to have a fun family time! Dearest has compiled a list of inspirations on what you can do during Earth Hour this year.

Camp outside or sit in the balcony, and gaze at the stars.

You may know what Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night looks like at MoMA, but not the night sky right above you each day. Put aside your work and daily chores for a bit, and lie down with your children in the balcony -- or in a camp outside if possible -- to enjoy the darkness, the spring breezes, and the stars. And if the weather is nice, maybe you can even see the milky way and the constellations. Are you feeling that awe of nature?

Play hide-and-seek.


Hide-and-seek is exciting, but what's more exciting is hide-and-seek in the dark. Without clear sight, you and your children would need to listen (and even smell) to find one another. Make sure you’re in a safe room with enough space to move around!

Hold a family poetry recitation contest.

“The dark night gave me dark eyes, but I use them to seek the light.” Sounds good? Maybe your child turns out to be an even more talented poet. Darkness is often inspiring, and you as a parent can be inspiring as well by giving your child the opportunity to start writing and imagining. Dearest also features quite a few providers that have creative and literary specialties, and they are always ready to help you achieve that.

Play board games with candle light.

Board games are always a good pastime, and candle light creates the dramatic environment where you and your children can ruminate on your king, queen, knights, and bishops in a chess game. In fact, board games such as chess greatly stimulates children’s intellectual development. What’s more, if your kids are too young to play chess, we actually have a stress-free way for you to teach them how to play.

Look at old picture albums and tell stories.

Candle light also goes well with a bit of nostalgia. Remember when you were a child? Share your stories with your kids by flipping through old picture albums; your children would definitely appreciate it to get to know you better.

Meditate or practice mindfulness.

Last but not the least, one hour with lights turned off is a perfect time to practice meditation and mindfulness! Darkness is very powerful in encouraging introspection. Take a deep breath, and think quietly with your loved ones. Not sure if you’re meditating in the right way? No worries, you are always welcomed to join our educators’ event in a few days, where you can learn all about mindfulness and child education!

That's it! We hope you have a wonderful time with your little ones during this year's Earth Hour. If you have other fun activities, make sure to tell us and other parents about it! After all, community of caring and loving parents is a cornerstone for giving our children a bright future.

Workshop: Teaching Science

We kicked off the event with a warm welcome by Eiko, founder of Dearest, who was extremely delighted to see the many happy faces of providers at the company's first event.

Maya, our Community Development Manager, then led the introduction on how to use the platform and our educational session guideline to give everyone a better idea and structure of what Dearest is all about!

Adam, Guest Teacher, from NYU, who is also a provider on the platform, started off by taking us through some Teaching Practices and Strategies for STEM Educators

His Ph.D. Research at NYU is based on STEM and Literacy for young children. As an experienced teacher (both General and Special Education), his passion for teaching and learning Science definitely shone through as he took us through some hands-on science activities to do with children. 

The first station revolved around The Phenomena of Inquiry: Why Structures Stand or Fall? Providers got their hands busy by building structures with different materials in various ways. 

The next station explored the Concepts of Floating and Sinking. Adam explained how using different cultural tools and words can stimulate thinking in each child and best practices on teaching. 

The third station was focused on Exploring Light Phenomena as providers learnt how to use a pin-hole camera to teach concepts related to light and creating shadows.

Up next was our STEM Competition! Providers came with a brainstormed STEM Activity with a chance to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card! It was amazing seeing how some providers came prepared not just with activities but props too! Congratulations to Rebecca for winning the prize! 

It was a really close call given the thoughtful educational activities suggested by other providers. This was also a great way for everyone to share ideas to grow and learn from each other. 

To wrap up the event, we handed out goodie bags - with activity inspiration and some handy materials to use during sessions.

Before we listed those activities however, we made sure we could do it too. So we experimented, tried and failed and put those that succeeded on display!

We hope everyone that attended walked away with great ideas and inspiration to teach and we just wanted to thank all of our providers and people who contributed to making this event a success. 

We can't wait to share with everyone more about future workshops that are currently in the pipeline. Don't forget to follow us on Instagram, and like us on Facebook to stay tuned for updates!

Event: Global Readiness Workshop For Ages 3-8!

Event: Global Readiness Workshop For Ages 3-8!

Last Saturday, we traveled around the world for our Global Readiness Workshop! Children ages 3-8 joined us for a trip to learn about other countries’ customs and traditions on celebrating birthdays. Along with our Dearest educators, they visited China, South Africa, and Mexico for an immersive, multicultural experience! 

Event: Design Thinking Workshop For 3-5 year olds -Round 2!

This time round we held a drop-off session to promote greater interaction among the children and boy was it exciting! Some came all decked out in their very own space clothes!

We started off with a fizzy science experiment of exploding planets - a sensory activity for the children to learn about basic chemical reactions. They definitely enjoyed the process of getting their hands dirty. 

Not long after that, Dodo made his debut appearance! You can see from the faces of the children that everyone had different reactions to this strange orange puppet from outer space!


Someone was quick to get up on his feet and point out "This is Jupiterrrrr!"  

He was soon corrected by another two who pointed out that that was in fact, the sun, and that Jupiter was the fifth planet from the sun. It was a learning process for everyone!

We then moved on to play a mini space game called "Don't drop the asteroid"! In this outer space game, the little space explorers had to keep all the asteroids (balloons) up in the air while the music played. When the music stopped they all grabbed an asteroid and froze!

After the game, we settled down and began with Design Thinking Step 1: Asking questions. The key was to ask Dodo questions to find out about his needs and the problem he was facing.

We used this as a framework outline for the Design Thinking Workshop, based off of the Stanford method. (You can read more about the Design Thinking Method here. )


Upon defining the need (Design Thinking Step 2: Identifying the need) that Dodo needed to go back to his home on Jupiter, we set out on a process of coming up with ideas (Design Thinking Step 3: Ideation) on how to help. The children came up with fantastic ideas on building a rocket ship! Not without building some space helmets first! 

Soon after, we left our space helmets to dry and got started on the building process of our rocket ships (Design Thinking Step 4: Building)! There were plenty of materials for everyone to choose from and start building. 

Everyone got busy with custom designing their very own individual rocket ships. They used tapes, paper plates, buttons, and a whole bunch of other recycled materials to build.

Dodo asked Jason, "What are you building? " as he saw the boy wrap some tape over some silver shapes. He responded, "I'm packing some food to bring to space so we can eat in the rocket ship!" How brilliant!!

Once they were done decorating, most of them were pretty proud of what they had built. Some even liked chilling out in their little rocket ships.  

Up next was the trip to space! This was Design Thinking Step 5: Testing what they had built. Some were a little apprehensive while others were real excited to see what lay behind the dark curtain! 

They were fascinated by the flickering lights and atmosphere in the space room. Most importantly, they helped Dodo get home and back on Jupiter!

Once we were out of the space room, we reviewed our activities and discussed how it felt to help Dodo get back to his home. We framed Design thinking as a tool you can use to help people anreven aliens!

A group photo with their rocket ships! For the full photo gallery, see here

We want to extend a big, warm thank you to everyone for coming down and participating in this workshop with us. 

At Dearest, we believe that exposure to empathizing and problem-solving concepts are an important part of a child's learning and education. We can bring these educational activities to your home, through our Dearest Providers, given our focus on personalized learning. If you've enjoyed this event and/or are looking to attend future events, you can sign up for our service here. We hope to see you join us at bigger and better future events!

Event: Space-themed Design Thinking for Children 3-5!

This Design Thinking Workshop for 3-5 year olds introduced problem-solving skills to the young children where they had to help an alien Dodo get back to his home on Jupiter.


The event kicked off with a little alien song and a mini introduction to the Stanford Design Thinking Method.  

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Design Thinking Step 1: Asking questions.

The children started off by asking questions to Dodo to find out his real needs, and with the help of prompts from some of our Dearest providers, we soon got the ball rolling!

Design Thinking Step 2 & 3: Define needs and ideate. 

Once the need for Dodo to go back to Jupiter was defined, the children began the ideation process by writing down their ideas on a piece of paper. 

The children shared their ideas with Dodo, many of which included ideas on building a rocket, spaceship, and even a flying disc! Dodo loved hearing about the children's ideas and was super excited to be traveling back to space with them!

Design Thinking Step 4: Build!

This was the most exciting part where parents and children worked together to build out their ideas. Everyone got their creative juices flowing and we soon had a room filled with super cool DIY rockets, space, ships and even space suits! 

Above, we have one of our Dearest Providers, Eva, helping Nishka and her dad build their spaceship for the trip to Jupiter. And below, we have Forrest, fully focused on painting his beautifully designed flying disc!

Design Thinking Step 5: Test what you built!

Once the children were happy with their finalized project, they got to test out their rockets, spaceships, and spacesuits on a trip to space! They were on a mission to help Dodo and bring him back to Jupiter.  

They eventually reached Jupiter and Dodo was happy to be safe and at home, all thanks to the help of the children. It was time for them to go back to Earth! They traveled back to Earth where our Dearest Provider, Jennifer, did a mini Space Storytime as a concluding activity.

The children seemed happy with what they had built; Noah loved his suit so much that he kept it on throughout even after the trip to space! 

The workshop finally came to an end with a short wrap-up and review of the Design Thinking Method. This is a great method to deeply understand other people's problems and pains, while subsequently trying to build a solution that will help them. Exposure to these problem-solving concepts for your child will put them in good stead for building effective solutions for people. 

We want to extend a big, warm thank you to everyone for coming down and participating in this workshop with us. It was a fun experience and we hope you managed to bring home a small takeaway from this Design Thinking Workshop.

At Dearest, we believe that exposure to thinking and problem-solving concepts are an important part of a child's learning and education. We can bring these educational activities to your home, through our Dearest Providers. If you've enjoyed this event and/or are looking to attend future events, you can sign up for our service here. We hope to see you join us at bigger and better future events!

The Truth About STEM Gender Gap

Close your eyes and imagine an engineer building a model, or a scientist doing experiments. Now, what’s the gender of the person that you’re picturing? For most people, it’s probably a male. In reality, though there are more and more working women today, it is true that women are still underrepresented in a lot of professions, especially those in STEM.


Does this mean that women are just not as good as men in STEM-related fields? To answer this question, we take a closer look at researches focusing on gender differences in STEM education. In 2009, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) average mathematics and science scale scores of high school graduates show no significant gender differences among high school graduates who earned credits in advanced math and engineering/science courses. In 2016, Emily Richmond, editor for the National Education Writers Association, pointed out that when breaking down the NAEP scores by gender, “girls averaged 151 points (out of a possible 300, three points higher than for boys). Further, “45 percent of females met or exceeded the proficient level, compared with 42 percent of males.”

What do these results mean? They mean that girls do just as well as boys in STEM learnings; more than that, they may outperform boys in critical thinking and technology-related problem-solving skills! However, performance is not the same thing as interest. One may have excellent performance and skills in a certain subject, but he/she doesn’t necessarily like it. A 2015 report published by the National Center for Education Statistics describes the affective dispositions (i.e. interest or attitude) of high school graduates toward STEM courses. The key finding is that compared to males, lower percentages of female high school graduates reported that they liked mathematics or science, although more female took courses in algebra, advanced biology, chemistry, and health science/technology.

So, it seems that the so-called gender gap in STEM is more real in terms of interest than of performance. Granted, the statistics from these researches may not be perfectly accurate, but they point to us an often neglected situation in STEM education -- that in order to close the gender gap in STEM fields or to improve our STEM education in general, interest is key. Our children need to be passionate about STEM to do well in those areas and derive genuine appreciation and happiness from what they do. After all, there is no point in pursuing higher scores in STEM without firstly planting in our children’s hearts a true interest in technology and innovation.

Cavan Images via Getty Images

Cavan Images via Getty Images

Today (March 8th) we at Dearest celebrate the International Women’s Day (IWD). We believe that our girls are as intelligent and capable as our boys in STEM, and that real improvement in any education starts with cultivating passion in learning. This year, the IWD campaign theme is #BeBoldForChange, and that’s what Dearest is striving for in today’s childcare industry. We welcome you to join us and make a change for our children.



The Atlantic

National Center for Educational Statistics

International Women's Day


Is coding just for the future Steve Jobs of the world?

The ubiquity of technology in the recent years has turned coding into a requirement for basic literacy. Knowing how to use a smartphone or a tablet is not enough anymore. Schools in the UK, Singapore, and even some in the US, have already introduced coding in the curriculum. You may think coding is just for the future software engineers and computer programmers, but it’s actually a skill that can be beneficial to anyone, even at a young age.  

So, how does teaching coding help your little one? 

1. Your child will think about the world in a new way. Steve Jobs once said, “Everyone should learn how to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think.” Not every job will require technical skills, but the logic-based thought one learns through programming is an important intellectual skill. Your child will start looking at the bigger picture while also learning how to break down big challenges into smaller, more manageable tasks. 

2. Coding will be beneficial in school. Learning how to code helps your little one with problem-solving. Your child will learn how to plan actions in a step-by-step manner and structure answers in an organized way. Coding and mathematics are closely linked, each offering beneficial insight into the other. Children with programming knowledge can apply their concrete coding skills in understanding abstract mathematical concepts. 

3. Your child will become a storyteller. Coding is sequential. A program has a beginning, progression, and ending. When programming, one must first figure out why one thing logically leads to another in a particular order and then think about how to express that sequence coherently. Thinking in abstract sequences is an important skill, extending far past programming. Many daily activities, from planning a walking route to school to recounting experiences of the day, require an ability to organize ideas and concepts sequentially.


4. Coding helps develop creativity. Much like arts and crafts, coding is a form of expressing one’s creativity. Any problem has almost limitless paths to a solution. Part of the creativity of programming is finding out which path is the right one to take. According to Karen Brennan, one of the developers of Scratch (a free online computer programming language where you can create stories, games, and animations), “Kids were used to being told how to think, how to memorize. This allows them to be in control. It takes some time, but once kids have a little taste of being creative, many of them don’t want to look back.”

You don’t need to be an expert to teach your children how to code. You can do it today in your own home by checking out Dearest’s blog post on the best tools for your children to learn coding.

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