The much anticipated Best Café installation was held on the 20th of May this year. It was a fantastic turnout from parents and friends, and the pleasant weather was the perfect boost to start the day.
In the weeks leading up to this event, the children practiced diligently and had numerous mock up sessions of the repertoire. Every child was given a task and opportunity to participate in the day’s activities. Each had a role based on their ability, so no one would feel left out. Some were sellers, some waiters, while other children pretended to be the guests. There were also children who assisted in the preparation of the food. They had been faithfully making cookies and other sweet treats in the kitchen for many hours each day before the event. One of Best Café’s objective is to provide a platform for children with special needs to have an interactive learning experience. The children got an opportunity to be involved in the entire process leading up to day. This exposure provides the children a safe space to explore, experience and learn a bit more about being involved in the working environment.
Parents and friends began to come in at about 10am. They were immediately greeted by the attractive decor and upbeat melody that filled the air. As you entered the compound, the game booths immediately stood out with its colorful array of handmade props and attractive prizes. It was truly all fun and games at these stalls as child after child lined up to try their hand at these stimulating games.
Another attraction of the day was the Lucky Dip stall. This corner drew the attention of children and adults alike. With its display of enticing prizes such as an oven, watches, jewellery and even a bicycle, it was hard not to want to have a go at it. To make the deal sweeter, every person who tried their hand at it would definitely be given a surprise item if they didn’t win the grand prize. As a result, the crowd kept coming back to the Lucky Dip stall until all the main prizes were won.
In the makeshift restaurant, it was perpetually crowded and there wasn’t a moment that went by where empty tables could be sighted. There was a constant queue outside the restaurant, waiting for the chance to go in to be served by our very own BEST children. They were dressed in a smart and neat apron while they lead the guests from the entrance to their seats. After that, they waited on the guests and took orders of the food. The children displayed commendable hospitality skills as some of them have had experience waitressing in the previous installations of Best Café. Some of the guests stayed for two rounds of food, a testament to the delicious variety of gourmet dishes being served, and the overwhelming support of family and friends.
If you had the chance to visit the kitchen, you would have caught sight of the pots of food, neatly lined up on the stove while its savoury aroma filled the air. It is located just opposite the restaurant and a temporary pass was created between the two rooms. In the kitchen, one would have caught a glimpse of Aunty Lian Ai and her line of helpers, hustling around in that cosy corner, fulfilling orders and plating them like true chefs.
At around noon time, there was Play Dough demo by Silas accompanied by his mother. It drew the attention of children and adults as they went through the detailed process of mixing, cooking and kneading the flour and dry ingredients until it became play dough. They were real troopers as they stood firm under the warm and sunny day for the entire hour until the demo was complete. At BEST, play dough making is part of the curriculum with multi-level learning goals. The children are given the chance to learn how to make their own nontoxic play dough from scratch while practicing hand-eye coordination, strengthening the muscles in their hands and improving finger dexterity. The stimulation of the hand nerves when they knead the dough helps to activate parts of the brain for better brain integration. Playing with the readymade dough allows the children to develop creativity and improve their fine motor skills.
On the other side of the compound, Parenting Talks were going on concurrently throughout the day. While the children played and had their fill of food and fun, the parents gathered to learn from experts and other parents of special needs kids. The talks were conducted by licensed instructors in RMT, Brain Gym, Touch for Health and MBL. The presenters were also experienced personnel in the area of special need education and who have had years of practical knowledge in this field. It was a place where parents found support and learned more about the different ways that could be used to help their children.
This year, Best Mart was situated in a big and spacious room just opposite the Parenting Talks. It was filled with table after table of colourful children’s toys, apparel, accessories and a whole lot of children who ran about. In contrast to the warm weather outside, it was much cooler in Best Mart. Parents, visitors and friends took their time as they browsed through the items on sale. The children took turns in watching the store, playing the role of a seller. One of the apprentices did an exceptional job at getting the visitors and parents to come to Best Mart. He promoted Best Mart by going around and telling everyone about the wonderful items that were on sale.
The warm and sunny beams did little to dampen the spirits of everyone. All the children, parents, volunteers and facilitators stationed outside stood at their stalls until it was time to close. They persevered through the heat of the day, having sweaty faces yet enthusiastically promoting their stalls. And when it got really hot, it was nothing a cool beverage and a determined will could not overcome. Towards the end of the day, facilitators and volunteers were exchanging celebratory smiles as they packed up the place, the sign of a day well spent.