Category Archives: 2.5 years

Weekend mornings at Pek Kio

While participating in a survey/article on “hubbies who travel and how moms cope,” I realised how precious (in both the good and rare sense!) family and couple time has been for us.  This weekend routine helps ensure that we don’t become strangers in our own home: We typically end the work week with a Friday church couples and kids fellowship, reserve Saturday for core family time, and aim for Sunday evening dates while the kid is off with the grandparents and hubby is still around in Singapore.

One of our weekend morning activities is to catch early breakfast in the neighbourhood hawker centers and then “tour” the surrounding playgrounds and exercise corners before it gets too hot and crowded.

Here’s what we found at Pek Kio:

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Must try: Peanut pancake, chee cheong fun, prawn noodles, Juz Bread bakery next to the center, and free parking on Sunday 🙂
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Main playground next to the Pek Kio market with a single octave musical keyboard – that was mostly in tune – below the slides. Eat while they play, in many ways!

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Burn some calories walking/jogging/scooting around this training facility directly across the road
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If you’re not into going around the track, there’s some exercise equipment nearby too
WP_20140928_025 Moulmein community garden
Just around the corner along Owen Road, there’s a little Community Garden project…
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… which is beside another playground with lots of interesting climbing options
Tired of playgrounds, try pull ups instead
Tired of playgrounds?  Try pull ups instead!
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Catch your breath while spotting the bird cages – “On every tree there sits a bird, singing a song of love… Hi-li Hi-lili Hi-lo!”
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Have very young kids?  Visit this small playground at 49 Dorset
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Wrap up at the 48 Dorset Road playground, with its specially designed equipment. It’s close enough to the carpark so you can dash back to get any food or market items to take home

How to get here:
Bus 131 – bus stop B50081 right in front of the center
Farrer Park MRT – 8 mins walk from Exit D
Ample parking around Cambridge, Dorset and Owen HDB sites

For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

Linking up with Gingerbreadmum’s Fun For Free Fridays

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Hole in the bottom of the sea

B and his classmates have been busy preparing for their Term 3 musical showcase – based on Jessica Law’s adaptation of “Hole in the Bottom of the Sea,” with a bit of Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Aquarium” thrown in for the sea effects. Hubby saw B perform live for the first time, and was quite proud of our little “crab!” This renewed B’s interest in sea life which was a nice break from weeks of vehicles and space talk at home. As we had previously done a diorama together, this time we tried a simple book-based craft using Marcus Pfister’s The Rainbow Fish series.

Here’s how we did it:

Borrow the book(s) from the library and read them!

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There are many books in the series, but we chose “Rainbow Fish To The Rescue” as it had a meaningful storyline (about sharing, caring and inclusion) AND it had a shark – which coincided with his school play

Print/draw fish templates for the lil one to colour. We used the fish colouring handouts from a play we attended. I let B choose his own colours and material. I guess he wanted to recreate the book’s actual look and feel as this is what he came up with – colourful crayons, blue/green watercolour paint, and glitter for the shiny scales:

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B’s more self aware now, and is still TRYING to paint inside the lines cleanly. He told me “mama, so messy!” but I said “No worries. We’re cutting the fish out and it’ll look great!”

I got him to broadly cut out the fish, then let him work on his sea animals puzzles while I trimmed the little fishies and prepared the box – drawing inspiration from a craft I found here.

Ha, I think you can tell which one mama did
Ha, I think you can tell which one mama did
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Puzzles help to reinforce and break the monotony of waiting (or painting too long!). While I finished the cutting, B “revised” his 1-10 numbers and Chinese names like 沙鱼 (shark)

Unlike our previous “fixed” diorama, I wanted this to be moveable so I cut horizontal lines (<1 cm width) to slide water bottle caps with the fishes tied and taped at the bottom to give the effect of “swimming.”  Any medium size box will do.  I just flipped our DIY bus/train on the side for this – recycling rocks!

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Top view of the box (jagged lines ‘coz I was doing this super quick!)

Finally, B punched holes, cut pieces of scotch tape and string, and threaded them through each fish.  I helped to tie and fix them to the  top of the box. WP_20140921_006For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

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Favourite things for our favourite teachers

I first learned this poem by Usman Awang as a young student in Malaysia.  As it turns out, the school’s Parent Support Group asked me to add a video message in Malay to our teachers tribute this year, so I read excerpts from this to them. As we celebrate Teachers’ Day (and for some of us, “enjoy” our kids’ day off), let’s remember the wonderful teachers who serve as our kid’s moms, dads and friends, who gently and patiently guide them along this journey of life.

Selamat Hari Guru
I’ve said it before, B’s been blessed with great teachers since he started half-day preschool and subsequently, extended to full day childcare this year. In our own random emergent discussions, we came up with these ways to thank them: “read books”, “give stickers/flowers/cars (of course),” “sing/video” and “eat mooncakes” (hmm).

So … we decided on three projects:
(1) A video greeting: Recorded at the Singapore Garden Festival

(2) Customised, hand-made thanksgiving trees: Given by the PSG on behalf of all parents and students to every teacher and staff

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(3) Personalised bookmarks of B’s favourite things for his favourite teachers:
We decided on bookmarks as B loves to read, it complemented the special bookstore voucher (thanks, NoQ!) included in the PSG gift bags, and allowed B lots of fun, easy customisation.  It took us a few sessions as he kept wanting to add to it yet couldn’t sit and craft for more than 20-25 minutes each time.  I’m so proud of his excitement and commitment to see it through!
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Here’s how we did it:  Cut out leftover, unused gift wrap in the desired bookmark shape and quantity. We stuck to rectangles as it’s easier for B to cut somewhat cleanly.  On coloured card stock, stamp out the teachers’ names, working with your kid to identify the right letters (upper/lowercase), align and stamp in order! Cut them out,  add double sided tape and stick them on top of the gift wrap paper.

WP_20140831_007At the back, we incorporated B’s favourite things: Art, stickers, cars 🙂 See if you can spot them all!

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This artwork was done at Botanic Gardens. Actual veggies were cut, painted and stamped for the flowers. He finger/brush painted the rest and also tried painting a toilet paper roll tied with a rubber band to make the grassy “effect”

B insisted on adding his face, so we used extra copies of his mugshot, sticking again with double-sided tape so that it doesn’t get too wet or messy.  After that, we lined them up in the pouch and laminated them.  I cut them out, let him punch the holes and thread the ribbons through, applied silicone glue to seal the ribbons – and viola!

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Thanks for helping B grow, dear teachers!

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The Magic Three

My darling B:

You are now 33 months. Just 3 months to go before you turn 3 years old! Everyone warned me about the terrible twos, but the year turned out to be pretty terrific instead. Hopefully I don’t jinx the remaining months 😮 You had your moments of wild, irrational flail-on-the-ground tantrums, but through it all I kept the 3 Ts in mind:  Tank up on love, Transition gradually, and Timing matters!

In light of your and mama’s developments this year, here are 3×3 things to celebrate about you!

3 THINGS I LOVE ABOUT YOU

1) THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE: You love reading. You bring books  to our bed in the morning, want to read at mealtimes, and negotiate the number of stories for bedtime.  You are ever curious. You’ll ask “What happen, mama?” when I’m reading the news or listening to the radio. The library is like your second home where you can occupy yourself flipping through books or telling stories to friends (imaginary or anyone nearby). Your face lights up as you associate what you read with what you see in real life. When your gears start spinning, you turn to me to say “Remember the [book/event/person/item]?” and a wonderful process of discovery ensues. When you see text, you track the words with your fingers as you “read.”  You like to call out numbers, upper and lower cases that you recognise from Letterland phonics, and even Chinese characters.  It’s truly a delight to watch you learn!

Watching the night sky from our balcony got him intrigued about space so we’ve borrowed many books about it (like this one).  Here he’s simulating the moon rotating around the earth 🙂

2) A SONG IN YOUR HEART:  Since you started carrying a tune, you  haven’t stopped making music. Even as a baby, you’d often hum and move to the rhythm and beat.  These days, we don’t need alarm clocks because you wake us up with your singing at 7a or earlier! You make us laugh with silly adaptations and lead your friends in rousing renditions of songs from Majulah Singapura to Wheels on the Bus to “一步一步走啊走”.   This year we tried some structured music learning at home, and we’ll continue to look for ways to help you hone this gift now and beyond.

3) PASSION FOR VEHICLES: Be they in the air, on the road, on water, in print, real or toy, rides or stickers – you like them all! You  observe routes, recall directions, names of roads and who stays where. Your pretend play is getting more creative too. You manipulate everyday things at home, LEGO and wooden blocks, toy vehicles, tracks and figures to form construction sites, accident and rescue operations, traffic jams on the highway, neighbourhood multi-story carparks – all with sound effects and commentary.

One activity you initiated is to lay out your vehicle flash cards and we take turns to find the right one as we play “I Spy” and 这是什么?”

Sometimes I need to set time limits so you don’t get too obsessed (i.e. kick a fuss when it’s time to stop or leave). But this shows me  you’re capable of focusing and innovating on what interests you. If only we could figure out how to replicate this for other stuff  😉

3 AREAS YOU’VE GROWN IN

1) (SELF) HELPER: Although I still prompt you to eat faster or finish up, I’m thankful that you continue to help yourself at meal times and have a healthy appetite, drink well, (mostly) eat greens, fruits and are willing to try variety – Asian, Western, Middle Eastern, mild herbs and spices. You even ate durian!

Since we started our first sticker chart on toilet training, you also have less accidents and better control.  You let us know when you want to pee and poop instead of us asking or taking you regularly.  There’s still occasional overnight bed wetting and leaks (esp. when you’re too excited or shy) but you’ve made great progress that we’ve moved on to a new chart for wearing/undressing clothes and shoes.

Out with the old, in with the new sticker chart

Lastly, although you need reminding, you do help to clean up after play, unload dirty clothes into the laundry bag and bring your dishes to the kitchen after meals. Well done!

2) FINE MOTOR SKILLS:  Thanks to your current preschool, you’re constantly encouraged to experiment and express yourself through art and craft. Mama is so thankful for the amazing teachers there!

Our little artist at his first school exhibition

Although there’s less opportunities for us at home together, I cherish the times when we play simple number and finger games and do crafty activities that build your fine motor skills.  Of course, you still treat glue like paint, colour all over the page, use brushes, pencils, markers and crayons like stamps, wield the scissors and chopsticks with two hands when your fingers are tired… But you’re getting there. Just persevere and keep up the great work!

Our art wall is constantly full even though mama recycles often

3) THE GREAT OUTDOORS:  We now do more things outside and for  longer before you ask for a “抱抱“!  You’ve always been a cautious toddler and not a big fan of being under the hot sun.  Yet as you grow, you now scoot with more confidence and speed, are eager to get wet and play in the sand (caveat: area must be “clean and cool” enough), jump in the pool at your weekly swim class, pedal the tricycles at school and ride your balance bike to deliver items and messages from place to place.  I only wish you’d wear your safety helmet more often so mama doesn’t worry … too much.

Getting out and about

So here’s to you, my little big baby, who’s becoming a big little boy. Love you to the moon and back!

We are Singaporean

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Fun For Free SG: Jurong Early Literacy Library

As a child, I spent countless hours in libraries flipping through books which in turn, fed the writing of my own short stories. It’s no surprise that I now have raised a kid who loves books and the thrill of knowledge and discovery that they bring! So for my turn at this Fun For Free SG series, I’m delighted to share the Jurong East Early Literacy Library with you all.  IMO, this is (or close to being), the perfect library for tots and preschoolers.

Jurong Early Literacy Library - the first of its kind in Singapore
Jurong Early Literacy Library – the first of its kind in Singapore

Most of us have heard the benefits of exposing our kids to books and by extension, the library at an early age.  In fact, I signed B up for his library card at 7 weeks! It would even have been earlier if I wasn’t so sleep deprived and self-conscious about nursing him in public 🙂 Library visits were easy when he was a baby. I’d wear him or push him in his stroller while I walked (or rather crouched) down the Baby aisles selecting sensory or picture board books. This changed when he started crawling, cruising, walking and beyond!  Library trips would be cut short, with me planning ahead which titles and authors to get, then rushing to find books from either the Baby or JP section, while keeping one eye on B’s moving target.  Eventually I’d just go to the library on my own to flip through and vet the ones to borrow, find good English and Chinese ones (the inconsistent categorisation of Chinese books is another library post/rant)… and maybe even something for myself!

In reality, here’s what B does at his library visits as a toddler:

B “driving” the chairs around at the Bishan library kids section
B running off to hug Singa (our courtesy lion mascot) at the Ang Mo Kio library

Thankfully, our restless tot dilemma was finally solved by the Jurong Regional Library, the largest public library in Singapore with four storeys and a basement which houses the first early literacy library for under 6 year olds. This is the only library I can comfortably bring B along and have him quietly and contentedly stay in one area browsing through books, puzzles, toys, et al while I chill and browse, observing him from a distance.  At our last visit, we were there for 1.5 hours! I leisurely found enough books to satisfy even the double-your-loan-quota season AND B didn’t get any warnings from librarians for being loud, hyper-active or squabble with other kids!

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Space to dress up, role play and tell stories
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Baby section thoughtfully organised by sensory books
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We don’t just have books, we’ve got puzzles too!
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B clambered up to this cozy nook and sat there flipping through books, working on puzzles and “reading” to toy Spot
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There are a few kiosks with e-readers for preschoolers and older kids who can sit, listen and read to word-ier books
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The Chinese selection is excellent, organised by age and author/series (not just the hanyupinyin of titles). You need to go to the far right Chinese section to find it as only a handful of books are selected for display in the main kids play area
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Typical library book drop off, with a thoughtful step box for the little ones

Important Info:

Open Mon – Sun : 10a – 9p.  Closed on Public Holidays, and at 5p on eves of Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year

Parking: At J-CUBE right opposite the library, <2 mins walk via a covered pathway
Nearest MRT Station: Jurong East
Nearest Bus Interchange: Jurong East
Buses : SBS Transit 51, 52, 66, 78, 79, 97, 98, 105, 143, 160, 183, 197, 333, 334, 335, 506 (via Jurong East Bus Interchange)
SMRT 176, 178 (via Jurong Town Hall Road)
and SBS 198 (via Jurong Town Hall Road)

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Main Jurong East MRT and bus interchange is just a short walk away

Basic membership and registration is FREE for all Singaporeans.  PRs will need to pay a one-time registration fee of S$10.50.  Foreigners have no registration fee but are subject to an annual fee of S$42.80.  IMO, the fee is well worth the value as you can borrow up to 8 items (books/AV) for 3 weeks (renewable for another 3 weeks). Consider this: You pay <$1 per book even if you only visit every two months and borrow your quota of 8 books each time.  More details here. Happy Reading!

Books, books and more – books galore! Our recent haul from the library visit

We’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the increase in NLB family-friendly activities esp. involving parents and very young kids.  We’ve enjoyed attending the interactive library workshops for tots – and encourage you to bring your lil one along to the library nearest you! Some are free, some involve a token fee. Grab the latest Go Kids monthly newsletter or visit here for more info.

Monthly issue of Go Kids!
Monthly issue of Go Kids!

BTW, I chose this topic before the furor around the withdrawal of certain children’s books. So just to share my views as a Christian book-loving parent: I felt the National Library Board over-reacted and departed from its role i.e. to serve the community as a place to gain awareness, knowledge and info/entertainment. While I see the different points of view in this debate, I support having revised review policies with those books in question now available on (adult) shelves – with necessary disclaimers.

This is part of a blog train on Singapore’s Fun For Free places dedicated to anyone who’s ever needed to think about “where to bring the kids today?” Next up is Waiwai who blogs at PeiPei.HaoHao where she shares her parenting journey with her two children, DIY crafts, simple cooking and fun activities. Look out for her post for more interesting places!

waiwaiVisit all 31 Fun for Free train stops here:
1 Aug: Tiong Bahru Park by Gingerbreadmum
2 Aug: Queenstown Heritage Trail by Princess Dana Diaries
3 Aug: Jurong Regional Library by Finally Mama
4 Aug: Singapore Maritime Gallery by Peipei Haohao
5 Aug: Singapore Philatelic Museum by Kids R Simple
6 Aug: Sculptures of Singapore by Gingerbreadmum
7 Aug: Fire Station by The Js Arena
8 Aug: Esplanade + Merlion by Prayerfull Mum
9 Aug: Bukit Batok Nature Park by Meeningfully
10 Aug: Lower Pierce Reservoir Park by The Kam Family
11 Aug: I12 Katong – water playground by Universal Scribbles
12 Aug: IMM by Mad Psych Mum
13 Aug: Tampines 1 Water Playground by Amazingly Still
14 Aug: Sengkang Riverside Park by Itchy Finger Snap
15 Aug: East Coast Park by Toddly Mummy
16 Aug: Sembawang Shopping Centre Playground by Joey Craftworkz
17 Aug: Animal resort by Raising Faith
18 Aug: Botanic Gardens by Mum’s The Word
19 Aug: Police Heritage Centre by Mummy Ed
20 Aug: Venus Loop, MacRitchie by Scrap Mum Loft
21 Aug: Road Safety Park by Miracule
22 Aug: Marina Barrage by J Babies
23 Aug: Gardens By The Bay, Children’s Garden by Finally Mama
24 Aug: Changi Airport T3 by Mother Kao
25 Aug: Pockets of Nature by Mum in the Making
26 Aug: Changi Airport T1 by Growing with the Tans
27 Aug: Pasir Ris Park by Ingspirations
28 Aug: Gardens by the Bay Supertree Grove by My Lil Bookworm
29 Aug: Vivocity Play Area by Amazingly Still
30 Aug: Punggol Promenade by Chubby Anecdotes
31 Aug: Westgate Wonderland by Xavvylicious

For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

Immersing in some Malay culture this Hari Raya

One thing I cherish growing up in Malaysia is how we embraced and celebrated being in a multi-racial community. Every major festival, we’d go from house to house, visiting friends and their families, sharing our culture … and of course, food! Now that we live in Singapore, B doesn’t quite have this same childhood – even if we do know others from different races and religions here. (Sadly, this pride in one nation, many races is also diminishing in Malaysia).

With Hari Raya (Eid) almost upon us, I wanted to give B a taste of the Malay culture, an important part of our Southeast Asia heritage.  Besides volunteering to help with his school’s Hari Raya celebration, I also took some time out to bring him to the Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar after school today.  Thankfully the skies were cloudy, and after browsing around, we had a chance to share a table and “break fast” with a friendly Malay couple at the Geylang Food Court. If you and your kids are curious, do go! Note that the Bazaar is only open till Sunday and should get quite crowded over the final weekend.

Come join me!
Geylang, si paku Geylang
Inside the bazaar, it can get quite stuffy despite the handful of ceiling fans
Inside the bazaar, it can get quite stuffy despite the handful of ceiling fans. Dress light, drink lots and step out to breathe often 🙂
B devoured the crispy apam balik (pancakes). I was also thrilled to find sweet corn filling (my childhood fave!) which many Chinese stalls don't sell
B devoured the crispy apom balik (pancakes). I was also thrilled to find sweet corn filling (my childhood fave!) which many Chinese stalls don’t sell
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Best vadai in town?
Keropok and kerepek
Keropok and kerepek
Deep fried heaven!
The most common stalls sold deep fried food, ice cream, briyani and kebabs
Assorted kuih muih
Assorted kuih muih – B was fascinated by the pink lapis and the NUTELLA cake
Strolling through the lanes (on this side they sold the usual merchandise: clothes, shoes, toys, accessories, and ....)
Strolling through the merchandise lanes with the usual suspects: carpets, clothes, shoes, toys, accessories, and ….
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… sheep balloons on wheels! (I guess representing the “sacrifice” for the other major Eid celebration later this year, Hari Raya Haji?)

Oh, final tips if you’re keen to go:  Visit around 5p before the crowds.  If you drive and are lucky, park at the main Geylang Serai carpark (off Sims Ave and Geylang Road). Else, there’s more lots along Haig and Joo Chiat Roads. There’s also a nice big kids’ playground at the Haig HDB estate. If you’re eating there, find a cool place to sit and order BEFORE sunset.

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Take a leisurely, breezy stroll along the bridge to enjoy the lights while the feast is in full swing between 7-8p 🙂
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Selamat Hari Raya! Eid Mubarak!

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Public transport too crowded? Make your own!

My boy is crazy about transportation and the people and activities around them.  Which boy isn’t at this age?  If given the choice, he’d always want to take the public bus or MRT.  He can even say and/or show you the picture (if you say the word) all the different types of cars, buses, trucks, diggers, rescue vehicles … in CHINESE with surprising accuracy! When we had free Saturday mornings, we’d visit the fire station open houses (Central or Bishan for us), where the highlight for him was to sit in a REAL fire engine.

Real emergency vehicles ROCK!
Real emergency vehicles ROCK!

So this Children’s Season, I brought him to two new places – The Land Transport Gallery and the Police Heritage Centre. Both had kids activity booklets and tours, with the LTA Gallery offering more interactivity – stickers, stamps, exhibits and videos. Overall though, the places were just okay because of one major omission = no opportunity for kids to RIDE in a real or model vehicle!

Sample activities in each book
Sample activities in each book

Mama decided to take things into her own hands and make a wearable and portable public bus and MRT for B 🙂

This MRT isn’t crowded at all!
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The wheels on Bus 145 go round and round

Here’s how we did it: Find a suitable, sturdy box.  Cut out a large square from the top and the bottom – big enough to fit your kid’s head on one side, hips and legs on the other.  Secure the insides with masking tape.  On separate paper (I recycled the back of B’s white drawing paper art works), draw out the images of the front and side bus/train views with markers, et al.  I didn’t find any templates, so I just googled SBS bus and MRT train, and hand drew them from the screen 🙂  Once done, stick each drawing (bus/train section) on each side of the box accordingly with double-sided tape.  Find a broad rope or string to hang the arms over.  Use a penknife to cut slits at the top, just big enough to fit the rope/strings through.  Ideally use ONE long piece and thread them through all the slits before tying them neatly.  This will enable you to adjust the length depending on the size and height of the kid.  Except for the drawing (outlining), your tot should be able to help with almost everything else!

My little helper couldn't wait to play with it
My little helper couldn’t wait to play with it

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