Category Archives: 29 months

Music with mama: Trial classes at MYC and Seimpi

Recently, B attended trial classes at Music For Young Children (Orchard) and Seimpi School of Music (Funan).  Both programs are parent accompanied, utilise a whole brain approach and go beyond generic music appreciation to introduce basic music fundamentals and early musicianship pre-Grade 1).

1) Music For Young Children: Sunrise class (27-36 months)
This was a special trial for B and his friends. We learnt about a variety of instruments, tonal and rhythm patterns using early learning and pre-reading concepts such as counting, direction (right/left), speed (fast/slow), dynamics (loud/quiet), sorting (shapes/colours). Class time alternated rapidly between singing, dancing, body plays, simple games, crafts, stories, listening activities, percussion play-along and ensembles.  For example, here’s the keyboard section: Each student takes turns to sing while pressing a key on a large sensory floor keyboard, teacher uses tactile visual aids (flashcards, storyboard, toys, props to demo “standing still” (same note) “stepping up” (moving up a scale), students then reinforce how to recognise and relate these notes, sounds and actions through worksheets, magnets, stickers, various manipulatives and games.

What we liked: Time flies! Concepts are presented and then reinforced in an array of learning styles – visual, auditory, kinesthetic, digital, analytical, etc. to engage your little learner. The repetition – listening, responding and singing – is effective as the kids were still talking about class days after the trial.

Check it out: If you’re looking for a fast paced, multi-sensory, early music class that emphasises verbal confidence and eventually composition. Regular students will receive a package that includes instruments and a comprehensive manual with singing, warm-ups, keyboard, listening, rhythm, and assignment sections. Give the code “FINALLYMAMA” for a special trial class and waiver of registration fee if you sign up. They also have an upcoming June music holiday camp – look for the FB promo in May.

2) Seimpi School of Music: MIM® Playtime class (2-3 years)
We joined an existing class which felt like a typical music and movement session with elements of their hallmark Music for the Intelligent Mind (MIM) programs like exposure to early note reading and key recognition, eye, ear, concentration and memory training.  For example, here’s the keyboard section: Each student takes turn to place stuffed animals on the black keys, then set and ring pitched desk bells on the white keys on a large floor mat, teacher reviews notes with a notation cloth, demos a few nursery songs, introduces a finger exercise song, and then guides each student individually to play simple pieces on a keyboard (there’s enough for each student).

What we liked: Exposure to note reading and proper playing techniques (i.e. using all fingers, not just your pointer) at an early age in a relaxed environment. Instead of solfège, students were introduced directly to notes (positioning) and keys (e.g. C-D-E).

Check it out: If you’re keen to start your child early on piano playing and theory, can commit to consistent follow up at home and have some music knowledge to do so. Regular students will receive two workbooks – activity (fundamentals) and piano playing book (beginner), with an audio CD.  Ask for a free trial – it’s an ongoing promo.

As for us, we enjoyed them and will revisit these schools when B turns 3 or so.  Meanwhile, they are an inspiration to continue with our home music learning 🙂

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Music with mama: Keyboard 101

A month into our structured home learning music times, and we’re making good progress. We’ve settled into a routine roughly ~5x a week, typically weekday evenings before dinner. Within the Little Musician program, his  favourites remain “solfège” where he can now identify the right sound when he hears it, and sometimes when he sees the notes on the stave (though not always at the right pitch), and “clap-along” when he enjoys moving around to the rhythm (though not always at the defined beats and time values). B regularly asks to repeat these sections, and I’ll oblige until he’s ready to move on. We’re also putting our instruments at home to good use: The DIY and Kindermusik percussion, ukulele and electronic keyboard. I’m quite tempted to get a violin, but may wait till I find a cheap second hand (or convince someone to “gift” it to us)

I’ve since introduced a practical keyboard component by sticking makeshift labels to help B focus on pressing, listening to and singing the individual keys (and chords). This was a natural progression as he was consistently singing do-re-mi when prompted by hearing the note sound or seeing the note on the stave. All I did was buy a pack of basic white label stickers from Popular, colour and label accordingly, stick away and viola! Initially, I only labelled 2 scales (intending to reflect treble and bass) but ever observant B kept pointing out that the rest of the keys were empty, so I had to oblige 🙂

Colour coded keyboard stickers with notes and solfège
Colour coded keyboard stickers with notes and solfège

At the moment, he tends to press one note at a time with his pointy (2nd) finger, using one hand to scale up and the other hand to scale down. Once in a while, he’ll also sing solfège while pressing the correct key. And of course, nothing makes him happier than to randomly bang/dance/sing along. A good start!

Will continue to work on association between what he sees, hears and does (eye, ear, hand coordination), pitch and rhythm. Plan to introduce music-related craft and exercises soon, starting with these:

Hand positioning and fingering
Hand positioning and fingering
Linking solfège, notes and keys

For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook. For music ideas, come visit my Pinterest tot music ideas board.

Traveling with Tots: Puteri Harbour and LEGOLAND (part 2)

We went to Puteri Harbour and LEGOLAND over the weekend but had quite a different experience with each place. We found Puteri Harbour a nice getaway for families with toddlers but we probably won’t return to LEGOLAND until B is older, say kindergarten age and some issues mentioned below are fixed (or the trees grow!)

My review is split in two parts:
Part 1 is on the Puteri Harbour indoor parks: Hello Kitty Sanrio Town and the Little Big Club featuring Barney, Bob The Builder, Angelina Ballerina, Pingu, Thomas & Friends
Part 2 is about LEGOLAND for families with tots under 3 years

GO OR NO GO?
At the moment, there’s little shade from the elements (sun or rain) in all the main parks. In the few covered areas, there’s no proper ventilation (fans/AC) besides those in the restaurant, cafes and theatres. There’s also no shuttle bus, train or buggy system that enables you to hop on-and-off at the various parks within LEGOLAND, so quite a challenge for the very young (or very old). We visited because we were already going to Puteri Harbour the day before, and our friends with older kids wanted to check LEGOLAND out. Unfortunately for us, it was an extremely hot and humid day when we were there. My 2+ year old was wiped out despite a 2.5 hour nap after lunch, refused to go out again in the hot sun so we had a free and easy afternoon, before entering again later. Bottom line: When deciding, the weather and your tot’s the boss!
LEGOLAND Malaysia park map

If you don’t mind the heat and have LEGO fans in the family:
GO if your toddler is gung-ho and has older siblings. Spend at least 2 days so you’re in no hurry, and can enjoy the cooler evenings
WAIT until your preschooler is older.  Admission is free for kids under 3 but most rides have a strict height or age minimum
– Ticket combos are cheaper online so research and buy in advance

If you cannot tahan outdoors or crowds, DON’T GO!

HOW TO GET THERE?
– BUS: Book a return trip via coach bus (~SGD$20) or opt for the Causeway Link buses. More info here
– CAR: See step-by-step driving directions here

WHERE TO STAY?
As the Iskandar area is still under development, the nearest hotel options are LEGOLAND or Traders Hotel (Puteri Harbour). We stayed at LEGOLAND hotel for the unique experience with its distinct play areas and thematic rooms.  Basic rooms accommodate 2 adults + 3 kids with a king bed (master room), a bunk bed and trundle bed (attached suite).  The hotel is also right next to LEGOLAND and the Medini strip mall which has slightly better food. All hotel guests get free parking and early 930a entrance to LEGOLAND (vs 10a public admission). While overall family friendly, I felt a few things could be improved: Earlier than 4p check-in, later than 11a check-out, lower shower heads (or longer hose) as it was hard to clean shorter/young kids.

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Kingdom theme kids room = bunk bed + trundle

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LEGO play areas (top: park entrance, bottom: main entrance)

WHAT TO DO: 10 ideas for families with tots under 3 years

1) Eat a big breakfast. The hotel buffet is good and opens 7a-11a
2) Get in as soon as the door opens to avoid the queues!  Dress for the heat, bring a hat/umbrella and not just shades
3) Enjoy the LEGO CITY park to yourself. Ride on the express train, airport planes and boats. Compete in the Rescue Academy in your choice of fire engine or police car.  Catch a show at City Stage and let the tot freeplay at the Shipyard while you catch a break. The junior driving school is quite fun but minimum age is 3 years
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4) Proceed next to IMAGINATION, the park for toddlers and preschoolers. There’s a Musical Fountain at the entrance, and an Observation Tower which rotates around so you can view all of LEGOLAND without breaking a sweat. Tots will like the brief DUPLO Express train ride, delightful DUPLO Playground (which is also the only covered play area), and the LEGO 4D Studio which alternates shows every 45 minutes or so. There’s only one thing they can’t do here – the Power Tower (minimum age: 5 years or 100 cm)
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5) Exit to the Medini strip mall for lunch where the food is better (not fantastic) than in-park fare
6) Stroll through MINILAND to view the amazingly detailed LEGO models or take the LEGO CITY train till your kid dozes off
7) The hotel is the best place away from the heat and crowds to take a nap, so ask for late checkout if you need to.  Even the covered areas in the park and Medini mall are quite stuffy with lots of flies 😦
8) Catch indoor LEGO movies, meet-and-greets and live shows
9) Chill out at the hotel LEGO play areas and nearby LEGO shops
10) Visit some local eateries near LEGOLAND for dinner

Note: Majority of activities and rides at the Water Park, LEGO TECHNIC, KINGDOMS and LAND OF ADVENTURE parks are unfortunately not suitable for young kids below 3 years.  If the weather’s good and you have time, feel free to “window shop.”

We made it!
We made it, pheew!

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Traveling with Tots: Puteri Harbour and LEGOLAND (part 1)

I recently took B to Puteri Harbour and LEGOLAND Malaysia for the weekend and had a WONDERFUL time! I drove us up, made arrangements to stay overnight and met some friends while there. When I told hubby about my plan (as he was overseas), his first thought was “Eh, sure safe or not?”  Other Singapore-based friends went “Puteri Harbour? What’s that?” and wanted to know more about it when we came back. So, I decided to write some tips for those planning to visit with preschool-aged kids 🙂

Firstly, where is Puteri Harbour and LEGOLAND?  They are both located within ~10 mins drive from each other in Nusajaya, the regional hub of the new Kota Iskandar in Malaysia.

Where is Puteri Harbour and LEGOLAND?
Puteri Harbour and LEGOLAND are nearer than you think

For convenience, I’ve split my review in two parts:
Part 1 is on the indoor parks at the Little Red Cube along the Puteri Harbour Waterfront Development: Hello Kitty Sanrio Town and the Little Big Club featuring Barney, Bob The Builder, Angelina Ballerina, Pingu, Thomas & Friends
Part 2 is about LEGOLAND for families with tots under 3 years

Specific Puteri Harbour FAQs for tots:

1) How to get there? Easy peasy!
– BUS: Book a return trip via coach bus (~SGD$20) or opt for the Causeway Link buses. More info here. You can easily visit Puteri Harbour in a day, leaving early morning, returning by late evening.
– CAR: Fastest way is via PIE/AYE to TUAS and the 2nd link bridge. It took us 1+ hours to drive there (Sat morning) and 45 mins to return (Sun evening), door to door from the central area. Remember to have at least 3/4 full fuel when you leave Singapore. Toll fees will come up to ~SGD$15 all-in, payment via NETS for Singapore and Touch’N’Go pass for Malaysia (this can be purchased on the leftmost car toll lanes after the Sultan Abu Bakar checkpoint). Once you clear the Malaysian toll booths, take Exit 312 to Nusajaya and follow the signs that say Puteri Harbour or have the park character pictures.  Look for the Little Red Cube building, park inside (for free), head up to the 1st floor. Have fun!
– You can find step-by-step driving directions here.  The roads are new, wide and traffic is relatively low as Iskandar is still under development. There will be construction all around you and some signs are not as clear as they should be, but you’ll figure it out

2) What can young kids do? Almost everything if you’re over 90cm. The staff seem more concerned about height than age. B’s not yet 2.5 years, but at 95 cm, he had no problems, even went solo for some rides
– Tots over 90 cm: Will need to be accompanied by you (mostly). They’ll miss out on a few big kid workshops, game stalls/stations, the Thomas bumper car rides and Hello Kitty Black Wonder maze.  No big loss as you can repeat the other rides as often as you like; and there are three different playgrounds – one on every floor. Watch that big Builder slide though, it’s FAST! B had quite a scare coming down
– Tots under 90 cm: They’ll enjoy the Thomas train and Hello Kitty teacup rides, Hello Kitty Friendship Land (soft ramps, ball pit like KidsAmaze) and the Bob The Builder playground (blocks, pretend play)

– Sing-A-Long and Meet-And-Greet sessions, timing varies by day

Entertainment schedule varies by day
Entertainment schedule varies by day

3) How much $$? Kids under 3 enter FREE. LEGOLAND ticket holders get 10% off (show your ticket or printout). Malaysians get a significant discount (show your MyKad IC)
– Single park entrance: RM 55 (MyKad) or RM 75. Recommend this if you only have boys and need to watch your wallet
– The 2-park pass: RM 85 (MyKad) or RM 110. Recommend for girls, and the full experience, e.g. get for one adult if you have a free admission kid
– You can buy tickets online but we found the indoor ticketing counters there quite efficient. We got ours on-site, first thing Saturday morning with no waiting time at all. Doors open 10a.

4) What to wear? Travel light so you can go where your tot goes
– Bring layers. The outside promenade is breezy but can be hot, while the Little Red Cube indoor parks are fully air-conditioned, and gets Singapore cinema-level cold.  B wore a jacket, long pants and long sleeved T-shirt. I unfortunately forgot to bring my cardigan – brrr!
– All playgrounds require shoes to be removed. Though not “required,” I’d also wear socks as it’s cold and more hygenic!

5) Toilets, nursing and changing rooms? CLEAN and spacious on every floor. There’s larger family restrooms. And every potty has an attached water/spray hose for you-know-what! B can be fussy about using public toilets but he had no issues doing his small and big biz there 😉

6) Strollers? Bring them. You’ll need it as you go up and down floors, in and out, and for the lil one to crash and nap. Stroller bays are clearly marked in visible spaces throughout so you can park and go as needed. To be safe, don’t leave anything valuable there. There are lifts and escalators on every floor, and everything is very stroller friendly

7) Food, drinks, time out? There are on-site cafes with ample seating on all levels, but you’re better off stepping out for some fresh air, more F&B variety and better prices either indoor or alfresco within the Little Red Cube and along the quiet and scenic Puteri Harbour promenade. The tickets allow multiple entries in a day, so no worries about leaving and re-entering.

Lunch at Lat's Place b/c mama wanted to relive her childhood :)
Lunch at Lat’s Place as mama wanted to relive her childhood

Verdict: Two thumbs up! Totally worth it. There’s nothing like that in Singapore, esp. at these prices. We’ll go again before B turns 3 by end of this year, haha.  See you there?

B rode this 3x! The solo ride in front in the tank engine made his day
B rode this 3x! The solo ride in front in the tank engine made his day

For info on these Puteri Harbour parks, visit http://www.playtime.com.my

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