Category Archives: 3 years

Recreating natural disasters

What do the Nepal earthquake, Sydney storm, and Mount Batur in Bali have in common?  They’re all natural disasters!

This weekend, mama decided to run an impromptu lesson on natural disasters based on recent events and trips. As we always do, we borrowed books – on floods, earthquakes and volcanoes …

Books

We talked through the news (printed and online), looked up YouTube videos, and even dug up these water and land formation cards I made when we were homeschooling. Back then I got more out of these than he did, so it was nice to see him actually read some of the words now, recognise more formations and associate what he’s seen like Singapore island, Marina Bay, Macritchie Reservoir, River Valley, Puteri Harbour, Bukit Timah (hill), Jurong Lake, Alexandra Canal, etc.
Formations

Best of all, we recreated these natural disasters at home, getting some hands-on, messy fun along the way!

First, I took out our modeling clay and aluminum food trays. Using the visuals as a guide, I invited B to make a mini volcano and river inside the trays.  I helped him to shape the volcano while he did a good job on the river, adding little trees and animals along it too ….
Clay

Then, I hunted around the house and found these items – baking soda, dish soap, paint, vinegar, paper or plastic cups, water and something to stir with.  If you remember science class (or else, just search online), you’ll know what comes next!
DIY

Fill one cup with vinegar and set aside.  In the other cup, mix a couple of spoonfuls of baking soda, a dash of dish soap and paint (to match what you’re trying to simulate). Add water and stir until it’s a nice even mixture. Pour this into the volcano to get the red “magma” inside or blue “river water” along the banks.
Magma

Lastly, pour the cup with vinegar slowly into the mix and see the volcano erupt with “lava” spilling out,

and the riverbanks overflowing!

How awesome is that? We had so much fun that B asked to do this again. And again.  Science is cool.

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Special Giveaway: Complimentary OCBC Cycle Mighty Kids Rides (2-5 years old)

Does your kid love his or her wheels? Thanks to the good folks at OCBC, I’m thrilled to offer our readers a chance to join us at the 7th Annual OCBC Cycle this August 2015. This year, there will be three categories of races – adult, kids/family, and corporate. The kids rides are split by age groups: 2-5 years, 5-9 years, 10-12 years old. We have 5 complimentary places to offer for the Mighty Kids Ride 2-5 year old category (100m race). Come ride with B! 10294405_10152824407070879_4641835021139591367_n Some questions you might have:

1) Where and when is this event?  OCBC Cycle will be held at the Singapore Sports Hub for the first time in August 29-30 2015.  It should be an exciting weekend of cycling and cycling-related activities, with about 9000 cyclists joining with their friends and families (over two days) at this inaugural event.  Note: The kids and family rides will take place on August 29, 2015.

2) What are the participant benefits?  From March 2015 onwards, participants can look forward to a series of cycling-related activities, such as a photography seminar and sports injury management talks. Participants in the kids and family rides will be automatically included in a lucky draw and stand a chance to win either one of 20 pairs of one adult watch worth S$1,000 and one kids’ watch worth $70, or one of 30 kids’ watches worth S$70. All watches are courtesy of Cortina Watch.  There are also many other special offers along the way if you follow the OCBC Facebook Page.

3) Which bikes are allowed for kids?  2-5 year olds will be allowed to ride on a tricycle, balance bicycle or bicycle with training wheels.  No strollers, scooters or roller boards though 🙂 Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 8.43.26 am B will most likely go on his balance bike:

Ready to ride?  Drop us a blog comment below on “Your favourite family biking spot in Singapore” and head on over to our OCBC Mighty Savers Kids Ride Rafflecopter giveaway – the more entries you submit, the higher your chances of winning!
Here are the five winners!  We will be in touch separately with your sign-up details and discount codes.
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A child who reads will be an adult who thinks

B is reading! Actually reading.

I knew this moment would come, but I was still quite surprised when it did.  His delight at putting letters and sounds together to read books (and in many cases, new words) is totally infectious.  And so addictive, he’s even neglected his “first love” – vehicles that is, not his mommy!  He still enjoys reading about them though, like this simple early readers series below.

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Books about vehicles were the ones that B started “reading” on his own

Lately, he wants to read when he wakes, on the road, while eating, after school, before sleeping so besides lugging books around, we also play mommy’s “crack the code” game. All you need is a paper and pen, get them to decipher word sequences (e.g. TO, TOP, STOP; GO, GOD, DOG; WOO (our family name), WOOD, GOOD, FOOD, COOK, etc.), and if there’s time, especially those long family dinners out, ask them to make a story or draw a picture from all of that!

Best of all, this happened naturally.  No pressure, no expectations. It’s been a fun journey to get to this point, yet I feel like we’re just at the end of the beginning. What we did was to start young (B had his first library card at 7 weeks!), surround him with books (we borrow more than we buy), highlight print in our daily environment, talk and read regularly together.  I then followed his lead, introducing things at his own pace with help from our “village” of hands-on caregivers, a must-have for working moms. The grandparents who are avid library goers, and nursery teachers who reinforced phonics via  Letterland, were open to suggestions beyond the “curriculum” – which lists reading as a 5 year old target. I also remember this book about language development that influenced my views with its easy yet systematic approach in the early years: From awareness, to recognition, from sight reading by memory, to pretend reading while tracking words, and finally, actual reading.

His breakthrough in English reading has also motivated us in Chinese.  I want B to grow up effectively multilingual – but that hasn’t been as easy because we can’t replicate the basics at home: I’m not as comfortable reading and improvising in Chinese, no one else at home uses it regularly, and frankly, recognising Chinese characters relies heavily on memorisation. But since deciphering words gets B motivated lately, we’ve revived his interest using level-appropriate bilingual or hanyupinyin material.  His Chinese is in the 0-3 year toddler range, unlike his English proficiency – a great reminder how important immersion is, and also how we need to customise and be flexible with our kids!

We repurpose Chinese flash cards as a game:

We look for interactive story and activity books that come with stickers, puzzles, tracing and number games.  Some good ones can be found at Popular or through Flip For Joy:

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Unfortunately with Chinese, there’s no easy “code to crack” so I’ve turned to enrichment for further immersion beyond his exposure in school and our limited time at home.  There’s been slow though steady improvement, and we’re exploring new options this year.  I’ll probably write more on this once we’ve experienced what works best. Meanwhile, as Chinese self-discovery doesn’t come so naturally for us, we try to build on words he’s learnt already or books he’s reading, like this early readers book series which has a page with hanyupinyin at the back for banana-mamas like me :/

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And so our language journey continues. Along the way, we relish how reading unlocks his imagination and gets him thinking in new ways. For example: One of the first books we lap-read together when he was a baby was Herve Tullet’s “Press Here.”  It’s since been a springboard to introduce colours, actions, Chinese, board games and even inspired his recent Art Jam at school.

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Books are made of endless possibilities. Read on!

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This is my daddy!

Busy mama almost forgot that it’s hubby’s birthday today.  Thanks to awesome tech, we whisked together a DIY birthday card just in time for a very special man when he came home from his overseas business trip.

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Daddy’s portrait and writing done 100% by B on the Kids Doodle iOS app, edited on the birthday template on Pages for Mac with added text and printing by mama, all under 15 minutes!

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Christmas in Bali and advent-ures at home

This past advent celebration and annual family holiday was especially fun and meaningful.  B retains and expresses so much more now PLUS the grandparents joined us throughout, resulting in lots of inter-generational fun, bonding (and free babysitting!).

First, our trip to Bali, the land of a thousand temples and a million smiles.  Although I’m saddened by the recent Air Asia crash, I’m grateful that the weather was fine during our visit.  After playing tourist the first two days (Kintamani volcanoes, Ubud rice terraces, fruit and luwak coffee plantations, Kuta shopping, Nusa Dua beaches, Gianyar elephant rides and Uluwatu temples), we lazed around the hotel pool and waterfront for the next two days.  Speaking Bahasa helped us secure a good local driver at 75K Rph per day (vs the 100-120K tourist/hotel rate). I was also relieved that food was not an issue from the 3 year old boy to the 70 year old vegetarian grandma, and everyone indulged my quest for the best bebek in Bali – usually alfresco with paddy field views and no aircon (sorry, hubby)  We had some me-time and couple-time too, although B woke up super early due to the early sunrises in Bali, and rolled off his large day bed in the middle of the night (!) Here’s to the fond memories:

Next, a recap of our crafty advent-ures since this post at the start of December.  With a fair bit of localisation and improvisation, we managed to work through most of Truth In A Tinsel, establish our nightly devotion (which co-incidentally reinforced calendar, dates and months), and pulled off some easy yet oh-so-pretty art and craft too!  Details are posted on my Pinterest board and in real time on Instagram. Here were our favourites:

We painted and glued a mini Christmas tree that conveniently stored all our advent clues (from Truth In The Tinsel this year). Using double sided tape, B also added "baubles" as a finishing touch
We painted and glued toilet paper rolls to form a mini Christmas tree, which conveniently stored all our advent clues too (from Truth In The Tinsel this year). Using double sided tape, B also added “baubles” as a finishing touch
Tape a bunch of toilet paper rolls together, print out letters ands shapes. Paint, decorate and peg away!
Tape a bunch of toilet paper rolls together, print out letters ands shapes. Paint, decorate, tie a string and peg away!
A toilet paper roll classic, that recycles all that wrapping paper. Stuff the rolls with little gifts (and torn confetti), wrap, tape and tie the ends with pretty ribbons
A toilet paper roll classic, that recycles all that wrapping paper. Stuff the rolls with little gifts (and torn confetti), wrap, tape and tie the ends with pretty ribbons
Perfect for kid gift exchanges, select cutters, paint and stamp away
Perfect for kid gift exchanges, select cutters, paint and stamp as and where you like
B's in a painting, gluing and cutting phase, so that's what we did with the ornaments
B basically painted, glued and cut all his advent ornaments

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Advent-uring together

Where has the time gone?

As a full time working mom again, I find that I have more focus as my daytime schedule, work and family priorities are very straightforward (sick days and school closure days aside). I also relish the me-time, especially when I’m travelling and am grateful that all the transition and support planning has worked out. When I was away for 10 days on an overseas trip, I was completely reassured that B is in good hands even though we both missed each other. What can’t ever be replaced though is TIME together. Our weekday mornings and evenings now just feel so rushed!

Speaking of time (or the lack of), I’m keen to carve out some quality mom-and-B time as we count down to the Christmas and New Year holidays.  Last year we learnt about the gift of Christmas, that the season is not just about gifting but also the act of giving, and God’s ultimate gift of life.  As B had just turned 2, he learnt Christmas carols, art and craft, how to pray for others and joined us in his first community service visit. Now that he’s 3, we’re trying to be more intentional to cultivate his faith. We started by including him in our weekly cell group fellowship this past Friday night. B was so excited before and after – though I’m not sure if it was due to extended time playing, hanging out with mommy and friends, or the extra special late bedtime 🙂

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Meanwhile, I’ve also been compiling ideas to try this Advent season, though as usual, my wish list is far longer than in reality:

1) Devotional: Reading the bible is now a regular bedtime routine. B actually takes his beginners bible out and asks (insists!) on a story or two every night.  As we’ve read through the Old Testament and most of the New Testament stories, this December, we’ll move to the One Year Devotions for Preschoolers book that we got from a friend.

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B’s beginners bible and a sample page from the preschooler’s devotional

2) Truth In The Tinsel: Designed for 3+ years, we’re trying it now as B has been introduced to the kids bible (see above) and can stay engaged on a home project over several days (see what we did for Teachers’ Day).  Also, the Christmas tree is quite bare as I did a bit of spring cleaning and I’m sure B will happily oblige to add more stuff to it. The idea is to read a passage of Scripture, make a Christmas ornament and talk through the related narrative every day. The story or activity can be adapted as needed – to match B’s level, attention span, and our time together. We did a “trial” to replace the star for our tree, loosely based on a sample page from the e-book:

Our new Christmas star using foam and paper stickers
Making a star using foam and paper stickers
Sample page - Star
Sample page – Star

3) Advent Calendar:  Last year, I recycled B’s artwork to make a wall calendar with clear plastic pockets to mark the 24 days till Christmas. Each day, we prayed for specific family, friends, those in need, our country and world, ending with the fruits of the spirit in our own lives. Although this calendar has since been used as a fun Letterland upper and lowercase matching game, we could always just repurpose this once more if I run out of time…

2013 advent prayer calendar
2013 advent prayer calendar

HOWEVER, I’d love to make a new advent calendar which could double as a festive decoration too.  Here are two DIY ideas that I like and find age-appropriate for toddlers: Toilet Paper Roll House and Scrapbook Gift Wrap Paper calendars. These could contain simple clues (for Truth In The Tinsel), scripture verses (from daily devotion), or just a list of fun yet meaningful activities or items each day.

4) Christmas books:  This year, I hope to check out the titles in this reading list as we’ve found quite a few (still) available at the public libraries in Singapore.  B also received a beginners Christmas piano song book from his aunt in California – and we look forward to incorporate that into our regular home music sessions 🙂

Unwrapping the gifts from  California :)
Unwrapping the gifts from California 🙂

Even if you don’t celebrate Advent but are keen to get some crafty time with the kid during the holidays, feel free to try these out, visit my pinterest board for more ideas, and of course share what you’re doing with us too. Happy Advent-uring!

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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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