We’ve spent more weekends indoors than we’d like lately, but the good thing is, B has had more time to play his cars, trucks and trains, draw and write, practice violin, of course, craft with mom.
The DIY ping pong ball runs with toilet paper rolls has been a regular activity at home. But this year, inspired by a fellow mom blogger, I decided to use this to reinforce addition. Here’s how we did it:
Start storing your rolls! Even with a 5 person household (+ grandparents!), we could only do enough for numbers 1-5 to start.
Find a board that’s big and sturdy enough, preferably as tall as the kid and sufficiently wide so that you can do a lot of creative (and long) runs. We used our TV box – as we’d just upgraded our ancient flat screen TV in time for our SG50 NDP party.
Cut some into half lengthwise, and a few others into half heightwise. The longer halves will be used for the ramps while the shorter rolls as your numbered “holders” or entry points.
Get the kiddo to help you paint the box and rolls. We didn’t have much time, and B was eager to get rolling, so we just painted 10 short rolls and numbered them from 1 to 10. He could do all of this by himself now – another plus!
Start sticking them onto the box, testing the roll as you go along. By now, B could also figure out where to put things and we had fun cutting out the tape and placing them together.
On a separate paper / nearby easel, put together the sums for them to do. We started from the basics, i.e. 1+1= ? to 1+5 =?, which B already knew from finger counting, so he could draw the connection from adding the balls.
Start rolling based on the sums that you see, e.g. for 1+3, put 1 ball in the #1 holder, and 3 balls in the #3 holder, check how many balls land in the box to see if you got the sums right!
Get the kiddo to write the answer down. Good practice here 🙂
Does your kid find it hard to sit still in class?
Do you want to do more together, but have no idea where to start?
Do you wish your kid had better exposure to Chinese than you did?
We do. Before B started preschool, hubby and I would take him to Sparkanauts every weekend. We loved the energetic pace, observant teachers, stimulating environment and thoughtful curriculum designed for parent and child bonding, in and out of class. We were also inspired to try many theme-based extension activities at home together, and I attribute B’s interest in science today to the exposure we both had in his early years.
When we found out that Sparkanauts was planning a Chinese program, we were thrilled. Finally! A place where kinesthetic learners – like B – won’t feel left out, bored or discouraged with Chinese. Having been involved in their initial pilots, we are really pleased to share that the Leyun 乐云 Chinese program officially launches this August. There are different classes for 18 months and up; each class embraces a holistic approach with a range of physical, intellectual and social activities to grow our kids’ awareness, appreciation and understanding of Chinese.
I was surprised to receive this video of B sitting down to trace and write characters. Mama didn’t write Chinese characters till primary school, and had no idea what these strokes were called then.
Curious Class (快乐班） Age Group: 18 months to 30 months old Parent/Caregiver Accompanied Duration: 75 Minutes Frequency: Once a week. Tues 3PM, 430PM. Wed 130PM. Thurs 245PM. Fri 230PM.
Objective: The child will be exposed to the Mandarin language in a natural, fun environment. They will enjoy speaking, singing and reading in Mandarin as they are introduced to the language.
What to Expect:
– Thematic learning
– Mandarin Music and Movement
– Rhythmic Sing along
– Gross Motor Play
– Dramatic Show and Tell
– Story Time
– Snack Time
Witty Class (飞跃班) Age Group: 3 years – 5 years Drop Off (Non-Accompanied Class)
Duration: 60 Mins Frequency: Once a week. Wed 5PM, Thurs 430PM, Fri 1PM
Objective: This program adopts a story-based learning approach to engage the sense of fun and adventure in your child, helping them to learn more about the world around them. They will be introduced to key words (nouns, verbs, adjectives) on a weekly basis that will enable them to read the book of the month. Children will be introduced to basic Mandarin strokes and successfully write commonly used Mandarin words in this program.
What to Expect:
– Book based learning
– Mandarin Music and Movement
– Gross Motor Play
– Introduction to Chinese Idioms
– Writing in Mandarin
Bilingual Class (双语班) Age Group: 3 years – 5 years Drop Off (Non-Accompanied Class)
Duration: 1.5 hours Frequency: Once a week. Tues 1PM, Thurs 1PM.
Objective: This program adopts a story-based learning approach to engage the sense of fun and adventure in your child, helping them to learn more about the world around them. Children will also be introduced to the story in English, and their comprehension skills are further developed during the English segment of the class. They will be introduced to Mandarin key words (nouns, verbs, adjectives) on a weekly basis that will enable them to read the book of the month. Children will be introduced to basic Mandarin strokes and successfully write commonly used Mandarin words in this program.
What to Expect:
– Book based learning (English and Mandarin)
– Mandarin Music and Movement
– Gross Motor Play
– Introduction to Chinese Idioms
– Writing in Mandarin
Experience the difference for yourself!
We are offering TWO complimentary trial passes to any Sparkanauts Leyun Chinese class at Toa Payoh SAFRA, valued at $48 each. Please visit the Rafflecopter link here and follow the steps to stand a chance to win. Giveaway ends Friday, 7 August 2015.
From now until 6 August 2015, Sparkanauts is also running the following promotion:
1. Special trial class price at $10 (U.P. $48)
2. Parents who sign up for the package after the trial will enjoy the pre-launch promotional 10 sessions package price of $398 (U.P. $458) for Witty and Curious Class, and $498 (U.P. $550) for the Bilingual class. The pre-launch package price will be locked in as long as the child continues with the programme
3. Waiver of registration fees (U.P. $68)
Views expressed here are solely my own. We really do love Sparkanauts… and the water playground after class! 🙂
I arrived back in Singapore late Thursday night, and belatedly remembered that this weekend was Father’s Day! #mommyfail. With not much time (or energy left, honestly) to buy or book anything elaborate, including this weekend’s popular daddy activities like the Aviva Superfundae, B and I snuck in a few hours at home instead to make our Father’s Day gifts.
This is what we came up with: Stencilled vehicles on multi-coloured panels, monographed by our wee preschooler. They were a shout out to how hardworking dads are and wishing them time to take a break and take us on holiday too 🙂 This turned out to be a relatively easy and fun DIY project for B who’s still learning how to write and paint “neatly” and prefers drawing vehicles.
Here’s how we did it:
1) Cut out panels in the desired shapes, ideally using canvas or repurposed styrofoam or cardboards.
2) Let the kid select a few colours of his choice for the background. You could probably use any type of paint. We chose watercolour as that had the widest selection available, but also limited it to three colours per panel. I was quite pleased that B chose colours that blended really well, unprompted.
3) Squeeze out, mix and paint the colours on the boards. Dry overnight or in the hot sun for a few hours. We used foam rollers to generate some texture. Plus, it covers the surface area faster (and dries faster – remember, we didn’t have much time!)
3) Choose the design, shape and/or letters to draw on the backgrounds. We just selected vehicle stencils for each individual. I originally wanted to print each name in English and Chinese but I also knew how much B likes to “own” his artwork, and I’d be helping out too much to make things nice and legible at his age. So, finally – we get to use those art stencils from ArtFriends – which last came out of the box when we did our group playdate cardboard house 1.5 years ago. Alphabet stencils would also have been perfect here. I tried making them, but gosh, those are hard to DIY! I’ll just have to wait till B gets better at writing…
4) Select neutral colours for the stencils to stand out against the background, i.e. black/grey for lighter backgrounds and white for darker backgrounds. Make sure the brush and paint are relatively dry to minimise leakage. You may also need to help by taping over unused images or pressing the stencils down hard while your preschooler paints it over.
Bonus activity: Talk through who are the daddies in the family. In our case, we did a little revision of our old extended family tree, and B wanted to make FOUR gifts for daddy, 公公, 爷爷 and uncle M (mama’s brother in the US) who I hope to visit soon.
We did however visit two new water play areas in LEGOLAND Malaysia and Bishan Park:
1) LEGOLAND Water Park: What a difference a year makes. Last time we went there, the experience was exhausting and hot as 2+ year old B was overstimulated. This time around, both LEGOLAND and B have matured. Notably, there’s improved logistics and ventilation, with more accessible rides and activities for B who’s over 100cm tall (we got in though he’s not yet 4 🙂 Best of all, we had a splashing time at the new world’s largest LEGOLAND Water Park. Seeing B’s wet, tired and happy face was worth it. We’ll be back!
– The combo park ticket is the best deal: Buy online if you can. For toddlers (under 3 years), entry to all LEGOLAND Theme Parks are free but you’ll need to pay RM10 for the Water Park for admission and two swim diapers. For the price of chicken rice? Go for it.
– Time it right: Come when it opens at 10a, stay till lunch (or keep returning throughout the day!). Avoid the 1-3p peak time as it’s too crowded then and the ground gets uncomfortably hot. Go see an indoor movie or take an indoor rollercoaster ride instead then. Park at LEGOLAND Hotel if you can as it’s right next to the Theme Parks and Water Park entrance. Else, there’s outdoor parking (with no shade at all) with a 15 min covered pathway to both parks
– Height restrictions apply: Kids under 6, supervised by an adult (or >12 years), can enjoy the LEGO Wave Pool (fun!), Build-a-Raft River and DUPLO Splash Safari. For Joker Soaker (similar to Port of Lost Wonder), Twin Chaser, Red Rush and Splash Out, riders must be at least 1.02m. Riders must be at least 1.07m to ride Slide Racer, Wave Rider, Tidal Tube, Brick Blaster and Splash N Swirl.
– Don’t worry about your stuff: There are conveniently priced all-day lockers (half and full size) right past the entrance to the Water Park. Strollers can be kept on top of the lockers. Shoes can be easily slipped on, off, safely stored at every ride point, although most prefer to just walk around barefoot. Larger cabanas by the Wave Pool and Beach Grill are also available for rent but IMO, unnecessary if you’ll be moving around from place to place.
2)Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park Water Playground: Funnily enough, we frequent Bishan Park often but never tried the Water Playground (when it actually had water running). So on one of my childcare leave days, I arranged to visit the park early morning with some friends. Overall, it was a chill time with opportunities for kids of all ages to stay active, get wet and learn about nature and science. Our kids ranged from 10 months to 10 years, and there was something for everyone there.
– When and how to get there: Water turns on between 8-11a and 4-8p daily, except for Monday-Wednesday when it’s closed. There’s a well maintained changing and restroom nearby. The carpark (off Ang Mo Kio Ave 6) is right next to the park or you can take bus services (50,53, 55,58) from Ang Mo Kio Bus Interchange or Bishan MRT Station. The Water Playground is situated within the larger Pond Gardens. While the kids gravitated to the central water source structure in the beginning, they eventually dispersed as they began to explore. The bubbles, balls, buckets, squirt toys we brought along became a great way for the kids to share and make friends too.
– Understated, simple yet smart design: I did miss the fountains and modern jet sprays as the initial water flow and level were quite low since the park had just opened. Once enough water accumulated though, the kids started to play and experiment with water as they got each other wet. The young kids mainly splashed and poured on multiple surfaces, while the older kids manipulated the sluice gates separating the canals that led to the main drain. (I think) The ropes lying around were there to change the direction of water, which would be a nice yet subtle touch.
The AMK-Bishan Park Water Playground is as different from LEGOLAND Water Park as it gets! For me, I found it a great place to unwind in a beautiful environment that has surprising ways for kids to discover and learn about science and nature, while cooling down on a hot day.
We started regular music with mama times since B was a baby and now at 3.5+ years, (we think!) he’s ready to begin formal music classes … in violin! I was fortunate enough to find out about Wolfgang Violin Studios (WVS) from one of my fellow CRIB co-founders, and contacted them to enquire about trials and options a few months back.
WVS has locations at UE Square and Tembeling Center. They run good Baby Beats classes on rhythm, pitch, dynamics and note recognition for kids ~2.5 years to 4 years. Unfortunately, weekday accompanied classes are tough for us, with B in childcare while I work full time. So I decided to wait until he was ready to join Kinderviolin, their beginners program for younger kids aged 4 years up. As it turned out, WVS recently launched Twinkle, a pre-Kinderviolin class that essentially consists of small group violin lessons offering individual instruction with a max 2:1 (student-teacher) ratio. This was a nice fit for B who can now focus (a bit more), has had regular music exposure at home (Little Musician, percussion, keyboard) and at school, continues to love singing and improv, but is also new to formal instruction.
We first had a trial violin assessment as B wasn’t a graduate of Baby Beats. It was a pretty chill 30 mins, 1-1 with one of the teachers. At the end, B gave them a thumbs up, they said OK, so we’re good to go!
It was quite a challenge to find good music classes with no literal “strings” attached – no requirement for parents to buy their own instruments, no need to accompany kids in class, etc. This class was a godsend for me as a working parent. And so now B’s begun his violin journey with a great age-appropriate drop off program to take his interest further, and a violin loaned by a friend – which fit perfectly, hooray!
At the end of class, parents were invited in to watch our kids perform, with the chance to speak to the teachers and also follow up on what was covered. There’s also a journal to track progress and specific areas to work on for each kid. Today, they played us a line from this piece, taking turns with melody and rhythm.
B, as you “practice” holding, bowing and fingering for the next 10 weeks, remember, we all have to put up with the screechy string playing too 🙂 But most importantly, let’s all enjoy the journey together.
This year, B (mostly) ran his first 800m race at the 2015 Cold Storage Kids Run. Seeing him press on despite feeling hot and tired made me proud – and reminded me to persevere and not give up despite how we feel sometimes. Motherhood is kinda like that, isn’t it?!
This year marks our fourth Mothers’ Day. Every time, I can’t help but thank God (again!) for B who made me a mother, and was the catalyst for this Finally Mama blog. I’m all too aware of my imperfections as a mom but am glad that since I made my 2015 Chinese New Year resolutions, I’ve been able to find greater contentment this year at working full time, supporting CRIB, and being a mom to (just) one – adorable, amazing, appreciative, and at times, aggravating – 3.5 year old kid.
Thanks to B’s teachers and dad, I received some nice (surprise!) dedications this year:
What was inside was so simple yet awesome in its effort. B’s drawing and colouring isn’t great at this age. I know he wants to write and colour better, but I’ve been trying not to “correct” his grip and control, but rather let him keep scribbling, drawing, painting, clay and play doughing et al. So, it touched me to see him try to write his name, illustrate each “coupon” accordingly (with his smiley faces) and colour the flower as best he could.
Coincidentally on Mother’s Day, I also started to volunteer once a month at his Sunday School N2 class. Many (including hubby) would argue that my schedule is packed as it is! But I wanted to play a bigger part in his faith journey, support the staff that put in so much effort to manage the kids while we are free to attend the main service, and also spend more moments with him on a weekend, especially on weekdays when I’m away.
Last but not least, this year, I also wanted B to appreciate not just mama but his grandma, as both grandparents have stepped up this year to help with chauffeuring and childminding. Daddy took B to a nearby nursery where he chose fresh carnations for each of us “moms” – mama, ama and nainai.
Ultimately, what makes most happy as a mom are the spontaneous expressions of love and honest remarks that affirm the bond B and I have. Just as we love our kids through the ups and downs, so too do they love us despite our imperfections. And although we “older and wiser” adults should guide them as they grow, our kids often teach us wonderful lessons too – like ending a race well, no matter how tough the journey can be sometimes.
This post is part of the “Dear Mummy” blog train, a series of letters and dedications from our kids to moms.
Next up is Winnie, who blogs at Toddly Mummy, where she shares her thoughts on parenting, and fun moments from their home learning sessions and outdoor adventures. She sometimes share about her favourite food too, along with occasional side orders of stuff that she finds useful as a busy mum.
This month, I have 3 weeks of no business travel. Hooray! His teachers and my parents tell me that he’s thriving – at nursery and at home, even when I’m away. But when I’m back, B has definitely become more demanding of me, my attention and time. I find his worst behaviours tend to get triggered on evenings when I’m the most tired too. In those moments, I’m learning that empathy, consistent TLC with a dash of discipline (when appropriate), and some basic psychology (choices, counting down, consequences) goes a long way. While days at work remain focused and full, I’ve been trying to carve out precious time with the kiddo every day. This week, instead of rushing to pick him up after work and head back for our regular home-cooked dinner, we detoured to Clarke Quay. We shared a Hokkaido ice-cream and watched the river boats chug by, B scooted while I attempted to window shop, and we had a later than usual dinner with daddy near his office by the river. While I have less time to plan those projects and outings which B and I enjoy, I find that simple spontaneous activities together can fill that need B has for mama time, which has typically evolved around art and craft, books and music. This week, after countless volcano eruptions and floods, I suggested to see what happens next. So we cleaned and dried our clay models, rolled and flattened them like play dough. B had fun figuring out how to spell “VOLCANO” and “FLOOD”; find and make the clay letters, and later created his version of what the ground would look after a natural disaster – with animal tracks and dead trees. He was also overjoyed to receive some dino and volcano stickers from a friend at school – everything just came together nicely 🙂 The best part? These at-home activities didn’t take much time or money, just some hands-on investment and imagination. Yet IMO, they pay off far more than classes or toys. A mom friend recently asked me if I felt guilty working full time. I’ll always remain an engaged parent regardless what the circumstances are. I didn’t feel guilty leaving the corporate world back when B was 6 months old, which led me to start up CRIB with some awesome ladies. I don’t feel guilty today with my commitments at full time work either. I think perhaps a big reason is that I’ve had the benefit of choice – and I chose to do what felt right, and what I was passionate about at that time. Honestly, having been a full time mom, flexi mompreneur, and working mom, I must say, the grass always seems greener! Working full time has its ups and downs, like days such as these: But rather than guilt, let’s focus on making the most out of the time we have today. After all, time is precious. Waste it wisely. For updates, reviews and more, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.
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 …
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.
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 ….
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!
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.
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.
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! 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 🙂 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.
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.
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:
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
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.