Category Archives: activities

Traveling without kids

I’ve been travelling a lot for work this year, with a particularly intense past few months.  The person most interested in my trips is B, who peppers me with questions – besides just “When are you coming back, mama?!” So I decided to transform my work trips to mini-lessons in geography and history.  It’s become such a regular occurrence that B looks forward to these “special projects” with mom on free weekends when I’m home!

We started by reviewing the continents and oceans, and have been covering regions, e.g. North America, Southeast Asia and South Asia depending on where mummy travels to.

We’ve been working through a lovely colouring book country by country, supplementing the maps with library books and internet searches to make it more interesting and interactive.  I too learnt something new as we saw highlights of the India-Pakistan cricket matches, the tough life of elephants in Thailand, the history of junk boats in Vietnam, and so on.

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I also try to get souvenirs for folks back home and sometimes the best things are free too!  For example, B loves activity books at this age, and luckily many hotels have good fun ones they’re usually happy to pass to “your little one waiting back home.”

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B has always loved working with his hands and solving puzzles, so activities like these 3D puzzles or LEGO blocks are also a hit.  It amazes me how he’s able to sit down, and painstakingly put these together (with help as needed) – some times for 1 hour or more!  Now that B reads decently well, he also enjoys discovering information on his own, and likes to cite (sometimes random) facts about popular places and people.

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Did you know?  The Taj Mahal is a World Heritage Site in the city of Agra in north India, built by Emperor Shah Jahan for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died at the age of 39. “That’s too young,” says B!

So if you’re travelling, and wish you could but can’t bring your kids along, try these.  They’ll feel involved, learn about the world, and can perhaps view your trips in a positive way by looking forward to these moments. We know it’s hard to be apart – so check out the video for a little something to cheer you up 🙂

For more, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.

How many ways can you play-doh?

Which kid doesn’t love science?  It satisfies their natural curiosity, especially at the age when they don’t stop asking “why” and also devour anything they can read (or be read to). It’s also – simply put, pretty darn cool.  Lately, B has gotten rather obsessed with space.  He’s watched the Magic School Bus Lost In Space episode at least 20 times – I caught him at it again with Netflix on my iPad early this morning when I woke up!  He creates LEGO rockets and launches them on a journey through the planets.  He loves to show the Solar Walk 2 app on our Apple TV to anyone who visits our home. He talks about being an astronaut when he grows up, staying on the ISS (after we read about the historic year in space), travelling to Pluto which he insists IS a planet, a “dwarf planet.”  He’s also been asking to go to a planetarium – but as the observatory at the Science Center isn’t terribly kid-friendly or that exciting (sorry), I told him we’ll try to visit California or Houston one day.

This weekend, we decided to use PLAY-DOH to build a model of the solar system. B was fully engaged for 1.5 hours, even pausing to check out facts on my iPhone like where’s the asteroid belt, which planets have rings, what’s the right comparative size and colour!

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PLAY-DOH has been a staple at our home – and we continue to find creative ways to use it. When B was younger, we’d set tubs out during play dates as it usually kept the toddlers occupied for a while, plus, it’s not that messy and super easy to clean up. When B struggled to write and draw well, his teachers recommended PLAY-DOH to strengthen his fine motor skills in a fun way.  These days, we take it out to support creative play at home with some fun hands-on experiments and imaginative story telling on a range of topics like natural disasters, dinosaurs, and geography.

On that note, if you’re looking for something to do with the kids over the school break, check out PLAY-DOH’s 60th Anniversary Celebration from June 6-12 (12-9p daily) at Waterway Point, Village Square Level 1 (West Wing). There’ll be a variety of birthday activities including the attempt to enter the Singapore Book of Records with the largest cupcake tower, workshops, story telling and photo ops with mascots by Da Little Arts School, among other fringe activities. On top of that, the first 1000 to contribute their cupcake creations will also receive a free Hasbro goodie bag.

For updates, reviews and more, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.

A family that runs together….

Last year, B took part in his first race at the Cold Storage Kids Run 2015. It was quite an experience for both of us – especially as mama didn’t realize the race was actually 800m till the day of!

This year, we’re excited to be part of the  Cold Storage Kids Run again – this time, with a special appearance by grandpa – 公公 – who is gamely joining in the 3Gen Family Fun Run (also 800m). After all, a family that runs together, stays healthier and happier together too 🙂 Come run with us at the Meadows @ Gardens By The Bay on Sunday, May 22, 2016!  On top of that, get a special discount for early bird sign ups with this code: WEMISSYOU16

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Three gen musketeers

About the run

Singapore’s Cold Storage Kids Run is Asia’s first kids focused run. Back for its 9th consecutive year, the event theme for 2016 is “Eat Healthy. Get Active”, promoting a healthy lifestyle and family bonding through exercise and a healthy diet. Early bird rates are now available up till 23 March followed by the normal registration period from 24 March to 3 April. This year also features the 3Gen Family Fun Run (which we’ll be participating in), Fancy Dress Family Fun Run, and two child celebrity ambassadors – football protégé Iryan Fandi and running enthusiast Abbie Rose Humphreys. Avid footballer and 10-year-old Iryan is the youngest son of illustrious local football legend Fandi Ahmad while 7-year-old Abbie Rose is the daughter of popular local columnist and author, Neil Humphreys. Visit http://www.kidsrun.com.sg for more info.

For updates, reviews and more, follow Finally Mama on Facebook or on Instagram.

Joy. Peace. Hope. Love.

My annual leave starts this week. I look forward to disconnect (as much as I can!) from the day-to-day hecticness, and reconnect with who and what matters the most to me.

“LOVE makes our friends a little dearer, 
JOY makes our hearts a little lighter, 
FAITH makes our path a little clearer, 
HOPE makes our lives a little brighter, 
PEACE brings us all a little nearer.”  

JOY: While passing through US airport immigration last week, I flashed a smile to the duty officer, relieved to be done with my 15+ hour flight. I was taken aback when he aggressively challenged me “Why did I smile? Was I not taking him seriously? I can decide to let you in this country, or not!” How do we remain joyful in a world filled with suspicion, superficiality and self-centredness?  B may be little, but he is one of my biggest sources of joy as he reminds me to keep a cheerful disposition, and don’t let negative moments or thoughts ruin your day.  Christmas is a time to make spirits bright, to laugh and sing, just like this song says!

PEACE: As I spend more time than ever with my parents in their golden years, I’ve been reflecting on the peace of mind that only family and community can offer, and also the inner peace that comes when you care for and center yourself.  It could be as simple as sneaking in some self-reflection, reading a devotional like this or this, expressing gratitude and praying each day.  For busy bees like myself,  Christmas is a time to place the important ahead of the urgent for a change.  Let’s look in, up and outwards – and gain perspective and a measure of peace as we do that.

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A family that holidays together, stays together
Developing peace of mind by staying mentally and physically fit

HOPE: Harsh words, unexpected news, broken promises, lack of trust from others or self-confidence are difficult issues to deal with. In those moments, I’m encouraged by how my siblings stand by each other through life’s ups and downs.  Two weeks back, I placed a tearful call to my sis after a particularly rough day, and she gave me exactly what I needed – a listening ear and affirmation.  We pay her a visit when things come up, and don’t let her be overwhelmed alone.  I also look forward to catch up with my brother and his family everytime I’m in the US for work. For me, Christmas is a time to cultivate those relationships and build a faith that give us assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen.

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Bonding over design and engineering 🙂
Aunty and her pumpkin 🙂

LOVE: I’ve been tugged in many directions by my various commitments this year, and often felt that I’m running on empty with no reserves left to give. As we prepare our hearts and our homes for Christmas, I’m thankful for the man who walks beside me in this journey of love. It’s not been easy, as we are both so imperfect. I appreciate his support to let me refuel on me-time and the things I’m passionate about – causes, family, good friends and new discoveries.

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Christmas playdate
No, mama isn't kissing Santa Claus
Sorry Santa, mama ain’t kissing you

Wherever you are this season, here’s wishing you a blessed Christmas filled with joy, peace, hope and love. Do share with us how you’re celebrating this season and holidays too as we continue this blog train on:

PrayerFull Mum

Next up is Valerie:

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At Mums In Faith, she shares her passion for books with other mums through a convenient book-lending service and reviews on good Christian resources. She also writes articles giving an encouraging Christian perspective on issues pertinent to modern-day mums. Together with her co-founder Danessa, she hopes to build a vibrant community of Christian mums who will love and pray for each other, providing the support we all need as fellow warriors in faith.

For more updates and reviews, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.

Special Review and Offer: Sparkanauts Leyun 乐云 Chinese program

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.

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A truly immersive experience – from craft to cooking to culture. This type of active participation that doesn’t seek a perfect “result” keeps them learning and engaged positively
Little touches, big difference. The weekly booklet contains an update to parents in English on what they did from the book of the month, with suggested reading and writing activities, and Chinese words and phrases (with hanyupinyin!) to reinforce.

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.

Details on the three different class offerings plus a very special giveaway are included below.

Curious Class (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
– Craft
– 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
– Craft

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
– Craft

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)

For more updates, reviews and giveaways, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.  Views expressed here are solely my own.  We really do love Sparkanauts… and the water playground after class! 🙂 

Keeping cool when it’s hot

This June, we’ve had recurring mid-day thunderstorms, warm nights, and above average temperatures of 34 degrees Celcius. What to do on hotter summer days?  Get wet, of course!

In the past, we’d frequent the Children’s Garden (Gardens By The Bay), Jacob Ballas (Botanic Gardens) and Port of Lost Wonder (Sentosa). This month, we wanted to check out Splash N Surf (Sports Hub) which wasn’t complete when the new stadium launched last year, but when we were there for the recent SEA Games, it was just too crowded 😦

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!
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Tips:
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

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– 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.

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– 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.

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Tips:
– 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.

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– 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.

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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.

For updates, reviews and more, follow Finally Mama on Facebook or on Instagram.

Time is precious, waste it wisely

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. FullSizeRender 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. IMG_2600 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: I really need to work todayBut 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.