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!
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:
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.
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!
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.
What has made us dance for joy lately? Flip For Joy! This online bookstore is run by a fellow mompreneur and former Chinese language JC teacher who believes in helping “parents choose the best for their children.”
What we like:
– A strong bilingual and hanyupinyin selection, including many bestsellers and award-winning translations. We were helpfully sent personalised recommendations for my 2.5 year old boy with an offer to type out/write hanyupinyin if needed. What a lifesaver for book loving, banana mamas like me!
– Flip Flip Hooray Starter Packs for different age groups (0-3 years, 3-5 years and 5-9 years) with at least one book from each of the three categories: Flip for FUN (highly interactive, engaging fun), KNOWLEDGE (insightful, rich stories), and LOVE (values)
– SGD$20 and SGD$50 Flip for Joy e-Gift cards available for purchase to share the love (or rather, joy)
– Free local standard mail for all orders and free courier delivery for orders above SGD$50
Here are some of the books that we bought and/or were given complimentary for review, all suitable for 0-5 years. As a bonus, there’s a special giveaway for Finally Mama readers, details at end 🙂
With its cute car shape, real wheels and likeable animals, this was an instant hit with B who kept asking me to read it over and over again. We’d never read this before and without hanyupinyin, mama had to make up some words (shhh). As we got into the car later, B said “must wear seatbelt like animals” so clearly the road safety pointers are coming across! This book is miles better than constantly nagging our lil monkeys to NOT open the car window or door, kick and throw things, wriggle out of their seat and safety belt. A perfect toy-in-a-book-with-a-message!
鳄鱼不刷牙 Crocodiles Don’t Brush Their Teeth(bilingual)
Translated from Colin Fancy’s original, this tongue-in-cheek book uses animal illustrations and catchy text to reinforce behaviors like brushing your teeth, blowing your nose, brushing your hair, washing your face, saying please and thank you, and going to bed at night. The examples are quite funny and sticky. B insists on brushing his (very little) hair now as “lions don’t brush their hair, 可是我梳!”
点点点 Dot Dot Dot
The original English version by Hervé Tullet has been a bedtime favourite since we bought it sometime in B’s first year. This highly interactive, imaginative and addictive book never gets old. A great classic first book that teaches colours, actions, sequencing, counting and language along the way. Just 按一下, press here!
翻翻翻变变变(4册) *注音 (hanyupinyin)
This series of four books is full of surprising illustrations that transform into animals, fruits, vegetables, vehicles and household items. B was thrilled to find what’s next as he flipped the flaps, and that in turn made it easier and more enjoyable to say the words in Chinese. Some objects are repeated often to support the overall design and retention of new vocabulary. Note: This is not a board book, so pages may tear easily if manhandled (or rather, tot-handled)
This series of seven books is based on a Korean best-seller. I found the illustrations and stories similar in style to Oliver Jeffers aka the artist behind How To Catch A Star. We were given two for review: 我想回家 (a boy who tries various modes of transportation to take him home) and 凯文在大海中旅行 (a boy who learns about sea creatures and body parts in his underwater search for a lost toy). Each book includes stickers with English sentences and words as a reading or learning aid, and a teaching guide at the end (all in Chinese though).
奇妙洞洞书第一辑（6册) and 第二辑（8册)
Originally in Italian, this highly acclaimed series features innovative die-cut books with holes, written in both English and Chinese (with hanyupinyin). There are two sets in the series so far, six books in the first set and eight books in the second set. The board books are sturdy, wonderfully designed, and will grow along with your child. Each page spread includes pictures and key text (words, characters, numbers) on the right side, with a unique rhyme and/or story on the left side to further illustrate the concept. We first borrowed these at the local public library, but it was hard to find the whole series given their popularity. A must have for your budding Chinese reader and language learner! Here’s a sneak preview from B himself 🙂
And now … a special giveaway (Giveaway has ended, thanks for participating!)
Finally Mama readers stand a chance to win TWO books, one from each set in the series (each worth SGD$13.90) to get you started. Click on each book cover image below to find out more:
Disclaimer: All opinions expressed here are my own. Some books were given complimentary for the purposes of review. I reserve the right to review the validity and authenticity of all participants, and to disqualify any entries from users with dubious, duplicate or illegitimate data.
I’ve always believed immersion is the best way to learn languages (ideally at home too) or else, a solid bilingual learning environment works too. We’re not quite ready to leave B alone in a new all-Chinese class, so when I found out about Bibinogs‘ Mandarin Tots class, a 1.5 hour Mandarin immersion accompanied program for 18 to 30 month olds, we gave it shot, had a good trial and decided to join them for a term. As I shared recently, my flexi work schedule enables me to join him in the afternoons and follow up at home too, and I didn’t want an overly academic, rote-learning drop off class (as Chengzhu’s N1 Language Learners and Berries turned out to be) to kill his interest in Chinese before it’s had a chance to grow :0
At 28 months, B is quite the singing chatterbox in English but he clams up in an all-Chinese environment. The more you “tekan” the less he’ll cooperate – he’ll even refuse to speak or say jibberish though he understands you (and talks) well enough. So I’ve been quite amazed at how Bibinogs has brought my little clam out of his Chinese shell!
Here’s what we like about Bibinogs:
1. Individual yet non-threatening attention: So far, there’s been no more than 8 students per 2 teachers in a comfortably sized classroom, ensuring a high teacher to student ratio. All teachers go out of their way to patiently engage everyone, try different methods of drawing out responses from the kids, help parents manage and/or distract them as needed, make individual observations and take feedback. This personal, in-your-own time approach is bearing fruit. B would eventually volunteer answers, repeat and use correct phrases, esp. if bribed with food or stickers 🙂 He was even comfortable enough to spontaneously sing 一闪一闪 (Twinkle twinkle little star) and 我的朋友在那里 (Where’s my friend?) in class!
2. Interactive theme-based fun: Terms are based around themes, which in turn, are split into multiple new words per week. Each class reinforces the vocabulary with an action rhyme, song(s), art and craft, with occasional games, storybooks, drama or puppetry. Chinese number and character recognition are cleverly integrated with hands-on manipulatives, flash cards, 儿歌 (nursery rhymes), magnetised strokes and whiteboards as visual aids. Every session has a good mix of familiar and new songs to allow everyone to learn them yet not get bored. Specific songs are adapted with individual greetings (friends names, caregivers, teachers) for intros and farewells. There’s actually so much going on that I’ve never “checked the clock” and yet, enough emphasis is placed to help retention – without excessive drilling, thankfully. I’ve heard B randomly repeating parts of the week’s songs, new rhyme and/or vocabulary outside of class, so something must have stuck with my ants-in-his-pants boy 😉
3. Phonics makes a difference: Their proprietary Baby Mandarin program deserves special mention as all the kids are remarkably attentive and responsive when it’s time for 幼儿拼音 (Hanyu Pinyin) at the end of each class. Hearing the main vocal sounds (e.g. “姐姐喝水, h h h” with corresponding actions) provides a missing verbal link for those who live in non-Chinese speaking environments. How can you expect anyone to just repeat word after word in a “new” language, if they’re not confident or comfortable pronouncing them in the first place? The Bibinogs approach recognises the value of teaching Chinese phonics at an early age to bi/multilingual kids.
4. Best of both worlds with bilingual: Besides the full Mandarin immersion classes, Bibinogs also runs a fun, high energy parent-accompanied bilingual program for 6-30 month olds (1 hour in English, 15 mins in Mandarin following a similar, but condensed version). Babies and tots receive hands-on, multi-dimensional and engaging learning experiences: physical development through music, movement and games; fine motor skills through art, craft and sensory play; language, communication skills and learn about the world around them through dramatization, story-telling, puppetry, action rhymes, poems and songs. They are also introduced to phonics and word blending through Jungle Friends.
5. Something just for you: Bibinogs offers a variety of programs from 6 months to 6 years. English, Mandarin immersion or bilingual, accompanied or drop-off, enrichment or preschool, and even short term/holiday classes. There’s no fixed number of days in a week to commit to, e.g. you can enroll for 1, 2 or 3 days per week for enrichment classes, depending on your situation. Many parents would also appreciate the flexibility of having a certain number of make up classes which are allowed with advance notice, no MC required. Lastly, with multiple locations: Kings Arcade (preschool only), Serene Center, UE Square and Siglap (enrichment classes), Bibinogs makes it real easy to find a class, time and location that suits you.
Your boy is playing with his favourite bus/water gun/thingy. His friend eagerly comes over and tries to snatch it away. “B, please share?” “No! Don’t want!” Tantrum ensues. Sound familiar?
Toddler hitting, screaming, biting and throwing are common behaviours that they’ll need to (un)learn – but that process can be challenging! Karen Katz offers some help with a series of delightful little books filled with adorable, true-to-life illustrations, and clear, simple and repetitive text. Thanks to Read With Me Mommy, this series is available in a compact set of six bilingual books in English and Chinese: I Can Share (我可以分享), No Hitting (不打人), No Biting (不咬人), Excuse Me (对不起), Best Ever Big Brother (最好的大哥哥), Best Ever Big Sister (最好的大姐姐).
What we like: It’s bilingual! So you get a double 2-in-1 deal – reinforce behaviours AND learn key phrases in English AND Chinese as you enjoy reading it over and over together 🙂 As with other Karen Katz books, the text is separated from the pictures, each in their own page, making it easier for kids who are learning to read. Many tots actually memorise the story or conversation based on pictures, which is a great start to language development, but books like these take it one step further by helping them to focus on and recognise words, letters and characters. The whole page flaps cleverly reveal the right response, which usually involves “magic words” for proper manners or positive redirection for sticky situations like sharing and self-control. Note: This is best for 18 months to 4 years as it’s not in a board book format, so turning the pages and lifting flaps require a bit more control (and care).
As a bonus, the set also includes two books on growing up from the perspective of a 哥哥 or 姐姐, ideal for older siblings who are adjusting to a new baby at home. But even if you don’t have a sibling (yet – like us), it’s still relevant for your tot to read about big boys or girls who eat, sleep, read and go to the potty on their own 🙂
Read With Me Mommy is a user-friendly online bookstore which is conveniently organised by age (0-3 years, 3-6 years, 6-10 years, 10+ years) and book type (sets, board books, cloth books, etc.). There is currently a 5% discount promo for all DBS/POSB cardholders and free local mail delivery for ALL purchases.
As a special giveaway, Finally Mama readers stand a chance to win a brand new complete set of 6 bilingual lift the flap books worth SGD$24.90 with FREE local delivery. Giveaway closed!Just CLICK HERE to enter the giveaway and follow these steps: