Category Archives: fine motor

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.

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The Magic Three

My darling B:

You are now 33 months. Just 3 months to go before you turn 3 years old! Everyone warned me about the terrible twos, but the year turned out to be pretty terrific instead. Hopefully I don’t jinx the remaining months 😮 You had your moments of wild, irrational flail-on-the-ground tantrums, but through it all I kept the 3 Ts in mind:  Tank up on love, Transition gradually, and Timing matters!

In light of your and mama’s developments this year, here are 3×3 things to celebrate about you!

3 THINGS I LOVE ABOUT YOU

1) THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE: You love reading. You bring books  to our bed in the morning, want to read at mealtimes, and negotiate the number of stories for bedtime.  You are ever curious. You’ll ask “What happen, mama?” when I’m reading the news or listening to the radio. The library is like your second home where you can occupy yourself flipping through books or telling stories to friends (imaginary or anyone nearby). Your face lights up as you associate what you read with what you see in real life. When your gears start spinning, you turn to me to say “Remember the [book/event/person/item]?” and a wonderful process of discovery ensues. When you see text, you track the words with your fingers as you “read.”  You like to call out numbers, upper and lower cases that you recognise from Letterland phonics, and even Chinese characters.  It’s truly a delight to watch you learn!

Watching the night sky from our balcony got him intrigued about space so we’ve borrowed many books about it (like this one).  Here he’s simulating the moon rotating around the earth 🙂

2) A SONG IN YOUR HEART:  Since you started carrying a tune, you  haven’t stopped making music. Even as a baby, you’d often hum and move to the rhythm and beat.  These days, we don’t need alarm clocks because you wake us up with your singing at 7a or earlier! You make us laugh with silly adaptations and lead your friends in rousing renditions of songs from Majulah Singapura to Wheels on the Bus to “一步一步走啊走”.   This year we tried some structured music learning at home, and we’ll continue to look for ways to help you hone this gift now and beyond.

3) PASSION FOR VEHICLES: Be they in the air, on the road, on water, in print, real or toy, rides or stickers – you like them all! You  observe routes, recall directions, names of roads and who stays where. Your pretend play is getting more creative too. You manipulate everyday things at home, LEGO and wooden blocks, toy vehicles, tracks and figures to form construction sites, accident and rescue operations, traffic jams on the highway, neighbourhood multi-story carparks – all with sound effects and commentary.

One activity you initiated is to lay out your vehicle flash cards and we take turns to find the right one as we play “I Spy” and 这是什么?”

Sometimes I need to set time limits so you don’t get too obsessed (i.e. kick a fuss when it’s time to stop or leave). But this shows me  you’re capable of focusing and innovating on what interests you. If only we could figure out how to replicate this for other stuff  😉

3 AREAS YOU’VE GROWN IN

1) (SELF) HELPER: Although I still prompt you to eat faster or finish up, I’m thankful that you continue to help yourself at meal times and have a healthy appetite, drink well, (mostly) eat greens, fruits and are willing to try variety – Asian, Western, Middle Eastern, mild herbs and spices. You even ate durian!

Since we started our first sticker chart on toilet training, you also have less accidents and better control.  You let us know when you want to pee and poop instead of us asking or taking you regularly.  There’s still occasional overnight bed wetting and leaks (esp. when you’re too excited or shy) but you’ve made great progress that we’ve moved on to a new chart for wearing/undressing clothes and shoes.

Out with the old, in with the new sticker chart

Lastly, although you need reminding, you do help to clean up after play, unload dirty clothes into the laundry bag and bring your dishes to the kitchen after meals. Well done!

2) FINE MOTOR SKILLS:  Thanks to your current preschool, you’re constantly encouraged to experiment and express yourself through art and craft. Mama is so thankful for the amazing teachers there!

Our little artist at his first school exhibition

Although there’s less opportunities for us at home together, I cherish the times when we play simple number and finger games and do crafty activities that build your fine motor skills.  Of course, you still treat glue like paint, colour all over the page, use brushes, pencils, markers and crayons like stamps, wield the scissors and chopsticks with two hands when your fingers are tired… But you’re getting there. Just persevere and keep up the great work!

Our art wall is constantly full even though mama recycles often

3) THE GREAT OUTDOORS:  We now do more things outside and for  longer before you ask for a “抱抱“!  You’ve always been a cautious toddler and not a big fan of being under the hot sun.  Yet as you grow, you now scoot with more confidence and speed, are eager to get wet and play in the sand (caveat: area must be “clean and cool” enough), jump in the pool at your weekly swim class, pedal the tricycles at school and ride your balance bike to deliver items and messages from place to place.  I only wish you’d wear your safety helmet more often so mama doesn’t worry … too much.

Getting out and about

So here’s to you, my little big baby, who’s becoming a big little boy. Love you to the moon and back!

We are Singaporean

Linking up with:
SANses.com's Talkative Thursdays 

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Reduce, reuse, recycle – into a Chinese scrapbook

We love books. We did our first DIY personalised journal in English when B was 18 months and asking more about family, interests, activities and people. I even added a section about preschool before he started. But we never got around to doing a simpler one in Chinese because the thought of ME writing originally in Chinese?  Yikes! 

Reading his first DIY book
Reading his first DIY book

Until now. Having just completed Mandarin Tots at Bibinogs, we both learnt many new words that I wanted to reinforce and keep relevant for him.  Also, while cleaning up the guest room (converted into playroom) and living room before the grandparents return, we found stacks of B’s art pieces, old spiral notebooks and magazines.  So… Time to reduce, reuse and recycle again!  And finally tackle our first Chinese scrapbook together.

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B reading through his very own DIY 读卡书 🙂

Here’s how we made it:  Browse through newspapers and magazines and cut out pictures for your chosen theme or alternately, based on vocabulary he’s learning at school. Print the characters out in large font if you don’t have enrichment class material such as flash cards. Invite him to read (or repeat) the words, match them to the right pictures, helping to cut where possible.  If you have old artwork or cardstock, resize them for your notebook before gluing both pictures and words on it first.  Finally stick them all on the (reinforced) spiral notebooks with double sided tape.  If you don’t have used notebooks, punch a hole on the sides to bind the “book.”

Reduce, reuse, recycle!
Reduce, reuse, recycle!

In our case, we did lots of cutting and glue-ing to work on B’s fine motor skills. He’s also more keen to read Chinese when the books are interactive (flaps, pull out tabs, stickers) … and now, when he’s actually had a hand in making it!

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Flashback Friday to the good old days

There was no class today so mama and B spent the whole day together. It’s been a while since we had such a fun yet fruitful time, as B started nursery and we were on-and-off sick this month.  While I miss our homeschooling days last year, I’d forgotten how busy it can be if you really want to fully engage your kid.  Can’t wait for school to start again next week, grateful for good teachers, friends, and a preschool / child care center that doesn’t have a long holiday break like many international or MOE-calendar ones out there.

Letterland review
Letterland review
Art: Finishing the DIY craft from our National Museum visit
Art: Finishing the DIY craft from our National Museum visit
Drama: Outing to Central Library followed by Spot The Difference (awesome play) and lunch
Fine motor skills: Tracing, threading, sorting, counting, pretend play with DIY home manipulatives

And of course, our daily “music with mama” sessions, free play indoors (i.e. cars and blocks) and outdoors (i.e. playground) when mama was busy or needed a break 🙂

Pheew, TGIF!

When dinosaurs ruled the earth

February ended with a roar, a dinosaur roar! Unlike space, transportation and animals which were easy hits back when we were doing monthly themes, I wasn’t sure how B would take to dinos – I mean, the names are hard to pronounce and animals are all dead and scary looking (except for Barney, but he’s not quite … real). By the end though, B was impersonating the T-Rex walk, wrapping his tongue around “triceratops,” “apatosaurus,” “stegosaurus,” and knew how to spell “D-I-N-O-S-A-U-R” with playdough. A success!

Lucky for us, there were TWO great dinosaur showcases in Singapore this past month, both different yet good.

We first visited Titans of the Past – Dinosaurs and Ice Age Mammals at the Science Center. To be honest, we’d trekked out west before for the Megabugs Return exhibit butweren’t too impressed. I felt the center overall could do with some upgrading. However, this time, we were pleasantly surprised by the toddler friendly activities and animations that managed to keep 2+ year boys entertained throughout! It’s a shame the exhibit is over so soon (25 October 2013 – 23 February 2014) and not that well publicized. When we went on a Thursday afternoon, there were less than 10 visitors there. Besides pressing all the buttons to make them roar and eat, B also enjoyed the mini paleontologists sandpit dig where they brushed for fossils.

We also went to Dinosaurs: Dawn To Extinction at the ArtScience Museum (25 January – 25 May 2014), getting there just before 5p in time for the free English tour. IMO, the exhibits here were of better quality and clearer presentation, with bone fossils AND life size models, info boards and occasional activity stations. The caveat was we had to pay admission for B whereas he got in free (under 3 years) at the Science Center. That said, even distracted mommy retained a few bits of knowledge in between making sure my lil live dino didn’t break anything!

B attempted to fit all the puzzles, but most were set too high for toddlers – and he’s quite tall at 95cm+ (for 27 months). He also enjoyed the model of the walking T-Rex and the footprint section, where you could make your own track, identify and compare various footprint tracks.

Go here to see the other kid-friendly events and activities coming in March (booking required) if you have older kids, 6 years and up.

Some of our dino themed art, crafts and books:

Wayang kulit (shadow puppets) dino-age birds and lizards
The care and feeding of a 3D apatosaurus

 

 

 

 

Dino-awesome library books!
Making a dino foam penholder
Stamping with paint on styrofoam

Tracing and colouring pre-writing worksheets from here. His fine motor skills aren’t great, but he’s slowly improving, i.e. changing colours for different objects, following straight and curvy lines, etc.

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Refining those fine motor skills

Now that B is walking and occasionally running more confidently, it’s time to refocus on his fine motor skills.  I’ve noticed that boys tend to be slower than girls in this age group to master certain tasks… B expresses interest in doing these things, but when he’s stuck, he gets frustrated quite easily and just swipes or throws it away.  Perhaps we can incorporate more intentional fine motor skill practice throughout the day, either through daily routines or short “games.” 

Some ideas:
1) Filling up, dumping out and scooping:
Prepare for this stage by setting up play areas and offering manageable activities. Taking blocks out of a large box, pegs out of a pegboard, toys out of a trunk, and sturdy puzzle pieces out of a puzzle. Once he has the “taking out” step down, it’s time for the “putting in” step. Some of the above tasks can be reversed (although you may not be able to generate much enthusiasm for putting toys away) and will flex your child’s visual and mental muscles as well as fine motor skills. For a follow-up, encourage your little one to try a more challenging feat, such as dropping “O” cereal bits or beans into a smaller container/with a slightly narrowed neck, or using a shape-sorter. This is the precursor to self feeding.  Use a deep, short spoon that easily fits in a tot’s hand. Practice with yogurt, cereal or beans when there’s time (and energy) to clean up.  Be prepared to help a little (or a lot….)
 
2) Dressing and undressing 
Putting things on and taking them off is a toddler delight.  Dressing and undressing — himself or a toy — provides a host of opportunities for him to practice his finger and hand coordination. Tiny doll clothes are too intricate but big capes or ponchos for his teddy bears, felt boards with people shapes and changeable outfits are perfect. Reusable stickers can also fascinate, though very small ones are tough for little fingers to manage. Provide a big box of dress-up clothes that are easy to manage — Dad’s old coat and shoes, your old scarves, and hats galore. When it comes to dressing himself for the day, your toddler will do best with pants that have elastic waists, pull-on tops, and Velcro-fastening shoes to minimize morning struggles. Be sure to introduce new challenges — a single large button or a big snap — one at a time.
 
3) Drawing and scribbling
Sometime between the ages of 12 and 18 months, your toddler will probably attempt to “write” by making marks on paper or with crayons, and sometime between 18 and 24 months she may surprise you by drawing vertical and horizontal lines and perhaps a circle. Set up your budding artist with big sheets of thick paper taped to the table. Thick, sturdy crayons or washable pens in a few primary colors (so as not to overwhelm) are a good choice. Chunky sidewalk chalk to use outdoors, paper pinned to an easel instead of a flat surface, or soap crayons in the tub, finger-painting and printing (hand- and footprints, brush leaves, acorns, carrot-tops, or flower petals with paint to use as homemade stamps)
 
4) Stacking, sorting and stringing
From carefully balancing one block on top of another to placing colored rings on a pole, stacking (and knocking down, of course) is a toddler tradition. Let your child experiment with blocks of different sizes, shapes, and colors, and offer a variety of other materials for building and manipulating. Though ABCs and 1-2-3s games are a ways off, your toddler can sort refrigerator alphabet magnets by color or size or string beads with plastic snap-together beads. Once he’s mastered those, offer a thick shoelace and a piece of felt with holes cut in it or a sturdy string and big wooden beads, colored pasta shapes or fruit rings.
 
5) Poking and pinching
Toddlers are sensualists above all else — they love to smell, taste, and touch. Nontoxic modeling clay invites hand and finger movement as your child rolls, shapes, punches, and molds the material to her liking. A few simple tools, such as a lightweight rolling pin and some plastic cookie cutters, stretch this activity out longer. The softer the dough, the easier it is for small hands to shape. Real edible dough is, of course, the ultimate treat or “gak” – the gooey preschool favorite made from equal parts white glue (or flour, colored with food colouring) and water , which kids just love to squish and squeeze. If there’s opportunity outside, a mud pie kitchen or a sandcastle construction zone creates opportunities to use those same manipulative skills. 
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