Category Archives: flash cards

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

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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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Music with mama: Trial classes at MYC and Seimpi

Recently, B attended trial classes at Music For Young Children (Orchard) and Seimpi School of Music (Funan).  Both programs are parent accompanied, utilise a whole brain approach and go beyond generic music appreciation to introduce basic music fundamentals and early musicianship pre-Grade 1).

1) Music For Young Children: Sunrise class (27-36 months)
This was a special trial for B and his friends. We learnt about a variety of instruments, tonal and rhythm patterns using early learning and pre-reading concepts such as counting, direction (right/left), speed (fast/slow), dynamics (loud/quiet), sorting (shapes/colours). Class time alternated rapidly between singing, dancing, body plays, simple games, crafts, stories, listening activities, percussion play-along and ensembles.  For example, here’s the keyboard section: Each student takes turns to sing while pressing a key on a large sensory floor keyboard, teacher uses tactile visual aids (flashcards, storyboard, toys, props to demo “standing still” (same note) “stepping up” (moving up a scale), students then reinforce how to recognise and relate these notes, sounds and actions through worksheets, magnets, stickers, various manipulatives and games.

What we liked: Time flies! Concepts are presented and then reinforced in an array of learning styles – visual, auditory, kinesthetic, digital, analytical, etc. to engage your little learner. The repetition – listening, responding and singing – is effective as the kids were still talking about class days after the trial.

Check it out: If you’re looking for a fast paced, multi-sensory, early music class that emphasises verbal confidence and eventually composition. Regular students will receive a package that includes instruments and a comprehensive manual with singing, warm-ups, keyboard, listening, rhythm, and assignment sections. Give the code “FINALLYMAMA” for a special trial class and waiver of registration fee if you sign up. They also have an upcoming June music holiday camp – look for the FB promo in May.

2) Seimpi School of Music: MIM® Playtime class (2-3 years)
We joined an existing class which felt like a typical music and movement session with elements of their hallmark Music for the Intelligent Mind (MIM) programs like exposure to early note reading and key recognition, eye, ear, concentration and memory training.  For example, here’s the keyboard section: Each student takes turn to place stuffed animals on the black keys, then set and ring pitched desk bells on the white keys on a large floor mat, teacher reviews notes with a notation cloth, demos a few nursery songs, introduces a finger exercise song, and then guides each student individually to play simple pieces on a keyboard (there’s enough for each student).

What we liked: Exposure to note reading and proper playing techniques (i.e. using all fingers, not just your pointer) at an early age in a relaxed environment. Instead of solfège, students were introduced directly to notes (positioning) and keys (e.g. C-D-E).

Check it out: If you’re keen to start your child early on piano playing and theory, can commit to consistent follow up at home and have some music knowledge to do so. Regular students will receive two workbooks – activity (fundamentals) and piano playing book (beginner), with an audio CD.  Ask for a free trial – it’s an ongoing promo.

As for us, we enjoyed them and will revisit these schools when B turns 3 or so.  Meanwhile, they are an inspiration to continue with our home music learning 🙂

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Special Review and Offer: Bibinogs Free Trial and 50% Off Registration

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 BibinogsMandarin 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!

嘀嗒嘀嗒下雨啦!
嘀嗒嘀嗒下雨啦!

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 😉

Stars and moon mobile craft (now decorating the class)
Their stars and moon mobile craft decorating the class

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.

Learning
Learning “M” while making and mixing baby dough

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.

A typical classroom
A typical classroom

And now, a special offer for all Finally Mama fans – offer expires March 31, 2015
1) Use the code: FINALLYMAMA when you contact Bibinogs
2) FREE trial for ANY enrichment program
3) 50% off the registration fee if you decide to sign up for subsequent classes after the trial

This is a sponsored review. 

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To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul

Lately, B spontaneously calls out letters he recognises and sometimes sings the A-B-C Song while he pretends to “read” the print. Looks like he’s taking the next step to read WORDS on his own initiative, and not just recite from memory, vocalise or narrate what he sees. What a nice milestone for our brand new 2 year old 🙂 B’s also developed a list of places to ask for when we’re getting ready to go out. To my secret bookworm delight, we hear “go library and read book” almost every other day! Other regulars include “Bus stop and MRT?”, “play outside, playground, park”, “Botanic Gardens” (where he likes feeding the fish), “ama 公公”, “爷爷 奶奶” and his buddies’ “house”, “buy food at Fairprice” (we grocery shop together a lot), “ride toy car/train at shopping mall”, “music” and “Chinese class” (i.e. Kindermusik, Jiggle Wigs, Chengzhu). It’s encouraging to see all the time and effort in immersing him in a print and word-rich environment paying off – from getting his first library card at 7 weeks (!), daily newspaper browsing and storytimes, thematic flashcards if he wants to, and just when we relax, chat and read quietly together.

We couldn’t have done it without the network of public libraries in Singapore, notably the Bishan, Toa Payoh and Central NLB branches. The breadth and depth of parenting, baby and preschool books to toddler/family friendly activities is amazing AND free (or reasonable enough if you’re a foreigner). B’s been exposed to a wider range of authors, formats, topics – in both English and Chinese – than I ever was at his age. The books expand his vocabulary and imagination, plus save us money and reduce clutter with more informed buying (i.e. the read-everyday or hard-to-find ones) mainly online via The Book Depository and Fishpond, Read With Me Mommy and Flip For Joy (for Chinese/bilingual) or at the local Popular bookstores.

Last, a shout out to Fun With Tots, an ongoing series of six library workshops on print motivation, print awareness, phonological awareness, letter knowledge, narrative skills and vocabulary.  I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up with B, but was pleasantly surprised by the dedication of each of the librarians who prepared a handout of notes/resources and facilitated their topics with songs, books, parent/caregiver tips to keep everyone from adults to the little tots engaged. Even though it was close to bedtime (8p), B enjoyed each session and would say “go library at night”!  The only disappointment was that so few folks attended. It‘s ironic that parents prefer to spend money (sometimes up to ~$50-$100 per session) on enrichment classes based on early childhood experts, but can’t make time to visit the library or attend a hands-on workshop together (which BTW, costs $2 per 30 min session). Even if our kids attend daycare or preschool, or we work full time, we should still actively participate in fostering a love of reading, a thirst for knowledge and the capacity to imagine in our kids. Seeing is doing and believing. My dad was dubious when I wanted to borrow books on space for B … who liked it so much that he could name or describe all the planets in the solar system!

SO…. Head on over to your neighbourhood library and browse/borrow some books for the holidays.  You can also find out what’s going on at Bounce, the NLB channel dedicated to kids 0 to 12.  BTW, if like B, your kid is just learning his letters and enjoys music, take a look at all these alphabet songs and see what works best!

 
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. 
The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.” 
– Dr. Seuss, “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”

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Dem aching bones

A late recap post as September was a tiring month. Everyone in the household fell sick, helper was on home leave, hubby and grandparents were frequently away.  While regular laundry, home-cooked meals and toilet cleaning were somewhat neglected, holding down the fort (while sick too!) gave me a nice super-mom buzz and of course, a deeper appreciation for all dedicated caregivers and homeschooling moms out there…  Some days when a me-only holiday or even full time work seemed like a nice break (not in reality, I know), I turn to this article‘s quote: “The more time a mother can spend raising her kids, the better. The better for them, the better for their souls, the better for the community, the better for humanity. Period.”

That said, we still worked through a theme: OUR BODY, following B’s weekly Gymnademics home material as I had little time for much else. B even got “kicked up to the 2-3 years Fellows class a tad early (hope they don’t regret it!)

ABC:  We didn’t find a “wow” body book at the library as the many kids books were either too simple or too wordy.  So we revisited a few classic books and flash cards around the body, reinforced by simple craft on Saturdays with dad.


Our best activity:  Making our B-sized skeleton.  Mommy traced out B’s body on paper, drew and cut out the bones, while B painted it.  He loves greeting “skeleton” every morning and night, sticks food stickers in his mouth because it’s hungry.  All those bones must make him look quite thin!  Bonus: The skeleton makes a perfect profor Halloween 🙂


Music: Songs worked wonderfully in this theme!  Now that B actually sings (well, he strings all the words in a run-on-sentence), music really aids his recall and encourages him to move more parts of the body.  We’d been singing Head Shoulders Knees Toes for a while now, but he’s also responding more to the Chinese versions too (the ones in class have different, fun variations of 拍拍手).  This month, B picked up on a few more:

Outings:  It’s that time of year for birthday parties again!  Besides that, we tried to go outdoors as often as possible before the rainy season hits. We joined a few friends for a beach playdate, visited The Garden House (a new nature-themed preschool), went back to Gardens By The Bay for the Mid-Autumn Festival show, fed fish and picnic-ked out at Botanic Gardens, among others.

Personal
  • B truly started conversing in Chinese! 好棒 兴烨!
  • Started singing with words, not just sounds/tones (mainly in English): Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Row Row Row Your Boat, Hokey Pokey, Wheels On The Bus, Rain Rain Go Away, Happy Birthday, and snippets of everything else he hears around him. 
  • Tantrums remain infrequent and can be pre-empted as it’s usually related to (1) Too tired and don’t want to bathe before nap (2) Too hungry yet don’t want to give up his cars
  • Growing independence – he’s increasingly saying “Mama, B do” whether it’s drawing, stamping, reading, eating, choosing what to wear, etc.  Feels like my little boy wants to be a man too fast!  
  • Growth spurt!  One day he suddenly outgrew his 2 year sized shoes and pajamas. When we were at IKEA this week, we also discovered that he’s 90 cm – the “magic” height for entry into some playgrounds, and also, bus and MRT payments 😉  When did that happen?  He’d been seemingly stuck at 86 cm and just around 12 kg for the past few months

No time for flashcards?

This month, we covered TIME.  Thankfully, I managed to save time (hah!) searching for, making and adapting material for B as the theme coincided with the Gymnademics weekly home material.  It allowed us to reinforce numbers as B’s been sporadically saying 0 to 20 (in English) and 1-10 (in Chinese). We also dived into the concept of day and night, seasons and weather patterns as B loves pointing to the moon, sun, stars, rain, clouds, etc. 😉

Books. There are soooo many good books about time, numbers and weather. Reading books is even more fun now that he repeats most words and memorises familiar phrases that he likes. Here’s what worked well for us among the titles we could find in the library and had at home.

 
BTW, we really enjoyed “Only My Mom and Me” by Alyssa Satin Capucili which covers the days/seasons that a mom and child spend together.  But I had to return it to the library and haven’t bought it online yet 😦  Also, there’s many book-based activities from Margaret Wise Brown’s “Goodnight Moon,” a classic bedtime fave that shows how time passes before bed. Maybe we’ll try that in Sept….
Craft. We made a weather/week/time wheel to complement the theme.  B loves spinning it while saying the words and numbers. He’s also slowly learning how to manipulate the wooden clothespegs.
Music and Movement. When we reviewed the days and months, B would get stuck on Wednesday and had a tough time associating the months with “concrete” things.  These music videos helped! (Note: There are many out there online, these were the ones we liked more)  
 
Chinese?! One day, B re-discovered our stash of bilingual flashcards, gleefully exclaimed “WOW!” and brought them over to read together.  Whenever there’s time at home, he would open box after box to flip through. I try not to repeat the cards and end leaving him wanting more.  He tends to say the English word when he sees/hears me read out Chinese characters, but he does vocalise some Chinese, esp. those he hears frequently from songs, conversations and his first set of Chinese storybooks.
 
Art:  Since this was mommy’s first year as a Singaporean, we hosted a casual National Day BBQ, jet flypast and fireworks watching at our place. B excitedly says “boom boom fire” and “zoom zoom airplane when he sees his artist impression proudly displayed on the art wall 🙂
 
Outings and Special Projects: This month, B visited Megabugs Return! and the Science Center (rather underwhelming, seriously in need of upgrading), the Art Garden @ SAM (again!) and theIstana Open House for Hari Raya and National Day. We also returned to the Esplanade for Hello Ling, the second in the PLAYtime! series, which dramatised the effects of light or in B’s words “sunlight, starlight, moonlight … and rainbows!” To cap it all, B made his first (?) science discovery, i.e. a simplified “taugeh” project to grow green bean plants over time (i.e. the 7 days in a week) with the help of water, air and sunlight.
Personal:
– When asked “What’s your name?”  He’ll say it all in one run-on word “bwxy!”
– Mr Manners. B calls “Hi, Thank You, Please, Good Morning, Bye, Day, Night (and Sleep Tight)” if prompted though once in while we’ll get a spontaneous “Morning/Bye uncle/aunty!” while in the lift, charming our neighbours (and some strangers). The family tree will come in handy for those Chinese titles and names!

– Potty training steps.  B regularly voices when he needs to pee and poop, does it in the toilet more often and has fewer accidents. Even though we’ve not yet gone all-in (i.e. he wears diapers/trainers when sleeping and when outside for extended periods), this has been so encouraging for us all. Yes!
– Hello, tantrums. Our gentle, observant 21 month old B has finally succumbed to his undeveloped cortex 🙂 Thankfully the tantrums are not frequent and rather predictable (i.e. he’ll say “No like! No want!” or throw a fuss when he’s upset, tired at end of day or had a poor nap, or wants to be independent).  I guess a happy, stimulating and secure environment with a balance of love and discipline is no longer enough at this age! B needs his autonomy, and we should “never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”  Maria Montessori said this best
– Gimme freedom! That’s perhaps why B likes music and movement so much.  I flip through the newspaper with him in the mornings, let him choose how many and which books to read, have regular messy, art and music playdates.  As his vocabulary expands, he’s forming more and more 2-3 word phrases to better express himself and is gradually overcoming his shyness to say words in Chinese and Malay too
“Today is Monday” everyday according to B, and it’s a delightful day!