Category Archives: geography

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 🙂

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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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Recreating natural disasters

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 …

Books

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.
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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 ….
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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!
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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.
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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.

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Christmas in Bali and advent-ures at home

This past advent celebration and annual family holiday was especially fun and meaningful.  B retains and expresses so much more now PLUS the grandparents joined us throughout, resulting in lots of inter-generational fun, bonding (and free babysitting!).

First, our trip to Bali, the land of a thousand temples and a million smiles.  Although I’m saddened by the recent Air Asia crash, I’m grateful that the weather was fine during our visit.  After playing tourist the first two days (Kintamani volcanoes, Ubud rice terraces, fruit and luwak coffee plantations, Kuta shopping, Nusa Dua beaches, Gianyar elephant rides and Uluwatu temples), we lazed around the hotel pool and waterfront for the next two days.  Speaking Bahasa helped us secure a good local driver at 75K Rph per day (vs the 100-120K tourist/hotel rate). I was also relieved that food was not an issue from the 3 year old boy to the 70 year old vegetarian grandma, and everyone indulged my quest for the best bebek in Bali – usually alfresco with paddy field views and no aircon (sorry, hubby)  We had some me-time and couple-time too, although B woke up super early due to the early sunrises in Bali, and rolled off his large day bed in the middle of the night (!) Here’s to the fond memories:

Next, a recap of our crafty advent-ures since this post at the start of December.  With a fair bit of localisation and improvisation, we managed to work through most of Truth In A Tinsel, establish our nightly devotion (which co-incidentally reinforced calendar, dates and months), and pulled off some easy yet oh-so-pretty art and craft too!  Details are posted on my Pinterest board and in real time on Instagram. Here were our favourites:

We painted and glued a mini Christmas tree that conveniently stored all our advent clues (from Truth In The Tinsel this year). Using double sided tape, B also added "baubles" as a finishing touch
We painted and glued toilet paper rolls to form a mini Christmas tree, which conveniently stored all our advent clues too (from Truth In The Tinsel this year). Using double sided tape, B also added “baubles” as a finishing touch
Tape a bunch of toilet paper rolls together, print out letters ands shapes. Paint, decorate and peg away!
Tape a bunch of toilet paper rolls together, print out letters ands shapes. Paint, decorate, tie a string and peg away!
A toilet paper roll classic, that recycles all that wrapping paper. Stuff the rolls with little gifts (and torn confetti), wrap, tape and tie the ends with pretty ribbons
A toilet paper roll classic, that recycles all that wrapping paper. Stuff the rolls with little gifts (and torn confetti), wrap, tape and tie the ends with pretty ribbons
Perfect for kid gift exchanges, select cutters, paint and stamp away
Perfect for kid gift exchanges, select cutters, paint and stamp as and where you like
B's in a painting, gluing and cutting phase, so that's what we did with the ornaments
B basically painted, glued and cut all his advent ornaments

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Warp speed ahead

My month long (un)common cold resulted in an excessive white blood count which was double the average and one day in A&E when all my joints were inflammed!  I finally caved in to see doc #1 who cleared B and I of bronchitis, but gave me antibiotics and allergy/congestion meds that I reacted badly to…. this led me to doc #2 who found some lung tissue scarring from my x-ray but nothing critical after various tests. He then prescribed painkillers, even more antibiotics and asked me to stop the previous meds. After 1 week of pill-popping and clinic hopping, I’m feeling closer to normal again.

Besides that, October turned out to be a full-on month of milestones and learning through play with B.  Even though I’m with him almost all the time, his growth spurts still amaze me, not just physically, but also how well he picks up vocabulary and grammar.  After accomplishing a task on his own (like his jigsaw puzzles), he claps and says “Yay! Good job, B!” or if he’s cheeky, “pandai boy” \o/ At breakfast one day, he placed his toy kangaroo on the table and said “Kangaroo watch B and mama eat pancake” and “daddy go 运动, then work” when dad went for his morning gym workout.  While in the car, he describes what he sees on the road and at times, will launch into a narrative, mainly on vehicles (of course), e.g. “Fire engine park in fire station, make loud noise nee-nah-nee-nah, lights go blink blink, firemen put out fire, many smoke, hot!”

We covered Geography and Astronomy which mommy and B thoroughly enjoyed.  We looked at continents, oceans, water and land formations, and then, our solar system. He started asking questions about rivers, stars and satellites … hence, the odd mix.

Books – this time, the library selection was quite good:

 

 

 

 

 

 
Art and craft:

Map of the world on a paper plate (rubber band = equator between the hemispheres)
Ocean/rockpool diorama, using a re-cycled shoebox
Penguins and icebergs in Antartica
Land and water formations (can also use for clay modelling)

 

 

 

 

 

And last but not least, space: the final frontier – a perfect opportunity to learn comparatives and superlatives, i.e. planet Earth is smaller than Saturn, Mercury is the smallest, Jupiter is the biggest. Now he applies these words in all sorts of situations 🙂

Solar system puzzle
Space sand art
Space sand art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This month was also about confidence building and independence. He started to enjoy scooting on the YBike glider which we have on loan from a friend.  He’s walking his balance bike, an early birthday gift from 爷爷.  He even climbed out of his toddler cot bed once, alarming everyone! B grew more cautious climbing since that incident while I placed his large foam playmat under the bed until we switch him to a kid bed (or just a mattress). And on a bittersweet note, B got off the waitlist for N1 next January – it’s a half day, drop off for the year they turn 3. Lots of implications there, some of which I’m still processing internally.

Wheeee!

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