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. 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. 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: But 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.
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 …
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.
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 ….
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!
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.
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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B is reading! Actually reading.
I knew this moment would come, but I was still quite surprised when it did. His delight at putting letters and sounds together to read books (and in many cases, new words) is totally infectious. And so addictive, he’s even neglected his “first love” – vehicles that is, not his mommy! He still enjoys reading about them though, like this simple early readers series below.
Lately, he wants to read when he wakes, on the road, while eating, after school, before sleeping so besides lugging books around, we also play mommy’s “crack the code” game. All you need is a paper and pen, get them to decipher word sequences (e.g. TO, TOP, STOP; GO, GOD, DOG; WOO (our family name), WOOD, GOOD, FOOD, COOK, etc.), and if there’s time, especially those long family dinners out, ask them to make a story or draw a picture from all of that!
Best of all, this happened naturally. No pressure, no expectations. It’s been a fun journey to get to this point, yet I feel like we’re just at the end of the beginning. What we did was to start young (B had his first library card at 7 weeks!), surround him with books (we borrow more than we buy), highlight print in our daily environment, talk and read regularly together. I then followed his lead, introducing things at his own pace with help from our “village” of hands-on caregivers, a must-have for working moms. The grandparents who are avid library goers, and nursery teachers who reinforced phonics via Letterland, were open to suggestions beyond the “curriculum” – which lists reading as a 5 year old target. I also remember this book about language development that influenced my views with its easy yet systematic approach in the early years: From awareness, to recognition, from sight reading by memory, to pretend reading while tracking words, and finally, actual reading.
His breakthrough in English reading has also motivated us in Chinese. I want B to grow up effectively multilingual – but that hasn’t been as easy because we can’t replicate the basics at home: I’m not as comfortable reading and improvising in Chinese, no one else at home uses it regularly, and frankly, recognising Chinese characters relies heavily on memorisation. But since deciphering words gets B motivated lately, we’ve revived his interest using level-appropriate bilingual or hanyupinyin material. His Chinese is in the 0-3 year toddler range, unlike his English proficiency – a great reminder how important immersion is, and also how we need to customise and be flexible with our kids!
We repurpose Chinese flash cards as a game:
We look for interactive story and activity books that come with stickers, puzzles, tracing and number games. Some good ones can be found at Popular or through Flip For Joy:
Unfortunately with Chinese, there’s no easy “code to crack” so I’ve turned to enrichment for further immersion beyond his exposure in school and our limited time at home. There’s been slow though steady improvement, and we’re exploring new options this year. I’ll probably write more on this once we’ve experienced what works best. Meanwhile, as Chinese self-discovery doesn’t come so naturally for us, we try to build on words he’s learnt already or books he’s reading, like this early readers book series which has a page with hanyupinyin at the back for banana-mamas like me
And so our language journey continues. Along the way, we relish how reading unlocks his imagination and gets him thinking in new ways. For example: One of the first books we lap-read together when he was a baby was Herve Tullet’s “Press Here.” It’s since been a springboard to introduce colours, actions, Chinese, board games and even inspired his recent Art Jam at school.
Books are made of endless possibilities. Read on!
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Busy mama almost forgot that it’s hubby’s birthday today. Thanks to awesome tech, we whisked together a DIY birthday card just in time for a very special man when he came home from his overseas business trip.
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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:
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Where has the time gone?
As a full time working mom again, I need greater focus to go through the daytime schedule juggling work and family priorities (drop offs, pick ups, meetings). But I also relish the me-time, especially when I’m travelling, something I didn’t quite get when I was home 24/7. When I was away for ten days on an overseas trip, I was completely reassured that B is in good hands even though we both missed each other, grateful that our transition and support planning has worked out. What can’t ever be replaced though is TIME together. Our weekday mornings and evenings now just feel so rushed!
Speaking of time (or the lack of), I’m keen to carve out some quality mom-and-B time as we count down to the Christmas and New Year holidays. Last year we learnt about the gift of Christmas, that the season is not just about gifting but also the act of giving, and Jesus — God’s ultimate gift of life. As B had just turned two, he learnt Christmas carols, art and craft, how to pray for others and joined us in his first community service visit. Now that he’s three, we’re trying to be more intentional to cultivate his faith. We started by including him in our weekly cell group fellowship this past Friday night. We hadn’t consistently done that earlier because the group meets (too?) late. B was so excited before and after – though I’m not sure if it was due to extended time playing, hanging out with mommy and friends, or the extra special late bedtime 🙂
Meanwhile, I’ve also been compiling ideas to try this Advent season, though as usual, my wish list is far longer than in reality:
1) Devotional: Reading the bible is now a regular bedtime routine. B actually takes his beginners bible out and asks (insists!) on a story or two every night. As we’ve read through the Old Testament and most of the New Testament stories, this December, we’ll move to the One Year Devotions for Preschoolers book that we got from a friend.
2) Truth In The Tinsel: Designed for 3+ years, we’re trying it now as B has been introduced to the kids bible (see above) and can stay engaged on a home project over several days (see what we did for Teachers’ Day). Also, the Christmas tree is quite bare as I did a bit of spring cleaning and I’m sure B will happily oblige to add his art and craft stuff to it. The idea is to read a passage of Scripture, make a Christmas ornament and talk through the related narrative every day. The story or activity can be adapted as needed – to match B’s level, attention span, and our time together. We did a “trial” to replace the star for our tree, loosely based on a sample page from the e-book:
3) Advent Calendar: Last year, I recycled B’s artwork to make a wall calendar with clear plastic pockets to mark the 24 days till Christmas. Each day, we prayed for specific family, friends, those in need, our country and world, ending with the fruits of the spirit in our own lives. This calendar has since been used as a fun Letterland upper and lowercase matching game — I love craft that we can just repurpose.
HOWEVER, I’d love to make a new advent calendar which could double as a festive decoration too. Here are two DIY ideas that I like and find age-appropriate for toddlers: Toilet Paper Roll House and Scrapbook Gift Wrap Paper calendars. These could contain simple clues (for Truth In The Tinsel), scripture verses (from daily devotion), or just a list of fun yet meaningful activities or items each day.
4) Christmas books: This year, I hope to check out the titles in this reading list as we’ve found quite a few (still) available at the public libraries in Singapore. B also received a beginners Christmas piano song book from his aunt in California and we look forward to incorporate that into our regular home music sessions 🙂
Even if you don’t celebrate Advent but are keen to get some crafty time with the kid during the holidays, feel free to try these out, visit my pinterest board for more ideas, and of course share what you’re doing with us too. Happy Advent-uring!
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I first learned this poem by Usman Awang as a young student in Malaysia. As it turns out, the school’s Parent Support Group asked me to add a video message in Malay to our teachers tribute this year, so I read excerpts from this to them. As we celebrate Teachers’ Day (and for some of us, “enjoy” our kids’ day off), let’s remember the wonderful teachers who serve as our kid’s moms, dads and friends, who gently and patiently guide them along this journey of life.
I’ve said it before, B’s been blessed with great teachers since he started half-day preschool and subsequently, extended to full day childcare this year. In our own random emergent discussions, we came up with these ways to thank them: “read books”, “give stickers/flowers/cars (of course),” “sing/video” and “eat mooncakes” (hmm).
(2) Customised, hand-made thanksgiving trees: Given by the PSG on behalf of all parents and students to every teacher and staff
(3) Personalised bookmarks of B’s favourite things for his favourite teachers: We decided on bookmarks as B loves to read, it complemented the special bookstore voucher (thanks, NoQ!) included in the PSG gift bags, and allowed B lots of fun, easy customisation. It took us a few sessions as he kept wanting to add to it yet couldn’t sit and craft for more than 20-25 minutes each time. I’m so proud of his excitement and commitment to see it through!
Here’s how we did it: Cut out leftover, unused gift wrap in the desired bookmark shape and quantity. We stuck to rectangles as it’s easier for B to cut somewhat cleanly. On coloured card stock, stamp out the teachers’ names, working with your kid to identify the right letters (upper/lowercase), align and stamp in order! Cut them out, add double sided tape and stick them on top of the gift wrap paper.
B insisted on adding his face, so we used extra copies of his mugshot, sticking again with double-sided tape so that it doesn’t get too wet or messy. After that, we lined them up in the pouch and laminated them. I cut them out, let him punch the holes and thread the ribbons through, applied silicone glue to seal the ribbons – and viola!
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Singapore is blessed with many clean and safe public parks, and we usually frequent the green connectors linking the exercise and playground areas near school and home. When we heard about the latest and largest children’s garden in Singapore, we couldn’t wait to go although it’s a little far out from where we live. We liked it so much, we actually made it back THREE times this month (ok, one of those was for the Singapore Garden Festival). Here’s our experience for our next Fun For Free SG contribution.
The Far East Organization Children’s Garden offers a delightful blend of obstacle trails, water and sand playgrounds, all integrated with nature, and designed to be interactive for kids from 1 to 12 years old (and the young-at-heart adults). Staff and signboards are placed strategically to ensure both safe and fun play. For parents of very young kids, you’ll appreciate the efforts made to separate the rowdy youngsters from the rowdy toddlers 🙂
How to get there: See detailed directions here.
Closest carpark is at Satay By the Bay (open air) or Main Visitors. Conversely, if you take public transport, there is a free shuttle bus on weekdays that stops over at the Marina Bay, Downtown and Raffles Place MRTs.
Closed on Mondays for maintenance (same day as Jacob Ballas)
Tuesdays* to Fridays: 10 AM – 7 PM. Last admission at 6:30 PM. *Closed on Tuesday if a public holiday falls on the preceding Monday.
Weekends & Public Holidays 9 AM – 9 PM. Last admission at 8:30 PM
Low energy? Dying of thirst? Cranky kid? No fear. These are near:
1) Large covered amphitheatre overlooking both water play areas where you can bring your own food and drinks
2) Children’s Garden Cafe which has alfresco seating by the Toddler Play Zone (playground and water), open at the same hours as the park, serves drinks, snacks or a light meal (Asian and Western)
3) Satay By The Bay, a short scoot or walk away. Also, the place to park your car if driving. Stalls are open from 8a – 11p
This is part of a blog train on Singapore’s Fun For Free places dedicated to anyone who’s ever needed to think about “where to bring the kids today?” Next up is Elizabeth, a mother to three rambunctious kids. She wifes, moms and writes at motherkao.com. Her family of five can be found at Terminal 3 almost every weekend because apart from not needing to have to queue for long to get dinner there, her kids get to do fun things for free while she indulges in GST-free shopping.
Visit all 31 Fun for Free train stops here:
1 Aug: Tiong Bahru Park by Gingerbreadmum
2 Aug: Queenstown Heritage Trail by Princess Dana Diaries
3 Aug: Jurong Regional Library by Finally Mama
4 Aug: Singapore Maritime Gallery by Peipei Haohao
5 Aug: Singapore Philatelic Museum by Kids R Simple
6 Aug: Sculptures of Singapore by Gingerbreadmum
7 Aug: Fire Station by The Js Arena
8 Aug: Esplanade + Merlion by Prayerfull Mum
9 Aug: Bukit Batok Nature Park by Meeningfully
10 Aug: Lower Pierce Reservoir Park by The Kam Family
11 Aug: I12 Katong – water playground by Universal Scribbles
12 Aug: IMM by Mad Psych Mum
13 Aug: Tampines 1 Water Playground by Amazingly Still
14 Aug: Sengkang Riverside Park by Itchy Finger Snap
15 Aug: East Coast Park by Toddly Mummy
16 Aug: Sembawang Shopping Centre Playground by Joey Craftworkz
17 Aug: Animal resort by Raising Faith
18 Aug: Botanic Gardens by Mum’s The Word
19 Aug: Police Heritage Centre by Mummy Ed
20 Aug: Venus Loop, MacRitchie by Scrap Mum Loft
21 Aug: Road Safety Park by Miracule
22 Aug: Marina Barrage by J Babies
23 Aug: Gardens By The Bay, Children’s Garden by Finally Mama
24 Aug: Changi Airport T3 by Mother Kao
25 Aug: Pockets of Nature by Mum in the Making
26 Aug: Changi Airport T1 by Growing with the Tans
27 Aug: Pasir Ris Park by Ingspirations
28 Aug: Gardens by the Bay Supertree Grove by My Lil Bookworm
29 Aug: Vivocity Play Area by Amazingly Still
30 Aug: Punggol Promenade by Chubby Anecdotes
31 Aug: Westgate Wonderland by Xavvylicious
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
So here’s to you, my little big baby, who’s becoming a big little boy. Love you to the moon and back!
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!
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.
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.”
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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