Category Archives: language

Nothing says it better than your kid

I tried this “how well do you know mom” interview with B, and his honest and hilarious answers melted my heart today.

My mommy’s name is Mei
She is 19 years old
Mom and I like to paint and play
Mom likes to say I love you
My mom really loves me
She likes to eat ice kacang
She likes to drink tea
My mom’s job is to help me
If she had time, she would like to play with me
Mom is really good at typing
If I could go anywhere in the world with her, we would take roller coasters in Japan
I love my mom because she loves me

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I also had a flashback to the past when us CRIB founders were interviewed for a Mother’s Day feature last year. Here’s the coverage 🙂

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms – you are indispensable super women!  And for those trying to conceive and/or moms to be, take care of yourselves, and while we trust and hope for a future to come, don’t neglect to live fully in the now.  Hugs.

For updates, reviews and more, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.

Counting down

At one of the year-end parties lately, I was asked if I’ve enrolled B in any math or english enrichment classes, now that he’s starting kindergarten? Honestly, I was a bit surprised and then had a little kiasu moment! I started thinking: What head start are other local school-going kids getting?  How can B grow to love and excel in math and science? Will he face stiff pressure in a country where students have come out tops in the TIMSS international math and science assessment for years now?

Well, I don’t have all the answers to my questions but I do know that since he was a wee baby, math was part of our daily talk and B enjoys books, art and activities like puzzles that involve math. He’s developed decent number sense, ability to sort, compare magnitude, and sequence patterns.  He’s getting better at (re)constructing, and spatial awareness in describing, acting, drawing or writing out locations and directions. He’s also building familiarity with number bonds through DIY manipulatives and games like our recent ping pong ball roll, as well as reading and writing numerals and numbers in English and Chinese.

We “talk math” all the time, be it tracking the dump trucks we pass along the highway, counting the number of kids that need high chairs, figuring out the change from the drink stall aunty, identifying patterns in modern art when we visit museums, guesstimating how many gingerbread men can be cut from the rolled dough and how many baking trays are needed. He’s also getting exposed to decimals when I time how fast he can wear his own clothes, fractions after reading the The Gingerbread Man book and eating away parts of his own cookie …

IMG_0120… and even subtraction by counting down the days till Christmas!

Most recently, B is also learning how to tell time (analog, not digital), nicely reinforced in Chinese by Sparkanauts too!

Perhaps Singapore math requires much more than what we’ve done so far, and maybe B might have received a more structured approach in a Montessori school, but I’m glad we’ve laid some basics in place in an organic, hands-on way. To quote Mark Twain, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”  How have you helped your pre-schooler and primary going kid in math?

For more updates and reviews, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.

Special Review and Offer: Sparkanauts Leyun 乐云 Chinese program

Does your kid find it hard to sit still in class? 
Do you want to do more together, but have no idea where to start?
Do you wish your kid had better exposure to Chinese than you did?

We do.  Before B started preschool, hubby and I would take him to Sparkanauts every weekend.  We loved the energetic pace, observant teachers, stimulating environment and thoughtful curriculum designed for parent and child bonding, in and out of class.  We were also inspired to try many theme-based extension activities at home together, and I attribute B’s interest in science today to the exposure we both had in his early years.

When we found out that Sparkanauts was planning a Chinese program, we were thrilled. Finally! A place where kinesthetic learners – like B – won’t feel left out, bored or discouraged with Chinese. Having been involved in their initial pilots, we are really pleased to share that the Leyun 乐云 Chinese program officially launches this August. There are different classes for 18 months and up; each class embraces a holistic approach with a range of physical, intellectual and social activities to grow our kids’ awareness, appreciation and understanding of Chinese.

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A truly immersive experience – from craft to cooking to culture. This type of active participation that doesn’t seek a perfect “result” keeps them learning and engaged positively
Little touches, big difference. The weekly booklet contains an update to parents in English on what they did from the book of the month, with suggested reading and writing activities, and Chinese words and phrases (with hanyupinyin!) to reinforce.

I was surprised to receive this video of B sitting down to trace and write characters. Mama didn’t write Chinese characters till primary school, and had no idea what these strokes were called then.

Details on the three different class offerings plus a very special giveaway are included below.

Curious Class (乐班)
Age Group: 18 months to 30 months old
Parent/Caregiver Accompanied
Duration: 75 Minutes
Frequency: Once a week. Tues 3PM, 430PM. Wed 130PM. Thurs 245PM. Fri 230PM.

Objective: The child will be exposed to the Mandarin language in a natural, fun environment. They will enjoy speaking, singing and reading in Mandarin as they are introduced to the language.

What to Expect:
– Thematic learning
– Mandarin Music and Movement
– Rhythmic Sing along
– Gross Motor Play
– Dramatic Show and Tell
– Craft
– Story Time
– Snack Time

Witty Class (飞跃班)
Age Group: 3 years – 5 years
Drop Off (Non-Accompanied Class)
Duration
: 60 Mins
Frequency: Once a week. Wed 5PM, Thurs 430PM, Fri 1PM

Objective: This program adopts a story-based learning approach to engage the sense of fun and adventure in your child, helping them to learn more about the world around them. They will be introduced to key words (nouns, verbs, adjectives) on a weekly basis that will enable them to read the book of the month. Children will be introduced to basic Mandarin strokes and successfully write commonly used Mandarin words in this program.

What to Expect:
– Book based learning
– Mandarin Music and Movement
– Gross Motor Play
– Introduction to Chinese Idioms
– Writing in Mandarin
– Craft

Bilingual Class  (双语班)
Age Group: 3 years – 5 years
Drop Off (Non-Accompanied Class)
Duration
: 1.5 hours
Frequency: Once a week. Tues 1PM, Thurs 1PM.

Objective: This program adopts a story-based learning approach to engage the sense of fun and adventure in your child, helping them to learn more about the world around them. Children will also be introduced to the story in English, and their comprehension skills are further developed during the English segment of the class. They will be introduced to Mandarin key words (nouns, verbs, adjectives) on a weekly basis that will enable them to read the book of the month. Children will be introduced to basic Mandarin strokes and successfully write commonly used Mandarin words in this program.

What to Expect:
– Book based learning (English and Mandarin)
– Mandarin Music and Movement
– Gross Motor Play
– Introduction to Chinese Idioms
– Writing in Mandarin
– Craft

Experience the difference for yourself!

We are offering TWO complimentary trial passes to any Sparkanauts Leyun Chinese class at Toa Payoh SAFRA, valued at $48 each. Please visit the Rafflecopter link here and follow the steps to stand a chance to win.  Giveaway ends Friday, 7 August 2015.

From now until 6 August 2015, Sparkanauts is also running the following promotion:
1. Special trial class price at $10 (U.P. $48)
2. Parents who sign up for the package after the trial will enjoy the pre-launch promotional 10 sessions package price of $398 (U.P. $458) for Witty and Curious Class, and $498 (U.P. $550) for the Bilingual class. The pre-launch package price will be locked in as long as the child continues with the programme
3. Waiver of registration fees (U.P. $68)

For more updates, reviews and giveaways, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.  Views expressed here are solely my own.  We really do love Sparkanauts… and the water playground after class! 🙂 

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 

For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

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!

For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

Linking up with:

Xavvy-licious   new button

Special Review and Offer: Books for Fathers’ Day (15% off NoQ)

Fathers’ Day is coming soon on June 15! If you’re looking for something simple yet meaningful for dear old dad, why not get a book or two? I love seeing daddy read with B at the end of the day (if we’re lucky) or on weekends. Besides, when they’re bonding, mama catches some me-time too!

No time?  With NoQ, the e-commerce arm of Times Publishing Asia, you can now browse and buy awesome yet affordable books for your little ones online – with just a click (or two) of the mouse. NoQ offers competitive prices with free local delivery within 2 weeks for orders above SGD$25, and you beat the queue … coz there’s none! (No-Q, get it?). Members also receive newsletters with recommendations and occasional  too. What’s more, our readers get 15% off now till August 31, 2014 with the code “FINALLYMAMA”

To help you get started, here’s our top 10 picks for daddy and your little preschooler (0-6 years) – just in time for Fathers’ Day. Click on each title to buy directly from the NoQ store.

I Love My Daddy by Giles Andreae

An amusing, touching and heart-warming look at the special relationship between father and child from the bestselling author Giles Andreae with Emma Dodd’s charming and vibrant artwork. Together with the award-winning I Love My Mummy, these books are bedtime favourites with B as the examples are so endearing and true to life with this mom and dad.

Just Like My Dad by David Melling

A simple and sturdy board book which speaks to so many father / child relationships. A humourous, touching tale for anyone who has ever idolized their father – even if they are moody, lazy and good at pretending to be busy.  Sound like someone you know and love?

Spot Loves His Daddy by Eric Hill

We’ve been reading the Spot lift-the-flap series since B was a teeny infant. In this book, whether playing ball in the park, feeding the ducks, or reading bedtime stories, Spot and his Daddy are great buddies. A nice reminder for kids who don’t necessarily get to see or spend much time with their dads.

Baby’s Box of Family Fun

Everybody in Baby’s family loves Baby! Four lift-the-flap books about babies and their very special family members: Where Is Baby’s Mommy? Daddy and Me Grandpa and Me Grandma and Me. Get the whole set for daddy AND grandpa too 🙂

Daddy’s Home by Roseanne Parry

This book revels in the excitement of a young child welcoming Daddy home at the end of his day. The visual narrative shows Daddy unwinding from work as a parallel to the bedtime rituals of a young child. This sturdy little book with whimsical illustrations evokes the precious hours that many fathers share with their children each evening.  This has special meaning for us as dad works quite late and as often away, so the times when he DOES come home early enough is cause for celebration!  And a good book like this 🙂

Because I Am Your Daddy by Sherry North

How much do fathers love their children? Enough to fly them to school in a plane? Enough to dig for the biggest dinosaur the world has ever known? From exploring dark caves to leading a marching band to even being a space alien, a father’s love is unconditional, and he will do anything to make sure all of his child’s dreams come true. The dynamic duo of Sherry North and Marcellus Hall team up once again to treat parents and children to a story that celebrates affection with imagination.

The Daddy Book by Todd Parr

The Daddy Book celebrates all different kinds of dads and highlights the many reasons they are so special. Whether your dad walks you to school or walks you to the bus, whether he wears suits or two different socks, whether he has a lot of hair or a little (heee), Todd Parr assures readers that no matter what kind of daddy you have, every father is special in his own unique way. With his trademark bold, bright colours and silly scenes, kids will learn that while no two dads are exactly alike, ‘all daddies love to hug and kiss you’, and that is what is so special about them!

My Daddy’s Footsteps by Francois Barcelo

Some very sensible ideas as well as some far-fetched ones can run across the mind of a child who is waiting for dad to show up for dinner. Did he lose his cell phone or is he racing a camel? Is he in a snowstorm, or the victim of a magical spell? Readers will be excited to learn whether dad makes it to dinner after all. This one hits home too as B now constantly asks (and sometimes, answers his own) questions such as “Where’s dada? Is dada at work?”

Up on Daddy’s Shoulders by Matt Berry

This was the book that started B’s endless requests for a ride “up on dada’s shoulders” whenever we go out now. Matt Berry’s sweet story of a little boy and his daddy is brought to life by Lucy Corvino’s classic, vivid illustrations. “Up on Daddy’s shoulders, I’m the happiest kid in the world!”

Why I Love My Daddy by Daniel Howarth

A heartwarming book featuring children’s own words and animal illustrations, this is the perfect book to say, I love you, Daddy!  Everyone’s daddy is the best. And who better to tell the world than children themselves?  This charming book combines endearing things said by children about their fathers with gentle illustrations of familiar animals. The text is amusing and insightful, with reasons why daddies are loved by their children ranging from ‘because he tickles me’ to ‘because he is my best friend’. With beautiful pictures and charming words from children all about daddies, it’s just right to give to Dad and to read together!

Bonus for the really wee ones:  Where Is Daddy?

Help your child look for daddy throughout this bright, fun lift-a-flap book. Age-appropriate, simple line drawings and bold primary colours keep the child’s attention throughout the hide-and-seek adventure. At the end, find your daddy in the vinyl pocket attached to the last page where a personalised photo can be inserted.

This is a sponsored review.  For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

Let’s go to Letterland!

Since B started N1 (nursery) in January, he hasn’t stopped singing about Letterland.  To find out more, we borrowed some Letterland library books. But it wasn’t till this weekend, when a few of us “lucky” parents attended a workshop by the school, that I finally understood what B’s been going on about every week … !

Let's go to Letterland!
With Letterland, children are taught the shapes and sounds of letters by assigning them to imaginary pictogram characters living in a fictional land. Letterland engages children across all learning methods (visual, kinesthetic, auditory, speech) with songs, stories, actions, hands-on activities and even online software.  The stories also creatively and thoughtfully explain the reasoning behind sounds, shapes, reading and writing direction for individual letters, blends and digraphs.  This makes it easier and more intuitive when kids progress to word building, reading and writing. Overall, Letterland is a comprehensive synthetic phonics and story-based system. When first introduced, the songs also link back to the alphabet names so that kids who already know their alphabet won’t get confused.  Thumbs up for a  fun, memorable AND informative approach.  Read here for more.

Since the workshop, I’m re-motivated to support his Letterland learning at home. We’ve done various letter-related activities, e.g. collages, playdough, flashcards, tracing with feelers (glitter glue, sandpaper, ink, any tactile item that starts with the same letter). And of course, Letterland library books. Here are the early years ones:

Letterland library books
Letterland library books (baby/jp section)

Our most recent DIY project was this large Letterland tree aka a big wall pocket poster (at B’s height) to reinforce the characters and letters in both upper and lowercase. For now, we use it for letter recognition and identification as B tries to match them correctly as he sings and says the right sounds:

Dippy Duck says 'd..., d...'
Dippy Duck says ‘d…, d…’

Here’s how we made it:  Cut out some old artwork in small rectangles for the base and use double sided tape to stick plastic pockets on (you can use card organiser / collector sheets from Popular). Print out Letterland letters and characters (official downloads from here), laminate and cut out individual letters and add blu-tak to the back so they stick easily.

Making our Letterland tree
Making our Letterland tree

Most phonics systems can be taught from ~18 months on, or earlier if your child has interest (see our first attempt with zoo-phonics). While phonics isn’t the only way to learn to read, and shouldn’t be something you “force” on any kid, it’s quite effective if you’ve got a child who’s interested in words from the books and print (s)he’s exposed to everyday.  Even if you’ve no time for lots of crafty, highly engaged projects, consider enhancing your preschooler’s learning with BOOKS and if needed, educational material from online distributors like NoQ, Elm Tree or the many free downloads and printables online. A wonderful world of words that will feed their knowledge and imagination lies ahead once they “crack the code.” Happy reading!

For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Instagram.

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 🙂

For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

Special Review and Giveaway: Flip For Joy Books (Bilingual)

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 🙂

不行,危险!
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!

不行,危险!
不行,危险!

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!”

Crocodiles Don't Brush Their Teeth
Crocodiles Don’t Brush Their Teeth

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!

点点点 Dot Dot Dot
点点点 Dot Dot Dot

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)

翻翻翻 : 动物,果蔬,交通工具,日常用品
翻翻翻 : 动物,果蔬,交通工具,日常用品

幼儿双语绘本(7册) (bilingual)
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).

幼儿双语绘本
幼儿双语绘本

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:

我家在哪里?
我会数一数
我会数一数

Just CLICK HERE to enter the giveaway and follow these steps:
1) Like Finally Mama on Facebook
2) Like Flip For Joy on Facebook
3) Tell us below what you like about Flip For Joy

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.

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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