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 …
… 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?
We’ve spent more weekends indoors than we’d like lately, but the good thing is, B has had more time to play his cars, trucks and trains, draw and write, practice violin, of course, craft with mom.
The DIY ping pong ball runs with toilet paper rolls has been a regular activity at home. But this year, inspired by a fellow mom blogger, I decided to use this to reinforce addition. Here’s how we did it:
Start storing your rolls! Even with a 5 person household (+ grandparents!), we could only do enough for numbers 1-5 to start.
Find a board that’s big and sturdy enough, preferably as tall as the kid and sufficiently wide so that you can do a lot of creative (and long) runs. We used our TV box – as we’d just upgraded our ancient flat screen TV in time for our SG50 NDP party.
Cut some into half lengthwise, and a few others into half heightwise. The longer halves will be used for the ramps while the shorter rolls as your numbered “holders” or entry points.
Get the kiddo to help you paint the box and rolls. We didn’t have much time, and B was eager to get rolling, so we just painted 10 short rolls and numbered them from 1 to 10. He could do all of this by himself now – another plus!
Start sticking them onto the box, testing the roll as you go along. By now, B could also figure out where to put things and we had fun cutting out the tape and placing them together.
On a separate paper / nearby easel, put together the sums for them to do. We started from the basics, i.e. 1+1= ? to 1+5 =?, which B already knew from finger counting, so he could draw the connection from adding the balls.
Start rolling based on the sums that you see, e.g. for 1+3, put 1 ball in the #1 holder, and 3 balls in the #3 holder, check how many balls land in the box to see if you got the sums right!
Get the kiddo to write the answer down. Good practice here 🙂
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 Bibinogs‘ Mandarin 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!
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 😉
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.
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.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! This advent season, I wanted to impress on B the true meaning of Jesus’ birth and how it is not just about gifting but also the act of giving, and God’s ultimate gift of life. Although it was hard to break free from all the commercialism, we found a few simple ways to reflect this while still doing our fair share of Christmas mall hopping 🙂
We made an advent calendar from B’s artwork with clear plastic pockets to mark the 24 days, which was December 1 to 24 this year. I liked how this simple template could be re-used many times for things like learning numbers, letters, words, days and months, etc. Each day, we prayed for specific family, friends, those in need, our country and world, ending with the fruits of the spirit — which B coincidentally learned in Sunbeam (Sunday School) year. On Christmas morning, we visited a single mother of 5 kids as part of our church’s community blessing project before joining our cell group for food and carols. I look forward to more fun, faith-based activities as he grows up. For 2014, we could try this weekly series based on proverbs, more on the fruits or even try working through this catechism as our church’s awesome new Devotional Journal weekly family section doesn’t quite work for young tots.
Of course, we also covered the usual Christmas craft and books. Between work, colds, family visits, playdates, parties and our year end holiday to Hong Kong, we couldn’t complete a nativity project or join many church events. After reading some books and our toddler bible, B recalls the nativity story by acting out a pregnant mama (Mary), old hunched men with presents (three wise men) and a wailing baby (Jesus)…. It’s a start I guess 😉
As for craft, this time around I let him try cutting, gluing, threading (punched holes around the art), and letter tracing (glued glitter on words). We started with a Christmas star for the tree, stockings and poinsettas. We used the remaining painted rolls to make a turkey for a friend’s Thanksgiving dinner.
Wreath with holly, berries and gingerbread men
(Grandma made those cute origami mini-Santa Clauses)
Sticking ornaments on a car track painted Christmas card for his cousin
Home-made watercoloured ornaments 🙂
Rudolph the red nosed reindeer
B in a snow globe
Collage art of peace, love and joy – the last 3 days in our advent calendar
Turning 2 has been a tipping point with some of the worst and best developments to date. B started shrieking for attention, tipping over his bowl/plate/cup when almost done (sooo annoying!), had bouts of skipped naps, early waking and general crankiness throughout the day. On the plus side, his interest in print (numbers and letters) keeps growing. He correctly spells out most words in big letters, is getting better at small letters, loves counting as well as spotting numerals. To my delight, soon after his birthday, he finally started singing. In tune! All the time! What was previously a monotone rap transformed into spontaneous singing and dancing to favourite songs and those he hears often (i.e. Jingle Bells). I even caught him singing nursery songs that I used to hum to him as a baby. Quite amazing what our kids retain at this age!
This Thursday, B will start half-day nursery, with mommy joining for a few hours/days before transitioning to a complete drop-off. I got him a personalised preschooler book, and also printed out photos of his new school to add to our scrap book to get him familiar with the concept. It’s encouraging that the school also focuses on being global citizens, i.e. donating for charity and recycling for art. Here’s hoping B’s new preschool journey will be even more rewarding and fun than it’s been with mommy and me so far.
When “teaching,” have fun. Tell your kid how great he is, how much you love him … often!
How to teach your baby to read:
Only humans can read
Words must be large, clear, repeated enough, presented enthusiastically
The more speed, the more new material, the more joy, the better
Suggested sequence: Commonly used words, self/body, home objects, baby’s possessions, foods, animals, actions, colours, modifiers (pairs, opposites), x is a/an/the y z (e.g. “Mango is a sweet yellow fruit”)
Suggested approach: Start with 25 words – 5 new ones 3x/day, mix order. Remove one word/day after 1 week. 5 steps: Single words => couplets => phrases => sentences => books
Note: I’m already reading books and flashing words with B but like the sequencing and approach which makes more sense than following the alphabet. After all, what does “A” or “Z” really mean?!
How to teach your baby encyclopedic knowledge;
Suggested approach: Show 10 cards, 10 sec, 3 consecutive days. Intro related facts and sub-categories, list 1 to 12 magnitude of knowledge, expande on sub-categories
Suggested categories: biology, history, geography, music, art, math, human physiology, general science, language, literature
Note: Instead of following Doman’s (excessively) detailed “bits of knowledge” specs, I may start a digital catalog instead (on iPad/Windows 8 tablets?). This is environmentally friendly, cost efficient with unlimited capacity given the ample real-life beautiful pictures and facts available online
How to teach your baby math
Intro with the facts vs intro “laws” i.e. numerals and symbols
Science = branch of knowledge dealing with a body of facts systematically arranged to show the operation of laws
Suggested 5 step approach:
Quantity recognition: Use dots and patterns to intro 1 to 20