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!
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.
Last month, B swam a few proper strokes with his face down and holding his breath in the water. No big deal, right? Yet something this trivial was a breakthrough after years of stops and starts.
B loved water since young, and I was so inspired by this book, I tried to follow it but failed miserably. Our swim time together was constantly interrupted with my string of early miscarriages, full time work, frequent travel, and lack of “substitutes” – aka the grandparents who also faced several health setbacks. That led to a 1.5 year hiatus where B lost water confidence and regressed to saying “I can’t swim,” “don’t want to wet my face” and “too scared.” At parties, B’s friends would dive in pools and take big water slides, and he’d feel left out… So this year, we decided to try again. I intentionally planned more water play, bath tub or pool time together, and hubby signed them both up for Saturday morning class, which proved great 1-on-1 time to bond too. There were happy tears when he passed his latest Duckie level last month, and is transitioning to learn freestyle and breaststroke – swimming on his own!
Taking the plunge
B’s journey to learn to swim made me think about my journey to learn to love in our marriage. As we celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary today, I’m reminded how tough marriage is when you bring two imperfect people together in an imperfect world. We start highly motivated with great intentions and textbook ambitions but life’s ups and downs get in the way. We tend to compare with others, only to feel shortchanged or discouraged. We lose faith and confidence, think and eventually say negative things. We’re tempted to quit after all the pit stops and detours as the effort seems too time consuming, emotionally draining, isolating – and too often, not worth it.
How I really feel sometimes
How I want to feel
But the breakthrough comes when we presevere. Be it a challenging milestone or moments in marriage, don’t give up for it’s never too late to turn things around.
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!
Today, I’m thankful that B has handled his “growing up” transitions well: Sleeping through the night, feeding himself, nursery drop-off, potty training, settling quickly for mid-day naps, and now, moving to a junior bed. Sure, there are challenging days, but when I speak to other moms, I feel grateful because our experience has been TOTALLY by grace and luck, and not due to any different or better parenting methods on my end.
Just before B turned 2, he climbed out of his cot, and landed on his bum! We figured if you can’t stop him, teach him how to do it right – so we showed him how to climb out and land safely in the interim. However, after a few more attempts, B lost interest in “escaping” and I delayed any major changes as we were adjusting to nursery drop-off earlier this year. Meanwhile, we’d read and talk about big boys sleeping in big beds, and also show B his friends’ new beds or mattresses. Between 18 months to 2.5 years, most of his buddies had already switched – with mixed results – to make way for a new sibling, prevent bumps and falls, replace a smaller crib, etc.
We left his current convertible cot bed as is (it fits a 70 x 140 cm mattress) … until now! Sometime last month, he kept asking to “lower bed, go out” and would start yelling for “mama, mama” if no one comes fast enough once he woke up. It dawned on me that B is taking the initiative, that he’s able to settle and sleep on his own and to play safely when he’s up. Even hubby noticed it! So this weekend, we dropped one of his cot sides, installed the portable bedrail that we got months ago and let him have fun climbing up and down.
So far, B eagerly gets into his newly converted “junior bed” after we read and pray together at night. He still sleeps well (thankfully!), generally wakes up happy, wishes us a “good morning” and now, gets his milk from the kitchen, sings and plays around the house until we’re all ready to start our day together. His independence is amazing to see and I pray these smooth transitions continue for a long while 🙂
We introduced B’s first sticker reward chart last month and it’s become an ongoing work of art and lesson in self-control for all of us. The sticker chart tackled two areas that I felt were within B’s reach but he wasn’t consistent and/or disciplined enough about:
1) Self feeding and sitting down for meals (snacks not included) – I was so excited when B would use his spoon or fork to eat porridge, yogurt, oats/cereal, fruits around 16 months. He’d eat pretty much everything in his first 2 years. Alas, that didn’t last 😦 Now there are times when a mealtime battle looms, sometimes for a reason (sick), sometimes for no reason (aka #terrific2s). Besides stickers, I’ve tried reducing snacks, reasoning with him, even a “join us, eat what you can.” When B eats slowly and gets picky, he still needs prompting and bite-sized food to make it easier (and faster), but all this has helped without needing a rotan! Yet.
2) Going to the potty – B started gradual potty training around 18 months. We first introduced potty books and a standalone potty, then wore trainers at home, moved to a kids potty seat (on the big seat) by 2 years as he was tall enough then. We’re now seeing increasingly diaper-free days and he’s comfortable standing up or sitting down to pee, when the boy urinals are too high (or there are none). The sticker chart is helping to minimise accidents outside, transition to diaper free in school, and when he needs to do his big business coz for some reason, he doesn’t like to sit and poo!
For both areas, I try not to make a big deal out of it and affirm the positive, though I admit, I’m not a patient mom…. As he’s young, I didn’t want us to be too fixated on any “final big reward” so I kept the design fun and open, with him having the freedom to choose and add stickers to celebrate his accomplishments. It’s nice to hear him say “Mama, I pee, so now get sticker!” or “I am big and strong!” (after eating) as he enjoys and understands what this sticker chart means.
Here’s how we did it: For my vehicle loving boy, I chose a design that would appeal to him – hand drawn, copied and adapted from here. I explained what, why and how – even got B to help paint the background while I wrote out how the system would work (with tiny images for our non-reader to see). We stuck it at height level along the corridor between his bathroom and our dining area. As he adds his stickers, he’s also adding to his work of art aka the sticker chart!
Your boy is playing with his favourite bus/water gun/thingy. His friend eagerly comes over and tries to snatch it away. “B, please share?” “No! Don’t want!” Tantrum ensues. Sound familiar?
Toddler hitting, screaming, biting and throwing are common behaviours that they’ll need to (un)learn – but that process can be challenging! Karen Katz offers some help with a series of delightful little books filled with adorable, true-to-life illustrations, and clear, simple and repetitive text. Thanks to Read With Me Mommy, this series is available in a compact set of six bilingual books in English and Chinese: I Can Share (我可以分享), No Hitting (不打人), No Biting (不咬人), Excuse Me (对不起), Best Ever Big Brother (最好的大哥哥), Best Ever Big Sister (最好的大姐姐).
What we like: It’s bilingual! So you get a double 2-in-1 deal – reinforce behaviours AND learn key phrases in English AND Chinese as you enjoy reading it over and over together 🙂 As with other Karen Katz books, the text is separated from the pictures, each in their own page, making it easier for kids who are learning to read. Many tots actually memorise the story or conversation based on pictures, which is a great start to language development, but books like these take it one step further by helping them to focus on and recognise words, letters and characters. The whole page flaps cleverly reveal the right response, which usually involves “magic words” for proper manners or positive redirection for sticky situations like sharing and self-control. Note: This is best for 18 months to 4 years as it’s not in a board book format, so turning the pages and lifting flaps require a bit more control (and care).
As a bonus, the set also includes two books on growing up from the perspective of a 哥哥 or 姐姐, ideal for older siblings who are adjusting to a new baby at home. But even if you don’t have a sibling (yet – like us), it’s still relevant for your tot to read about big boys or girls who eat, sleep, read and go to the potty on their own 🙂
Read With Me Mommy is a user-friendly online bookstore which is conveniently organised by age (0-3 years, 3-6 years, 6-10 years, 10+ years) and book type (sets, board books, cloth books, etc.). There is currently a 5% discount promo for all DBS/POSB cardholders and free local mail delivery for ALL purchases.
As a special giveaway, Finally Mama readers stand a chance to win a brand new complete set of 6 bilingual lift the flap books worth SGD$24.90 with FREE local delivery. Giveaway closed!Just CLICK HERE to enter the giveaway and follow these steps:
B has been attending half day preschool at Odyssey for a week now. I drop him off before his 9a class start and pick him up after lunch around 1245p, in time for his mid-day nap back home. He did us all proud, adapting better and faster than expected. There were less tears, increasing confidence and engagement in class, and even “thank yous” and “byes” to his teachers, friends and favourite things in school (i.e. gardens, school bus) by end of the week.
In fact, he coped better than I did after 2+ years of being together (almost) 24/7. In their first week newsletter update, his teachers were clearly pleased with his progress – and probably relieved too!
1) Visit with your child as often as possible before class starts, taking photos to recall. I made memories by adding little pages for his journal which worked better than any “going to preschool” kid book because they were real, some with pictures of him in them! When day 1 came along, B was familiar with the names and images of his school, class and teachers. Ideally, we’d have loved to accompany him to playgroups at school or with his classmates beforehand, but we didn’t have this option.
2) If possible, ask to be the only new child in the class, say for a 2 week period, and avoid starting after a long holiday as many “experienced” kids still get separation anxiety on the first day back. This ensures sufficient attention and no peer crying effect which stresses out everyone around. A fellow mom friend shared how 5 kids in her child’s class (different school) cried for almost 3 hours until they vomited. Teachers were quite overwhelmed and parents clearly distressed!
3) Crying at drop off is normal. Crying at pick up is also normal. BUT it doesn’t mean your child has been crying all day! The tears usually stop once teachers are given a chance to take over, distract and calm down your child. By mid-week, B cried for less than a minute at drop off and pick up and after that, he was all smiles, no tears. The key here is to TRUST, reflect a positive mood and (the toughest part) LEAVE. I hung B’s water bottle around his neck which also ensured he was hydrated, and always had a towel ready, i.e. his comfort object since he was an infant. I had my doubts too at the beginning as I wandered around waiting for the call or tears which never came thankfully, all the while trying to spy in while not letting them see me. Eventually, I told myself to let go. Let others get to know and take care of him. Grant them your trust and allow them to keep earning yours and his. Also, enjoy the well-deserved morning off, mama!
4) It can feel like your child’s regressing. B was koala bear clingy over the weekend (we started on a Thursday) and had disrupted naps because he’d catnap in the car on the way back and not nap enough once home, or would wake up crying for me and wouldn’t go back to sleep without me holding him. Over the weekend, I reflected and determined to not be hasty – all of this eventually resolved or would resolve. And B would also continue to grow in character, knowledge and imagination. I just need to remember to project love for him, encourage interest in school and model respect for his teachers. Believe he will thrive!
5) Release your child into God’s hands. To quote Omartian: “We can’t be everywhere. We can’t see everything. We can’t know everything. But God can. Acknowledge our Father is in control of our children’s lives and ours, and we will have greater peace.” Amen!
Of course, I miss B everytime he’s in school and am trying to maximise our remaining time together with bonding and NOT mere enrichment – begone you tiger mom urges! Meanwhile, I’m enjoying giving more focus to entrepreneurial endeavours, including the The Whiz Times, and also having ME time for devotionals, pilates, books, brekkie/brunch catch-ups until my schedule changes again 🙂
Lately, B spontaneously calls out letters he recognises and sometimes sings the A-B-C Song while he pretends to “read” the print. Looks like he’s taking the next step to read WORDS on his own initiative, and not just recite from memory, vocalise or narrate what he sees. What a nice milestone for our brand new 2 year old 🙂 B’s also developed a list of places to ask for when we’re getting ready to go out. To my secret bookworm delight, we hear “go library and read book” almost every other day! Other regulars include “Bus stop and MRT?”, “play outside, playground, park”, “Botanic Gardens” (where he likes feeding the fish), “ama 公公”, “爷爷 奶奶” and his buddies’ “house”, “buy food at Fairprice” (we grocery shop together a lot), “ride toy car/train at shopping mall”, “music” and “Chinese class” (i.e. Kindermusik, Jiggle Wigs, Chengzhu). It’s encouraging to see all the time and effort in immersing him in a print and word-rich environment paying off – from getting his first library card at 7 weeks (!), daily newspaper browsing and storytimes, thematic flashcards if he wants to, and just when we relax, chat and read quietly together. We couldn’t have done it without the network ofpublic libraries in Singapore, notably the Bishan, Toa Payoh and Central NLB branches. The breadth and depth ofparenting, baby and preschool books to toddler/family friendly activities is amazing AND free (or reasonable enough if you’re a foreigner). B’s been exposed to a wider range of authors, formats, topics – in both English and Chinese – than I ever was at his age. The books expand his vocabulary and imagination, plus save us money and reduce clutter with more informed buying (i.e. the read-everyday or hard-to-find ones) mainly online via The Book Depository and Fishpond, Read With Me Mommy and Flip For Joy (for Chinese/bilingual)or at the local Popular bookstores. Last, a shout out to Fun With Tots, an ongoing series of six library workshops on print motivation, print awareness, phonological awareness, letter knowledge, narrative skills and vocabulary. I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up with B, but waspleasantly surprised by the dedication of each of the librarians who prepared a handout of notes/resources and facilitated their topics with songs, books, parent/caregiver tips to keep everyone from adults to the little tots engaged. Even though it was close to bedtime (8p), B enjoyed each session and would say “go library at night”! The only disappointment was that so few folks attended. It‘s ironic that parents prefer to spend money (sometimes up to ~$50-$100 per session) on enrichment classes based on early childhood experts, but can’t make time to visit the library or attend a hands-on workshop together (which BTW, costs $2 per 30 min session). Even if our kids attend daycare or preschool, or we work full time, we should still actively participate in fostering a love of reading, a thirst for knowledge and the capacity to imagine in our kids. Seeing is doing and believing. My dad was dubious when I wanted to borrow books on space for B … who liked it so much that he could name or describe all the planets in the solar system! SO…. Head on over to your neighbourhood library and browse/borrow some books for the holidays. You can also find out what’s going on atBounce, the NLB channel dedicated to kids 0 to 12. BTW, if like B, your kid is just learning his letters and enjoys music, take a look at all these alphabet songs and see what works best!
“The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss, “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”
This week, B turned 2 while mommy took a step closer to 40 😉 We had a terrific two party at Happy Willow – which daddy flew back from overseas to attend before flying back out again to work! As we opened up the birthday gifts from friends and family, I reflected on the precious two years B and I have had together. Despite the ups-and-downs with tantrums, self-feeding, potty training, language and math, the best gift we shared was simply the ability and freedom to IMAGINE together.
To paraphrase Albert Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited while imagination embraces the entire world.” So I controlled my tiger mom urges, withdrew him from the childcare we’d initially signed up for when I was going back to work last year, limited his exposure to commercial toys and enrichment programs (after a few eye-opening trials) – no matter how kid-friendly, educational and/or successful these claimed to be. Instead, we focused on simple early years ABCs i.e. Art, Books, Craft with as much music, drama, library and outdoor time as possible. B learnt to observe and appreciate our environment – nature, everyday things at home and about, picking up a wider vocabulary and interests along the way, including an obsession with transportation, animals and space; and a love for music and rhythm – though he can’t sing on pitch, he recites plenty of songs in a quirky monotone… and yeah, speaks Chinese like his banana-mama 😉 Sure, all of this involved additional time and effort and we never did as much as I’d like, but it was worth it! Moving forward, weintentionally chose a school that builds on this approach too when he starts N1 next year and plan to maximise the remaining time on learning through play. Let’s not “educate our kids out of their creative capacity” as was mentioned in this thought-provoking TED video on How Schools Kill Creativity:
On a lighter note, we recently dabbled in some eco-friendly cardboard craft. We added a ball ramp (works best with ping pong balls) behind the previous road ramp.
And built a multi-purpose, open-ended play house which his friends helped to paint:
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:
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 🙂
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.