Category Archives: play

Special Review and Offer: MyMessyBox (ideas for indoor play on hazy days!)

After almost a month away on an extended work trip, I left a land of clear blue skies to return to a hot and hazy Singapore, in time to vote in the 2015 General Election. What a difference a few weeks makes.

As a mom, I became more intentional about play since B was around four months old – and I still am, even though he’s almost four now.  We would host messy, artsy playdates at home and look forward to discovering kindred spirits or new places that offered similar activities.  Messy-sensory play is a great way for kids to engage their senses and learn through exploration, discovery and meaningful play.

MyMessyBox provides our children, who are natural explorers, with the opportunity for observation and manipulation through a hands-on learning experience with play tools and materials that encourage sensory exploration. The monthly boxes make it easy to conduct purposeful, sensory play in the comfort of your own home.  Read on to find out more, and if you’re interested:

  1. Join this month’s MyMessyBox giveaway at this Rafflecopter link
  2. Get a 5% discount off your own MyMessyBox orders by using “FM5

Here’s what came in the “Way Up High” themed box that we received to review.  Quite appropriate too, as this has been a busy travel period for the family, and for mama especially.  IMG_4218

There are currently 13 themes for the individual boxes, involving a different theme per month, ranging from Under Construction to the Whimsical Garden.  One of these will be offered in this month’s giveaway.

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 2.56.23 pmIn the box, you’ll receive three packs supporting the theme, thoughtfully curated for active, creative and explorative play.  Each pack is accompanied with suggestions on self-contained activities that are easy to follow as long (or brief) as you like. Or if you’re like us, you can leverage what they provide to combine and create your own project.

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MyMessyBox runs on a subscription basis:  Monthly (for S$34), 6 months (for S$192) and 12 months (for S$360).  The box also contains specially sourced tools for explorative play, i.e. a basic toolkit (for 6 months subscriptions) or a premium toolkit (for 12 month subscriptions).  Here’s the premium toolkit which came neatly stored in a plastic box:

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As I was making arrangements for B to join the first leg of my work trip (i.e. to Tokyo), we used this opportunity to learn about Japan. Utilising the Explorative and Active Play materials, referencing a library travel book with some guidance from mama, he made a collage of what impressed him about Japan – the red Tokyo Tower, tall skyscrapers (my office is in the Mori Tower), sakura (cherry blossoms) and Mount Fuji.  Can you spot them below?

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We also took advantage of the two theme-based craft included in the Creative Play pack, both were easy and entertaining enough to keep our 3.5 year old busy for a good 45 minutes … freeing mama to do some packing!

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Intently painting his airplane coinbank

There was also a wooden airplane base that involved some rather sticky stuff that B normally wouldn’t play with. At first he poked at it with the pincer (from the toolkit), and then, his index finger, and finally, got used to it enough to complete the project. While simple, this was a good reminder on why early sensory play benefits kids – as it helps them make sense of different stimuli and information.

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While we let everything dry, B “played with water” aka mopped the floor. Score for mama!

Given the daily 100+ PSI levels, our review is proving quite timely if you’re cooped up indoors all week. Why not try something different (i.e. no screens, no loud playgrounds, no malls) that’s fun for kids and keeps them occupied?

For more updates and reviews, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.  Views expressed here are solely my own.  We received a complimentary MyMessyBox for purposes of this review. 

All children are artists

“Every child is an artist.
The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. – Pablo Picasso

When B was about 4 months, I attended my first early years parenting talk which shaped the environment that he grew up in. In his first 2 years, we did lots of art and craft together involving  colourful, sensory, tactile, messy play with repurposed household items, nature and art materials. In fact, we’d often encourage other friends to join us, and hosted quite a few messy artsy-crafty playdates at our outdoor balcony area.  B loved it!

B's first art playdate @ 6 months
First art playdate at 6 months

After B turned 1.5 years, we trialed a few art classes that introduced different techniques, styles, materials, et al. He liked the more freestyle, mixed media sessions and not when someone had to help or told him how to “do art” (i.e. proper use of watercolours, brushes, etc). He’s just your normal stubborn independent tot, I guess.

First (trial) art class at 18 months

So we joined a local parent accompanied toddler art meetup group instead, where we had messy fun indoors and outdoors, learnt a few artsy things, and collected enough pieces to start our own “art wall” at home by the time he turned 2.

Our art wall!
Our art wall after 2 years

Continuing this arts exposure was one of my requirements when selecting his preschool.  Soon after he started nursery, B had a chance to showcase his work at his first art exhibit this weekend!

First art exhibit at 2.5 years
First art exhibit at 2.5 years, entitled “Building A City of Dreams”. The structures are “homes for my family” and “roads for cars.” His sold for S$88!

I hope B’s interest in art will continue to grow, and that he’ll have the dexterity and patience to learn and improve along the way. Of course, I don’t expect him to be a professional artist when he grows up but I’m glad art has given him a universal language to express himself and interpret the world around him; and also given us a fun, creative way to reinforce what he learns from a very early age.

Linking up with

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Flashback Friday to the good old days

There was no class today so mama and B spent the whole day together. It’s been a while since we had such a fun yet fruitful time, as B started nursery and we were on-and-off sick this month.  While I miss our homeschooling days last year, I’d forgotten how busy it can be if you really want to fully engage your kid.  Can’t wait for school to start again next week, grateful for good teachers, friends, and a preschool / child care center that doesn’t have a long holiday break like many international or MOE-calendar ones out there.

Letterland review
Letterland review
Art: Finishing the DIY craft from our National Museum visit
Art: Finishing the DIY craft from our National Museum visit
Drama: Outing to Central Library followed by Spot The Difference (awesome play) and lunch
Fine motor skills: Tracing, threading, sorting, counting, pretend play with DIY home manipulatives

And of course, our daily “music with mama” sessions, free play indoors (i.e. cars and blocks) and outdoors (i.e. playground) when mama was busy or needed a break 🙂

Pheew, TGIF!

Special Review and Offer: Pupsik Studio (10% off)

For most moms, online shopping is a lifesaver when you just can’t find the item, the time or the right price that you need for your kids! Enter: Pupsik Studio. This well-designed and user-friendly site offers a great selection of the best and latest parenting, baby and toddler products at competitive prices. As a May-June holiday reward, we have a special offer for our readers too (details at end)!

Here are some of the items that we absolutely love:

1) Kleen Kanteen
This was my first purchase with Pupsik Studio. I was so thrilled to find it here after looking all over Singapore with no success! We must have tried every plastic water bottle model available (Munchkin, Avent, Skip Hop, Playtex, Nalgene, Tollijoy, Tommy Tippee, even generic BPA-free Disney-Pixar CARS ones) but all had problems with leaking, cleaning and replacing chewed out straws. This 12oz Kleen Kanteen Kid’s Bottle was an instant hit with B – and has lasted the longest. There are no straws (!), it’s easy to clean, use, keep hot or cold, doesn’t break or even leak much. Kleen Kanteens are made from 18/18 food grade stainless steel (= safe, no weird tastes, but a tad heavy) and the sports cap and spouts are BPA-free. Once your tot has mastered drinking from a cup, get this and save your money and agony on all those horrid plastic bottles.

2) Melissa & Doug Jigsaw Puzzles – 4 In A Box
I bought these for B’s 2nd birthday as the bigger puzzle pieces were getting easy for him and I wanted something compact and sturdy for road trips and holidays. Each wooden box comes with 4 different puzzles that fit neatly in 4 separate compartments. Each puzzle can be assembled on the slide-on lid of the box. Each puzzle piece is shape coded on the back for convenient sorting and storing. Various themes are available: vehicles, construction (we got the first two for our transportation loving boy), pets, farm animals, wild animals, sea life. Though recommended for 3+ years, the pieces are manageable for tots – see B attempting one:

3) The Tiny Bites Food Shears (Scissors)
Don’t leave home without it. We have loaned this out to countless friends over the dining table to cut up bite-sized food for their tots. Made from cutlery-grade stainless steel blades, these parent-invented portable scissors are BPA-free, lead-free and dishwasher safe, with a protective blade cover making it child-proof and pocket-friendly, and an on-blade inch ruler for measuring (if needed). It comes in a package of two scissors – one for home, one on the go, or even one as your tot’s first pair of scissors. The comfort cutting spring (yellow lever) provides extra tension for tiny hands that lack the strength to manipulate regular scissors. Very useful!

4) Charlie Banana
Have you ever stopped to calculate how much you’ve spent on disposable diapers? You can save a LOT of time, money and the environment with reusable cloth diapers, if only they were easy enough to wear and clean… Like Charlie Banana!  Unfortunately, I didn’t know about these until B was already being potty trained BUT if you are keen to start out with cloth diapers (and disposable inserts) from newborn onwards, try the Charlie Banana® 2-in-1 Reusable One Size which works till ~3 years. Parents can adjust the diaper with a no-slip, bra-strap design that tucks nicely in the interior fleece so no part of the elastic or adjustment system will rub against baby’s skin. Buy one to try, or get the economical bundles available at Pupsik.  Meanwhile, we got B the Charlie Banana® 2-in-1 Swim Diaper & Training pants to splash and messy play in.  It fits and feels well, doubles up as a swim shorts and diaper, and is actually absorbent (compared to those Huggies “swim liners”).

Ready to get wet!
Ready to get wet!

5) Personalized Stickers and Iron Ons
I hadn’t labelled anything of B’s … until he started nursery this year. Then all of sudden, we needed to label EVERYTHING because sure enough, he’d bring home someone else’s bottle or shorts or hat. Of course, you could just write their name / initials with permanent marker. Or you could try Pupsik’s wonderful selection of personalised stickers, iron on dots, shoe labels, bag tags, et al. In addition to personalising the name (in English or Chinese characters), you can customise images and colours from a very vibrant and appealing range of options. We got a set of 65  Sticker Labels (for bottles, bags, mozzie repellant) and 42 Iron On Dots (for hats, shirts, shorts). I’m glad we gave this a try as the final product looked great, B loved  recognising his things with their cute car icon and name labels and also learned to read and spell his own name through this.

Lastly, some recommendations for expectant moms who desire to wear your baby as they feed and nap on the go: This handy guide compares Pupsik pouch slings, Ergo, Boba, Baby Bjorn and Manduca carriers (all available in-store, look out for sale items). Also complete your early years needs with beansprout pillows, nursing covers, Aveeno, Aden + Anais, Baby Bjorn babysitter bouncer, California Baby, Clevamama, OXO Tot, and a good selection of age appropriate toys and games 🙂

As a special offer for Finally Mama readers, Pupsik Studio is offering a 10% discount off all regular items from now till June 30, 2014. Use the code “FINALLYMAMA”. Drop a note here or like us so we know this has been useful to you…. And, happy shopping!

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Green living in our Garden City

Back when I was still working full time, there was a LOT of green development near my office on Alexandra Road due to the Southern Ridges trail with its iconic Henderson Wave Bridge and Alexandra Arch linking Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park, HortPark, Kent Ridge Park and Labrador Nature Reserve.  See this DIY Guide to The Southern Ridges for more info 🙂

B was in my belly as I hiked, strolled and eventually, waddled along the pathways. But since I had B and left corporate life, we hadn’t  gone back there until recently when we drove by the area and ended up visiting playground after playground at the new Alexandra Canal Linear Park which is being extended from Tanglin Road to Zion Road (River Valley) via the Alexandra Park Connector!

Alexandra

B enjoyed scooting down the 1km+ path, stopping occasionally to climb, slide, jump on the trampoline, play with the exercise equipment and even share his scooter with new friends.  I chitchated with the locals, answering “he’s almost 2.5 years” and “no, daddy is not angmoh” at least 20 times, overall enjoying the friendly and neighbourly vibe.  It was nice to NOT be the only local at a private estate playground or crowded out at the bigger, more popular parks.

Hand-cranked gondola off Block 61C Strathmore Ave
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Trampoline near Block 61C Strathmore Avenue Playground
MyFirstSkool playground
Block 81 Strathmore Avenue Playground with a rock climbing wall

So today, I’m thankful for the foresight and commitment in Singapore to ensure that ALL benefit from this truly Garden City.  I also value the effort and care in enriching the local community with free yet well-maintained public parks and playgrounds.  Keep up the good work, Nparks!

Linking up with

Zoophonics makes ABCs fun

I’d been meaning to try both phonics as well as whole words with B, regardless of the ongoing debate. Besides daily reading, we started regular flash cards (real images, Doman style) with words spoken in English and Chinese after he turned one.  This has improved B’s focus and vocabulary – or at least his comprehension since he’s no talking encyclopedia. Yet, at 15 months.  However after initial alphabet attempts, the latest being Dr Seuss’s ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book, I realised B needed something more “whole brain” to connect the abstract letters with concrete words.  By chance, we stumbled upon Zoophonics when a friend passed us her son’s used cards. I decided to give it a try after researching online and seeing this method adopted in Singapore (e.g. Growing Up Gifted, Zoo-phonics and Safari Preschools). If B remains interested after we run through all 26 lower case merged animal letters (what a mouthful!), I might get the full essential pack.

What's mama going on about zoophonics?
What’s mama going on about zoophonics?

For now, here’s what we’re doing and why:

Zoo-phonics was developed in the mid 1980s by Charlene Wrighton and Gigi Bradshaw, two teachers in Northern California, who developed a strong phonics and physical component to enhance the existing whole language methods. Zoo-phonics introduces alphabet as one thing with 26 parts via a multi-sensory approach involving the whole child, eyes, ears, mouth, mind and body.

  • Endearing animals as letter shapes (visual learning) – Shows animals in the shapes of lowercase letters before teaching the actual letters for easy remembering. Lowercase letters are taught before capital/upper letters as it’s easier for a young child to form a lowercase letter and 95% of reading materials are in lowercase anyways.  In addition, when you flip the Animal Letter Cards around, a “bear” is always a bear but a “b” can easily be a “d” “p” or “q.”
  • Sounds and songs (auditory learning) – Teaches sounds of the letters through the animal names (“a” as in Allie Alligator, etc.), and letter sounds are taught before letter names. The sound of each letter comes through the initial sound of the animal name.
  • Hand and body motions, games and activities (kinesthetic learning) – Introduces a body signal to represents each animal letter, which in turn helps them lock in the learning. Children decode letters (read) and encode letters (spell and write) all at once to songs and what looks like dancing, sucking the stress out of building phonemic awareness.

For 1-2 year olds like B, Zoo-phonics is taught via music and movement, animals and nature, all which he enjoys.  According to them, parents can start as soon as your child is ready to sit for a few minutes and listen to a story.  Teach the individual letter shapes and sounds of the lowercase alphabet with the Animal Letter Cards and Body Movements, which will lay the foundation for all future reading, spelling and writing. Show one Animal Letter Card at a time then reinforce all the letters you have taught previously with the fun games and activities.  Leave the Animal Cards where your child can find them easily and play with them daily!

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Month 10 Week 2: Little man cometh!

These past few weeks, B seems to become more and more like a little man 😀  


– Got his first haircut!  Quite stylish, and actually complements his big head that’s slightly flat on the back, hehe
– Drinks his own sippy cup, self feeds cookies/biscuits/fruits, eats slightly mashed foods (no more purees) 
– Verbal diarrhea and cognitive milestones!  Responds to cues by looking, pointing, signing and occasionally doing the right actions.  He can “show me the cars/wheels/balls/etc”, turn on the light switch, aircon and fan buttons, goes to and picks up books/bottle when he wants to read/drink, shakes his head, waves his hands, raises his arms…. Also coos, gurgles, babbles all the time!
– Stands upright, letting go briefly. Cruises more confidently, holds onto and pushes objects while on the go
– Loves music and movement so I’ve started him on Monday bounce & rhyme sessions in the park, including circle time in our Wednesday playdates and signed him up for Friday Kindermusik Village classes in early October (each term lasts 8 weeks)
– Going for his first Chinese immersion class at Julia Gabriel’s Chengzhu Mandarin holiday programme.  This should be quite an experience as my Chinese is terrible, and he’s mainly been exposed to English (and Malay/Bahasa) at home.  If he takes well to it, I may consider signing up for regular classes there
– Finally met his maternal uncle on a surprise visit from San Francisco (via Seoul) — hooray!  
– Got his Singapore passport (along with mommy!) in time for his first overseas trip this weekend.  Wish us luck!  I suspect we’ll have to bring more stuff for him than all of our own combined 😉

Childproofing creatively

While babyproofing our home, I challenged myself to think about redesigning for both safety and play.  As I’ve just started, the final result might take weeks (months? years? continuously evolve?) so I’m blogging ideas along the way that expand on the early play concepts from the meet up a fortnight back.

  • Children don’t play in order to learn, they learn while they play
  • Children need to feel a sense of belonging with the freedom to establish a culture and social world with their peers
  • Adapt to children’s ideas rather than structure their ideas to fit the adult’s. Projects with directions and planned activities are fine in moderation but more time (80% in their early years) should be spent in open-ended, self-initiated free play. Children these days spend too much time in settings that focus on structured educational, enrichment and recreational activities.
  • Emphasize the enjoyment and value of the “process” of playing and creating, more than the finished product. Let children express what they see, hear, feel, think – and then find solutions and modify experiences to maximise creativity. Children should expect to “make mistakes.” Accept unusual ideas and solutions – suspend judgment!
  • Facilitate creative play indoors and outdoor:
    • Provide long, uninterrupted periods (45–60 minutes minimum) for spontaneous free play
    • Encourage children to manipulate the environment to support their play
    • Recognize the value of messy play, rough-and-tumble play, and nonsense play as well
    • Allow time to explore all possibilities, moving from popular to more original ideas, considering opportunities for challenge and age-appropriate risk-taking
    • Draw on everyday problems, observations and objects
  • Provide a variety of materials to stimulate different kinds of play—blocks and construction toys for cognitive development; sand, mud, water, clay, art and food stuff, other loose open-ended materials for sensory play; dress-up clothes and props for pretend play; balls, hoops, climbing places, and open space for gross motor play:
  • Provide play-space(s) that allows age-appropriate easy, independent access to explore:
    • Cosy reading corner: Place books into an appliance box surrounded by rugs, pillows, blankets, armchair — where both adults and children can read together. Use voices for the characters in the books you read. Change a book into a talking puppet. Make up stories!
    • Open art center: Put a table next to an easel, tub of playdough, low shelves filled with supplies like crayons, glue, staplers, tape, scissors, cardboard/heavy/wrapping paper, collage materials (i.e. odds and ends – stickers, buttons, beads, scraps, etc.)
  • Increase opportunities for rich symbolic role play. Pretend play engages children in the same kind of representational thinking needed in early literacy activities. Children develop complex narratives, link objects, actions, and language together in combinations and narrative sequences
    • Change the furniture around and lay out a basket of props, clothes, etc.
    • Picnic on the floor instead of the usual table meal
    • Turn a chair/table over and make it a boat, car, house, bed, cave
    • Modify a corner into the home of the three bears, a rocket ship, a vets office, etc.
    • Build towers and bridges with wooden blocks, tubes, empty paper rolls
  • Go outside! Natural landscapes outdoors provide rich, diverse, multi-sensory experiences; opportunities for noisy, boisterous, vigorous, physically active play; physical challenge and risktaking that are inherent in the value of play; rough, uneven surfaces, development of physical strength, balance, and coordination; and natural elements and loose parts that children can combine, manipulate, and adapt for their own purposes.
  • Show your appreciation of your children’s creativity. Laugh, document, display and discuss often. Share works they are proud of.  Play on their terms, taking an interest, asking questions, offering suggestions, and engaging eagerly when invited – ride the slide, put on a hat, assume a role, etc.
  • Accept and love them for who they are!

Sources:

– Mary Ann Kohl’s article on Fostering Creativity

The Hundred Languages of Childhood

The child is made of one hundred
The child has
A hundred languages
A hundred hands
A hundred thoughts
A hundred ways of thinking
Of playing, of speaking. 

A hundred always a hundred
Ways of listening of marveling of loving
A hundred joys
For singing and understanding
A hundred worlds
To discover
A hundred worlds
To invent
A hundred worlds
To dream 

The child has
A hundred languages (and a hundred hundred hundred more)
But they steal ninety-nine
The school and the culture
Separate the head from the body

They tell the child:
To think without hands
To do without the head
To listen and not to speak
To understand without joy
To love and to marvel
Only at Easter and Christmas
  They tell the child:  To discover the world already there 

And of the hundred
They steal ninety-nine. 

They tell the child: That work and play
Reality and fantasy
Science and imagination
Sky and earth
Reason and dream
Are things
That do not belong together
And thus they tell the child
That the hundred is not there 

The child says: NO WAY

The hundred is there

Loris Malaguzzi (Founder of the Reggio-Emilia approach)