Category Archives: play

Rockin’ and rolling with 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:

  1. Start storing your rolls!  Even with a 5 person household (+ grandparents!), we could only do enough for numbers 1-5 to start.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
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  5. 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.
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  6. 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.
  7. 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! 
  8. Get the kiddo to write the answer down.  Good practice here 🙂

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Here’s the finished product 🙂

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

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. 

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! 🙂 

Keeping cool when it’s hot

This June, we’ve had recurring mid-day thunderstorms, warm nights, and above average temperatures of 34 degrees Celcius. What to do on hotter summer days?  Get wet, of course!

In the past, we’d frequent the Children’s Garden (Gardens By The Bay), Jacob Ballas (Botanic Gardens) and Port of Lost Wonder (Sentosa). This month, we wanted to check out Splash N Surf (Sports Hub) which wasn’t complete when the new stadium launched last year, but when we were there for the recent SEA Games, it was just too crowded 😦

We did however visit two new water play areas in LEGOLAND Malaysia and Bishan Park:

1) LEGOLAND Water Park: What a difference a year makes. Last time we went there, the experience was exhausting and hot as 2+ year old B was overstimulated. This time around, both LEGOLAND and B have matured. Notably, there’s improved logistics and ventilation, with more accessible rides and activities for B who’s over 100cm tall (we got in though he’s not yet 4 🙂 Best of all, we had a splashing time at the new world’s largest LEGOLAND Water Park.  Seeing B’s wet, tired and happy face was worth it. We’ll be back!
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Tips:
The combo park ticket is the best deal: Buy online if you can. For toddlers (under 3 years), entry to all LEGOLAND Theme Parks are free but you’ll need to pay RM10 for the Water Park for admission and two swim diapers. For the price of chicken rice? Go for it.
– Time it right: Come when it opens at 10a, stay till lunch (or keep returning throughout the day!).  Avoid the 1-3p peak time as it’s too crowded then and the ground gets uncomfortably hot.  Go see an indoor movie or take an indoor rollercoaster ride instead then. Park at LEGOLAND Hotel if you can as it’s right next to the Theme Parks and Water Park entrance. Else, there’s outdoor parking (with no shade at all) with a 15 min covered pathway to both parks

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– Height restrictions apply: Kids under 6, supervised by an adult (or  >12 years), can enjoy the LEGO Wave Pool (fun!), Build-a-Raft River and DUPLO Splash Safari. For Joker Soaker (similar to Port of Lost Wonder), Twin Chaser, Red Rush and Splash Out, riders must be at least 1.02m. Riders must be at least 1.07m to ride Slide Racer, Wave Rider, Tidal Tube, Brick Blaster and Splash N Swirl.

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– Don’t worry about your stuff: There are conveniently priced all-day lockers (half and full size) right past the entrance to the Water Park. Strollers can be kept on top of the lockers. Shoes can be easily slipped on, off, safely stored at every ride point, although most prefer to just walk around barefoot.  Larger cabanas by the Wave Pool and Beach Grill are also available for rent but IMO, unnecessary if you’ll be moving around from place to place.

2) Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park Water Playground:  Funnily enough, we frequent Bishan Park often but never tried the Water Playground (when it actually had water running). So on one of my childcare leave days, I arranged to visit the park early morning with some friends. Overall, it was a chill time with opportunities for kids of all ages to stay active, get wet and learn about nature and science.  Our kids ranged from 10 months to 10 years, and there was something for everyone there.

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Tips:
– When and how to get there: Water turns on between 8-11a and 4-8p daily, except for Monday-Wednesday when it’s closed. There’s a well maintained changing and restroom nearby. The carpark (off Ang Mo Kio Ave 6) is right next to the park or you can take bus services (50,53, 55,58) from Ang Mo Kio Bus Interchange or Bishan MRT Station. The Water Playground is situated within the larger Pond Gardens. While the kids gravitated to the central water source structure in the beginning, they eventually dispersed as they began to explore.  The bubbles, balls, buckets, squirt toys we brought along became a great way for the kids to share and make friends too.

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– Understated, simple yet smart design: I did miss the fountains and modern jet sprays as the initial water flow and level were quite low since the park had just opened. Once enough water accumulated though, the kids started to play and experiment with water as they got each other wet. The young kids mainly splashed and poured on multiple surfaces, while the older kids manipulated the sluice gates separating the canals that led to the main drain. (I think) The ropes lying around were there to change the direction of water, which would be a nice yet subtle touch.

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The AMK-Bishan Park Water Playground is as different from LEGOLAND Water Park as it gets!  For me, I found it a great place to unwind in a beautiful environment that has surprising ways for kids to discover and learn about science and nature, while cooling down on a hot day.

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

Weekend mornings at Pek Kio

While participating in a survey/article on “hubbies who travel and how moms cope,” I realised how precious (in both the good and rare sense!) family and couple time has been for us.  This weekend routine helps ensure that we don’t become strangers in our own home: We typically end the work week with a Friday church couples and kids fellowship, reserve Saturday for core family time, and aim for Sunday evening dates while the kid is off with the grandparents and hubby is still around in Singapore.

One of our weekend morning activities is to catch early breakfast in the neighbourhood hawker centers and then “tour” the surrounding playgrounds and exercise corners before it gets too hot and crowded.

Here’s what we found at Pek Kio:

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Must try: Peanut pancake, chee cheong fun, prawn noodles, Juz Bread bakery next to the center, and free parking on Sunday 🙂
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Main playground next to the Pek Kio market with a single octave musical keyboard – that was mostly in tune – below the slides. Eat while they play, in many ways!

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Burn some calories walking/jogging/scooting around this training facility directly across the road
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If you’re not into going around the track, there’s some exercise equipment nearby too
WP_20140928_025 Moulmein community garden
Just around the corner along Owen Road, there’s a little Community Garden project…
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… which is beside another playground with lots of interesting climbing options
Tired of playgrounds, try pull ups instead
Tired of playgrounds?  Try pull ups instead!
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Catch your breath while spotting the bird cages – “On every tree there sits a bird, singing a song of love… Hi-li Hi-lili Hi-lo!”
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Have very young kids?  Visit this small playground at 49 Dorset
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Wrap up at the 48 Dorset Road playground, with its specially designed equipment. It’s close enough to the carpark so you can dash back to get any food or market items to take home

How to get here:
Bus 131 – bus stop B50081 right in front of the center
Farrer Park MRT – 8 mins walk from Exit D
Ample parking around Cambridge, Dorset and Owen HDB sites

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

Linking up with Gingerbreadmum’s Fun For Free Fridays

Hole in the bottom of the sea

B and his classmates have been busy preparing for their Term 3 musical showcase – based on Jessica Law’s adaptation of “Hole in the Bottom of the Sea,” with a bit of Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Aquarium” thrown in for the sea effects. Hubby saw B perform live for the first time, and was quite proud of our little “crab!” This renewed B’s interest in sea life which was a nice break from weeks of vehicles and space talk at home. As we had previously done a diorama together, this time we tried a simple book-based craft using Marcus Pfister’s The Rainbow Fish series.

Here’s how we did it:

Borrow the book(s) from the library and read them!

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There are many books in the series, but we chose “Rainbow Fish To The Rescue” as it had a meaningful storyline (about sharing, caring and inclusion) AND it had a shark – which coincided with his school play

Print/draw fish templates for the lil one to colour. We used the fish colouring handouts from a play we attended. I let B choose his own colours and material. I guess he wanted to recreate the book’s actual look and feel as this is what he came up with – colourful crayons, blue/green watercolour paint, and glitter for the shiny scales:

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B’s more self aware now, and is still TRYING to paint inside the lines cleanly. He told me “mama, so messy!” but I said “No worries. We’re cutting the fish out and it’ll look great!”

I got him to broadly cut out the fish, then let him work on his sea animals puzzles while I trimmed the little fishies and prepared the box – drawing inspiration from a craft I found here.

Ha, I think you can tell which one mama did
Ha, I think you can tell which one mama did
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Puzzles help to reinforce and break the monotony of waiting (or painting too long!). While I finished the cutting, B “revised” his 1-10 numbers and Chinese names like 沙鱼 (shark)

Unlike our previous “fixed” diorama, I wanted this to be moveable so I cut horizontal lines (<1 cm width) to slide water bottle caps with the fishes tied and taped at the bottom to give the effect of “swimming.”  Any medium size box will do.  I just flipped our DIY bus/train on the side for this – recycling rocks!

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Top view of the box (jagged lines ‘coz I was doing this super quick!)

Finally, B punched holes, cut pieces of scotch tape and string, and threaded them through each fish.  I helped to tie and fix them to the  top of the box. WP_20140921_006For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

Linking up with:

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Fun For Free SG: Gardens By The Bay Children’s Garden

Singapore is blessed with many clean and safe public parks, and we usually frequent the green connectors linking the exercise and playground areas near school and home.  When we heard about the latest and largest children’s garden in Singapore, we couldn’t wait to go although it’s a little far out from where we live.  We liked it so much, we actually made it back THREE times this month (ok, one of those was for the Singapore Garden Festival). Here’s our experience for our next Fun For Free SG contribution.

WP_20140822_030The Far East Organization Children’s Garden offers a delightful blend of obstacle trails, water and sand playgrounds, all integrated with nature, and designed to be interactive for kids from 1 to 12 years old (and the young-at-heart adults).  Staff and signboards are placed strategically to ensure both safe and fun play.  For parents of very young kids, you’ll appreciate the efforts made to separate the rowdy youngsters from the rowdy toddlers 🙂

Toddler zone
For under 5 year olds, there’s the Toddler Play Zone with a mini obstacle course
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The Toddler Fish Fountain features warmer water and tamer play with gentle interactive jets
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B having a good splash together with a friend while mama lounges by the (covered) deck chairs
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The main Water Play area is linked to a multitude of movement sensors which are incredibly fun and wet! The view is pretty cool too
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Although more suited for older kids as the many moving sprinklers can thoroughly drench you, B plopped down to enjoy himself after we walked/ran around the main water area together
Sandpit
Head over to the Adventure Zone for sand play and obstacle courses before getting wet again
Treehouse
The 7.5 metre-tall tree house is designed for 6 year olds and up. Younger kids can still climb with some assistance and supervision but may have a tough time coming down! Thankfully there are alternate routes via bridges and wooden stairs
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Wibble, wobble on the linked suspension rope bridges
Obstacles
The Adventure Trail overlooking the water play areas consists of 14 different obstacles, mainly on sand (with gentle slopes and dips) such as balance beams, bars, rock climbing, roped tunnels and suspension bridges
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If you can’t go over it, go under it!
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Slide these broad covered water tunnels for the fastest (and wettest) way to go back down

Important Info:

How to get there: See detailed directions here.

Closest carpark is at Satay By the Bay (open air) or Main Visitors.  Conversely, if you take public transport, there is a free shuttle bus on weekdays that stops over at the Marina Bay, Downtown and Raffles Place MRTs.

Closed on Mondays for maintenance (same day as Jacob Ballas)
Tuesdays* to Fridays: 10 AM – 7 PM. Last admission at 6:30 PM. *Closed on Tuesday if a public holiday falls on the preceding Monday.
Weekends & Public Holidays 9 AM – 9 PM. Last admission at 8:30 PM

Low energy?  Dying of thirst? Cranky kid?  No fear. These are near:
1) Large covered amphitheatre overlooking both water play areas where you can bring your own food and drinks
2) Children’s Garden Cafe which has alfresco seating by the Toddler Play Zone (playground and water), open at the same hours as the park, serves drinks, snacks or a light meal (Asian and Western)
3) Satay By The Bay, a short scoot or walk away.  Also, the place to park your car if driving.  Stalls are  open from 8a – 11p

This is part of a blog train on Singapore’s Fun For Free places dedicated to anyone who’s ever needed to think about “where to bring the kids today?” Next up is Elizabeth, a mother to three rambunctious kids. She wifes, moms and writes at motherkao.com. Her family of five can be found at Terminal 3 almost every weekend because apart from not needing to have to queue for long to get dinner there, her kids get to do fun things for free while she indulges in GST-free shopping.

Liz

Visit all 31 Fun for Free train stops here:
1 Aug: Tiong Bahru Park by Gingerbreadmum
2 Aug: Queenstown Heritage Trail by Princess Dana Diaries
3 Aug: Jurong Regional Library by Finally Mama
4 Aug: Singapore Maritime Gallery by Peipei Haohao
5 Aug: Singapore Philatelic Museum by Kids R Simple
6 Aug: Sculptures of Singapore by Gingerbreadmum
7 Aug: Fire Station by The Js Arena
8 Aug: Esplanade + Merlion by Prayerfull Mum
9 Aug: Bukit Batok Nature Park by Meeningfully
10 Aug: Lower Pierce Reservoir Park by The Kam Family
11 Aug: I12 Katong – water playground by Universal Scribbles
12 Aug: IMM by Mad Psych Mum
13 Aug: Tampines 1 Water Playground by Amazingly Still
14 Aug: Sengkang Riverside Park by Itchy Finger Snap
15 Aug: East Coast Park by Toddly Mummy
16 Aug: Sembawang Shopping Centre Playground by Joey Craftworkz
17 Aug: Animal resort by Raising Faith
18 Aug: Botanic Gardens by Mum’s The Word
19 Aug: Police Heritage Centre by Mummy Ed
20 Aug: Venus Loop, MacRitchie by Scrap Mum Loft
21 Aug: Road Safety Park by Miracule
22 Aug: Marina Barrage by J Babies
23 Aug: Gardens By The Bay, Children’s Garden by Finally Mama
24 Aug: Changi Airport T3 by Mother Kao
25 Aug: Pockets of Nature by Mum in the Making
26 Aug: Changi Airport T1 by Growing with the Tans
27 Aug: Pasir Ris Park by Ingspirations
28 Aug: Gardens by the Bay Supertree Grove by My Lil Bookworm
29 Aug: Vivocity Play Area by Amazingly Still
30 Aug: Punggol Promenade by Chubby Anecdotes
31 Aug: Westgate Wonderland by Xavvylicious

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