Category Archives: preschool

Last month at home

J is 7 months today! 👶🏻 🥰

After weeks of 🤤, his two bottom front teeth finally emerged! He’s eating semi solids and baby finger food like a champ 😋. He now combines strings of babble together, seems to understand common words like “妈妈, 抱抱, 公公, 洗手洗口, poo-poo, milk, bath, up.” He’s also super active — flips confidently, crawls in all directions, and even pulls up to stand … leading to a few scares lately! 😳

Above all, I’m blessed that he’s such a 开心果 as a friend affectionally calls him 😊. Though lately I’ve noticed some separation anxiety especially when our time together is limited to an early morning 😘 before I head to work. At bedtime, I still try to leave him drowsy but awake in the cot, but we snuggle just a little bit longer, and I linger in the room so that he knows I’m around…. So far thankfully, he is still able to self soothe and 😴 well overnight🤞.

He starts infant care very soon, and my heart is breaking a bit that we have to do this 😔. But it gives him the full time care needed and me flexibility and support in this season of work and family life 🙏

A Thanksgiving reflection

Hooray! B has finally joined the rest of his classmates who’ve turned four. As his last week of nursery approaches, I’m looking forward to our Thanksgiving break together before he gets promoted to kindergarten. Here’s some reflections on his first full year in childcare.

Dear B,

You’ve shown social maturity and adaptability with the many changes this year. There were farewells to old playmates and adjustments to new friends and teachers at school. You didn’t like spending less time with mama as I not only returned to full time corporate work, but travelled away on business quite often – at one point for almost 3 weeks straight. Yet your teachers remarked on your “very positive self identify and sense of belonging”, 他会告诉老师:“妈妈不在新加坡”“我的爷爷来接我” as you figured things out and embraced the village of caregivers around you.

You’re growing in knowledge and imagination (and negotiation skills)! Being constantly surrounded by books has motivated you to learn how to read, first reciting from memory, then through sight words, and now as you blend and decipher more and more each day. “There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”  We try to read together every night when I’m at home, borrow or buy new readers (like the Timmy and Tammy series below), and write down “new” words together.

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Flipping through our notebook with all the new or tough words

You are learning to persevere and not give up. You were frustrated that you couldn’t draw or write as well as some of your friends but I’m glad we encouraged you to keep on doodling and scribbling. Since you like mixed medium, illustrated stories and numbers, we incorporated math and sensory play, gave titles to your art and made collages of our holidays. Mama too has learned to be patient and not compare! Remember Leo, the late bloomer.

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Colouring isn’t my favourite, but completing a number puzzle is!

Speaking of perseverance, you completed your first sport events this year. Mama crazily signed us up for an 800m Cold Storage kids run (which I thought was only 100m – oops), and I am so proud that you finished it even if we held hands and walked part of the way. You also biked solo in the OCBC Cycle event and grew confident enough that you cycled with us around Maldives. You didn’t even realise that those training wheels never touched the ground! We’ll upgrade you soon to a 16″ big boy pedal bike once you’re tall enough 🙂

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You’re starting to apply yourself in things that interest you, like violin. Though some days I bribe you to practice with car stickers, you surprise me with your progress and willingness to continue each term. Your teachers even invited you to perform as one of the musicians this year, and you did wonderfully! I’m glad you’re learning that “what separates the talented individual from a successful one is a lot of hard work.” While we’ll still explore many things and may drop others as you grow up, I’ll always support you in your pursuits as long as I can and you want to 🙂

Perhaps mommy and daddy could also work on two areas this coming year while your fantastic four is “under construction.” One is to more intentionally live out our faith as individuals and as a family. B may not like sitting still to pray, but he loves the bible stories and has made more friends at church. How can we help you grow into a godly man?  How can we serve our church community together?

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Same, same, but different! B likes to compare between the kids bibles

The other area of course, is Chinese. Although we found a good programme at Sparkanauts, I still wish for more time with you since no one else speaks Chinese at home. Your teacher suggested that we use videos, games or apps – 在家中可以观看有教育意义的卡通短片或者儿歌 。或者通过 ⼀些华文的电脑游戏来学习华文。家人可以使用华语和他进行沟通,增强他的日常生活⼝ 语。老师可以在和他的沟通中纠正他的句型错误并完整他的句子 –  beyond continuing to speak in Chinese. Mama has been quite strict about screen time, but perhaps we could try this in the coming year? That way, maybe ama and 公公 could get immersed too 🙂

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Some of the things we’ve tried for Chinese, if only I had more time!

My darling B, you melt my heart when you say, “I love you more than all the numbers, mama” and you make us laugh with “Now I like daddy, but I really like mama … when I’m old and I like mama, I’ll really like daddy.” I thank God every day for you and how blessed we are as your parents.

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Outstanding books for outstanding teachers

I’ve been helping B’s school plan a “surprise” Teachers’ Day celebration with the rest of the Parent Support Group. While researching various gift options, I came across some inspiring, some tongue-in-cheek books that would be perfect for teachers.  After all, “a book is a gift you can open again and again” (Garrison Keillor), right?  So if you’re looking for an idea for your kid’s teachers, check out the titles below by clicking on the links for more info.  Don’t forget to use our blog readers discount of 15% off with the code “FINALLYMAMA” when you purchase from the NoQ store.

My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not) by Peter Brown.
My teacher is a monster

Because You Are My Teacher by Sherry North.

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! by Dr Seuss

To Sir, with Love by Rick Braithwaite

Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire by Rafe Esquith

What If There Were No Teachers?

Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul

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A typical school day – before and after

The first term has come and gone better than I expected! In April, B started taking his mid-day nap in school.  Before this, I’d usually rush to pick him up on time after my meetings, work or lunch. He’d be too excited to see mama and though he was tired by 1p, he’d often skip naps and end up cranky by evening. Now on weekdays, he naps daily at school (~1.5-2 hours), I pick him up after 3p and we spend the rest of the day together. I’m thankful for the wonderful teachers and friends that’s he’s made, how well they’ve helped him adjust to nursery life, enabling us to have quality time together and apart.

Singing with the ukulele in his uniform
Before school: Singing with the ukulele (in his uniform)

After school (nap): Afternoon snack with mama in his pjs

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Special Review and Offer: Bibinogs Free Trial and 50% Off Registration

I’ve always believed immersion is the best way to learn languages (ideally at home too) or else, a solid bilingual learning environment works too. We’re not quite ready to leave B alone in a new all-Chinese class, so when I found out about BibinogsMandarin Tots class, a 1.5 hour Mandarin immersion accompanied program for 18 to 30 month olds, we gave it shot, had a good trial and decided to join them for a term.  As I shared recently, my flexi work schedule enables me to join him in the afternoons and follow up at home too, and I didn’t want an overly academic, rote-learning drop off class (as Chengzhu’s N1 Language Learners and Berries turned out to be) to kill his interest in Chinese before it’s had a chance to grow  :0

At 28 months, B is quite the singing chatterbox in English but he clams up in an all-Chinese environment. The more you “tekan” the less he’ll cooperate – he’ll even refuse to speak or say jibberish though he understands you (and talks) well enough. So I’ve been quite amazed at how Bibinogs has brought my little clam out of his Chinese shell!

Here’s what we like about Bibinogs:

1. Individual yet non-threatening attention: So far, there’s been no more than 8 students per 2 teachers in a comfortably sized classroom, ensuring a high teacher to student ratio. All teachers go out of their way to patiently engage everyone, try different methods of drawing out responses from the kids, help parents manage and/or distract them as needed, make individual observations and take feedback. This personal, in-your-own time approach is bearing fruit. B would eventually volunteer answers, repeat and use correct phrases, esp. if bribed with food or stickers 🙂  He was even comfortable enough to spontaneously sing 一闪一闪 (Twinkle twinkle little star) and 我的朋友在那里 (Where’s my friend?) in class!

嘀嗒嘀嗒下雨啦!
嘀嗒嘀嗒下雨啦!

2. Interactive theme-based fun: Terms are based around themes, which in turn, are split into multiple new words per week. Each class reinforces the vocabulary with an action rhyme, song(s), art and craft, with occasional games, storybooks, drama or puppetry. Chinese number and character recognition are cleverly integrated with hands-on manipulatives, flash cards, 儿歌 (nursery rhymes),  magnetised strokes and whiteboards as visual aids. Every session has a good mix of familiar and new songs to allow everyone to learn them yet not get bored. Specific songs are adapted with individual greetings (friends names, caregivers, teachers) for intros and farewells. There’s actually so much going on that I’ve never “checked the clock” and yet, enough emphasis is placed to help retention – without excessive drilling, thankfully. I’ve heard B randomly repeating parts of the week’s songs, new rhyme and/or  vocabulary outside of class, so something must have stuck with my ants-in-his-pants boy 😉

Stars and moon mobile craft (now decorating the class)
Their stars and moon mobile craft decorating the class

3.  Phonics makes a difference: Their proprietary Baby Mandarin program deserves special mention as all the kids are remarkably attentive and responsive when it’s time for 幼儿拼音 (Hanyu Pinyin) at the end of each class. Hearing the main vocal sounds (e.g. “姐姐喝水, h h h” with corresponding actions) provides a missing verbal link for those who live in non-Chinese speaking environments. How can you expect anyone to just repeat word after word in a “new” language, if they’re not confident or comfortable pronouncing them in the first place? The Bibinogs approach recognises the value of teaching Chinese phonics at an early age to bi/multilingual kids.

4. Best of both worlds with bilingual: Besides the full Mandarin immersion classes, Bibinogs also runs a fun, high energy parent-accompanied bilingual program for 6-30 month olds (1 hour in English, 15 mins in Mandarin following a similar, but condensed version). Babies and tots receive hands-on, multi-dimensional and engaging learning experiences: physical development through music, movement and games; fine motor skills through art, craft and sensory play; language, communication skills and learn about the world around them through dramatization, story-telling, puppetry, action rhymes, poems and songs. They are also introduced to phonics and word blending through Jungle Friends.

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Learning “M” while making and mixing baby dough

5. Something just for you: Bibinogs offers a variety of programs from 6 months to 6 years.  English, Mandarin immersion or bilingual, accompanied or drop-off, enrichment or preschool, and even short term/holiday classes. There’s no fixed number of days in a week to commit to, e.g. you can enroll for 1, 2 or 3 days per week for enrichment classes, depending on your situation. Many parents would also appreciate the flexibility of having a certain number of make up classes which are allowed with advance notice, no MC required. Lastly, with multiple locations: Kings Arcade (preschool only), Serene Center, UE Square and Siglap (enrichment classes), Bibinogs makes it real easy to find a class, time and location that suits you.

A typical classroom
A typical classroom

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Enrichment: Can’t live without it, can’t live with it

I cringe whenever my friends (yes, starting from preschool) age kids talk about their packed evening and weekend enrichment schedules. I cringe because I can identify, and I see how easy it is for us – well-meaning parents – to get caught up in a race that’s become more about academic excellence rather than academic help for those who truly need it.

Our own enrichment woes are about Chinese. Although I’ve tried to keep B’s time free for play and bonding, this is one area where we need help in. I harbour no illusions that B will be a top scorer in advanced Chinese, but I do want him to be confident academically when he enters local primary, and not let poor Chinese be his Achilles heel in school, and later on in life. Currently, I haven’t found the right program since B graduated from the parent accompanied playgroups at Chengzhu as the timing and method are not suited for my kinesthetic and auditory learning boy. We’ve tried 1-to-1 tutors at home but B’s too young and lacks the focus to engage 100% with them – and besides, playing and interacting in Chinese with him is something I can do myself. I’m not ready to leave him alone in a brand new (fully Chinese!) environment as he just started half day nursery. So in the interim, we signed up for weekly mom-and-tots flexi sessions at Bibinogs till B turns 2.5 years, hopefully enabling us to enjoy our last few months in class together. Going forward, I’m still searching for a more structured yet interactive class that mixes outside and at home learning. Maybe we’ll trial Berries or Hua nearer us in a few months when he’s ready for another drop off. I’m also in the midst of sourcing more Chinese toddler books and DVDs, but the caveat is this banana-mama needs hanyupinyin to make any sense of the characters 😦 At the moment, the only time he willingly speaks Chinese is when he sings. A start, I guess?

All that said, before you go tiger mom enrichment-crazy on your kid, watch this video – a reminder that too much of a good thing can harm more than help. Let’s not kill their interest before it can bloom!

 
 

Releasing your child to (pre)school

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!

Once we decided on “where”, I spoke to a few friends, read Elizabeth Pantley’s The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution and Stormie Omartian’s The Power of a Praying Parent to prepare for “how” and “what if”. Here’s what I didn’t know or fully appreciate till B started:

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 🙂

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Tidings of comfort and joy

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.

Kindermusik: Feathers … and a busy B

Vocal play was the “call” of most of this term’s Kindermusik lessons. Nice timing as B is also acquiring language – a gradual development process that includes listening, facial interaction, symbolic play, means-to-an-end behaviour, object permanence, imitation and vocal chord development.  Vocal play engages the vocal muscles intensely and is great preparation for expressive speech.  Exploration with sound also increases spatial reasoning, which is the ability to understand how things relate in space and time, to visualise the world accurately, to form mental images of physical objects, and to recognise variations of objects.

We were encouraged to keep up vocal play by exaggerating the shape of the mouth, using animated facial expressions and eye contact via mirrors and/or positioning yourself within his view.  In addition, we should sing often and invite him to accompany on instruments.  Kids actually start singing early by babbling, repeated words and fragments, and finally adding rhythmic features and pitch components.  Singing is enjoyable AND beneficial in both cognitive development (abstract conceptual thinking, verbal abilities, originality) and motor development, esp. coordination. Besides sounds, we did some symbolic play too with feathers, toy birds and paper “leaves” to teach that one thing can represent another, starting with familiar items.  This correlates to language acquisition in that a word represents an object. The first stage of symbolic play usually manifests from 6-8 months and becomes more sophisticated as they grow with imaginary and role play.  This time there were new syncopated swing and jazz song-and-dances!  “Sing a Song of Sixpence” (dig that groovy intermission!), “Gee, But It’s Great to Meet a Friend” and “Once I Saw a Little Bird”, “Hop To It” and “Duck Dance” which explored the tribal calls of the muskogean people and combines vocal play with singing in a fun way.  😀

Home library:

  1. Feathers for lunch.  Lois Ehlert, Harcourt Brace and Jovanovich Co.
  2. Baby Steps. Claire Kopp, WH Freeman and CO.
  3. Singing Bee! A Collection of Favourite Children’s Songs.  Compiled by Jane Hart with pictures by Anita Lobel, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books.
  4. Trees, a poem. Harry Behn, illustrated by James Endicott, Henry Holt & Co.
  5. CD. Brahms at Bedtime:  A Sleepy Serenade.

On a side note, I renewed B for one last term at Chengzhu Playnest and Kindermusik Village to supplement mama’s morning “right brain class” (plus books, numbers, phonics, music and outdoor activities where possible). He also had his MMRV booster shot yesterday. Thankfully there’s only 2 more jabs till the next series at 10 years old. Pheew!  He’s now 11.3 kg, 81 cm at 15.5 months, understands lots of words, vocalises some, learning to self feed (patience and mess are a challenge for me!), naps ~2 hours once a day, sleeps from 830p to 730a with occasional waking (argh), and works on his gross and fine motor skills every chance he gets.  What a busy boy!