Category Archives: preschool

Conversations at four

Four years old.  These precious moments with B remind me how he’s growing up. Though mama has less time for him, he finds every opportunity to catch up together, to the point of “moving in” at night and talking a LOT about his “day” (which could mix a few days up) when he didn’t use to before 🙂

B got off his chair and ran over when he saw me return from work:
B: Mama! Hug 20 times! (We totally did). Missed you, mama
M: I missed you too, B.  Mama’s not feeling too well unfortunately….
B: Wait, I get you something (Runs off, returns with the thermometer). Here, let’s check
M: Thanks B, so thoughtful. Pray that mama recovers over the weekend, OK?
B: OK. I pray that the germs go away. Mama gets well soon and we can play.

After dinner, we make time for music (violin, sometimes piano), read (alternating between Chinese and English), then wind down for bed. Just when I’m snuggling down in my room, B comes inside, bearing another book, his pillow, blankie, soft toys…
B: Mama, see I brought all my things over. I’m sleeping with you tonight!
M: You know, B, you’ve been sleeping on your own since you were one. Don’t you like your own room?  Where’s daddy going to sleep?
B: I like my room but I want to sleep together mama. Maybe until I’m 20 years old (!) (Heads out to find daddy).
B: Daddy, you sleep in my room, ok?  I’ll leave the door open for you

At the end, he talks about “his day” while we lie in bed in the dark:
B: The other day at school, N and I came early. We ate something and then biked around. N told me I was going the wrong way. But I was right, he was wrong, and we banged each other.
M: Oh no! Did any of you get hurt?
B: No. Wait, maybe. N fell off a bit and cried.
M: Was he OK? Did you say sorry?
B: Maybe.
M: Maybe?
B: Well, I said sorry when we banged. And then he stopped crying and asked me to say sorry again, but I didn’t because I alrady said sorry. Then we played some more.
M: Hmm… It’s good you apologized. Please be careful the next time! (Note to self: Check with N’s mom and teachers). How was lunch?
B: Good. We had pasta. With chicken rice.
M: Pasta and chicken rice? Are you sure?
B: Errm we had pasta, peas, carrots, corn.  I like corn. Also, some chicken. I ate all my food.
M: That’s good! Did you eat fast like we’ve been talking about?
B: I ate faster than J! I said “Hurry up, eat faster!” But J doesn’t like corn. So he ate slowly.
M: Besides J, who ate with you?
B: (Tells me who sat exactly where and in which table)
…..
B: Mama, mama! I’m still talking. Are you listening?
M: I’m listening, but I’m quite tired too.  Talk more tomorrow, B? Love you, good night.
B: Love you. Good night, mama.  (Starts humming while I fall asleep)

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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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Favourite things for our favourite teachers

I first learned this poem by Usman Awang as a young student in Malaysia.  As it turns out, the school’s Parent Support Group asked me to add a video message in Malay to our teachers tribute this year, so I read excerpts from this to them. As we celebrate Teachers’ Day (and for some of us, “enjoy” our kids’ day off), let’s remember the wonderful teachers who serve as our kid’s moms, dads and friends, who gently and patiently guide them along this journey of life.

Selamat Hari Guru
I’ve said it before, B’s been blessed with great teachers since he started half-day preschool and subsequently, extended to full day childcare this year. In our own random emergent discussions, we came up with these ways to thank them: “read books”, “give stickers/flowers/cars (of course),” “sing/video” and “eat mooncakes” (hmm).

So … we decided on three projects:
(1) A video greeting: Recorded at the Singapore Garden Festival

(2) Customised, hand-made thanksgiving trees: Given by the PSG on behalf of all parents and students to every teacher and staff

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(3) Personalised bookmarks of B’s favourite things for his favourite teachers:
We decided on bookmarks as B loves to read, it complemented the special bookstore voucher (thanks, NoQ!) included in the PSG gift bags, and allowed B lots of fun, easy customisation.  It took us a few sessions as he kept wanting to add to it yet couldn’t sit and craft for more than 20-25 minutes each time.  I’m so proud of his excitement and commitment to see it through!
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Here’s how we did it:  Cut out leftover, unused gift wrap in the desired bookmark shape and quantity. We stuck to rectangles as it’s easier for B to cut somewhat cleanly.  On coloured card stock, stamp out the teachers’ names, working with your kid to identify the right letters (upper/lowercase), align and stamp in order! Cut them out,  add double sided tape and stick them on top of the gift wrap paper.

WP_20140831_007At the back, we incorporated B’s favourite things: Art, stickers, cars 🙂 See if you can spot them all!

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This artwork was done at Botanic Gardens. Actual veggies were cut, painted and stamped for the flowers. He finger/brush painted the rest and also tried painting a toilet paper roll tied with a rubber band to make the grassy “effect”

B insisted on adding his face, so we used extra copies of his mugshot, sticking again with double-sided tape so that it doesn’t get too wet or messy.  After that, we lined them up in the pouch and laminated them.  I cut them out, let him punch the holes and thread the ribbons through, applied silicone glue to seal the ribbons – and viola!

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Thanks for helping B grow, dear teachers!

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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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Let’s go to Letterland!

Since B started N1 (nursery) in January, he hasn’t stopped singing about Letterland.  To find out more, we borrowed some Letterland library books. But it wasn’t till this weekend, when a few of us “lucky” parents attended a workshop by the school, that I finally understood what B’s been going on about every week … !

Let's go to Letterland!
With Letterland, children are taught the shapes and sounds of letters by assigning them to imaginary pictogram characters living in a fictional land. Letterland engages children across all learning methods (visual, kinesthetic, auditory, speech) with songs, stories, actions, hands-on activities and even online software.  The stories also creatively and thoughtfully explain the reasoning behind sounds, shapes, reading and writing direction for individual letters, blends and digraphs.  This makes it easier and more intuitive when kids progress to word building, reading and writing. Overall, Letterland is a comprehensive synthetic phonics and story-based system. When first introduced, the songs also link back to the alphabet names so that kids who already know their alphabet won’t get confused.  Thumbs up for a  fun, memorable AND informative approach.  Read here for more.

Since the workshop, I’m re-motivated to support his Letterland learning at home. We’ve done various letter-related activities, e.g. collages, playdough, flashcards, tracing with feelers (glitter glue, sandpaper, ink, any tactile item that starts with the same letter). And of course, Letterland library books. Here are the early years ones:

Letterland library books
Letterland library books (baby/jp section)

Our most recent DIY project was this large Letterland tree aka a big wall pocket poster (at B’s height) to reinforce the characters and letters in both upper and lowercase. For now, we use it for letter recognition and identification as B tries to match them correctly as he sings and says the right sounds:

Dippy Duck says 'd..., d...'
Dippy Duck says ‘d…, d…’

Here’s how we made it:  Cut out some old artwork in small rectangles for the base and use double sided tape to stick plastic pockets on (you can use card organiser / collector sheets from Popular). Print out Letterland letters and characters (official downloads from here), laminate and cut out individual letters and add blu-tak to the back so they stick easily.

Making our Letterland tree
Making our Letterland tree

Most phonics systems can be taught from ~18 months on, or earlier if your child has interest (see our first attempt with zoo-phonics). While phonics isn’t the only way to learn to read, and shouldn’t be something you “force” on any kid, it’s quite effective if you’ve got a child who’s interested in words from the books and print (s)he’s exposed to everyday.  Even if you’ve no time for lots of crafty, highly engaged projects, consider enhancing your preschooler’s learning with BOOKS and if needed, educational material from online distributors like NoQ, Elm Tree or the many free downloads and printables online. A wonderful world of words that will feed their knowledge and imagination lies ahead once they “crack the code.” Happy reading!

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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

And now, a special offer for all Finally Mama fans – offer expires March 31, 2015
1) Use the code: FINALLYMAMA when you contact Bibinogs
2) FREE trial for ANY enrichment program
3) 50% off the registration fee if you decide to sign up for subsequent classes after the trial

This is a sponsored review. 

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