Category Archives: science

How many ways can you play-doh?

Which kid doesn’t love science?  It satisfies their natural curiosity, especially at the age when they don’t stop asking “why” and also devour anything they can read (or be read to). It’s also – simply put, pretty darn cool.  Lately, B has gotten rather obsessed with space.  He’s watched the Magic School Bus Lost In Space episode at least 20 times – I caught him at it again with Netflix on my iPad early this morning when I woke up!  He creates LEGO rockets and launches them on a journey through the planets.  He loves to show the Solar Walk 2 app on our Apple TV to anyone who visits our home. He talks about being an astronaut when he grows up, staying on the ISS (after we read about the historic year in space), travelling to Pluto which he insists IS a planet, a “dwarf planet.”  He’s also been asking to go to a planetarium – but as the observatory at the Science Center isn’t terribly kid-friendly or that exciting (sorry), I told him we’ll try to visit California or Houston one day.

This weekend, we decided to use PLAY-DOH to build a model of the solar system. B was fully engaged for 1.5 hours, even pausing to check out facts on my iPhone like where’s the asteroid belt, which planets have rings, what’s the right comparative size and colour!

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PLAY-DOH has been a staple at our home – and we continue to find creative ways to use it. When B was younger, we’d set tubs out during play dates as it usually kept the toddlers occupied for a while, plus, it’s not that messy and super easy to clean up. When B struggled to write and draw well, his teachers recommended PLAY-DOH to strengthen his fine motor skills in a fun way.  These days, we take it out to support creative play at home with some fun hands-on experiments and imaginative story telling on a range of topics like natural disasters, dinosaurs, and geography.

On that note, if you’re looking for something to do with the kids over the school break, check out PLAY-DOH’s 60th Anniversary Celebration from June 6-12 (12-9p daily) at Waterway Point, Village Square Level 1 (West Wing). There’ll be a variety of birthday activities including the attempt to enter the Singapore Book of Records with the largest cupcake tower, workshops, story telling and photo ops with mascots by Da Little Arts School, among other fringe activities. On top of that, the first 1000 to contribute their cupcake creations will also receive a free Hasbro goodie bag.

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

Time is precious, waste it wisely

This month, I have 3 weeks of no business travel. Hooray!  His teachers and my parents tell me that he’s thriving – at nursery and at home, even when I’m away. But when I’m back, B has definitely become more demanding of me, my attention and time. I find his worst behaviours tend to get triggered on evenings when I’m the most tired too. In those moments, I’m learning that  empathy, consistent TLC with a dash of discipline (when appropriate), and some basic psychology (choices, counting down, consequences) goes a long way. While days at work remain focused and full, I’ve been trying to carve out precious time with the kiddo every day. This week, instead of rushing to pick him up after work and head back for our regular home-cooked dinner, we detoured to Clarke Quay. We shared a Hokkaido ice-cream and watched the river boats chug by, B scooted while I attempted to window shop, and we had a later than usual dinner with daddy near his office by the river. FullSizeRender While I have less time to plan those projects and outings which B and I enjoy, I find that simple spontaneous activities together can fill that need B has for mama time, which has typically evolved around art and craft, books and music. This week, after countless volcano eruptions and floods, I suggested to see what happens next. So we cleaned and dried our clay models, rolled and flattened them like play dough. B had fun figuring out how to spell “VOLCANO” and “FLOOD”; find and make the clay letters, and later created his version of what the ground would look after a natural disaster – with animal tracks and dead trees. He was also overjoyed to receive some dino and volcano stickers from a friend at school – everything just came together nicely 🙂 The best part? These at-home activities didn’t take much time or money, just some hands-on investment and imagination. Yet IMO, they pay off far more than classes or toys. IMG_2600 A mom friend recently asked me if I felt guilty working full time.  I’ll always remain an engaged parent regardless what the circumstances are.  I didn’t feel guilty leaving the corporate world back when B was 6 months old, which led me to start up CRIB with some awesome ladies. I don’t feel guilty today with my commitments at full time work either. I think perhaps a big reason is that I’ve had the benefit of choice – and I chose to do what felt right, and what I was passionate about at that time. Honestly, having been a full time mom, flexi mompreneur, and working mom, I must say, the grass always seems greener!  Working full time has its ups and downs, like days such as these: I really need to work todayBut rather than guilt, let’s focus on making the most out of the time we have today. After all, time is precious. Waste it wisely. For updates, reviews and more, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.  

Recreating natural disasters

What do the Nepal earthquake, Sydney storm, and Mount Batur in Bali have in common?  They’re all natural disasters!

This weekend, mama decided to run an impromptu lesson on natural disasters based on recent events and trips. As we always do, we borrowed books – on floods, earthquakes and volcanoes …

Books

We talked through the news (printed and online), looked up YouTube videos, and even dug up these water and land formation cards I made when we were homeschooling. Back then I got more out of these than he did, so it was nice to see him actually read some of the words now, recognise more formations and associate what he’s seen like Singapore island, Marina Bay, Macritchie Reservoir, River Valley, Puteri Harbour, Bukit Timah (hill), Jurong Lake, Alexandra Canal, etc.
Formations

Best of all, we recreated these natural disasters at home, getting some hands-on, messy fun along the way!

First, I took out our modeling clay and aluminum food trays. Using the visuals as a guide, I invited B to make a mini volcano and river inside the trays.  I helped him to shape the volcano while he did a good job on the river, adding little trees and animals along it too ….
Clay

Then, I hunted around the house and found these items – baking soda, dish soap, paint, vinegar, paper or plastic cups, water and something to stir with.  If you remember science class (or else, just search online), you’ll know what comes next!
DIY

Fill one cup with vinegar and set aside.  In the other cup, mix a couple of spoonfuls of baking soda, a dash of dish soap and paint (to match what you’re trying to simulate). Add water and stir until it’s a nice even mixture. Pour this into the volcano to get the red “magma” inside or blue “river water” along the banks.
Magma

Lastly, pour the cup with vinegar slowly into the mix and see the volcano erupt with “lava” spilling out,

and the riverbanks overflowing!

How awesome is that? We had so much fun that B asked to do this again. And again.  Science is cool.

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

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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_006

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When dinosaurs ruled the earth

February ended with a roar, a dinosaur roar! Unlike space, transportation and animals which were easy hits back when we were doing monthly themes, I wasn’t sure how B would take to dinos – I mean, the names are hard to pronounce and animals are all dead and scary looking (except for Barney, but he’s not quite … real). By the end though, B was impersonating the T-Rex walk, wrapping his tongue around “triceratops,” “apatosaurus,” “stegosaurus,” and knew how to spell “D-I-N-O-S-A-U-R” with playdough. A success!

Lucky for us, there were TWO great dinosaur showcases in Singapore this past month, both different yet good.

We first visited Titans of the Past – Dinosaurs and Ice Age Mammals at the Science Center. To be honest, we’d trekked out west before for the Megabugs Return exhibit butweren’t too impressed. I felt the center overall could do with some upgrading. However, this time, we were pleasantly surprised by the toddler friendly activities and animations that managed to keep 2+ year boys entertained throughout! It’s a shame the exhibit is over so soon (25 October 2013 – 23 February 2014) and not that well publicized. When we went on a Thursday afternoon, there were less than 10 visitors there. Besides pressing all the buttons to make them roar and eat, B also enjoyed the mini paleontologists sandpit dig where they brushed for fossils.

We also went to Dinosaurs: Dawn To Extinction at the ArtScience Museum (25 January – 25 May 2014), getting there just before 5p in time for the free English tour. IMO, the exhibits here were of better quality and clearer presentation, with bone fossils AND life size models, info boards and occasional activity stations. The caveat was we had to pay admission for B whereas he got in free (under 3 years) at the Science Center. That said, even distracted mommy retained a few bits of knowledge in between making sure my lil live dino didn’t break anything!

B attempted to fit all the puzzles, but most were set too high for toddlers – and he’s quite tall at 95cm+ (for 27 months). He also enjoyed the model of the walking T-Rex and the footprint section, where you could make your own track, identify and compare various footprint tracks.

Go here to see the other kid-friendly events and activities coming in March (booking required) if you have older kids, 6 years and up.

Some of our dino themed art, crafts and books:

Wayang kulit (shadow puppets) dino-age birds and lizards
The care and feeding of a 3D apatosaurus
Dino-awesome library books!
Making a dino foam penholder
Stamping with paint on styrofoam

Tracing and colouring pre-writing worksheets from here. His fine motor skills aren’t great, but he’s slowly improving, i.e. changing colours for different objects, following straight and curvy lines, etc.

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Dem aching bones

A late recap post as September was a tiring month. Everyone in the household fell sick, helper was on home leave, hubby and grandparents were frequently away.  While regular laundry, home-cooked meals and toilet cleaning were somewhat neglected, holding down the fort (while sick too!) gave me a nice super-mom buzz and of course, a deeper appreciation for all dedicated caregivers and homeschooling moms out there…  Some days when a me-only holiday or even full time work seemed like a nice break (not in reality, I know), I turn to this article‘s quote: “The more time a mother can spend raising her kids, the better. The better for them, the better for their souls, the better for the community, the better for humanity. Period.”

That said, we still worked through a theme: OUR BODY, following B’s weekly Gymnademics home material as I had little time for much else. B even got “kicked up to the 2-3 years Fellows class a tad early (hope they don’t regret it!)

ABC:  We didn’t find a “wow” body book at the library as the many kids books were either too simple or too wordy.  So we revisited a few classic books and flash cards around the body, reinforced by simple craft on Saturdays with dad.


Our best activity:  Making our B-sized skeleton.  Mommy traced out B’s body on paper, drew and cut out the bones, while B painted it.  He loves greeting “skeleton” every morning and night, sticks food stickers in his mouth because it’s hungry.  All those bones must make him look quite thin!  Bonus: The skeleton makes a perfect profor Halloween 🙂


Music: Songs worked wonderfully in this theme!  Now that B actually sings (well, he strings all the words in a run-on-sentence), music really aids his recall and encourages him to move more parts of the body.  We’d been singing Head Shoulders Knees Toes for a while now, but he’s also responding more to the Chinese versions too (the ones in class have different, fun variations of 拍拍手).  This month, B picked up on a few more:

Outings:  It’s that time of year for birthday parties again!  Besides that, we tried to go outdoors as often as possible before the rainy season hits. We joined a few friends for a beach playdate, visited The Garden House (a new nature-themed preschool), went back to Gardens By The Bay for the Mid-Autumn Festival show, fed fish and picnic-ked out at Botanic Gardens, among others.

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  • B truly started conversing in Chinese! 好棒 兴烨!
  • Started singing with words, not just sounds/tones (mainly in English): Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Row Row Row Your Boat, Hokey Pokey, Wheels On The Bus, Rain Rain Go Away, Happy Birthday, and snippets of everything else he hears around him. 
  • Tantrums remain infrequent and can be pre-empted as it’s usually related to (1) Too tired and don’t want to bathe before nap (2) Too hungry yet don’t want to give up his cars
  • Growing independence – he’s increasingly saying “Mama, B do” whether it’s drawing, stamping, reading, eating, choosing what to wear, etc.  Feels like my little boy wants to be a man too fast!  
  • Growth spurt!  One day he suddenly outgrew his 2 year sized shoes and pajamas. When we were at IKEA this week, we also discovered that he’s 90 cm – the “magic” height for entry into some playgrounds, and also, bus and MRT payments 😉  When did that happen?  He’d been seemingly stuck at 86 cm and just around 12 kg for the past few months

No time for flashcards?

This month, we covered TIME.  Thankfully, I managed to save time (hah!) searching for, making and adapting material for B as the theme coincided with the Gymnademics weekly home material.  It allowed us to reinforce numbers as B’s been sporadically saying 0 to 20 (in English) and 1-10 (in Chinese). We also dived into the concept of day and night, seasons and weather patterns as B loves pointing to the moon, sun, stars, rain, clouds, etc. 😉

Books. There are soooo many good books about time, numbers and weather. Reading books is even more fun now that he repeats most words and memorises familiar phrases that he likes. Here’s what worked well for us among the titles we could find in the library and had at home.

 
BTW, we really enjoyed “Only My Mom and Me” by Alyssa Satin Capucili which covers the days/seasons that a mom and child spend together.  But I had to return it to the library and haven’t bought it online yet 😦  Also, there’s many book-based activities from Margaret Wise Brown’s “Goodnight Moon,” a classic bedtime fave that shows how time passes before bed. Maybe we’ll try that in Sept….
Craft. We made a weather/week/time wheel to complement the theme.  B loves spinning it while saying the words and numbers. He’s also slowly learning how to manipulate the wooden clothespegs.
Music and Movement. When we reviewed the days and months, B would get stuck on Wednesday and had a tough time associating the months with “concrete” things.  These music videos helped! (Note: There are many out there online, these were the ones we liked more)  
 
Chinese?! One day, B re-discovered our stash of bilingual flashcards, gleefully exclaimed “WOW!” and brought them over to read together.  Whenever there’s time at home, he would open box after box to flip through. I try not to repeat the cards and end leaving him wanting more.  He tends to say the English word when he sees/hears me read out Chinese characters, but he does vocalise some Chinese, esp. those he hears frequently from songs, conversations and his first set of Chinese storybooks.
 
Art:  Since this was mommy’s first year as a Singaporean, we hosted a casual National Day BBQ, jet flypast and fireworks watching at our place. B excitedly says “boom boom fire” and “zoom zoom airplane when he sees his artist impression proudly displayed on the art wall 🙂
 
Outings and Special Projects: This month, B visited Megabugs Return! and the Science Center (rather underwhelming, seriously in need of upgrading), the Art Garden @ SAM (again!) and theIstana Open House for Hari Raya and National Day. We also returned to the Esplanade for Hello Ling, the second in the PLAYtime! series, which dramatised the effects of light or in B’s words “sunlight, starlight, moonlight … and rainbows!” To cap it all, B made his first (?) science discovery, i.e. a simplified “taugeh” project to grow green bean plants over time (i.e. the 7 days in a week) with the help of water, air and sunlight.
Personal:
– When asked “What’s your name?”  He’ll say it all in one run-on word “bwxy!”
– Mr Manners. B calls “Hi, Thank You, Please, Good Morning, Bye, Day, Night (and Sleep Tight)” if prompted though once in while we’ll get a spontaneous “Morning/Bye uncle/aunty!” while in the lift, charming our neighbours (and some strangers). The family tree will come in handy for those Chinese titles and names!

– Potty training steps.  B regularly voices when he needs to pee and poop, does it in the toilet more often and has fewer accidents. Even though we’ve not yet gone all-in (i.e. he wears diapers/trainers when sleeping and when outside for extended periods), this has been so encouraging for us all. Yes!
– Hello, tantrums. Our gentle, observant 21 month old B has finally succumbed to his undeveloped cortex 🙂 Thankfully the tantrums are not frequent and rather predictable (i.e. he’ll say “No like! No want!” or throw a fuss when he’s upset, tired at end of day or had a poor nap, or wants to be independent).  I guess a happy, stimulating and secure environment with a balance of love and discipline is no longer enough at this age! B needs his autonomy, and we should “never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”  Maria Montessori said this best
– Gimme freedom! That’s perhaps why B likes music and movement so much.  I flip through the newspaper with him in the mornings, let him choose how many and which books to read, have regular messy, art and music playdates.  As his vocabulary expands, he’s forming more and more 2-3 word phrases to better express himself and is gradually overcoming his shyness to say words in Chinese and Malay too
“Today is Monday” everyday according to B, and it’s a delightful day!