Category Archives: singing

The Magic Three

My darling B:

You are now 33 months. Just 3 months to go before you turn 3 years old! Everyone warned me about the terrible twos, but the year turned out to be pretty terrific instead. Hopefully I don’t jinx the remaining months 😮 You had your moments of wild, irrational flail-on-the-ground tantrums, but through it all I kept the 3 Ts in mind:  Tank up on love, Transition gradually, and Timing matters!

In light of your and mama’s developments this year, here are 3×3 things to celebrate about you!

3 THINGS I LOVE ABOUT YOU

1) THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE: You love reading. You bring books  to our bed in the morning, want to read at mealtimes, and negotiate the number of stories for bedtime.  You are ever curious. You’ll ask “What happen, mama?” when I’m reading the news or listening to the radio. The library is like your second home where you can occupy yourself flipping through books or telling stories to friends (imaginary or anyone nearby). Your face lights up as you associate what you read with what you see in real life. When your gears start spinning, you turn to me to say “Remember the [book/event/person/item]?” and a wonderful process of discovery ensues. When you see text, you track the words with your fingers as you “read.”  You like to call out numbers, upper and lower cases that you recognise from Letterland phonics, and even Chinese characters.  It’s truly a delight to watch you learn!

Watching the night sky from our balcony got him intrigued about space so we’ve borrowed many books about it (like this one).  Here he’s simulating the moon rotating around the earth 🙂

2) A SONG IN YOUR HEART:  Since you started carrying a tune, you  haven’t stopped making music. Even as a baby, you’d often hum and move to the rhythm and beat.  These days, we don’t need alarm clocks because you wake us up with your singing at 7a or earlier! You make us laugh with silly adaptations and lead your friends in rousing renditions of songs from Majulah Singapura to Wheels on the Bus to “一步一步走啊走”.   This year we tried some structured music learning at home, and we’ll continue to look for ways to help you hone this gift now and beyond.

3) PASSION FOR VEHICLES: Be they in the air, on the road, on water, in print, real or toy, rides or stickers – you like them all! You  observe routes, recall directions, names of roads and who stays where. Your pretend play is getting more creative too. You manipulate everyday things at home, LEGO and wooden blocks, toy vehicles, tracks and figures to form construction sites, accident and rescue operations, traffic jams on the highway, neighbourhood multi-story carparks – all with sound effects and commentary.

One activity you initiated is to lay out your vehicle flash cards and we take turns to find the right one as we play “I Spy” and 这是什么?”

Sometimes I need to set time limits so you don’t get too obsessed (i.e. kick a fuss when it’s time to stop or leave). But this shows me  you’re capable of focusing and innovating on what interests you. If only we could figure out how to replicate this for other stuff  😉

3 AREAS YOU’VE GROWN IN

1) (SELF) HELPER: Although I still prompt you to eat faster or finish up, I’m thankful that you continue to help yourself at meal times and have a healthy appetite, drink well, (mostly) eat greens, fruits and are willing to try variety – Asian, Western, Middle Eastern, mild herbs and spices. You even ate durian!

Since we started our first sticker chart on toilet training, you also have less accidents and better control.  You let us know when you want to pee and poop instead of us asking or taking you regularly.  There’s still occasional overnight bed wetting and leaks (esp. when you’re too excited or shy) but you’ve made great progress that we’ve moved on to a new chart for wearing/undressing clothes and shoes.

Out with the old, in with the new sticker chart

Lastly, although you need reminding, you do help to clean up after play, unload dirty clothes into the laundry bag and bring your dishes to the kitchen after meals. Well done!

2) FINE MOTOR SKILLS:  Thanks to your current preschool, you’re constantly encouraged to experiment and express yourself through art and craft. Mama is so thankful for the amazing teachers there!

Our little artist at his first school exhibition

Although there’s less opportunities for us at home together, I cherish the times when we play simple number and finger games and do crafty activities that build your fine motor skills.  Of course, you still treat glue like paint, colour all over the page, use brushes, pencils, markers and crayons like stamps, wield the scissors and chopsticks with two hands when your fingers are tired… But you’re getting there. Just persevere and keep up the great work!

Our art wall is constantly full even though mama recycles often

3) THE GREAT OUTDOORS:  We now do more things outside and for  longer before you ask for a “抱抱“!  You’ve always been a cautious toddler and not a big fan of being under the hot sun.  Yet as you grow, you now scoot with more confidence and speed, are eager to get wet and play in the sand (caveat: area must be “clean and cool” enough), jump in the pool at your weekly swim class, pedal the tricycles at school and ride your balance bike to deliver items and messages from place to place.  I only wish you’d wear your safety helmet more often so mama doesn’t worry … too much.

Getting out and about

So here’s to you, my little big baby, who’s becoming a big little boy. Love you to the moon and back!

We are Singaporean

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Music with mama: Trial classes at MYC and Seimpi

Recently, B attended trial classes at Music For Young Children (Orchard) and Seimpi School of Music (Funan).  Both programs are parent accompanied, utilise a whole brain approach and go beyond generic music appreciation to introduce basic music fundamentals and early musicianship pre-Grade 1).

1) Music For Young Children: Sunrise class (27-36 months)
This was a special trial for B and his friends. We learnt about a variety of instruments, tonal and rhythm patterns using early learning and pre-reading concepts such as counting, direction (right/left), speed (fast/slow), dynamics (loud/quiet), sorting (shapes/colours). Class time alternated rapidly between singing, dancing, body plays, simple games, crafts, stories, listening activities, percussion play-along and ensembles.  For example, here’s the keyboard section: Each student takes turns to sing while pressing a key on a large sensory floor keyboard, teacher uses tactile visual aids (flashcards, storyboard, toys, props to demo “standing still” (same note) “stepping up” (moving up a scale), students then reinforce how to recognise and relate these notes, sounds and actions through worksheets, magnets, stickers, various manipulatives and games.

What we liked: Time flies! Concepts are presented and then reinforced in an array of learning styles – visual, auditory, kinesthetic, digital, analytical, etc. to engage your little learner. The repetition – listening, responding and singing – is effective as the kids were still talking about class days after the trial.

Check it out: If you’re looking for a fast paced, multi-sensory, early music class that emphasises verbal confidence and eventually composition. Regular students will receive a package that includes instruments and a comprehensive manual with singing, warm-ups, keyboard, listening, rhythm, and assignment sections. Give the code “FINALLYMAMA” for a special trial class and waiver of registration fee if you sign up. They also have an upcoming June music holiday camp – look for the FB promo in May.

2) Seimpi School of Music: MIM® Playtime class (2-3 years)
We joined an existing class which felt like a typical music and movement session with elements of their hallmark Music for the Intelligent Mind (MIM) programs like exposure to early note reading and key recognition, eye, ear, concentration and memory training.  For example, here’s the keyboard section: Each student takes turn to place stuffed animals on the black keys, then set and ring pitched desk bells on the white keys on a large floor mat, teacher reviews notes with a notation cloth, demos a few nursery songs, introduces a finger exercise song, and then guides each student individually to play simple pieces on a keyboard (there’s enough for each student).

What we liked: Exposure to note reading and proper playing techniques (i.e. using all fingers, not just your pointer) at an early age in a relaxed environment. Instead of solfège, students were introduced directly to notes (positioning) and keys (e.g. C-D-E).

Check it out: If you’re keen to start your child early on piano playing and theory, can commit to consistent follow up at home and have some music knowledge to do so. Regular students will receive two workbooks – activity (fundamentals) and piano playing book (beginner), with an audio CD.  Ask for a free trial – it’s an ongoing promo.

As for us, we enjoyed them and will revisit these schools when B turns 3 or so.  Meanwhile, they are an inspiration to continue with our home music learning 🙂

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Music with mama: Keyboard 101

A month into our structured home learning music times, and we’re making good progress. We’ve settled into a routine roughly ~5x a week, typically weekday evenings before dinner. Within the Little Musician program, his  favourites remain “solfège” where he can now identify the right sound when he hears it, and sometimes when he sees the notes on the stave (though not always at the right pitch), and “clap-along” when he enjoys moving around to the rhythm (though not always at the defined beats and time values). B regularly asks to repeat these sections, and I’ll oblige until he’s ready to move on. We’re also putting our instruments at home to good use: The DIY and Kindermusik percussion, ukulele and electronic keyboard. I’m quite tempted to get a violin, but may wait till I find a cheap second hand (or convince someone to “gift” it to us)

I’ve since introduced a practical keyboard component by sticking makeshift labels to help B focus on pressing, listening to and singing the individual keys (and chords). This was a natural progression as he was consistently singing do-re-mi when prompted by hearing the note sound or seeing the note on the stave. All I did was buy a pack of basic white label stickers from Popular, colour and label accordingly, stick away and viola! Initially, I only labelled 2 scales (intending to reflect treble and bass) but ever observant B kept pointing out that the rest of the keys were empty, so I had to oblige 🙂

Colour coded keyboard stickers with notes and solfège
Colour coded keyboard stickers with notes and solfège

At the moment, he tends to press one note at a time with his pointy (2nd) finger, using one hand to scale up and the other hand to scale down. Once in a while, he’ll also sing solfège while pressing the correct key. And of course, nothing makes him happier than to randomly bang/dance/sing along. A good start!

Will continue to work on association between what he sees, hears and does (eye, ear, hand coordination), pitch and rhythm. Plan to introduce music-related craft and exercises soon, starting with these:

Hand positioning and fingering
Hand positioning and fingering
Linking solfège, notes and keys

For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook. For music ideas, come visit my Pinterest tot music ideas board.

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.

Learning
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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Music with mama: Structured home time

“Music is a more potent instrument than any other for education.” – Plato
B and I have always enjoyed making music together. Once he could sit up, we attended music and movement meetups and eventually, Kindermusik Village and Our Time classes till he started nursery this year. If like us, (1) your tot already gets some music exposure in preschool, (2) you think he has potential and interest to go further, but (3) you’re uncertain about the differences, cost and logistics of “extra” music classes, why not try some fun yet structured music making at home instead.  Given my thoughts on enrichment, I’m currently not sending B for additional music class until he’s ready for specific instrument, dance or vocal lessons. We recently completed a 10-day free trial of BrillKids’ Little Musician and plan to adapt it for the year as long as I’ve got a flexi WAHM schedule. B LOVED it. He asks for “Music at home? Solfège? Clap along?” and sings random chords throughout the day. Check out the video to see (or rather, hear) what I mean!
Wait a minute. Solfège? Music training? Sounds so hardcore! Also, isn’t music best learnt in a group? Well, B gets plenty of social music with his school and playmates. What I’m doing here is more structured music that’ll lead into formal lessons in the future. This was easy to try given my music background but after the trial and seeing all the resources available, I’m sure anyone can do it too. No need any “formal” experience or pitch perfection. The key is the right attitude, interest and time 🙂
Let me explain a bit more….
Why “music training” and why now?
– Music is a whole brain activity, using 90% of the brain, more than any other activity
-Music lessons in childhood do enlarge the brain, with studies showing better grades due to improved concentration, confidence and learning
– Music trains the higher cognitive functions, spatial-temporal reasoning, puzzle-solving, aesthetic literacy, overall perceptual, imaginative, visual and mathematical abilities
– Singing and pitch discrimination are increasingly accepted as tools to learn to read
– Rhythm and tempo control helps kids perform routine activities with more ease and efficiency
– Instrumental practice enhances coordination, concentration, memory, improves eyesight and hearing
What can you do at home? LOTS if you’re willing to be involved and do it regularly. Short periods frequently in a relaxed environment work best at the early ages. What I liked about Little Musician is each session lasts only 5 mins every day – with options for more. Build on what your kid knows or enjoys, use activities that develop a good ear like listening, singing and imitation, and have fun performing, composing and improvising together.
Singing and Listening begins while the wee one is in your belly. Once he starts to make vocal sounds, he’ll soon imitate you (and others) in singing, so sing often and enthusiastically, together or alone – no need for fancy instruments or to wait until their motor skills improve or you join a class. While background music has its time and place, active listening involves interaction. Engage your kid on what they hear and respond when the songs, tempo or dynamics change. Draw, dance, show pictures or videos of instruments and performers, attend live concerts as often as you can. Concert prices in Singapore are quite pricy but there ARE many free or community events that work just as well. Don’t just stick to nursery rhymes and lullabies, introduce classical, jazz, rock, pop, rock, folk, world music too. The younger the child, the wider their taste although they also love repetition 🙂

Rhythm and Pitch is B’s first indication (to me) that he liked music. As a baby, he loved rhythm – bouncing on my lap or knee, swaying, spinning, dancing, clapping, and was fascinated by my guitar, electronic keys, buttons and drum pads at home. We are now working more on pitch, i.e. the ability to distinguish how high or low a note is and whether something is out of tune or not. This is where solfège comes in, i.e. do-re-mi, the easiest and most common system of learning pitch and scales. It links listening, singing and playing (aural skills) as we learn to hear sounds in our head before singing. Do-re-mi is easy to vocalise with open vowel endings ideal for singing as opposed to ABC letters for key names. Somewhat inspired by the Eguchi Method, we listen to and match notes with letters and solfège names using hand signals and a colour coded keyboard (or other pitch instruments such as xylophone, handbells, chime, resonator bars if you have them).


Instruments
(toy, home-made or real) expose them to different types of sounds: everyday ones, pitched and unpitched. Start with percussion such as drums, shakers and castanets and expose them to “real” instruments like violins, guitars, pianos, other strings, woodwinds and brass, if possible. You don’t have to buy – DIY with household items, borrow or exchange with friends, “play” whenever you can on real instruments. Else, brands with good quality, child-sized instruments are Melissa & Doug, Music4Tots, Music Factory products though IMO, these are lower priced overseas 🙂

Violin seesaw
 
Composing and Improvisation comes naturally to kids. Has your lil one ever changed the lyrics or tune slightly with a cheeky grin? B does that all the time (even in Chinese)! We should encourage this. Talk about it when they’re doing it, what sounds, dynamics and words are used, introduce vocabulary as you accompany a favourite story or match different moods and situations. Be silly together and your kid will see music as something they can use to express themselves and play with on their own. How many times have I asked B “What shall we sing?” and he goes “Wheels On The Bus” with a funky new variation each time!

Of course, Little Musician isn’t the only home resource out there. I’ve listed a few more for music appreciation and some (paid and free) learning programs as well:
Plank Road Publishing Music Concept Videos – fun, animated, FREE videos
Trebellina, an animated treble clef that teaches babies, toddlers, and preschoolers how to read music, pitch, and instrument names and sounds
Beethoven’s Wig – classical music with lyrics and bits of knowledge added
– Golden Records child’s introduction series digitised vinyl records available for free
Classics For Kids for resources on classical music and composers
Tuneables music education cartoons for preschoolers
Moosicology songs, stories and colourful pictures for 0-7 years

Source: Little Musician, Moosicology, Wikipedia and other sites from Google!

For updates, reviews and more, like Finally Mama on Facebook and follow me on Instagram.  For music ideas, come visit by Pinterest tot music ideas board.  Have a music program for under 3s? I’m always open to trial and discuss 🙂

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 journey with Odyssey will be even more rewarding and fun than it’s been with mommy and me so far.

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