I’ve been travelling a lot for work this year, with a particularly intense past few months. The person most interested in my trips is B, who peppers me with questions – besides just “When are you coming back, mama?!” So I decided to transform my work trips to mini-lessons in geography and history. It’s become such a regular occurrence that B looks forward to these “special projects” with mom on free weekends when I’m home!
We’ve been working through a lovely colouring book country by country, supplementing the maps with library books and internet searches to make it more interesting and interactive. I too learnt something new as we saw highlights of the India-Pakistan cricket matches, the tough life of elephants in Thailand, the history of junk boats in Vietnam, and so on.
I also try to get souvenirs for folks back home and sometimes the best things are free too! For example, B loves activity books at this age, and luckily many hotels have good fun ones they’re usually happy to pass to “your little one waiting back home.”
B has always loved working with his hands and solving puzzles, so activities like these 3D puzzles or LEGO blocks are also a hit. It amazes me how he’s able to sit down, and painstakingly put these together (with help as needed) – some times for 1 hour or more! Now that B reads decently well, he also enjoys discovering information on his own, and likes to cite (sometimes random) facts about popular places and people.
So if you’re travelling, and wish you could but can’t bring your kids along, try these. They’ll feel involved, learn about the world, and can perhaps view your trips in a positive way by looking forward to these moments. We know it’s hard to be apart – so check out the video for a little something to cheer you up 🙂
This past advent celebration and annual family holiday was especially fun and meaningful. B retains and expresses so much more now PLUS the grandparents joined us throughout, resulting in lots of inter-generational fun, bonding (and free babysitting!).
First, our trip to Bali, the land of a thousand temples and a million smiles. Although I’m saddened by the recent Air Asia crash, I’m grateful that the weather was fine during our visit. After playing tourist the first two days (Kintamani volcanoes, Ubud rice terraces, fruit and luwak coffee plantations, Kuta shopping, Nusa Dua beaches, Gianyar elephant rides and Uluwatu temples), we lazed around the hotel pool and waterfront for the next two days. Speaking Bahasa helped us secure a good local driver at 75K Rph per day (vs the 100-120K tourist/hotel rate). I was also relieved that food was not an issue from the 3 year old boy to the 70 year old vegetarian grandma, and everyone indulged my quest for the best bebek in Bali – usually alfresco with paddy field views and no aircon (sorry, hubby) We had some me-time and couple-time too, although B woke up super early due to the early sunrises in Bali, and rolled off his large day bed in the middle of the night (!) Here’s to the fond memories:
Next, a recap of our crafty advent-ures since this post at the start of December. With a fair bit of localisation and improvisation, we managed to work through most of Truth In A Tinsel, establish our nightly devotion (which co-incidentally reinforced calendar, dates and months), and pulled off some easy yet oh-so-pretty art and craft too! Details are posted on my Pinterest board and in real time on Instagram. Here were our favourites:
As a full time working mom again, I need greater focus to go through the daytime schedule juggling work and family priorities (drop offs, pick ups, meetings). But I also relish the me-time, especially when I’m travelling, something I didn’t quite get when I was home 24/7. When I was away for ten days on an overseas trip, I was completely reassured that B is in good hands even though we both missed each other, grateful that our transition and support planning has worked out. What can’t ever be replaced though is TIME together. Our weekday mornings and evenings now just feel so rushed!
Speaking of time (or the lack of), I’m keen to carve out some quality mom-and-B time as we count down to the Christmas and New Year holidays. Last year we learnt about the gift of Christmas, that the season is not just about gifting but also the act of giving, and Jesus — God’s ultimate gift of life. As B had just turned two, he learnt Christmas carols, art and craft, how to pray for others and joined us in his first community service visit. Now that he’s three, we’re trying to be more intentional to cultivate his faith. We started by including him in our weekly cell group fellowship this past Friday night. We hadn’t consistently done that earlier because the group meets (too?) late. B was so excited before and after – though I’m not sure if it was due to extended time playing, hanging out with mommy and friends, or the extra special late bedtime 🙂
Meanwhile, I’ve also been compiling ideas to try this Advent season, though as usual, my wish list is far longer than in reality:
1) Devotional: Reading the bible is now a regular bedtime routine. B actually takes his beginners bible out and asks (insists!) on a story or two every night. As we’ve read through the Old Testament and most of the New Testament stories, this December, we’ll move to the One Year Devotions for Preschoolers book that we got from a friend.
2) Truth In The Tinsel: Designed for 3+ years, we’re trying it now as B has been introduced to the kids bible (see above) and can stay engaged on a home project over several days (see what we did for Teachers’ Day). Also, the Christmas tree is quite bare as I did a bit of spring cleaning and I’m sure B will happily oblige to add his art and craft stuff to it. The idea is to read a passage of Scripture, make a Christmas ornament and talk through the related narrative every day. The story or activity can be adapted as needed – to match B’s level, attention span, and our time together. We did a “trial” to replace the star for our tree, loosely based on a sample page from the e-book:
3) Advent Calendar: Last year, I recycled B’s artwork to make a wall calendar with clear plastic pockets to mark the 24 days till Christmas. Each day, we prayed for specific family, friends, those in need, our country and world, ending with the fruits of the spirit in our own lives. This calendar has since been used as a fun Letterland upper and lowercase matching game — I love craft that we can just repurpose.
HOWEVER, I’d love to make a new advent calendar which could double as a festive decoration too. Here are two DIY ideas that I like and find age-appropriate for toddlers: Toilet Paper Roll House and Scrapbook Gift Wrap Paper calendars. These could contain simple clues (for Truth In The Tinsel), scripture verses (from daily devotion), or just a list of fun yet meaningful activities or items each day.
4) Christmas books: This year, I hope to check out the titles in this reading list as we’ve found quite a few (still) available at the public libraries in Singapore. B also received a beginners Christmas piano song book from his aunt in California and we look forward to incorporate that into our regular home music sessions 🙂
Even if you don’t celebrate Advent but are keen to get some crafty time with the kid during the holidays, feel free to try these out, visit my pinterest board for more ideas, and of course share what you’re doing with us too. Happy Advent-uring!
One thing I cherish growing up in Malaysia is how we embraced and celebrated being in a multi-racial community. Every major festival, we’d go from house to house, visiting friends and their families, sharing our culture … and of course, food! Now that we live in Singapore, B doesn’t quite have this same childhood – even if we do know others from different races and religions here. (Sadly, this pride in one nation, many races is also diminishing in Malaysia).
With Hari Raya (Eid) almost upon us, I wanted to give B a taste of the Malay culture, an important part of our Southeast Asia heritage. Besides volunteering to help with his school’s Hari Raya celebration, I also took some time out to bring him to the Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar after school today. Thankfully the skies were cloudy, and after browsing around, we had a chance to share a table and “break fast” with a friendly Malay couple at the Geylang Food Court. If you and your kids are curious, do go! Note that the Bazaar is only open till Sunday and should get quite crowded over the final weekend.
Oh, final tips if you’re keen to go: Visit around 5p before the crowds. If you drive and are lucky, park at the main Geylang Serai carpark (off Sims Ave and Geylang Road). Else, there’s more lots along Haig and Joo Chiat Roads. There’s also a nice big kids’ playground at the Haig HDB estate. If you’re eating there, find a cool place to sit and order BEFORE sunset.
A few weeks back, we redeemed a complimentary 2 night stay at the W Sentosa to coincide with our 9th wedding anniversary. This was B’s first staycation and he still asks to “go to Sentosa” and even “stay at the W again!” Don’t worry B, we will return soon but maybe not at the W though the hotel food, pools, design and decor were amazing. IMO, there wasn’t anything special for children (even though B was fine without at his age) and it’s located a bit far out if you don’t have a car – see the latest Sentosa island map here.
Here’s some ideas on what to do with young kids under 3 years at Sentosa based on what we did then (and previously):
Skyline Luge Sentosa: Newly revamped in early May, with a few more exciting rides planned, this is a must-do for families. Get there by 10a to avoid the lines and heat. Various fares are available depending on how many people, the number and type of rides. Kids need to be at least 80cm to be accompanied on the skylift and ride tandem for luge. To go solo, kids need to be over 110cm on the luge, or at least 135 cm on the skylift. BTW, head over to Gingerbreadmum’s family pass giveaway (4 sets of 1 skyride and 1 luge tickets). Good luck and good riding!
Port of Lost Wonder: Entrance fee cost S$15 per child, and free for all accompanying adults (!). Each admitted child gets a Port Pass and 100 curios (5 curios cost S$1). We went around collecting stamps (exchange 5 for a prize), redeeming curios (e.g. Wonder Craft workshops), ate at the Port Belly cafe, and then got stuck at the Pirate Ship water playground because B refused to leave! There’s so many other activities we didn’t get to and will definitely return. Note: Coming (back) soon is the BBQ under the Stars, now on the first Saturday of each month.
Beaches galore: We were at Coastes and Siloso Beach a while back for an Easter playdate, so we checked out Tanjong Beach and Palawan Beach this time. I found Siloso more suited for nightlife, older kids and adults, Palawan toddler and family friendly, and Tanjong the most peaceful and quiet (read=romantic)
S.E.A Aquarium: Worth going if you haven’t been, good 1.5 to 2 hour visit that’s very doable with tots (or babies in strollers). B’s been there 3 times already! At our next visit however, we may just do a Resorts World Sentosa hotel staycation on a non-holiday season or weekday, and spend time at the newer attractions at the Marine Life Park, Trick Eye Museum and Universal Studios.
Dine as, when and how you like: Sure, we had our share of kids meals and bites-on-the-go. But we also took time to just chillax at the W and have relaxed meals out. We strolled along the luxury Quayside enclave, a lovely marina with al-fresco eateries and tot-friendly play areas. We splurged on a RWS celebrity chef dinner (It’s our anniversary after all!) although we’ve also eaten many times at the Malaysian Food Street too 🙂 We made a quasi-healthy pitstop at Jamie’s Italian for lunch before heading home.
We went to Puteri Harbour and LEGOLAND over the weekend but had quite a different experience with each place. We found Puteri Harbour a nice getaway for families with toddlers but we probably won’t return to LEGOLAND until B is older, say kindergarten age and some issues mentioned below are fixed (or the trees grow!)
My review is split in two parts: Part 1 is on the Puteri Harbour indoor parks: Hello Kitty Sanrio Town and the Little Big Club featuring Barney, Bob The Builder, Angelina Ballerina, Pingu, Thomas & Friends
Part 2 is about LEGOLAND for families with tots under 3 years
GO OR NO GO?
At the moment, there’s little shade from the elements (sun or rain) in all the main parks. In the few covered areas, there’s no proper ventilation (fans/AC) besides those in the restaurant, cafes and theatres. There’s also no shuttle bus, train or buggy system that enables you to hop on-and-off at the various parks within LEGOLAND, so quite a challenge for the very young (or very old). We visited because we were already going to Puteri Harbour the day before, and our friends with older kids wanted to check LEGOLAND out. Unfortunately for us, it was an extremely hot and humid day when we were there. My 2+ year old was wiped out despite a 2.5 hour nap after lunch, refused to go out again in the hot sun so we had a free and easy afternoon, before entering again later. Bottom line: When deciding, the weather and your tot’s the boss!
If you don’t mind the heat and have LEGO fans in the family:
– GO if your toddler is gung-ho and has older siblings. Spend at least 2 days so you’re in no hurry, and can enjoy the cooler evenings
– WAIT until your preschooler is older. Admission is free for kids under 3 but most rides have a strict height or age minimum
– Ticket combos are cheaper online so research and buy in advance
WHERE TO STAY?
As the Iskandar area is still under development, the nearest hotel options are LEGOLAND or Traders Hotel (Puteri Harbour). We stayed at LEGOLAND hotel for the unique experience with its distinct play areas and thematic rooms. Basic rooms accommodate 2 adults + 3 kids with a king bed (master room), a bunk bed and trundle bed (attached suite). The hotel is also right next to LEGOLAND and the Medini strip mall which has slightly better food. All hotel guests get free parking and early 930a entrance to LEGOLAND (vs 10a public admission). While overall family friendly, I felt a few things could be improved: Earlier than 4p check-in, later than 11a check-out, lower shower heads (or longer hose) as it was hard to clean shorter/young kids.
WHAT TO DO: 10 ideas for families with tots under 3 years
1) Eat a big breakfast. The hotel buffet is good and opens 7a-11a
2) Get in as soon as the door opens to avoid the queues! Dress for the heat, bring a hat/umbrella and not just shades
3) Enjoy the LEGO CITY park to yourself. Ride on the express train, airport planes and boats. Compete in the Rescue Academy in your choice of fire engine or police car. Catch a show at City Stage and let the tot freeplay at the Shipyard while you catch a break. The junior driving school is quite fun but minimum age is 3 years
4) Proceed next to IMAGINATION, the park for toddlers and preschoolers. There’s a Musical Fountain at the entrance, and an Observation Tower which rotates around so you can view all of LEGOLAND without breaking a sweat. Tots will like the brief DUPLO Express train ride, delightful DUPLO Playground (which is also the only covered play area), and the LEGO 4D Studio which alternates shows every 45 minutes or so. There’s only one thing they can’t do here – the Power Tower (minimum age: 5 years or 100 cm)
5) Exit to the Medini strip mall for lunch where the food is better (not fantastic) than in-park fare
6) Stroll through MINILAND to view the amazingly detailed LEGO models or take the LEGO CITY train till your kid dozes off
7) The hotel is the best place away from the heat and crowds to take a nap, so ask for late checkout if you need to. Even the covered areas in the park and Medini mall are quite stuffy with lots of flies 😦
8) Catch indoor LEGO movies, meet-and-greets and live shows
9) Chill out at the hotel LEGO play areas and nearby LEGO shops
10) Visit some local eateries near LEGOLAND for dinner
Note: Majority of activities and rides at the Water Park, LEGO TECHNIC, KINGDOMS and LAND OF ADVENTURE parks are unfortunately not suitable for young kids below 3 years. If the weather’s good and you have time, feel free to “window shop.”
I recently took B to Puteri Harbour and LEGOLAND Malaysia for the weekend and had a WONDERFUL time! I drove us up, made arrangements to stay overnight and met some friends while there. When I told hubby about my plan (as he was overseas), his first thought was “Eh, sure safe or not?” Other Singapore-based friends went “Puteri Harbour? What’s that?” and wanted to know more about it when we came back. So, I decided to write some tips for those planning to visit with preschool-aged kids 🙂
Firstly, where is Puteri Harbour and LEGOLAND? They are both located within ~10 mins drive from each other in Nusajaya, the regional hub of the new Kota Iskandar in Malaysia.
1) How to get there? Easy peasy!
– BUS: Book a return trip via coach bus (~SGD$20) or opt for the Causeway Link buses. More info here. You can easily visit Puteri Harbour in a day, leaving early morning, returning by late evening.
– CAR: Fastest way is via PIE/AYE to TUAS and the 2nd link bridge. It took us 1+ hours to drive there (Sat morning) and 45 mins to return (Sun evening), door to door from the central area. Remember to have at least 3/4 full fuel when you leave Singapore. Toll fees will come up to ~SGD$15 all-in, payment via NETS for Singapore and Touch’N’Go pass for Malaysia (this can be purchased on the leftmost car toll lanes after the Sultan Abu Bakar checkpoint). Once you clear the Malaysian toll booths, take Exit 312 to Nusajaya and follow the signs that say Puteri Harbour or have the park character pictures. Look for the Little Red Cube building, park inside (for free), head up to the 1st floor. Have fun!
– You can find step-by-step driving directions here. The roads are new, wide and traffic is relatively low as Iskandar is still under development. There will be construction all around you and some signs are not as clear as they should be, but you’ll figure it out
2) What can young kids do? Almost everything if you’re over 90cm. The staff seem more concerned about height than age. B’s not yet 2.5 years, but at 95 cm, he had no problems, even went solo for some rides
– Tots over 90 cm: Will need to be accompanied by you (mostly). They’ll miss out on a few big kid workshops, game stalls/stations, the Thomas bumper car rides and Hello Kitty Black Wonder maze. No big loss as you can repeat the other rides as often as you like; and there are three different playgrounds – one on every floor. Watch that big Builder slide though, it’s FAST! B had quite a scare coming down
– Tots under 90 cm: They’ll enjoy the Thomas train and Hello Kitty teacup rides, Hello Kitty Friendship Land (soft ramps, ball pit like KidsAmaze) and the Bob The Builder playground (blocks, pretend play)
– Sing-A-Long and Meet-And-Greet sessions, timing varies by day
3) How much $$? Kids under 3 enter FREE. LEGOLAND ticket holders get 10% off (show your ticket or printout). Malaysians get a significant discount (show your MyKad IC)
– Single park entrance: RM 55 (MyKad) or RM 75. Recommend this if you only have boys and need to watch your wallet
– The 2-park pass: RM 85 (MyKad) or RM 110. Recommend for girls, and the full experience, e.g. get for one adult if you have a free admission kid
– You can buy tickets online but we found the indoor ticketing counters there quite efficient. We got ours on-site, first thing Saturday morning with no waiting time at all. Doors open 10a.
4) What to wear? Travel light so you can go where your tot goes
– Bring layers. The outside promenade is breezy but can be hot, while the Little Red Cube indoor parks are fully air-conditioned, and gets Singapore cinema-level cold. B wore a jacket, long pants and long sleeved T-shirt. I unfortunately forgot to bring my cardigan – brrr!
– All playgrounds require shoes to be removed. Though not “required,” I’d also wear socks as it’s cold and more hygenic!
5) Toilets, nursing and changing rooms? CLEAN and spacious on every floor. There’s larger family restrooms. And every potty has an attached water/spray hose for you-know-what! B can be fussy about using public toilets but he had no issues doing his small and big biz there 😉
6) Strollers? Bring them. You’ll need it as you go up and down floors, in and out, and for the lil one to crash and nap. Stroller bays are clearly marked in visible spaces throughout so you can park and go as needed. To be safe, don’t leave anything valuable there. There are lifts and escalators on every floor, and everything is very stroller friendly
7) Food, drinks, time out? There are on-site cafes with ample seating on all levels, but you’re better off stepping out for some fresh air, more F&B variety and better prices either indoor or alfresco within the Little Red Cube and along the quiet and scenic Puteri Harbour promenade. The tickets allow multiple entries in a day, so no worries about leaving and re-entering.
Verdict: Two thumbs up! Totally worth it. There’s nothing like that in Singapore, esp. at these prices. We’ll go again before B turns 3 by end of this year, haha. See you there?
This time last year, we were chillaxing in Langkawi for our babymoon/anniversary and I was anticipating my new life with a baby. Not once though did I imagine I’d be a full time mom, let alone enjoy it, most of the time. This year, we took a staycation at Sentosa – what a strange feeling to be babyfree for 24 hours! We slept in, ate well and talked about our hopes and dreams for the future including the possibilities ahead of us now that both my parents have long term passes and I’ve received my in-principle Singapore citizenship, as well as when to start work and/or try for #2! 🙂 My dad and mom kindly babysat for us — and sent me regular SMS updates, heh.
B unfortunately caught his first bug which laid the entire household out sick for 2 weeks. Just when he was sleeping through the night without too much hassle or training, it all went to shambles. May need to tweak his daily routine to support later morning wake ups (he’s up 5/6a and ready to go, argh), him lasting longer in the afternoons and most importantly, learning to sleep on his own again. At the moment, he still needs 3 naps in the day and sadly, rocking to drift to sleep, else, he’ll get quite cranky. Besides this relapse, there’s much to be thankful for. Feels like he’s growing by leaps and bounds every day:
– Proud owner of 2 bottom front teeth! 😀 Ironically, his first tooth came the day after his 6 month celeb
– Sitting steadily upright, rocking back and forth on his tummy, scoots backwards, moves in a circle with his legs and arms, basically can’t stay still. Crawling soon?
– Fascinated with his fingers, loves to touch, enjoys finger rhymes/games, being tickled esp on his feet and tummy. Also continuing to learn basic baby sign language
– Loves swimming but our condo pool isn’t the best for infants. May sign him up for Aquaducks instead
– Goes to weekly playgroups now with similar aged infants from my condo complex and our local meet up groups. We take turns to host at our homes. I’m looking forward to other parent and child activities for us too, including Reggio Emilia discovery at the Blue House. Quite keen to expose him to this environment
– Saying consonant combo strings now: babababa, googaa … still no mama though 😦
– Food purees tried so far: avocado, chicken, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, onions, potatoes, spinach, sweet beans, radish, apple, pear, blueberry, plum, mango, papaya, chickpeas, beetroot (not such a fan on the last two tho!)
– Started weaning. 50% mommy, 50% formula milk now. Ahhh… it’s really quite manageable now, though I will still try to gradually decrease (vs cold turkey!)
Back from our anniversary/babymoon – local food, fun at the beach, frequent naps in the shade, and wonderfully attentive hotel staff, esp. when they found out I was pregnant. Highlight of the trip was feeling our baby flutter while lazing by the pool! It’s like tiny bubbles, butterflies or those spa fish in your tummy 😀
Monthly baby checkup before we return to work tomorrow: Still a boy, spine and organs developing well, fetal measurements and both our weight gains on track.
Also caught baby upside down for the first time on ultrasound — guess he’s been living it up too inside mommy this past week!
We’re off to Langkawi to celebrate our 6th anniversary and expose our little one to Malaysia, truly Asia 🙂
Can’t wait to reap the rewards of our first baby-related shopping last weekend – comfy tops and dresses, plus storage bins for the wardrobe I can’t fit in anymore which will help clear space for all the new baby stuff to come. Here’s my WIP first-time checklist, culled from various sources ( Mothercare, Parenting.com, etc.). Any recs on where to buy or borrow, do let me know!
Infant car seat (best models recline when detached, allow the baby to rock or bounce)
Wearable soft carrier (slings make nursing easier – kampung style!)
Cot, mattress and bedding
Extra pull out bed (for storage, convertible into a kids bed)
Baby sleeping bag or blanket
Diapers, diaper disposal method and diaper ointment (loads and loads of nappies!)