Counting down

At one of the year-end parties lately, I was asked if I’ve enrolled B in any math or english enrichment classes, now that he’s starting kindergarten? Honestly, I was a bit surprised and then had a little kiasu moment! I started thinking: What head start are other local school-going kids getting?  How can B grow to love and excel in math and science? Will he face stiff pressure in a country where students have come out tops in the TIMSS international math and science assessment for years now?

Well, I don’t have all the answers to my questions but I do know that since he was a wee baby, math was part of our daily talk and B enjoys books, art and activities like puzzles that involve math. He’s developed decent number sense, ability to sort, compare magnitude, and sequence patterns.  He’s getting better at (re)constructing, and spatial awareness in describing, acting, drawing or writing out locations and directions. He’s also building familiarity with number bonds through DIY manipulatives and games like our recent ping pong ball roll, as well as reading and writing numerals and numbers in English and Chinese.

We “talk math” all the time, be it tracking the dump trucks we pass along the highway, counting the number of kids that need high chairs, figuring out the change from the drink stall aunty, identifying patterns in modern art when we visit museums, guesstimating how many gingerbread men can be cut from the rolled dough and how many baking trays are needed. He’s also getting exposed to decimals when I time how fast he can wear his own clothes, fractions after reading the The Gingerbread Man book and eating away parts of his own cookie …

IMG_0120… and even subtraction by counting down the days till Christmas!

Most recently, B is also learning how to tell time (analog, not digital), nicely reinforced in Chinese by Sparkanauts too!

Perhaps Singapore math requires much more than what we’ve done so far, and maybe B might have received a more structured approach in a Montessori school, but I’m glad we’ve laid some basics in place in an organic, hands-on way. To quote Mark Twain, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”  How have you helped your pre-schooler and primary going kid in math?

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

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.

IMG_1264.jpg
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.

IMG_1262.jpg

IMG_1168 (1).jpg
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 🙂

IMG_4552.jpg

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?

IMG_1052.jpg
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 🙂

IMG_0117.jpg
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.

IMG_0966.jpg

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

Run to live and give great at the Great Eastern Women’s Run

Although there were moments of doubt, all things worked out in the end for me to race in this year’s Great Eastern Women’s Run!  We had cool and cloudy weather, amazing running buddies that encouraged me on when I was too tired or lazy to train, and … a timely (albeit too short) break between work trips this weekend.

GEWR2015_Participants donning a tutu for a good cause_Credit to Great Eastern Women's Run 2015-2
Fellow mom bloggers donning our tutus for a good cause

This year was the race’s 10th anniversary.  A total of 17,000 women participated today, setting a new record as the largest number of participants in an all-women run in Asia.

GEWR2015_Minister Grace Fu flagging off the 10km category-3
It was bigger, better and more colourful this year, with increased participation in all race categories — the 5km Fun Run, 10km and 21.1km

What I love about the Great Eastern Women’s Run is that the event celebrates women and encourages us to live a more active lifestyle, while acknowledging the many facets of our lives – from healthy living, social causes, group activities … even, children!  The fringe activities include training runs, Piloxing and Kpop X dance fitness classes. Though I’m rather choreographically challenged, I had a fun time following along in the spirit of looking good (I mean, aerobic and body toning). For the first time, participants could donate and donned colourful tutus in a myriad of hues of pink, blue, yellow and purple, in support of three women and children-related charities — Breast Cancer Foundation, Community Chest (Children with Special Needs) and the SingHealth Duke-NUS OBGYN Academic Clinical Program.  Furthermore, the race featured its inaugural Princess Dash as 500 girls aged three to nine years, clad in pink princess-like tutus participated in a 100-metre dash, and were rewarded with a “finishers tiara.”  What a nice opportunity for moms with girls – making me wish I had a girl too, even though I love my little guy to bits!

So thank you, Great Eastern Women’s Run, for inviting me again this year and making it so hassle free, including delivering our race packs right to our home, sending us useful training tips and timely updates given the perpetual haze.  It was a wonderfully organised and meaningful event. I’ll definitely be back next year and maybe, improve my time 🙂

Stay tuned for the next race so you can run to live great and give great too!

For more updates and reviews, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.  I was sponsored to run in the race. Photo credits to Great Eastern Women’s Run.   

Rockin’ and rolling with math

We’ve spent more weekends indoors than we’d like lately, but the good thing is, B has had more time to play his cars, trucks and trains, draw and write, practice violin, of course, craft with mom.

The DIY ping pong ball runs with toilet paper rolls has been a regular activity at home.  But this year, inspired by a fellow mom blogger, I decided to use this to reinforce addition.  Here’s how we did it:

  1. Start storing your rolls!  Even with a 5 person household (+ grandparents!), we could only do enough for numbers 1-5 to start.
  2. Find a board that’s big and sturdy enough, preferably as tall as the kid and sufficiently wide so that you can do a lot of creative (and long) runs.  We used our TV box – as we’d just upgraded our ancient flat screen TV in time for our SG50 NDP party.
  3. Cut some into half lengthwise, and a few others into half heightwise.  The longer halves will be used for the ramps while the shorter rolls as your numbered “holders” or entry points.
  4. Get the kiddo to help you paint the box and rolls.  We didn’t have much time, and B was eager to get rolling, so we just painted 10 short rolls and numbered them from 1 to 10.  He could do all of this by himself now – another plus!
    IMG_0470
  5. Start sticking them onto the box, testing the roll as you go along.  By now, B could also figure out where to put things and we had fun cutting out the tape and placing them together.
    IMG_0473
  6. On a separate paper / nearby easel, put together the sums for them to do.  We started from the basics, i.e. 1+1= ? to 1+5 =?, which B already knew from finger counting, so he could draw the connection from adding the balls.
  7. Start rolling based on the sums that you see, e.g. for 1+3, put 1 ball in the #1 holder, and 3 balls in the #3 holder, check how many balls land in the box to see if you got the sums right! 
  8. Get the kiddo to write the answer down.  Good practice here 🙂

IMG_0515

IMG_0521

Here’s the finished product 🙂

IMG_0601 IMG_0602

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

Special Review and Offer: MyMessyBox (ideas for indoor play on hazy days!)

After almost a month away on an extended work trip, I left a land of clear blue skies to return to a hot and hazy Singapore, in time to vote in the 2015 General Election. What a difference a few weeks makes.

As a mom, I became more intentional about play since B was around four months old – and I still am, even though he’s almost four now.  We would host messy, artsy playdates at home and look forward to discovering kindred spirits or new places that offered similar activities.  Messy-sensory play is a great way for kids to engage their senses and learn through exploration, discovery and meaningful play.

MyMessyBox provides our children, who are natural explorers, with the opportunity for observation and manipulation through a hands-on learning experience with play tools and materials that encourage sensory exploration. The monthly boxes make it easy to conduct purposeful, sensory play in the comfort of your own home.  Read on to find out more, and if you’re interested:

  1. Join this month’s MyMessyBox giveaway at this Rafflecopter link
  2. Get a 5% discount off your own MyMessyBox orders by using “FM5

Here’s what came in the “Way Up High” themed box that we received to review.  Quite appropriate too, as this has been a busy travel period for the family, and for mama especially.  IMG_4218

There are currently 13 themes for the individual boxes, involving a different theme per month, ranging from Under Construction to the Whimsical Garden.  One of these will be offered in this month’s giveaway.

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 2.56.23 pmIn the box, you’ll receive three packs supporting the theme, thoughtfully curated for active, creative and explorative play.  Each pack is accompanied with suggestions on self-contained activities that are easy to follow as long (or brief) as you like. Or if you’re like us, you can leverage what they provide to combine and create your own project.

IMG_4222

MyMessyBox runs on a subscription basis:  Monthly (for S$34), 6 months (for S$192) and 12 months (for S$360).  The box also contains specially sourced tools for explorative play, i.e. a basic toolkit (for 6 months subscriptions) or a premium toolkit (for 12 month subscriptions).  Here’s the premium toolkit which came neatly stored in a plastic box:

IMG_4244

As I was making arrangements for B to join the first leg of my work trip (i.e. to Tokyo), we used this opportunity to learn about Japan. Utilising the Explorative and Active Play materials, referencing a library travel book with some guidance from mama, he made a collage of what impressed him about Japan – the red Tokyo Tower, tall skyscrapers (my office is in the Mori Tower), sakura (cherry blossoms) and Mount Fuji.  Can you spot them below?

IMG_5223

We also took advantage of the two theme-based craft included in the Creative Play pack, both were easy and entertaining enough to keep our 3.5 year old busy for a good 45 minutes … freeing mama to do some packing!

IMG_4239
Intently painting his airplane coinbank

There was also a wooden airplane base that involved some rather sticky stuff that B normally wouldn’t play with. At first he poked at it with the pincer (from the toolkit), and then, his index finger, and finally, got used to it enough to complete the project. While simple, this was a good reminder on why early sensory play benefits kids – as it helps them make sense of different stimuli and information.

IMG_4240
While we let everything dry, B “played with water” aka mopped the floor. Score for mama!

Given the daily 100+ PSI levels, our review is proving quite timely if you’re cooped up indoors all week. Why not try something different (i.e. no screens, no loud playgrounds, no malls) that’s fun for kids and keeps them occupied?

For more updates and reviews, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.  Views expressed here are solely my own.  We received a complimentary MyMessyBox for purposes of this review. 

To Market, To Market … at Pek Kio

“A bridge to the past, which reminds us what was here, what our previous generations did here, what our parents built here and what we have inherited and want to make here.” – PM Lee Hsien Loong, re-opening of the Pek Kio Community Centre, 28 July 2013

Pek Kio is bordered by Balestier Road, Kampong Java Road, Moulmein Road, and Serangoon Road.  It’s named after a “white bridge” (in Hokkien) that once spanned Kampong Java Canal. When Singapore’s bridges were first built, they were named after the colonial authorities – and promptly nicknamed by the locals who couldn’t quite pronounce ang-mo names! So the areas around the bridges were named after their colours, such as O-Kio (Black Bridge) = Balestier, Pek Kio (White Bridge) = Moulmein and Ang Kio (Red Bridge) = Ang Mo Kio. Pek Kio was also known as Little England, as many roads are named after English places, such as Cambridge, Hampshire and Oxford.Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 10.47.38 pmThe (redesigned) Pek Kio Market and Food Centre was completed in 1984. Although not as large or popular as the nearby Tekka or Whampoa Markets, it’s a place we visit almost every Saturday morning as it has something for everyone: Eat, shop, play and exercise!

IMG_0146
First: “Train” at the IPPT track opposite the center
IMG_3947
Next: Eat breakfast, alternating between peanut pancakes, chwee kueh, carrot cake, porridge, prawn mee, wanton mee…
After breakfast, check out old school treats like butter cigarette sticks, egg pandan, gem and ABC biscuits

Then, hop by the wet market to re-stock on local goods and browse fresh supplies while the kiddo heads off to the (many) playgrounds nearby with dad. We don’t do our entire week’s shopping here – as there are 6 of us at home and we’ve got rather varied diets!  IMHO, the selection isn’t that fantastic here, but it’s a good place to pick up something you’ve missed (or couldn’t find) – and it’s definitely cleaner and less crowded than many other wet markets.
IMG_3933 IMG_3931

Fresh, tasty fish balls!

Support local fruit farms

How to get here:
Bus 131 – bus stop B50081 right in front of the center
Farrer Park MRT – 8 mins walk from Exit D
Ample parking around Cambridge, Dorset and Owen HDB sites

Want to know more about Pek Kio’s history?  Check out:
http://www.ghettosingapore.com/key-historic-events-in-pek-kio/
http://www.nea.gov.sg/public-health/hawker-centres/the-story-of-hawker-centres-upgrading-programme-(hup)/did-you-know-/pek-kio-market-food-centre
http://remembersingapore.org/2011/04/04/old-names-of-places/

Follow our “To Market, To Market” Blog Train as we visit a different market each day with a different parent blogger!
LifesTinyMiracles

Next up is Meiling, a mom blogger who blogs at Universal Scribbles about her parenting adventures with her two children and her personal growth as a mom, wife and business woman in sunny Singapore. While she has fond memories of her weekly trips to the Tiong Bahru and Chinatown wet markets with her mother, she has no such luck with her children who much prefers the appeal of newer marketplace. Check out her post next and see where she takes her kids to market to market…

11894701_10153633235789427_110557788_o

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

There’s no place like home

Last weekend, hubby and I went to Maldives with little B to celebrate our tenth anniversary.  It was a magical time where we unplugged, soaked in nature – sun, sand and water, ate fresh organic food, and rode bicycles, boats and buggies as our only mode of transportation from sunrise to sunset.

Magical MaldivesLast week’s trip did wonders for my soul, but this recent long weekend back in Singapore warmed the heart.  The SG50 celebration meant a lot to us in big (national) and small (personal) ways, and it was this extended time – with family and friends, locals and expats – who all call Singapore home, that made it so special for us.

IMG_4695Like many, we had a wet start to the celebrations and tried to visit a few SG50 public events (e.g. Marina Bay Sands, Botanic Gardens). In the end, the highlights were the parties we hosted at home – an evening NDP 2015 viewing party with good friends, and a brunch playdate for B’s friends the next day.  There was more fun and laughter, food and drinks, adults, kids and babies, and TV watching (i.e. live streaming via AirPlay) in our house than we’ve had in a long while!  We spontaneously broke out into ooohs and aaahs when the jets flew past and the fireworks came on, sang along to HOME when Kit Chan took the stage, stood up to sing Majulah Singapura and recite the national pledge. Hubby and I also had a sense of nostalgia as this might be the last time we could view all of this – from a distance at our balcony as we will be moving next year.

IMG_4679
CG Connect Viewing Party, August 9, 2015
FullSizeRender 3
SG50 Playdate, August 10, 2015

The kids got on famously (thank God!) and devised their own impromptu games and craft (who said creativity is dead in our age of technology?)  We even made our version of old school pick-up sticks with some paint and extra wooden chopsticks 🙂

IMG_4722

B and I had some 1-to-1 learning moments together too, thanks to the Sparkanauts National Day parent bonding package:

My heart is full as this long weekend draws to an end.  Happy 50th Birthday, Singapore!  I’m grateful and proud to call you my country, my home.

IMG_4669
SG50 Carnival at Botanic Gardens

For more updates, reviews and giveaways, follow Finally Mama on Facebook and Instagram.  If you too call Singapore your home, come join us at this month’s blog train on “What Singapore Means To Me.” 

Raising a family while releasing it all to God through each season of work and life