Tag Archives: #artworks

Traveling without kids

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 started by reviewing the continents and oceans, and have been covering regions, e.g. North America, Southeast Asia and South Asia depending on where mummy travels to.

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.

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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.”

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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.

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Did you know?  The Taj Mahal is a World Heritage Site in the city of Agra in north India, built by Emperor Shah Jahan for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died at the age of 39. “That’s too young,” says B!

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 🙂

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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!
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  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.
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  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 🙂

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Here’s the finished product 🙂

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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.

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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:

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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?

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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!

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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.

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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. 

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.

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CG Connect Viewing Party, August 9, 2015
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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 🙂

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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.

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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.” 

Dear hardworking dad, let’s take a holiday!

I arrived back in Singapore late Thursday night, and belatedly remembered that this weekend was Father’s Day! #mommyfail. With not much time (or energy left, honestly) to buy or book anything elaborate, including this weekend’s popular daddy activities like the Aviva Superfundae, B and I snuck in a few hours at home instead to make our Father’s Day gifts.

This is what we came up with:  Stencilled vehicles on multi-coloured panels, monographed by our wee preschooler.  They were a shout out to how hardworking dads are and wishing them time to take a break and take us on holiday too 🙂  This turned out to be a relatively easy and fun DIY project for B who’s still learning how to write and paint “neatly” and prefers drawing vehicles.

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Here’s how we did it:

1) Cut out panels in the desired shapes, ideally using canvas or repurposed styrofoam or cardboards.

2) Let the kid select a few colours of his choice for the background.  You could probably use any type of paint. We chose watercolour as that had the widest selection available, but also limited it to three colours per panel.  I was quite pleased that B chose colours that blended really well, unprompted.

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3) Squeeze out, mix and paint the colours on the boards. Dry overnight or in the hot sun for a few hours. We used foam rollers to generate some texture. Plus, it covers the surface area faster (and dries faster – remember, we didn’t have much time!)

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3) Choose the design, shape and/or letters to draw on the backgrounds. We just selected vehicle stencils for each individual.  I originally wanted to print each name in English and Chinese but I also knew how much B likes to “own” his artwork, and I’d be helping out too much to make things nice and legible at his age.  So, finally – we get to use those art stencils from ArtFriends – which last came out of the box when we did our group playdate cardboard house 1.5 years ago.  Alphabet stencils would also have been perfect here.  I tried making them, but gosh, those are hard to DIY!  I’ll just have to wait till B gets better at writing…

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4) Select neutral colours for the stencils to stand out against the background, i.e. black/grey for lighter backgrounds and white for darker backgrounds.  Make sure the brush and paint are relatively dry to minimise leakage.  You may also need to help by taping over unused images or pressing the stencils down hard while your preschooler paints it over.

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Bonus activity: Talk through who are the daddies in the family.  In our case, we did a little revision of our old extended family tree, and B wanted to make FOUR gifts for daddy, 公公, 爷爷 and uncle M (mama’s brother in the US) who I hope to visit  soon.

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Perfect in our imperfections

This year, B (mostly) ran his first 800m race at the 2015 Cold Storage Kids Run.  Seeing him press on despite feeling hot and tired made me proud – and reminded me to persevere and not give up despite how we feel sometimes. Motherhood is kinda like that, isn’t it?!

We're almost there, B!
We’re almost there, B!

This year marks our fourth Mothers’ Day. Every time, I can’t help but thank God (again!) for B who finally made me a mommy – and provided the catalyst for this blog, Finally Mama.  I’m all too aware of my imperfections as a mom but am glad that since I made my 2015 Chinese New Year resolutions, I’ve been able to find greater contentment this year at working full time, supporting CRIB, and being a mom to (just) one – adorable, amazing, appreciative, and at times, aggravating – 3.5 year old kid.

Thanks to B’s teachers and dad, I received some nice (surprise!) dedications this year:

Presenting me with my letter
Presenting me with my special letter
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with DIY coupons to redeem and art for Mother’s Day

What was inside was so simple yet awesome in its effort. B’s drawing and colouring isn’t great at this age. I know he wants to write and colour better, but I’ve been trying not to “correct” his grip and control, but rather let him keep scribbling, drawing, painting, clay and play doughing et al.  So, it touched me to see him try to write his name, illustrate each “coupon” accordingly (with his smiley faces) and colour the flower as best he could.

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Coincidentally on Mother’s Day, I also started to volunteer once a month at his Sunday School N2 class.  Many (including the hubby) would argue that my schedule is packed as it is!  But I just wanted to play a bigger part in his faith journey, support the regulars that put in so much effort to manage the kids while we attend the main service, and also spend a few more moments with him on a weekend, especially on weekdays when I’m away.

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I’m not perfect, but I’m in the “World’s Best Mom” to someone 🙂

Last but not least, this year, I also wanted B to appreciate not just mama but his grandma, as both grandparents have stepped up this year to help with chauffeuring and childminding. Daddy took B to a nearby nursery where he chose fresh carnations for each of us “moms” – mama, ama and nainai.

Ultimately, what makes most happy as a mom are the spontaneous expressions of love and honest remarks that affirm the bond B and I have.  Just as we love our kids through the ups and downs, so too do they love us despite our imperfections.  And although we “older and wiser” adults should guide them as they grow, our kids often teach us wonderful lessons too – like ending a race well, no matter how tough the journey can be sometimes.

This post is part of the “Dear Mummy” blog train, a series of letters and dedications from our kids to moms.  

Next up is Winnie, who blogs at Toddly Mummy, where she shares her thoughts on parenting, and fun moments from their home learning sessions and outdoor adventures. She sometimes share about her favourite food too, along with occasional side orders of stuff that she finds useful as a busy mum.

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All children are artists

“Every child is an artist.
The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. – Pablo Picasso

When B was about 4 months, I attended my first early years parenting talk which shaped the environment that he grew up in. In his first 2 years, we did lots of art and craft together involving  colourful, sensory, tactile, messy play with repurposed household items, nature and art materials. In fact, we’d often encourage other friends to join us, and hosted quite a few messy artsy-crafty playdates at our outdoor balcony area.  B loved it!

B's first art playdate @ 6 months
First art playdate at 6 months

After B turned 1.5 years, we trialed a few art classes that introduced different techniques, styles, materials, et al. He liked the more freestyle, mixed media sessions and not when someone had to help or told him how to “do art” (i.e. proper use of watercolours, brushes, etc). He’s just your normal stubborn independent tot, I guess.

First (trial) art class at 18 months

So we joined a local parent accompanied toddler art meetup group instead, where we had messy fun indoors and outdoors, learnt a few artsy things, and collected enough pieces to start our own “art wall” at home by the time he turned 2.

Our art wall!
Our art wall after 2 years

Continuing this arts exposure was one of my requirements when selecting his preschool.  Soon after he started nursery, B had a chance to showcase his work at his first art exhibit this weekend!

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First art exhibit at 2.5 years, entitled “Building A City of Dreams”. The structures are “homes for my family” and “roads for cars.” His sold for S$88!

I hope B’s interest in art will continue to grow, and that he’ll have the dexterity and patience to learn and improve along the way. Of course, I don’t expect him to be a professional artist when he grows up but I’m glad art has given him a universal language to express himself and interpret the world around him; and also given us a fun, creative way to reinforce what he learns from a very early age.

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