Tag Archives: special

Nothing says it better than your kid

I tried this “how well do you know mom” interview with B, and his honest and hilarious answers melted my heart today.

My mommy’s name is Mei
She is 19 years old
Mom and I like to paint and play
Mom likes to say I love you
My mom really loves me
She likes to eat ice kacang
She likes to drink tea
My mom’s job is to help me
If she had time, she would like to play with me
Mom is really good at typing
If I could go anywhere in the world with her, we would take roller coasters in Japan
I love my mom because she loves me

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I also had a flashback to the past when us CRIB founders were interviewed for a Mother’s Day feature last year. Here’s the coverage 🙂

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms – you are indispensable super women!  And for those trying to conceive and/or moms to be, take care of yourselves, and while we trust and hope for a future to come, don’t neglect to live fully in the now.  Hugs.

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

Special Review and Offer: Pure Beginnings by Vines and Roots (15% off)

Hubby and I have fond memories of Africa. Beyond its immense beauty, nature, culture and history, it also has personal significance for us as we conceived naturally – after years of trying – upon returning from our South Africa roadtrip.  So it’s with much delight that I can share a little bit about Vines and Roots on this blog, with a special offer for our blog readers (details below).

Vines and Roots was founded by a mom who wanted to bring a touch of Africa to Singapore through organic body and skincare products. Made from natural ingredients with proven effectiveness, these products involve no animal testing, no preservatives, are biodegradable and sourced ethically to support fair trade in Africa. They recently launched a new line – Pure Beginnings – which is specially developed for little ones (safe from newborn on).

We had a chance to use and review five Pure Beginnings products:

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B lining up our Pure Beginnings samples

1. Insect Repellent:  Raining almost every day? Dengue fears again?  We’ve tried almost every (organic and normal) mozzie patch and spray. Sadly, most are rather ineffective for my bug magnet boy.  Worse, some of the cheaper brands smell terrible and leave a nasty, chemical or oily feel. Not this one! The Pure Beginnings repellent is 100% natural, DEET FREE, lightly scented with citronella, lemon eucalyptus, neem and lemon bush. It’s also thoughtfully designed as a roll-on tube so you don’t get your fingers dirty yet can still concentrate which area of skin to apply on for maximum effect.

2. Baby Berry Toothpaste: Featured in the Parents World 2014 Best Organic and Natural Products Awards, this Pure Beginnings toothpaste is excellent!  It’s fluoride-free with xylitol, safe to swallow and tastes great too – errm, yes I’ve tried it (I try anything that my son consumes, intentionally or accidentally).  B basically brushes his teeth 3x a day – when he wakes or after breakfast, before mid-day nap, and before bedtime.  He had no trouble switching from his regular off-the-counter toothpaste to this, and while he now knows how to gargle and spit, he’s also “tasted” Baby Berry and told me that he likes the raspberry flavour!

toothbrush WP_20140808_001

3. Baby Bum Cream: I usually carry several creams in my bag for sensitive skin, occasional rashes, cuts and bites. With Pure Beginnings, I’ve found a multi-purpose cream that can treat diaper rash, insect bites and stings – saving money AND space! The Baby Bum Cream contains baobab, olive, lavender and tea tree oil, which give it natural anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. The use of baobab is a nod to its unique African roots whose trees are associated with longevity, oil from its seeds used as moisturisers, and extract of the fruit delivers pre-biotics and antioxidants.

4. Baby Wash and Shampoo: Mild, rosemary and geranium scented, this all-in-one baby wash and shampoo also contains baobab extract, a common ingredient in the Pure Beginnings line. After using this for 2 weeks, we’ve yet to see any dry, rough patches on B’s skin – which he’d normally get with regular soap as he inherited my sensitive skin.

Ready?

5. Bamboo Baby Wipes: Most wipes are alcohol-based which dry or aggravate sensitive skin. In contrast, these Pure Beginnings wipes are quite gentle due to their organic aloe and baobab extract content. There’s also a slight soapy quality to it too – handy in a mess, especially with younger babies who still drool a fair bit, can’t reach or use regular sinks or aren’t potty trained yet.

Given my own history with ezcema, I was very keen to find affordable yet natural products for B in his early years.  I’ve scoured the net and malls comparing and testing most bath and body brands in Singapore. If you look beyond the marketing, many of them contain chemicals, synthetic fragrances, dairy, soy, nuts and gluten which may trigger allergies or aggravate rashes.  As such, I appreciate Vines & Roots efforts to be pure and transparent, with clear labels and active use of ingredients such as baobab extract,  lemon, citronella, lavender and tea tree. The Pure Beginnings line is a wonderful addition with its natural range of kid-friendly, effective and appealing products.

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Thumbs up to Pure Beginnings!

Just for our readers:  Vines & Roots is offering an exclusive 15% discount for all  purchases using our blog code “FINALLYMAMA”.  Keen to try but don’t know where to start?  Check out the various gift combinations available such as this sample travel set below.

A 100ml baby wash and shampoo, 100ml baby body lotion, a 50ml baby bum cream, and an embroidered cotton facecloth, lovingly selected in this lovely compact pack

For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

Outstanding books for outstanding teachers

I’ve been helping B’s school plan a “surprise” Teachers’ Day celebration with the rest of the Parent Support Group. While researching various gift options, I came across some inspiring, some tongue-in-cheek books that would be perfect for teachers.  After all, “a book is a gift you can open again and again” (Garrison Keillor), right?  So if you’re looking for an idea for your kid’s teachers, check out the titles below by clicking on the links for more info.  Don’t forget to use our blog readers discount of 15% off with the code “FINALLYMAMA” when you purchase from the NoQ store.

My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not) by Peter Brown.
My teacher is a monster

Because You Are My Teacher by Sherry North.

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! by Dr Seuss

To Sir, with Love by Rick Braithwaite

Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire by Rafe Esquith

What If There Were No Teachers?

Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul

For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

Special Review and Offer: PowerMoves Pilates Free Mat Trial (Worth S$55)

I’ve lived with lower back pain since my university days, when I had two bad falls – one on a mountain bike, and another while skiing.  For almost two decades, the pain would come and go, and at its most intense, I could be bedridden for a few hours as numbness sets in.  I tried all sorts of treatment: physiotherapy, painkillers, muscle relaxants, therapeutic massage, acupuncture and chiropractors.  However, years later, the occasional back pain would still be triggered by activities such as: Lugging my work laptop around client sites in Australia and Indonesia, vacationing in Southern Italy and South Africa where we constantly walked, trekked and biked around, and of course, during my third trimester and the newborn months.

I started attending PowerMoves Pilates In The Park four years ago because of their convenient location (Dempsey was near home), timing (beginners class right after work, before dinner) and ambience (beautiful, peaceful, natural surroundings). I moved to the pre-natal class from 17 to 37 weeks pregnant, and then rejoined regular classes about a month after delivering. I’m currently going for a blend of mat and reformer classes. Pilates has proven to be an effective, enjoyable and sustainable lifestyle solution for me. Over time, I find that I’ve developed (or post-pregnancy, regained) a smaller waistline, flatter abs and a stronger core which has helped protect my back and spine.  I can honestly say, it’s been a “me” activity I look forward to every week!

Pilates exercises emphasise control and resistance training – with moves that focus on core muscles in the “powerhouse” (abs, pelvic floor, lower back), proper alignment of the spine, and awareness of breath.  Working with mat comprises a series of floor exercises,  complemented with equipment like the magic circle, fit ball and free weights. Reformer involves the use of a resistance-based machine with springs and ropes for assistance. Exercises can be performed lying down on your back, side or front, sitting, kneeling or standing. On the surface, it might seem that not much is going on, but when you truly activate the powerhouse muscles, you will definitely break out in sweat as you feel your body lengthening and vibrating!

It’s also good to understand what PILATES IS NOT:
1) Pilates isn’t cardio.  Over time, pilates exercises will increase your lean muscle mass which helps your body burn more calories, even while you are at rest. In fact, “Cardio is great; but the second you hop off the bike or the treadmill, you stop burning calories. With Pilates, the second you’re done, you start burning calories.” However, if your primary goal is weight loss, then you still need to continue activities like brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming or dance, as well as any necessary diet adjustments.

2) Pilates isn’t yoga. Although both connect mind and body exercises, pilates is non-spiritual and takes a scientific approach. “The breathing is different – in Pilates, you pull your stomach in to build abdominal strength, while in Yoga you allow it to expand as you breathe. Pilates is about the body in motion, while Yoga entails holding the body in a variety of poses.”

PowerMoves Pilates today has 3 lovely garden studios –  Dempsey Hill, Rochester Park and Bishan Park, and has won accolades such as the 2014 SHAPE awards for Most Challenging Pilates Class & Most Mummy Friendly Pre-Natal Class, as well as Singapore Tatler’s 2014 Best of Singapore’s Pilates Studios, and Expat Living’s Most Beautiful and Beginner Friendly Pilates StudioThey like to say: In 10 sessions, you’ll feel the difference; in 20, you’ll see the difference; in 30, you’ll have a whole new body.  Want a leaner, firmer, fitter you? Take time out from the daily grind to take care of yourself!

For all of July, blog readers get a special complimentary trial mat class (worth S$55). Just contact them via phone or the online form HERE. State your preferred studio, day and time, and give them the code FINALLYMAMA to redeem.

For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

Special Review and Offer: Books for Fathers’ Day (15% off NoQ)

Fathers’ Day is coming soon on June 15! If you’re looking for something simple yet meaningful for dear old dad, why not get a book or two? I love seeing daddy read with B at the end of the day (if we’re lucky) or on weekends. Besides, when they’re bonding, mama catches some me-time too!

No time?  With NoQ, the e-commerce arm of Times Publishing Asia, you can now browse and buy awesome yet affordable books for your little ones online – with just a click (or two) of the mouse. NoQ offers competitive prices with free local delivery within 2 weeks for orders above SGD$25, and you beat the queue … coz there’s none! (No-Q, get it?). Members also receive newsletters with recommendations and occasional  too. What’s more, our readers get 15% off now till August 31, 2014 with the code “FINALLYMAMA”

To help you get started, here’s our top 10 picks for daddy and your little preschooler (0-6 years) – just in time for Fathers’ Day. Click on each title to buy directly from the NoQ store.

I Love My Daddy by Giles Andreae

An amusing, touching and heart-warming look at the special relationship between father and child from the bestselling author Giles Andreae with Emma Dodd’s charming and vibrant artwork. Together with the award-winning I Love My Mummy, these books are bedtime favourites with B as the examples are so endearing and true to life with this mom and dad.

Just Like My Dad by David Melling

A simple and sturdy board book which speaks to so many father / child relationships. A humourous, touching tale for anyone who has ever idolized their father – even if they are moody, lazy and good at pretending to be busy.  Sound like someone you know and love?

Spot Loves His Daddy by Eric Hill

We’ve been reading the Spot lift-the-flap series since B was a teeny infant. In this book, whether playing ball in the park, feeding the ducks, or reading bedtime stories, Spot and his Daddy are great buddies. A nice reminder for kids who don’t necessarily get to see or spend much time with their dads.

Baby’s Box of Family Fun

Everybody in Baby’s family loves Baby! Four lift-the-flap books about babies and their very special family members: Where Is Baby’s Mommy? Daddy and Me Grandpa and Me Grandma and Me. Get the whole set for daddy AND grandpa too 🙂

Daddy’s Home by Roseanne Parry

This book revels in the excitement of a young child welcoming Daddy home at the end of his day. The visual narrative shows Daddy unwinding from work as a parallel to the bedtime rituals of a young child. This sturdy little book with whimsical illustrations evokes the precious hours that many fathers share with their children each evening.  This has special meaning for us as dad works quite late and as often away, so the times when he DOES come home early enough is cause for celebration!  And a good book like this 🙂

Because I Am Your Daddy by Sherry North

How much do fathers love their children? Enough to fly them to school in a plane? Enough to dig for the biggest dinosaur the world has ever known? From exploring dark caves to leading a marching band to even being a space alien, a father’s love is unconditional, and he will do anything to make sure all of his child’s dreams come true. The dynamic duo of Sherry North and Marcellus Hall team up once again to treat parents and children to a story that celebrates affection with imagination.

The Daddy Book by Todd Parr

The Daddy Book celebrates all different kinds of dads and highlights the many reasons they are so special. Whether your dad walks you to school or walks you to the bus, whether he wears suits or two different socks, whether he has a lot of hair or a little (heee), Todd Parr assures readers that no matter what kind of daddy you have, every father is special in his own unique way. With his trademark bold, bright colours and silly scenes, kids will learn that while no two dads are exactly alike, ‘all daddies love to hug and kiss you’, and that is what is so special about them!

My Daddy’s Footsteps by Francois Barcelo

Some very sensible ideas as well as some far-fetched ones can run across the mind of a child who is waiting for dad to show up for dinner. Did he lose his cell phone or is he racing a camel? Is he in a snowstorm, or the victim of a magical spell? Readers will be excited to learn whether dad makes it to dinner after all. This one hits home too as B now constantly asks (and sometimes, answers his own) questions such as “Where’s dada? Is dada at work?”

Up on Daddy’s Shoulders by Matt Berry

This was the book that started B’s endless requests for a ride “up on dada’s shoulders” whenever we go out now. Matt Berry’s sweet story of a little boy and his daddy is brought to life by Lucy Corvino’s classic, vivid illustrations. “Up on Daddy’s shoulders, I’m the happiest kid in the world!”

Why I Love My Daddy by Daniel Howarth

A heartwarming book featuring children’s own words and animal illustrations, this is the perfect book to say, I love you, Daddy!  Everyone’s daddy is the best. And who better to tell the world than children themselves?  This charming book combines endearing things said by children about their fathers with gentle illustrations of familiar animals. The text is amusing and insightful, with reasons why daddies are loved by their children ranging from ‘because he tickles me’ to ‘because he is my best friend’. With beautiful pictures and charming words from children all about daddies, it’s just right to give to Dad and to read together!

Bonus for the really wee ones:  Where Is Daddy?

Help your child look for daddy throughout this bright, fun lift-a-flap book. Age-appropriate, simple line drawings and bold primary colours keep the child’s attention throughout the hide-and-seek adventure. At the end, find your daddy in the vinyl pocket attached to the last page where a personalised photo can be inserted.

This is a sponsored review.  For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

Special Review and Offer: Pupsik Studio (10% off)

For most moms, online shopping is a lifesaver when you just can’t find the item, the time or the right price that you need for your kids! Enter: Pupsik Studio. This well-designed and user-friendly site offers a great selection of the best and latest parenting, baby and toddler products at competitive prices. As a May-June holiday reward, we have a special offer for our readers too (details at end)!

Here are some of the items that we absolutely love:

1) Kleen Kanteen
This was my first purchase with Pupsik Studio. I was so thrilled to find it here after looking all over Singapore with no success! We must have tried every plastic water bottle model available (Munchkin, Avent, Skip Hop, Playtex, Nalgene, Tollijoy, Tommy Tippee, even generic BPA-free Disney-Pixar CARS ones) but all had problems with leaking, cleaning and replacing chewed out straws. This 12oz Kleen Kanteen Kid’s Bottle was an instant hit with B – and has lasted the longest. There are no straws (!), it’s easy to clean, use, keep hot or cold, doesn’t break or even leak much. Kleen Kanteens are made from 18/18 food grade stainless steel (= safe, no weird tastes, but a tad heavy) and the sports cap and spouts are BPA-free. Once your tot has mastered drinking from a cup, get this and save your money and agony on all those horrid plastic bottles.

2) Melissa & Doug Jigsaw Puzzles – 4 In A Box
I bought these for B’s 2nd birthday as the bigger puzzle pieces were getting easy for him and I wanted something compact and sturdy for road trips and holidays. Each wooden box comes with 4 different puzzles that fit neatly in 4 separate compartments. Each puzzle can be assembled on the slide-on lid of the box. Each puzzle piece is shape coded on the back for convenient sorting and storing. Various themes are available: vehicles, construction (we got the first two for our transportation loving boy), pets, farm animals, wild animals, sea life. Though recommended for 3+ years, the pieces are manageable for tots – see B attempting one:

3) The Tiny Bites Food Shears (Scissors)
Don’t leave home without it. We have loaned this out to countless friends over the dining table to cut up bite-sized food for their tots. Made from cutlery-grade stainless steel blades, these parent-invented portable scissors are BPA-free, lead-free and dishwasher safe, with a protective blade cover making it child-proof and pocket-friendly, and an on-blade inch ruler for measuring (if needed). It comes in a package of two scissors – one for home, one on the go, or even one as your tot’s first pair of scissors. The comfort cutting spring (yellow lever) provides extra tension for tiny hands that lack the strength to manipulate regular scissors. Very useful!

4) Charlie Banana
Have you ever stopped to calculate how much you’ve spent on disposable diapers? You can save a LOT of time, money and the environment with reusable cloth diapers, if only they were easy enough to wear and clean… Like Charlie Banana!  Unfortunately, I didn’t know about these until B was already being potty trained BUT if you are keen to start out with cloth diapers (and disposable inserts) from newborn onwards, try the Charlie Banana® 2-in-1 Reusable One Size which works till ~3 years. Parents can adjust the diaper with a no-slip, bra-strap design that tucks nicely in the interior fleece so no part of the elastic or adjustment system will rub against baby’s skin. Buy one to try, or get the economical bundles available at Pupsik.  Meanwhile, we got B the Charlie Banana® 2-in-1 Swim Diaper & Training pants to splash and messy play in.  It fits and feels well, doubles up as a swim shorts and diaper, and is actually absorbent (compared to those Huggies “swim liners”).

Ready to get wet!
Ready to get wet!

5) Personalized Stickers and Iron Ons
I hadn’t labelled anything of B’s … until he started nursery this year. Then all of sudden, we needed to label EVERYTHING because sure enough, he’d bring home someone else’s bottle or shorts or hat. Of course, you could just write their name / initials with permanent marker. Or you could try Pupsik’s wonderful selection of personalised stickers, iron on dots, shoe labels, bag tags, et al. In addition to personalising the name (in English or Chinese characters), you can customise images and colours from a very vibrant and appealing range of options. We got a set of 65  Sticker Labels (for bottles, bags, mozzie repellant) and 42 Iron On Dots (for hats, shirts, shorts). I’m glad we gave this a try as the final product looked great, B loved  recognising his things with their cute car icon and name labels and also learned to read and spell his own name through this.

Lastly, some recommendations for expectant moms who desire to wear your baby as they feed and nap on the go: This handy guide compares Pupsik pouch slings, Ergo, Boba, Baby Bjorn and Manduca carriers (all available in-store, look out for sale items). Also complete your early years needs with beansprout pillows, nursing covers, Aveeno, Aden + Anais, Baby Bjorn babysitter bouncer, California Baby, Clevamama, OXO Tot, and a good selection of age appropriate toys and games 🙂

As a special offer for Finally Mama readers, Pupsik Studio is offering a 10% discount off all regular items from now till June 30, 2014. Use the code “FINALLYMAMA”. Drop a note here or like us so we know this has been useful to you…. And, happy shopping!

For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

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 🙂

For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook.

Special Review and Giveaway: Flip For Joy Books (Bilingual)

What has made us dance for joy lately? Flip For Joy! This online bookstore is run by a fellow mompreneur and former Chinese language JC teacher who believes in helping “parents choose the best for their children.”

What we like:
– A strong bilingual and hanyupinyin selection, including many bestsellers and award-winning translations. We were helpfully sent personalised recommendations for my 2.5 year old boy with an offer to type out/write hanyupinyin if needed. What a lifesaver for book loving, banana mamas like me!
– Flip Flip Hooray Starter Packs for different age groups (0-3 years, 3-5 years and 5-9 years) with at least one book from each of the three categories: Flip for FUN (highly interactive, engaging fun), KNOWLEDGE (insightful, rich stories), and LOVE (values)
– SGD$20 and SGD$50 Flip for Joy e-Gift cards available for purchase to share the love (or rather, joy)
– Free local standard mail for all orders and free courier delivery for orders above SGD$50

Here are some of the books that we bought and/or were given complimentary for review, all suitable for 0-5 years. As a bonus, there’s a special giveaway for Finally Mama readers, details at end 🙂

不行,危险!
With its cute car shape, real wheels and likeable animals, this was an instant hit with B who kept asking me to read it over and over again. We’d never read this before and without hanyupinyin, mama had to make up some words (shhh). As we got into the car later, B said “must wear seatbelt like animals” so clearly the road safety pointers are coming across! This book is miles better than constantly nagging our lil monkeys to NOT open the car window or door, kick and throw things, wriggle out of their seat and safety belt. A perfect toy-in-a-book-with-a-message!

不行,危险!
不行,危险!

鳄鱼不刷牙 Crocodiles Don’t Brush Their Teeth (bilingual)
Translated from Colin Fancy’s original, this tongue-in-cheek book uses animal illustrations and catchy text to reinforce behaviors like brushing your teeth, blowing your nose, brushing your hair, washing your face, saying please and thank you, and going to bed at night. The examples are quite funny and sticky. B insists on brushing his (very little) hair now as “lions don’t brush their hair, 可是我梳!”

Crocodiles Don't Brush Their Teeth
Crocodiles Don’t Brush Their Teeth

点点点 Dot Dot Dot
The original English version by Hervé Tullet has been a bedtime favourite since we bought it sometime in B’s first year. This highly interactive, imaginative and addictive book never gets old. A great classic first book that teaches colours, actions, sequencing, counting and language along the way. Just 按一下, press here!

点点点 Dot Dot Dot
点点点 Dot Dot Dot

翻翻翻变变变(4册) *注音 (hanyupinyin)
This series of four books is full of surprising illustrations that transform into animals, fruits, vegetables, vehicles and household items. B was thrilled to find what’s next as he flipped the flaps, and that in turn made it easier and more enjoyable to say the words in Chinese. Some objects are repeated often to support the overall design and retention of new vocabulary. Note: This is not a board book, so pages may tear easily if manhandled (or rather, tot-handled)

翻翻翻 : 动物,果蔬,交通工具,日常用品
翻翻翻 : 动物,果蔬,交通工具,日常用品

幼儿双语绘本(7册) (bilingual)
This series of seven books is based on a Korean best-seller. I found the illustrations and stories similar in style to Oliver Jeffers aka the artist behind How To Catch A Star. We were given two for review: 我想回家 (a boy who tries various modes of transportation to take him home) and 凯文在大海中旅行 (a boy who learns about sea creatures and body parts in his underwater search for a lost toy).  Each book includes stickers with English sentences and words as a reading or learning aid, and a teaching guide at the end (all in Chinese though).

幼儿双语绘本
幼儿双语绘本

奇妙洞洞书第一辑(6册) and 第二辑(8册)
Originally in Italian, this highly acclaimed series features innovative die-cut books with holes, written in both English and Chinese (with hanyupinyin). There are two sets in the series so far, six books in the first set and eight books in the second set. The board books are sturdy, wonderfully designed, and will grow along with your child. Each page spread includes pictures and key text (words, characters, numbers) on the right side, with a unique rhyme and/or story on the left side to further illustrate the concept. We first borrowed these at the local public library, but it was hard to find the whole series given their popularity. A must have for your budding Chinese reader and language learner! Here’s a sneak preview from B himself 🙂

And now … a special giveaway (Giveaway has ended, thanks for participating!)

Finally Mama readers stand a chance to win TWO books, one from each set in the series (each worth SGD$13.90) to get you started. Click on each book cover image below to find out more:

我家在哪里?
我会数一数
我会数一数

Just CLICK HERE to enter the giveaway and follow these steps:
1) Like Finally Mama on Facebook
2) Like Flip For Joy on Facebook
3) Tell us below what you like about Flip For Joy

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed here are my own. Some books were  given complimentary for the purposes of review. I reserve the right to review the validity and authenticity of all participants, and to disqualify any entries from users with dubious, duplicate or illegitimate data.

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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Special Review and Giveway: Six Karen Katz Lift The Flap Books (Bilingual)

Your boy is playing with his favourite bus/water gun/thingy.  His friend eagerly comes over and tries to snatch it away.  “B, please share?” “No!  Don’t want!” Tantrum ensues. Sound familiar?

Toddler hitting, screaming, biting and throwing are common behaviours that they’ll need to (un)learn – but that process can be challenging! Karen Katz offers some help with a series of delightful little books filled with adorable, true-to-life illustrations, and clear, simple and repetitive text. Thanks to Read With Me Mommy, this series is available in a compact set of six bilingual books in English and Chinese: I Can Share (我可以分享), No Hitting (不打人), No Biting (不咬人), Excuse Me (对不起), Best Ever Big Brother (最好的大哥哥), Best Ever Big Sister (最好的大姐姐).

Complete set of 6 bilingual books
Complete set of 6 bilingual books

What we like: It’s bilingual!  So you get a double 2-in-1 deal – reinforce behaviours AND learn key phrases in English AND Chinese as you enjoy reading it over and over together 🙂 As with other Karen Katz books, the text is separated from the pictures, each in their own page, making it easier for kids who are learning to read. Many tots actually memorise the story or conversation based on pictures, which is a great start to language development, but books like these take it one step further by helping them to focus on and recognise words, letters and characters. The whole page flaps cleverly reveal the right response, which usually involves “magic words” for proper manners or positive redirection for sticky situations like sharing and self-control. Note: This is best for 18 months to 4 years as it’s not in a board book format, so turning the pages and lifting flaps require a bit more control (and care).

As a bonus, the set also includes two books on growing up from the perspective of a 哥哥 or 姐姐, ideal for older siblings who are adjusting to a new baby at home. But even if you don’t have a sibling (yet – like us), it’s still relevant for your tot to read about big boys or girls who eat, sleep, read and go to the potty on their own 🙂

I'm a big sister
I’m a big sister

Read With Me Mommy is a user-friendly online bookstore which is conveniently organised by age (0-3 years, 3-6 years, 6-10 years, 10+ years) and book type (sets, board books, cloth books, etc.). There is currently a 5% discount promo for all DBS/POSB cardholders and free local mail delivery for ALL purchases.

As a special giveaway, Finally Mama readers stand a chance to win a brand new complete set of 6 bilingual lift the flap books worth SGD$24.90 with FREE local delivery.  Giveaway closed!  Just CLICK HERE to enter the giveaway and follow these steps:

1) Like Finally Mama on Facebook
2) Like Read With Me Mommy on Facebook
3) Comment below on who you’d like to get this for and why!