Sunday, August 16, 2015

Going, Going....


As a little girl, my late grandmother stayed 5 minutes away from where I currently live. We used to drive past this estate and I would peep into the homes, wondering who lived here in these beautiful units.

This home welcomed us as a newly married couple, excited at moving into our first real home after 2 years of living in a rental flat. It was here that we threw our heart and soul into decorating. Of course, it helped greatly that we were DINKs, and that I was then working at IKEA. Over the years, the look of our living room changed greatly. Gone are the mocha walls that we once thought would create a cozy feel. Here to stay are our white walls that brighten everything up (I share more on that here).



We love how our living room is the place where we can all congregate together, but yet is also a place where we can be ourselves individually. It's where our firstborn flops on the sofa before getting ready for the school bus. It's where I read at night. It's where our little one plays pick-up-sticks. It's where the kids play with their train tracks or Lego blocks. It's where my husband (sometimes not so willingly) massages my feet. It is our family room, and I share more about it here.





Over the years, the dining table has remained. Our lovely find from the AS-IS section at IKEA. It's large enough to accomodate my family when they visit for dinner (that's 10-12 of us seated at the table!), and cosy enough for our intimate home-cooked meals at home every evening. It's also where Max and I work on our laptops at night after the kids have gone to bed.

This is where we have coffee, spill juice, remind children to eat, drag chairs, let kids set and wipe the table, put dish after dish after dish of homecooked goodness, and create reading forts under the table. We eat here, play card games here, the kids paint and craft here, we read here, and there's always a chase-around-the-table competition going on in the evenings.



When we first moved in, we had no idea what to do with our spare bedroom. Today, it is our kids' room, and we've tried our best to make it welcoming for them. There are pictures of them around, and they are surrounded by things that they love. Thousands of forward rolls have been done here, as part of the gym classes our kids make us take part in.

This is where we read book after book and tell story after story each night before bedtime. It's where they shoo us out, giggling, and emerge ten minutes later, shoulders draped with blankets, and crowns on their heads. This is also where we drag mattresses to on weekends for 'camping'.





As a young couple, we decided to paint our bedroom a deep red. We wanted a dramatic bedroom. Romance! Romance! Dark flooring, dark walls... today I would have chosen a lighter colour. But who could complain about a four-poster bed and a walk-in wardrobe? Surely not I.

This is where both our kids as babies slept, in their cots, at the foot of our bed. Today the cot is gone and it is replaced by children with train tracks. Today it is a favourite hide-and-seek spot. Today, children play at being firemen by sliding down our bed posters. This is where, at one point, we tried to put a work table to work. It ended up being a nice little place to throw computer bags and other work stuff. So I suppose it served its purpose as a 'work table'.


The kitchen is probably my second favourite room in the house. It's where I cook meals that I know are nutritious for my family. It's where, in the mornings, I can put the radio on and prepare meals undisturbed. It's where we do the laundry, and hang bamboo pole after bamboo pole out into the sun. This is where the kids sometimes play with their sensory bins when I walk around them, keeping chopped carrots and potato peels out of their way.

This is the room where we work the hardest, yet it is also the room that serves to remind us of how lucky we are - How lucky we are to have laundry to do, because it means we have a home full of people. How lucky we are to have a full sink, because it means we have had nutritious meals to eat.

This house, it is the place where we've taken numerous photos starting with the ones of our kids as newborns at the front door. It's where we've loved, fought, laughed, cried. This is the only home that our children have known. Where we've hosted our kids' birthday parties. Where my former colleagues hid under the table to throw me a surprise pre-birth party with the dishes I'd been craving for.

This has been a lovely place to live and it's strange welcoming people into our home for viewing sessions. It's almost like we're betraying it. But, like hermit crabs, we have outgrown this shell, and it's time to move into a bigger one. We've had wonderful memories here, and look forward to creating many more in our new home.

If you know anyone who's interested to move into the lovely Tiong Bahru estate, our home is still up for sale, and more information can be found here.

All images have been taken with permission from our real estate agent.






Saturday, August 8, 2015

My Kind of Crazy

The plan was to spend the entire day at the Singapore Science Centre, going through the Human Body Experience again, and enjoying the Back to the Moon for Good show at the Omni-Theatre. And after all that, we'd end the day at the awesome water play area that the kids really love. What a fantastic plan it was!

Unfortunately, while half of the 5.5 million people in Singapore were camped out somewhere centrally trying to watch the Black Knights' aerial display, the other half shared the same fantastic idea as us.

Thankfully, we had the kids' swimsuits so we made the quick decision to jump into a cab and headed for Jurong Bird Park. There, thanks to our Feather Friends membership, we bypassed the crowds and headed straight into the Birdz of Play area. This is something we wouldn't typically do (head to the Bird Park just for this) but because we've pretty much utilised our membership, we were happy to go to the Bird Park without actually looking at any birds.

This worked out well - the kids had fun, the husband and I were able to smile and have a real conversation (mostly about 'haha what a bad start to the morning but look at us now all having fun') while keeping an eye out for the kids. It was good.

Until it started to drizzle. Slightly. So we let the kids continue to play.

And then the rain grew bigger. And bigger. And bigger. And so we had to shepard 2 very disappointed children into the shower area (which, as my 7-year old pointed out, was a very big shower cubicle - you can see we've been to our share of water play areas and their respective shower areas). And when we emerged, we were greeted with a white sheet of rain.

The start of the long weekend and there we were, stranded at the toilet of Jurong Bird Park.

But this isn't where the story ends. In fact, this is just where it begins. It begins with kindness like we'd never experienced. 2 Bird Park staff offered us umbrellas while they got drenched in the rain. The umbrellas got us to the cafe (which only sold ice cream) where we waited indefinitely for the rain to stop. But at least we were dry. And then these two guys said that they had arranged for a tram to bring anyone who wanted back to the entrance/exit - these tram rides are usually chargable at $5 per adult and $3 per child.

At the taxi queue, everyone (including our kids) was civilised and well behaved despite the pouring rain. Lunch was uneventful and the rain had stopped so at least our spirits were lifted knowing that we could walk home from the MRT station without getting wet. But it was not to be.

We got out from the station only to be greeted by.... you guessed it. Rain. And not a little drizzle either.

So it was back into a shopping mall we went. Which incidently was under heavy renovation. As in only 5 tenants remained. Thankfully one of them was a food court and the kids got a hot Milo and we all had fruit.

But it was at this exact moment, looking at my family laughing and sharing a simple snack together, being happy amidst the day's crazy happenings, that I felt so truly blessed. I knew then at that very moment that I could not choose any better people to spend my crazy days with.

We live a walkable distance from the train station, but because of the rain, we decided to take the bus. And at the bus stop, a stranger laid out a sheet of newspaper on the wet bus stop seats, and gestured to our little ones, asking them to sit. There I was, already feeling incredibly blessed, but this stranger's gesture touched me beyond belief.

The rain was still going on strong so my husband stayed with the kids under shelter while I ran home in the rain to get umbrellas for them. And while I was at it, I grabbed their rain coats and boots so that they could play in the rain.

Because as the saying goes, life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, but dancing in the rain, isn't it? And if anything today's happenings have taught me, it is to appreciate the little things that we have. Because the days can get crazy, but we all need people to enjoy the crazyness with.

Happy crazy long weekend to you :)






Monday, July 20, 2015

How to Go Out with Kids without Going Crazy



Disclaimer: This post was written to motivate parents to bring their kids out more. It is in no way meant to offend anyone nor be overly preachy on the benefits of spending time with children. 

For more ideas on fun things to do and fun places to go with kids in Singapore, check this out.

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I often find myself completely exhausted at the end of every outing and all I want to do is flop on the sofa and fall asleep there. My kids however, are energetic throughout, from the time we set out, on all the modes of transport we take, at all the places we go, and finally, even when we're home, they've still got some energy reserved for their books and toys and perhaps even a little whining.

But that said, we do have fun when we're out, and even though it's getting easier, it can sometimes still get quite challenging, particularly because there are many occasions when we are out with the kids on our own, outnumbered 2 kids to 1 parent. I know of parents who have never brought their kids out on their own, and those who try to avoid it as much as possible because they think that it is too overwhelming for them.

So here are some pointers, tips if you may, that have helped us; I hope they will help you too:

MOVING AROUND
1. Bags for everyone
If we're out for a big day, I try to make the kids carry a backpack each. In each of their backpacks, there is a bottle of water (their own), a hat, and some small toys or books (they choose). I have my own backpack too which holds my own water bottle, their snacks, and a change of clothes. Backpacks are my new favourite because the last thing I need when I'm chasing two kids is to have a sling bag sliding off my shoulders.

2. Hold hands
We always hold hands when we're out. We've used one of those "cute backpacks with a long tail" (i.e. child leash) only once for each girl - Poppy at age 2 when we visited the zoo for the first time and Calla at age 2 at Disneyland when Max didn't come with us. If you see the value in those backpacks, they are useful especially if you have more than two children to care for. Don't bother about what others say or think; the safety of your children is more important.

3. Travel light
The reason I like backpacks is that our hands are kept free. Plus, it's easy to just get up and go with a backpack stuck on you. We don't go out with a stroller and very seldom bring our kick scooters out on long distances. It's just tricky having to manage two kids and two scooters on trains and buses!

4. Fill up
Our bottles are filled to the brim when we leave the house, and we refill each time there is an opportunity. Coolers are great, but this is Singapore, so tap water is ok too. Keeping hydrated in this very sunny country is so important!

5. Take time to appreciate things
Many times, we rush to reach places and then rush to play and rush to eat then rush home for bed time. After a while, I thought that was a bit ridiculous! So now we sometimes stretch our time to check out things that catch our attention and just to appreciate the things around us (within reason!). It could be watching a squirrel jumping from tree to tree, picking rocks or simply checking out a temporary toy fair!

6. Wear something with pockets
I kid you not. Because they are so useful. My pockets always have tissue because you never know if there's something you have to very quickly wipe. Like a snotty nose before mucus becomes a yummy snack. But seriously, pockets serve as temporary bins well, until you can find a real one for that snot-containing tissue.


TRAVELLING
7. Plan your route beforehand
We do not drive so we rely heavily on public transport. Websites like gothere.sg and phone apps like MyTransport.SG, Iris NextBus and Bus@SG are helpful too - they provide estimated bus arrival times so you know how long you have to wait. Sometimes that's important because then you know if you have enough time to make a quick toilet visit or if you have half an hour to spare to browse around in a shop.

8. Entertainment
For long train rides (especially routes that are mostly underground), books and small toys come in handy. We like our Toobs animals - they are cute and hardy and the kids make up stories with them. Puzzle books are a favourite too. We play I Spy (I spy green shoes, black bag, brown hair, orange shoelace etc) and hand games (scissors/paper/stone, oh pay som, cherry cherry lom jiam pas) and sometimes I create little scavenger hunts for them and put them onto small clip boards so they can tick the items off - that's only when I know we're going to be on empty trains.

9. Use what's available
Do you remember 'driving' the sky train at the airport as a child? I do. And my kids? They love the Circle Line because they get to 'drive' the trains. I play along with them and ask them to 'not go too fast' or 'Quick! Brake! We're almost at the station!'. They've even worked out a system - one of them is in charge of the actual driving and the other is in charge of the other things like turning on the lights and opening/closing the train doors. Most times, they entertain the other train passengers too.

They also like when I tell them where we're going and how many stops it would take so they help me to look out for our stations.



VISITING

10. Set boundaries
The first thing we do when we arrive at our destination is to set physical boundaries. If it's somewhere we've been before, I will start this conversation with the kids before we arrive, and remind them to "stay only on the soft ground (for playgrounds for instance)" or "no going out of this room (if we're at an event)". If it's a new place for us, I quickly survey the area and squat down and get their full attention before explaining the rule of the day. Then I ask them again "What's the rule for today?" and they are not allowed to go off to play until they can tell me the right answer.

11. We look out for each other
The kids are reminded often to look out for each other and to stick together. I tell them that there are two of them and one of me and I cannot possibly split myself into two different direction. I remind them to play together or at least close together, and they like to come say hi to me often if I'm not playing with them. If they run to me alone, I always ask "Where's your sister?" (even if I know the answer) which makes them look. I think that makes them mindful of their responsibility to keep an eye out for each other. Yes, they are only kids, but we feel they should always have each other's backs.

12. Put on your eagle eyes
I keep my eyes on them constantly. I'm not at the stage yet where they can play and I can sit on the bench and read a book. Perhaps one day!

13. Check opening hours
I like being spontaneous but when out with two young children, I have to limit that to a certain degree. So I always make sure I know what time the places we want to visit open to minimise disappointment. We learnt the hard way that the water play area at Children's Garden/Gardens by the Bay closes at 6pm, and that most stand-alone libraries open at 10am (those within shopping malls mostly open at 11am). I like spending time with my kids but walking around aimlessly with bored kids while waiting for something to open is not fun for any of us.

14. Find out more
Like I said, I like spontaneity but I also want to be prepared. So checking out a venue's website beforehands lets me know if I need to bring swim gear or jackets for the kids to fully enjoy the day. When there is the option for water play, our wet bag is absolutely necessary - it keeps all the wet stuff in and everything else dry. We have the Bummis wet bag and it's big enough for 3 towels and 3 sets of swim suits. While finding out about the venue, I also expand my search to include food options so that after play, I know I won't have to walk around searching for food (incidently, dragging two hungry and tired kids in search of food doesn't rank very high in my list of fun things to do).

15. Visit the toilet often
Everyone goes to the toilet just before leaving the house and it is also the first thing we do when we arrive at our destination, the last thing we do when we leave, and just before meal times. We also go whenever there is an opportunity at places where there are few restrooms (like Macritchie Reservoir for example).

16. Photo-taking
We like taking photos to remind ourselves of our trips - the photos get printed and go into our scrap books after a while - but I remind myself that it should not always be about photos. A few token pics are fine but the outing should be enjoyed through my eyes and not through my phone.

17. Being fair
Sometimes when we're out at certain places, there are things that each child wants to do that the other isn't interested in. In the case of Universal Studios Singapore or Kids Stop at Science Centre Singapore for instance. When that happens, I present the options to them - we can either take turns and do what each other likes, do something else together, or if we can't all play happily together, we'll have to leave. Usually they choose to take turns. Phew!

(By the way, I never say "If you can't behave yourself, we'll go home now!" Because I don't want them to associate home with being boring and negative! Instead I say "Shall we leave now since nobody is having fun?")


EATING
18. Bring food if necessary
I always make sure to check if the places we visit have food options and if not, either plan our trip such that it doesn't coincide with meal times, or bring our own munchies.

19. Choose food options wisely
Each food outlet has its pros and cons - at food courts, you get your food very quickly, which is good news for hungry children, plus prices are always reasonable. The down side is that everyone thinks the same way. So if you find yourself stuck in the lunch crowd, you might want to consider other options. We quite like Hans and Saizariya for reasonably priced food.

20. Choose your meal times wisely
We eat our meals early - lunch at 11.30am and dinner at 5.30pm. We also like to eat before play, just to get it out of the way. That also motivates the kids to eat quickly because I tell them that the faster they eat, the more they can play.

I hope these tips help to make it less overwhelming and scary to bring kids out on your own! Don't forget to have a good time yourself! Enjoy the venue and smile too! Because you deserve to have a good time too :)

If you have any more tips, feel free to leave them in comments below. I'm learning too!









Wednesday, July 15, 2015

How to Make Tie and Dye T-shirts

We are loving our home-made tie and dye t-shirts! The best part of it is that the kids were part of the process from beginning to end and are so proud of their own creations. Contrary to common belief, tie and dye t-shirts are not difficult to create, and you don't need hard-to-get materials, nor follow complicated steps. 

Here's how you can make your own:

Materials
1 pack fabric dye (2 if you intend to have 2 colours on your items. Bear in mind that it will double your time required)
Water (depending on dye; it will be stated on packaging)
Gloves
Big container to contain water
Long sticks of old cooking utensils to mix dye and fabrics
Rubber bands
T-shirts

* We got our dye from Art Friend, Calla's t-shirt was from Cotton On and Poppy's and mine were from Art Friend

Time required: about 1 hour

Step 1: Using regular rubber bands, tie up white t-shirts. There are several ways to do this, and each will bring about a different result.

For (1), I chose a mid point and start swirling the t-shirt around it before finally wrapping rubber bands around it.

For (2), we simply bunched up little bits of the t-shirt and tied rubber bands around them about 1 inch from their ends.

For (3), we started off by pinching the centre of the t-shirt and putting a rubber band around it, 1 inch from the end, and then continued by wrapping bands around the t-shirt in intervals of about 1 to 2 inches. 



Step 2: Dye the t-shirts according to the instructions on the package. We used DYLON fabric dye in flamingo pink for ours. The pack allowed us to dye 2 kids t-shirts, 1 adult sized t-shirt and a bedsheet for a kid-sized bed. We added 1 cup of salt for a more intense colour.

Step 3: Rinse off the dye in first hot then cold water. Once the water runs clear, it is ready to be machine washed (to be safe, we washed all our newly dyed items together without mixing with other clothes).

Your new t-shirts are now ready for wear! Below on the left, is the result of method (3), and on the right, is the result of method (2). My t-shirt was done with method (1) but it didn't come out too well (it resembled a white t-shirt that had been stained unintentionally!) because I had wrapped it too tight, thus preventing the dye from seeping into the fabric.




Have fun!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Children are not an Inconvenience



The other morning I held a banana in one hand while persuading my 3-year old to simply walk - and not jump or run - down the stairs. The banana was half eaten, so I had to hold it up, much like in the style of an Olympic torch. The 3-year old was bent on pulling my arm out of its socket by jumping the bottom 3 steps of each flight. "That's dangerous! If you fall, I could fall on you and flatten you!"  She didn't stop jumping. When we got to the bottom of the stairs, she was laughing and saying "that was funny, Mama" and I was well, not smiling. 

This happens often for me and I bet many of you can identify with it as well. 

But when she got on the school bus and started to form little hearts with her fingers just for me, my heart melted and I was reminded by a phrase I chanced upon: 

Children are not an inconvenience.

It is easy to fall into the trap of categorizing them as such, and I believe that once we are able to recognize that they are learning and using us as examples, we would all be much happier.

For instance, every new mum makes comments about the heavy diaper bag. I willingly confess that I did the same too - the diapers, wipes, extra clothes, nursing wrap, toys, and the ever cumbersome baby carrier. And as they grew older, their water bottles, hats, bus cards, entertainment.

We tsk at them taking too long to eat. We grumble at them them to walk faster. We get frustrated when they don't listen and spray water all over the bathroom. We complain about always going to "child friendly" places and having to share our food. We get irritated when they ask questions as we're on our phones.

We do all this but if we stop to listen to our own words, what would we hear under them? Are we unknowingly telling our kids that they are inconveniencing our lives? 

That we would much prefer to have an evening sitting on the sofa with our feet up on the coffee table watching 80s re-runs? That we would enjoy meals so much more we didn't have to make childish conversations? That we would prefer to be walking and checking our phones than holding their hands? That a relaxing holiday for two in France would be so much more fun than a trip to Legoland? 

When we pick them up from the school bus, do we say "Hello! How did your day go? I missed you!" Or "come, hurry up, let's go!"? When will it stop, us racing around from one place to another? When will we take our time to enjoy just being with them?

Let us remember that they never asked to be our kids. They never asked for us to bring snacks or bottles out for them or to buy them new books or to bring them to places or on holidays. It is us who do these for them, out of love.

I am not saying that everything should be put on hold just for the kids, nor that they should always take first priority; we sure don't want them growing up with a false sense of entitlement and thinking that everyone should respect that the world revolves around them. It's about being with them and growing with them and just letting them be children.

They can't help finding sticks on the ground fascinating. They can't not like jumping in puddles even if they're wearing their new shoes. They can't help being children but we can make the choice in being supportive parents.

I'm making this step to change, to watch what I say and be mindful of my actions. Because I want my kids to know that they are loved and not to think that they are an inconvenience.

Lately I'm telling them things like "thank you for being my daughter". It surprised them both at first, especially the 7-year old. But now they're both saying "thank you for being my Mama" and it's just lovely to hear. Step by step, we're working toward enjoying our lives together and not simply just rushing from one place to another. 

 


Monday, July 6, 2015

Art Projects for Kids



Somehow, art had found our way into our activities during the June holidays, and I'm glad it did. I was never much of an Art student in school (I mean, I was a student who took Art as a subject, but I was never very good at it), so it was fun to create art pieces together with the kids. We did so much that each of them now have an art folder, which we take out to admire once in a while.

It can be messy, but if you happen to have a day off, I strongly urge you to try your hand at some art with your kids. They're fun, and the kids really enjoy them. And no, it's not all about paint, paintbrushes and paper! Here are some that we did recently.


Rubber Band Twang
This was possibly my kids' favourite. It also created really pretty works of art and everyone loved this.

How to do it: Place paper in tray (for younger kids, you may wish to tape paper to tray to reduce movement). Wrap rubber bands around tray at regular or irregular intervals. Put paint on rubber bands (we found that the easiest way for us was to squirt some paint onto cardboard (we used toilet rolls). Then pull rubber band upward and TWANG! There are sound effects too!



Confetti Bursts
Another crowd pleaser.  Possibly because it's really really messy. Cleaning up is easier than you think - just bring out the vacuum cleaner and you'll get clean floors in 2 minutes (the kids will even gladly help with cleaning up!). The 7-year old LOVED this but strangely, the 3-year old didn't want to have anything to do with it the popping. She was happy to gather up the fallen pieces though.

How to do it: Squirt out glue on paper (I let the kids squirt out whatever shapes they wanted on one sheet, and then I put their initials on another). Then put confetti (we used coloured tissues but coloured paper works just as well too) into brown paper bags or small plastic bags (the small transparent kind). Blow into bags to inflate them, then position yourself (standing!) over your paper, and pop the bags! Repeat as many times as necessary or until your mother freaks out.


Handy Sponging
I like ideas that involve hand tracing because it's nice to look back at these pieces to see how small their hands once were! The 7-year old was happy to do this but the 3-year old needed a little bit of coaxing to cover her hand cut out with paint (hers is on the left).

How to do it: Trace out child's hand and arm on scrap paper then cut out. Using sticky tape, stick cut out onto white paper. With a sponge, paint over the whole sheet of paper, including the cut out. Once completed, remove cut out and let dry.


Cotton Ball Tossing
This is a great stress reliever I think! I usually don't participate in my kids' art sessions but this was one when I was asking them "Can Mama have a go too?" I'm so glad that they said "Sure!!" Both the 3-year old and the 7-year old loved this.

How to do it: In separate containers (we used yoghurt cups - they're the perfect size), mix poster paints with water. Dip cotton balls into paints and throw! It's great aiming practice!

Note: We brought this activity out of the house and leaned our cardboard (where we taped our paper) onto a metal wall. Clean up was easy peasy.



Candle Resist Painting
For some reason, we have a load of candles at home and not enough romantic evenings to use them for. The 3-year old grew bored of this quickly because it was too unmessy for her. The 7-year old found it exciting to see secret messages.

How to do it: Write secret messages for your little ones in candle wax on paper and get them to paint over the paper with water colours. Watch their eyes light up when they see your secret message!


Puffy Paints
This was fun for both the kids. The 7-year old was more precise with her creation, and the 3-year old was well, more 3-year old-ish with hers. Which led me to assume that she didn't enjoy it. But she surprised me days later by asking to put another piece of art into the microwave to see it puff up!

How to do it: Prepare puffy paints by mixing food colouring (2-3 drops, the more drops, the more intense), with 1 tsp of corn flour with 1 tbsp of water. It should be a runny liquid. Dab with cotton buds and when done, microwave on high for about 15-20 seconds.

Note: This will crack up over time so if you intend to store this piece of art, I suggest putting a sheet of contact paper over it (contact paper is like a huge piece of sticky tape, and can be found at regular bookshops - it comes in a roll)


Rainbow Scratchies
Rainbow Scratchies are so much fun and so easy to make. They both loved making it (though not as much as getting their hands all black with paint), and it took a lot of distraction to keep them from touching the paper while the paint dried!

How to do it: Colour on white paper with crayons, pressing down hard and making sure there's no white space. It's ok to overlap. When that is done, use a sponge (because a paint bruch would take forever) to coat paper with a mixture of black poster paint + a bit of dishwashing liquid (like 1 pump). Set aside to dry. When dry, use a toothpick to scratch away paint to reveal a rainbow below!


Dinosaur Printing
We kind of stumbled upon this activity actually. We were reading about dinosaurs at dinner, and our dinosaurs were with us. And because we hadn't kept up our paints from an earlier session, we decided to put two and two together by mixing dinos and paints. Verdict: Both kids were excited to start but grew bored quick; they were however VERY happy to give their dinosaurs a full shower after though!

How to do it: Squirt paint on palette (ours is the lid from an ice cream container - works perfectly), put dinosaur feet into paint and print them on paper. Roaring optional.



Ice Painting
Truth be told, this one was over very quickly, and the kids enjoyed getting their fingers cold and then pressing them on their unsuspecting mother's stomach more.

How to do it: Freeze a sheet of ice (a baking tray is great for that). Using cotton buds, dab food colouring onto ice. You could possibly place a piece of paper over your completed art piece to save the work, but ours just ended up well, brown.



Squirty Art
This is a fun activity to teach young children about gravity as well. Both my kids enjoyed this but really wanted to squirt the pavement as well! Ultimately we did but washed it off right after - dilluted poster paints come over easily.

How to do it: Mix poster paints with water and add to squirt bottle. We only have two bottles so we only put a bit of colour each time, so that we could then change colours. Squirt away! Have fun playing with the different types of nozzles too! And good luck keeping your kids from spraying on their others' paper!

Note: As you can see, we have a big piece of cardboard behind our paper - this was an outdoor activity but we didn't want to get the walls all colourful either!

So there you are, 10 easy activities to try out with your kids! Have fun!

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About our art folders: Sometimes we create a few pieces of the same thing, so we usually just pick one to put in the folder (they are taped with washi tape). I recycle the rest when they're not looking! Sometimes the 'artwork' doesn't turn out well, but we keep it anyway, just as a reminder. Poppy or I label them with dates and activity names. Our art folder is simply made up of pages of vanguard sheets and tied together with ribbon.

About our paper: For our pieces, we mostly used drawing block, which is easily available at bookshops. You can also use card stock but that's slightly pricier. Drawing block comes in a size similar to A3, which I will then cut into half for all our activities. This cuts down on wastage, and fits into our art folder perfectly.

About our paints: We use poster paints from IKEA and Crayola. We use Club House, Bake King and Star food colouring.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Practical Tips for the National Day Parade 2015!



We were lucky enough to get a pair of tickets to watch the National Day Parade Combined Rehearsal and pardon the French but, this is probably set to be the best NDP ever! It was awesome. Truly awesome. My 7-year old enjoyed it, and I did too, every bit of it. I was utterly impressed at how everything was thoughtfully planned out and nothing went uncatered for.

And the main action was at the Padang! Those of you who have watched National Day Parades at the Padang, you know what that means! The drive past! With tanks and fire engines and all! It's called the Mobile Column and you can see more at the NDP 2015 site. Watch out for something special at the very end.  

It was spectacular (because, NATIONAL DAY PARADE?!), and we loved every bit of it. The vintage parade was one of my favourites - those of you who have seen parades from the 80s, you'll enjoy this part. The stickmen performance made us laugh out loud. The snipets involving everyday Singaporeans made everything seem more human and less mechanical, and all the typically Singaporean things that we miss? Awesome, just so awesome. The marching band and their fans! That was hilarious and totally unexpected!!! And were the fireworks awesomer than usual? Yes! Supposedly the largest ever! It is SG50 after all. I'm not giving too much away because it was so fun to be surprised and I hope you will enjoy it the same way we did!

We really enjoyed the NDP rehearsal, and we just know that you will too. Here are some tips that will help you and your family enjoy the NDP fully:

1. Go to the Padang / The Float @ Marina Bay via public transport
The Padang seats 25,000. The Float @ Marina Bay seats a further 25,000. That's A LOT of people! Leave the car at home and take the train instead to ease up the roads, won't you? Both venues are within walking distance from City Hall MRT station.





2. Bring snacks
Seating begins from about 3pm, and everyone is required to be seated by 5pm. The actual parade starts at about 6pm, but there are activities to keep you entertained till then. The parade will end at about 8.30pm so bring cereal bars, small buns or fruit. Closest eateries that you can get to after the parade would probably be at Raffles City or Funan Digilife Mall but they are likely to be packed with everyone having the same idea.



3. Enjoy the show
Don't just keep your cameras and phones in hand all the time; watch the performances! The NDP 2015 photo gallery will have downloadable pics if you want them!

4. Bring your trash with you
Trash  has always been a problem with big events. This year's goodie bag includes a plastic bag for you to stash your trash, and there are huge disposal areas at exit points for you to throw them when you leave the parade.  This is what's so wonderful about Singapore, we learn from our mistakes and improve upon them.

5. Don't bring a big bag
First of all, it's not allowed. Secondly, each spectator will be given a big goodie bag, and it's going to be tricky for you to squeeze between seats (especially when leaving) with all your bags. Within your goodie bags, there are 2 bottles of water, so you don't even need to bring water. Other useful things in the goodiebag include a poncho and fan. How thoughtful, right?

6. Go pee before
Really. Not joking. Especially if you have a kid with you. Unless climbing up and down stairs and going to portaloos is your kind of thing. Closest public toilet to Padang: Raffles City Shopping Mall/Funan Digilife Mall. Closest public toilet to The Float @ Marina Bay: Marina Square Shopping Mall.



7. Let loose and enjoy
Don't be shy to do the Padang Wave or sing your heart out to "Count on Me Singapore". Go ahead and Stand Up, Stand Up for Singapore! Come on, it's the NDP!!! And say the Pledge and sing the National Anthem. There is no other time you will feel this proud to be Singaporean.

8. Chope place somewhere else
If you did not get any tickets, not to worry, you can still watch the Parade via "LIVE" streaming, or at least catch the awesome fireworks at these venues.

9. Wear red
I know, I know. Not everybody has clothes that make them look like a walking Singapore flag. But hey, when in Rome! Cotton On Kids was recently having $5 red t-shirts on sale, and I'm pretty sure you can find plain adult tees in red almost anywhere. Also, when you're in any other colour, you are sure to stick out and those around you may or may not give you dirty looks!




10. Remember to show your appreciation
The motivators and ushers - they would probably have clocked in several more hours before you show up, and yet you will realise that they're all happy and smiley. They are volunteers, i.e. they are not paid to do it. Please say thank you and smile and wave back at them when they greet you ok?

I look forward to seeing all your NDP pictures!

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Bus Stop Seat Analogy



I was cuddling my 3 year old yesterday. It was the last day of the school holidays and we'd just talked about all the things we'd done during the break. She'd just had her shower but somehow, despite a hair wash, her little sweaty smell had managed to creep into the curls of her hair. I inhaled deeply and enjoyed the lingering baby smells.

The funny thing about kids is that they're growing, right under our noses. As we sometimes go overboard with our planning for "real" activities, and ignoring their requests to read in the process, they're growing. 

As we shoo them out of the kitchen while we prepare their meals, they're growing. And they're changing. 

It just happens. 

We do all these wonderful things to create a memorable childhood for them. We take all these beautiful pictures for their albums. But sometimes in the process of doing so, despite our very best interests, we lose out on precious little moments. 

"Mama come read Peppa Pig to me"
"Sorry love, I'm checking the bus schedule and the fastest way to get to this really fun place I'd like to bring you to"

Not that it's wrong to do all these things for the little ones that we love. But sometimes we just forget. We forget that yes they may enjoy indoor playgrounds and running at the beach but sometimes all they want is us. 

For us to look at them when they say "Mama look what I'm doing!"  For us to laugh and really guess when they say "Guess what the ocean said to the beach!"  For us to clap at their dances, laugh at their funny faces, eat the pretend food they cook at their pretend kitchens. For us to join them when they say "Mama come play with us!"

Because, sneakily, they are growing, day by day. And one day, the kids that we know today, will be different. And we will never get these days again. 

Just like how, without us really noticing, our country now sports swanky metallic bus stop benches instead of the 3-paneled orange ones we know. 

So, childhood. Let's enjoy it. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Happiness Index





I turned a year wiser recently, and with every birthday, I mentally took stock of my life. 20 years ago, I thought I had it all worked out - get a good job, get promoted in a few years, be in a Managerial position by 30, live in a condo, travel yearly, earn lots and lots and lots of money. Because that's what every parent tells their child, right? Study hard, so you can get a good job and earn lots of money.

I have shimmied past my mid-30s and still, have yet to check any item off that list - I work part-time, live in a 3-room flat, hardly travel, do my own housework and take public transport everywhere.

The strange thing is, judging by the standards that I set for myself, I should be unhappy, but in actual fact, I'm not. Which is strange, really. Must be age.

I'm not quite sure how it came to be this way but over time, I started to stray away from the 'regular' benchmarks of happiness. I became less bothered about the things I did not have, and looked more toward making what I had count, and to make lemonade with the lemons that life gave. It's like everything was in bokeh until now, and now my focus has sharpened and I only want to concentrate on the things that are important to me.

It doesn't bother me that we don't drive when all of our peers do. It doesn't bother me that we live in the smallest home, don't have the cushiest job, travel the least. Don't get me wrong, it's not about sour grapes and I fully respect their choices. It's just that I don't yearn for those things anymore.

Because I'm happy the way things are for us. Being on a tight budget has forced us to find inexpensive places to explore, and forced us to eat home more. It's made me dig deep in my memory bank and remember all the activities I did as a child that didn't require any money, to share them with my kids. It's allowed us to take things slower and to appreciate what we have. Because what we have is immeasurable.




One afternoon, my 6.5 year old had one foot out of the front door to run errands with my husband when I stopped her to give her half an apple to chomp on as she walked to the supermarket. To my surprise, she said "Thank you, Mama; people will look at me and see what a lucky person I am because I have a Mama who cuts apples for me."

She's mistaken, of course. Because it is I who is the lucky one, to have a family to cut apples for. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Gadget-Free Activities for Kids




Set aside your phones and unplug that tv! Here are 8 gadget-free activities that you will enjoy as much as your kids. Let's play!



CREATE SOMETHING WITH STRAWS AND PIPE CLEANERS

Materials required
Scissors, straws, pipe cleaners

Method
Bend pipe cleaners into halves. Then insert them as far as they can go into the straws (1 pipe cleaner can go into 2 straws). Start building! (For older kids, you can even set challenges like "Can you build a really tall structure that can stand by itself?"). A wonderful quiet time activity.



MAKE YOUR OWN RAINBOW SCRATCHIES
Materials required
Crayons, black paint, sponge, card paper or drawing block, dishwashing liquid

Method
Colour on paper with crayons. Press hard to make sure there is a nice glossy finish, and that there are no white gaps. You can even overlap colours. Next, mix black paint with dishwashing liquid (just 1-2 squirts of the latter will do) and using a sponge, paint over your colouring. Leave to dry (about 1-2 hours, depending on how thick your layer of paint is), and then it's ready to be played with! Simply use a sharpish object (toothpicks and satay sticks work well) and scratch away to reveal rainbow markings.


GIANT PAINTING
Materials required
Big piece of cardboard (like the kind your bookcases come in!), paints, anything that can be used as brushes (we used dishwashing brushes, whisks, pastry brushes and bath sponges). Optional: palette (we used a paper plate)

Method
Lay cardboard on ground outside. Either squeeze paint directly on cardboard and paint away using "brushes", or squeeze paint on palette/paper plate and transfer with "brushes".


BUILD A READING FORT
Materials required
Blankets or quilt covers, cushions, books, pegs

Method
Find a cosy corner - it doesn't have to be very big because kids aren't very big and they love little spaces! We used the bottom of our dining table this time but the back of the sofa works as well! Fasten blankets around to create 'walls', and throw cushions and pillows on the floor to sit on. For additional comfort, place 'fort' against the wall so that kids can lean back for better support. Add books and read! Fairy lights optional but oh so pretty!



DINOSAUR SENSORY BIN
Materials required
Big container (we used the TROFAST shallow box), moon sand (or you can use regular sand if you like, or coffee grounds), dinosaur figurines (ours are from Toobs and Daiso) and "trees" (ours is from a fake plant from IKEA)

Method
Line bine with moon sand (or your chosen material), set up with fake trees, hide small dinosaurs in 'eggs' for the kids to discover, and plant bigger dinosaurs all around. They won't need any directions for this; they'll just dive right in!



PLAY WITH WATER
Materials required
Empty clear plastic containers, food colouring, funnels, droppers, syringes, measuring cup, measuring spoon

Method
Lay materials out on a tray for kids and let them play! They can be scientists at a lab, or chefs, or artists... it's all up to their own imagination!



COUNTING AND SORTING
Materials required
Ice cube tray, little tongs, small bowls or containers, small items like pastas, beads, pop-poms, sea shells, stones, seeds

Method
This activity is for younger children, particularly those learning to count or sort. Choose a number and ask them to put the correct number of items into the ice cube tray. Or get them to do some sequencing by following a pattern you've set. This is great for little ones training their fine motor skills.




CREATE WITH PUFFY PAINT
Materials required
Cornflour, salt, water, food colouring

Method
Mix 1 tbsp cornflour + 1 tsp salt + a bit of water until you get a runny consistency. Add food colouring. Repeat till you have as many colours as you like. Using cotton buds, draw on thick paper (we used drawing block but regular art paper will do too), once completed, pop into microwave for about 20 seconds. Note: This artwork will soften over time so if you'd like to keep it, you can put a layer of contact paper (it's like a huge piece of sticky tape, and you can get it from bookshops) over it.

For more gadget-free activities you can do at home, see here, here and here.

This post was brought to you by IKEA, where you'll find lots of knicks and knacks and bits and bobs for your gadget-free activities. Have fun!

For your easy reference, here are links to the items from IKEA we used:
Soda straws (200 straws for only $1.90!)
Trofast storage box ($3)
Part of the SANDIG 10-piece ice cream set ($3.90)
Kalas bowl ($3.90 for 6 pieces)
Plastis ice cube tray ($1.90)
STAM measuring cups ($1.50)
PLASTIS dishwashing brush ($1.90)
GRUBBORA pastry brush ($1.90)
MALA 12 piece paint set ($12.90)
SAMLA box and insert ($5)
FEJKA articificial potted plant ($3.90)
SARDAL light chain ($14.90)

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