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!


Materials required
Scissors, straws, pipe cleaners

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.

Materials required
Crayons, black paint, sponge, card paper or drawing block, dishwashing liquid

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.

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)

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".

Materials required
Blankets or quilt covers, cushions, books, pegs

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!

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)

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!

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

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!

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

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.

Materials required
Cornflour, salt, water, food colouring

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)

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Almost Complete List of Library Reviews (Singapore)!

Hi there! This is a consolidated post of all the public libraries in Singapore, written by mums. We hope that our experiences will be a good source of information for new library goers, as well as regulars who would like to visit other libraries. But first, some fun library facts!  

Did you know that:
- That there are 27 libraries in Singapore? (28, if you cound the one at Sports Hub)
- Not all book-drops are open round the clock?
- You can sign up for a reminder service (for free) as well as renew your books online?
- Library membership is free for Singaporeans and PRs?
- Until end July 2015, members with basic membership can borrow up to twice their loan quota? That's 16 books per card!
- NLB has an app that allows you to scan and check out your books via your mobile phone?
- All the libraries host activities like craft sessions, story telling sessions, movie screenings and talks, that you can attend for free or at a very low fee?

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty amazed! So here we are, all the libraries in Singapore! Ready? Set? Read!

Bedok Public Library
21 Bedok North St. 1
Singapore 469659
Mon - Sun: 10:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Bedok

What I love about this library is the Children's section on the entire third floor! You can just imagine the amount of space available. I find the environment so conducive for reading to the children and that fact that it is colourfully decorated helps too. There are sections devoted for baby books, preschoolers and the older children. Searching for books for the various age groups is made so much easier and enjoyable. Go during dinner time on a weekday and you can really enjoy a good read with your kid in a peaceful setting. 
This mum blogger contributed this review. 

Bishan Public Library
5 Bishan Place
Singapore 579841
Mon - Sun: 10:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Bishan

The library has a really good children's section, which spans the entire basement floor. There's lots of child-sized tables and chairs for kids to browse books, and their selection is rich, varied, and is kept very up-to-date with recently published titles. The female toilet in the children's section has a cubicle for kids too, with a smaller toilet bowl, so you don't need to carry toddlers doing their business. There's also a cafe on Level One. The only drawback is that the staff is a little particular about noise.
This mum blogger contributed this review. 

Bukit Batok Public Library
1 Bukit Batok Central Link
#03-01 West Mall
Singapore 658713
Mon - Sun: 11:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Bukit Batok

I appreciate that there's a small function room within the children's section for younger and more active kids to make all the hullabaloo they want in the room. This makes the noise level in the children's section relatively contained. In addition, there is always a librarian roaming in the area to ensure the children (and parents) don't make too much of a din in the children's library. I cannot say it's the most baby/toddler friendly children's library in Singapore. But I personally appreciate the policing because I still very much prefer a quieter library.
This mum blogger contributed this review.

Bukit Merah Public Library
3779 Jalan Bukit Merah
Singapore 159462
Mon - Sun: 10:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Redhill
(but it’s a good 15-20 minute walk away)

The wonderful thing about Bukit Merah Library is that it’s just the right size, not too big and not too small. At the entrance, you’re always greeted with some exhibition or other, and there will be displays of related books around. The downside is that the Children’s section, while tucked at the far end of the library, is not enclosed. Despite the sign that says “Read Aloud Corner for Children and Parents only”, the already limited tables and chairs are often taken up by older students and adults. There aren’t many seats available on the ground floor; there probably are many more up on the second floor but that’s where people go to read quietly. It’s nice to see people sitting on the floor or in little nooks and crannies, being immersed in their books, but to be honest, there is sometimes a faint funky smell around which reminds me a lot of sweaty feet.
I contributed this review.

Bukit Panjang Public Library
1 Jelebu Road
#04-16/17 Bukit Panjang Plaza
Singapore 677743
Mon - Sun: 11:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Bukit Panjang LRT

Bukit Panjang Community Library, though small, is well organized and peppered with corners and useful information which make borrowing and browsing a breeze. :) There's even a children's section in this small community library; it is simply peppered with gems. At the entrance, there's a thematic display of books and this month (May 2015), the focus is on Caldecott titles. There are also a kids' magazine rack filled with interesting magazines such as Young Scientists, Story Box, along with Chinese magazines (喜羊羊)etc. There's even librarians' recommendations! And to cater to the busy parents / caregivers, there is also a section at the entrance featuring new arrivals and books in mother tongue languages! :) So there you have it, a little gem of a library tucked in a shopping mall!
This mum blogger contributed this review. 

Central Public Library / National Library
100 Victoria Street
Singapore 188064
Mon - Sun: 10:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: City Hall or Bugis

I love to visit the Central Public Library at Bras Basah for its wide selection of non-fiction books, the playful and magical atmosphere made from recycled materials that educates about the importance of being environmentally friendly, and the many cosy corners to relax and read. Of course, even adults will not be able to resist reading under the canopy of the tree house.
This mum blogger contributed this review. For her detailed write up on Central Public Library, go here

Cheng San Public Library
90 Hougang Avenue 10
#03-11 Hougang Mall
Singapore 538766
Mon - Sun: 11:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Hougang

Cheng San Public Library, though small, has a children's section that appeals to both adults and children.  Because the children's section is located just after the entrance, there is no need to hurry the kids pass other parts of the library and hushing them up. What I like is the very nicely decorated activity room with story-telling sessions and workshops catered for children.  Plenty of seating area, bookshelves that is of the right height for children, categorization of the books (e.g. information books, fairy tales, stories for babies, preschoolers, age 6-9, 10-12) makes searching for books easy.
This mum blogger contributed this review.

133 New Bridge Road
#04-12 Chinatown Point
Singapore 059413
Mon - Sun: 11:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Chinatown

I love that Library@Chinatown is located right in the heart of Chinatown, the largest historic district. Be immersed in the vast collection on the Chinese Arts, culture as well as the heritage of the area. For the old, tune in to former radio channel Reddifusion and enjoy the old dialect broadcast while giving your eyes some visual treat on the radio collection. For the younger generations, jump on the cosy cushions and enjoy the reads.
This mum blogger contributed this review. For her detailed write up on Library@Chinatown, go here

Choa Chu Kang Public Library
21 Choa Chu Kang Avenue 4
#04-01/02 Lot One Shoppers' Mall
Singapore 689812
Mon - Sun: 11:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Choa Chu Kang

Choa Chu Kang Library has a large collection of children’s books and my kids love reading at the steps of the beautifully decorated Expressions Corner even though chairs and tables are aplenty. I also like the fact that the library has taken the initiative to come up with this Popular Picks section for the 6-8 year-olds which makes looking out for series so much easier for mums of newly-transitioned-to-chapter-books-readers. The downside of this library - I’ve many encounters of books strewn in the wrong shelves during the school holidays due to the high volume of number of people who frequent the library and misplace the books after browsing.
This mum blogger contributed this review.

Clementi Public Library
3155 Commonwealth Avenue West
#05-13/14/15 The Clementi Mall
Singapore 129588
Mon - Sun: 11:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Clementi

The Clementi Library is a little gem. We enjoy visiting the Clementi Library as there are always thematic book recommendations beautifully done up and many cosy little nooks to withdraw into the world of books. Its accessibility is a huge plus - nestled in the Clementi Mall (right next to the Clementi MRT), it provides a cheery, peaceful and resource-rich haven for children to indulge in reading while parents run quick errands at the banks, post office and supermarket. We find the librarians here much friendlier and helpful than some other branches we've visited.  Besides children's books, the Clementi Library also has a small selection of DVDs and multimedia CDs for loan.
This mum blogger contributed this review.

8 Raffles Avenue
Singapore 039802
Mon - Sun: 11:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station : City Hall or Esplanade

The Library @ Esplanade is one place we often we go to borrow Music books for my son as it is the only public library that specialises in Music, Dance, Theatre and Film.  The Music section (called Music Village) is the only place we zoom to, we have not explored any other sections (Villages). The Open Stage holds events, and next to, there is a Cafe. Having a public library in the city is really nice.  It provides you with a quiet place where you can retreat to in the bustling city.
This mum blogger contributed this review.

Geylang East Public Library
50 Geylang East Ave 1
Singapore 389777
Mon - Sun: 10:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Aljunied

Geylang East Library is a 5-minute walk from Aljunied MRT station. The children section occupies the entire first floor with an artificial grass lawn which many sprawl on while reading. There are well-organised fiction and non-fiction sections for babies to pre-teens and a “new books” shelf which is my first target! Parenting and pregnancy books are placed nearby for convenience. Children-friendly videos aplenty and interesting exhibits are on display periodically too.
This mum blogger contributed this review. 

Jurong West Public Library
60 Jurong West Central 3
Singapore 648346
Mon - Sun: 10:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Boon Lay

Jurong West library is located within The Frontier Community Centre and is just a short walk from the Boon Lay MRT station. It has 3 levels and the children's section takes up the whole of the second level. Within the Children's section, there is a read aloud corner where parents can do reading to their children without having to worry about keeping their voice volume to a minimum. There are lots of board books and early readers that cater to babies, toddlers and young children. On the other side of the children's section, there is a story telling corner. Regular English storytimes is conducted here and the turnout is usually very good. Sometimes there will be children or family workshops or programmes conducted here as well.
This mum blogger contributed this review.

Marine Parade Public Library
278 Marine Parade Road
#01-02 Marine Parade Community Building
Singapore 449282
Mon - Sun: 10:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Nil

Very child-friendly library - an entire floor for the Children Section, with lots of seating and gorgeous floor to ceiling windows! The librarians are nice and ok with young kids making a fair bit of noise
This mum blogger contributed this review.

277 Orchard Road
#03-12 / #04-11 Orchard Gateway
Singapore 238858
Mon - Sun: 11:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Somerset

The two-storey library, on the 3rd and 4th floors of the Orchard Gateway Shopping Mall, screams chic. Its design-centric focus plays out in the decor as well, which boasts sleek, curvilinear white shelves, bamboo floors and black-walnut chairs with comfortable leather seats. 

The book and magazine collection also stands out from those of other public libraries, with a focus on fashion, graphic and interior design. I love hanging out here during lunch time because it's surprisingly peaceful. Apart from the fact that it doesn't have a children's section, this library is a quiet haven for parents on their "break".
This mum blogger contributed this review.

Queenstown Public Library
53 Margaret Drive
Singapore 149297
Mon - Sun: 10:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Queenstown

The Queenstown Public Library just celebrated their 45th birthday in April, and I can remember going to the Queenstown Public Library as a young girl. Although the interior looks completely different now, it feels so nostalgic and almost like part of our heritage to bring the kids here as my mother did with me. The library does not have a dedicated children's room, but the noise from all the excited children don't seem to bounce off the walls as compared to other branches, nor are the little ones constantly reminded to behave. It is less busy than many other libraries, has lovely high ceilings, and the children's reading area boasts lots of sunlight and a view of lush greenery.
This mum blogger contributed this review.

Sembawang Public Library
30 Sembawang Drive
#05-01 Sun Plaza
Singapore 757713
Mon - Sun: 11:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Sembawang

Sembawang library is the second library (first was Jurong East) to provide Early Literacy Section of books for children of all ages (especially for 6 and under) and even some handy toys to play too. There is also some tablets for children to use the educational apps.

At the back of babies section, there is also modernised wooden steps and reading deck area which my kids love to venture and "play". The kids or yourself could even read or lie inside the crate boxes.
This mum blogger contributed this review. For her detailed write up on Sembawang Public Library, go here

Sengkang Public Library
1 Sengkang Square
#04-26/27 Compass Point
Singapore 545078
Mon - Sun: 11:00 AM - 09:00 PM

Closest MRT station: Sengkang 

The children's section at the Sengkang library is one that is an open concept. While it is not exactly embedded together with the rest of the adult section, it is also not a closed up area snug away from the adults section. This way, it allows children to freely explore the library beyond their section, and likewise allows adults to accept that noise and that the occasional cute little kid running around in the library is fine. Inclusion is somewhat required in today's society to remind us of tolerance and acceptance which is what I love about the Sengkang library. Also, shelves of books are at children's level, which allows them to go book-shopping without much help from an adult before settling into a cosy corner to read. This is pretty much tried and tested with my kids!
This mum blogger contributed this review.

Serangoon Public Library
23 Serangoon Central
#04-82/83 NEX
Singapore 556083
Mon - Sun: 11:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Serangoon

Located at the heart of a major transportation node, this public library on the roof level 4R of NeX Shopping Mall in Serangoon, offers a wide selection of quick and easy reads such as comics, graphic novels and magazines which are prominently displayed to make it easy for users to pick up a book on the go.

We enjoy browsing through the wide selection of books; 70,000 volumes of fiction and non-fiction books for children to be exact. The children's corner is clearly demarcated in yellow on the map. Yasmin loves sitting at the comfortable tables and chairs provided, to read after browsing. However, we find that at times, many older children and teens like to occupy these seats to do their school homework. This branch also host a big enclosed area for reading programmes and activities for kids. It helps that the check-out counters are close-by to the children's section.
This mum blogger contributed this review. 

Sports Hub
4 Stadium Walk
Singapore Sports Hub
Singapore 397697
Mon-Fri: 10:00 AM - 08:00 PM
Sat-Sun: 10:00 AM - 08:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Kallang

The Sports Hub library offers many fun (and FREE) activities for children! You can play a game of giant chess or checkers, play some Xbox games, watch free screenings of sports-related events, and of course, borrow some books to read. The Kids Zone on Level 2 has beanbags lined along the wall, so that visitors can read comfortably there. Do note that books borrowed from the Sports Hub library can only be returned there, as they are not part of the National Library Board. 
This mum blogger contributed this review. For her detailed write up on Sports Hub Library, go here

Tampines Regional Library
31 Tampines Ave 7
Singapore 529620
Mon - Sun: 10:00 AM - 09:00 PM

Closest MRT station: Tampines

The first level is dedicated to the Children's Section. Whatever Non-fiction Juvenile books like facts on animals and the like can be found at a click. This is excluding the rich popular and unknown literatures and sections designated for our local authors. The staffs are informative and helpful, my kids love the 'train' seats and cosy corners.
This mum blogger contributed this review.


Woodlands Regional Library
900 South Woodlands Drive
Singapore 730900
Mon - Sun: 10:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Woodlands

The children’s section occupies the entire 4th floor of Woodlands Regional Library. We love the spacious yet cozy children’s section. Often, we come here after dinner on weekdays. While my 10-year old immerses herself in her story world at one end of the library, my 5 year-old would flip through books or have some imaginary fun at the “enchanted tree”.
This mum blogger contributed this review.  

Yishun Public Library
930 Yishun Ave 2
#04-01 Northpoint Shopping Centre
Singapore 769098
Mon - Sun: 11:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Yishun

Book collection for children is pretty good.  Arrangement of the books are logical and kids have no problem finding the books they want. It’s bright and neat and usually not crowded. The toilet is just near by. The only thing is there is no separate section for the children, and because of that, there is always a person keep patrolling and shhhh-ing the children, even if the child is reading just a little louder. There are no child-appropriate chairs and tables.
This mum blogger contributed this review.

Not included in this post:
Jurong Regional Library (Children’s Section under renovation)
21 Jurong East Central 1
Singapore 609732
Mon - Sun: 10:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Jurong East

Pasir Ris Public Library (under renovation till end 2015)
1 Pasir Ris Central St 3
#04-01/06 White Sands
Singapore 518457
Mon - Sun: 11:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Pasir Ris

Toa Payoh Public Library (Children’s Section under renovation)
6 Toa Payoh Central
Singapore 319191
Mon - Sun: 10:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Closest MRT station: Toa Payoh

*** Images: Individual contributors, and National Library Board



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