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Whenever, waiting (not a case against gadgets)

December 25, 2016

I am a mom on a mission to keep the smart phones and the iPads away from my kids as much as possible, as long as possible.

Especially while we’re waiting.

I don’t think you need to give a child an iPhone or an iPad so he sits quietly while everyone waits for food / eats a decent meal/  has adult conversation.

Have you tried the following?

Whenever you anticipate waiting time…

  • Do copious amounts of reading (this is for now, only something that appeals to my firstborn)…

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  • Bring lots of scrap paper and colour pens/markers/pencils and invite your kids to draw away…

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  • Draw lots of randomness (you draw) and introduce some colouring therapy (the kids colour)…

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  • Buy activity books from book fairs / Bras Basah / Popular – I love those Preschooler Science booklets where the kids get to colour / circle / tick / cross out what floats / sinks / lives on land /grows in water / is used for home / made of plastic, etc because boy! do kids need to learn some common sense and general knowledge these days! These booklets are usually thin and easy to bring out…

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Recently I had one of my readers share these with me which she so meticulously and painstakingly created, and I thought she deserves a big shoutout; they are amazing – pieces of paper so nicely designed and so much to read and learn, and so easy to pack in the bag to whip out while waiting.

Check out Jacqueline’s billingual activity packs: Exploring My Neighbourhood, Ji Fan (which is chicken rice in Chinese; that was what Ben learned when we were holed up in BKK for a while with his tennis training. He’s learned how to order chicken rice in Mandarin and read the words!), Knowing Singapore, Conversations with Grandma, and Where is it (a fun and useful pack to teach kids to describe things and places). Especially useful, and worth a mention, is this pack called ‘How Much Is It’ if you have a kindergartener going to Primary One who needs to learn the concept of money. This pack deserves another post altogether as I reaped so much benefits doing this with Becks.

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Some snippets of the 'Ji Fan' activity pack where you can even play a game of ordering!

Some snippets of the ‘Ji Fan’ activity pack where you can even play a game of ordering!

~~~

I usually separate the assessment books for learning and the activities my kids engage in while we are out. There’s a time for the former, and usually it’s a specific carved out time to be focused for academic learning (so the habits instilled are very different from the latter). The latter (activity packs whenever we anticipate waiting time, that is) usually centres around doing lighthearted and fun things which involves largely incidental learning.

Before you throw stones at me – I do let the kids watch the TV and sometimes pass them the phone to check out apps – if books and activity packs are not so readily available. The educational apps are designed and created for the reason of keeping children engaged, and the key is always negotiating a start and end time.

We were recently introduced to the Nickelodeon PLAY app by the folks from Nickelodeon, and I found that negotiating the start/end time for a quick thrill in playing games work for my boys who are increasingly curious about ALL things games – anything that involves racing, fighting or moving virtually gets them super excited these days.

So once in a while, the kids get to check out TMNT and Game shakers games on the app, and play Crossy Road on their father’s iPad…

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And you’ll see children huddling and hovering over a device like this for a while.

gadget_kaokids

And that’s how we handle the whenever-waiting-opportunities at 7, 6 and 4 years of age.

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Keen-to-learn Nat (ft. a review of Gakken’s Go Go Series)

August 16, 2016

Nat has a super competitive streak. He’s very aware of his siblings’ existence and abilities, and despite being 4 yearns to be learning what they learn, knowing what they know and doing what they do.

If korkor can build a Lego set from scratch, so can I, says Nat.

If Becks is learning phonics, I can learn phonics too. Hey everyone, hear me sound the letters. Annie Apple says ‘Aaa’, says Nat.

If korkor is learning how to volley, I can also do that. All he needs is to teach me what he learns in tennis, says Nat.

Look, Mama. I can spell and write my name! says Nat.

This boy is one eager beaver, I tell you. Whenever we visit a book store or any Popular fair, my eldest asks for construction toys (?!?!), my daughter wants stationery and my youngest begs to buy activity books. He wants to be tracing, playing maze puzzle games and colouring.

And so his wish came true when Gakken Asia Pacific sent him their Go-Go Brain Development Series last month:

GakkenGoGoSeries_ReviewMotherkao (1)

Imagine his happiness: activity books filled with fun games of helping animals find their way through mazes and tons of sticker fun. There’s counting involved and lots of animals (too cute!) to be amused by page after page.

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There’s even a guide for parents on how to use the series to teach useful skills to your child.

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See how much fun he’s had, and how focused and serious about his learning he can be, tracing with his fingers and holding a pencil:

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After every page of fun, all I got was a beaming face and an earnest boy asking to do more.

~~~

Activity books like these are my go-to resource to minimise screen time. Being engaged in one of these also help the little ones develop a sense of confidence that they are building new skills – all those peeling of stickers help to develop hand-eye coordination; the maze puzzles help train concentration and pencil control; the adorable animal characters can inspire a child to start drawing (or copying) and best of all, a child spends quality time with his mama!

It’s a great alternative to giving a child a tablet or mobile phone and it encourages a child to learn enthusiastically through fun ways. I know for sure that Nat loved every minute working on every page.

My only complaint was that his fun ended too soon and I have to start ordering more of these to keep his enthusiasm going!

More details + discount code + GIVEAWAY (yay!):

The Gakken Go-Go series activity books are available on sale at the following stores:

  • All Popular Bookstores
  • Play ‘N’ Learn (FREE SHIPPING for Motherkao readers/followers)
  • Openschoolbag (USE GAKKEN10 for a 10% discount when checking out)

You can also download the digital trial version (IOS only) on https://itunes.apple.com/sg/app/gakken-go-go-educational-interactive/id1091487932?mt=8.

And just for Motherkao readers, Gakken Asia Pacific is giving 4 activity books to 4 readers* of this blog, just so you can experience the fun in learning through the Go-Go Series.

Simply log in to the Rafflecopter app here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*T&C: The Go-Go Series is suitable for ages 2 – 6. Your details will be collected by Gakken Asia Pacific for the purpose of delivery if you win. Whether Gakken Asia Pacific sends you the book of your choice or randomises a selection is completely up to the company’s discretion.

The titles that have a star are NOT available.

The titles that have a star next to it are NOT available.

Disclosure: Nat received 3 activity books from the Gakken Go-Go Series for the purpose of this review. He’s been having lots of maze-puzzle and sticker fun ever since. All opinions here are Motherkao’s own.

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Handy helpers with their handy helper – Review of the new Dyson V8 Fluffy

August 12, 2016

Apart from that time when we were maidless in the Kao household, my children have never volunteered themselves to do any form of cleaning.

My helper has been with us for her third year now, and I haven’t had the need to write any more maid woes related posts (phew) because she’s been super amazing. Except that it leaves me with one problem.

She does everything so well and quick that there isn’t any need for my kids to learn to clean up after themselves.

The living room’s messy with 964 Lego bricks in all shapes and sizes scattered everywhere… Who do we call?

AUNTY A!!!

The craft trolley’s in a huge mess and we’ve spilled glue and glitter and cut up lots of teeny weeny bits of yarn… Who do we call?

AUNTY A!!!

We’re shredding paper cos’ it’s so fun and Mama lets us do lots of sensory play with dough and water babies and all the bubble wraps and we’re so tired we can’t clean up… Who do we call?

AUNTY A!!!

But one fine day last month, something changed.

Ok, only one Fluffy came to stay, not three.

Ok, so only one Fluffy came to stay, not three.

This came into our lives on a fateful day in July and took permanent residence in the Kao household. And now, the default “person” to call isn’t Aunty A anymore, but Fluffy.

And can I say something? Fluffy’s arrival has changed my children. FOR THE BETTER.

You see, this amazing Fluffy has turned my kids into handy helpers overnight and got them suddenly interested in doing housework. These kids, especially Ben, are cleaning floors, picking up dirt after craft and doing a great job keeping our walls and floor spotless. Even the fans are largely dust-free these days, thanks to them and Fluffy.

Unwrapping Fluffy

Unwrapping Fluffy

DysonV8Fluffy_MotherkaoReview (13)

Fixing up our handy helper

Mr James Dyson, I already adore you for inventing the bladeless fan that’s been keeping those little curious fingers in my brood safe. Now I love you even more for trying 5127 times getting this V8 out in the market and making little helpful troopers out of my children.

We learned from the box that James Dyson made 5127 prototypes!

We learned from the box which Fluffy came in that James Dyson made 5127 prototypes!

You’re a genius.

And here – just for you, I’ve listed 5 reasons why the new Dyson V8 Fluffy is amazing, all thanks to Mr Dyson, freeing my helper’s hands and keeping my children’s hands busy.

Here’s why it’s really great to have one, and why we all love this vacuum cleaner.

1. The new Dyson V8 Fluffly gives a whole new meaning to lightweight.

Fluffy weighs 2.6kg. ONLY. Inside the cord-free Dyson V8 Fluffy, key components like the motor and battery are positioned near the hand. This shifts the centre of gravity, making the cleaning end of the vacuum much lighter, so it’s easy to clean up top and down below.

Which is why even a 4-year-old can pick it up and help with the cleaning.

Keeping the walls dust free is so easy!

Keeping the walls dust free is so easy!

2. It looks like a really cool weapon which Ben uses while pretending to be a super hero = it’s great to be cleaning up while using it for pretend play 

Fluffy has no cord. So there’s nothing to unravel, plug in, drag around and restrict your reach. Equipped with a docking and charging station, you can grab and clean whenever you need to. Much like going to a weapon room and picking up a weapon to exterminate the bad guys to satisfy every boy’s fantasy like Iron Man.

Looks like a cool weapon for a cool boy. Image taken at the V8 Media Preview

Looks like a cool weapon for a cool boy. Image taken at the V8 Media Preview

That’s what Ben thinks, at least. Dust, hair and eraser shavings are the ‘bad guys’ these days.

Eraser shaving attack!

Eraser shaving attack!

So easy! So fun!

3. Its dirt ejector makes it so easy to handle dirt.

So once upon a time, I was a paranoid mother when my children picked up brooms and vacuums. I’ll worry that dirt would fly into their respiratory systems and make them cough/sneeze/wheeze and give them clogged pores.

Fast forward to today, after welcoming Fluffy.

Fluffy features a new bin emptying mechanism that’s never been seen in any other. As the bin is emptied, a rubber collar slides down the shroud, scraping dirt off. This enables the user to hygienically drive out trapped dust and debris in a single action, with no need to touch the dirt. Additionally, the bin has higher capacity than previous generation machines.

Side profile of Fluffy's dust ejector - you can see what gets sucked up clearly without needing to breathe in dust!

Side profile of Fluffy’s dust ejector – you can see what gets sucked up clearly without needing to breathe in dust!

Plus, Fluffy has a whole machine HEPA filtration, which means that it captures and retains more dust using patented 2 Tier Radial™ cyclones. 15 cyclones, arranged across two tiers, generate powerful centrifugal forces to spin dust and dirt out of the airflow. Any remaining particles are captured by the post motor filter – including allergens and bacteria as small as 0.3 microns.

And because the entire system is engineered to be sealed, the air that leaves the machine is cleaner than the air you breathe.

Speak English, you say.

This just means that if you’re near the vacuum cleaner, it is filtering air for you and you are breathing cleaner air than if you were away from the vacuum. Geddit? 

Kids, use Fluffy all you want, anytime, all the time! Mama is paranoid no more about dust!

4. It’s so quiet nobody knows you’re vacuuming (playing with it).

Now, in our household, we’ve been through vacuum cleaners over the years that look like R2D2 on the loose and tell the whole world you are vacuuming the house with the loud, driveyoubatshitcrazy-kind of motor.

What I particularly like about this fella called Fluffy is that it purrs. So UN-loudly.

Which means sometimes, I don’t even realise my son is engaging in his Iron Man fantasies exterminating dirt and dust because it doesn’t tell the world he’s with a vacuum in the house. Or my daughter sneaking Fluffy into the room and pretends to play house with it. Fluffy never gives her away.

Dyson invests heavily in optimising the acoustics of its technologies. Where more power typically translates to more noise, the Dyson V8 makes only a light reverberating sound despite its powerful suction.

That’s the kind of quiet cool I like.

I found her quietly engaged in pretend play one evening in the guise of cleaning the bed

I found her quietly engaged in pretend play one evening in the guise of cleaning the bed

5. Versatility, uninterrupted + drop also never mind.

Strong materials with durable and lightweight properties were chosen in the construction of the Dyson V8. The polycarbonate clear bin is made from the same durable material as riot shields.

And have I mentioned that Fluffy is extremely versatile?

Fluffy excels at picking up both large debris and fine dust particles at the same time

Due to their design, many conventional cleaner heads are unable to suck up fine dust and large debris simultaneously. In order to suck up large debris, a large gap is required between the cleaner head and the floor. This gap can allow suction to escape, and fine dust is left behind on the floor surface and in crevices. To remove fine dust from the floor surface and crevices, a cleaner head needs a tight seal with the floor to prevent suction power from leaking. A tight seal means that large debris is pushed along the floor.

Frustrated with the limitations of conventional cleaner heads, Dyson engineers went back to the drawing board to design a new kind of cleaner head that was effective at picking up both fine dust and large debris at the same time. Instead of a brush bar with bristles, the Dyson V8 Fluffy cordless vacuum has a roller covered entirely in soft woven nylon. This traps large debris, whilst four rows of anti-static carbon fibre filaments remove fine dust.

English please, again, you say?

Just means that it’s sturdy and clever and can use to clean practically anything VERY EFFICIENTLY.

Real solid, this fella.

Cleaning made so easy for a 7-year-old

Cleaning made so easy for a 7-year-old

Now, if I can have my way to influence Mr Dyson’s next invention, or an improved version of Fluffy, may I suggest the following?

I’d like Fluffy to be able to pick up wet things too. Because my children put milk in their cereal and accidents always happen at breakfast, I really hope for once that they can settle their own mess without needing an adult to go on all fours with a cloth.

I’d like Fluffy to go longer than 40 minutes (Fluffy works hard for 40 minutes when fully charged). 40 minutes doesn’t seem enough if you have kids multiply by 3 who love to sharpen their pencils and erase non stop, leaving a trail of shavings from coloured pencils and charcoal erasers AND who like to take turns indulging their own weaponry fantasy while cleaning up.

Other than that, all’s good.

You absolutely need to get one to get your kids started.

I probably need to have 3 to have peace at home, because everyone’s fighting over Fluffy now.

More details:

The Dyson V8 is now available in major departmental stores and electrical multiples. The machine includes a 2 year warranty on parts and labour and retails at SGD 1, 099.

Disclosure: The Kao kids new handy helper was given to us by Dyson for the purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received and all opinions, including my utmost adoration for Mr Dyson and my son’s deep love for Tony Stark are our own. And we’ve got nothing against R2D2 looklalikes, by the way.

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Sparking a child’s creativity: How “messy” can be good

February 7, 2016

This story first appeared on Yahoo with edits: http://lego.featured.yahoo.com/post/134763175341/sparking-a-childs-creativity-how-messy-can-be

******

Have you seen our LEGO mess? It’s one of those massive ones that you need to close both your eyes, hold your breath and pretend it doesn’t exist.

Over the years with LEGO, I realised that there are two schools of thought. The first one belongs to the sorters, people who like their LEGO bricks organised, categorised and colour coded. I’ve seen a few mom friends make many return trips to DAISO to get plastic boxes to sort them out prettily and systematically, and posting the glorious outcomes of their labour on IG and FB, and I am envious. Bless those eyes, how hard they must have squinted!

Every fibre of my human make belongs to this category, if you don’t already know. I am quite the OCD person in my more than my 3 decades of existence.

But every ounce of my mom-being has forced myself to subscribe to the second school of thought – the one that advocates for a creative, happy mess.

I’ve held my tongue, resisted the urge to sort, and have never once told the kids to leave whatever they build as they are (so counter to the OCD nature, I know).

The refrain has always been: you build, you play, you dismantle, you keep; and the cycle repeats.

And this big pink drawstring bag containing a happy unsorted massive mess has inspired creativity in the Kao kids to infinity and beyond:

Case in point: the LEGO and Yahoo folks dropped me a mail a few weeks ago to say they were sending across a Ninjago Master Wu Dragon LEGO theme set, and I had announced to the kids that they would soon start a new LEGO project, much to their jubilation.

Now, my kids have a mother who is strict with screen time. And so while they are familiar with Ninjago from that very one LEGO magazine Ben has, they don’t know who’s who, what names belong to what ninja, much less the fact that there’s a dragon in the picture. In fact, their mom’s a Wu, and that by defaults makes me the Master Wu of the house (hurhurhur), and that’s about all the connection we can make with this thing coming our way.

But does it stop them from getting excited about the story of Ninjago, Master Wu and the dragon?

You guessed it right, if you know them by now. The answer is no; and the extension of it is that they can totally make up a whole LEGOverse filled with ninjas, masters, dragons, monsters, robots and funky people and spin many stories, talking for hours on end.

And play for a long time even before the theme set arrives.

And when it did, they admired (and used) the box for a few days first!

Legoverse2

Legoverse3

When it was finally inviting enough for them to decide to open the set, all it took was four solid hours of concentration from 6-year-old Ben, some sorting help from 5-year-old Becks, and lots of encouragement from 3-year-old Nat who took on the role of fixing minifigs for his brother to get this out.

Ninjago Master Wu Dragon

Ninjago Master Wu Dragon completed

And this dragon, complete with the ninjas, are now ready to enter the story that’s been spunned, imagined and reimagined days before they were being made, which provided many hours of storytelling fun for all three kids.

Ninjago fun

I believe one of the benefits of not sorting their LEGO out is that it promotes on the spot, thinking on one’s feet kind of inspiration to create as one thinks and finds. I am amazed by the endless stories my kids are telling while constructing, arranging and piecing, and that itself is stimulation and fodder for creativity, oral language development, and entertainment for me, that’s for sure!

Disclosure: This post was brought to you by Yahoo. The set mentioned in the picture was generously sponsored by LEGO. All opinions are my own.

P/S: I still believe in the goodness of being organised, and am thinking that as the kids get older, they would need to start sorting for more efficient building. Till then!

Everyday fun! Going Out! Happy days Holidays! Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

Overheard in Bangkok

December 19, 2015

We’ve been living here for close to 3 weeks now, and it’s almost feeling like we can live here forever. We love the food the people and the affordability. Guess the only thing we aren’t really loving are the crazy Bangkok jams, but hey, they didn’t call this amazing Thailand without them I am sure. This city has been so kind to us and we’ve had too many wonderful memories here, the funniest things ever said and heard (amongst ourselves) included.

***

Day 1

Ben: Why are there so pictures of this man?

Becks: What man?

Nat: The man wearing spectacles!

Ben: He’s everywhere! On buildings, on roads, on street sides and even inside shops!

Me: Erm, the Thais call him king, kids!

***

Day 2

Ben: Why do they have a king and we don’t?

Becks: We have! Mr Lee Kuan Yew, remember?

Me: -_-

(I had to explain constitutional monarchy and democracy to the kids, but I don’t think I did a very good job. Anyone wants to volunteer?)

***

Day 9, at Platinum Mall

Me: Ok, today’s shopping day so we’re going to be shopping non stop. Every floor has something for us to explore. I will need to get a lot of things.

Ben: Yes, like my pants. I have no more pants.

Nat: And my socks! And t-shirts!

Becks: And a hat! I want a hat.

Me: Ok, great! Let’s go.

Minutes later, after a few dizzying rounds of going up the escalator to find the food hall (which meant we saw what every floor of the mall had to offer)…

Becks: Mama…

Me: Yes?

Becks: I have only one wish.

Ben: What? Change your mind again?

Me: You want to buy dresses, is it? You must have seen enough Frozen dresses to last you a lifetime?

Becks: No…

Ben: You want shoes, is it?

Becks: No…

Me: Scrunchie?

Becks: My wish is to have a tiara. So I can be a princess!

Me and Ben: -_-

Wearing the tiara every day

Wearing the tiara every day

***

Day 12, at Asiatique in the day, walking past Juliet’s Garden

Me: This is what we visited in Verona when we were in Italy, kids.

Ben: Who’s she?

Me: Juliet. Well, we were told in Verona that when we rub Juliet’s left breast, we will find love and good luck.

Becks: What? We need to touch her left BRA????

Us: -_-

The love-locks filled garden on a hot day at Asiatique where nothing was open

The love-locks filled garden on a hot day at Asiatique where nothing was open

Verona's Juliet, looking all worn out (Photo Source)

Verona’s Juliet, looking all worn out (Photo Source)

Act 2, Scene 2: Capulet's Garden Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?

Act 2, Scene 2: Capulet’s Garden
Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?

***

Day 13, at Bangkok Railway Train Night Market

Me: I finally found it after searching for so long!

Ben: What?

Me: Good ol’ entertainment for 20 baht!

Ben, Becks, Nat: YAY! We have iPhones!

Me: We call it the Blackberry.

Ben: Ok, mine is.

Becks: Mine’s pink berry!

Nat: And mine’s green berry!

Me: -_-

New "phone"!

New “phone”!

Nat's new Greenberry

Nat’s new Greenberry

Ben with his Blackberry

Ben with his Blackberry

Becks and her Pinkberry

Becks and her Pinkberry

***

Day 14

Becks: See, I have an iPhone and I can play iPhone games.

Me: Yes, that’s right. Best ever.

Becks: And I can even take selfie!

Me: -_-

Becks taking a selfie while on our Safari Park self drive

Becks taking a selfie while on our Safari Park self drive

***

More ‘Overheard in Bangkok’ coming your way soon. Till then, here’s the reason we are here, and how we are eating like the locals.

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LEGO play at home – it’s all about patience, focus, creativity, and fun!

November 20, 2015

This article first appeared here: http://lego.featured.yahoo.com/post/125410540036/how-to-bring-out-your-childs-personal-sense-of

***

What trains a child to be focused, develops his patience and encourages his creativity?

No surprises here but I’ve always found my answer in LEGO. Give my kids a box of LEGO bricks and I am likely to see them play for hours on end. From the Quadro and Duplo they were used to playing as toddlers, my children have now progressed to the basic-brick level where they have the opportunity to play without structure and to build and take apart as necessary, in more ways that they could have imagined.

I love what LEGO does for my children. They come up with the most awesome themed LEGO sets. The themed LEGO sets that the stores sell come with specific instructions which encourage children to build with what the LEGO Learning Institute describes as ‘systematic creativity’, which is defined as a “particular form of creativity that combines logic and reasoning with playfulness and imagination”.  In every themed set, step-by-step illustrations help the builder visualise, make sense of shape, size, angle, positioning and develop cognitive awareness of the different elements of building. After the themed set is built, it invites the child to imagine and play – although the play lends itself to the theme suggested by the set that’s built.

In building the themed set, a child would have had the opportunity to focus, sit attentively, and patiently flesh out an image, brick by brick.

Now, what happens the day after, or after some time, is what gets really interesting.

For a while, a child can live with a model he’s built; but trust me, the novelty of the pictured toy will soon wear off and it becomes all-too-tempting to break it up and build something else. How much more awesome is it when you get to make a supersonic giant of a plane combined with a helicopter that’s overrun by wizards and random minifigs ranging from a pirate rocker to a two-faced cop atop an alligator? After all, these are the dreams that LEGO play’s made of.

Recently the Kao kids have been given yet another wonderful to sit attentively and direct their focus on building something. After the last ‘March Holiday Special Project’ which they did together that cemented their sibling love, they were all ready to conquer yet another themed set. This time round, it was still my eldest who could last through the entire building process, constructing both the big and small; the younger two helped out by putting the minifigures together and affixing the stickers to the respective items that called for them.

LEGOCity 02

LEGOCity 01

It took Ben two hours to put this together without any adult help. He’s gotten so much better in understanding the construction logic, and is able to create this LEGO City Training Jet Transporter effortlessly.

LEGOCity 03

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But watch what happened barely an hour later, when all three of them started playing with the created set together. Apparently, some ‘explosion’ was planted by a baddie and then there was half a plane left and the original creation very much destroyed (I hear the baddie is Nat). Something’s got to be done and things needed to be rebuilt. Ben was a little bummed, but what about LEGO that he knows and knows well, is that he can always make something awesome again. Exposing him to LEGO play at a young age has given him that confidence and resilience – he knows there’s always something bigger and better he can build, and nothing stays constant forever.

And thus began the creativity play, spanning over days – unhindered, unrestrained, unimposed. Everyone started building their own versions of their imagination, played together and had lots of fun while at it (they didn’t forget the jet transporter but it was no longer ALL about it). Ben led his siblings by showing them what he could build, and Nat and Becks quickly caught on, following some basic logic of adding wings and wheels, and fitting one another into their imagined LEGOverse.

LEGOCity 07

LEGOCity 08

LEGOCity 09

LEGOCity 10

LEGOCity 11

LEGOCity 12

I’m always in awe of how much mileage a themed set has. I’d thought my children would be playing around the theme of the airport and have flight-related conversations. But there were little ponies, triceratops (that was made by Nat, a figure with a long green rectangle head), wizards and men on stilts, someone needing badly to perform a balancing act on his head, a bald witch with two heads, plus rogue Vikings that are planning to escape on a boat, and a Mexican cop all ready to help people check-in their flight.

It was altogether refreshing, amusing and amazing.

My children never fail to surprise me.

LEGO never fails to surprise all of us.

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Hide and Seek Fun with Sam & Sally [A review + a giveaway!]

June 2, 2015

I am fighting a real battle limiting screen time these days. Everywhere there’s bombardment of the message – give your child an iPad! a smartphone! more TV! – and it’s hard to win the battle in this day and age with so many educational apps to download for free and the ever present temptation to chuck them a device to keep them quiet.

I confess. I forgot my activity book for Nat one of those days we were stuck waiting to be served at HDB (yes, we’ll be moving, but that’s for another day) and I had to give him my iPhone with the Bible stories app by Olive Tree. I was fascinated myself – the interaction, the graphics, the well-designed content – and it almost made me want to buy second hand iPads just to download the app for the kids’ bedtime stories.

But then I quickly chanted my personal mothering mantra: Let’s stick to the good ol’ and I was determined to banish that thought into the abyss forever.

I’m loving the folks at Scholastic Education because they totally understood my struggle. They’ve so kindly sent me the recently released new series of fun hidden puzzles for children, and I now have more activity books to keep my kids occupied while we wait at restaurants and during the children’s free time at home.

Sam and Sally are keeping my little Becks particularly thrilled, because colouring is her favourite thing right now. It’s making me thrilled too because I am getting her to recognise words to start her on her reading, and these books are coming in handy to help in the literacy bit. The series apparently aid in vocabulary building too since the puzzles are arranged by themes, and also help the child develop his spatial intelligence, since the reader has to be searching for the hidden items.

Here’s my little reviewer showing you how she bonds with Sam and Sally and not my iPad:

The 'Sam and Sally' Series come in a complete set of 3:

The ‘Sam and Sally’ Series come in a complete set of 3: Sam & Sally Go to School, Sam & Sally Out and About, and Sam & Sally at Home

Reading the words at the bottom of each page first...

Reading the words at the bottom of each page first…

Looking intently and pointing to each word

Looking intently and pointing to each word

Search and colour!

Search and colour!

Meeting Sam in his bedroom, and now, colouring the hidden items!

Meeting Sam in his bedroom, and now, colouring the hidden items!

I like that each book contains 28 picture puzzles and over 200 words, including a thoughtful challenge in each puzzle to encourage speaking and thinking. I like that even if I am not around to read the new vocabulary with my little girl, she is colouring on a page that’s print-rich. Most importantly, she’s exercising her ability to seek while the hidden puzzles hide, which could greatly aid in her spatial awareness.

It’s these things that my children should be investing their time in, and for their age, surely technological devices can wait.

And here’s a giveaway!

Scholastic continues to support teachers and parents as a trusted name in learning by remaining focused on encouraging children to learn to read and love to learn. The good folks are giving away ONE complete set of three Sam and Sally titles to one of Motherkao’s readers.

Simply launch the Rafflecopter app to qualify for chances in the draw:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

One winner will be selected by the Rafflecopter app after the giveaway ends on 10 June 2015 12:00AM. By taking part in the draw, you are also agreeing to collection of your prize (should you win) at the Scholastic Education office at 81 Ubi Ave 4, #02-28, UB. ONE, Singapore 408830.

Let’s say yay to more reading time and less screen time for our children!

Disclosure: Motherkao received a set of Sam and Sally series for the purpose of this review and giveaway. She did not receive any monetary compensation for this post. All opinions here are her own. Of course, please feel free to differ should you believe that screentime and engagement with devices are necessary for your child. Activity books are cheaper, actually.

Everyday fun! Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

Boredom-inspired creativity

May 21, 2015

When you were a child, what did you do when you were bored?

And what have you become today?

My husband explored and got into trouble. I lay in bed and dreamed up imaginative worlds.

We are big believers of boredom – and we want our kids to get bored, feel bored and experience the frustration associated with it. Have you read this article that correlates boredom with creative thought? We want our children to be forced into solitude and edged into a mode of discovery.

When we first started, it was hard. It was hard for me too, by the way, to NOT structure and plan something for them to do.

So Ben comes and says, “I’m so bored, can I watch TV?”

Becks says, “It’s so boring I don’t know what to do.”

Nat says, “So boring. I want you come be with me.”

And I would say, “Go and find something.”

And after many rounds of being acquainted with boredom, my children have…

Found the guts to leave the confines of our house to peek at what the neighbours are doing. At one point, they even go around to greet them. Now, Ben is offering our neighbour, Aunty R, to throw her trash for 20 cents a day.

Nightly duty: 20 cents for throwing trash!

Nightly duty: 20 cents for throwing trash!

They also invented Running Man games…

Mission: Skate through obstacles in the house with these cloth baskets

Mission: Skate through obstacles in the house with these cloth baskets

Built…

So much fun with LEGO

So much fun with LEGO

And built…

How many minifigs can you see?

How many minifigs can you see?

And built some more…

More LEGO fun

More LEGO fun

And drew…

Nat loves to draw

Nat loves to draw

And made many somethings out of nothing – all because they were bored.

The kids did up a rainforest to welcome me home...

The kids did up a rainforest to welcome me home…

By placing animals everywhere and imagining the green table as a huge tree

By placing animals everywhere and imagining the green table as a huge tree – an excuse for a clever, structured mess

What's happening in the background: caught on camera is the littlest trying to make binoculars from two Yakult bottles!

What’s happening in the background: caught on camera is the littlest trying to make binoculars from two Yakult bottles!

And check out this sword - make entirely from toilet rolls!

And check out this sword – make entirely from toilet rolls!

They learned how to handle boredom and find something to do and exercise that little muscle I call the little creativity joint.

All this blog's PR Stuff Everyday fun! Family life as we know it Going Out! Happy days Milestones and growing up

Experiencing dinosaurs

April 30, 2015

One of the greatest joys of parenting is to be totally immersed and involved in your children’s obsessions.

Boys usually start with cars or balls. Then they move on to trains, dinosaurs, soldiers, LEGO and superheroes of all kinds.

Girls typically are obsessed with the colour pink, in addition to being a little mad about a cat with no mouth, princesses and dolls.

My boys have been into dinosaurs for the longest time. They can rattle those three to four-syllable names faster than I can call theirs, and it’s fascinating how they can immerse themselves so completely in the prehistoric world – from wanting to colour dinosaurs all day long and learning their names, to constructing massive dinosaur parks with thier LEGO bricks and dino figurines and pleading to go to Jurassic Park every single weekend.

Jurassic Park, by the way, exists in the minds of these boys.

In Universal Studios Singapore, that is (which is also called The Lost World).

Photo credit: rwsentosa.com

Photo credit: rwsentosa.com

This is a place where you can go dino-soaring on pterodactyls, put your head into a T-Rex’s mouth, and pat Diane, the park’s latest infant triceratops – which incidentally is the current obsession of Nat, my youngest. This boy loves, loves, loves triceratops.

Nat goes a dino-soaring with a green triceratops

Nat goes a dino-soaring with a green triceratops

And then real dino-soaring with the pterodacyls

And then real dino-soaring with the pterodactyls

And we meet Diane, the infant triceratops. She moves and responds to you when you pat her - which freaks my little girl out and fascinates her brothers

And we meet Diane, the infant triceratops. She moves and responds to you when you pat her – which freaks my little girl out and fascinates her brothers

This velociraptor dude looks so real and it moves!

This velociraptor dude looks so real and it moves!

T-Rex chomp!

T-Rex chomp!

Help!

Help!

The Lost World is a place we head to whenever my boys need their dino-fix.

We got the Universal Studios Singapore’s 6-month season pass in December last year and have been visiting the theme park on a regular basis. It’s a happy place, with happy music blaring everywhere; happy people always smiling, waving, laughing, greeting; happy mascots roaming around; and happy, happy rides.

Being there makes me happy. Being there makes my children happy.

We get fun times taking rides, goofing times posing for pictures, and laugh-out-loud times spotting characters. And best of all, we spend A LOT of time, as my boys would have it, at Jurassic Park, where their dinosaur dreams come alive. Their imagination takes off and soars to a new height with every repeated visit to this place.

There's a triceratops on top!

There’s a triceratops on top!

How about some predator a'roaring?

How about some predator a’roaring?

Toy store fun: Becks grab a stuffed toy but the boys... are all for jaws and teeth

Toy store fun: Becks grabs a stuffed toy but the boys… are all for jaws and teeth

You don’t know how grateful I am for Universal Studios. It has allowed me to participate in the dino-madness with my children, something which I know I wouldn’t be able to do for long because they will all grow up soon enough.

Next stop: the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Mueseum. We’ll be found there real soon!

Jurassic Park Huddle

Jurassic Park Huddle

***

Do you have a treasured moment of indulging with your children in their obsession? 

Cherish the special moments you have with your children. Share your very own fun-filled #FrisoMoment at apps.facebook.com/FrisoExperiences and stand to win a host of amazing prizes, courtesy of Friso Singapore.

Here are the mechanics:

How to participate

Submit a photo of you and your child sharing a special experience. You may submit 1 experience each week. Each photo submitted will earn you two instant rewards – A Friso Experience journal and a Friso voucher worth $5, $10 or $20. Friso Singapore will also select and print one photo in 4R size with a Friso frame and send it to you.

You will be eligible for weekly and grand prizes if you agree to display your image in the gallery to inspire other parents.

Prizes:
  • Instant prizes: Friso Experiences Journal + Friso Voucher will be awarded to every entry.
  • Weekly Prize: The best photos will be selected to win the weekly prize. If you didn’t win in the first week, you will still be eligible for the weekly prizes in the remaining weeks of the month.

Week 1 to 2 (7 Mar – 23 Mar) 8 x FujiFilm Instax Mini 8

Week 3: 5 x Rebel Kidz Retro Racer Balance Bike

Week 4: 5 x Annual Zoo membership [2 adults + 2 Child]

Week 5: 5 x GOPRO Hero Camera

Week 6: 3 x Port of Lost Wonders party package

Week 7: 5 x Fujifilm Instax Share Printer

  • Grand Prize: A year’s supply of Friso milk.

One winner in April will be selected from the top 25 most voted entries for the month.  You may vote once per day for each entry. Remember to include the hashtag #FrisoMoment on your IG and FB posts!

***

Disclosure: This post was brought to you by Friso Singapore. Friso Singapore has invited Motherkao to share her #FrisoMoment to inspire parents to experience MORE with their children.

All this blog's PR Stuff Everyday fun! Learning fun! Milestones and growing up Reviews The Kao Kids

Sibling love cemented with LEGO

April 15, 2015

This post first appeared in: http://lego.featured.yahoo.com/post/115820751901/building-sibling-relationships

[The pictures in Yahoo Asia features me with the kids; the pictures used here in my blog depict the entire BUILD process.]

It’s finally possible.

A year ago it would have been nearly impossible for my three children to sit around a table and work on something together. Today, at 6, 5 and 3, they play so well together, role-play seamlessly to the point they know one another’s thoughts, and huddle ever so often to read (the same book) and share a conversation.

So to test their ability to collaborate and cooperate, I tasked them with a project during the recent March holidays.

I called it the “March Holidays Special Project”.

LEGO CITY Swamp Police Station was their special project this holidays

LEGO CITY Swamp Police Station was their special project this holidays

The instructions were simple and the rules were few. LEGO has kindly sponsored this Swamp Police Station LEGO City Set and I told them these were my conditions if they were to take the set from my hands.

Work on it together. Build it together. Do it in parts because it seems massive. And do your part.

And just one more for good measure: Don’t ask any adult for help, if possible!

Ok, Mama! they said.

I have excited kids, all ready to start!

I have excited kids, all ready to start!

I was a little skeptical. They had agreed to my terms so readily. I was certain they were going to give up and ask for an adult to help them. Truth be told, I was all prepared to. It would be a good bonding time with my children, anyway. But my six-year-old confidently said, “I won’t need your help. Or Dada’s help. And I don’t need to take a break. We can finish this. We’re master builders. “

I reminded him that a ‘group’ project meant that the younger ones need to be involved in some ways, and the operational word “together” meant that he may have to assign jobs to them because they would surely look up to him (he’s the grand master builder in their eyes!) for directions.

And so the kids got to work. They began by first sorting out the many packs and instructional booklets in the box. Becks helped Ben match the numbers.

The many instructional booklets and packs

The many instructional booklets and packs

Becks matching the booklet with the pack number

Becks matching the booklet with the pack number

Nat got a pair of scissors ready so that he could pass it to Ben to cut each packet open, as opposed to tearing the plastic recklessly and risk losing important pieces of bricks (so clever!).

Ben then assigned manageable roles for his siblings: Nat fixed the easy things, like the crocodile for the swamp. Becks helped to sort the LEGO bricks by size, while the big brother did the tougher jobs of snapping bricks in place and constructing the swamp police station with all the details.

Fix a croc

Fix a croc

Becks arranging the bricks by size so Ben gets to see what he needs at a glance

Becks arranging the bricks by size so Ben gets to see what he needs at a glance

Ben the Builder, at work!

Ben the Builder, at work!

With some help from Becks...

With some help from Becks…

Patiently constructing...

Patiently constructing…

...and constructing some more

…and constructing some more

When Becks and Nat did lose their stamina after a while of doing their job of sorting and helping, they assisted in other ways. They brought the master builder his Yakult and fed him fruit and cookies. They took care of him.

Say 'aah', korkor!

Say ‘aah’, korkor!

I sat around and watched the whole process in amazement. The strength of their bond was amazing. Even though they couldn’t stay as focused as korkor, they loved him in other ways to make up for not assisting. They knew that their big brother was in the midst of making something big and special – something everyone would get to play with when he was done.

And soon afternoon turned to evening and evening became night, and four hours later, TA-DAH!

This. This is my children proving to me it is Mission Possible.

This. This is my children proving to me it is Mission Possible.

Look at the details!

Look at the details! This belongs to the baddies.

And a cool sheriff!

Here’s a cool sheriff!

And a really awesome looking police boat

And a really awesome looking police boat

The full construction, with funny minifigs thrown in for fun!

The full construction, with funny minifigs thrown in for fun!

They didn’t take a break (well, at least Ben didn’t) and they made this, all with their little hands.

And the big brother gladly let everyone take the credit. “This is what WE built, Mama,” he said.

Happy to have completed their 'March Holidays Special Project' all thanks to Ben

Happy to have completed their ‘March Holidays Special Project’ all thanks to Ben

Creative play, imaginative construction and exploratory learning. I have always believed that LEGO was capable of immersing my children in all of that. What I never imagined was that LEGO, through my “March Holiday Special Project” helped my children bond, and gave them a chance to demonstrate care and support for one another. Most importantly, this project helped them experience what leadership and teamwork is all about, and how this can be something we can embrace in our household.

Disclosure: This post was first written for Yahoo Asia. LEGO Singapore provided the toys discussed.