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All this blog's PR Stuff Everyday fun! Homelearning fun Learning fun! Nat Kao Reviews

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.

GakkenGoGoSeries_ReviewMotherkao (3)

GakkenGoGoSeries_ReviewMotherkao (6)

GakkenGoGoSeries_ReviewMotherkao (5)

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

GakkenGoGoSeries_ReviewMotherkao (2)

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:

GakkenGoGoSeries_ReviewMotherkao (12)

GakkenGoGoSeries_ReviewMotherkao (14)

GakkenGoGoSeries_ReviewMotherkao (20)

GakkenGoGoSeries_ReviewMotherkao (25)

GakkenGoGoSeries_ReviewMotherkao (26)

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

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.

Ben Kao Enrichment Homelearning fun Learning fun! Reviews

Exploring vocabulary through My World of Words [Review]

June 19, 2015

I guess one of the good things about being a language person is that it translates to being a mom that’s extremely particular about vocabulary building for your kids. I am big on making sure my children have a rich deposit of words in their vocabulary bank and make it my mission to introduce new words in English (and in Chinese too) wherever we go.

Like telling Ben, ‘Look, the snake is slithering up the tree. And it’s sticking out its forked tongue.’

So a snake doesn’t just move. It slithers. It doesn’t just have a tongue. Its tongue is forked.

Or telling Becks that there are many shades of pink. It can be bright or dull in its simplest. But it can also be luminous. Or fuscia. There’s bubblegum pink, coral pink, flamingo pink. And no, it’s not good to say Mama has pink cheeks but rather she’s applying blush.

And so am I glad that Scholastic sent these Ben’s way – because here in this house, we’ve all gotta be building our vocabulary foundation well, brick by brick so that we can speak a little more descriptively in English!

These books provide early and transitional readers (see the type of readers here) a very colourful experience of reading thematically through picture stories, as well as discovering specific meanings and definitions of nouns and verbs. There are some simple writing exercises, creative writing tasks, as well as fun activities like crosswords that follow each picture story, and is a very good resource to hook a 6-year-old up with.

First, a picture story

First, a picture story

Then reading the definitions and filling the numbers into the blank bubbles

Then reading the definitions and filling the numbers into the blank bubbles

And then trying out the suggested activities

And then trying out the suggested activities

What I really like about these books is that they provide the plural form of each noun beside each noun description; and like a good dictionary, they have sentences to illustrate the meaning of every verb and noun. There is no differentiation between US English and UK English as well, because the book follows Standard English, covering a range of nouns and verbs used the standard way. There’s really nothing to complain about, because the book is really thoughtfully and colourfully designed to educate and enrich the early reader. Perhaps some sticker-activities, to keep the little hands occupied, would be my humble suggestion.

My World of Words and My World of More Words can be found in major bookstores.

Disclosure: The books were sponsored by Scholastic Education for the purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received and all opinions here are our own.

All this blog's PR Stuff Becks Kao Everyday fun! Homelearning fun Learning fun! Reading fun Reviews

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.

Becks Kao Ben Kao Homelearning fun Learning fun! Milestones and growing up Reading fun

Stories, they wrote

September 29, 2014

I’m raising some junior novelists, I tell you. Ever since this became a possibility:

Dotted font_stories-1

This treasure trove of a website called Teachers Pay Teachers is a wonderful repository of resources, many of which are free. Register an account, and search for “free dotted font”. Download whichever dotted font (with lines, without lines, etc) you fancy, and wa la! The kids can start their exciting writing journey.

My kids take turns to consult their “publisher” once they have a story in their head. They take turns to sit next to her and “write” their stories orally with her.

As a publishing consultant, which is me, by the way, I find teachable moments to help them learn about plot, settings, introduction, conclusion, climax and all the various elements of a good narrative as they dictate their story.

Sometimes they get carried away. I let them talk out loud still, and allow them to imagine. When they are done, I turn on the laptop and then type the gist of their stories out in simple, grammatically correct sentences which are easy to understand.

I  launch the dotted font, type away with the junior author standing next to me, include some relevant pictures from colouring printables, print them out and get them to trace their stories, like this:

Dotted font_stories-2

Dotted font_stories-3

They are now proud authors of their own story booklets!

Becks Kao Homelearning fun Learning fun! Milestones and growing up Reading fun

A different approach to reading for her royal miss

September 27, 2014

My little girl has turned 4 and you know what that means.

It means I’m starting to panic. I haven’t been spending much time with her and teaching her to read.

It’s like that with motherhood, isn’t it? You become exceedingly enthused with the first child, and with that enthusiasm you carry a big sack full of expectations which you pile on your firstborn, and when your firstborn meets your expectations and exceeds them, you breathe a huge sigh of relief and fall into the trap of thinking that the rest of the kids will naturally hit those learning milestones because the first one did it.

Well, at least I lived in that cloud for a while.

Ben and Becks are one academic year apart (18 months to be exact) and because I have finally gotten Ben to be reading and writing on his own, I had thought that I would be breathing a whole lot easier since Ben can now start impressing Becks with his much sought-after reading ability and maybe spurring her to start exploring books on her own.

But no, this little girl would much prefer to be writing gibberish notes and drawing and singing to her bolster – which is totally adorable still – that she’s not impressed much that Korkor has learned to read – from readers to subtitles to signs on the road and labels on food packaging. She now conveniently makes Korkor read for her and to her.

Oh, her royal highness.

What I get on a daily basis: my little girl stuffs notes in an envelope for me. Her gibberish is cute - she uses all the letters she knows to write to form words only she can decode

What I get on a daily basis: my little girl stuffs notes in an envelope for me. Her gibberish is cute – she uses all the letters she knows to write to form words only she can decode!

And so I am going to back to the basics again, this time round with my middle child.

Becks is not a flashcard kinda girl, and if you were to approach with books and nothing else, she might only just give you five minutes of her attention. So I tried this with her, and she loved it.

First, a simple reader which would help her in decoding simple words.

Teaching Becks to read_1

Then a highlighter and a jotter book to get her to trace the words and blending the sounds out loud.

Teaching Becks to read_2

Teaching Becks to read_3

Followed by many rounds of a simple ‘find the word’ game:

Can you point to ‘sat? Now point to ‘mat’? Which is ‘cat’? Good finding, now let’s draw a cat and label it!

Teaching Becks to read_4

Wa la, and now she likes to be doing reading and tracing with me! She’s a pen and paper kind of girl, so a nice clean jotter book, a pink or purple pencil (preferably of the princess kind) and lots of encouragement would pretty much hook her in. I’ve to be prepared to let one jotter book go after every session though. This girl used up the remaining pages in the book to continue writing her stories and notes in gibberish after each session, but at least we’ve done some reading, tracing and drawing with it first!

Everyday fun! Homelearning fun The Kao Kids

Rotten veg comeback

September 12, 2014

It’s beginning to feel a little tight. 24 hours is clearly not enough for me. With work entering the picture these days, my vegetables can’t wait. They can’t hold out long enough for Mama to come back to make soups or a hearty dish of japchae.

They are rotting faster than I can say, “Wait for me!”

Poor veggies. Rather than subject them to the cruel fate of being trashed immediately, I got them to be useful nonetheless.

Enter veggie stamping fun:

Veg stamping_1

Veg stamping_2

Perfect indoor activity to relieve boredom. Zero guilt for not being able to cook them. They have served us well till the end!

Veg stamping_3

(Self) Examination Becks Kao Homelearning fun Learning fun! Milestones and growing up

Fixing a problem with ‘Special Time’

June 27, 2014

Ever since I became more of a work-at-home mom than stay-at-home mom, I’ve not really done much homelearning with the kids. I still follow a routine with them, but it’s with less intensity and frequency throughout the day; and instead of creating and designing my own materials, I’m using a lot more stock ones that are available for downloading from the net. I’m also letting them play A LOT more together, now that they are at the age where they love to pretend play. Just recently, I heard someone say “Mama” and “Dada” and they were not calling the husband and me but each other, and it was altogether tremendously amusing.

I also outsource the learning of the Chinese Language to Berries. Ben has been attending lessons since last year, and Becks started her N2 class this year. I’m pretty much hands off in this area.

Until the rude shock yesterday, that is.

So Becks’ teacher informed me that she couldn’t recognise the words she’s been taught when she did a revision test with her. It’s not the first time the teacher’s said it since the beginning of the year, and I’ve pretty much just left things as they were and hoping not to intervene at all in Becks’ learning. But last evening, the test score was 1 out of 20, and it was quite horrifying to know that the little girl doesn’t remember any Chinese character save one since January.

Of course our first thoughts were: Does she have a learning disability? Is she suffering from something we do not know of? Does she have a problem with memory? Is the classroom engaging enough? Does she have attention deficit?

Believe you me, I think any parent would start off with these crazy thoughts.

But any parent who knows their child would be able to pull herself back from this and think about what it is that the child really needs.

I didn’t go all beserk. I didn’t get all anxious (for a while I did, but not for too long, hurhur!) about Becks’ lack of ability to remember. I didn’t go down that slippery slope of reasoning within myself about how she might suffer in primary school. I didn’t run out to buy more Chinese books or videos. I knew that the little girl was sending me a message loud and clear, and if I am not going to “listen” to it, I’m going to be a fool of a mother.

I know my child. I think she’s saying, “Mama, can you also teach me Chinese too?”

Last night, before the kids went to bed, I told them that there would be a new routine when they wake up. They would each get a “Special ‘Learning’ Time” with me for 20 minutes every day when they are fresh in the morning, and we could spend time doing anything that they wished to learn. They know ‘Special Time’ is one-to-one time with me which no one can interrupt, and so using this phrase got them all agreeable.

That was that. I had it at the back of my mind but still went to bed at 2am catching Episode 201 of Running Man.

This morning, at 8.30am, someone tapped me on the shoulder and shouted, “Mama, wake up. We are having special time learning right?”

Right, the ‘Special ‘Learning’ Time’, yes.

It was the little girl who was up and all ready this morning.

And I was right. She was all ready to learn some Chinese and do some flashcard reading on my lap and playing games answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in Chinese. I’m thinking to myself, BINGO, isn’t this what needs to be fixed before the problem in the classroom can be? She needs her mother to be involved in every area of her learning too.

Lesson learned: Never dismiss my child as having any problems until I’ve invested good time and energy being involved in her learning. I have to keep filling love tanks and be their cheerleader every step of the way, whether I work at home or not. And those 20 minutes (60 minutes for me) didn’t just make one kid happy, it made all three happy to have some one-to-one time on Mama’s lap – and we’re all looking forward to this routine every day!

Special learning time

Everyday fun! Family life as we know it Happy days Homelearning fun Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

All play, no work, happy kids!

June 24, 2014

Is it the last week of the June holidays already?

This month-long vacation was all play and no work for the kids. Not the child labour kind of work, but I have had grand plans to do lots of revision with the kids like a seasoned, experienced teacher (ahem) that I am so as to help them consolidate their learning.

I had planned to revisit all the 小书 from Berries, test them on all they have learned for Math using pop quizzes, read our graded readers that’s been languishing on the shelves, begging “Read me, read me!” (Poor Peter, Jane, Biff, Kipper and Chip), and introduce some Science concepts through sensory play.

Ah, how ambitious I was.

I started the holidays also prepping this box with a stack of activity sheets for each of the kids and instructed them to go find their folder whenever boredom struck. I told them to be sure to check that box often because they would be finding new things every now and then.

This was called the "I AM BORED" Activity Box

This was called the “I AM BORED” Activity Box

The idea was nothing else but a good idea; the kids couldn’t even be bothered with the box.

I painstakingly washified their names and slotted in things for them to do. Not too fun, apparently!

I painstakingly washified their names and slotted in things for them to do. Not too fun, apparently!


They found entertainment every day with one another in lots of pretend play…

The kids pretended to be pirates and laid booby traps

The kids pretended to be pirates and laid booby traps

Interspersed with unscheduled moments of reading and suddenly wanting to work on some activities…

The boys sharing a moment together exploring a book, which happened all so suddenly. Moments before that they were swordfighting!

The boys sharing a moment together exploring a book, which happened all so suddenly. Moments before that they were swordfighting!

I made this for Nat and he likes doing this (but never gets past more than 10 letters) - this is a matching activity using magnetic letters and a laminated paper letter chart

I made this for Nat and he likes doing this (but never gets past more than 10 letters) – this is a matching activity using magnetic letters and a laminated paper letter chart

Drawing (A LOT)…

They can be playing and laughing, and then suddenly the house would be silent and I would find the kids at their desks doing this!

They can be playing and laughing, and then suddenly the house would be silent and I would find the kids at their desks doing this!

And going out a lot for events, outings and a really nice holiday.

Storytelling at Sentosa Playmobil Event

Storytelling at Sentosa Playmobil Event

At Montigo Resort for our short getaway

At Montigo Resort for our short getaway

At the new Sports Hub watching World Club 10s Rugby

At the new Sports Hub watching World Club 10s Rugby

I think this is the life for any kid, and maybe it was a good thing I got nothing in my list of grand plans done afterall.

Just look at how happy they have been all month long!

Happy kids!

Happy kids!

Everyday fun! Homelearning fun Learning fun! Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

Food, nutrition & some serious fun in the kitchen

April 26, 2014

This month’s homelearning revolved around food and nutrition, and I also took the opportunity to teach my kids two simple skills: using a knife and frying an egg.

We had some serious (oxymoronic) fun, yes.

First, a tour of the kitchen to learn simple vocabulary for egg frying: STOVE, PAN, OIL, EGGS, WOK SPATULA, WHISK.

Then to get acquainted with all the sharp objects in the drawers so they know to handle them with care whenever we need to use them: (from right to left) PEELER, GRATER, KITCHEN SCISSORS, PARING KNIFE, UTILITY KNIFE, COOK’S KNIFE, CHOPPER (hidden in picture)

Homelearning_kitchen tools_sharp objects

Hold on tight: You know they’re a little bit DANGEROUS here!

Then, it’s tofu cutting time since we were going to be having tofu soup that evening anyway. Ben used the utility knife while Becks held the paring knife. I got them to gently touch the blade to understand the concept of “sharp” and had them dice the tofu with their knives.

Next, three eggs out from the fridge for each kid, and cracked into a bowl. Because it was their first, I held their hands to crack it with them. Got them to whisk, then had them pour a little oil, feel for heat about 5cm above the pan and pour in the egg. Then they scrambled them, served some to their father and savoured the remainder.

Homelearning_egg frying

Scrambling to scramble eggs

On another occasion, we chopped up celery, potatoes and carrots for our vegetable soup. This time round the kids understood that unlike cutting the tofu which was soft and easy, they had to hold on to the vegetables and watch their fingers while they exerted pressure with the knife. I gave the littlest a steak knife and had the helper watch him while I made sure the older two didn’t slice their fingers.

Homelearning_knife skills

Seriously fun to be chopping and slicing

After we were done, we threw everything in water to boil with chicken bones for soup!

I later asked the kids if they liked what they did – and they were very proud to have helped made a part of our dinner that night. What they shared with me made me realise that I’ve got to gradually learn to empower these kids to pick up age-appropriate skills so they can experience a sense of accomplishment.

I followed up with getting the kids to learn the words CUT, SLICE, KNIFE and VEGETABLES. Ben could easily form three sentences with these helping words, like “I cut with a knife.” / “I slice with a knife.” / “I cut vegetables.” I also got the kids to recount their experience by drawing what they did and then put their drawings up on the gallery so they can tell ‘stories’ to their dad when he returned home.

Homelearning_vocab and drawing

Recounting what they did with paper and crayons

We also read some books we borrowed from the library to learn the importance of nutrients for our bodies and our growth. These two books scored with the kids, cos’ we got to sing two very funny songs while learning about good food and our taste buds!

Food books_Singalong

“Fabulous Food” and “I Taste Sing and Read” from NLB

Here’s sharing how to sing the two songs with you:

Song 1 – To the tune of Farmer in the Dell

“What makes bones grow?
What makes teeth grow?
Milk and yogurt, cream and cheese,
Calcium makes them grow.
What makes blood strong?
What makes muscles strong?
Fish and spinach, nuts and eggs,
Protein makes them strong.
Why can we move well?
Why can we breathe well?
Wheat and rice, oats and corn,
Carbohydrates keep us well.
We know what to eat,
We know what to eat.
Fruits, vegetables, bread and meat
Now let’s go and eat!”

Song 2 – To the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

“Your tongue tells you what tastes sweet
Honey, jam, an ice cream treat
Watermelon, peaches, too
Fresh fruit is so good for you
Your tongue tells a lot, it’s true
Salty, bitter, nasty, too.
Your tongue tells you what tastes sour
Vinegar on cauliflower
Grapefruit, limes and sour cream
Citrus-flavoured jellybeans
Your tongue tells a lot, it’s true
You have taste buds, lucky you.”

We followed up the taste buds-song with a fun activity of observing our taste buds in the mirror and adding little bumps to a giant tongue – on paper, that is. I wrote the words SALTY, SWEET, SOUR, BITTER and TONGUE so that the kids can repeat the vocabulary that describes taste as they drew on the giant tongue.

Tastebud activity

Come near and the giant tongue will lick you up!

It’s been a tastily fun month, and I am looking forward to enlisting these little troopers in the kitchen whenever I need help!

Becks Kao Ben Kao Homelearning fun Learning fun!

Teaching the Kao Kids: Routines II

April 23, 2014


There’s a new wall the kids have to face these days.

Our humble five-room flat is already looking like a day care. Might as well maximise every empty space for learning.

In order to create a print rich environment, I’ve put up two charts which I bought from a spree with some other mothers (SGD$15 for 1 from Taobao) and used the pockets to put in word cards for Ben (we’re currently still blending word) and letter cards (uppercase and lowercase letters) for Becks.

Ben's chart with Blends

Ben’s chart with Blends

Becks' chart with Letters + her weekly word cards from Berries

Becks’ chart with Letters + her weekly word cards from Berries

I change the cards in the pockets frequently but before I do so, they would have had faced their charts for at least a week.

It’s no punishment at all here in this house. We just like to face the wall, that’s all.


Here’s what I wrote about Routines, Part 1

Check out the other posts in the series: