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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.

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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.

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Hey, Mom! We’re in a storybook! [Review: Kid Hero Stories]

April 15, 2015

I’ve never really had a problem getting my children to love reading. I’ve written about how to raise a reader in earlier posts here, here and here and I’m all for surrounding my children with books, books and more books, as well as reading to them and with them.

And on some days, I think it will be really great if these kids can take a break from the animals, the prince and princesses, the good and bad little boys and girls and the magic from the books they’ve been reading (or rather the books that are read to them) and enter into a wholly different experience.

I’m talking about being in the stories they read.

Thanks to Kid Hero Stories, my children got to enjoy a totally new reading experience during the March holidays. It was an experience complete with A LOT of laughter, and it was indeed A LOT of fun. They saw themselves in the story and laughed so hard!

Ben, Becks and Nat appeared as Ben, Becks and Nat in the Kid Hero Stories, going on adventures and doing fun things.

Like going to a birthday party…

KidHeroStories 01

Playing an egg and spoon race (which gave them ideas for games, by the way!)…

KidHeroStories 02 Fishing – and catching a smelly boot (this made everyone laughed so heartily!)…

KidHeroStories 03

And being so, so smart in the stories…

KidHeroStories 04

How cool is that?

My children thoroughly enjoyed the three stories, titled The Treasure Hunt, Message in a Bottle and The Birthday Party, that were emailed to us in PDF format, which I printed and bound for the ‘storybook feel’. All I did was to allow Kid Hero Stories to grab the pictures of my smiling children from my blog, and the good folks did up the personalisation under the ‘Sibling Series’.

KidHeroStories 05

KidHeroStories 07We huddled together to read the stories together, and even acted some parts out, like shouting, “It’s a fish! Ben has caught a big shiny fish!”, which left us all in stitches at the end.

And it was a whole new level of reading for Nat, who’s now 3 and an emergent reader, pointing to letters of the alphabet and associating letters with pictures. He was most excited with the stories.

And that excitement for those personalised stories continued after storytelling time was long over.

KidHeroStories 08

Takes reading to a whole new level, and boy, am I glad the littlest is also sharing his siblings’ love for books and for reading.

This is such a brilliant idea to get children to start reading, and continue reading!

More details:

Kid Hero Stories create fun, interesting and affordable collectible stories that kids look forward to receiving and reading. The subscription service of FOUR adventure eBooks starts from USD 7.90 per month. You can also order these eBooks as gifts for friends and family. More details of the types of books and rates on their website here. Or connect with them via their FB Page or Pinterest.

***

P/S: The stories can be viewed on a laptop or iPad because they are sent as soft copies. This mother here happens to be one of those who is strict on screen time and prefers the traditional way of reading, which includes feeling paper.

Disclosure: We were given three stories by the folks at Kid Hero Stories which in turn gave us a really precious afternoon together. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions here are my own.

Everyday fun! Family life as we know it Learning fun! Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids The real supermom

How’s it looking, now that it’s April

April 14, 2015

I’ve been running round with a cape trying my best to be supermom ever since the year started and I can only say the road ahead will only get tougher for this super-tired mom. At this point of my life I am trying to do the entrepreneur-working-mom-slash-do-my-best-to-be-as-much-a-hands-on-mom but it’s one heck of an ambition and everyone around me tells me I am crazy / ambitious / crazily ambitious / ambitiously crazy / impossible.

I think so too.

My children are growing up so quickly before my eyes and if there’s only one consolation of being away so often now is the consolation that I did three kids back to back with only an 18-month gap in between each kids, and today Ben, Becks and Nat are BFFs. They entertain one another, help each other, and do everything after kindergarten hours together I now wear the back-to-back pregnancies like my badge of honour.

So if anyone reading this is looking for a reason to do their kids with a close age gap, I have just sold you one.

So how is it like to juggle the demands of running a business and being a mom? How does this mothering thing actually work now that I have a business to run?

Well, apart from not being able to do much meal planning and cooking (which my wonderful husband has kindly offered to step in to do) and having to outsource the mundane tasks like packing bags, showering and diapering (oh wait, it’s not a biggie anymore, with all the kids toilet trained, except for Becks and Nat for the night), and not hovering over and all around like the helicopter mom I always am, everything is still quite fine because we don’t take one another’s presence for granted now.

We now ask this question every day: how do we make the best of the time we have? 

My kids are gradually realising that being with Mama is precious; she doesn’t have all day to nag and wait for them like she used to when she stayed home for two years. We make the best of every moment we spend, and every short burst of activity we do becomes purposeful and meaningful.

So when it’s time for Mama School, the learning is differentiated. My helper supervises the work I prepare for the kids if I can’t be around…

Here’s sharing something I did with the kids earlier, when the boys were in the dinosaur craze:

Ladies and Gents, I need you all to meet Beth Gorden, one supermom who runs 123 Homeschool 4 Me, which has 300+ free printables and teaching ideas. She's got awesome theme packs to use, and here, I created a differentiated set from her free Dinosaur pack for my kids aged 6, 4.5 and 3

Ladies and Gents, I need you all to meet Beth Gorden, one supermom who runs 123 Homeschool 4 Me, which has 300+ free printables and teaching ideas.
She’s got awesome theme packs to use, and here, I created a differentiated set from her free Dinosaur pack for my kids aged 6, 4.5 and 3

I first made booklets with a cool cover page for each of them...

I first made booklets with a cool cover page for each of them…

Dino Work 03

I then culled what I felt was appropriate for each of my kid at his / her developmental level, sourced for more printables from the Internet and put them all together

For Ben, I made him learning bigger words

For Ben, I made him learn bigger words by creating my own set of worksheets for spelling

It's at least half an hour of engaged learning for the Kao kids

It’s at least half an hour of engaged learning for the Kao kids

And then they also come to Mama’s  actual “school” for their lessons. They interact with other children, and have lots of fun learning with Mama as their teacher…

This a Logic & Literacy class I run

This is a Logic & Literacy class I run

Learning at BlueTree 02

And another one for pre-primary children

My husband also takes them out to the amazing farms that are around us on some week days. We are living close to Seletar Farmway where the Animal Resort, Seaview Aquarium and Mycofarm (mushrooms!) are, and so they pop in and out like regular troopers on mini field trips…

Learning about fungi at Mycofarm (9 Seletar West Farmway 5, 798057), where you can buy mushrooms cheaper here

Learning about fungi at Mycofarm (9 Seletar West Farmway 5, 798057), where you can buy mushrooms cheaper here

Mycofarm 02

Just observing and exploring is meaningful time spent!

Sometimes, I schedule a quick bake break (especially when the bananas are turning black faster than we can say ‘bananas’), and they get involved…

The tasks are pretty much assigned for a banana cake. Ben mashes the bananas, Becks sieves flour and Nat whisks eggs

The tasks are pretty much assigned for a banana cake. Ben mashes the bananas, Becks sieves flour and Nat whisks eggs!

And then every night, we choose between catching past episodes of Running Man (which I believe greatly fuels their creativity) or reading bedtime stories. If they choose the latter, each of them gets to choose a book for me to read aloud. I bought all 50 books in this list so these titles (plus our Bible stories) are our bedtime staples.

And then it’s intense oiling and foot massage (if I still have the energy left) and time for bed.

I dish out like a million hugs and kisses at bedtime too. It’s to make up for not being around.

And when they go to bed, I start working again.

And the cycle goes on like this.

So.

I think it’s extremely doable – if you have an itchy backside like me and want to do things out there. You just need to make sure you have children who can keep each other company and be best friends and best enemies with, and then schedule in short bursts of fun and learning. Oh yes, that plus a really trusty right-hand aide (like a good helper whom you can outsource everything that is time-consuming to from ironing to steaming mantou for breakfast) and being able to reserve your last ounce of energy for a heartwarming tuck-in at bedtime every night.

You’ll be tired, I’m so sure you would; but nothing beats a healthy dose of ‘We-miss-Mama-we-will-treasure-her’ and ‘I-miss-my-kids-I-am-going-to-choose-my-battles’ every day.

Nobody’s gonna be taking nobody for granted these days, that’s for sure.

My babies and their Mama in a huddle

Wefie: My babies and their Mama in a huddle

***

P/S: If you’re all ready to start something and get entrepreneurial, you have a friend here. Hook up with me and we can give each other friendly, mommy support! 🙂

All this blog's PR Stuff Going Out! Learning fun! The Kao Kids

A date with Mama’s old friend

April 1, 2015

If you grew up in Singapore, you would have met Singa the Courtesy Lion.

In fact, I’m going to show off here on my own blog to say that I was once chosen to wear the ‘kindness badge’ that’s got Singa on it in Primary 2. Or was it Primary 3? Gosh, that was way too long ago. Back then, he was the mascot of the Courtesy Campaign. And the badge was the coveted honour we wanted to wear on our school uniforms because that’s to tell the world you’re a very, very courteous pupil.

It’s no longer called the Courtesy Campaign now but the ‘Singapore Kindness Movement’ today. Back in the good ol’ days in 1996, during his New Year Message, then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong highlighted the need for Singapore to become a gracious society by the 21st century. Considerate social behaviour supported by a strong economy and good government will make Singapore the best home for its people, he said. In line with Mr Goh’s call to build a gracious society, the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) was formed in 1997 and aims to encourage Singaporeans to make a positive commitment to gracious living through simple acts of kindness in their daily activities.

I’m all for teaching kindness and graciousness to my children, and it’s my personal parenting belief that with or without this movement, my kids must learn their manners and to be gracious from the heart.

But Singa! Singa is someone they absolutely must meet! So despite not needing to join a movement to learn about kindness, I had to lug everyone to see him when he came to a mall near us with his ‘Kindness Cubbies’.

It was nice to get up close and personal with an old friend. Yes, he was introduced as “Mama’s primary school friend” to the Kao kids.

Singa

Singa & the Kindness Cubbies

Singa & the Kindness Cubbies_and us

My children’s take-away from this meet-and-greet and mall show? I’m so glad it wasn’t “Singa is so cute right!” or “Omigosh, the girl-cubbie’s so adorable” but the 5 MAGIC WORDS to make Kindsville a pleasant place to live in.

What are the 5 MAGIC WORDS? Bring your kids to check Singa and the Kindness Cubbies out!

Venue: Northpoint Shopping Centre

Date & Time:

  • 17th April (Friday) – 7:30PM
  • 18th April (Saturday) – 2:30PM & 7:00PM
  • 19th April (Sunday) – 2:30PM & 7:00PM

Venue: Downtown East

Date & Time:

  • 1st May (Friday) – 7:30PM
  • 2nd May (Saturday) – 2:30PM & 7:00PM
  • 3rd May (Sunday) – 2:30PM & 7:00PM
At the roadshow, you can even send 'Love Letters' for free to family members and friends, courtesy of the very kind SingPost!

At the roadshow, you can even send ‘Love Letters’ for free to family members and friends, courtesy of the very kind SingPost!

Disclosure: I’m a supporter of any local movement or initiative that makes our home a better place. Here’s to spread a little kindness! We were invited to pose with Singa and Cubbies. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions here are our own.

All this blog's PR Stuff Going Out! Learning fun! The Kao Kids

Starting the holidays on a Voyage of Big Ideas

March 15, 2015

Tis’ the first day of the March holidays today, and we were up and about, dreaming, exploring and embarking on new adventures.

At Imaginarium, that is.

Imaginarium: A Voyage of Big Ideas, the exhibition is inspired by the crescent moon on the Singapore flag, symbolising a young nation on the rise and its capacity to dream big and think large

Imaginarium: A Voyage of Big Ideas, a children’s exhibition inspired by the crescent moon on the Singapore flag, symbolising a young nation on the rise and its capacity to dream big and think large.

Imaginarium: A Voyage of Big Ideas, is the new edition of the Singapore Art Museum at 8Q‘s much loved annual contemporary art exhibition for children. Now in its fifth year running, this exhibition features immersive artworks by emerging and established artists from Singapore and around the region and interactive hands-on activities for “everyone and anyone with a head for ideas and a heart for adventure”. It’s also the first in a series of SAM exhibitions that celebrate Singapore’s Jubilee Year.

We were invited by SAM@8Q and CRIB Society, Singapore’s first social enterprise that aims to empower women entrepreneurs through networking, matchmaking and incubation, of which I am also a member of, for the media preview of Imaginarium.

The exhibition, specially dedicated to children and curated for them to learn and play, is truly one that reflects a learning-through-play philosophy and appeals to a child’s senses and sense of exploration.

The Kao kids got to wander – and wonder – a lot today. At SAM, they gamely put on their sense of keenness and exploration and their most appropriate behaviour (after many rounds of “briefing” before we came, also known as follow instructions! remember a museum is not a playground! make sure everyone gets to enjoy so no yelling and hoarding! be mindful of others around you! and other momspeak), we checked out every gallery at Imaginarium, which spans four levels.

The start of our wandering and wondering at SAM at 8Q: today we have DinoBoy from DinoMama Blog for company!

The start of our wandering and wondering at SAM at 8Q: today we had DinoBoy from DinoMama Blog for company!

Here at Imaginairum, they built their own estates and communities with these tetris-shaped blocks in this colourfully illustrated room…

Drawing inspiration from urban planning, Singapore artist Chiang Yu Xiang’s We Built this Estate! is an interactive installation that invites everyone to create their own housing estates and city skyline with Tetris-shaped housing blocks.

Drawing inspiration from urban planning, Singapore artist Chiang Yu Xiang’s We Built this Estate! invites everyone to create their own housing estates and city skyline with Tetris-shaped housing blocks.

Imaginarium_03

We built this city!

We built this city!

We built this city of tetris shapes!

We built this city!

We built this city!

We built this city of tetris shapes!

We built this city of tetris shapes!

Dropped their jaws in fascination, looking at these fantastical versions of the Singapore story and doodles…

Imagine-a-doodle by Singapore collective Band of Doodlers: illustrations sprawled across the walls and winding their way up the four levels of SAM at 8Q

Imagine-a-doodle by Singapore collective Band of Doodlers: illustrations sprawled across the walls and winding their way up all four floors of SAM at 8Q!

Made music when an adult (yes, their Mama – who else?) cycled on a stationary bicycle…

Here I am, cycling in a dark room, with the boys waiting for energy to transferred so they can start making music.

Here I am, cycling in a dark room, with the boys waiting for energy to be transferred so they can start making music. This is the artwork of Canadian-born, Singapore-based artist Vincent Twardzik’s Green II: Interstellar Overdrive. This artwork installation only comes alive when visitors cycle on stationary bicycles which are hooked up to various objects.

Created a dream world of planting sweets…

Planting rice is never fun. But planting sweets is.

Planting rice is never fun. But planting sweets is.

Nat is lost. In a sea of candy trees.

Nat is lost. In a sea of candy trees.

Someone has a sweet tooth, this is for sure.

Someone has a sweet tooth, that is for sure.

"I wish this was a real Chupa Chups," he said.

“I wish this was a real Chupa Chups,” he said.  This installation is the Dream House by South Korean artist Jeeyoung Lee. And we all know why.

Discovered magical secret worlds…

Entering into a world of magical colours...

Entering Kiko’s Secrets by Sri Lankan-born, Vietnam-based artist Kumkum Fernando. First, the world of magical colours…

And another of bugs...

And another of bugs…

Really weird bugs!

Really weird bugs!

Look, Mama! Look what I found!

Look, Mama! Look what I found!

EGGS!!!

EGGS!!!

And got a good whole hour of hands-on fun adding to a collective tapestry featuring yarn, and weaving, covering spaces and making pom-poms…

Singaporean artist Izziyana Suhaimi’s work Let’s Make! Studio explores new worlds through embroidery. In a designed workspace in the gallery, visitors are invited to make their own small objects which capture their thoughts about Singapore’s future

Singaporean artist Izziyana Suhaimi’s work Let’s Make! Studio explores new worlds through embroidery. In a designed workspace in the gallery, visitors are invited to make their own small objects which capture their thoughts about Singapore’s future.

And so the kids begin... to make something bigger than their lives

And so the kids begin… to make something bigger than their lives

Twirling yarn around nails...

Twirling yarn around nails…

Mixing colours and finding patterns...

Mixing colours and finding patterns…

And while Ben weaved some more...

And while Ben weaved some more…

Becks and Nat chilled at the reading corner, flipping story books

Becks and Nat chilled at the reading corner, flipping story books

And then of course, someone doesn't really read. He goes to make green pom-poms instead.

And then of course, someone doesn’t really read so he goes to make green pom-poms instead.

Hot favourites of the day were yarn, yarn and more yarn, and tetris-shaped blocks.

The next time round, I hope to get them to appreciate more of the details found in these art installations and contemplate on a deeper level what they are interacting with.

There’s just so much to learn and teach through art, and I am glad we had the opportunity to do that today. The kids have been experiencing more of my absence this year, and we finally got some time together today, which would not have been possible on most Saturdays. I think this is the first time this year we are spending so many hours together being meaningfully engaged in something, and I’m glad we did it with Imaginarium.

Tis’ a great start to the March hols!

Candy floss, anyone?

Candy floss, anyone?

***

Imaginarium: A Big Voyage of Ideas beckons the adventurers, the dreamers, and the explorers of today to embark on a journey of discovery, and together, sail towards exciting new horizons. From 14 March to 19 July 2015 at the Singapore Art Museum at 8Q. Free admission for Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents.

Disclosure: We were invited to preview Imaginarium by CRIB Society. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions here are my own.

Learning fun! Reading fun The Kao Kids

The Kao Kids and the Purple Crayon

January 16, 2015

If you’ve not read Harold and the Purple Crayon with your kids, you absolutely must.

Just last year, I embarked on a quest to buy – and read (of course!) – every single book found in this list called ’50 Books Every Parent Should Read to their Child’. Believe you me, I (crazily) ordered every single title found in this list from Amazon, and have been clocking in bedtime story hours ever since with these lovely children stories.

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson is one of them, and one of our favourites.

HPPC_1

I managed to find some creative lesson ideas from this website for the book, and conducted 3 different activities for Ben, Becks and Nat for one of our homelearning lessons with the book.

Ben (5 years old, going 6)

HPPC_2

HPPC_9

For Ben, I downloaded the Harold Lined Writing Paper from Starts at Eight, and got him to copy his favourite phrases from the book. I also did up a quick questionnaire for him to get him to contribute some free responses. I got him to talk to me about what he wished to see Harold draw, and it was fun to explore his world of dragons, mummies and monsters.

His activity concluded with drawing anything he liked from the book. I encouraged him to copy what Harold drew following the lines and shapes that he sees.

HPPC_8

Becks (4 years, going on 5)

For Becks, I printed the Harold Colouring Sheets from the same website but I asked her questions about the imagination versus the real. I know this is a book that takes our imagination to the farthest, which is altogether so lighthearted and enjoyable, but I got down to asking Becks questions to check if she could differentiate between fictitious and actual. I read somewhere that while it is developmentally normal for toddlers to have difficulties grasping the difference between real and make-believe, it should get pretty obvious for an older child.

HPPC_6

HPPC_7

Her task was to give me everything coloured the way she feels they should be coloured, and I was glad I got to see red apples and green trees. Everything was fine except she gave me a purple moon. Hmm. I’m sure some Harold is also in this girl, and I’m happy she loves to imagine too.

Nat (2 years, going on 3)

Lesson was short and simple for the littlest one: find the purple from our colour pencil and crayon stash, and colour away!

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And colour he did!

It was a fruitful session of seeing purple, and enjoying one of our favourite reads this way!

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Becks Kao Ben Kao Going Out! Learning fun! Milestones and growing up Re: learning and child training

What my kids caught which can never be taught when it poured

November 2, 2014

One of the perks of being a blogger, at least for me these days, besides getting the usual media invites for events and product samples for review, is to be invited to exercise.

Which by the way, is great, because I so need to do so.

We were invited by the good people at SPRG (the same good folks that invited me to participate in the Great Eastern Women’s Run as an influencer) to join in the inaugural Hello Kitty Run 2014 at Sentosa as part of the feline character’s 40th birthday celebration here in Singapore. Since Becks, my little girl, is such a fan, they say.

But it’s 5km! I say. Her royal highness is not going to be able to make a 5km-run, not when her mother hasn’t even done her maiden 5 clicks yet.

It’s a FUN run, they say. And it’s perfectly ok if we walked and enjoyed the scenery.

So we said ok. Because her royal highness is such a fan, and she got excited by the thought of being in a run with me. And with Hello Kitty, or so she thinks.

And so we joined 17, 000 other fans yesterday at Sentosa, to participate in the first run of our lives together – me, Becks and Ben.

Hello Kitty’s mega 40th birthday surprise comprised a bouquet of flowers presented by Dear Daniel, a 33 inch cupcake and a birthday song sung to her by all 17,000 race participants. (Image Credit: SPRG)

Hello Kitty’s mega 40th birthday surprise comprised a bouquet of flowers
presented by Dear Daniel, a 33 inch cupcake and a birthday song sung to her
by all 17,000 race participants. (Image Credit: SPRG)

It was a madding crowd, I tell you. Local and overseas fans turned up in full force – men, women, boys, girls alike – tattooed with red ribbons and donning everything that screamed Hello Kitty from headbands and spectacles to shoes and shimmering pink skirts.

Sandwiched all the the way at the back in the huge crowd - but first, a wefie! (Look at her royal highness' grumpy face - too hot and stuffy, she says)

Sandwiched all the the way at the back in the huge crowd – but first, a wefie! (Look at her royal highness’ grumpy face – too hot and stuffy, she says)

We had to be flagged off in waves because there was such a swelling human crowd. The jostling and heat, plus the threat of a stampede, were just too much to bear.

Just look at how crazily packed it was at the starting line.

17 thousand people, folks. This is how it looked like! (Image Credit: SPRG)

17 thousand people, folks. This was how it looked like! (Image Credit: SPRG)

And then the terrible happened.

This was how the sky looked when we finally got close enough to the starting line

This was how the sky looked when we finally got close enough to the starting line

And there were still a whole lot of people in front of us!

Look at the dark clouds covering the skies. And there were still a whole lot of people in front of us!

The moment the fourth wave was flagged off (and that was us), the rain started pelting heavily on us.

It was like all the Chinese compositions we’ve ever written in school that always read “突然间下了倾盆大雨… 我们都像落汤鸡一样” came to life (loosely translated: suddenly, it rained cats and dogs and we looked bedraggled like drowned rats).

And I was torn between running back to seek shelter and hailing a cab home from Vivocity or continue walking in the rain with my five-year-old and four-year-old. So many people with young children were walking past us with their kids and babies strapped in carriers and strollers in the opposite direction anyway. Nobody would blame us for not being able to continue the race.

I was also very worried about the kids catching a cold. They have never, ever been drenched like this in their lives, and if they ever got wet because they were at water playgrounds, we always made sure that there was a warm shower facility and fresh change of clothes available. I didn’t have a brolly or poncho in my bag. I had packed light for the run – there was only a water bottle, two hand towels and two singlets to change out in my bag, plus keys and some money.

I stopped with the kids to hide under some bushes near Sentosa Gateway and asked the kids a few questions to gather information about their state so I could make a more informed decision:

Me: The rain doesn’t look like it would stop. It may get heavier and we would soon be wet to our socks, shoes and underwear. Shall we run back?

Ben and Becks: *silence*

Me: If we run back now, we can make our way home. Then we won’t be so wet.

Ben: But you said if we start a race, we finish it. That’s what people do when they race?

Me: Yep, I did say that whether we are comfortable or uncomfortable, wet or dry, we don’t give up once we start. But it’s a long way ahead. Sure you want to continue in this?

Becks: I don’t want to go home. I want to continue.

Me: Ben?

Ben: Yes, continue. We don’t give up.

Me: Alright, let’s press on to get our medals.

Ben & Becks: Continue! *with a glint in their eyes and smile on their face*

And so the decision was made. We continued to have a similar conversation in the rain at the 800m mark, the 1.6m water point and the 2.4km toilet break, and every time I would ask, “Shall we seek shelter? Can we take a break? Shall we wait till the rain becomes a lighter drizzle?” and the answer from my two determined children would still be the same.

“Let’s continue,” they would say. “Let’s not give up.”

And never did we stop once in our 5-km walk to hide from the rain or to rest our tired legs or to whine. Ben and Becks saw it as a chance of a lifetime to be indulging in free flow water play, and I saw that they were considerably cheerier as compared to the looks on their faces while we waited in the heat for the race to start.

They were happy to be skipping in the rain, wringing out water from their shirts and splashing in puddles.

Playing with raindrops at our toilet break near Palawan Beach

Playing with raindrops at our toilet break near Palawan Beach

My bag was soaked through and there would be no more dry clothes and towels, but was so glad I had a ziploc bag for my phone - hence this photo!

My bag was soaked through and there would be no more dry clothes and towels, but was so glad I had a ziploc bag for my phone – hence this photo!

The rain made being in the race uncomfortable physically for all of us but it lifted the spirits of these children.

Around the 1km slope uphill we also experienced kindness. A lady walked past us as we chanted “Never give up!” and swiftly removed the towel Ben had on his head with a beret she was wearing. Without saying a word, she waved goodbye and we were left to savour the act of kindness speechless in the rain.

What an awesome moment. Which I am sure would be remembered by Ben for a long time.

We also experienced kindness at the Sapphire Pavillion after the finish line from three lovely ladies who helped me protect my kids from the squashing and mayhem that was unfolding before our eyes as everyone pushed and shoved to collect their medals. Because it was still pouring and the only way to exchange our race bibs for our medals was in leylong style (the organisers should have thought of a more systematic way to queue, or maybe they did but everyone was in such dire need of shelter that they just kept packing the space resulting in the human jam), the kids and I were compressed by the people all around us till it got difficult to breathe. It was then we meet three friends who helped us out. Two of them formed a human cordon around my children and the last one grabbed our race bibs and edged forward to exchange for the medals on our behalf.

For that I remain forever grateful to the good Samaritans I met last morning.

Last morning, I was reminded of Philippians 3:14. We were literally pressing on towards the goal to reach for the prize.

Last morning, my children learned something that can never be taught by words nor bought by attending an enrichment class.

And we finished the race!

And we finished the race!

Last morning, they walked all 5km of a race from start to finish on their own. No strollers. No carrying. No breaks.

Last morning, they learned what it meant to never give up, and that the medal was every bit the prize they had worked hard for that they deserved.

It would have been otherwise difficult to learn this precious lesson had it not been for Hello Kitty and the rain that fell on us.

Our well-deserved medal!

Our well-deserved medal!

Disclosure: We were give media slots to participate in the Hello Kitty Run 2014. All opinions here are ours, including the lesson we learned and the exercise opportunity we gained. We endured wet clothes, shoes, socks and underwear to bring you this post. 

Going Out! Reading fun The Kao Kids

We met the Gruffalo!

October 25, 2014

We’ve not read Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo yet, simply because I know my kids are terrified of monsters. I know it’s a clever story, and I know it’s a story about a clever mouse more than anything else, really. But I don’t intend to have my kids worry about a terrifying creature while I’m reading them the story, so our favourite Julia Donaldson books for now are The Snail and the Whale and Room on a Broom.

Yet I couldn’t say no to the organisers of KidsFest 2015 when they invited the Kao kids for an interactive story-telling session of The Gruffalo, and to meet and greet him last week.

Because?

Because I haven’t really been able to carve out time to read to them these days, and mom guilt dictates that I bring them to the Volvo showroom for an afternoon of storytelling and fun.

And met the Gruffalo we did.

He wasn’t scary at all. To Ben, at least. He loved the story, and knew that at the end of it all, it’s Mouse who’s the hero in the book.

So the Gruffalo was this friendly creature who would pose for a picture with us whenever we requested!

So the Gruffalo was this friendly creature who would pose for a picture with us whenever we requested!

Becks was somewhat terrified and was unwilling to go near the “creature”. Nat was taking his nap when the story started so he missed seeing the Gruffalo-man. Till now, he thinks we’ve met “The Buffalo”.

I’ll just leave it as that till the younger ones are ready to handle a little bit more monstrous fun in their lives, and make it up with candy floss if they were frightened a wee bit by this encounter.

Candy floss happiness at the Volvo Showroom last Saturday

Candy floss happiness at the Volvo Showroom last Saturday

~~~

KidsFest is happening from 21 January 2015 to March 2015 (check schedule here), and tickets are on sale now from Sistic.

Expect an exciting festival for the whole family where compelling characters from stories are brought to life on stage as world-class theatre folks come to Singapore to bring world-class theatre to our young ones! I hear the Princess and her Pea, the Snail and the Whale, Hugless Douglas will all be coming. The Tiger‘s also coming for Tea, and so are the Ville Victorians and the Barmy Brits from Horrible Histories, together with some dinosaurs from Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo, as well as the Gruffalo himself!

Back for the 4th year: world-class theatre for the young ones Image source: http://www.kidsfest.com.sg/the-shows/

Back for the 4th year: world-class theatre for the young ones
Image source: http://www.kidsfest.com.sg/the-shows/

It’s going to be an exciting KidsFest next year!