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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!

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

We’re racing to the zoo, zoo, zoo – Safari Zoo Run 2016

January 17, 2016

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The littlest is 4 this year, which means we can *at last!* take part in the annual Safari Zoo Run! AND… we’re so thrilled that we don’t have to run run with the kids – like how we had to do 5-clicks for the Sundown Marathon last year with Ben. This year, we’ll participate in the Family Dash (going at 2.5km only!) which means we can all do it together quite effortlessly (I hope!), while being at one of our favouritest places in SG. We’ve been Friends of the Zoo for a few years now and it’s going to be special this year to be taking part in the Zoo Run as a family.

The Safari Zoo Run was conceived to commemorate Singapore Zoo’s famous matriarch and one of Singapore’s most loved animal personalities — Ah Meng the Sumatran orang utan, who died of old age in February 2008. But really, beyond remembering Ah Meng, it’s all about a time of family bonding, as well as raising awareness on wildlife conservation since portion of the proceeds from this year’s race will go towards aiding the conservation efforts of Singapore Zoo and Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Definitely supporting conservation. Which is the reason why we’ll always be Friends of the Zoo.

If you’re big on conservation, and love a workout with your family, book your slots here for the Zoo Run which happens over 2 days!

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Note that Junior Category is open for 13 to 17 years old and the Kids Category is for 4 to 12 years old.

RACE DETAILS
Date: 27 & 28 Feb 2016, Sat & Sun
Time: 730AM – 11AM
Venue: Singapore Zoo
Targeted no of runners: 16,000 pax (8,000 per day)
Website: http://safarizoo.run/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SafariZooRunSingapore

We’re dashing to the zoo, zoo, zoo… How about you, you, you?

All this blog's PR Stuff Food, glorious food! Going Out! Learning fun! Motherkao loves... Reviews The Kao Kids

Family Day Out at City Square Mall

December 27, 2015

If I could give out an award for the most family-friendly mall in the country, it has to be City Square Mall. I’m not just saying this because the kind folks from City Square Mall hosted us to a day out in November, but because every time I go to the mall (which is frequent enough), it’s like a one-stop for so many possibilities for every single one in the house. We’ve had lessons at Eye Level there since 2013, attended the ZooMoov launch party there, gone to Fun N Laughter for birthday parties, shopped at Babies ‘R’ Us for presents, ate at Food Republic, Astons, Swensen’s, Pasta Mania, Streats Hong Kong Cafe – all the food that the children liked, and chilled out for a cuppa at Delifrance and Starbucks when the kids were busy playing at a party or having lessons.

I really love this mall.

Like I was saying, the folks at the mall deepened my love for it even more when they hosted us for a family day-out last month and showed us even more things we could together as a family. It came at a time when I badly needed to spend quality time with my husband and children, and I am so grateful that I got to do that amidst the craziness at work.

First Stop: Art Jam for the Entire Family

I like the notion that we would be doing something so artistic (hurhurhur, like I am so in tune with my artsy self!) and yet so differentiated all at the same place. Which is what the entire hour (and a little more, I thought) was about at Global Art (04-23) to kickstart our Family Day Out. I had gotten my hands dirty and my nerves flustered once with acrylic painting – and then never tried it thereafter – so I was so glad that both the husband and I got the chance to learn the techniques step-by-step. What a difference a guided session makes. And how important it is to have a patient teacher, too.

Paying close attention to the teacher so we can model after her

Paying close attention to the teacher so we can model after her

Practising on paper first before starting on the canvas

Practising on paper first before starting on the canvas

Following the instructions on the task sheet and getting familiar with the palette knife

Following the instructions on the task sheet and getting familiar with the palette knife

And we started when we were ready!

And we started when we were ready!

Whilst the adults were busy learning the basics of acrylic painting, the Kao kids were equally engaged learning the techniques of colouring and shading with oil pastels, something I am grateful that they got to pick up. I am also impressed that teaching instructions and tasks were differentiated for Ben, Becks and Nat at our session at Global Art, and the kids were all engaged sufficiently.

It was crucial that the tasks were differentiated as each child was at a different skill level, and Global Art teachers made sure of that

It was crucial that the tasks were differentiated as each child was at a different skill level, and Global Art teachers made sure of that

All three of them of pressed on through the hour to complete their respective tasks.

Presenting the Kao Kids' masterpieces...

Presenting the Kao Kids’ masterpieces…

And so did Fatherkao and I!

And our completed flowers painted on canvas with acrylic paint!

And our completed flowers painted on canvas with acrylic paint!

Second stop: Flying on flavoured wings at Wingstop

When we were done with painting, our stomachs needed to be filled. Lunch was calling out to us in the form of wings. Chicken wings, that is. I thought the kids would be thrilled, but it turned out that I was more thrilled than them. This was like a dream come true, eating a buffet of flavourful, marinated wings and challenging my spice level at the same time. I thought Nene Chicken did it for me; but I’m happy to say Wingstop (B1-33) did more.

Did what?

Filled our tummies with American-style buffalo wings that contained too much goodness.

Warning: Drool-inducing pictures of food ahead First, the deliciousness of the salsa chips and fried mushrooms

Warning: Drool-inducing pictures of food ahead
First, the deliciousness of the salsa chips and fried mushrooms

And then they kept coming... This is Garlic Parmesan

And then they kept coming…
This is Garlic Parmesan

The Lemon Pepper and Louisiana Rub

The Lemon Pepper and Louisiana Rub

The Mango Hanebero

The Mango Hanebero

Teriyaki... And then my hands got too busy and too messy to be taking pictures

Teriyaki…
And then my hands got too busy and too messy to be taking pictures

Kids loved the Garlic Parmesan and Teriyaki, husband loved the Louisiana Rub and I loved the Mango Habanero best, although I also did challenge the Atomic.

Wingstop is all about “sauced and tossed, and made to order” chicken wings with 11 flavours to choose from – the first ten comes from the States: Original Hot, Cajun, Atomic, Mild, Teriyaki, Lemon Pepper, Hawaiian, Garlic Parmesan, Hickory Smoked BBQ and Louisiana Rub; and the 11th, the Oriental Soy Pepper is specifically made for the local market. It already is in 660 locations in the U.S; and this is its 2nd store in Singapore at City Square Mall. You have to absolutely try them to love them.

Nat loves the drumstick!

Nat loves the drumstick!

And this was me before I conquered the Atomic

And this was me before I conquered the Atomic

Third Stop: Becoming Baking Geniuses

All ready to bake

All ready to bake

When we were done with lunch, we proceeded to Genius R Us (07-07/08) for a time of mother-and-children bonding session. If you followed this blog since I first started, you would know I baked a fair bit with the kids and for the kids when I stayed home. Baking has always been therapeutic for me before the kids and when they were younger and could only assist in some tasks.

Unfortunately, I’ve become a little bit more OCD as the kids got older, and I’m quite sorry to say that I’m a pain in the neck when it comes to precision for measuring out ingredients, and becoming really, really fussy about mess.

So you can imagine me doing the happy dance inside when I learned that I would get to bake and not need to worry about cleaning up.

The Kao kids were really thrilled to be baking with Mama again, although I think the Mama three years ago (when we all started baking together) and the Mama now is very different; the former being more relaxed in the past and the latter now being a tad naggy. I had to constantly nag at the kids to listen to instruction, wait for me to help them with measurements and not break the eggs.

We're making ice cream cone pops today!

We’re making ice cream cone pops today!

My little bakers

My little bakers

My littlest baker

My littlest baker

And their ice cream cone pops

And their ice cream cone pops

Nonetheless, I think the kids did a terrific job despite their naggy mother. We had many cake pops to eat after that, and I had to nag them about hydration and pacing their chocolate intake. Well, the successful cake pops made everyone happy at least!

Last stop: Sweetness in Cocoa Heaven

Who was I kidding when I nagged about pacing chocolate intake with the cake pops? Our last stop was choco heaven and that was the most joyous part of the day for the kids. I think all nags from Mama was quickly thrown out of the window. Bring on the adrenaline, and the cocoa here at Cocoa Colony, is what they said.

And after the first few round of cocoa drinks, I succumbed too and asked for more.

Ordering our drinks...

Ordering our drinks…

From this list of Top 10 Faves at Cocoa Colony

From this list of Top 10 Faves at Cocoa Colony

And going 'wow' at all the desserts!

And going ‘wow’ at all the desserts!

We got to try the signature creations at Cocoa Colony (01-12) and learned about the history and origin of each cocoa gem in liquid form, solid form, gelato form and even powdered form. Cocoa Colony is a local company that believes in using quality cocoa in everything they make and sell, yet keeping prices affordable and accessible for everyone. That’s great news because the last time I went to another specialty cocoa place at the Esplanade some years ago, it dented my wallet a fair bit.

I’m hopeful now that we’ve all tried the deliciousness of the liquid gold that is cocoa in drinks, tasted it in gelato and savoured it in other forms like their Cocoa Bolas and chocolate bars at Cocoa Colony and can safely say that their avant garde cocoa isn’t any lesser in quality than the famous one we all know that’s moved to Vivo. I love the affordability at Cocoa Colony which gives me the option to try many more items on the menu.

We sampled the best cocoa in Cocoa Colony hot

We sampled the best cocoa in Cocoa Colony hot

...and cold

…and cold

I tried the pure cocoa in powder form

I tried the pure cocoa in powder form

And the kids couldn't stop savouring the gelato

And the kids couldn’t stop savouring the gelato

Oh well, cheers!

Oh well, cheers!

What a sweet, sweet end to the Family Day Out!

***

I couldn’t believe that I had spent ONE entire day doing so many things with the family, and that a mall with its family-friendly tenants provided this opportunity. All in all, it was a fruitful weekend well-spent with the family at City Square Mall, and I cannot say enough that it’s altogether impressive and convenient as a one-stop to do so many things!

Disclosure: We were invited to spend a day out with the family at City Square Mall and hosted by the kind people from the mall mentioned in this review. No monetary compensation was received and all opinions here are strictly our own.

***

LATEST EDIT: Cocoa Colony has since ceased operations at City Square Mall as of 2017. For a list of updated stores, visit their site here. The menu and drinks remain largely unchanged and are wonderful sweet treats to have to make your day, nonetheless.

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.

Family life as we know it Going Out! Happy days Holidays! The Kao Kids

Bangkok Living, Part 2 – Street Eats

December 3, 2015

I am making seasoned travellers out of my kids, doing the most untouristy things here in Bangkok (read about why we are here here). We’ve been here 4 days now and we’ve not eaten at a single restaurant nor visited a single tourist attraction (save Siam Paragon, which I went to, just to see how much the food hall’s changed).

We’re living in an apartment where cooking isn’t allowed, and so we are always searching for where to have breakfast, lunch and dinner. There’s a bustling street selling street food right in front of where we live, but we’ve not tried anything there yet. We’ve been hopping around on our friend’s car and he’s been taking us to where the REAL good food is.

I don’t think we will encounter any eating experience that can match what we’ve been experiencing so far if we lived in the greater BKK metropolis. I’d thought I’ve done enough street to get some street cred from the few times I’ve visited Bangkok, but those were in no way near what I’ve experienced on this trip.

And my kids. Oh, these kids. The transformation these 4 days have been pretty amazing. They’ve managed to morph from grumpy on Day 1, whining about no air con, the unbearable heat and dirty floors to becoming solidly adaptable, gamely trying anything I feed them by Day 3. I’m not sure if it’s because they see how much their mother eats at every turn she makes, or if it’s because of the generosity of my Bangkokian friend who made sure we get to try everything that’s good on the menu, or if it’s due to my repeated nagging about the value of taking the road less travelled and getting them NOT to think and act like self-entitled tourists, but I am sure the fact that the awesomely tasty food we’ve been ingesting so far helps A LOT in making them enjoy what they are eating now.

Nothing beats living like this, really.

~~~

*Warning: Salivation expected. Food pictures ahead.*

Over the last 3 days, we’ve had…

Duck

I’ve never tasted duck this good, soup that tasted so herb-y yet heavenly, and noodles that soaked up the savoury gravy this soft and chewy. This was duck noodles near Thong Lor.

This was the first thing I wanted to have - duck noodles.

This was the first thing I wanted to have – duck noodles. Soup version.

The story goes that many years ago, my friend posted a picture of this claypot duck noodles and declared it heavenly. I commented saying I wished I could try it. And many years later, I am FINALLY here. In other news, hello again, blood pudding.

Duck noodles. Claypot version. The story goes that many years ago, my friend posted a picture of this claypot duck noodles and declared it heavenly. I commented saying I wished I could try it. And many years later, I am FINALLY here.
In other news, hello again, blood pudding. I’ve never forgotten how you tasted since Yong Tau Foo days at Tiong Bahru market when I was 6.

Beef

This was refreshing as it was salty. A happy paradox, no less. I bet no one can tell this was beef just by looking at the second bowl.

This was a helluva kicka** beef noodles soup tucked in some corner of some Soi which I would never have known existed for 40 years. My friend's wife had this as a kid, and she says the taste hasn't changed.

This was a helluva kicka** beef brisket soup tucked in some corner of some Soi which I would never have known existed for 40 years. My friend’s wife had this as a kid, and she says the taste hasn’t changed.

This clear beef noodles soup so so so tasty. Kids had it with sugar added to the soup and liked it much.

This clear beef noodles soup was so so so tasty. Kids had it with sugar added to the soup and liked it much.

Thai coconut pancakes

These were piping hot when we got them and they were oozing creamy coconut sweetness in the mouth. These Thai coconut pancakes would be something I would miss so much – where can I find them in Singapore?

We bought this from a roadside stall for our breakfast and they were filled with yummy coconut goodness with spring onions and corn as surprises

We bought this from a roadside stall for our breakfast and they were filled with yummy coconut goodness with spring onions and corn kernels as surprises

Yong Tau Foo, Thai-style; and Green Curry

After tennis training yesterday, my friend brought us to this obscure lane with a stall that’s a gem on its own. It’s in Soi 32 of Ramkhamhaeng. I won’t be able to tell how to get there as it’s clearly untouristy, right in the midst of terrace houses, a pebble-filled open space and lots of trees and motorbikes BUT it was a satisfying eating experience here through and through.

The short walk from car to stall along a dusty road

The short walk from car to stall along a dusty road

Who would have known such good food can be tucked here?

Who would have known such good food can be tucked here?

This is where deliciousness begins

This is where deliciousness begins

The spice line-up

The spice line-up

Granite seating and "landscaped" view

Granite seating and “landscaped” view

Typical fare on the tables – coconut kueh-like dessert and fried pork lard

And this was what we ate:

This is Thai style seafood yong tau foo with the sweet sauce and chilli sauce mixed. Kids had it in sweet.

This is Thai style seafood yong tau foo with the sweet sauce and chilli sauce mixed. Kids had it in sweet.

The most authentic green curry I've ever had in my life. I could breathe in the variety of herbs and chillis used and by golly, this was VERY spicy!

The most authentic green curry I’ve ever had in my life. I could breathe in the variety of herbs and chillis used and by golly, this was VERY spicy!

Thank God for this Pandan jelly drink to wash away the spice!

Thank God for this Pandan jelly drink to wash away the spice!

I hear you can only find this brand in the area where the locals are. Well, at least this girl's cute face ain't too difficult to remember.

I hear you can only find this brand in the area where the locals are. Well, at least this girl’s cute face ain’t too difficult to remember.

Dessert for sale

Dessert for sale

We bought some desserts home and the total cost of everything we ate and drank and bought (which included a packet of banana chips, 4 packets of sugar-coated nuts and coconut milk jelly) amounted to 375 baht. The Singaporean in me gasped for all the money I’ve ever spent on horrible foodcourt food.

I ate myself happy every meal. I think the kids did too. It has been nothing but. Enriching. Awesome. Tasty.

This Bangkok living.

And this is only the first week!

——-

Also in this series: Bangkok Living, Part 1 – Tennis in Bangkok

Family life as we know it Happy days Holidays! The Kao Kids

Bangkok Living, Part 1 – Tennis in Bangkok

December 3, 2015

When we wanted Ben to pick up a sport, he was most undecided. For a while, he liked everything. Golf? Yes! Badminton? Yes! Tennis? Yes! Soccer? Yes! Basketball? Yes! Swimming? Yes! Anything? Yes!

So earlier in the year, Ben picked up swimming and went for swim class weekly. Unfortunately, he was always sneezing in the frigid waters of the cold, cold pool and falling ill quite a bit after his swim class every week so we decided to stop the classes when we moved to the west.

Which brought us back to square one again after that. He still couldn’t tell us what he really wanted to learn when we asked. Don’t ask me why I am big about my boys picking up a sport; I just think it will do their athletic genes injustice if they were to learn a musical instrument instead of a sport first.

But this time round, his father made the decision for him, told him little of his plans and flew the entire family away on a one-way ticket to Thailand – which explains why we are here now in Bangkok. He’s started Ben on tennis training here with a Thai coach and we are gonna be holed up here for the next 3 weeks.

And were we glad that after the first session, the coach (Koo Dai, as Ben calls him; literally Coach Turtle) assessed Ben and concluded that he had potential in the sport and amazing concentration for a 6-year-old. So instead of packing up and coming home (which we would, should he tell us to give it up, that’s why the one-way ticket), we’ve booked 3 weeks worth of intensive training every morning with him so that Ben gets the right footing in terms of the correct techniques in the game.

He’s a new slate, we didn’t know who’s good in Singapore and he needs to be taught the right habits for the sport -practically sums up why we are here with Dai because he came highly recommended by my good friend who lives here.

Tennis training begins here daily at 06:00

Tennis training begins here daily at 06:00

Ben in action

Ben in action

For the rest of us, we are going to be living and eating the way of the locals and immersing ourselves in Thai culture (and Thai TV). We are staying in the outskirts and having our fill of authentic Thai street food and the horrible Bangkok jams.

And just in case you think it’s a nice three-week vacation, nope, sorry.

Brought all our curriculum work, school work, business work to do

Brought all our curriculum work, school work, business work to do

Sawadeekha.

All this blog's PR Stuff Everyday fun! Reviews The Kao Kids

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

LEGOCity 04

LEGOCity 05

LEGOCity 06

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.

All this blog's PR Stuff Happy days Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

The Friso Play Experience, Kao Kids Style

September 21, 2015

I shared a while ago we’ve cut our living space and moved. Which also meant that prior to the move, we threw/ donated / recycled / left downstairs (for garang guni aunties and uncles of our previous neighbourhood to scour, hurhurhur) truckloads of stuff.

Boy, did we have A LOT of stuff. Toys and books and playsets and bath things that everyone has outgrown. Clothes that we would never wear. DVDs that we would never watch. STUFF that we would never use.

So the kids were feeling a little trodden by the month-long throwing out.

And it was nice to have the good folks from Friso come a-knockin’ our way last week, telling us they will be placing this right smack in the middle of our place. Which, of course, made the kids extremely thrilled. You mean, we can have new things to play with? was the first thing that crossed their mind.

Frios Play Set

More details on how you can redeem this, or experience this, at the end of the post

Yes, apparently so. Thanks to Friso Singapore, who’s all very keen to get children to experience PLAY, Nat, our littlest, together with the older two kids, had a chance to play – and play a lot indeed – with the Friso Experiences Play Set, consisting of a Friso tent, a Friso slide with basketball and hoop (in blue or pink), a Friso storage box with 2 cushions and a green carpet à la astro turf (a rather big piece, I must say).

So this was how Nat played:

When the play set first arrived, Nat was stoked to see something he was familiar with outdoors but not indoors. So off to the slide he went. We laid out the artificial grass, put the slide with basketball hoop on top of it, and the small spongy green ball given was quickly exchanged for a real junior basketball (because, really, you’re talking about Nat here) and here, you see the pro at play:

Ready, set, play!

Ready, set, play!

There really isn't any rules to slide and dunk, right?

There really isn’t any rules to slide and dunk, right?

The next day, I saw my older two join in the fun. Ben and Becks have been told that the slide is not suitable for older children and might not take their weight. But clearly, it became nevermind, Mom, we can get really creative, because it doesn’t mean we have to physically slide down a slide to have fun:

Making some obstacle course-ball-sliding down-but-won't-make-too-much-of-a-din-and-mama-will-be-happy kind of thing 'play'

Making some obstacle course-ball-sliding down-but-won’t-make-too-much-of-a-din-and-mama-will-be-happy kind of thing ‘play’

How creative are my kids? Oh, so very. They are always ‘inventing’ things like that. The slide with the chairs and stools in the house, plus pillows and wooden sticks from the tent have seen more than 5 combinations already to make some “super machines” since the play set came. I’m just waiting for them to turn the slide upside down and discover a whole new world.

A few days later, I heard a great deal of swooshing and whooshing in the living room, and when I headed out, I was tickled by what Nat was doing, completely with commentary F1 broadcast teams would be proud:

It's time for.... HOT WHEELS!

It’s time for…. HOT WHEELS!

Cars down the slide, here we come!

Cars down the slide, here we come!

The pictures I took were posed versions with cars, obviously. When I spied him with my little eye without my camera, this boy was racing four cars at once.

That weekend, we also brought the tent to Grandma’s place to try “camping” out. Ok, I have to say that the tent is a tad small for 3 children, so…

First, the kids tried to fit in the tent...

First, the kids tried to fit into the tent…

Next, get comfortable

Next, they got comfortable

Ok, how about let's do dinner here? Oops, no space!

Ok, how about let’s do dinner here? Oops, no space!

So much for camping. They had fun, nonetheless, trying to make the tent work. I suspect if you throw them more rods and cloth, they might end up constructing a super tent big enough to fit the extended family, Grandma and Grandpa included.

So this was how the Kao kids did it with the Friso Play Set – play their own creative way!

***

Friso wishes to encourage parents to experience more together by engaging in creative play with their little ones. From 1 September 2015 to 31 October 2015, parents who spend $350 on any Friso participating products at participating retailers will receive the Friso Experiences Play Set (worth $300). It will consist of a tent, a slide with a basketball hoop, 2 cushions, a storage box and a green carpet so that parents can bring the outdoors into their homes and experience more together with their child.

The participating Friso products included in this promotion are Frisomum, Friso Gold Cereal and Friso Gold 2, 3, 4. It excludes all infant formula for 0-6 months.

There will also be a special Friso Experience Play Zones at FairPrice outlets and Sheng Siong outlets. Parents are invited to take pictures with their little ones at the play zones. Friso ambassadors will be on-site to snap photos, print it out and present it in a Friso Photo frame to the participants during the weekends.

The outlets for the Play Zones are:

  1. FP Xtra Jem Mall — 1 to 30 Sept
  2. FP Xtra AMK Hub — 1 to 30 Sept
  3. FP Xtra Sport Hub — 1 to 30 Sept
  4. FP Xtra Nex Mall — 7 to 30 Sept
  5. FP Xtra Jurong — 1 to 30 Sept
  6. FP East Point — 14 to 30 Sep
  7. Guardian Plus Takshimaya — 17 to 30 Sep
  8. Guardian Compass Point (B1) — 17 to 30 Sept
  9. Guardian Causeway Point (B3-4) —28 Sep to 4 Oct
  10. Sheng Siong Woodlands 6A — 1 to 31 Oct
  11. Sheng Siong Bedok 209 — 1 to 31 Oct

Find more details here: apps.facebook.com/frisoexperience or follow Friso on their FB Page for more info.

***

“Play is a drive, a need, a brain-building must-do.” – Jeff A Johnson & Denita Dinger (Let them play: an early learning (un)curriculum)

Disclosure: We received the play set from Friso to play. The kids played. I watched. We bonded.  All opinions here are our own.

All this blog's PR Stuff Ben Kao Happy days Milestones and growing up The real supermom

Sundown with love, running at sundown with my loves

July 10, 2015

I wanted to give up long before race day. There were more than enough reasons to anyway.

I needed to focus on work and cancel out any distraction.  There were processes to settle, curriculum to prepare and ideas to incubate. I didn’t have time to train (except for the five calories-burning sessions at Active Hive – another post on that soon). My husband, who was taking part in the Sundown Marathon with me, was not well for a long while with a phlegmy cough that didn’t go away. Ben had been having the sniffles too with his sensitive nose acting up a lot these days.

But a commitment is a commitment is a commitment. I said I’d do the 5km Fun Run for Sanctuary House, which I’ve been attempting to canvass donations for.

When Race Day arrived – and we were supposed to report at 7pm – I was already totally exhausted from being at work 6 hours earlier in the day. Fatherkao had a headache and popped two panadols that evening. The only one raring to go was Ben. And I had two other whining, unhappy, digruntled children who wouldn’t give me a break with their incessant grumblings about why they had to stay home with the helper. Not even TV helped.

But still we went, because a commitment is a commitment is a commitment, and boy, were we glad we did. That cool, lovely evening on 4 July totally made it to one of the high points of my year.

It was beautiful to be running at sundown.

The sunset view from Fatherkao's phone camera

The sunset view from Fatherkao’s phone camera

Add to that, the thoughtful organisers timed the Fun Run flag off to coincide with the fireworks from the NDP Rehearsal. We stopped after 1 km, stood by the Singapore River facing the Fullerton, and took in the breathtaking sights of the fireworks display before our eyes. Absolutely spectacular.

How close did we come ti soak in this spectacular sight?

How close did we come to soak in this spectacular sight?

This close. What a treat for the run!

This close. What a treat for the run!

And then being able make it to the half way mark with my firstborn – holding hands, encouraging him to press on, and sometimes looking at him from the back (yes, he got ahead of his very exhausted Mama) and thanking God that I have been blessed with lovely, healthy children.

Had this picture of the boys' back edited as a sketch because it's more poignant that way. I want to give thanks for the fact that in front of me ran two healthy boys!

Had this picture of the boys’ back edited as a sketch because it’s more poignant that way. I want to give thanks for the fact that in front of me ran two healthy boys!

And also extremely grateful that my husband, who hates running very much, was doing this with us with nary a grumble, encouraging Ben and me along the way, and teaching my firstborn some of life’s precious lessons. Overheard many times was the father telling the son to press on, not give up and reach for our goal. There were so many precious bonding moments no amount of money can buy.

When we held hands and made it through the finish line, it was touching to see the look of pride my son had on his face. That beaming, proud face after experiencing his first 5km-run. That look that says he’s grown up a little more after that evening.

Just the 3 of us

Just the 3 of us

Ben's well-deserved medal!

Ben’s well-deserved medal!

We had a lovely night after the run, being hosted by the organisers for dinner at the VIP tent, and talking a nice long walk to the MRT station talking about the events of the day and what the run was like for us. It was really, really nice to be walking hand in hand – just the three of us – like we were the best of friends and it was a beautiful and special moment for our firstborn too. I want to be doing this some time soon with Becks and then with Nat. I think that would be equally incredible.

Thank you, OSIM and Hivelocity, for the invitation to join the Sundown Marathon as a Sundown with Love Ambassador. We received more love that day than we could give.

Donations for Sanctuary House via the Sundown with Love platform closes 31 July 2015. If you could show a little love, click this link.

Disclosure: We were invited to be social influencers for the OSIM Sundown Marathon. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions here are our own.

Going Out! Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

Of bouncy dreams and masak masak (ft. ZoomPark & National Museum of Singapore)

June 19, 2015

Holidays are stuff that dreams are made of. No fixed routines. No schedules. No rush.

At least for now.

I’ve made it the goal of this year’s March, June and September holidays that the kids play and play only. Apart from the older kids’ Chinese home tuition, I promised myself that they would not get any sit-down-with-mama-and-let’s-do-some-work sessions because this is pretty much the very last year Ben is gonna be a preschooler. Which makes it pretty much a very, very precious year for all my pre-schooling children to be having fun with one another with no other demands on their time and no other expectations on their lives. We all know how life starts to get hectic and time becomes a little more screwed up and messed up when a child makes his foray into the formal education scene, and whilst we are all bracing ourselves for the new journey to come – first for Ben next year – we are so not looking forward it.

These are golden years, my babies. Play and go wild as much as you want.

~~~

So during the March holidays (yes, I’m backtracking here a bit!), we had the time of our lives at this place:

ZoomPark 03

Bouncing up and down, left and right

ZoomPark 04

Slam-dunkin’

ZoomPark 05

Shooting a basket

ZoomPark 06

Aiming for the sky

ZoomPark 07

Rock climbing

ZoomPark 09

Racing to aim and throw

It was the wildest we ever got to do as a family. Not even Legoland was this wild.

Think non-stop bouncing, with Mom and Dad, and getting a seriously serious workout.

This is ZoomPark Asia (200 Pandan Gardens, #01-14, Singapore 609336 | Tel: 6334-4615). The healthy, bouncy folks there tell me that 10 minutes of being on a trampoline is equivalent to 30 minutes of jogging.

You bet I was jumping hard at this mega trampoline park. If we didn’t live so far, I would have made it a weekly affair to get a workout here.

ZoomPark 08

Takes a lot of hand, feet and eye coordination, this one

ZoomPark 10

Gives a whole new meaning to peng-san!

ZoomPark 12

Resting on foam blocks after free falling from the rock climbing

ZoomPark 11

We were bouncing alongside Sengkang Babies!

~~~

This June, we signed up as members of the zoo and River Safari again – because my children love the outdoors and animals! – and I had them direct their own homelearning about koalas after our visit to the koalas at the zoo.

Have you met Chan, Idalia, Paddle and Pellita yet? We don't know who's who though!

Have you met Chan, Idalia, Paddle and Pellita yet? We don’t know who’s who though!

Someone's awake!

Someone’s awake!

We kept really quiet in there, because the koalas were sleeping!

We kept really quiet in there, because the koalas were sleeping!

Koala plush mania!

Koala plush mania!

Kids decide what they want to do, and Mama prints them all from free printables online

Kids decide what they want to do, and Mama prints them all from free printables online

Colouring begins!

Colouring begins!

Finding out what eucalyptus smells like

Finding out what eucalyptus smells like

Koalafun 04

Making a koala enclosure and painting the leaves they picked

Wa la! Koala mask ready, koala mazes done and koala enclosure ready for visit!

Wa la! Koala mask put on, koala mazes done and koala enclosure ready for visit!

~~~

We also paid a visit earlier in June to the National Museum of Singapore where Children Season is back, and checked out the inspiring and interactive exhibits at Masak Masak 2015.

Masak Masak 2015 features familiar playgrounds and interactive installations by Singaporean and international artists at the National Museum of Singapore

Masak Masak 2015 features familiar playgrounds and interactive installations by Singaporean and international artists at the National Museum of Singapore

Becks and Nat doing a cute couple pose. The kids were super excited.

Becks and Nat doing a cute couple pose. The kids were super excited.

Spectrum of Paper by Mademoiselle Maurice (France): Step into a rainbow wonderland at the Rotunda and immerse yourselves in a kaleidoscope of colourful, suspended origami boats and planes!

Spectrum of Paper by Mademoiselle Maurice (France): Step into a rainbow wonderland at the Rotunda and immerse yourself in a kaleidoscope of colourful, suspended origami boats and planes!

Navigating the maze that is Wanderlust, made completely from crepe paper

Navigating the maze that is Wanderlust by Crystal Wagner (USA), made completely from crepe paper

Stamping fun with the iconic masak masak stamps

Stamping fun with the iconic masak masak stamps

Making patterns and lots of noise

Making patterns and lots of noise

Playing the eraser flag game, just that this one ain't erasers but giant cushion flags!

Playing the eraser flag game, just that this one ain’t erasers but giant cushion flags!

Making our own shadow puppet

Making our own shadow puppet

Ben's little squirrel wants to join the fun

Ben’s little squirrel wants to join the fun

Becks' little rabbit ready for shadow play

Becks’ little rabbit ready for shadow play with the backdrop of Jeremy Hiah’s (Singapore) Queen of the Forest

And off she goes behind the screen to tell her own story!

And off she goes behind the screen to tell her own story!

Simple Pleasures in Life by Jeanette Aw (yep, the local artiste - didn't know she was so talented)

Simple Pleasures in Life by Jeanette Aw (yep, the local artiste – didn’t know she was so talented), which is apt indeed, because the simple pleasures in life are made of these: adding colours to our lives

The kids had their doodling dream and major graffiti fantasy come true at this installation

The kids had their doodling dream and major graffiti fantasy come true at this installation

Opposite the colouring board is a huge black board which bids you come scratch it with all your might. A colourful background unveils. Ben is loving this - and also the fact the sound drives me nuts.

Opposite the colouring board is a huge black board which bids you come scratch it with all your might. A colourful background unveils. Ben is loving this – and also the fact the sound drives me nuts.

But none was as fun and wild as doing this:

Weeee!

Weeee!

Sliding fun at the bouncy version of the Dragon Playground

Sliding fun at the bouncy version of the Dragon Playground

And then again on the Elephant version

And then again on the Elephant version

Again and again!

Again and again!

And then climbing through the Watermelon one...

And then climbing through the Watermelon one…

Before taking a rest on the wooden carousel swings with Momolato popsicles with real fruit inside

Before taking a rest on the wooden carousel swings with Momolato popsicles with real fruit inside

These brought back so many childhood memories for me, and I am glad the next generation is getting acquainted with them albeit in a different way.

If you love to museum-hop or love being in the museums, Children Season is really the best thing that happens every June.

~~~

Hope your holidays have been as swell as ours so far!