Friday, December 02, 2016

Preparing for Primary One - inculcating life skills

My little big one is heading to Primary 1 officially in about a month’s time. As shared in this post, we had actually started preparing her early. Kiasu? Nah… more like worried parents who want their little darling to be mentally, emotionally and physically prepared. 

In our last post, we shared about inculcating values. Today, let us share a little about what we have done to inculcate life skills.

Establishing a routine and setting a timetable together
Establishing a routine is essential, and this is something that EV and I have been doing together for over a year now. I get her involved in planning out her activities for the day and for the week. Other than her designated school and homework time, she designates her free time with her favourite colour, pink. 

This, I tell her, is when she can have her ‘quiet time’, which has to come only after she has finished her homework, whether at our home, or at her grandfather’s home. She can do whatever she wants during this period, whether it’s read or play. 

The only activity that is not allowed is any activity that has to do with a screen. Yup, I keep quite a tight reign on my kids’ screen times. All for good reasons - to protect their eyes, to develop their focus and to encourage face-to-face communication. So usually, they either get no screen time, or they get about 30 minutes of screen time a day, the most. And by screen time, I mean anything that has a screen, TV and mobile included. 

P1 Timetable 2

This is an example of a timetable EV and I did together for this year. AA has his own version too. We usually do them on the computer using Excel, print it out, then put it up in a prominent place, for example her bedroom and the living room. So far, she’s been quite diligent to follow the timetable. Of course, she doesn’t always follow it exactly; there are days when she does slack a bit. However, overall, she has reached an understanding that she must do her homework first before she gets her ‘quiet time’. And that, I think, will put her in a good stead when she heads to formal education.

This month, we’ll have to work together to prepare her timetable for next year. I’m glad to say that she’s quite excited about it.

Managing money 
‘Money money money, must be funny.’ Eh… not really. Not when you’re dealing with a little tiny being.

A while ago, DaddySay and I started discussing with EV about needs and wants, and guiding her in distinguishing what is a need and what is a want. We hope that with this knowledge, she can make wiser decisions when spending money, and not just do so without thinking.

Which brings us to an important part about managing money and making healthy money choices. Three key habits come to mind: saving for the future, sharing with others and having a spending plan.

P1 Money box

We have a coin box from Daiso with several slots. We allocated some slots for each day of the week; this is where the daily pocket money goes. Then there are two other slots for Saving and Sharing. 

When EV receives her pocket money, she decides how much she wants to save, how much she wants to set aside for charity. She is also asked how much she plans to spend. Through this, she learns to set aside a certain percentage of her pocket money for saving, sharing and spending.

At the same time, she also learns to plan for her spending, understanding how to compare her intended expenses to her available pocket money, thereby deciding whether what she wants to spend money on is a need or a want, and then finally deciding whether to spend the money.

Here are two resources which I’ve found useful in coming up with ideas to teach financial literacy to EV: Making Smart Money Choices and Budget Basics. Best part, they are free!

Telling Time
This is quite crucial, so that EV is aware of the value of time, and how much time she has spent on doing a particular activity. At home, we use the analog clock and the digital clock to teach her how to tell the time. 

P1 Time

We also use Kumon books to help her. These colourful books teach the skill of time telling step by step, with each step increasing in complexity. The activities are repetitive, so that the kids’ skills are honed well. I think that the fact that the graphics in the Kumon book are so colourful and well designed, it makes it more interesting for kids to do the activities. EV does like doing these activities and it boosts her confidence; she is usually  so motivated that she wants to do them again and again. 

Packing her own stuff
This year, she had to bring her own pencil box and purse to school, as preparation for Primary 1. To teach her to take care of her own things, we also get her to arrange and tidy up her own study table every time she finishes doing her homework. She also has to clean up after herself every time she reads or plays during her quiet time.

In addition, she needs to pack her own bags. For our day to day outings, she has a little sling bag that she uses to put her water bottle, jacket and maybe a book or two. For our recent holiday, we got EV to think of what she needed for the trip, from clothes, to toiletries, to her own reading books. She gathered everything together, and then put them in her little back pack, which she needed to take responsibility of. 

Of course, there are a lot more life skills that EV needs to learn and hone as she grows up. These that I’ve listed here are just some basic crucial skills we think are important to help her in her Primary 1 journey. Definitely, DaddySay and myself will be there every step of the way to help her, in her Primary 1 journey and beyond.

Do check out our earlier Preparing for Primary One Series, and do stay tuned for more.

Preparing for Primary One

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Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

9 (plus 1) pocket-friendly holiday activities under $50

Yey!!! The holidays are upon us again! It’s coming up next week. If you are, like me, looking for some wallet-friendly ways to entertain the kids, and letting them learn something at the same time, I’ve got recommendations for 9 non-academic holiday activities.

Nature Exploration @ Singapore Botanic Gardens
Singapore Botanic Gardens

This is our long-time favourite. Holiday activities range from 1-hour storytelling sessions, tours or craft & drama sessions costing just $6 per child, to 4-hour ‘Celebrating WildLife’ workshops at $50 per child. This holiday, kids attending the these workshops can learn about freshwater streams & ponds, birds of the night and creepy crawlies. 
And if the kids are not tired after the sessions, and you want to do something more exciting, have a little picnic by the Swan Lake where the kids can run amok, or head to Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden. Find out more or register here

Science Fun @ Lollipops
Lollipops

Another of our favourites, and we always keep an eye on what they have to offer. For December, kids can learn about life sciences and be ‘Little Doctors’, learn about the science in cooking while making lollipops and edible glass, or learn all about dinosaurs in three sessions. The classes are conducted at various community centres across the island, and prices range between $38 and $50. The 3-day Dinosaur workshop costs between $114 and $130. Members enjoy the cheaper rates. Suitable for kids aged 5 to 10 years old.
Find out more about Lollipops activities here.
Or head to the OnePA site and search for ‘Lollipops’.

Explore Science @ EJ Creators
EJ Creators

There are more cost effective courses through the OnePA site, like the ones by EJ Creators. They are holding three types of courses - Amazing Fun to learn about robotics and logical thinking, Eco Kids to learn about to learn about the environment and recycling, and The Fairy Lamp to learn about electronics and have some hands-on experience with light bulbs, batteries and circuits. Prices range between $18 and $23. Suitable for kids aged 5 to 8. Find out more by heading to the OnePA site and searching for ‘EJ Creators’.

Explore STEM @ Bricks 4 Kidz
Bricks 4 Kidz

Some of you might be familiar with Bricks 4 Kidz, which is located at Safra Toa Payoh and Turf City, and focuses on imparting engineering, mechanics and architecture knowledge using LEGO and DUPLO bricks. Holiday workshops at their Toa Payoh branch ranges between $190 and $580. This holiday, however, the folks at Bricks 4 Kidz are bringing two holiday programmes to community centres. These are Despicable Brick Minions, during which kids will create their own minion story with mosaics, create their favourite 3D characters and motorized models. The other workshop is Interesting Inventions, where kids will learn the difference between an invention and a discovery, learn how inventions solve problems, find out how inventors get their ideas patented and even be challenged to invent something or improve something to solve a problem. Prices range between $35 and $58, and the workshops are suitable for kids aged between 5 to 10 years old. Find out more by heading to the OnePA site and searching for ‘Bricks 4 Kidz’.

Science Exploration @ KidsSTOP
Science Centre

Some nice activities here about chemistry, environment and physics. The chemistry workshop looks quite interesting, as the kids will also get to make their own bath salts, while honing their inquiry and investigation skills. Even more intriguing is the physics workshop called Spring Fling Junior. Kids get to play with springs and rubber bands and attempt to make their own toys out of these basic materials. Prices are at $45 for each 2.5-hr workshop, and there are different sessions for different age groups, ranging between 4 and 8 years. Find out more about KidsSTOP activities here.

Chinese art exploration @ InnoArt
InnoArt

Both my kids have been going for holiday art classes elsewhere, and this time, I thought it would be nice if I infuse a little Chinese culture into their holiday programme. What I like about the programme at InnoArt is its flexibility. Kids can sign up for half-day sessions, or even 5-day sessions. Or kids can mix and match several half-day sessions to be exposed to different art forms. Just tell the folks which day or days your kids will be joining. Half day (am) is from 10-12pm and costs $50, while half day (pm) is from 1.30-5.30pm and costs $90. There are different classes for ages 4 to 8 years and 8 to 16 years. Find out more about InnoArt activities here.

Craft and bake @ Spur Box
Spur Box
How about an all-in-one storytime, baking and crafting session, for just $40? The folks at Spur Box have created several Christmas themed Junior Gourmet session where kids between the ages of 2 and 12 years old can listen to stories, bake and craft. Some of these include the Cocoa Logcake session, where kids can listen to the story of The Little Christmas Elf, bake a chocolate log cake and craft and elf key chain. Those who head to the Snowman Cakepops session will listen to the tale of Frosty the Snowman, make cake pops and a snowman craft. Find out more about Spurbox activities here.

Sports activities @ ActiveSG
ActiveSG

Want to expose the kids to a plethora of sports activities? ActiveSG has a range of sporting activities such as aquatics, archery, snorkelling, kayaking and ultimate frisbee. There’s even an opportunity to get behind the scenes and find out all about the operation of a public swimming pool and the job of a life guard.
And if you are a Singapore citizen or permanent resident, as well as an ActiveSG member, you can use ActiveSG dollars to offset up to 30% of the programme fees. Find out more about ActiveSG activities here

Bouncing Fun @ Beary Fun Gym
BearyFun Gym

Get more trampoline fun and brush those trampoline skills with a 2-hour guided programme at Beary Fun Gym’s Changi outlet. For $30 per session, kids 4 to 10 years old get 1 hour guidance on those jumping skills, and 1 hour of free play. If you prefer for your kids to have better gymnastics skills, then the Bukit Batok branch has a similar 2-hour guided programme which focuses on fitness circuits, parachute games and manipulative games, for just $30 per session. Find out more about Beary Fun Gym activities hereOr check out Beary Fun Gym’s Facebook page.

Speech & Drama @ Magic Moments
Magic Moments
So far, many speech & drama holiday courses that I’ve come across cost at least a couple hundred dollars. Imagine my surprise when I found something that cost just $100 for a 3-hour programme over 4 days! Ok, granted, that isn’t exactly less than $50, as this post’s title says. However, if you do the calculation, the average price per day is only about $25. I think that’s extremely economical. This holiday programme is conducted in both English and Mandarin, across several community centres and is suitable for kids aged 4 to 8 years old. Find out more by heading to the OnePA site and searching for ‘Magic Moments’.

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Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Letter to EV: Longing

Dear darling,

"There's a sad sort of clanging from the clock in the hall and the bells in the steeple too.
And up in the nursery an absurd little bird is popping out to say 'cuckoo'."

You are familiar with these lyrics. They are from the song So Long Farewell, from one of our favourite musicals, Sound of Music. 

No no, this absolutely has nothing to do with goodbye.

Well, not really.

As you are saying goodbye to your kindergarten years in a few days’ time, and saying hello to primary school education in slightly over a month’s time, mummy is facing a wave of mixed emotions.

Some of these emotions, I shared about here, in another letter to you.

As the last days of your kindergarten years draw near, as you’ve confidently, and wonderfully danced your heart out during your graduation concert, as you head to your primary school orientation, one feeling reigns dominant.

The feeling of longing.

Longing for my darling to continue enjoying your kindergarten years. Longing for my darling not to start real education or face the stress or pressure that might most likely come with it. Longing for you to always stay happy and bright. Longing for you to never grow up. Longing for time to stand still so that you always stay my little darling. 

I think back to the first days you were born, how you charmed everyone with your bright smile. I loved the way you got into a ‘milk coma’ after drinking milk. I loved hearing your laugh, and watching you suddenly wake up from your sleep the moment you heard the Taiwanese drama serial theme song ‘我问天’. You were really so adorable.

I think back to our first family trip to Hong Kong, how we dined (but not wined) at The Peak Cafe. It was such an overwhelming experience for me. Years ago, when I was younger and used to fly back to Hong Kong to visit your great-grandparents, your great-grandparents used to drive all the way up the windy road to The Peak (then, the Peak was really just a park, with no shopping centre) and we would all have afternoon tea there. Then, The Peak was a peaceful, quiet getaway that the family enjoyed. 

I remember you diligently colouring some cardboard and putting them on your head, as a hat. I remember you painting little egg cartons and making grapes. 

I remember you dancing in front of a mirror in your aunty’s room. You were so cute as you danced, oblivious that your aunt was taking a video of you. Yup, my darling, there’s proof of your cuteness. :)

I remember your first day at your kindergarten. You were so brave and didn’t shed a single tear. Perhaps it’s because you had spent one year in a playgroup before, hence you didn’t feel afraid in a school environment. But you were so independent, and even got on the school bus yourself. Well, mummy sounds so calm recounting this, but did you know that I was a nervous wreck then? I was so worried about you, wondering whether you’d cope. Whether you’ll be able to take the school bus by yourself. Did you know that while you were getting up the bus, mummy and daddy were hiding behind the bushes, and then we rushed home so that we can be there to receive you when your bus reaches? 

Yup, mummy may look calm on the surface, but honestly, I’m shaking inside. I’m a worried wreck, and the fact that your primary school orientation is just around the corner isn’t helping. On that day, you’ll be introduced to your form teachers and perhaps get a few hours’ experience of what primary school life might be like. But I suppose it will be a far cry from what it might really be like come January. Till then, there’s so much to be done: purchasing books and a proper school bag that won’t weigh you down; purchasing necessary stationary; labelling and wrapping your books; purchasing school shoes and so on and so on. Yup, I’m getting worried just thinking about the list of things that has to be done. At least we got your uniform settled.

You know, you have made mummy so proud. Your independence, you looking out for your younger brother and your friends, your gentleness. Though you may be whiny at times, those times when you show understanding catches me by surprise and really shows me your big heartedness.

Most of all, I can’t bear to see you end your pre-school years and enter primary school. It’s a sign that you are growing up, and I just don’t want you to grow up. I love your child-like ways and I long for you to stay that way always.

Don’t want you to start real school so soon, and to always stay my little darling.

Love,
Mummy

Graduation

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Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you. 

Monday, November 07, 2016

Impressions: Linksys EA9500 Wi-Fi Router

Disclaimer: I was invited to the Linksys product launch. No monetary compensation was received. All images and opinions are my own, unless otherwise stated.

A while ago, I was invited to and attended the launch of the new Linksys EA9500 Wi-Fi Router. Was I excited! Having worked with similar brands in my previous job, this is one area that I am extremely familiar with. I simply had to go.

It didn't hurt that the event was held at the 30th floor of the new South Beach Tower. If some of you are wondering where it is, it's the new development opposite Suntec City. It was a good opportunity to check the new place out. I stepped out of the MRT and already, I could feel that the vibes were different. I missed the vibes of the CBD. If not for practical and family reasons, I think I would still be where the action is. 

Anyway, I was early so I checked out the latest news about the primary school leaving examination 30 stories above ground level. Hahaha, it was a rather fun and surreal feeling. But the excitement of the night was yet to come.

The evening event was a cosy gathering of tech, lifestyle and parenting bloggers. Now you must wonder, what does parenting have to do with a router?? Lots, as I found out throughout the night that was filled with food and wine. 

Let me share my impressions of the Linksys router, and some features that impressed me.

Linksys

In terms of looks, the router is a no brainer. Honestly, it looks just like any other router. It is what's inside that impressed. Imagine, a Smart Wi-Fi app where set up, control and trouble shooting can be done, even while accessing it remotely.

Smart Wi Fi home screen
Credit: Linksys

A media prioritisation map that allows the user to set streaming priority to different devices or applications.

Media prioritization
Credit: Linksys

And, a network map that gives you an idea of what's happening throughout the home network, who's on when they are not supposed to and so on. 

Network map
Credit: Linksys

Think also of parental controls that are device specific, so that you can control exactly when a particular device goes on online and which websites that device can go on to. Pretty awesome features for parents to take charge and manage their kids’ different online habits. 

Parental control
Credit: Linksys

The Linksys router is capable of handling some very bandwidth intensive activities happening at the same time. The Linksys folks demonstrated this by having a gaming corner with the Overwatch RPG (role playing game) game in action, a living room where the presentation for the night took place and the kitchen streaming a cooking channel. There was little lag, and everything ran smoothly throughout the night. 

Sure, these three corners might be in rather close proximity, but the folks also showed a room at the other end of the corridor, about 200m away, which was streaming another movie. The wireless connection was extended thanks to the RE7000 range extender, and though it was so far away, the streaming was seamless. Distance wasn't a hindrance to the wireless connection and the connectivity didn’t falter.

Linksys RE7000
Credit: Linksys

For me, who have had to put up with wireless connection strength that varies from room to room, the EA9000 router and RE7000 extender’s capability to work together so devices are always connected are quite impressive. In addition, I was most definitely wowed by the parenting monitoring possibilities of the network map and parental controls. If a device can give such personalised management control to parents with today’s technology, the situation will only get better, and more advanced. The concern of my kids owning mobile devices in the future doesn’t seem so worrisome and daunting anymore.

Linksys EA9500 Tri-band Wi-Fi Router
- 1.4 GHz Dual Core Processor
- Tri-Band Wireless AC5400 (1000 Mbps 2.4Ghz + 2166 Mbps 5Ghz + 2166 Mbps 5GHz) 
- 9 Gigabit Ethernet ports (8 LAN, 1 WAN) and USB 3.0, 2.0 ports
- 8 external antennas for maximum coverage
- RRP: $539

Linksys RE7000 Wi-Fi Range Extender
- Dual Band Wireless AC1900 - AC1733 + N300
- Room-To-Room Wi-Fi with Seamless Roaming
- RRP $199

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Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please do connect with me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, so I can share our fun adventures, thoughts and exploits with you.