Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Good reads in Young Parents February issue

The February issue Of Young Parents has some good articles that I'd like to share. I've also included brief summaries of what they are about.

a. Too young for homework? 
This article states that parents can get over anxious with prepping their children for primary school, especially with the peer pressure around this. This can be detrimental to children and may cause them to have negative view of school. It shares that starting a homework regime for children as young as three can backfire, and suggests ten ways to more effective prep children in an enjoyable way.

b. She's got a boyfriend!
This article advises that if your preschooler comes home and declares that she has a boyfriend, fret not. It's all part of pretend play.

c. Mummy wants a huggie
Very interesting read, especially for parents with boys. It explores the issue of boys refusing to let their mummies hug or kiss them in public when they reach a certain age. What should a mummy do?

d. Out of the (lunch) box
Three creative ideas for colourful and appetising bento boxes are shared here.

e. Sleep Tight, Sleep Right
This article explores the myths and truths behind putting baby to bed, eg 'To help your baby sleep better at night, don't let him nap for more than three hours at a time during the day'.

f. Don't forget me, mummy
A very insightful piece for mummies who have more than one child and find that they shower more love on the firstborn. It suggests what mummies should do to balance the love out. It is also useful for mummies who are expecting a second child or who have just given birth to one.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Books: EV's favourite book of the month

EV has a book that she particularly loves this month. It's Winnie The Pooh Friendly Stories. A board book, it contains four stories about Pooh's adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood. EV loves it sooooo much, that she wants me to read it first thing she wakes up, and before she goes to sleep. I've been reading them so many times that I always have to think of alternative ways to make the stories sound different and interesting. That is always a challenge. I also take the opportunity to point out letters that she knows, and simple words. I guess tonight, she'll ask me to read it again. Stamped, chopped, guaranteed!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Recommendations: Web/Blog - The Bub in the Belly

I chanced upon this blog of a mummy who shares her experiences of learning at home. She also gives an insight into the difference between phonemic awareness, which is the basis for phonics or 'pre-phonic' and is about the sounds of letters and words, and phonics, which is the relationship between sounds and written symbols. In this entry, she also shares a book on phonics that parents can read to find out more. This blog is a good and inspiring read for mummies who would like to find out more about other mummies' experiences.

Things EV says

Sometimes, EV really surprises us by the things she says. Here are some cute examples:

a. Bye bye motorbike
We were visiting a relative's place and we sat her on someone's motorbike at the car park to tie her hair. As we walked away from the motorbike, she suddenly uttered these three words.

b. Aeroplane fly
As we live near the Paya Lebar Airport, we often hear sounds of aeroplanes flying overhead. When she was younger, she used to be frightened by the sounds, and we always show her that there's nothing to be afraid of, just aeroplanes flying overhead. Soon, she was able to say 'Aeroplane fly' whenever she sees one, even if she sees a stationary one at the airport.

c. I do, I do
That's her favourite phrase at the moment, to tell us she wants to do something by herself. Sign of her increasing independence?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Giving a try at Tot Club

Last night, while playing with EV, I decided to do a trial Tot Club, based on the lesson plans provided by Jann. As I was still putting together materials for some of the modifications I had made to the plans, I decided to use the craft work that EV had done previously in her playgroup. I began the class by making up an impromptu 'good evening' song, only to have her stare at me with a questioning look as though saying 'what are you doing mummy?'. After a while, she started clapping to it. Then I showed the letter A and a, and played the 'Ants on my arm' song from Jolly Phonics. As I have played that song before, she was familiar with it and did the actions too. Then I took out her craft work – 'A' hat, toilet roll apple tree and alligator puppet and saying the A words repeatedly. She played with them happily. Then I spelled out the words 'apple' and 'ant' on a doodle board while saying the sounds of each letter. Altogether, she was able to focus for about ten minutes, before sounds outside the room distracted her. She ran off to investigate without giving me a chance to sing a closing song. Still, I found the session useful, as it gave me an idea of her current attention span and allows me to adapt the lesson accordingly. More on that in another blog.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Recommendation: Web/Blog - Enchanted Learning

A wonderful site with lots of materials! Even if you are not a subscriber, there are lots of free printables to download and use. It has activities for children as young as pre-kindergarten to those in primary school. Some of the activities, especially those for the older children, are US-centric, but is still useful for general knowledge, or just to get ideas for activities. For parents with preschool children, there is a dedicated section to teach alphabet, numbers and so on, with heaps of activities. Though part of it is only accessible to subscribers, it is a good source of materials and ideas. Plus, the site also has lots of craft ideas to supplement learning. So even as a subscriber, the US$20 annual fee is still value for money.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Recommendation: Web/Blog - Learn The Fun Way

Based on Jann's recommendation, I visited this blog, created by a mummy with a similar name like mine. Mummy Winny writes about her fun class sessions with her daughter and shares about the activities done during each lesson, documenting her daughter's development and learning process. 

It is a perfect example of how mummies who has attended Jann's phonics sessions can effective put the lessons into good use at home. Truly inspirational! Thank you Mummy Winny!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Discovering EV's musical ability

Little EV has quite a penchant for music and dance, and she’s quite drama too.

As you know, in order to set a good example and to inculcate an interest in music in EV, I took up piano again after twenty years and have been regularly playing eight notes to her – do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do – for over a year. Every time I practice, she also likes to sit at the piano and ‘play’ (read: bang_ the piano like a little Mozart or Beethoven.

Coupled with some exposure to BabyTV, EV knows how to imitate the playing of various instruments like piano, guitar, violin and drum since more than six months ago. I also began to play ‘Mary had a little lamb’ and reciting the notes since four months ago to get her tuned in to the different pitches, as recommended by my piano teacher.

Her musical development has been more rapid and obvious these two months. Firstly, my regular playing of the eight notes has paid off – EV now knows how to sing them though they may not be at the exact pitch. Her last ‘do’ is especially loud and clear. EV has also grasped an understanding of reading notes while playing, as recently, she has begun to play her xylophone while looking at musical notes in front of her. Sometimes, she stops halfway to point at the notes, and ‘read’ them more carefully.

Two months ago, EV had begun humming to herself, but over the last weekend, she tested her own singing ability by singing in loud and low voices, high and low notes. She even tried singing in a soprano voice! Early this morning, she even opened her book and sang, like she’s reading from a musical score. She enjoyed it so much, she was at it for more than ten minutes!

As for her drama ability, well. When she sees someone crying on TV, she will put her hands to her eyes and pretend to cry. When she sometimes doesn’t get what she wants, she’ll screw up her face and look pitiful, and call out whoever she wants to get that item from. And when singing, she will move her head and body to the music in a seemingly emotional way. Oh yes, did I mention that EV loves dancing too. Any fast beat music will get her moving her shoulders or shaking her butt (even if she’s sitting), or her whole body. Yes, even K-pop or trance music (courtesy of her ah yi)!

Yups, EV is always full of surprises. Two days ago, she recited 1 to 20 unaided or challenged. The pronunciation still needed some polishing, but you can still make it out. She also counted five ducks one by one in her Pooh story book, all by herself. That’s my girl!

Monday, January 09, 2012

My phonics adventure part two

Last year, I began my phonics adventure as a parent by learning Jolly Phonics. That opened my eyes to the world of phonics, and I began to introduce letter sounds to EV. Gladly, she recognised some simple ones after some time, such as s, a, t, n and so on. And she was starting to recognise the letters too, for I always teach her the letters themselves and the formation, using the Jolly Phonics Finger Book. However, I was unsure about how I can teach and focus more on the alphabets A to Z, rather than just on the letter sounds that do not follow any alphabet order, and already starts teaching sounds like ai, ee etc by the fourth group of sounds (Jolly Phonics is based on 42 sounds, broken up into 7 groups of 6 sounds each).

Was there a way to combine what I had learnt about these 42 sounds, which included consonants and digraphs, while teaching her the 26 alphabets and their sounds systematically, like in a home lesson?

Then I found out about a phonics course that a SAHM was conducting and thought this could be what I was looking for. I attended Jann's first course for 2012, and from the first lesson, I found it very useful, with its lesson plans, craft materials and song suggestions to make home teaching fun. It helped that I had previously been exposed to phonics and letter sounds myself, as I could easily understand what Jann was explaining. The basic concept was similar with Jolly Phonics, and I guess with most other phonics methods out there. Phonics should be used as a teaching method to help a child recognise not only the letters and sounds, but to learn to break and blend the individual sounds up, so that eventually, the goal is to help the child read, write and spell.

What Jann's course has done is to simplify phonics concepts so that it is easy for parents to teach at home, complete with guidelines that allow parents to start immediately. Jann also shared that for a child around EV's age, focus should be on enhancing letter and sound recognition to raise the child's phonemic awareness. At this age, it is also possible to help the child do memory spelling and some simple writing. Only later, when the child is three or four, should the focus move to a combination of memory and phonics spelling, where the child can be prompted to spell simple words by letter sounds. Children of this age should also be able to write all 26 alphabets.

I agree with Jann that a conducive, fun and relaxed environment at home is extremely important and will go a long way in EV's learning development. Jann also shared her personal experiences in teaching her kids, as well as ideas on how to make the learning process more interesting. In future lessons, she will be sharing more on other aspects such as reading, writing and learning through play. I have definitely found this to be useful so far, and plan to start the lessons with EV soon. I hope that she will be as enthusiastic about it as me.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Staying at home and discovering EV's talents

Today is the last day of my two week stay-at-home leave. It was a wonderful break, not only because dear hubby was on leave too, and we had a chance to spend time as a family and as a couple before the new baby arrives. But I also had a lot of bonding time with EV and I could witness for myself her talents, growth and development. I witnessed for myself how quickly she was learning about the world around her as she discovered new things every day. I played with her, learnt with her, acted silly with her, danced with her. And she reciprocated by imitating what I do, repeating what I taught her or just simply coming to me for a hug and kiss. It is tiring to keep up with an active toddler, and I often just want to read a book, watch TV or do my own things. But watching her really makes me truly understand why every mother yearns to be a stay-at-home mom. While that’s not possible for me, I definitely look forward to coming home each day and holding my little darling close to me.

Friday, January 06, 2012

First week @ TalentPlus Playgroup

On Tuesday, EV attended the first day of TalentPlus Playgroup. For the first three days, parents were allowed to accompany the kids. However, I wanted to let EV attend the class independently as early as possible. So while I was with her in class, I tried to leave her by herself most of the time. She seemed alright, but that was probably because she knew I was in the room. Still, with eight other children, EV’s attention was very much taken up, unlike the previous playgroup she attended, and she didn’t turn to look for me that often.

Being orientation week, there was no teaching involved. The focus was to get the children used to the environment, teachers and each other. One of the must-dos of the daily routine is the checking for hand, foot and mouth disease. EV was a little unsure, but with some coaxing and explaining, she walked to the teacher’s side and allowed the teacher to guide her in the checking of her hands, feet and mouth. After that, EV was soon enjoying herself going from the central mat where all the toys were, to the books corner, to the puzzle corner. Halfway through class, she and new friend Kyle hugged each other. It was really cute to see that. EV looked like she enjoyed herself and the class ended with her happily waving bye to her teachers and new friends.

On the second day, EV went into class happily, greeting her friends at the door. The session started with the HFMD test, and EV was starting to understand it as one of the must-dos. When prompted by teacher Sheila, she opened her mouth, opened her palms, rubbed her hands with the disinfectant and raised her feet.

Halfway through the class, I decided that I would try to leave and see how she would react. I told EV that I was hungry and needed breakfast, and assured her that I will return to pick her up. She nodded and then continued to play with her friends. I remained outside while observing her. EV was starting to understand the various ‘rules’ of the class, like ‘keeping the toys’. The moment she heard teacher Sheila singing the song, she started putting the toys in, along with the other children. She did so well, I gave her a big hug and kiss the moment she came out. To help her feel assured, I spoke and laughed with the teacher. Even if it doesn’t immediately reassure her, over time, it’s a good way of showing her that we, her parents, trust her teachers. She definitely seems to be absorbing everything in, and I hoped that she will continue to be brave the next day.

On the third day, I decided to let EV attend class on her own. From the night before, I had talked to her about it, telling her to be brave and hoping it would prep her mentally. All looked well when she entered the class. She happily said hi to her teachers and friends. After I told teacher Sheila that I was trying to let her attend class herself, she assured me that she would call if EV cried terribly. So I went home with anxious heart. But kids being kids, things can be extremely unpredictable. When I picked her up two hours later, teacher Sheila said EV cried, but teacher Doreen managed to calm her down. One could see that she was anxiously waiting to be picked up. After saying bye to the teachers, I gave EV a big hug and praised her for being brave. When I asked her later if she was scared, she nodded yes. I hugged her again, explaining that it was OK to be scared. When asked if she liked her teachers and playing with her friends, she nodded. I asked her to continue to be brave tomorrow, and attend class with a smiling face and have fun. At night, Daddy also gave her a big ‘daddy’ hug.

Today, the day no parents are allowed in, EV, along with most kids in her class, cried. On the way to class, she did pat her chest and say ‘scared’, and needed a little coaxing. But I guess seeing other kids cry made her cry too. She managed to be pacified by teacher Doreen, and according to teacher Sheila during our chat, EV enjoyed the play and song and dance, but she cried again the moment she knew it was time to go home. But when she saw me waiting for her, she calmed down. I immediately hugged her and praised her for attending class by herself. When we left, she gave teacher Sheila a ‘high five’ and even gave her a hug. That at least was a good sign. It looked like we needed to do more talking with her before her class on Monday. Hopefully, she’ll cry less, feel less frightened and enjoy the whole class. I do think it’s just a matter of time that EV gains the confidence to attend class without feeling frightened.

Singing 'Twinkle twinkle little star'

I have been singing this nursery rhyme to EV since she was very young, and it’s one of her favourites. One of the key highlights is making a diamond with her when signing ‘like a diamond in the sky’ by each making half a diamond with our thumbs and pointers. The word ‘star’ was also one of her first words.

So it was extremely pleasurable to hear her trying to sing along today. Of course, she couldn’t accurately pronounce every word, but she was following the song and some words could be made out. Her forte was saying the last word of every sentence – ‘star’, ‘are’, ‘high’, ‘sky’, and she sang them very loudly at the top of her voice. She was obviously proud of herself and so was I of her.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Day out at Changi Airport T3

Our helper is back from Myanmar today, so we made a trip to the airport to meet her. The airport has a very baby-friendly pram by Combi which EV loves to sit in. But don’t expect to find easily like the luggage trolleys. Request it from the information counters.

This Combi pram is great for easy maneuvering around the airport. And it’s comfortable too, as the baby or toddler can sit snugly in it. When EV got tired, it was easy to just shift the pram to a lying position for her to sleep.

Besides the wide open space of the airport, EV also enjoyed the cool air conditioning, as the day was extremely hot and stuffy. The viewing gallery on the fourth level was her favourite place. Being fully carpeted and fairly quiet on a weekday, EV had a ball of a time running from one end to another. She went home extremely exhausted and knocked out for a full three hours.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Water calligraphy

We discovered an extremely fun yet economic way for EV to play with water, discover her creativity and practice her writing skills - water calligraphy at the lift porch just outside our flat.

It’s simple: Get a brush and a small tub of water. EV was soon making her mark everywhere like a junior master calligrapher. Best thing is, there’s no need for any cleaning up. EV’s creations dried by themselves! A novel yet economic way of craft fun!