Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Review: Cardboard Threading Toy

This is a learning toy that I bought through Jann while attending her class. Though it's recommended for ages 3 and up, we have already been letting EV do threading with blocks since she was a year old. So she's quite familiar with the threading concept. This threading set ups the activity level, by challenging her to match the correct pictures together, for example, a shoe to a sock, and threading the boards together. EV also needed to understand how to thread through several holes so the pictures stay in the correct positions. EV needed a little help in these areas. 

This is great in developing EV's hand-eye coordination, as well as test her observation skills as she matches one picture to another.

My ultimate rave
The cardboards are big and the threads provided are thick - great for her little hands. I also like the bright colours'

My ultimate rant
The cardboard material means that the pictures are easily bendable. EV already bended one of the pictures in half even before we started the game. However, this also explains why this toy is such a value for money.

Overall value (4/5)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Craft fun: '10 Little Rubber Ducks' paper craft

Again again! That's what my little EV always says when she wants to do something another time. So over the weekend, we did another session focusing on the letter D.

I found this very cool craft based on Eric Carle's '10 Little Rubber Ducks' from A Mommy's Adventures. EV painted a white A4 paper blue to resemble the ocean in the story. Instead of tissue, I got EV to crumple small pieces of paper and pasting them to the duck template. Halfway, she decided to switch to colouring, so mummy did the rest. Here's our masterpiece.

EV loves painting, so I also got her to do two paintings - D for dinosaur and D for dog. For the dinosaur art, EV chose to use a brush. For the dog art, she started off using a brush, then decided to use her fingers instead halfway. Here's her blue dinosaur and red dog.

Handwriting skills & numbers
For handwriting & counting practice, we used printables from 2 Teaching Mommies

Big & Small
Using a sorting activity from Confessions of a Home Schooler (lots of D for Dinosaur activities here), EV picked out the biggest and smallest dinosaurs. I also showed her how to sort from small to big, and vice versa.

Story Time
We read '10 Little Rubber Ducks' again. By now, EV knows the word 'duck' very well and I go through the spelling, letter sounds and some prompting with her often. Obviously, it's too early for her to do prompting, but with regular exposure, I'm sure she will be able to do it eventually.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Project 20 in 12

Image: Stoonn /
Better late than never. Call this my belated new year resolution or what you will. I've come up with a list of 20 tasks that I'd like to fulfill in the next 12 months. 

1. Spend at least one hour of quality time with EV each day for reading, home teaching, playing
2. Spend at least one hour of quality time with AA each day (this doesn't include feeding time!)
3. Bring EV and AA on more outdoor adventures
4. Bring EV to the library at least once every month
5. Read about young children's development
6. Read about phonics and teaching phonics
7. Continue to speak Chinese to EV and AA, read Chinese books to them, and expose EV to Chinese characters
8. Continue to say 'I love you' to darling hubby or kiss or hold hands every day
9. Go on a overdue date with hubby to celebrate our wedding anniversary, and the end of my confinement
10. Go on a date with hubby at least once a month, be it dinner or a movie
11. Go on a family trip to Hong Kong to visit my kids' great grandmother.

12. Completing the Montessori Teacher Training Course online
13. Attending & completing Stage 1 of Victoria Carlton's Master Practioner Course
14. Read more books, especially books by authors Clive Cussler & Haruki Murakami
15. Preserver as an even busier full-time working mum
16. Spend more time with my parents
17. Start scrapbooking again
18. Go yoga and swimming again
19. Eat more fruits everyday
20. Set aside me-time, so I can maintain the sanity and composure amidst the madness of being a full-time mother of two

So there! My goals for this year. Ganbatte!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review: Wooden Sorting Box

This is something I bought for EV for her birthday last month. Made of solid wood and rather heavy, this educational toy is designed to:
- improve hand-eye coordination
- help the child develop their observation skills
- understand various categories, eg animals, fruits, vegetables, and their corresponding English words
- develop a child's language skills

Featuring a red top lid with many slits, this toy comes with eight category wooden pieces and 80 smaller square wooden pieces, all with pictures on one side and English words written on the other side. The categories are: numbers, shapes, vegetables, fruits, animals, transportation, clothes and household objects. Everything is neatly kept inside the box.

There are four methods of playing this toy, which means that it will grow with EV and yet still keep her entertained. Three methods fit EV's age, and is designed to develop different skill sets. The first is to place each square picture piece randomly into the box through the slots, while naming the item or saying a short sentence if she can. With time, this should improve her cognitive skills. 

The second is to go through the pictures and words randomly before slotting the cards into the correct slot in the lid. This helps in image and word recognition.

The third method involves using the large category cards, and finding and matching the smaller picture cards by slotting into the respective slots. This develops observation skills. In fact, I find that this sorting game can also be applied to the first two methods, which means there are even more ways to play this toy.

The fourth method is for children aged one year old. With the box open, the child is required to place cards into it. Once the child can do this, he can be challenged to a more difficult task by placing the picture cards through the slots into the box. This involves hand-eye coordination, which is very important at this age.

I like that everything is packed neatly in a box. I also like the colourful pictures. For EV, I started her with a game that combined the first and third methods, focusing on the fruits and numbers category, while she called out the name of each. She was also intently interested in the other category and picture cards, and enjoyed looking through them. I let her do so freely and independently, as it is also a form of learning. Another way of playing this toy!

My ultimate rave
Value for money, as it will keep EV entertained and learning for a few years. It's great for AA too, once he turns one.

My ultimate rant
Because of the slots, and the way the games are played, the square picture cards are kept randomly inside the box. This means that they have to be sorted out into the various categories either before or after each play.

Overall value (4.5/5)

Monday, March 19, 2012

D for Dog

EV knows the greeting song really well by now, and she was clapping to it the moment I started singing it. We traced 'd' together on the feely card (she was especially attracted to the silver shimmers on the diamond-shaped foam of the card), and when we sang the 'Ducks-a-digging' phonics song, she was happily following along with the actions. 

The moment I took the Dd A4 sheet out, EV knew exactly what we were going to do. She pasted five images - dog, dolphin, dart, daisy, and door. She knew 'dog' and 'door' very well, but I was surprised that she could say 'dolphin' when I asked her what it was, though her 'phin' sounded more like 'phun', but it's almost there. She could also repeat 'daisy' and 'dart' very well after me. 

We traced Dd on the sheet and wrote the words for the images together. Then I got her to repeat the words after me again. For simple words like dog and door, I also got her to repeat the spelling after me letter by letter. I also showed her the word 'dog', went through the letter sounds and demonstrated the prompting of the words using the sounds.

We made a little dog puppet (from SimpleKidsCrafts) today. EV was responsible for pasting the dog's face together, with a little help from mummy, of course!

We sang two songs today - 'Oh where oh where has my little dog gone?' and 'How much is that doggy in the window?'. For the second song, I put the dog puppet at the window and did actions while singing. EV was so amused she asked me to do it again. After that, she ran off with the dog puppet to show her daddy and grandmother.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

D for Dinosaur, Duck and Dragon

EV woke up extremely early today, and the younger boy was still asleep. So we took the opportunity to work on a range of activities that I had prepared, just for situations like these. The activities revolved mainly around 'D for dinosaur, duck and dragon'. 

Firstly, we did a letter craft for D, from Totally Tots. EV enjoyed pasting all the different parts together. She could correctly say 'D' when I asked her to identify the letter.

Next, we did another alphabet activity to help her identify D and d, while getting her to match an image's silhouette to a particular image. This is from 1+1+1=1 Tot School.

The next alphabet maze activity comes from 2TeachingMommies. Instead of tracing from A to Z, I used this as a way to test EV's knowledge of the letters randomly. She can recite from A to Z very well, and this activity helped me identify which are the letters she's not sure of or which she is confused with.

EV's understanding of the sorting concept is also being developed in this letter sorting activity from 2TeachingMommies. EV wanted to paste the letters into the respective boxes, and she had a great time doing it.

Which is different?
An activity that helps in the understanding of same and different. EV found it easy to identify the different dragon if difference is in the colour. She still needs some time to identify small differences, such as looking right/left. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Craft fun: Duck hat & headband

With the new addition to the family, life is a little busier these days (read: extremely busy). So whenever I get a chance throughout the day, I'll do activities with EV, whether planned or impromptu, sometimes even breaking up the activities I had planned earlier. This ensures that I get to spend precious time with EV, while still being able to attend to the little demanding one.

We did two crafts today - the duck headband from Jann's class and a duck hat from SimpleKidsCrafts. For the duck headband, EV coloured the beak orange, while I coloured the face yellow. For the duck hat, EV pasted the eyes while I pasted the beak. I then let her choose which one she wanted to try on. She chose the duck hat, and had a ball with it for the next half hour. Singing the song '5 little ducks that I once knew', EV 'quacked' around, and even put her hands behind her to make a 'tail'.

EV really loves colouring these days; she even asks for it before bed. So I've been trying to get more different colouring activities for her. To go with the duck theme, I got these colouring sheets from 1+1+1=1's Tot School. Before letting her colour, I asked her what the picture is, and she immediately said 'duck'. She also wanted to trace D & d, with my help. Rather than dictate specific colours for her to colour, for example, that the beak should be orange, I let her imagination run wild and let her choose whatever colour. The result is a multicolored duck. The second activity required her to look at the different colour words (printed in its respective colour) and colouring the ducks with the right colour. Besides asking her the colour indicated on the ducks, I also asked her to choose the correct colour.

A very heartwarming experience when she coloured the duck. I was holding on to a bottle of milk which I had just warmed up for her little brother. Dear hubby was carrying the little one. Dear EV took the bottle and gave it to dear hubby, saying 'daddy feed. mommy colour'. Sigh.. warms my heart.

Ok.. back to colouring. I also gave her some activities from the Kumon First Steps Workbook Let's Colour. EV is getting better at colouring. They look less like scribbles now, and her hand is more controlled. She is able to colour within the whole indicated area, as much as possible.

Motor Skills
We also did some handwriting practice of zigzag lines. I demonstrated to EV how it's done, saying 'up, down' while I did it. Imitating what I said, she then traced the zigzag lines, and did very well, in fact!

Story Time
We read Eric Carle's '10 Little Rubber Ducks'. A nice little story that also involves counting the numbers 1 to 10, and explores the world as each duck meets different creatures, like a dolphin, polar bear and flamingo. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review: Number Puzzles

EV can recite her numbers 1 to 10 very well. She can also recognize them, but does sometimes gets some mixed up, like 6 and 9. To help her in her recognition, I recently purchased a set of wooden number puzzles from Babyspa (Marine Parade branch). Each of the numbers 0-9 is a three-piece puzzle, and the child has to recognize the shape in order to put the puzzles together. EV was glued to it from the first time I introduced this set to her (read about it here), so the set has already gotten a stamp of approval from her. Here's mummy's opinion of it.

The fact that the numbers are each in different colours help a child identify which pieces go together, and this will eventually help in the recognition of the numbers. Also, each number has pictures on it that correspond to the respective number, for example, the number three has three turtles. So counting can also be done to reinforce the numbers.

This set tests EV's thinking process, recognition and definition skills. It also helps in her hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness development, as she manipulates the pieces into the correct position. At first, she tries to fit everything in by trial and error, and sometimes by force, but gradually I can see that she is putting the pieces together by observing the shape of the hole and the shape of the puzzle piece. 

My ultimate rave
Nicely painted big numbers for her small hands, and cute pictures for counting practice. The pieces come in a solid box, so it's easy for storage.

My ultimate rant
If only there is a similar set for alphabets.

Overall value (4/5)
Stamp of approval from EV. Enough said. ;)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

D for Duck

Tot Club started on Dd yesterday. It was about half an hour before EV's bedtime, and she suddenly brought her grandfather to her room, and said 'study, i want study!'. I knew she was asking for me to do Tot Club with her, which has proven to be more difficult now with the newborn. Tired me who spent most of the day feeding the newborn almost gave into the temptation to ignore her and just rest. I didn't, and I'm glad I didn't. I've been spending so much time looking after the newborn, that I know my dear EV has been missing me, and doing things with me. So last night's Tot Club session was especially good.

Motor Skills
While I rushed to get all the materials ready, I gave EV some cutting and pasting activities. She's getting better at both, especially pasting. She's finally applying the stick glue and pasting by herself.

The great thing about having attended Jann's class (you can read about it here and here), is that she provides lesson plans complete with craft materials. So I can just pull out the relevant resources and start my lesson in a flash. Just perfect for times like these.

We started off with the greeting song, and we did the 'd' feely card. The 'Ducks A Digging' phonics song came next, while I showed her the letters D and d. We then pasted six images on to an A4 sheet - duck, drum, deer, doll, dinosaur and donut. After that, I asked her to point out duck, drum and donut, which she did successfully.

Having identified the images, we traced Dd and wrote the words to the images together, and then read the words while pointing to them. Sometimes, I would cover the images while reading the words to familiarise her with them.

Craft work involved colouring and pasting feathers on the 'Ducks A Digging' phonics sheet. EV was more excited about colouring, rather than pasting feathers, so mummy worked on the feathers. She is also getting better in colouring. At the beginning, she coloured somewhat within the lines of the beaks, but after a while, she got tired and started doodling the rest of the ducks. 

We sang '5 Little Ducks That I Once Knew'. It's sung to the same tune as 'Five Little Ducks Went Out One Day'. Below are the lyrics:

5 little ducks that I once knew
Fat one, skinny one, just like you
But there's one little duck, with a feather on his back
He ruled the others with a quack quack quack.
Down by the river they would go
Wiggle, wobble, wiggle, wobble to and fro
But there's one little duck, with a feather on his back
He ruled the others with a quack quack quack

You can listen to this Youtube video for an idea of how the song goes, though my lyrics are slightly different, and shorter too!

Recommendation: Songs - Rainbow Colours & Days of the Week

I chanced upon these two songs on Youtube, and EV is loving them. They're good for learning the colours of the rainbow and the days of the week (EV is starting to babble 'Monday, Tuesday, Friday..., so this song comes in handy). 

Friday, March 09, 2012

Craft fun: Crocodile & monkey paper craft

We did the crocodile & monkey craft from Jann's class today. Working as a team, EV applied the glue on the crocodile, while I pasted the green crepe paper. Today, EV showed more interest in colouring, so I let her colour the monkeys. Then I sang the rhyme to her, but she was distracted by her colouring pencils and went tottering off to look for paper, so I ended this activity to let her express her creativity on some blank A4 paper. 

Cloud Blowing
We did a fun activity today. I took some cotton balls and called them 'clouds', and got EV to blow the 'clouds'. She had lots of fun blowing them off the table.

Today's activities were largely led by EV, and abacus was one of those she indicated she wanted to do. She counted 1 to 10 herself, and then I showed her how to count from 11 to 20. We also counted the beads based on the colours.

I recently bought a set of number puzzles from Babyspa (Marine Parade branch). It comes in a wooden box, and each number from 0 to 9 is a three-piece puzzle. It is designed to help recognition of the number and its shape. EV is already doing two-piece puzzles at her Shichida class, so this set should not be too difficult for her. She needed help to do the first few puzzles, but very quickly, she understood what needed to be done, and proudly proclaimed 'I do, I do'.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Sneak peek: EV's calendar

With the new boy, and to help us better manage our time and EV's time, I am in the midst of creating a calendar schedule. More than just listing out her activities, I also hope to use this to teach her about the various concepts of time, such as the days of the week, the months, how to read a clock and so on. Here's a sneak peek of the progress so far, with the monthly calendar, weekly schedule and mini clock completed.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Recommendation: Web/Blog - Great sites for activity ideas & free worksheets

Here are two websites for activity ideas and free worksheets.

Lots of free colouring pages, crafts, worksheets, printables of all sorts and even sudoku for children of different ages. It also features themed activities for selected holidays and seasons such as Christmas. I like that it is jam packed with resources that I can quickly download and print for EV, and AA in future. The preschool section is where I frequent most, and it has numerous templates for early learners, such as handwriting sheets, and materials for learning the alphabet and numbers.

Don't underestimate this seemingly bare looking site. It has a lot of resources for home schooling, and lots of craft ideas too. What I like about this site is that it also lists the recommended ages for the various activities, so I can decide whether a particular activity is too difficult for EV to undertake. It also has loads of downloadable mini books that are good for early readers, or just for reading with the young one.

C for Cat

EV and I got down to another Tot Club session with the letter of the week - C. We started off with the greeting song, followed by a run through of the C feely card, which EV could identify extremely easily now. After listening to the 'Crocodiles Creeping' phonics song, where we pretended to be creeping crocodiles again, we pasted C images - cat, cherry, cone, car, crow and clock. I then asked EV if she wanted to trace the letter Cc and write the words of the six images with me, and she said yes. We did that as a team, and EV was very attentive throughout.

We did a toilet paper roll cat today, which I improvised myself. I first cut out paper to cover the toilet paper roll, to make the cat's body. Then using a round piece of paper and two pieces of triangular paper, we pasted the cat's face together to the body. I drew the face and the whiskers. EV was so delighted with the result, that she happily posed for pictures with it.

Handwriting skills
EV has definitely grasped the concept of writing horizontal lines very well. She immediately knew what to do when I handed her this sheet of cats from 1+1+1=1 Tot School. Her lines are still a little wavy, but much better than before.

Something new for EV to try today - the concept of opposites. Using a worksheet from TLSBooks, I explained to EV what needed to be done, and the concepts involved. Obviously, she was unsure, but I believe with time, she will get it. She already has grasped the concepts of big and small, long and short, so it's just a matter of introducing more 'opposites' to her.

We ended today's session with the rhyme 'Pussy Cat Pussy Cat', a rhyme that we often sing to her.

Story Time
Tonight, we read 'Have You Seen My Cat'. It's one of EV's favourite Eric Carle books.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Books: 'C' books

The letter of the week is C, and here are a few recommended books.

Written by Bonnie Lass & Philemon Sturges, illustrated by Ashley Wolff
A book based on the popular rhyming game, it follows the adventures of a skunk who discovers that his cookies have disappeared from his cookie jar. He goes around to various animals such as a little mouse, a rabbit, a squirrel to find out if they have taken his cookies, and in the process discovers about their daily habits. It is also a tale of discovery for little ones, and they read that a mouse eats cheese, a squirrel eats nuts, a rabbit hops and a turtle is much too slow. This book uses a lot of repetitive words, so it's also great for reading with little ones. I also like the colourful illustrations which show each animal in its habitat vividly, allowing me to describe the environment to EV easily.

Written by Norma Simon, pictures by Dora Leder
This is a beautifully illustrated book in black & white, and it manages to bring out the liveliness of the cat and its owners in a different light. The story begins with the author's complaints about Max, who persistently meows until someone opens the window to let him out, and similarly persists in his scratching of the glass until someone lets him into the house when he returns. Max doesn't do anything and spends the whole day doing silly things like hiding inside the laundry, chasing shadows, sitting on a chair with his belly up and thinking that the whole world revolves around him. He goes around making everyone mad. Oh that cat! But despite this, the author loves Max for his endearing and fun personality, and gets extremely worried when Max returns home late one evening. I like the way the antics of the cat are vividly illustrated; you can even see funny or shocked expressions made by Max. A good book to describe the characteristics of a cat in a story format.

By Eric Carle
A classic, this book is about a boy who is looking for his lost cat. He meets many people from around the world, such as a gentleman with a top hat, a cowboy on a horse, a red indian in a tent, and also meets many different types of cats, such as a lion, leopard, panther, persian cat and so on. The text is very simple, and is based on two main sentences, making it a good book for reading to and reading with the little ones.

By Eric Carle
Another classic. You can read more about my story time with EV here.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Craft Fun: Egg carton caterpillar

We had quite a bit of egg cartons left over from baking Chinese New Year goodies. So we did some recycled craft fun and made a egg carton caterpillar. It's extremely easy to make, and it involved an activity that EV simply loves - painting. She painted only one of the egg cartons, we both worked on two together and mummy ended up finishing up the remaining three, but that's teamwork. EV was more interested in painting on paper after a while, as I guess that was easier for her. Plus, she had a lot of fun choosing the colours and painting all the colours in one single patch on the paper, such that the result was a mushy, mish mash of dirty greenish brown paint. Well, as long as she had fun. 

Once the paint on the egg carton dried, I stuck goggly eyes and pipe cleaners as the antennas.

We also did another quick letter C craft - C for crab (inspired by Totally Tots). I drew the C and claws free hand on a piece of red paper, then got EV to paint waves on a piece of blue paper. Then we stuck everything together.

I realised after everything was done that I left out the eyes of the crab. Oh well, never mind. It's still C for crab. ;-)

Story Time
We had just the perfect book - The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. It's a great book that talks about a caterpillar and its gastronomic adventure over seven days. It teaches about the seven days of the week, how the caterpillar eats too much junk food and gets a stomachache, and how it eats a green leaf to make itself feel better.

As I read it, I used the egg carton caterpillar to dramatize the story, complete with sound effects. At the end, as the caterpillar transformed into a butterfly, the butterfly that we made in our last Craft Fun session made an appearance. EV enjoyed this very different story time, as she was smiling and giggling in delight, and of course, saying 'fly fly' as well when the butterfly appeared.