Friday, September 27, 2013

Of fairy tales and nursery rhymes

Just this week, a fellow mum blogger’s post of the use of fairy tales in a Primary One test paper went viral. It's a display of how influential and immediate social media can be. comments ranged from the 'I assume you are referring to something I think you are referring to therefore I must say my piece' to the 'I must impress with my super powerful grasp English, even if I end up being confused myself'.

No matter. The post has got me stressed and wondering what is the purpose of it all? So now I have to inculcate the knowledge of fairy tales to my children, so that they can 'correctly' say that a fairy godmother will turn a snake into a handsome prince? Why can't she be a mean fairy godmother and turn the prince into something not himself? Must it even be a snake for that matter?

Was the question testing the knowledge of fairy tales? Or the English language?

According to the fellow mum blogger's second post on this issue, the teacher who set the questions have rebooked at the answer, which I'm heartened about. It's good that she is open to comments and feedback and shows her to be a partner in a child's education and development, the other important partner being the parent.

Still I wonder about the type of questions that schools set at the primary level. What is the purpose? What are they testing?

Fine, EV and AA aren't there yet. They still have a long way to go, but I need to know. Despite 'being assured' that children don't necessarily need to know how to read in Primary 1, all these honest feedback and sharing from parents with kids already in the primary school system worry me. What will the situation be when it's my kids' turn? I'm sure I'm not the only one feeling this way.

So, fairy tales. What’s wrong with them? What’s right about them? I think it’s perfectly fine to read fairy tales to my kids. Yes, there are many stereotypes, like how a fairy godmother must be good, or that a snake must be turned into a handsome prince and not the other way round, or how a wolf (or a fox) is always the bad guy, eating up the pigs or Red Riding Hood’s grandmother or the gingerbread man. Or even the stereotypical view of beauty.

My view - so? What’s wrong with such stories? Generations of children have grown up reading them. I’ve grown up reading Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Thumbelina. Nothing is wrong with me.

Reality: we live in the real world, in a stereotypical world, in a politically incorrect world. So what’s wrong with exposing EV and AA to these stories?

Mind you, as I’m reading the fairy tales to my kids, I’m not even talking about the stereotypes. I’m reading and sharing the tales with them as what they are, stories. We’re enjoying the beauty of the stories together, appealing in their simplicity, bonding together through our imagination.

Before anyone assumes that I’m only reading fairy tales to EV and AA, let me say that I read all sorts of books to them, in English and Chinese. Just look at the My Favourite Children’s Author series that I did last year, or this interview, and you will know that for a fact. I read newspapers to them, I read National Geographic to them. Heck, even brochures that I get in the mail.

Point is, I believe in exposing EV and AA to as many reading materials as possible, politically correct or not, and in doing so, develop their skill, not just love, for the language. Because language is a skill that they need for the rest of their lives.

I will introduce even Enid Blyton and her crazy characters like Dame Washalot and Saucepan Man. For I want my kids to have a great imagination, to fly away on the Wishing Chair when they have to. Because without imagination, how are they going to tackle their compositions in school?

And when they are older, or when they start questioning any story, not just fairy tales, I believe in being honest and sharing with them the realities of the world. The world is never a fair place (that’s why the word ‘fair’ does not have the letter ‘y’, which would have made the word ‘fairy’); but it is what we make of ourselves that makes this world an even more meaningful place.

And while I’m talking about fairy tales, how about nursery rhymes?

I agree. Nursery rhymes can be scary and cruel, as this fellow mummy blogger shared. Did you know that ‘Jack and Jill’ has a French connection and is linked to King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette?

So with all the cruelty of nursery rhymes, I should refrain from singing them to my kids, shouldn’t I? Not!

Again, I take a similar position as with fairy tales. Nursery rhymes have a brilliant musicality to them, with their beats, rhythm and rhyming words, which are perfect for teaching language and literacy at a young age. Did you know that many rhymes follow a 2-3 beat? Take ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ for example:

Twinkle twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are

Try clapping to it and you will know what I mean.

Nursery rhymes are great for word play too. Instead of ‘It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring’, it can be changed to ‘It’s raining, it’s pouring, the river is flowing.’

Nursery rhymes are brilliant for imaginative play too. I still remember going round in a human train, singing ‘London Bridge is falling down’, and trying to avoid being ‘captured’ by two friends who were pretending to be the London Bridge. That was so much fun! Fun that I would like EV and AA to have too.

So you see, nursery rhymes indeed have lots of possibilities. I love them! I’ve been singing them to EV and AA since they were in in my tummy, and I have no intention to stop. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star remains the all-time favourite, followed by Itsy Bitsy Spider and Baa Baa Black Sheep. Can’t wait for our next singalong time!

There’s one nursery rhyme that I refrain from singing, though. It’s ‘Rock-a-bye Baby’. It is about a baby on a bough and falling when the bough breaks. I mean, seriously? I’m not about to sing anything like that. Touch wood!!

All other nursery rhymes are welcomed and sung in the Say family home. And why shouldn’t they, considering how fun and imaginative they are, not forgetting their importance in increasing phonological awareness. Add in some finger play and viola! It’s instant fun that keeps any cranky kid occupied and laughing in no time.


Round and round the garden, like a Gingerbread Man.

Aha! A impromptu rhyme that infuses a popular fairy tale character, AA’s favourite character. I can’t wait to share with him later today, and watch how he ‘runs’ when I say ‘Run run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!’. He is just so adorable when he does that, melts my heart.

It’s amazing how kids fall in love with a particular tale or character and react to it in their own little way. Don’t you agree?

Do you like fairy tales and nursery rhymes? Do you accept, tolerate or avoid them at all costs?

Interview: Voyage of Dreams 2013 co-organiser & creator Sarah Lee-Wong

On 13 October, Sunday, a special event will be held to celebrate creative and playful family bonding. It's called Voyage of Dreams 2013: Only Believe, and is co-organised by The Public Libraries Singapore and fellow mum blogger Sarah of The Playful Parents.

Voyage of Dreams 2013
Exciting activities to look forward to include a 'kampong' style family cardboard games play date where participants are invited to create and bring their own game made out of cardboard of other recycled materials to share with other families. On display are a cardboard ship complete with cardboard animals, as well as a cardboard maze, on display. There will also be storytelling and craft sessions.

Sarah Lee WongI am very happy to have Sarah of The Playful Parents to share with us her vision and inspiration behind this very meaningful and fun event.


What is Voyage of Dreams about? What can parents & kids look forward to?
Voyage of Dreams is a community celebration of the creativity every individual, young and old, possesses and the importance of family bonding through play. Parents and kids can look forward to creating new shared family memories by participating in a day filled with different sorts of creative activities.

There are four types of playful activities: 
i. Dream with Me: Parent and Child workshops 
ii. Dreams on Parade: DIY crafting activity area where patrons can use recycled materials provided to create boats and animals to add onto the cardboard ship display 
iii. Dreams: Now Playing- ‘kampong style’ family playdate where families come down with DIY playthings made out of cardboard and other recyclables to share with others 
iv. Catch A Dream & Sing Me A Dream: Stories about dreamers who pursued their dreams told in different styles

What is the highlight of the Voyage of Dreams event?
The highlight of VoD is undoubtedly ‘Dreams: Now Playing’ where every family will bring their own DIY playthings made out of recycled materials to share with other families whom they’ve never met before.

Why did you come up with the idea for such an event? What is your inspiration?
Voyage of Dreams is a natural outgrowth of my first cardboard community event, Cardboard Dreams, that I held last year at the Botanic Gardens. I hosted Cardboard Dreams in support of Imagination Foundation’s first ever ‘Global Cardboard Challenge’ which was in turn inspired by a 9-year-old American boy, Caine, who made an entire arcade out of cardboard.

My inspiration for Voyage of Dreams, as it is for most of the work I do, comes from my own children and family. They have fuelled my passion to see every individual realizing their own creative potentials and for families to bond through play.

What do you hope to achieve through this event?
The big picture hope I have is that this event will only be the beginning of a nationwide movement to encourage our individuals, regardless of age and background, and families to believe in their own creative capacities, and increase their willingness to adopt a more playful approach to life and living.

On the specific scale of things, I hope that this event will provide a platform through which parents feel empowered with new ideas for engaging in play with their children (through the parent-child workshops), families are given the opportunity to play as well as connect families with other families for support on this demanding parenting journey we’re on.

What is your parenting style and belief?
Good question. I think my husband and I are still figuring out our parenting styles. But I would definitely describe both of us as authoritative, not authoritarian, and hands-on parents. As for our parenting beliefs, we are led by our faith-based convictions that we are to parent our children the way our Heavenly Father parents us – with unconditional love, gentleness, and patience. However, we are still major works in progress translating that belief into everyday action.

Is Voyage of Dreams a reflection of your beliefs?
Voyage of Dreams is an expression of my beliefs and passion. But it is also very much a reflection of my own life especially the childhood I had.

You see, I grew up in a kampong, surrounded by lots of nature. I also had the privilege of parents, who though strict and subscribed to corporal punishment, played with my brother and I a lot. Some of the strongest memories I still have of my childhood are of my father playing finger games with me on bus rides when I was 3 or 4, and of him making us toys out of discarded golf balls and aluminium foil. 

I also love playing board games because my parents spent almost every weekend when we were children playing board games with us.

I believe that my passion for nature and family bonding through play have been heavily influenced by my parents playing with us, and not so much my training as an educator.

Please tell us more about yourself.
I am a reformed feminist and enlightened educator. I no longer wish to prove women are equal to men. Instead I wish I were Martha Stewart and that my husband will stop praying for a ‘submissive wife’ because I will finally be one! And as an educator, I consider myself ‘enlightened’ as I now believe I’ve found an educational purpose.

After I lost my first child, I decided to stop full-time work to concentrate on being a wife and mother. It’s been an uphill battle for an undomesticated and restless person like me.

Though it’s been 5 years, I am still trying to settle into my role as a homemaker and homeschooling mother. However, I’m determined to press on until I find a happy equilibrium between household chores, homemaking and homeschooling joys because I believe that there is no bigger job for me to do, and do well, as caring for my family.

I love stories, daydreaming while indulging in sweet treats and I am truly, an incurable play addict.

Someday I may write well enough to publish a children’s book. But for now, I’m content inventing and telling stories to anyone who cares to listen!

Thank you Sarah. Here's wishing Voyage of Dreams 2013 a very fun success!


Now, more about the event Voyage of Dreams 2013.
When: 13 October 2013, Sunday
Where: Central Library (Bugis)
Time: 10am - 530pm

For more details on the individual programmes, visit the Voyage of Dreams webpage.

Sea, land and air: a day at the Army Museum

Army cover
This was an invite that took us by surprise. The Army Museum? A kids workshop? What sort of workshop could possibly take place at an army museum? My curiosity was enough for me to suggest to the hubby to make the trip to the museum, which is in the extreme west of Singapore, a family trip. Also, the fact that EV has a thing for uniforms (yes, already at this tender age), it was almost certain we would make the trip to the Wild West, where the birds don't lay eggs, according to the hubby (but as I can attest to, the birds do lay eggs there).

So early one Saturday morning, our family of four, plus our wonderful helper, squeezed into our tiny 'car car', as our family car is so affectionately called, and made the long road trip. The kids had their music to entertain them as usual, and they did not make a single fuss. Perhaps they knew we were in for a long ride, so they decided not to give the adults further headache.

The Army Museum was easy to find, as it is located near the Singapore Discovery Centre and SAFTI Military Institute. Car parking is free, and we were met at the car park entrance by our hosts. The actual museum is about a five minute walk from the car park, and along the way, we walked by a man-made lake, which added to the picturesque atmosphere of the surroundings. The cool wind was blowing lightly, and all of us were excited to see what was in store at the Army Museum.

When I saw the Museum, I was instantly worried. It is made mainly of glass, and I was worried that it would be hot inside. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the air con was strong when we entered, and I became concerned that it would become too cold. My worries were groundless, as after a while, the warmth from the outside cooled the air inside, and the temperature became just right.

In the centre of the Museum on the first floor is a lobby where the event was being held. There were already other parent bloggers around when we arrived, so we mingled while waiting for the event to start. While waiting, EV and AA checked out the navy uniforms on display...

Army 1
And gravitated to Mr Pilot who was showing a video of a fighter plane taking off, on his iPad. I think it was the iPad that got their attention.

Army 2

EV was also attracted by the craft work of the Singapore island, at the other end of the lobby, and kept running there to play with it.

Army 3

The event kicked off soon after, and the group of daddy and mummy bloggers were broken up into three groups to visit three different stations representing the various military sections looking after the sea, land and air.

Army 4

Our group headed to the Navy station first. This very nice, pretty lady explained to us the basic purpose of the Navy, and got the kids to engage in a role play of pirates and navy. The kids all represented the Navy, while one of Miss Navy's colleagues pretended to be the pirate. EV was a little young to understand what was happening, but she had fun with the toy gun. Then it was craft work time. Using paper, ice cream sticks and foil, some of which were pre-assembled, the kids made a submarine. This was when EV was most engaged, other than ringing the bell that was hanging nearby.

Army 5

Some uniformed soldiers walked by at this point, and EV just went 'Soldiers! I like soldiers!'.

Army 6

Our second stop was the Air Force station. Here, Mr Pilot made a paper plane with the kids, and also gave the kids opportunities to wear the helmet and uniform. EV had a ball with the paper plane. While she was hesitant to try on the helmet at first, she warmed up and gave it a go eventually.

Army 7

Army 8

Over at another sunny corner was the Land station. We were there early, so we were given a 'tank' folding craft to work on. Rather, it was mummy who put together the tank, as it was a bit too difficult for EV. She helped me take out the individual paper pieces to make the tank.

Army 9

Army 10

Mr Soldier explained briefly the purpose of the unit, and also showed everyone the items that can be found in a soldier's pack. He also showed the type of food found in the pack. EV was not too keen to try on the soldier uniform, even though she is so fond of soldiers. Instead, she had fun with the paper tank and some toy soldiers that Mr Soldier gave out.

Army 11

Then it was father-daughter time as EV and DaddySay worked together to make a 'Protecting Singapore' model using a blue corrugated board, a green paper cutout representing Singapore, and the submarine, plane and tank crafts. It is extra meaningful as DaddySay is on active service and when he nests heads for his reservist, EV will be able to better understand what he is doing, and miss him more. Which means more troubles for me as I need to settle her cries of 'I want daddy!'. But no matter. Anything for my dear hubby and baby.

Army 12

The craft work took longer than expected and we didn't get to visit the actual museum. Just next to the lobby is a theatre and apparently it shows a 4D movie that is supposed to be quite good. DaddySay has seen it and he recommends it. So we should be heading down soon to watch it, and go on a tour.

Amy Museum of Singapore
520 Upper Jurong Road
Singapore 638367

The Army Museum is located at the SAFTI Military Institute, near the Singapore Discovery Centre.

If you are driving, take Exit 40 from PIE or Exit 20 from AYE. Parking is free at the Singapore Discovery Centre car park.

If you are taking public transport, take SBS Bus No 192 or 193 from Boon Lay MRT Station, or alight at Joo Koon MRT Station and walk for about give minutes.

Opening times & Admission
10am to 6pm except on Mondays. The museum is open on all Public Holidays including Mondays.

Admission to the Amy Museum of Singapore is free for all Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents.

Adult - $5 per person
Child - $3 per person (between 6 to 12 years old)
Senior Citizen - $3 per person (above 60 years old)
Family Combo - $12 (2 adults & 2 children, $1 for each additional child)

For more information, visit the Army Museum of Singapore webpage.
If you are interested in the workshop that we attended, do contact Stephanie Chia, Senior Manager (NS Policy) at stephanie_chia[at]mindef[dot]gov[dot]sg.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: Heart Studio September Holiday Program

During the recent September holidays, EV attended theholiday art classes at HeART Studio again. Some of you may remember that she attended similar classes in June (read about it here) and this blog also conducted a giveaway for the September holiday classes recently. We hope the winners had fun, for EV had loads of fun at three sessions - Mermaid, Outer Space and Monsters.

It had been around three months since she last stepped into heArt Studio, so it's understandable that she was a little shy. Plus the fact that she was ill over the weekend, and was still under medication, she was rather quiet during the first lesson, during which she painted a mermaid.

As usual, Teacher Syafiq was extremely patient with her and with the other kids. In a small class of about four, Teacher Syafiq explained patiently the steps to create the mermaid painting. Firstly, he explained the various colours and how they are created. He asked the kids to pick a background colour and tasked them to paint that first. When that was done, he drew a sample of a mermaid on the white board, and guided the kids to use shapes to draw the mermaid.

Heart Studio 2

Teacher Syafiq and his assistant Teacher Joanne were on hand to guide the kids at very step of the way, such as drawing the outline of the respective shapes for the kids to colour in. EV diligently followed instructions but was very clearly not her usual energetic self. Teacher Syafiq prodded her and kept her engaged to the task at hand. Teacher Nurul also pitched in to help.

Heart Studio 1

When she searched and couldn't find me (who was at the nearby Thomson Plaza having breakfast), the teachers comforted her. It's assuring that I could leave EV to the trust of the folks at heART Studio so that I can go run errands. It really means a lot that they are truly looking out for EV from the heart, and not just saying it.

Here's EV's art piece, which I had also shared earlier here.

Heart Studio 3

The next day, we returned for more painting with the theme Outer Space. There were only 2 students for that session, and the other kid came late. So for about a third of the class, EV enjoyed a 1-to-1 session with Teachet Syafiq. Lucky girl!

Heart Studio 4

She was a totally different girl this time, and was back to her usual self, earnestly listening to Teacher Syafiq's simple instructions to create the space background and stars. The starts were created by gently hitting two paint brushes with white or yellow paint to make little specs on the black background.

Heart Studio 5

Heart Studio 6

Teacher Syafiq went through the colours again, important in helping little kids understand and remember. Little EV did remember what was done the previous day, and could name which primary colours makes which secondary colours, though she was unsure of about two of them. Then after choosing four different colours for painting the planets and space shuttle, off EV went on her painting adventure.

When I saw her completed work, I was amazed!! She really surprised me with what she can do and achieve. Like what I told her before the session started, I believe in her, and she did it!! That's my girl!!

Heart Studio 7

This was supposed to be our last encounter with heART Studios during the holidays, but EV wanted more. So we signed up for the Monsters class because she found the one on display too angry and wanted to paint a happy one.

On that day, EV kept pestering me to get out of the house at least two hours before class was supposed to start. We didn't need that long to get there, and I had to remind her over and over again that it was too early. We still ended up reaching at least 15 minutes earlier, and she kept asking where Teacher Syafiq was. Luckily, he arrived and she went straight to the class. There, she chatted and 'helped' him as he prepared for class. He was so sporting and didn't mind EV being there. And geez, she was one chatty little girl that day; even Teacher Syafiq commented on how active she was. As usual, I didn't have to worry about leaving her alone to her task. So I spent the next two hours chatting and catching up with a fellow mum blogger whose son was also attending the holiday program.

Presenting…. EV's happy monster. 

Heart Studio 8

It sure brings a smile to my face.

And so ends EV's holiday art adventure, she'll be back at heART Studio for more. She will be attending a term of art lessons with Teacher Syafiq, and wasn't she one excited girl when I told her the news. Her first lesson is in less than two hours, and she is already changed and ready to go. 

"Mummy, are you ready? I want to see Teacher Syafiq!"

Alright, I better end here, before she thinks of funny ideas to make me. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Play Learning Tuesday: Puzzle, ice and rice sensory play

Sensory bins are a hit at the Say family play room. Today, I'm sharing one that teases the brain, awakes the senses and amazes the eye. And it was done while little AA was deep in the land of dreams.

Puzzle  ice rice play 1
All you need is:
Rice (I used about one and a half cups)
Letter or number wooden puzzles
Food colouring

Using a medium sized tub, I put in the rice and wooden puzzles in. EV got busy moving the puzzles through the rice and matching them.

Puzzle  ice rice play 2
When I put in the ice, EV was amazed with how the rice grains stuck to it. She was even more amazed at how the rice seemed to 'swim' in the water, as the ice melted, and became gradually wetter. She loved the feeling of the freezing ice in her hands, and the way it melted, and had so much fun just moving the ice through the rice.

Puzzle  ice rice play 3
Usually, I would be the one to mix the food colouring into the rice. However today, I let EV do the mixing. If playing with ice and rice got her excited, mixing in the blue got her ecstatic! She just couldn't stop mixing the rice around. As she did so, I pointed out how the rice slowly turned into various shades of blue.

Puzzle  ice rice play 4
A simple 3-in-1 sensory play activity that engages the visual, tactile and cognitive senses. It's fun, as you can see from EV's smile here.

Are you playing any sensory activities?


What is Play Learning Tuesday?
Play Learning Tuesday is a weekly linky hosted by Toddly Mummy where bloggers are invited to share their child-friendly play, learning and craft activities. Taking part for the first time? You might like to read the guidelines here first.

Toddly Mummy

Linking up with:

Tot School No Time For Flash Cards Activities for Children Lessons Learnt Journal Kids Co-Op Tuesday Tots Mama to 5 Blessings Photobucket Teach Beside Me

Friday, September 20, 2013

Review + Giveaway: Lavsuca's Pink Label Umbrella Wet Bag

After many years of guessing when it rains, I have surrendered to nature. It's always the same: when I bring an umbrella, it doesn't rain; when I don't bring, it rains. I should have known. I would never win. So now, I bring an umbrella everywhere I go, even though it may be a tad heavier.

That would make thing better wouldn't it? Not really. Now the problem comes when it rains and the umbrella gets wet and as a result, my bag, clothes and shoes get wet. And not to mention, the floor and the seats if I'm on the bus or train.

I don't always remember to bring an extra plastic bag to keep it in. How about those free bags that shopping centers distribute outside their main doors? Well, I don't always head to the mall when it rains, so I don't always have access to them.

So what can I do when it rains and I haven't a single bag to keep it in?

You know those wet bags that are used for diapers and other baby stuff? They are designed to keep the wetness in while keeping all other things in the bag dry and clean.

Well, recently I discovered a similar wet bag that is designed just for umbrellas.

This umbrella wet bag is shaped to fit most foldable umbrellas. It measures about the length of an A4 book, is narrower at the base and wider at the top to suit a variety of handles. As the image on the right shows, a drawstring keeps the umbrella in place while it is in the wet bag.

Wet bag 1
The bag is made of cotton while the inside is lined with Procare lining, which gives the bag its 'waterproof' quality. The seams are heat sealed, so there's absolutely no leaking.  Best of all, it's machine washable and reusable, so no more environmentally unfriendly plastic bags! The umbrella wet bag comes in a variety of designs, so it is easy to find one that suits one's taste and style.

Wet bag 2
Together, they fit well into any bag. It is extremely handy to have a wet bag around as when it rains, I no longer have to worry about a dripping wet umbrella, or go in search of bags to hold it. I just need to keep it into its very own wet bag, then when I reach my destination, I just need to take the umbrella and wet bag out to dry. Extremely convenient in keeping the wetness out.

Want to win for yourself an umbrella wet bag?

Lavsuca's Pink Label is sponsoring five umbrella wet bags (worth S$16.90) for five lucky readers. Winners will get to choose a design of their choice as indicated by Lavsuca's Pink Label. Just follow the steps below (Remember: You must include your name and email, so that you can be contacted should you win!). Best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclaimer: Lavsuca's Pink Label sponsored five umbrella wet bags for the giveaway. The wet bag used for this review is my own. All opinions and images are my own.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Interview: Tips to introduce yoghurt to toddlers from dietician Ms Jenny Ng

Do you like yoghurt? Do your children like yoghurt? Do you know that contrary to popular belief, it is actually safe to feed yoghurt to babies below one year old? When I say yoghurt, I'm not referring to yoghurt drinks that come in the distinctive small bottles. I'm referring to those that come in a tub.

Yoghurt is actually a staple food for babies in the West. I just have to look at my nephew who lives in Australia. Since he was eight  months old, he has been eating as much yoghurt as he has been drinking milk.

So what is yoghurt, and how should parents here introduce this healthy food to their kids?

I am very happy to introduce Ms Jenny Ng, Principal Dietician and CEO & Founder of MindYourDiet. A mother of three adorable children, Ms Ng shares with us what we should look out for when introducing yoghurt to our children.


What is yogurt? 
Yogurt is a fermented dairy product which can come from numerous mammal milk, usually cow's or goat's milk.

Why is yoghurt great for children?
There are several reasons why yogurt is a great snack for children. It is a rich source of calcium and it contains probiotics. These are living organisms that help promote intestinal health and may prevent diarrhea. Yogurt is also high in protein and is great for helping active kids maintain their energy intake throughout the day. Yogurt also contains lesser lactose than milk, hence it is generally better tolerated.

In which countries, is yogurt a common food for young children? Why?
Yogurt is a common food in the Middle Eastern countries, Eastern Europe, India and Greece. This is because yogurt is a big part of the diet, e.g. Mediterranean diet, as a cooking ingredient, or snack, appetizers or dessert. Hence, babies in these regions and countries get exposed to yogurt at a young age.

Why is yogurt not common food for young children in Singapore? What are the common myths regarding yogurt?
Yogurt isn't a common food for young children in Singapore because it is not a big part of our culture and cuisine (other than Indian). Chinese and Malay cuisine do not include yogurt in their diet routinely and traditionally. Also, there is common misconception of yogurt by many elderly (who are usually the caregiver for most young children) that yogurt is "cold" food and causes cough and phlegm. Thus they don't give it to the young children. Some elderly even believe that yogurt is "spoilt" because of the tardiness of it!

What should parents look for when choosing yogurt for children below one year old & above one year old? What are your buying tips?
Parents have to ensure that they are choosing full-fat yogurts, and not low-fat or non-fat for baby or young children below 2 years old. Children above 2 years old can be given low fat dairy products and yogurt too. Look out for and avoid artificial flavourings, colourings or sweeteners while buying yogurt. Also, check for the expiry date to make sure that you're buying fresh batch of yogurt. Try to go for small individual tubs of yogurt so as to minimize wastages or contamination to the remaining yogurt in the half finished big tub.

How do parents introduce yogurt to their children, below one year old & above one year old?
As a first introduction, choose natural yogurt, preferably those with no sugar/ less sugar added. Perhaps breakfast or mid-morning feed is a good time to try. Allow your baby to grow familiar with the taste of yogurt and watch out for his reaction. Same as introducing any new food to your baby, do not force feed. After your baby adapts to the taste and there is no sign of any food allergy, you may try to give him more variety. By the time the baby is approaching 1 year old, he should be in a routine of giving three or four meals a day. You may want to offer a healthy snack between meals depending on your baby’s sleeping pattern and how this fits in with mealtimes. Giving him a small tub of yogurt with full of chunky pieces of fresh fruits is not a bad idea during snack time!

For toddlers aged 3-4yrs, what is the best way to introduce yogurt to them? What other ingredients can parents add to the yogurt to make it more interesting? Can you share recipes?
We want toddlers to cultivate good eating habits, hence, it is a good idea to pair natural, low-fat yogurt with healthier options such as fresh fruits, granola, plain, crushed nuts or cereals. Yogurt can also be used as a bread spread or salad dressing.

Some simple recipes can be:
(A) Yogurt and granola parfait
1/4 cup granola
1/2 cup natural yogurt
Fresh strawberry or dried berries.
1. Place the granola in the bottom of a parfait glass or dish. Spoon the yogurt on top.
2. Decorate with sliced strawberry or dried berries.

(B) Salad dressing (For potato salad, garden salad or any salad of the toddler's choice.)
1/3 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
1/3 cup low-fat natural yogurt
2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Freshly ground pepper, to taste (optional)
1. Mix all ingredients together and pour it over salad.

Can alternatives such as flavoured yogurt, frozen yoghurt, yogurt drinks like Yakult be given to young children? Why?
Children above the age of 2 can be given flavoured yogurt, frozen yogurt, yogurt drinks like yakult as an alternatives. This is because they are able to accept a wider variety of flavours as well as texture. However, it would be advisable to opt for less sugar options, avoid artificial flavourings and colourings for these yogurt alternatives.

It is said that parents should always model if they want their children to inculcate a good & healthy eating habit. However, if the parents really do not like yogurt, are there tips they can use to introduce yogurt to their children?
Even if parents do not fancy eating yogurt on its own, they can still model good eating habits with yogurt by using it as a vegetable stick dip, a bread spread or salad dressing.
Always let your child try out the original taste of the yogurt, before using it as an ingredient of dressing or food.
Involve your child in the preparation of the food that involves yogurt, and explains to them that yogurt can be eaten on its own (which you would encourage your child to), but yogurt can also be part of another food (which is your preferred way of eating yogurt and it is still acceptable.

Note: This interview was made possible by NestlĂ©, which has just launched the new Nestle Cerelac Infant Cereals with Yogurt in two flavours: wheat & cherry apple and wheat & mango orange.

Really easy online grocery shopping with RedMart

{User Experience}

Online shopping. I'm sure most of us have done it before, but probably mostly for items like clothes and beauty. But, why not groceries?

Like me, some of you may think that doing online grocery shopping is a hassle. Or maybe difficult, or maybe tedious. After all, nothing beats being able to see the items on shelves, comparing prices and having a feel of what you are intending to get.

Hang on a minute. Doesn't that apply to fashion and beauty too? I would want to see that dress and try it on, rather than buying it virtually. If I can buy clothes and lipsticks online, why not the groceries for my family?

Online grocery shopping may have had its glitches in the past, but not any more. As some of you may know, I recently discovered RedMart (you can read all about it here). This online grocer has taken the hassle out of online grocery shopping and made it oh so effortless. So much so that I have made a few more purchases since my first. How so? Let me give you five reasons.

Reason 1: Extensive list of groceries items in one single place
RedMart is almost like having a supermarket at your fingertips, virtually. Instead of having to walk down aisles in a supermarket searching for what you need, with RedMart, I was able to do it all in the comfort of my room and lying in bed. This virtual supermarket has everything that I need, except for perishable items. From rice, sauces and canned food, to cereals, biscuits, chocolates and even baking needs, RedMart has it all stocked up. Other categories include beverages like coffee, juice and soft drinks, baby needs like food, formula and diapers, health & beauty items like shampoo and facial wash, household items like laundry detergent and insecticides. There is even a category just for pet owners. RedMart constantly adds new items to its inventory, and these items can be found under the ‘new’ category. However, what most bargain hunters love most would be the ‘on sale’ category. Discounts here are from 4% onwards, some items even be up to 40% off!

Reason 2: User friendly website makes shopping online so much easier
In pleasant colours of red and white, RedMart’s website is extremely user friendly. It is very easy to navigate through the categories, and I like the way the sub-categories appear in a box once the mouse goes over the various categories. This fluid design means that I can easily go from category to category and yet be able to get an overview of what this online supermarket has.

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Another feature that I like is the My Cart list, which automatically appears once the mouse goes over it and shows in an instant the various items in the cart before checking out. 

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Next to it is the My List feature, which gives a history of past purchases made, so that I can quickly click and order my items without having to go through the whole website.

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All these features come together to make the RedMart website a breeze to use.

Reason 3: Free delivery plus same day delivery
Usually, there is free delivery for orders above $75. However, until 30 September, one just needs to spend $49. Which is fantastic news! Couple that with same day delivery for orders before 10am, shopping for groceries online becomes even more convenient.

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Not only that, there is also the option of choosing a desired delivery time, so that busy parents like you and me can select a time that best suits our lifestyles.

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Reason 4: No need to fight with the crowd
The crowd at supermarkets can get really crazy on weekends, with the jostling of trolleys and the unbelievable long queues. With online grocery shopping thanks to RedMart, I don’t have to go through any of that. Well, except for the times I need to get fresh, perishable food items. For that, I’d go to my friendly wet market just ten minutes walk away.

Reason 5: Grocery shopping on the go! Grocery shopping has even gone mobile!
RedMart has an iPhone app that makes it easier to shop while on the go. Resembling its online version in terms of colour and overall usability, the app is as user friendly as the website. It is equally intuitive, and it was extremely easy to order using the app. I can conveniently add items to My Cart using the app, and then shop some more and complete the checkout using the laptop. Seamless convenience, literally at my fingertips!

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Excuse me while I go grocery shopping, in bed.

Disclaimer: We received monetary compensation from RedMart for this review. All opinions and images are my own, based on my authentic user experience.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Play Learning Tuesday: 'at' CVC Spinaround Game

A few weeks ago, I shared a literacy matching game that could be used for revising of alphabets and numbers, as well as for visual recognition of CVC words, in particular, words ending with 'at'.

Today, I am sharing another game that narrows the focus, concentrating on practising and revising CVC words. In our case, we used it for eight 'at' words.

We call it the 'at' Spinaround Game.

AT Spinaround game cover
Here is what you need.
2 pieces of round cardboard (we cut ours out of a recycled cereal box), one slightly bigger than the other
Paper fastener

Firstly, I got EV to paint both round pieces of cardboard in her favourite colours. She chose blue and yellow.

After the paint dried, I poked holes in the middle of both cardboard pieces and loosely secured them together with the paper fastener.

I cut a small piece of cardboard from the smaller cardboard to create the 'viewer' so the letters written on the bigger piece of cardboard can be seen.

Then I wrote 'at' on the smaller cardboard, just to the right of the 'viewer'. I also wrote eight different letters on the bigger cardboard, at equal intervals. As both circles are turned around and the letters matched, eight CVC words can be created - sat, pat, cat, hat, rat, mat, fat and bat. These letters come from the first three letter groups of Jolly Phonics, a system that we use and has proven to be very effective in developing the literacy of EV and AA. Read more about EV's experience with JP here.

This Spinaround Game can be adapted for other CVC words as well. So simple, so fun, multiple possibilities, cost efficient - perfect!

What fun word games are you playing this week?


What is Play Learning Tuesday?
Play Learning Tuesday is a weekly linky hosted by Toddly Mummy where bloggers are invited to share their child-friendly play, learning and craft activities. Taking part for the first time? You might like to read the guidelines here first.

Toddly Mummy

Linking up with:

Tot School No Time For Flash Cards Activities for Children Lessons Learnt Journal Kids Co-Op Tuesday Tots Mama to 5 Blessings