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Kids Put To Work!

I used to read mostly blogs from other countries, but once I started following local blogs, I have been hooked. Our circumstances are more similar, so it’s much easier for me to ‘copy’ if I feel inspired. And inspired was what I felt when I read Our Everyday Things about training kids to be independent, specifically helping out with housework.

Thus, about two weeks ago, I started getting the boys to help out in the daily chores around the house. This also coincided with a update of our routine, so things have been working out nicely. I used to randomly ask them to help, but now I want to make it a regular part of our lives, with the goal of them eventually (soon??!!) doing the work on their own without me supervising or guiding. (Only Kor Kor gets to cook at the stove for now.)

Hmm, yes it does take longer to complete the chores with the boys’ involvement. But I have already seen improvements in their work performance! They have definitely got used to helping out, and no longer drag their feet when they have to stop playing/reading at Housework Time.

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Learning About Electricity

Sometimes, our topics/themes are not really child-led.. Rather, they happen because… urmm.. I bought a set of books and well, we gotta read all the books in the set eventually, right? So, I had these three books on electricity lying around…

My plan was just to read all three books to the boys, no matter if they didn’t really understand or not interested or whatever. I just wanted to read once so that I could put the books neatly on their bookshelves.(OCD Task-oriented Good housekeeping, right?)

(I go through each new book with the boys at least once, so that if/when they pull out the book to read on their own, they have at least some inkling what the book’s about. Even if they can’t read all the words yet, they have at least the pictures and what they remember from my reading to try to figure things out. For science books, especially those not at their reading level, I think it will be quite difficult for them to ‘read’ from scratch. Frankly speaking, I am amazed at the things they manage to ‘figure out’ just from pictures. But err, sometimes wrongly, haha.)

Anyway, reading is never ‘just read’ la. I do try to explain the chim stuff and of course, they have tons of questions. 一万个为什么!The problem is, I could see the 100% perplexed look on Kor Kor’s face… you mean electricity comes out from the wall??? (Didi is lucky to be still young enough to accept all things as magic.)

Good thing that the books have clear pictures of how electricity is produced at the power stations and travels to our homes, through the walls and to the appliances. I really, really absolutely LOVE the look on Kor Kor’s face when he GOT IT! Priceless!

Since the boys are keen, it’s a good chance to explore more with them. Very luckily, we have one old waffle maker in the storeroom! (Not purely by luck, I kept it because I was waiting for such a day, hee hee.)

And… finally, it’s time to break out our Snap Circuits! It’s very easy and safe to do, and a good way to kickstart circuit-building.

The boys love it!

 

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How We Learn

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Recently I have had an awakening. That Meimei is no longer that small a baby, and I really should get my a** back to doing MORE with the boys. Drew up a new schedule and the first step is to start (resume?) a daily morning reading session.

This morning I didn’t really have a clear idea what I wanted to do during the reading session. Read which books? Just read? Do I choose the books or let them choose? Never mind, just try first.

Decided to start off with 弟子规。I plan to go through the whole book, one page at a time, and explain the teachings thoroughly to the boys.

弟子规 圣人训

首孝弟 次谨信

泛爱众 而亲仁

有余力 则学文

While explaining “信” (be trustworthy), I told the boys that they should keep their word, for example, if they promise to keep their toys after playing, they have to do it. (Haha.) So they started asking, what if we don’t? I replied that I would then give their toys away, and that there were many less fortunate children who did not have any toys.

Ah-ha moment. I got out our book Material World, and showed them photos of families in other countries. That in turn led to a geography lesson with the globe (Ethopia vs South Africa).

Good chance to teach the boys some Singapore history – that our country didn’t use to be as prosperous as it is now. Out came the Social Studies textbook.

And that’s how we spent the 30-plus minutes of reading session. Just read… chat… follow the flow! No concrete plan, didn’t do much other than talk, but I am sure the boys have benefited and know more than before the session. I am looking forward to tomorrow morning! : )

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Tampines Eco Green

We first visited this park last week, and we went again today! It is a very quiet place, not like a regular park at all. For one thing, there is NO plasticky playground, yay! The plants all look very natural, not the manicured type. But it’s not as challenging as say, Venus Loop. The walking trails are very spacious and the grass very short. No idea whether it is cut regularly or the species of grass just doesn’t grow tall? Haha, oops. When you look into the park from outside, it really looks very wild. But when you are inside and look out, you can see flats, houses, main roads right next to you : )

Image source: NParks

Image source: NParks

OK, I read quite a few blogs before I went, yet I was not prepared for what I actually experienced. Nothing special la, just.. peace.. and quiet… and SAFE nature.. no way to get lost 😛 So…. here are the photos!

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The entrance, just underneath the MRT tracks. We walked over from Tampines Bus Interchange, cutting across Sun Plaza Park. It’s about 20 minutes walk.

 

See the house? (can't recall what Didi was pointing at)

See the house? (can’t recall what Didi was pointing at)

The entire Forest Trail runs parallel to Sungei Tampines and many HDB flats. The Forest Trail starts at the main entrance (opposite Sun Plaza Park) and ends at BLK 495F.

See the HDB flats? Just one big canal separating us from them, but I am sure someone will be able to hear us if we shout for help (IF!!)

See the HDB flats? Just one big canal separating us from them, but I am sure someone will be able to hear us if we shout for help (IF!!)

The first trip, we did Forest Trail (orange) followed by Diversity Trail (yellow).

We did the Marsh Trail on our second trip. But to tell the truth, the scenery looked pretty much the same to me… largely due to our inexperienced eyes… no idea what to look out for!

This time round, we managed to get a photo at the entrance!

This time round, we managed to get a photo at the entrance!

 

Don't jump!

Don’t jump!

 

The boys say they are trains.. going through the tunnel...

The boys say they are trains.. going through the tunnel…

... now they are birds...

… now they are birds…

.... then Kor Kor sees a giraffee!

…. then Kor Kor sees a giraffe!

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Brought their dinner again : ) Not many mozzies by the way!

The tough cookie walked all the way! :D

The tough cookie walked all the way! 😀

The first and second experiences were quite different. I think when we first went there, the boys did not know what to expect, and were probably feeling worried that it was going to be like Venus Loop. I was also more stressed as it was difficult to gauge how long our walk would take, or even whether the kids could finish the trail at all.

Today, I could sense that they were much more relaxed. The boys took their time to enjoy their surroundings, and Meimei was happy to walk on her own (I carried her the entire walk during the first trip). A very relaxed stroll took us about 45 minutes (Marsh Trail). We are definitely going back regularly!

Directions: From Tampines Bus Interchange, follow the MRT tracks. For more details, check out NParks’ comprehensive guide.

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How To Buy Books From Dangdang (Science Books recommendation)

(not sponsored – but I wish Dangdang would sponsor me! Please?)

I try to provide Chinese books on most topics so that the boys see Chinese as a language medium on its own, not just as a separate subject. More specifically, the only subject taught in Mandarin.

One might point out that it seems pretty useless to know jargon or specialised vocabulary in Chinese. The thing is, each Chinese character has its meaning. For example, when the child knows 长颈鹿,he will probably know 颈 means neck.

It also helps the parents to improve our own language ability when we read the Chinese books to the child. For example, I do know that a plug is 插头 and often use this term when speaking to my kids, but it was only after I read a Chinese book on electricity that I started to refer to a socket as 插座。

And I am so glad I found this set of books and wanna share with you all!

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Sample pages from the book on volcanoes:

Each book also comes with a 1-2 pages of a Parents’ Guide, a few questions to test the child’s understanding, and a hands-on activity.

Sample pages from the book on Earthquakes:

Other than this 《地球》 set, the series has two other sets 《物理、化学》 and 《生物、人体、环境》。Each set (more than ten books) costs around SGD30 excluding shipping. Which is very cheap compared to local bookshops! But some of my friends have had difficulties ordering from Dangdang. I have done it many times using a local credit card with no problem at all, with direct delivery to my doorstep. My most recent purchase arrived last week via UPS. It took less than two weeks.

Step 1: At the book(s) you want, click “加入购物车” (Add to shopping cart.)

Step 2: Go to your shopping cart ( “购物车” ) at the top of the page.

Step 3: Click “结算”

Step 4: You will be asked to log in. If you do not already have a Dangdang account, click “注册” (Register.)

Step 5: To register, fill in your handphone number OR email address. Then your selected password. Lastly is re-enter password to confirm.

Step 6: Click “结算” again.

Step 7: Enter your delivery address, i.e. Singapore address.

收货人 Your name

收货地区 Country: Select 新加坡

详细地址 Your address (Block, road name, unit number)

邮政编码 Postal code

手机 or 固定电话 Mobile number (65xxxxxxxx) or Land line

[For the address, I used to be able to use just my English road name. But now it requires at least 3 Chinese characters??!! Anyway, just add on the Chinese name of your street at the end of your English road name. Because our local deliverymen might not understand the Chinese address.]

Step 8: Not very sure where this step will be for new users. For payment method 支付方式,choose “网上支付”

Step 9: You will be asked to confirm your delivery method. Urmm, I only get one option anyway. So just agree lor. “确认送货方式”

Step 10: Submit order 提交订单

Step 11: You will be asked to choose your specific payment method (选择网上银行或平台支付). Click “支付平台”, followed by “国外信用卡” (overseas credit card).

Step 12: Choose your card type – Visa / Mastercard. You will be redirected to the next page to fill in the credit card details.

持卡人姓名 Cardholder’s name

卡号 Card number

卡有效日期 Valid till

Then I can’t help you anymore. I think that should be the last step. Cos I can’t click any further since I don’t really want to buy anything now. It’s quite common to get an error message saying that the payment was not successful. Don’t worry. Just check your Dangdang Order History in 1-2 days. Nine out of ten times that I got this error message, everything was fine when I checked my account later and my books did arrive. If there is nothing in your Order History after waiting two days, do check your credit card transaction history to confirm the payment has not gone through. Then just repeat the order process.

Happy shopping, and do let me know if you have any recommendations on books to buy from Dangdang too!

 

 

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From Boys To Men… At Venus Loop!

Given our recent study of the solar system, when the boys heard that we were going to VENUS Loop, they were really excited. ‘We are going to Venus? Really??’

Sorry, darlings, of course not. That was about the last bit of innocent joy they enjoyed before they realised what Mummy was about to put them through.

I love to let my kids experience nature. So when I came across scrapmumloft’s post on Venus Loop at MacRitchie, I couldn’t wait to bring the kids!

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The entrance from Venus Drive carpark. Still happy.

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The path is along a natural stream. But our untrained and inexperienced eyes didn’t get to see much.

Then we walked… and walked.. and walked. It was after a morning of rain, and the path was very muddy! Mosquitoes were out in full force, and despite a liberal dose of bug repellant and a patch on each kid, the boys and I were attacked mercilessly. Fortunately Meimei escaped unharmed!

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My plan was just to do Venus Loop, which is supposed to be easily completed by even young kids. But at the beginning, Kor Kor insisted on going to the Treetop Walk (which he saw on the map at the entrace). Of course, by the time we reached this sign, he was all ready to give up. Stubborn Mummy was secretly very happy to give in to him.

The thing is, it was my first time doing this trek, and there were no signboards indicated where to loop back. I only noticed one fork in the path, so after giving up on trying the Treetop Walk, we retrieved our steps to that fork and carried on. Kor Kor pleaded with me to turn back to the carpark, but no way!

[At that time, I was concerned about sending the wrong message to the kids about persevering in the face of adversity (ha!). But now as I am writing this, I guess there are many other virtues that I could have expounded about turning back. Such as 知难而退、见风使舵、见好就收…. maybe. As the parent, it’s always up to us how we want to brainwash or twist & turn the facts or present a situation to the child.]

Then we walked and walked and walked somemore. I was starting to feel uneasy… Were we lost? Was I really lost in the forest with three young kids totally dependent on me??? We passed by quite a few other trekkers at the start… But how come we had not seen any for quite a while?

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Then I remembered that a bit back, we had passed by this path which seemed to lead out of the forest. So up we went. (Picture was taken from the top after we cleared it.)

It did lead us to a tree-less area, the grass was cut, just behind a row of houses. But both ends didn’t seem to lead anywhere – one side was a construction site, the other was just…. endless….

The boys had been hopeful when I led them out of the forest. They were somewhat calmer than they were in the forest – when they were under vicious attack by the mosquitoes on top of not knowing where on earth they were… far far away from the civilisation they knew. But after walking a bit more, their hopes were dashed again. Exactly how I felt too. Sigh.

But it’s up to the leader to keep their spirits up. Even if it’s just bluff.

‘Don’t worry, boys. See, there are houses here. So we just need to follow the row of houses, and eventually at the end of the row, there will be a road!’

Actually I wasn’t so sure. Never mind. Pretend. Worst comes to worst, I shall just trespass into one of the houses (most of them do not have any fence at the back. I mean, which crazy nut will bash through the forest just to commit housebreaking, right? Huh) and ask to exit from their front gate. Seriously, I would already have done that if the houses did not look empty.. nobody to open the door for us to let us through the house! No point for us to wait in the backyard.

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Finally, we saw the light! Somehow we had reached Libra Drive. And there was a very old-style playground with the traditional see-saws and swings!

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Children are really very resilient. Once we came onto the road, the boys behaved as if nothing had happened. No signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Saw playground, immediately ‘I want to plaaaaay!!’ I would like to think that despite their moaning and wailing (sorry monkeys and squirrels for disturbing your afternoon naps), they were not that affected because they had full faith in Mummy. Haha.

Two hours of exercise aside, my most valuable gain from the trek is finding out how unaccustomed to the great outdoors my boys are. It is definitely my failing as a parent that accounts for this – not providing enough opportunities! But no worries, this shall be rectified in short order – I must make such outings a regular fixture. Hopefully soon the boys will learn to enjoy such treks.

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The best surprise is seeing how brave and adaptable Didi is! He was initially complaining about the mud.. then after a few more meters, I turned back and saw him happily jumping and splashing around in the mud! That’s the way, boy! 妈妈真的对你另眼相看了!

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Hubby picked us up at the playground after work, and since there was no place to have our picnic dinner, we drove to Bedok Reservoir Park. And the kids had fun at the playground after dinner. The energy! (Love this part of the park which I just discovered. Shall do up a post too. Eventually.)

I shall not include the directions etc here, since scrapmumloft has provided the information in her post. No point doing double work! As she recommends, we have also signed up for the guided walk by Toddycats. Check them out, or wait for my post after my next visit to Venus Loop!

Be warned though, I carried a 5.8kg bag and a 9kg baby for the whole trek! The usual baby gear like diapers, wet wipes, extra clothes… plus four lunchboxes for dinner, three water bottles, rainwear for the kids, my few items like camera and wallet… So you might want to bring another goat or horse or camel adult in addition to the kids 😛