Making Makers

This is actually the title of a book I just started reading, and it’s exactly what I am trying to do – make makers out of my kids. My goal is for the kids to make, to create, to build, to invent! Came across STEM for kids and I am hooked. Science, Technology, Engineering, Math! (Sometimes Art is added to make it STEAM. But… science and math stuff are easy for me, but errrrrr, art… maybe later :P)

But after reading quite a few books like Tinkerlab and Tinkering: Kids Learning By Making Stuff, I realised there was one big problem. Firstly, I am not a creative person. Secondly, the books give instructions for how to DIY amazing things, but I don’t want my kids to be just following instructions! So, after some brainwork…


A new tinkering area for the boys!


The boys have a tinkering box each – with things from my craft stocks and random stuff around the house.

Next step. If I just leave it up to them, I really wonder how long it would take them to start making, despite all the materials they have access to. I think making is a habit, a culture. They probably wouldn’t know what to do with all those random loose parts, until inspiration struck dunno when… Boredom is supposed to be good for creativity, but for a book lover, it is very difficult to feel bored, especially with a book-loving mummy who buys many books and with a wonderful public library 😛

I decided to take the bull by its horns and CREATE the culture! I shall let the boys see me making things. But I do not want them to see me referring to instructions in the books or on my iPhone. I shall pretend they are my own ideas, ha! So, the night before I plan to ‘make things’, I do my homework. I read the instructions and remember as much as I can. I also draw the drafts in my notebook, to set a good example for the boys to plan and to put in ink their ideas.

Then, when I am making, the boys only see me referring to my drawings! But seriously, because I sometimes forget the exact instructions, or because I do not have the exact same parts as in the books, I have to do a lot of improvisations and trial-and-error.


Wooden spoon catapult


Propeller-driven car ver 1


The 1st car didn’t move too well, so I experimented with other wheels and axles. Success!


Sail car

I made all those in one day! Thanks to having an entire free day at home : )

Two days later…


This dump truck is my first baby! I thought of the whole thing myself, with a movable dumping bed, a door that opens, and a see-through windscreen!


I made the trolley in Meimei’s hand!

Then we moved on to something more exciting – moving robots!


Drawing machine – markers attached to a plastic cup. The motor moves the cup and the markers draw on the paper.


Didi’s robot


My robot haha


Kor Kor’s draft for his robot!


Kor Kor’s robot

Red Ted Art’s Blog has a post on making mini robots, and I also referred to the Tinkerlab book for instructions. I had no prior experience with using toy motors before, but as I was making the robots, I realised it’s much easier than I expected!

Start with making the robots, just like doing a craft – glue or somehow attach cardboard rolls or whatever to make the robot, then add googly eyes, stickers, anything to decorate. Then connect the battery holder with the motor, and attach it to your robot. The interesting bit is you have to attach something to the axis of the motor as an ‘unbalancer’. A small coin will work fine. Tata!

Urmm, don’t expect too much though. I have no idea how to upload a video here, but as you can see in the video at Red Ted Art’s Blog, the robots just sorta vibrate and spin. Hmm, I guess it takes high-tech robotics to make the robots walk in a straight line? I need time to figure that out 😛

The best part about this whole experience of making to make my kids makers? After just two days of making, making, making, I am already feeling a lot more competent! Much faster too, and I have started to really like doing it (instead of just doing it for the kids). Hopefully my kids will feel the same way as they start tinkering and experimenting with what they can do. Yay!

(By the way, yes, I made all these. Not my kids. Not my kids with my help. They hardly did anything at all except be busybody and touch this touch that or just run off at times. The only thing they really did was the craft part to make the robots’ bodies. Cos my goal was to create the culture of making, NOT to give them instructions to follow.)


The Lost Hour

I used to be very obssessed about the kids’ bedtimes – MUST sleep early. Must nap. Why? There are many, many books and online articles advocating the importance of sleep for young children and how they should sleep – how many hours of sleep they need at each age, what time they should sleep, etc. In short, young children need to sleep a lot, and they need to go to bed very early.

But somehow, I had lost track of this very important brain factor along the way. We did not start having late-night activities. We did not start returning home very late. When I became aware of the problem and reflected, I realised that it was because I decided to take things slooooow, to let the boys take their time instead of rushing them all the time. (Still rushing them when we need to be somewhere by a certain time though.) So when they were engrossed in their play when we were supposed to be preparing for bedtime, I tried to let them play and to just wait, instead of hurrying them to drink their milk, brush their teeth… I also patiently read them many bedtime stories………….

It was good, cos everyone felt more relaxed and there were fewer tantrums. I was happy too cos task-oriented me could finish doing all the miscellanous stuff like washing their water bottles, unpacking & packing their bags. But it meant the boys often ended up going to bed around 10pm >.< And yes, they still woke up at their usual 7.30am, often even earlier.

Then I read this book and it woke me up.


An experiment was conducted where groups of fourth-graders and sixth-graders were randomly told to either go to bed earlier or stay up later, for three nights. The difference in amount of true sleep turned out to be an hour. Only an hour, yet the effect was significant – a slightly sleepy sixth-grader would perform in class (test of neurobiological functioning) like a fourth-grader.

Truth be told, it didn’t take much to convince me, because of my sleep-fanatic background. All I needed was a reminder. Nevertheless, I find this book to be a great read. It covers ten topics, each in a very digestible chapter. And it’s available from the library! Happy reading!




Have you heard of the saying “穷养男,富养女”? According to the author 云晓, this method will produce boys who are strong, brave, exhibit leadership qualities, able to take hardship, successful, wise, filial, rational and confident. How does it actually work?

3 main principles: Respect, Rational Love, Let Go

Before we go on, the author explains the eight common inclinations of boys and the corresponding parenting response.

  1. Likes to take risks – parents should be understanding of the ‘trouble’ caused by boys.
  2. Likes to lead – parents should avoid being the ‘almighty’ leader.
  3. Likes to compete – this can be a positive motivating force, parents should teach the boy fair ways of competing.
  4. Stubborn and fixed in thinking – instead of criticizing, parents should use facts to guide the boy.
  5. Weak self-control – parents should focus on building up the boy’s self-control.
  6. Keeps his feelings to himself – more communication, to approach the topic in a roundabout manner.
  7. Likes to be hero – try to satisfy the boy’s desire to be a hero.
  8. Rebellious – do not criticize or scold, communicate with sincerity.

To Develop A Strong Boy

What the father can do: A boy needs a male role model, and the father is in the best position to model positive traits. No matter how good a job the mother is doing, it is not the same as what the father can do.

  1. Demonstrate being strong and resilient in the face of problems.
  2. Not to do too much for the son, to allow the boy to solve problems himself.
  3. Solve challenges together, e.g. repair household appliances, change lightbulbs.

What the mother can do: Despite the importance of the male role model, the boy is still very much influenced by his mother due to the amount of time they spend together.

  1. Demonstrate being strong and resilient in the face of problems, and not to cry or give up easily.
  2. To show some weakness in daily problems, so as to allow the son chances to help the mother.
  3. To be the ‘student’ and ask the son for answers, e.g. what to do when the light is spoilt, so that the son tries to seek answers and solutions.

Adversity training 挫折教育: Seems to be what parents most commonly think of when talking about “穷养男孩”, but it does not mean purposely ‘torturing’ the boy like making him work in a factory during school holidays at a very young age, or to study outside the house in the rain. That is ‘吃苦教育’! 挫折教育is to let the boy experience obstacles or challenges which he will eventually face in life, to let him understand that life will not always be smooth-sailing.

‘Natural consequences’ would be a part of adversity training, e.g. when the boy forgets to pack his schoolbag and the mother does not help him send the forgotten item to school.

Not to satisfy all of his wants, to let him understand that he will not always get what he wants in life. This will also help him learn to accept rejection.

Strengthen the boy’s ability to recover from adverse situations by modeling how we solve real-life challenges (e.g. financial difficulties) in a calm manner. Thus he sees that problems do not mean the end of the world, that problems can be overcome.


EQ For The Young Child

How To Raise A Child With A High EQ

How To Raise A Child With A High EQ

A topic which I am now very keen to learn more about, and which I realised I had not read much on before! It’s a new learning journey, so I do not have enough background knowledge to form any judgment about whether this book is useful, but hey, gotta start somewhere ya?

The author organized the components of emotional intelligence into six areas: skills related to moral behaviour, thinking, problem solving, social interaction, academic & work success, and the emotions. Each general area is then further sub-divided into specific EQ skills.

The Moral Emotions: Encouraging empathy & caring, Honesty & integrity, Shame & guilt

EQ Thinking Skills: Realistic thinking, Optimism, Chaging the way children think by changing the way they think

Problem solving: Teaching by example, The language of problem solving, Solutions training

The Social Skills: Conversational skills, Humr, Making friends, Functioning in a group, Manners

Self-Motivation and Achievement Skills: Anticipating success, Persistence & effort, Facing & overcoming failure

The Power of Emotions: Emotional awareness & communication, Communication beyond words, Emotional control

As I read, I realised I am really not worried at all about the categories of problem-solving and self-motivation & achievement.. Because.. ahem, I am confident of teaching or at least modeling these skills to my children : )

So that just leaves a few skills to worry about. Ha.

One sentence in the book made me very happy though.

Research strongly suggests that if you want to raise a child with a high EQ, you are better off being too strict than too lenient.

Great. I have no problems with being strict!


So Many Things to Teach… I Choose Chinese Literature

Slowly and gradually, trying to figure out what to do for the boys’ homeschooling. Though I am not and not intending to use any formal curriculum, I do need some guidelines for myself. Otherwise, really, the days zoom by in a blur. From books and social media, there are so many ideas of activities to do with the kids. I feel like doing all of them! But my recent activity-recording has helped me to be more realistic – I know there is no way I can do everything. In fact, there is no way I can do more than a little bit more than what we are doing now.

Finally, I have chosen

This isn’t a proper academic subject (not in primary school anyway, but then, everything can be linked to ‘academics’), but neither are the other ‘subjects’ I was considering. Truth be told, though I was in a SAP secondary school and did Higher Chinese for ‘O’ levels, there wasn’t much emphasis on Chinese literature or Chinese history (unless you were doing C.Lit as an ‘O’ subject). I wasn’t exactly a diligent student either, so much of it went over my head. It was only in my 20s that I started to appreciate the beauty of the Chinese Language.

And this beauty is something which I want to immerse my children in from young.

I also find Chinese Classics to be very useful in teaching values. Somehow, it sounds less like nagging when I am repeating the verses instead of ‘stop fighting!’ / ‘do what i say!’ etc. Too bad I cannot 出口成章 (speak like a book)!

On being good brothers!

On being good brothers!

I am currently re-reading this book by a Chinese mother who is an educator by profession and has also groomed her daughter to be outstanding in character and academic performance. She started reading and memorising Tang poems together with her daughter since the girl was 4+ years old. Her take is that when the child is so young, there is no need to explain what the poems mean. It is enough just for the child to enjoy the rhythm of the poems. In addition, it is easy for the child to remember the words even if he is not making a conscious effort to do so. When he is older, he will gradually grasp the meaning as he is used to the language. The author also notes that while adults might find it difficult to understand ‘traditional’ way of speaking (I don’t know the proper terms, but it’s something like what Shakespearean language is to the English Language – uses the same words, but they are different.), children have no such differentiation.


(If you read or recite a book 100 times, the meaning of the book will come out naturally.)

Literally translated as 'A Good Mother is Better than A Good Teacher'

Literally translated as ‘A Good Mother is Better than A Good Teacher’

As for the other topics which I would like to expose the kids to, I can only read books to them as and when they request or I am free.


How I Sleep Trained My Kids

Baby #1

When Kor Kor was about seven months old, he did not sleep well at all. He cried when I put him in the cot after nursing, he woke up numerous times during the night, he refused to go back to sleep at 3am+.

I can’t say I was very tired or very stressed, since I had only one child then and wasn’t working and could rest when he did sleep or when he was playing on his own… but I was very unhappy and angry. I didn’t know what to do, or what I did wrong. So I started to read about babies’ sleep issues, and came to the conclusion that my only choices for sleep training was graduated extinction (ignore some crying), or extinction (ignore all crying), also known as the cry-it-out (CIO) method. Because I really did not want to co-sleep.

[ I do not think co-sleeping or sleep training is better than the other. I do not believe that co-sleeping babies grow up to be less independent, or that sleep-trained babies feel abandoned. I feel that it’s a matter of personal preference and lifestyle. I knew I was bad-tempered because of the numerous night wakings, and I chose to remove the cause of the bad-temperedness. To mummies who have the heart and will to co-sleep with your baby, I applaud you. I am sharing my experience for mummies who want to sleep-train their child but might need more info.]

I also learnt that overtired babies would find it more difficult to fall asleep, until they got so tired that they KO, but then that would mean they would not be well rested the next morning.

Thus, for Kor Kor, I decided to ‘repay’ his sleep debt first. I knew by then that I had not implemented proper routines or sleep habits for him. So I was determined to somehow make him sleep enough first, before I started CIO. Twice a day, I rocked him to sleep in the Baby Bjorn and then either sat or stood throughout his nap. If he stirred before I felt he had slept enough, I would rock him back to sleep. Didn’t want to risk putting him in the cot and waking him up.

(Ahh.. the luxury of being a mother of one… seems like ages ago…)

Did that for about one week. Then started off with graduated extinction for bedtime in the evening. But Daddy and I realised very quickly that it would not work – Kor Kor just cried more loudly after each time I went to check on him. So we switched to extinction – just let the baby cry till he fell asleep.

The first night he cried for about an hour. On each subsequent night the duration of crying got shorter and shorter, and after one week or so, he was only whimpering at bedtime. Good enough! Then we moved on to sleep training for naptimes. But I can’t remember how we did it. Oops. The things three pregnancies do to a brain. But it was definitely easier cos we (parents and baby) had already got the hang of it.

Baby #2

I had sleep trained Kor Kor when he was about eight months old, and I had intended to wait till Didi was around the same age before sleep training him. But I found it very difficult, near impossible, to manage on my own when Didi was no longer able to sleep by himself around five months old. I wasn’t sure whether it was ok to sleep train him at five months old, and I desperately sought advice from parenting books, parenting websites, mummies’ forums, and my friends on social media. This time round, I learnt about Pick Up Put Down (Baby Whisperer) and shush-pat.

Tried these methods as they seemed much gentler than CIO, and I was hesitant to do CIO with such a young baby. They sorta worked for a while… but the effects were not sustainable. Thus I turned to CIO again.

This time, I had read Dr Marc Weissbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, as recommended by another mummy. In its 500 pages, it clearly explains the importance of good quality sleep for the child, and provides clear guidelines for training your child according to age. Armed with this book and our earlier sleep training success with Kor Kor, I felt assured and confident.

Didi’s training was faster and easier. There was no serious ‘sleep debt’, as I was more aware of sleep habits and routines now.

I really love this book

I really love this book

Baby #3

Meimei was such an angel that I told myself I would rock her to sleep till she was much older. Furthermore she would be my last baby… *emo*

But it was not just about whether I was willing. Now I had two noisemakers instead of one. Didi walked like an ELEPHANT…!!! And would create more noise by crying, wailing and throwing tantrum when I told him to GO AWAY.  Kor Kor was older and could obey instructions to stay away from Meimei’s room… most of the time… But he was also tempted to follow Mummy when he saw Didi doing so.

That sealed her fate. Sayang-ing her would not gain her quality rest (since the noisemakers would definitely be around to make noise). Sleep training it was then.

Happy Ending : )


Why I Don’t Teach My Kids To Draw

培养孩子从画画开始 : 走进孩子的涂鸦世界

鸟居昭美著 ; 于群译

I read the Chinese translation of this book quite a while ago, and read it again recently after I chanced upon Mrs Kam’s post on the same book. It is one of the books which influence how I teach my kids to draw… or rather, how I don’t teach them to draw. Just like I don’t test my children, it is a conscious and purposeful decision.

The author is a renown early childhood educator in Japan with more than 50 years experience in the field, and an artist himself. According to him, young children’s drawings are a form of expression, just like young babies express themselves by crying. As such, adults should not so much look at their drawings but to ‘listen’ to their drawings. Listen to what the child is trying to express via his drawings. But once the child is taught how/what to draw, he loses the ability to use drawing to express himself.

The progression of children’s drawing is similar to their other developments as they grow – there is no hurrying them! However the parent’s way of ‘listening’ should change according to the child’s age. At 2-3 years old, we ask him ‘what is this’. At 4 years and older, we ask ‘what are they doing’ and listen to the narration. The author reminds us not to be overly zealous and keep questioning the child while he is working on his drawing.

It is not just formal art lessons which the author cautions against – adults drawing for the child, caregivers teaching the child to draw, guiding the child about using colours (‘why is your sky not blue?’), letting the child do colouring books are all included. He explains that instead of being free to explore what her hand movements can create, the child tries to control her hand movements to go a certain way as instructed. She loses the chance to learn new movements and the joy of exploration. In addition, the adult is imposing on the child what he feels, while the child is unable to express her own feelings according to her will.

I can’t find the English version of the book. Anyone knows whether there is one? The Chinese version is available from the library. Other than the points I have translated here, the book has many illustrations of the development of drawings for each age range and explains each point in more detail.

Kor Kor's drawings at 4 years old

Kor Kor’s drawings at 4 years old

These are not as advanced as the 4-year-olds' examples in the book, but given my inability to draw, I think he's already doing very well!

These are not as advanced as the 4-year-olds’ examples in the book, but given my inability to draw, I think he’s already doing very well!