A different experience at the Singapore Zoo

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Ya, right, really no surprise, it's Zoo again, for The Kam Family :-)

Since I was on leave to take care of my 2 kids before of the closure of their childcare centre, I brought them to their new childcare at Yishun to do the registration. That's the reason why we went to the Zoo, as we passed by the Zoo on our way to Yishun. The kids were shouting, Zoo, we MUST go to the Zoo! So Zoo it was.

Since it's a weekday, we got to take the tram ride FOC (for Friends of the Zoo). And I remembered to bring a pram along. Such a nice trip, with 5 hours spent at the Zoo, with me alone with the 2 kids, every minute went passed peacefully without any scolding or shouting. Couldn't believe my luck! Many people were staring at us, as it's a very unusual combination - 1 adult + 2 kids. It's more common to see in Singapore / Malaysia / countries common with live-in helper, the combination of 1 kid + at least 2 adults, even up to 1 kid + 5 adults (parents, grandparents, and helper). So yeap, I was asked a couple of times - you are alone with 2 kids? The kind mums asked in half pitying and half unbelievable tone. My answer was, yes, me alone with 2 kids, I am used to this, but not for every day though :-) Worst thing I faced was, they were people who were so unsympathetic, seeing me carrying Xi Yu, who was sleeping, holding on to Hao Re, who was trying to hold an umbrella to shield Xi Yu from the rain, and me trying to close the pram to get on to the pram, not only these people not giving a pair of helping hands (yes, true, they were not obliged to), they even gave you those, aiyoh, why you so slow, quick lah, delay our time already. What kind of a society we live in?

This trip was a special trip because - 1) without Baba coming along, 2) stuck in a heavy rain, 3) took 3x of the tram rides, 4) didn't catch any show as all afternoon shows were cancelled because of the heavy rain. We enjoyed the trip a lot, more if not for the heavy rain.

To end this post with some conversation I have with my little boy, who is going to turn 4 years old in just a little more than a month time.

On the way to the Zoo:

皓日:太阳公公今天很生气月亮婆婆 kacau 它睡觉,它睡不好就很生气。

p/s: kacau (in Malay) = disturb.


On the way back home:


These conversations made me thinks that:

1) we adult simply complain too much, never happy with the situation - when the sun is out, we complain it's too hot, when it starts to rain, we complain that raining is very troublesome. Kids don't complain like us, they appreciate the nature more than us, they appreciate, adapt and accept every situation they are in.

2) whatever we said to them, intentionally or unintentionally, they take it seriously and remember everything we said, and trust us wholeheartedly. So really have to be careful of what we said. Best method to raise a kid - show by example 身教和言教!

It's really fun to talk / chat with the kids. Hao Re in particular as he now thinks and reasons with you, and likes to tell stories. Xi Yu is not doing any worse, she likes to listen to us, and she would join in whenever she can, she can talk very well for her age, not only that she talks in full sentences, but her vocabularies are really amazing!

Since it's hard to me to post photos in the coming week or so, probably I should do more posts recording our conversations. Yes, I think I should really do so.
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The weekend

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Only touched down at the Changi Aiport at 6.30am. It's one of the worst flight schedule. Departing at the departure destination at 12 midnight. Flight time is 4 hours. Arriving at Singapore in the early morning. So minus off the take off and landing time, only about 3 hours to sleep, and that is if you are able to sleep. So the next day is sure a dead beat day. To make it worse, Singapore Airline partners with Silk Air so most of the flights are operated by Silk Air, much smaller air craft, with very different level of service. Chances of catching the 3 hours sleep - almost zero :-( This very last flight back was on a SQ flight, but there was a baby whined non-stop and very loudly, so I couldn't sleep at all.

Reached home at 7.30am. The kids woke up soon after I took a shower. So meaning no sleep for me. I felt pretty okay, so I suggested to make a trip to JB since the kids won't let me sleep anyway. Needed to buy something from JB, supply of their formula milk included.

The trip was not too bad, though I was so sleepy during the journey, but the kids just won't let me close my eyes. Xi Yu was very sticky on me and was very whinny, after didn't see me for 4 days, which I couldn't and shouldn't blame her. I tried my very best to hold on my temper, be cool, and be extremely patient with her, but still I snapped a couple of times, she whined too much! She was having a bit of cough and runny nose and couldn't sleep very well at night. Think she was tired and desperately wanted my attention, full attention.

I knew she wanted my full attention because she was not happy when I was occupied by Hao Re. She was angry with her brother so much so that she scratched his handsome face with her long nails. Hao Re has a deep scratch, not from his classmates but his beloved sister.

I didn't see it happen, that later at night when we were at home, Hao Re bite Xi Yu fingers and hand, so bad so that it bruised quite badly. Taking revenge?

Well, at last they said sorry to each other. They hugged and their kissed and said never do it again.


Sunday Xi Yu was better. More of the normal self. Phew! We woke up really late, and hubby dragged the kids out and let me sleep another hour till about 10am, that's soooooo nice, and helped a lot!!!

We then got ready to go out. Went to a Japanese restaurant at the Esplanade mall who was running a origami workshop by a master from Japan. Hao Re was very much into origami recently, so when I recieved the mailer from the restaurant, I signed up for the event. It's not really meant for children. But since it's not a big crowd, basically it's only our family of 4 plus another mum with her teenage girl. So, the master was very willing to accommodate to the children. Oh, coincidently, her son is also names Hao Re!!

We made some simple but very nice origami, including a Christmas tree, a flower, a trick boat, and a toy stuff that can spin. Quite fun, I would say, though the kids won't be able to make it on their own, they were very patient and happy to observe. (Sorry too lazy to download, edit, and upload the photos :-))

We then walked from the Esplanade to the Marina Bay Sands through the Helix Bridge. First time on the Helix Bridge, but it's like, errr, nothing special. Marina Bay Sands has changed a lot since our last visit about probably a year ago. Just have our lunch, walked around a little bit then we headed back to the Esplanade. We were very lucky that once we reached to the building, it started to pour cats and dogs!

We waited for a live performace at the courtyard at the Esplande. The performer is Patrick Chng, who is apparently quite famous among the Singaporean artists. I have no clue who he is, but he does sing well. Xi Yu was so focused in the first 2 songs, but by the 3rd song, she KOed :-) Hao Re was very happy listening to the live music and danced/jumped along with the music.

Spent about 5 hours at Esplande / Marina Bay area. It's a pretty pleasant place to walk around once in a while. Should come again after a few months :-)

Today was not a good day for Xi Yu. When we were doing our grocery shopping on our way back home, she fell from the shopping trolley, face up. We were not able to catch her. Luckily she was not injured. Then after taking a shower, she ran out of the bathroom, despite me shouting "don't run" and despite my numerous reminder time over time, she fell hard on her back, for the second time in the day.


Monday and Tuesday are my off days, as the kids' childcare centre is not in operation these 2 days. After a week away from time, it's good that I have these 2 days to do the "re-bonding" with them :-) This is the first time in my life that I need to check and reply mails throughout the days despite that I am on leave :-(( Not a good thing, but it's not going to happen often, it's only because there would be an external audit next week. So tired, mentally, to have to deal with work stuff when I am away from office. Now I can understand how the feeling is........
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My little girl

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Aiyoh..... miss my kids so much!

There was internet connection problem at the hotel for the past 2 days, so I couldn't call home (calling using the Viber as it's free call, else calling from India to Singapore is very expensive, something like a few dollars per minute!).

Only tonight I talked to them. Hao Re was okay. Told me a little bit what he did and his tone sounded okay. But Xi Yu was not. Once she heard my voice, she cried and called me "Mama, Mama......". Soooooo heartbreaking, I tell you :-((( She doesn't really understand what's exactly happening and she can't express herself well, so poor thing.

Oh, my little girl! Think I miss her more than Hao Re.

Wanted to write something about Xi Yu, wanted to note down some of her developments, etc, in the last 2-3 weeks. But was not able to as I was totally tired out at work, leaving me no energy to stay up at night to blog :-) Wanted to do it now actually. But it's passed midnight now and my brain refuses to function properly after a very hectic day.

Just wanna say Xi Yu now occupies a very special seat in my heart :-) Mama loves you lots and lots, my darling girl!

See you in about 24 hours time! Mama will give you lots of hugs and kisses and you need not cry no more :-)
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Childcare search continues..........

From my last post on childcare search at Yishun /Sembawang area, I visited 4 more centres on my own. Managed to shortlist 2. Brought hubby and the kids to do a second visit, and we have decided on registering them at one. Yeah, the painful search is over!

Now, back to my survey:

Childcare center #5
To save my time, it's very similar to Childcare centre #3 in my previous post. About the same environment, same size, same setup. Except it's a lot more crowded (seems like a popular centre), and without the big indoor play area. The person in charge said they bring the kids out to have fresh air instead. While I was there, she was proud to tell me they also have waterplay in the centre for the kids, which is actual fact - simply means fill up some water in a tub, and the tub was placed in the toilet, yes, toilet, though there is enough space, but it's still a toilet, and the kids changed into swimming trunk (seriously, really need to?) and splashing water in the toilet (which other kids were coming in and out of to use the toilet). Teachers are mostly local 40-50ish or younger China Chinese.

Childcare centre #6
It's the cheapest among all.  Has a pretty passionate principle who has been in this line for 20 years, HDB void deck, the usual curriculum, acceptable environment, no outdoor play as there is no playground nearby but they have started a small garden about a year back, so the kids get to do some hands on in planting vegetables every now and then, non air-con. It's an okay childcare. And so I shortlisted this.

Childcare centre #7
Went to visit this one because of recommended by a fellow mum. I like that they have a pretty well maintained outdoor area, with the play structures on grass patches and tri-cycles on the concrete flooring. But the indoor place is very cramp. Students spend most of the time in the small rooms (it's a single storey landed property), and it's air-conditioned. The place is a little run down and looking pretty tired (the piano in the hall is like can retire to the museum anytime). Teachers look okay, good with kids. The principle like a bit bored with the routine, including entertaining visitors like me :-) They don't have vacancy for Hao Re anywhere. So don't have to consider this.

Childcare centre #8
It's located at one of the HDB shophouses, which didn't give me a good first impression when I saw it. The shop front is a common area, while all the classrooms and activities areas are on level 2. It's almost run on non air-con though air-con was fixed. Environment okay but a bit cramp as it's located in shophouses. They have daily outdoor play at the public playground right in front of the shop, monthly short/long distance excursion. It's their very good centre supervisor who changed me from being negative to all positive. She is very passionate and knows lots about the "modern" early children education. Enrichment classes included in the monthly fees (speech and drama, reading program in both English and Chinese, abacus). One big bonus point which is hardly found in most childcare, they serve very healthy meals (brown rice, wholemeal bread, vegetarian menu available, use non processed food as much as possible), that's a big attraction to me. So this one was shortlisted.

So, among the two shortlisted childcare centres #6 and #8, which one did we choose during the 2nd visit?

I posted this on my FB and the choice is very obvious. Yes, everyone chose childcare centre #8 and none has chosen #6. We are no exception. We chose #8. Have called the centre supervisor and places are now reserved Hao Re and Xi Yu to start with them in the year of 2012!! Nothing wrong with #6, we would have chosen this if there were no #8 :-P

The search is officially ended. So happy, one major thing ticked off from the list, phew!!

(Note: I was surprised that actually didn't react badly to the "academic" stuff that the childcare centre #8 offers, which I usually did. Think it's the teacher who has successfully convinced me. I have to agree with her, as long as materials are used properly, teaching methods are proper, no stress is put on the kids, and they enjoy the learning process, it's actually no harm to expose to kids to more things. Kids have no limit, they are truly like a sponge, soaking up all possible knowledge very fast, should not "waste" this golden period of their lifetime for optimum learning and development 头脑开发的黄金期. Besides, with these reading program and stuff in place during weekdays, we do not need to sacrifice their weekends outdoor activities for classroom learning. Would be very glad to see that we have made a right choice for the kids!)
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A mum traveling for business trips.........

............ sigh, it's really not easy.

When I joined this company, I thought I have found a place that I could spend my next 10 years, or more, till I retire, maybe.

But things have not gone as well as I have wished.

I have taken on more responsibilities (not that I have a choice), and that means more work, which I don't mind, and keeps me very busy at work, which I also don't mind as time passes faster that way and I am feeling good to be doing something useful.

The thing that bothers me is increase of travel frequency. When I took up the job, it's communicated that traveling would be at about 25%, which is equivalent to one week per month. It's getting harder and harder to keep to this frequencies, and it seems like I have to travel more than this.

I am totally not okay with this. It has such a huge impact to the family, hubby and children. Especially the emotional stress that my kids have to face. They surely won't like Mama to be away, but they are trying to accept that (yes, they are very brave), which made me feeling even worse :-( They don't know how to say it out, especially my girl, don't really understand why Mama is not home for a few days every now and then. I would be very sad if my mum were to do that to me.

Initially thought I have understanding bosses. Yes, they are still nice and they are still understanding. But they are other people who are not, especially those business people. They are not my direct supervisor but I have to work with them and to listem to their instructions to some extend. These are not so nice people. They travel a lot to run the business overseas. But because they travel a lot doesn't mean I can or I have to. One of them is really quite "Ah Beng". The first thing he said to me - "get a maid lah, then you can travel anytime, just like me". Hello! You do not mind to get a maid to help attend to your son doesn't mean I should follow your way too. Then he said, "you should learn from me - my son didn't even notice me exist!" H-E-L-L-O!!! I am not sure if he is joking or telling the truth, but regardless, this has left a big impact on me on how people in this company are not all family oriented which I thought they were :-(

I do really like to nature of the this. I admire the big bosses still holds on to his principles after so many years, and able to make some money along the way. Yes, there are also other things that I am not happy about, but I can deal with that slowly. The main thing that bothers me is still the traveling part. It's not the best company. But good enough for me to want to stay on. That's one of the (small) contributing factors why we are moving house.

I hope I can hang on for a little while, maybe I just need to get by this period, and it would be smoother sailing after. If not, it's time to flip the Saturday's Straits Times. Let's see...........
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Childcare search

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I thought it's going to be easy, as we don't really have any "checklist" to tick on, we don't need a branded one, we don't ask about the curriculum, we don't look at the menu closely, location is not that important either as long as it's convenient enough for us to drop them off on the way to work.

We go with 2 things in mind - within our budget and that we and the kids must feel comfortable with the centre. We have visited 4 centers so far over 2 consecutive weeks.

Childcare centre #1
When we arrived, I thought that's it! We were so lucky that we found the one, and that the search's over, just like that! The environment is great - big compound, 2 double-storey landed houses joint together so it's like the space of 3 big houses. We were like "WOW"!!! There is a small patch of area for the kids to grow vegetables at the front. The entire indoor area is very neat, organized, and clean, plus purposed built toilet for kids. Each group has a dedicated big classroom, plus common activities room like music room (even have a piano!) etc. Outdoor play is pretty good too. Meal is cooked by an auntie, even tea time is serving noodle soup or other cooked food, rather than the usual kueh, biscuit, pandan cake, etc. Teachers seemed professional. BUT BUT BUT, our heart sank to the bottom when the principal, whom we don't feel comfortable with (bleah!) told us they turn on the TV in the morning till 830am (breakfast time) and from 530pm onwards till the parents pick up their kids. So added up together, a kid could have watched a total of 2-3 hour of TV at this childcare. Big turn off for us, but great for those who doesn't mind the kids watching this much of TV, like the principle claimed - we only show "educational" program. While we were there, the kids sat on the floor and tilted their head (TV was placed on a pretty high cabinet) watching some Chinese nursery rhymes (with the MV totally not relating to the songs), and Barney, so "educational"!

Childcare centre #2
I was very impressed with this centre on the world wide web. It sounded really great and I put high hope on this, that it would match our expectations. In reality, it's really bad, pretty run down, felt like going out of business anytime kinda centre. The books they displayed on their "library" can be counted with my 2 hands. Kids were sitting lazily on the couch watching TV when we were there. The teacher who showed us around was like ya, we are like this loh, you want you come, you don't come better. Lesson learnt - must pay a visit, cannot trust the web, at all!

Childcare centre #3
This was done on the 2nd week. So we kinda lower our expectations. This one was pretty okay. Big compound, dedicated classrooms, neat, organized, friendly looking teachers. The drawbacks are everything is done within the compound, no outdoor activities at all. It's located on the 3rd storey of a building, no lift (won't mind the exercise except the kids would take forever to go up or down the stairs, or when both in bad mood, wanted me to carry :(). And parking could be a problem at peak hours. And oh, it's fully air-con. Yes, they let the kids watch TV too in the evening, but at least not in the morning, haa!

Childcare centre #4
Again, I put high hope on this, as it's a "branded" one, and it's more expensive comparatively to the above. Sigh! Totally disappointed :-( The outdoor play structures were so run down, dirty, tearing apart etc, and the garden is not maintained at all, that the grass patch has grown to knee height, so meaning no outdoor play for the kids? The sandpit could have been abandoned for a long time. Indoor is not any better, small room, run down, don't feel it's clean. Pathetic amount of books and toys. Kitchen was cooked in a small room (kinda) attached.

So, which childcare have we enrolled the kids to?

None of the above.

And re search is still on. Wr have 1.5 months to decide. A couple of centres that my fellow mummies have recommended have no vacancies, or 1 centre has for XY but not HR. Have not been doing anymore viewing last and this week. Wanna take a break. Probably the next round, I would go alone or with hub without the kids. Only when I have shortlisted okay ones, then will bring there to see, for their approval :) I can sense they, especially Hao Re, got a bit confused to have to visit so many centers but none would be their going-to-be school.

Wish us luck! Hope can stick to our budget.......

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Age is catching up.......

......which explains the lack of posts lately :-(

For the past 2 weeks, after putting the kids to bed, though I tried to and wanted to wake up to spend some time on whatever - reading books, surfing net, blogging, doing house chores - I simply couldn't keep my eyes opened. Yes, it's as bad as that. Only managed to walk to the kitchen zombie-ish to wash their milk bottles, and that's it, headed back to the bed straight till the next morning :-( I am never a morning person, so I cannot wake up earlier because I sleep earlier, doesn't work that way.

Luckily the hub has been helping, on auto mode that is without having me to tell him what to do, with the laundry and other house chores, including ironing, mopping the floor, keeping the toys etc, else our house would be in a total mess for sure.

Gosh, feeling so bad :-( Not able to stay awake a little while to have some ME time is pretty sucks. Feel like not functioning well. Probably it's the added workload in the office, but I knock off at 530pm every day without fail, could it be the invisible stress that causes it? Been very busy at work lately as I took on more responsibilities, I haven't been this busy for years, but I am feeling good, coping well (I think), and glad to be this busy at work.

Also, there are the moving house stuff to worry about. We haven't even started packing yet. But just to think of the 1001 nitty gritty things, would make me tired out :-( Could imagine how to cope during the real move next month (good thing is my parents will come to help out, mostly to keep an eyes on the kids :-)).

One thing for sure - I am getting older year by year :-(( No longer like in the Uni days when I could burn midnight oil every day and didn't feel anything, stayed up to study till 3-4am and then woke up at 8am the next day for classes - those were the very young days, sigh!

Hope that it's a transition period that my body system is adjusting to - with the extra workload, hence more brain cells needed, and the invisible stress, etc. Hopefully I would go through this period and would be able to do more things at night.

I an still able to catch up on FB though, and still able to post a few status update or photos/videos weekly. Maybe I should consider double post in FB and this blog? Bu those who are following my blog + friends on my FB + fans on The Kam Family page, would be so bored with triple posting, haha. Let's see.

Wish everyone a great and production week ahead!

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A small Fund Raising project - need your support

We have revisited the same topic many, many times, over many occasions, at different places - whether to add another family member or not. The FINAL conclusion is - NO. We decided we would be coping well with 2 kids, and just nice. So, yup, no plan for another one, and we will make sure no "accident" should happen :-P

We will be moving house in December (details coming up later). So we figured it's a good time to let go of some of the pre-loved toys and baby essential items.

I am actually quite unwilling to let go of their toys, as most of the toys were presents received from dear families and friends when they were born or on their 1st birthday, all have special meaning. Things like those puzzles are pretty sentimental stuff to me, as these "witnessed" their first couple of theri growing up years. But they no longer playing with these for a long time, so it's better to clear up the space so their toy/book shelf can be neater.

To view these pre-loved toys and baby items - go to our Facebook Fan page, the photo album titled "Fund Raising - pre-loved toys and baby essential items for sales" or click "HERE". May add more items when I find more. Small items can be sent by post, while bigger items will be self-collect by buyers. Delivery may be possible for the west / north side, depending on the exact location and at our convenient. 

Initially we thought of just giving it away. But then changed our mind. Would like to collect some money from these items, as these are still in good to excellent condition, and then all the money will be donated it to a charity. Decided on donating 100% of the money to World Vision. Though it won't be a lot of money, but it means a whole lot to those children in needs. Every buyer will do doing a good deed for the needy :-)

Hopefully will be able to sell all these off. Please kindly help to spread the words to your families, friends and colleagues!
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Vitamin C - deficient or overdose?

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Was talking to Viv today. She told me something that was pretty shocking, though I knew the similar fact from a public talk, but I didn't know that it's that serious.

She took 2 Vitamin C chewable tablets meant for children, and the recommended dose is 2 tablets per day for a 3 years old. She took it because she was trying to make her son played along with the idea of sharing. Coincidentally, she went for a seminar on public health and did a blood test the following day. What caught the nurse an her eyes was that the reading for Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) was way exceeding the normal range - that was an adult taking recommended dose for a 3 year old, and the Vitamin C tablet was meant for children, plus that it's more than 12 hours after consuming!

According to the Health Promotion Board Singapore, the Recommended Dietary Allowances for a normal healthy 3 to 5 years old kid is 20mg of ascorbic acid a day. I didn't ask which brand Viv has got. But after I did a quick search on iHerb, I found out that chewable Vitamin C can be ranging from 250mg to 500mg per tablet - and that's more than 10x the Recommended Dietary Allowance!! And I am pretty sure I have seen tablet that is with much higher dosage than this. A medium size orange would have about 75mg of Vitamin C and that's enough for a daily requirement. Vitamin C is also found in other fruits and vegetables.

Often parents give Vitamin C and other supplements worrying that the kids might not have enough vitamins and minerals from their food intake. But parents rarely think of the possibility of overdosing and the consequences. Just google "vitamin C overdose" or similar term, or refer to this one for an easy read. Though 500mg it not considered high dose, and it's likely to be flushed out from the body in probably the next 24 hours (?), but why spend for the unnecessarily and make the body works harder for removing the excess?

While overdose of Vitamin C doesn't seem to be as detrimental, overdosing on other vitamins may be, for example, Vitamin A. I am not an expert in this area, but it's pretty easy to get good reading materials from the internet.

Unless your kid is eating very poorly that his growth is affected, it's very unlikely for a kid who drinks milk regularly and have reasonable food intake to be malnutrition (have you ever heard of a kid who is malnutrition in this developed country?). If you have to give your kid some kind of supplement for a peace of mind, consider multi-vitamin than a single source tablet, like Vitamin C tablet. Do consult your paediatrician who should be able to advise accordingly. Lastly, and most importantly, read the label of the tablet(s) that you give to your kid, in comparison to the Recommended Dietary Allowance published by the Health Promotion Board - know how much you are giving your kid versus how much he actually needs. Don't forget formula milk is also fortified with Vitamin and minerals that are important for the kids' growing up.

Too much of a good thing may not always be the best - moderation is still the key!
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Arts and Crafts @ home November

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Hao Re is still very "on" with arts and crafts. Kept asking me why don't we stay at home and do arts and crafts. We went out the entire day on Saturday (to run errands in the morning and to visit the Zoo in the afternoon). So on Sunday, we promised that we would stay at home for the first half of the day so that we can do arts and crafts.
This is the outcome of the craft. Need not to say, it's another Mister Maker's inspired crafts :-)

We made use of the play-doh that we made a couple of weeks ago. We just left the ice-cream on the shelf and it's still reusable for this crafts, we just kneaded in a little bit of flour to harden it. Recipe for making play-doh is in <HERE>. So this one is a simple pirate ship. The base is made of rice grain and some beans, coloured into blue, mimicking the sea. The play-doh was shaped into a ship. Flags were made of straw and kitchen tissue. That is it. Simple but nice outcome :-)

This is another one we did the weekend before that I didn't manage to find time to post. We tried to make an elephant head with long trunk, if you can see. What Xi Yu described as 鼻子长长的大象 :)

Very simple craft. Just need 2 paper plates, paints, and materials to make the eyes and nose (up to you to create with whatever materials you want to use). For Xi Yu and Hao Re, you can see the vast different in their way of painting. Hao Re's one is so coordinated, especially how symmetrical it is between the two "ears". This was absolutely his own choice of colour and how he wanted to paint it. While for Xi Yu, she was not too keen in doing this actually. So she quickly painted the paper plates and went off to play.

We still have a few crafts from the Mister Maker books that we haven't done. Hopefully more to come (when we do some nice one). 
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Hair cut

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If only judged by how the kids respond when it's time hair cut, think we must be one of the luckiest parents on earth.

Yup, there is no resistance at all when we brought them to the hair salon. Never needed those specialized in children type of fancy and expensive ones, never needed to attempt to cut them while they are asleep. Just bring them to the neighborhood $7 hair cut and they go in happy, come out happy.

When they were younger, we needed to bribe them with sweets and ice cream and have iPhone ready for entertaining them.

In the recent 2-3 hair cuts, none of the above is needed. In fact, just today, Hao Re asked to be brought to the hair salon, because his hair was poking his eyes, he complained :) For Xi Yu, the hairdressers praised her that she is the most cooperative kid (of her age) they have ever seen :-)

Don't you agree this make us re luckiest parents on earth, kekeke :-)

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(Jigsaw) puzzles and young kids

It's raining in the first half of the afternoon on Saturday, so we were home bound and the kids dug out all puzzles from the drawer and made our Saturday a puzzles making day :-)

So, I took the chance and did a "stock-take" since all the puzzles were out from the drawers. Guess how many sets of puzzles they both own, accumulated over the past 3 years or so? Considering that Hao Re is a puzzles lover, and Xi Yu started to like puzzles?

Make a guess?

Not 10.

Not 20.

Not 30.

They have a total of 43 set of puzzles!!! From the simple slot-in, to children puzzles, to the actual jigsaw puzzles. From the small few pieces puzzles to near one hundred pieces of jigsaw puzzles. From free to cheap to expensive, bad to good quality, bought from pasar malam to the proper jigsaw puzzle shops. I didn't know that would be the number until I finally counted all of them. Amazing, huh?

Friends who know our kids well, they know how good Hao Re is with the puzzles. He needs no training, no guidance, no help. Since young, he has excellent attention span. He has very good focus. He is full of confident. His love for puzzles is natural. So there was no effort put in, except buying him puzzles that suit his progress, and sometimes lead him to play with puzzles. He started with the slot-in. puzzles. He managed that very well when he was at about 1.5 years old. Then before long, he started with the 6-, 7-, 8-, and 9-pieces jigsaw puzzles, and managed to build that comfortably at 22 months old. That was a really big achievement for a 22 month. We were very surprised by how well he took on jigsaw puzzles. So we gradually bought more jigsaw puzzles for him whenever we saw some - continued with 12-pieces, 20-pieces, 40-pieces, 48-pieces, 60-pieces,72-pieces, and the recent ones that he can manage, 96-pieces, when he was about 3.5 years old.

Xi Yu is totally different. She wasn't interest in the puzzles till very recently. She can manage those slot-in easily about the same time as Hao Re. But after that, she didn't want to try out the jigsaw puzzles, even with the simplest ones. Her attention span is not as good (though she can read/flip books for a long period of time). She doesn't play as independently, she likes to call or cry out for Mama whenever she can't fix pieces of the puzzles. We didn't push her, just let her be. All the times she observes how her brother builds the jigsaw puzzles, and she joins in or disturbs gorgor occasionally. We were very lucky, or she was very lucky - we bought a unique set of puzzles from Popular one day and that changed everything - we call that "life-changing" puzzle sets!! After completing these puzzles, she gained so much confident, and she likes to do puzzles a lot since. She moved on to completing the 12-pieces, 16-pieces and just today, 20-pieces, at 26 months. It's a pretty good achievement, I would say. I have a feeling that she might progress pretty fast after this, as if she has known the "secret" of how to build jigsaw puzzles, let me see if I am right.

Okay now, time to showcase the puzzles they have. From the simplest to the tougher ones.

These are the simple slot-in. Great for their fine motor skill for young children. May start them on this as early as 1 year old. Pick whatever that they are most interesting in - for my kids, it's animals! They learned the names of all those animals and alphabet and shapes while playing with puzzles. Wonderful toys! Got from various sources, Popular at JB and Singapore, Jaya Jusco Tebrau, and online (Amazon).

Hao Re went straight to these insert sets. Also got from Popular Tebrau City. Watch this videos of Hao Re building this puzzles while singing, super duper cute :-) Xi Yu has just mastered them too. It's not as easy as it doesn't have frame.

These are the "life-changing" sets that got Xi Yu interested in puzzles. Worth a try if your kid is the same like my gal. Each item is made out of 2 or 3 pieces, and to be fitted in to a specific shape, so it's easy for the young kids. We got it from Popular at Tebrau City, JB.

These are some random puzzles that we bought from some toy shops, very cheap, like $1 or $2 per set. One of these was free when we dined at a restaurant. Xi Yu mastered these soon after the "life-changing" set above.

You would notice we bought a lot of animal theme puzzles, because our kids love animals. These sets are good because the puzzles are of different or unequal shape and size, easier for the young kids to handle. Got from the same place, Popular Tebrau City. There are a total of 10 sets for this series, 10 different animals, in either 20-, 30-, or 40-pieces. We got 3 out of the 10. Xi Yu managed to do the 20-pieces Monkey one on Saturday.

Then auntie Viv bought this puzzle book for Hao Re, contains 5 sets of puzzles. Again, it's about animal. 16 pieces each. Hao Re loves this book. This is also the first series that he worked on which every piece of the puzzles are of the similar shape and size.

These 4 mini puzzles were received during Xi Yu's 1st birthday. Xi Yu started playing with these and was able to complete it most of the time.

These are the big odd shaped floor puzzles which are pretty fun to play with. Hao Re didn't really like these but these got Xi Yu interested in.

We have another puzzle book (5 sets, 48-pieces each) of dolphins. But I couldn't find this book anywhere.

And then we thought it's time to move on to more challenging one.

He was very, very into Thomas at that time. Saw this in a shop and he immediately asked for it. It's also the most expensive one we have bought so far, very good quality. Hao Re managed to complete it after a few try, despite that it's a 63-pieces puzzles! It's a great set that helps him to be confident with big complicated puzzles. It's specifically designed for children, where each piece is of different shape and size, making it much easier to play with, though it's complicated.

From the same shop, we also bought these 2 Thomas puzzles. Though these are 48-pieces, and because it's "frame-less", makes it more difficult than the one above, as these are exactly like the "adult" puzzles, where all are of similar size and shape. Hao Re rarely plays with this though he can complete these.

With so much success of the 63-pieces Thomas puzzles, we went back to the same shop and got this Mickey one. Same concept. Unfortunately, it didn't attract much of Hao Re's attention, he plays with it a few times only, though have no problem completing it.

We stopped buying puzzles for a while. Till we saw this animal set of 48-pieces which is like the adult puzzles. Hao Re likes this more than the Mickey one. Xi Yu started to play with this too. It's good as the jigsaw puzzles were cut out in such a way that it's easier for the children to find the matching puzzles.

Got this from pasar malam near our house. Quality not good, and the shapes are too odd that making it difficult to fix. Think this is the only set that Hao Re has never completed on his own.

Then we were looking for puzzles for a long time, wanting to get something a little more advanced so that Hao Re can challenge himself again. We searched for a long time and figured that the next "level" is straight to the 96-pieces "adult" puzzles. We were worried it's too much for Hao Re. But he really surprised us!

We got the Thomas (again, because he likes it) 96-pieces. The first few rounds, we were there to help him a little. Then he was able to complete the Thomas one in just under half an hour time! The Cars and the Doraemon ones were bought by uncle CX when he came to Singapore for work trip. Hao Re can do the Cars one, but haven't completed the Doraemon on his own yet.

That's how far Hao Re has progressed. It's time to look for the next level of puzzles again :-) Let us know if you have seen any nice puzzles.

Oh, if you have noticed, after so long, almost all sets are still fully intact, no lost pieces :-) Let me tell you how I did it - I make the puzzles after the kids go to bed, to make sure all pieces are there, if any pieces missing, I will look for it immediately. When I don't feel like doing puzzles, then I would put each set into a zip-lock bag, and somehow make the kids play with the same set again to make sure all pieces are there. Haha, ya, pretty stressful :-)

Before logging off, a few tips/advice to share:

1. Do not teach him how to do it. You know how we adults usually complete the side ones (make the frame first), do not teach him this. They have they own way to do it.

2. Be patient. It may take him 5 minutes just to fix 1 piece. Let him be. Don't offer to put it for him. You may guide him verbally, when he is really lost or getting impatient, like turn it the other way, try this one, try that one, but do not fix it for him.

3. Do not just give the puzzle set to him and then walk away. Though you are not supposed to help him, but you should sit with him, see him do it, give him a smile as encouragement, or say something to praise him when he fix a few pieces.

4. Do not set a timeline for him to complete a set. Let him take as long as needed.

5. Kids learn by repetition. It's okay that he plays with the same set for a few months, they won't get bored till he can fix the set effortlessly.

6. When he can complete a particular set in shorter and shorter time span, you know he is really for a more challenging set. Get new ones, that is appropriate for him (not necessarily age appropriate, but to follow his level of confidence and competency), to keep his interest.

7. They need lots of encouragement. Give them lots.

8. Enjoy the bonding time! Don't see it as a chore, but a quiet and calm period for quality bonding.

9. After all your effort, he still doesn't like puzzles, don't fret, try other activities. And come back to puzzles a few months later. Never give up on a certain good activity (same applies to food). But don't label him as "he doesn't like puzzles" (same as labeling him as "he doesn't like grapes" and never let him try again). He may not like it at that time, but do let him try again every few months, with lots of encouragement.

If you want to let your kids try out some of the puzzle sets we have, come visit us, I am sure Hao Re and Xi Yu won't mind sharing their puzzles :-)) Happy jigsaw puzzle-ing!!
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