Memoirs of a Budget Mum

Mother to five, parent in progress and occasional kitchenista cookerella

Category: Family & Parenting (Page 1 of 4)

{{Giveaway}}:Hassle-free Baby Weaning with Haakaa from Mama Warehouse!

A MOBM Review & Giveaway 

I’m a busy mama, like the rest of you reading this and the busiest hours of our day have got to be mealtimes, hands down.

I mean, meal planning and grocery shopping are already mentally and physically exhausting.

Throw in prep time for ingredients, cooking early (so we can clear up early), and then the actual “peak hour” where hungry little ones start hovering earlier that you expect…boy…you need several handfuls to feed these many mouthfuls!


Our kids have rehearsed their “Mum, I’m very hungry” cue-pitiful-look line to the T and some days, it is enough to make me warble at your stove, while I desperately scavage for a cracker or two to divert them from swooping in too soon!

At this point, I haven’t even begun to describe the mealtime “carnage”.

Reminders to the kids to eat neatly, even the older ones are still in order. “Eat with your mouth over your plate please.” is on repeat mode. Nonetheless, drips and drops are still inevitable.

And then, we have the one year old who is currently keeping me on my toes in her self weaning, food exploratory stage—read utterly, completely, messy dining.


Sometimes I swoop in to collect the spills but most times, I have to pick up half a ton of food which lands in her bib and on the floor, dig out sticky  rice on her clothes and food bits wedged between her legs.

Not sleek at all. 

Imagine the “yays” in my head when MamaWarehouse sent the Haakaa Silicon Cloudmat and Haakaa Silicon Breast Milk/ Baby Food Freezer Tray our way!


If you’re a busy mama, you know what I mean when I say we constantly look for TOOLS that actually HELP us get better at our mothering jobs – tools that help us be nifty, quick and actually help to make our life easier!!!

Let me start first with the Silicon Cloud Mat:  

1. Haakaa Silicon Cloud Mat 


If you have a baby or toddler who’s started self-weaning, the silicon cloud mat is quite a dream.
These handy little placemats have suction cups so they stick to the table and the perfectly positioned food tray hangs off the front catching all those bits that drop down.

Suction cups work really well as they stick to most surfaces very well and baby can’t pull it out like they tug at bibs.

My 1 yo loves touching and exploring her food and the textures with her fingers. The silicone cloud mat really pairs well with this stage and minimizes the hassle for me.

The mat is perfectly contoured to fit the perpendicular groove at the table edge and the catch-all bin is deep and prevents food bits from falling out.


Dishwasher safe and heat proof this handy little placemat allows you to put warm food on a slip free surface and chuck in the dishwasher when you are finished.

What I like: 

  • Large surface area…catches 90% of the food bits especially if you pair it with a bib with a pocket.
  • No more wiping off rice or food bits on the table. Just peel off the whole silicon mat to wash at sink with all the food bits on it, leaving your clean table surface.
  • Portable: You can roll this tightly into a tube and slot into your baby bag to use outside on high chairs when you eat at the food courts especially when you’re not sure if table surfaces are clean.


Finally, our trusty silicon cloud mat taking up no additional space and making our kitchen sink “pop” with colour!

2. Haakaa Silicon Breast Milk & Baby Food Freezer Tray 

The next kitchen tool that has really helped is none other than the Haakaa Silicon Freezer Tray. 

Each tray has six compartments where you can make-ahead soup stock,  purees, homemade baby food and portion them out to freeze for a rainy day.  Breast milk too!!


Before this came along, I was using a plastic ice cube tray and a silicone IKEA ice cube tray where I had to waste additional cling wrap to protect the food.

Needless to say, it didn’t work well with soups and thin liquids. I tried this on the ABC soup that I wanted to save up for no-cook days and I loved that I could pour the warm soup right in without worrying about  letting it cool down first.

The compartments come in three different sizes (125ml, 50ml, 35ml) (with the deepest being most versatile , in my opinion) and is made 100% food grade silicon! I was able to even put the potato and carrot bits into the deep pockets of the tray.


As you can see, the Haakaa tray makes baby food storage safe and practical with a customized cover.


It is also totally heat proof, microwave safe, BPA, PVC and Phthalate free, dishwasher safe and free of any leaching nasties. You can keep food fresh up to 6 months.

The best part of it is the easy pop out silicone body makes removing cubes a breeze.

Just watch how easy it is: no frantic knocking…just gently twist and the crack line will appear…


Effortless easing out of its shell. And this is rock hard immediately out of the freezer!



Neat!! The good quality silicone saves me time and effort than it would normally take! Love this sooooo much.

GIVEAWAY GOODIES!!

Here’s the good news…

Mama Warehouse is giving away 1 Haakaa Silicon Cloud Mat (worth $32) to ONE lucky winner and 1 Haakaa Baby Food Tray (worth $29.90) to a SECOND lucky winner! {one different winner per product}

Click here to enter the giveaway!

 

Winners of Giveaway! Congratulations! 

Winner of Haakaa Silicon Food Tray

Yin Shian

Winner of Haakaa Silicon Cloud Mat

Karen See

Thank you all for participating! We will be contacting winners via email shortly! 

Terms and conditions

1. This giveaway ends on 15 July 2017; 12am. The winners will be randomly selected from Rafflecopter and announced on this blog post the following day. 

2. Winners will be contacted via the email address provided and will have 48 hours to respond; failing which a new winner will be selected.

3. By entering this giveaway, you agree to release your email address to the sponsor for verification, contact and marketing purposes.
This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook.

Disclosure: We received a Haakaa Silicon Cloud Mat and Food Tray for review purposes. All opinions are our own.


Learning Math with Slime! – LearnersEd Openhouse 2017

Media Invite  


Last weekend, we were invited to attend a workshop with an irresistible offer- an opportunity to make slime and learn math all at the same time. 

For the kids it was a no-brainer. Make slime? Sold. For mummy me, it was a no brainer too, make slime …without getting the house messy and gucky? For sure! 

So off we trooped to LearnersEd, a Math learning centre, nestled in the cosy neighborhood of Potong Pasir, ready to get our hands mucky and our brains some mathematical exercise.

 The “Discovering Math with Slime” Open House 2017 looked promising to boot.




Greeted by the clean and welcoming premises, the kids went about to their respective classrooms for the day’s programme. 

The aim of the activities of the day: 

• To instill hands-on learning and creativity in children through the process of making slime and butter.

• To bring about an experiential learning process where Maths and Science concepts are infused in the making of slime and butter.



First up, the kids explored the concept of density by observing how oil floats on water. Food dye and salt were added next which would sink through the layer of oil.

 


They recorded their observations eagerly as they watched the effects of the elements interacting.  It was an interesting science appetizer before moving on to the real deal–making butter and slime. 

DIY Slime

Children were given DIY tools to do simple measurements of the ingredients. 

Along the way, they were encountering Maths in real life through the process of making slime and butter. Very cool. 




The verdict was in: “Best Day Ever!” declared little Miss as she rolled and squeezed the green goeey ball of slimy satisfaction, gleaming from ear to ear. 

What we loved: 

  • Integrating fun with learning. 


Honestly, I was curious to see how math would be introduced into the greater scheme of things through an activity like making slime. 

Turns out the way they did it below was meaningful: through concepts of measurements and fractions. 

  • Hands-on experience 

Many times learning is dry and formulaic with rote methods that bore rather than excite. 

So I truly appreciated the centre’s efforts to make learning so energizing with real ingredients at play (the kids earlier made their own butter with marbles and whipped cream). 

The kids also took home practical applications that would lock in their impressions of what they were learning thereby making it more impactful and memorable.

  • A Learner-Centric Program 

Learners Ed has a well-thought curriculum designed by skillful teachers who are familiar with the demands and rigor of Mathematics at the Primary and Secondary School levels. 

The centre runs small group classes (maximum 6 per class) as they value a cosy student-teacher ratio. 

Recognising that every student has different starting points and varied interests and abilities to learn Mathematics, LearnersEd breaks down and simplifies Mathematics concepts into “bite-size” portions so that the students find learning of Mathematics manageable and enjoyable. Lessons are crafted to build in rigor and fun elements. 

Check out their timetable of primary and secondary math classes here! 

LearnersEd truly lives us to their motto of “Taking Math to New Heights” judging from the smiles on these little faces! 

Disclaimer: All opinion for the purposes of this review are my own. 

****

Giveaway Promotion to  MOBM Readers!

LearnersEd is giving away: 

ONE free class + 15% discount for the 1st month of sign up (applies to all levels) 

for the first 10 lucky readers who make a booking with them. 

{Quote promo code: blog27}

Contact LearnersEd now to claim this exclusive offer for a limited time period only and subject to vacancies!

Our Family Outdoor Shoot with The Nice Photo Man!

A Memoirs of a Budget Mum Review 

We recently had the pleasure of doing a family outdoor shoot –like finally! This has been a long overdue affair …like waaaay overdue I would say! Our last official photo shoot was from our wedding, gasp. However, I’m glad we all finally found the right occasion to do it –on my fifth child’s first birthday celebration!!

We started sourcing around for a good photographer we would be comfortable to work with: aka good with kids, reasonable budget etc. We were glad to find him in Asher Ong, the young and budding lensman behind 6 Kids and a Pop Up Camper

As some of you might have read in the media, Asher, only 17 years of age, is the eldest of six siblings, who manned the camera throughout his family’s epic six month family road trip in the USA. 

Covering 43 out of 50 states, the trip  yielded some stunning photography, now published in their family travelogue “Six Kids and a Pop Up Camper”. The book was a storybook adventure for the family of eight and more remarkably, a fantastic testbed for the keen photographic direction of their eldest child, capturing some breathtaking moments of their adventure there. 


We love supporting local talent and as a homeschooling family, local homeschool  talent particularly! Asher is a wonderful example of how passion can be pursued at a young age when given time to blossom. 

Now a freelance photographer, Asher, also known on Instagram as @thenicephotoman, is really a nice photo man (boy). During our shoot, Asher was cheerful, totally at ease directing the shots with our large family and particularly nifty and friendly with the kids. 

These are some of our favourite shots of our family shoot; humorously titled 5 Kids and a Photoshoot, with credits to Asher😊.



We caught up with Asher recently in an interview: 

1. What or who first kickstarted your interest in photography? 


It all started when I was 12 and given a small compact camera as a gift. During that same year, my family of 8 (2 parents + 3 Boys + 3 Girls) flew to Australia on a holiday. I shot a lots of photos, and my Mom showed it to her photographer friend when we got back. He was extremely encouraging, commending me for being one with an eye for composition. Together with my mom’s encouragement I continued to shoot with that little camera, always  bringing it with me to wherever I went.

Before we embarked on our U.S. road trip in 6 Kids and a Pop Up Camper, my parents purchased a mid-pro DSLR to capture our adventures. After finding out about our buy, our Straits Times photo journalist church friend offered me lessons on how to use the camera. He is an amazing sensei- I only had two lessons and it was enough to get me started on my journey. Six months of shooting on the road, saw my skill level advanced at a phenomenal rate! 

2. Do you foresee yourself pursuing photography as a career? 

I never want to come to the point where I find myself saying, “sigh… have to take pictures again…” Hence, Lord willing, I hope to make my photography a “weekend job”, so as not to suck all the love out of my passion. 

3. Who or what are your favorite photographic subjects and why? 

My creative direction is still rather broad.  Each picture communicates a unique story. However, I do have an inclination toward architecture – and it is heavily published on my Instagram. You may say that I have a love for organised and mathematically constructed visuals! 

I also love portraiture. People are so amazingly fun to work with to make beautiful moments. As I continue to grow as a “people photographer”, I always am delighted to see the intricate story that I am able to capture! 

4. What is, by far, your favorite photo(s) from your portfolio? Tell us it’s backstory.


One of my favourite pictures features my friend’s family in a park that they love to hang out at. It is significant to me because it was one of the first portrait shoots that I did. Besides that, I love how organically the whole scene plays out. 
Being the eldest of 6, there has always been a baby / kid in the house. Hence, I work well with children as they can sometimes be nervous or overly excited when the camera is pointed at them. This photograph shows the loving and crazy side of a fun family with 4 kids, 3 of them being boys…


5. Three things most people don’t know about you: 

1. My age! I believe it is due to my friendships with adults that have matured me, such that many people take me for a 20 plus year old. You know those people at the MRT handing out pamphlets? I normally expect them to attempt to sell to me insurance, and other adult stuff… 

2. I cut and style hair- my brother’s hair to be specific. 

3. I play the cello and guitar and sing the Bass section in choir. I love music. 


6. The edge you possess as a young homeschooled entrepreneur: 

I have the opportunity to invest time to hone my skill, giving me an edge above others. I get to choose how I want to allocate and section out my time, be it to prioritise education or projects and work.

7. Three things on your Bucketlist for 2017

1. I hope to get a strong network of companies and services to enable our family to go on a second trip. Be it to finish the last 7 states of America, or to explore other countries like New Zealand or Iceland! 

2. Lord willing, to get into Temasek Polytechnic, Communication Design.

3. Run a Half Marathon. 
****

Photography Services by Asher Ong, thenicephotoman

JUNE EXCLUSIVE for MOBM Readers!

Use the special promo code “BUDGETMUM” to get 10% off a family photo shoot only valid for BOOKINGS during the Month of June! 

For enquiries, contact: 

Asher Ong

+65 9787 6527

ashlight.sg@gmail.com

ashlight.myportfolio.com

Instagram -> @thenicephotoman

{{No More Reluctant Readers!}} Giveaway: ilovereading.sg Magazines for Children & Youth!

{{Giveaway & Sponsored Post}}


Is Your Child Reading Well?

Does your child read and how much time does he or she spend time reading in a given day? 

It may appear that I’ve asked a redundant question: our children go to school don’t they? Shouldn’t they be reading something and reading enough?  

Perhaps cursorily so- with the obligatory 5-10 minute “silent” reading imposed before the typical school day starts. 

Apart from formal English lessons where they comb through the requisite Stellar books in the classroom and the occasional series from the library,  time for reading may in fact be short.

A good part of the day is easily spent clearing homework set from school, or rushing between tuition, extra-curricular classes and activities. For most, it could be hard to find downtime just to read amidst all these nagging priorities. 

Has reading for pleasure become a lost art? 

What really has become of it?

Reading in Jeopardy 

It isn’t surprising that reading has faced some stiff competition from an onslaught of digital entertainment and the rise of smartphone use among the young. 


Distractions, distractions.
The headlines are depressing and statistics don’t lie. A large proportion of people are preferring online pursuits to reading. 

“Children’s reading shrinking due to apps, games and YouTube” a Nielson Book Survey of 2000 British children reports with a staggering 50% of family households now owning at least one tablet. 

That was in 2013, mind you.

Our very own local broadsheet, The Straits Times declares a similar toil on reading: “Low reading rate: Lack of interest, time cited as factors”, according to a 2016 National Arts Council (NAC) Survey. 

Of the 1,015 Singaporeans and permanent residents surveyed, 56 per cent had not read a literary book between March 2014 and March 2015. And it does not help that a large proportion of people prefer online pursuits to reading books.

So how should we encourage children to read and to be excited to do so? 

ilovereading.sg Magazines 

My kids have always been fairly motivated readers and manage to sneak books in between their daily routines. I do notice their preference for comics and reading magazines and they tend to pick these up and devour them easily. I believe this is true for most children.


First, these are bite-sized and colourfully illustrated. Next, they contain puzzles and activities to make reading fun! 

Recently, we had the pleasure of reviewing a suite of reading magazines in that category by ilovereading.sg, a Singapore-based enterprise, where reading is regarded serious business.

 With their tag line “Cultivating Minds”, the publisher hopes to partner parents in providing good content and reading material for children and young people, in hope of inspiring all to read. 

Content is pleasantly packaged into assorted themes and topics that appeal to various age groups. Articles are presented in various genres and text types in bite-sized portions with huge illustrations so reading doesn’t look tedious. 

Here’s what is recommended for different age groups: 

1. Storytime (From 7years)


For young readers and lower primary school children, Storytime is a kids’ magazine packed with fairy tales, myths, poems – all beautifully written and illustrated, with kids activities like puzzles, games and colouring too! 


Every issue of Storytime comes with five classic stories, one or two poems and an extract from a favourite children’s book.

My younger kids enjoyed the activity sections and filled those in quickly! 


2. “I” (From 10years)


“I” is pitched at learners “who have little interest in the English language, see no reason why they should mind their commas, who cannot seem to get past the first page of anything they read”. 

Wow. It is hard to find a magazine catered to woo reluctant readers!

Word bank at the bottom of the story.


True to its name, ” I” , is all about the learner. 

It features  articles and comic strips of various sub-themes such as Chow Down (food), Line of Work (career), Music & Drama, among others.  

Articles are youth-centric and deal well to serve adolescent’s growing pains: from life hacks of becoming a confident person to managing anger and stress in a smarter manner.

3. INSPIRE (From 11years)


INSPIRE is an English Language magazine targeted at young readers between the ages of 11 and 14. 

This magazine hopes to present “fascinating stories, both fiction and non-fiction”.



 The range is comprehensive in INSPIRE with human-interest true life accounts, to opinion pieces, travelogues, narratives and descriptive texts. 

Texts are authentic and realistic with a good emphasis on general knowledge issues which promote good issues for discussion and debate!

4. iThink (From 14years)

iThink is specially designed for the readers between ages 14 to 16 years old. iThink symbolizes the magazine’s focus on critical thinking. “Is Pop Music Trash Now?, for example, presents a critique on the pop music industry and stories provoke critical evaluation in the reader. It is good companion magazine for advanced readers in Secondary school. 


iThink was nominated Best Educational Title in 2016 by Singapore Book Awards 2016.

Why we like ilovereading.sg magazines:

  • Exposure to text types : The magazines, in particular, I, INSPIRE and iTHINK closely follow the standard and format of texts outlined in the MOE English Language syllabuses, while maintaining the quality and concept of an interesting non-academic magazine. Readers get adequate exposure to text types and writing styles, that are crucial for expanding the breadth and depth of their language skills. If your kids, are not reading widely enough, the magazines will ensure you do. 
  • Engage: There is always an intention to engage the reader with post-reading activities such as language games, crossword puzzles, word search and anagrams. The ” I” also contains a generous sprinkle of spicy info bites (Now You Know), tickling brainteasers (Tease Your Brain), YouTube videos, SEL questions and word banks. Engagement in reading is essential. It allows the child to process content and reflect on their reading, making it more intentional. 

    • Educate: Post-reading follow up is critical and the more advanced magazines have dedicated worksheets that mirror the school exam format to provide readers with additional practice on exam-type questions that assess listening, oral, reading comprehension as well as writing skills. At the end of almost every article, there is a word bank that immediately helps the reader tune into contextual vocabulary and expand it fast and effortlessly. They also welcome student essays which are tweaked and given a makeover.

    Disclosure: All views are my own. A subscription of the above magazines was sponsored for the purposes of this review. 

    *****

    {Giveaway Alert: Get Your Free Copy of Storytime/I / Inspire /iThink Now!}

    The good folks at ilovereading.sg are giving away 1 FREE issue of a magazine of your choice for 20 lucky MOBM readers

    To participate in the giveaway, click here! 

    Terms and conditions

    1. This giveaway ends on 29May 2017; 2359hrs. The winners will be randomly selected from Rafflecopter and announced on this blog post the following day. 

    2. Winners will be contacted via the email address provided and will have 48 hours to respond; failing which a new winner will be selected.

    3. By entering this giveaway, you agree to release your email address to the sponsor for verification, contact and marketing purposes.
This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook.

    ***All the best!!**

    Congratulations to these 20 lucky readers!

    1. Karen 

    2. Carol Mei Mei Lim

    3. Robert Sim

    4. Ann

    5. Joyce Ong 

    6. Sue Tan

    7. Dawn Lim

    8. Shirley Chin

    9. Michelle Lim Yan

    10. Christy Wong 

    11. Jazry Chan

    12. Evonne Lee

    13. New Siaw Hoon

    14. Jessie Lee

    15. Winnie Lam

    16. Rebecca

    17. Angelina Joelyn Lee 

    18. Stephanie 

    19. Chua Huay Wen

    20. Joanne Soh  

    The publisher will be contacting you shortly. 

    Keep Calm & Mother On

    It is nearly 13 years ago since I became a mother. 

    That feels like a very long time. It probably is. It feels like I had a sudden past life which doesn’t really seem to exist anymore…and an alter ego. It’s hard to explain, but if you’re a mom right here reading this, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

    Sometimes that alter ego makes you want to do wild and crazy things, like go undercover, escape on a plane or hatch a rendezvous escapade that involves a swanky beach hat, a divan and a martini, doing nothing but twiddling your manicured toes.


    You need to feel sizzling hot again…and not because you’re slaving at the stove and hanging out the clothes in freaking 35 degree weather. You wish you could wear those stretch marks like a tattoo and not have be conscious of the jiggling jelly fat under your arms.

    It doesn’t help matters that you still feel like a girl in disguise…you remember those young, carefree days but now you’ve got to up your game. You have to try to exercise every good muscle of patience and virtuous living.

    This “motherhood” module feels like one of the most difficult modules to get an “A” on.  There’s no real textbook or manual and you can truly only learn from Experience- which is the “mother” of hindsight. 

    The hardest thing about motherhood is being wise. Or at least acting like you are. When you’re in corporate Mom gear, you get into business and do your job; pull a serious face, give orders and tend to official pressing matters concerning  little people. Every single day. 

    These people are hard to please; they bicker, compare, complain and push your boundaries incessantly. Yet, that get away with mostly everything in your books. Yes, you’re probably biased.

    Motherhood is such hard work it feels crazy. It’s also a little cheesy-especially when you make a fool of yourself to squeeze out those cherubic giggles that make every second worth it. 

    You also didn’t know you had it in you to be a drama queen; to snort silly animal sounds and scream like a rockstar in the 120 decibel range when you step on Lego.

    As a mom, I’ve got my clowning act together, and also my juggling one. Somehow these routines get more and more complicated as the years go by and the best way to deal with it is really to have a very, very, very good sense of humor. 

    You also need to have a bad memory. So you don’t have to kick yourself hard in the foot when you make stupid mistakes or say stupid things that you regret the moment you utter it. Tomorrow will always be better somehow. And in the worst  scenarios, there’s always chocolate and ice cream. 

    Also in your Motherhood Survival Kit, should be the notion that this life, is THE best life. Here. Now. Tantrums. Spills. Messy. Sleep deprived. We are not going to start wishing it away because deep in our hearts we know that this thing called Motherhood–we wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s probably one of the best things that ever came our way. 

    Getting The Kids Involved at Home – A Labour Day Post!

    It’s Labour Day today and I really had no intention of timing this follow-up post specially to coincide with it. However, since Labour Day is the only day this harried mama enjoys some downtime to expound on how we do chores in this family—it’s probably a sign that the heavens are in agreement!

    I used to cringe at home management. For someone organizationally and administratively challenged like me, I genuinely shuddered at the thought of setting up a spreadsheet for everyone’s chores…AND maintaining it.

    It sounded like I was setting myself up for failure: when things are put in a box within a scheduled time and you didn’t manage to put a check on it, it just wears you down slowly but surely and soon you’ll discover that you’re in a rut.

    Because of that, I literally dumped the idea of having a chore roster and chose to implement chores  according to the flow of what we were doing that day:  whether our day was a fluid one (running groceries, after-school activities) or a structured one (lots of seatwork), we tried to impress on the children to render help where it was needed. The idea was to simply invite the children to be involved in age-appropriate tasks/ chores as we went along. It went with the grain of simply encouraging them to be helpful! If you’re organizationally-phobic like me, there’s hope! 

    I discussed my chore philosophy in this earlier post but to sum it up, we felt teaching children to become cooperative members of a household is one of the best ways to teach them responsibility that would naturally lead to them being caring and considerate adults. 

    So how do we go about the process of assigning chores? 

    ARE CHORES GENDER SPECIFIC? 

    Firstly, hubby and I believe that girls and boys alike should do chores. There’s not really a need for differentiation at this point.

     Essentially, boys who learn to help at home and do household jobs will eventually grow into men who contribute actively in the household and ready to partner their wives through seasons of life—which goes a long way into making marriages work! All moms say “Yes!” Their future wives will thank you! 

    Boys need not be taught to do only typically “manly” tasks such as “cutting grass, and taking out the garbage.” Author Anne Roiphe puts it in more dramatic terms: If we raise boys to know that diapers need to be changed and refrigerators need to be cleaned, there’s hope for the next generation.”

    TRAINING HABITS

    While learning the alphabet and learning to read are important, knowing how to run the laundry, make the bed, dusting and basic kitchen work are also skills sets that are equally laudable. 


    The former are milestones while the latter are not  milestones per se but habits of the mind! Unlike milestones, which focus on achieving a certain skill,  good habits need to be cultivated and reinforced through time and practiced over and over till they stick.

    WHEN IN DOUBT, START YOUNG

    It may be surprising to some parents but many young children can do lots of helping around the house.  As Jean Ross Peterson observes: “Chores begin when your child can pick it up, put it away, fold, sort it, or carry it out the door.”

    The picture above is a guide so don’t feel restricted if you haven’t got this started. Expectations as to what jobs children can do will depend on family circumstances, numbers and ages of children and whether both parents work outside of the home. Whatever the circumstances, set aside time to train them in appropriate tasks. Give them space and communicate the expectation that they will soon grow into it! 

    My then 3 year old used to whine and cry when she was made to pack her toys. She used to take books off the shelves and throw them all over the floor. She found it difficult to return the books back on the original shelf as she couldn’t manage the load of the other books while trying to slot the one she had in. 

    The easy way was to pick up after her. But we reminded her each time to keep trying, offered some help and left her on her own. Slowly she realized how to lean the books one way and to put books in with their spines facing out. She still litters the floor today but doesn’t whine when told to pick up. It’s clear she’s acquired some confidence in this and she knows she’s expected to take care of her “library”.

    Just like we take time to master any given skill and to be good at it, giving our children room and sufficient grace to grow into the rhythm of help, takes the pressure off them. 

    A few months should do the trick and select one or two skills to reinforce at any given time so there will be focus. 

    GETTING SCHOOL-GOING CHILDREN TO PITCH IN

    Most children at a school-going age are eager to participate in doing things around the house. They are usually capable helpers and you can scale up adequately with some  harder chores.


    In our home, when grandpa goes on holidays, he assigns the 7 & 10yo  to help him water the plants in his garden while he’s out of the country. 

    This includes the front garden, the back garden, and two balcony patios and feeding the fish in the small pond. They were taught the specific methodology of watering : which species needed less, and which more(my dad is Mr Green Fingers: plants are as important as grandchildren hehe.)

    When they first started out, there were a few plants that were “slain” in the process and starved of water but slowly the kids got better. Given the ownership and responsibility, they surprised us one day by figuring out how to unlock and lock the padlock to the back door.

    Incidental learning is one of the great plus points of doing chores too…they end up picking up more than you intended to teach.

    TEENS & PROBLEM SPOTS

    This charm of helping out may last for a spell. To be honest, I have faced resistance  from older children in doing chores especially when they are NOT as eager to please and there’s competition with school activities, homework, and time with friends. During transitional phases like these, enforced schedules may not work. 

    According to Fred Gosman’s “How to Be a Happy Parent”, kids can come up with ingenious ideas for avoiding their chores.  One teenager whose job was to make sure there was always toilet paper in the bathroom piled 42 rolls next to each toilet. Another left the pan unwashed because he was only supposed to do “dishes”. 

    To avoid power struggles and get chores done:

     Negotiate negotiables & non-negotiables 

    • It is ok to feel tired and ask for help if you don’t feel up to it. As family, we can help to chip in.  It is NOT ok to show an attitude and be calculative. Almost always, it is likely to be a heart issue rather than a task issue and it may be wise to get to the root of it. 
    • Focus on the task at hand; rather than say “That’s so inconsiderate of you,” say, “I don’t like that I have to do my job and yours as well.”

    This is our journey in chore training. Do you have any helpful handles to share? 

    Teaching Children to Help at Home

    My husband and I decided way back (when I decided to quit my teaching job to stay home with the kids) that we would not have a live-in helper, and model what home management would look like to our kids. 

    The principle was simple: if we, as parents, modeled what it looked like to manage our homes, it would be natural for the children to pick it up as a part of life. We believed and still do, that this would sustain our household to be self-sufficient in the long run. It would also train the children to be independent and know how to pick up after themselves. Collectively, we learn to serve one another. 

      That was at least seven years back. We have since moved from our cosy flat to live in with my parents in their landed home. The area has expanded and so has our family size. For awhile, it was tempting to call for help. Before we decided yet again to manage on our own despite having a relatively young family. 

    Most people look aghast when they find out we do not have any help managing a household of 7. Some parents have asked me to share my strategies on how I “get” my kids to do chores. Some have even quipped mock seriously that they might like their kids to come by for “bootcamps” to pick up these skills. 

    To be honest, I don’t have any formulaic strategy to impart. I do not even have a  basic chore chart or roster (am organizational-phobic in that way). But by and large, we get by, and we are ploughing through with this somehow. 

    Are the kids happy to help out? I would say yes, with exceptions for when they are tired or grumpy.  

      
    There’s still so much work in progress but what sees us through are our convictions and some guiding principles. These frame our mindset towards our philosophy of household management: 

    1. Everyone should chip in to help around the house. 

    This burden of work shouldn’t fall on one person alone (mom or maid or grandma etc) but be shared by every family member. Many hands make work light. 

    2. A cheerful & helpful spirit

    It’s not so important what you do but it’s the willingness and cheerfulness behind it that we hope to cultivate. It is the practical application of Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,..”. Do it not because you are MADE to do it, but because you would be happy to. 

    3. Don’t make it a “chore”

    Ah…the word “chores”, sound well, tiresome, before you even start. I try not to use this word if I can help it. 

    When the kids were younger, I often found opportunities to reframe household tasks. I might add an element of fun to the task especially with young children and allow them achievable tasks so they can accomplish them. This makes them want to do it! 

    More importantly, I would invite them to be a part of what I was doing. The focus is not on the task at hand, but the time we spend doing it together. 

    4. Going beyond the call of duty

    I have kind of avoided a roster with fixed chores. This is specific to my nature as a big picture person. However, it does have hidden benefits: it corrects the thinking that your duty is done when you’re done with what’s assigned as opposed to being ready to help when help is needed. 

    5. Show Appreciation 

    This is not a strategy. It is genuinely what we feel must be done when someone in the family takes the effort to do a task, regardless of how “well” the task is done. Giving children a sense of responsibility for what they can accomplish on their own without assistance,does a great deal for their confidence. It’s important to let the child see that his contribution is valued or valuable.

    In the next post, I will share more about the specifics of how we do it in our household. Do share some of the ideas that work in your family!

    A Journalist for a Day (!) and other Great Reasons to Visit SmartKids Asia 2017

    Media Invite 

    The March Holidays is here and there’s an exciting round-up at SmartKids Asia 2017 for the whole family! Hailed as the continent’s “biggest educational kids fair”, SmartKids Asia back this year from 17 to 19 March 2017 at Singapore Expo Hall 6 and there’s much to do and look forward to!  

     

    Here’s our family’s take on some of the best highlights of this year’s installment: 

    1. Be a Roving WWII Reporter (New!)

    Nothing beats experiential learning and one steeped in history and time travel! To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore, The Straits Times Young Storymakers Camp, is a two-day camp that brings young explorers back in time, and into the shoes of a war reporter.   

    Participants from ages nine to 12 will get to walk through Singapore’s rich history, and learn news reporting techniques from The Straits Times journalists. This is an awesome opportunity to gain insight to the profession too!

    Register here.

    2. Parent your way to Success

     

    Also making its debut is The Straits Times Parenting Masterclasses – a two-day seminar for parents to learn and discuss parenting tips from experts such as Sha-En Yeo, a positive psychology coach and award-winning author. 

    The News-in-Education specialists from The Straits Times Schools Team will also discuss how news stories are useful resources for imparting character education and English language skills to pupils.

    Check out the list of speakers & lineup

    3. SmartKids Asia Storyland (New!)

     

    In partnership with National Library Board, the event will unveil SmartKids Asia Storyland for the first time.

     For three days, this segment will showcase timeless classics in the form of theatrical plays and storytelling from Goldilocks & The Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood to Hansel & Gretel, and more. 

    Pororo Park Singapore, the Official Play Partner of SmartKids Asia 2017, will also be a part of SmartKids Asia Storyland presenting a rendition of Jack & The Beanstalk featuring its main character, Pororo The Penguin. 

    Visitors at SmartKids Asia 2017 can also look forward to a host of other fun activities:  

     

    1. Meet & Greet sessions

    SmartKids Asia will bring forth two sets of popular characters: My Little Pony featuring Apple Jack, Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash; and Pororo & Friends featuring Pororo, Krong and Petty for three days of performances and Meet & Greet sessions.   

    2. Free Trial Classes

    Three days of trial classes from educational and enrichment providers will happen from 10am to 8pm daily. The programmes are tailored for ages 2 – 12 years old, encompassing English, Maths, Science, technology, arts and more. Registration is available here.

    3. SmartKids Asia Activity Area The Activity Area will have hands-on activities specially crafted for parents and children ages 3 to 7. Parents can look forward to arts and crafts activities such as puppet-making, cake-pop making and printmaking from partners such as Playeum, and Spurbox.

    4.  Daily Lucky Draws with prizes worth more than $10,000

    Visitors will be entitled to one chance in the lucky draw with every receipt of purchase. Happening daily at 7.30pm, $10,000 worth of prizes will include a family suite at Amara Sanctuary Resort worth $2,800, family passes to Bounce Singapore and many more.

    5. Goodie Bag Giveaway (Worth up to $50)

    With a total of 1,500 goodie bags to be given away, registrants are to redeem the Goodie Bags at the event from 10am onwards. Participants can reserve a goodie bag through pre-registration on SmartKids Asia Facebook page or be the first 200 to queue at the door. 

    6.  SmartKids Asia’s Fun Passport

    The Fun Passport is an interactive activity for children of all ages. Participants are to complete activities from different pit stops held at various booths. Completion of the Fun Passport entitles one to spin the prize wheel with exclusive prizes up for grabs.

    7. SmartKids Asia Talent Time  

    As a new stage segment, Talent Time is open to children from all walks of life to display skills and talents in the areas of dancing, singing, and playing an instrument for the coveted title of SmartKids Asia Talent Time champion. The top participants will walk away with prizes worth more than $1,000 in total. Registration is available here.

    8. SmartKids Asia Art Contest 

    In partnership with The Dim Sum Place, a new F&B joint by the creators of The Ramen Stall, the art competition caters to children ages 9 – 12 to showcase their creativity at SmartKids Asia. The top 10 winners will walk away with retail vouchers from The Dim Sum Place worth more than $500 and more. Register here.

    9. Stabilo Junior Colouring Contest  

    SmartKids Asia and Stabilo is introducing a Colouring Contest for children in the younger age group of 5 to 8 years old. Happening on all three days, the winners of the contest will walk away with prizes worth more than $500 in total. Registration is available here

    **Bonus fun FREE Inflatables!!  

    Hope to see you there! 

    For more information on the latest updates and event highlights, visit www.smartkidsasia.com or www.facebook.com/smartkidsasia.

    Why Change in the Education System Really Starts from Within Us

    Each of us are change agents and change in the education system must start from within. Today’s performance of “Don’t Kancheong, Kiasu, Kiasi” drove this point home well.

    A collaboration between 100 Voices and Bud’s Theatre with support by education platform Flying Cape; the interactive play held in forum theatre style, swiftly brought to fore hot button issues in education through familiar scenarios involving key stakeholders in the education system–students, parents, employers, educators and the education ministry.

    The plot holds a mirror up to the current educational reality: escalating stress on our young, high parental expectations, KPI-driven education, weary teachers and jaded employers.

    As a former educator and mum of five children (with children both homeschooling and in school), the script and action resonated on many fronts. The lines are familiar ones that I could have uttered from my own mouth as a Singaporean parent finding my footing in a Kancheong, Kiasu, Kiasi landscape. Here are some choice scenes:

    Scene 1:  Tommy, just 10 years old has just failed his exam and his mother is having a fit over it. She hurls her worries and exasperation at Tommy’s father, who doesn’t seem to think it’s much of an issue. They can’t agree on how to respond to their son’s poor grades.

      
    “Boy, if you don’t do well, you probably need to…have tuition.”says his weary father, not because he really believes tuition to be the remedy but because it could be the one solution to calm his livid wife. Frustrated Tommy, who sees his parents quarrelling, feels sorry for the trouble he’s caused and threatens suicide. 

    Scene 2: Tommy’s form teacher is hurled an email and called to the Principal’s office to account for the suicide threat. 

     “When something good happens it’s always about good parenting or our good school system, but when something goes wrong, it’s always the teacher’s fault.”, she laments as she feels the weight of the system bearing down on her, piling on more responsibility than she is comfortable with. One blindspot she says is, “All parents want their kids to be number one. The only problem is there can only ever be one number one.”

    Scene 3: The Principal meets her Superintendent who moots the idea of a (gasp)”suicide seminar”. “Our education system is the best.”says the official, obviously proud of the system’s efficacy and reputation across the world. He speaks of the latest changes: “With the new PSLE scoring system, let’s hope parents will stop pressurizing their children to chase the last mark?”

     

    Scene 4: Tommy’s mother, who also holds a management position in an SME, bemoans to her HR manager the hiring woes she’s faced in employing locals. “…Every top scholar seems to come from China or India. I’m not going to hire locals, they are just too troublesome. When was the last local we hired? “James Lee Wei Wen.” How long? 15 days. Why? He quit to go scuba diving in the Philippines. ”  

    Thrust into the thick of this action, the play invites the audience to “act” on the outcome. 

      
    Traditionally, forum theatre, otherwise known as the “theatre of the oppressed” demands audience members to be change agents. The audience can stop a performance, suggest different actions for the actors to carry out on-stage or reenact a portion of the play. 

    The interventionist nature of the play incites change and invokes action– which quite a number of audience members readily engaged in. Surprisingly, many spoke up, which is good, as change must always start with conversations. 

    This is also why the play’s format is appealing: it nudges us to stop being passive consumers within the education system and to merely sit back, watch and complain. Given the power to change the plot, it is no longer acceptable to be an armchair critic or inert byproducts of a system that manufactures consent. 

    In fact, it is not enough to speak up for change…we have to BE that change. 

    That is the mental mindset we need to overcome. 

    Rather than push the blame if you are a parent to the school, or as a teacher to the system, or as a ministry to the parents or as employers to the greater universe, we can start with ourselves. How can we invoke change where we already are? 

    The play reminds us of the complex interactions between all stakeholders in education, pulling us into an intriguing exchange of perspectives. By representing the myriad of constraints and considerations on all ends, we get a glimpse of what attitudes and mindsets may ultimately inhibit us from moving forward. 

     Undeniably though, we HAVE inched closer in stitching together the fabric of conversations and I am grateful to the good people from 100 Voices for leading that change. 

    The greatest tragedy that could result from this would be to make this a play that is “all talk, but no action”. 

    We need to take action: to be that curious and unfazzled student, that supportive parent, that enlightened educator and employer.  Perhaps we don’t need the education ministry to first lead the way because real change begins with us.

     Image credit: Flying Cape

    A Pressure Cooker Education System? #Giveaway# Tickets to “Don’t Kancheong, Kiasu, Kiasi.”

    Today I asked my 10 year old son, who has attended Singapore mainstream school for a year, Australian public school for another and homeschooled locally thereafter; whether he thinks education in Singapore is “stressful”…like a pressure cooker.  Image credit: Smiletutor.sg

     This is his reply: 

    [About homeschooling]: 

    – “I like it coz we get to breathe fresh air…not “stress-air”…you know?”

    – I get to do other things I like (hobbies) and spend more time with my family.

    [Three things that can be done to relieve the pressure:]

    – “MOE should make students feel that going to school is like going to play. It helps us that way.”

    – “More outdoor time. Not just work work work.”

    – “To have teachers that are really inspired by the syllabus. (“You mean you think some teachers are not?” I say) …yup, some teachers don’t inspire. If they were, they would teach from the heart. And not try to make it stressful.”

    These insights are keenly felt for a little boy his age but I’m sure he’s not the only one feeling this way. The truth is, everyone of us, has something or other to say about the Singapore education system. More often than not though, we keep our grumbling to ourselves, nag out our frustrations on our kids and try to keep the lid of pressure down with remedies like tuition while trying to remind ourselves not to be caught up in the educational arms race. To be honest, nobody really wants to be left-behind and we end up like hamsters in a spin wheel trying to keep up. At the heart of the issue is: what drives us to be “kancheong”, “kiasu”or “kiasi” or rather, how NOT to be?

    Well, a group of good people have come together to start this much-needed conversation. 

     

    100 Voices, a parent-led advocacy group, together with Buds Theatre, are bringing to you “Don’t Kancheong, Kiasu, Kiasi”, an interactive production based an original piece written by Stanley Seah, conceptualised by Jack Sim (100 Voices) & Claire Devine (BTC).  This forum theatre play aims to challenge perspectives and help the audience to recognise the need for a more open and accepting society  and examine our educational challenges as a nation. I caught up with Dean Yap, founding member of 100 Voices who shares more about this production: 

    1. In a nutshell, why this play and why forum theatre? What is at the heart of this work? 

    For years, we have been in pressure-cooker education environment. There has been a lot of talk on this, but the situation remains. Why? Education is a complex subject involving many stakeholders. There is no single solution. To reform this, we need to have deep conversations with all stakeholders, so we grow understanding and empathy for each other. Only then, can we effect changes. 

    “Don’t Kancheong, Kiasu & Kiasi’ facilitates this conversation by giving every stakeholder a voice to engage with one another.

    2. What stories, narratives & conversations does this work hope to bring out? 

    The actors will demonstrate the challenges and conflicts in the 4 acts below. 

    – a family quarrelling over a child’s exam results.

    – an overwhelmed teacher struggling with self-harming students.

    – a Principal and MOE Director at a loss to eliminate youth suicides.

    – a worry-stricken CEO who can’t find innovative local employees.

    Audience can share their opinions, change the scenarios or offer alternative solutions to the actors in the hope of producing new outcomes. 

    The forum theatre format helps us to see the perspectives of different stakeholders and start a conversation on the baseline of empathy and betterment. We hope the audience will walk away with broader perspectives and greater empathy for all stakeholders. We hope the work can trigger deeper self reflection and drive changes in our behavior that can alleviate pressure experienced by our children. We hope the audience can see the great misunderstanding that results in misaligned goals, which drive us all into a narrow rat race and pressure-cooker education culture.

    3. Who should attend and why? 

    Parents, children, youths, teachers, principals, MOE policy makers, college enrollment officers, recruiters, employers should watch this play as they are influential actors at different stages and parts of education system. 

    If we can start off by understanding challenges faced by each stakeholder, we can then take the conversation to deeper level to uncover underlying reasons (or triggers). From there, we can explore solutions to reform our education in impactful and inclusive manner. Reform comes from everyone taking his/her own actions to make changes in alignment.

    4. Three fun facts about the production 

    1. You (the audience) don’t have to sit still and keep quiet throughout the play, unlike the typical performances.

    2. You are the Director! You get to tell actors what to do.

    3. Your suggestions will be heard by MOE Officials for consideration in shaping the education system.

    You will get to know others who face similar challenges like you – you can take heart that you are not alone!

    <<*Giveaway* >>2 Tickets to watch “Don’t KKK” on Sunday, 26 Feb 2017, 3pm

    To enter the giveaway: 

    1. Copy and Share this link on your Facebook Profile (Set to Public) 

    2. Leave a comment on what makes you kancheong, kiasu or kiasi as a parent!

    *The giveaway will end on Wednesday, 22 February. 

    Tickets can be purchased here

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