CitiBlocs for creative play

I love open-ended toys with limitless possibilities to stretch their imagination, for pretend play, and even to learn math concepts like counting, sorting or patterning effortlessly.

A mumtrepreneur friend who runs the local online shop My First Games brought over a set of CitiBlocs in cool colours, and we’ve been having good fun with it.

CitiBlocs 200 pieces ($89.90)

It comes with a little manual with some suggestions of things to build and the required number of blocks. #5 flipped through it and asked Kate what she wanted him to build for her. “House!” she exclaimed.

House under contruction

#5 picked up some blocks, looked at the manual, then realised that it doesn’t have step-by-step instructions like his Lego sets.

He looked at me, looked at his little sister and said, “Don’t worry ok, gor gor will figure out how to build for you.”

Kate’s tiny house

Within minutes, he finished constructing an adorable little house for Kate.

That was fast!

I was still studying the diagram and didn’t know where to begin. Guess #5 doesn’t need any help from his clueless mum when it comes to construction toys.

With the remaining number of pieces, he did some quick math, and figured that he had enough blocks to build this robot-looking model.

He got stuck after building the base, thought a little while, then beamed. “OH! I know.”

Over the past few years, I have discovered that he is very strong in his spatial abilities so looking at a picture and replicating it is not too difficult for him.

Robot man

He was done for the day, and the little ones happily took over. It was interesting to watch how they started by lining them up in a row, and slowly progressing to stacking them up horizontally.

Over time, I prompted them on other simple ways they could build with the blocks.

Free play

Another day, I took the box out for Kate to play with and #5 came over and suggested we have a competition.

We divided the blocks into half, and the category was “Vehicle”.

#5’s ship with mast

We were not allowed to look at each other’s work, and halfway through, I was stuck and wondering how to fashion the sides of the ship to make it curve upwards.

Mummy’s ship

#5 took some of my blocks, aligned them properly to give the sides a tilt and taught me the physics behind it.

See, if you put it like that, it will tilt up. If you want a greater tilt, you add more blocks here. But if it becomes too heavy, you need to…

Ok, I can’t even remember everything else he said. Mummy has absolutely no aptitude nor interest in engineering and construction. But I still get involved to support his interest and learning…

Making a tilt

He appointed his 5-year old cousin as judge, and no surprises who emerged as winner.

Living room

The next category was “Furniture”. #5 had great plans to make a towering chair. However, he built it too thin and too high that it collapsed.

So the score was 1-1.

Till next time!

Save tip: Not to be missed promotion going on now! 30% off all CitiBlocs from My First Games. Enter code CTBTHIRTY at checkout. While stocks lasts.


Sane tip: Kids may not naturally know how to create with blocks. Kate is quite clueless where to begin and prefers to ask #5 to build something for her. I encourage her to fiddle with it and gradually she is learning more ways of stacking them. Slowly she will improve on her fine motor skills and creativity and be able to work on it herself!

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Great brain games for kids

Over the years, the kids have received their fair share of popular boardgames bought from the malls. While I did like that it got them to play together, what I didn’t like was that the games were based mostly on luck instead of skill. I was delighted when I discovered My First Games which is a local online store owned by a mum of 3 kids, selling a mind-boggling array of good games specially culled from USA and Europe. We have been playing quite a few of her games and the kids absolutely love them.

Pixy Cubes $29.90

One of her best sellers is Pixy Cubes, as surprise surprise, it seems to be the closest thing to an IQ test. No wonder parents were snapping them up. For me, I love that it is an open-ended game and can be played in a variety of ways. Although it says ‘ages 6 and up’, it can be managed by kids as young as 3 or 4 years old.

Beginner

The simplest way is to play it individually, whereby the child has to follow the pattern on the card. It can also be played with 2 kids, and they each take a card and challenge each other to see who finishes first.

Difficulty level increases

Once the child can master the simple shape using 4 cubes, they can move on to the shapes without the grid lines which uses all 16 cubes.

What I love about #5 is his creativity, and after going through all the card patterns, he had a great time constructing his own designs. Not only is it good for building up their attention span, it also helps with their fine motor skills.

#5’s fort

Another good game to exercise their brain is 7 ate 9. This is a Math speed card game, and can be played by any child who can add and subtract. The older girls initially thought it was a childish game meant for the little ones, but ended up having fun as well.

7 ate 9 ($15.90)

Another personal favourite of our family is Ubongo. This can be played with a maximum of 4 players. Basically, the fastest person to complete their card using the puzzle pieces wins. They never fail to take this game out when their friends come over for playdates. I have seen kids from as young as 7 who are able to handle this game.

Ubongo extreme

It is also suitable for the older folk to get their mind moving. We visited my aunt who is 82 years old and they had a good time bonding over it.

Great family game for all ages

I can confidently say that any parent would be happy to receive any of their games for their kids’ Christmas presents. Well, I would (hint, hint).

For more great game ideas from My First Games, take a look at Life’s Tiny Miracles’ recommendations.

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Learn Well Store: Good educational games

After having many kids and going through all sorts of toys, I am now more discerning about the toys I allow them to play with. With the first few kids, I didn’t know very much. Toys were toys, right? Just something to keep them occupied. But as any parent (especially those with many kids) will find out, very quickly the house becomes over-run with toys. So I started to limit the amount of toys we bought and kept. Simultaneously, I started learning that there were good toys and lousy toys. Basically, the more the toy can do, the less benefit it has for your child. I’m sure you would have observed with some chagrin how junior would rather play with the box the toy came in than the actual mechanised toy. So out went all those silly battery operated toys which my parents loved to buy for them, along with those cheap brightly coloured china-made toys where the lead content was suspect. In it’s place, I started acquiring good, durable, open-ended play things such as blocks, puzzles and pretend play toys.

So when I discovered Learn Well Store which sells wooden educational toys, I was very interested. This online store is the retail platform of Learn Well International, the leading provider of educational materials for the early childhood industry in Singapore for more than 20 years. They are now bringing their quality products not only to schools but to individuals like us! They have a wide variety of toys and the thing I like best is that most of their toys are open-ended. This allows for many ways of playing which promotes different skill sets, and can be used by the child for several years. Needless to say, I was stoked when they agreed to sponsor us some of their toys and it was difficult to choose as I wanted them all. Finally I settled on Bears & Patterns and 4 Colours Per Square.

Bears & Patterns is appealing to little children and Kate immediately picked up the cute little pieces and started lining them up. The bears come in 4 colours and 3 sizes (small, medium, large). This set is so versatile that the kids can benefit from it for a long time as they move on to more complex ways of playing. It can be played independently or up to 6 kids together.

“Hmm.. doesn’t look quite right”

1) Sorting & Grouping

This is the most basic level of thinking skills which 2-3 year olds can acquire by placing the bears in groups according to Size and Colour.

2) Replication & Patterning

Using the pattern cards provided, children can copy the pattern on the cards. Not only will they learn the higher order thinking skills of forming patterns but as they progress to more difficult skill cards (they are numbered), they can learn to predict what comes next in the sequence.

3) Pair game

Each player has his own pattern grid facing them so that their opponent is unable to see it. Through a series of questions and taking turns (e.g. “Do you have a small green bear?”), they have to guess the pattern that the other has. This improves memory, verbal, visual as well as social skills.

4) Group game

Players each have a pattern grid facing them such that no one else can see it. An opaque bag is used to contain the bears. Players take turns drawing out a bear and describing it to the other players. If another player identifies that the bear is needed to complete their own pattern grid, they must be the first to claim it. The winner is the first person who manages to complete his pattern grid.

The game promotes the use of Oral and Tactile skills so the possibilities are endless with this versatile toy.

4 Colours Per Square $160

The other game we received is 4 Colours Per Square. This game looks deceptively fun, but it actually provides them the opportunity to sort, plan, count, measure, compare, match, put together and take apart, aspects which make up the essential foundation of number sense and quantity preservation. It also encourages them to think out of the box to get the pieces to fit into the square. A myriad of games can be played with this one set.

1) Independent play

The most basic way of playing is for the child to fill up the square with the different coloured parts. A variation would be to ask the child to fill one square with the coloured parts and then asked to fill another square in a different way. This promotes higher order thinking skills such as spatial awareness and creative thinking.

2) Unit measurement

This Math concept is taught in lower primary and you can expose your child to this concept by asking them to fill up the square using unit measurements (e.g. Fill them up using only 1 square unit pieces, thus how many units do you need to fill in the whole square. Next, fill them up using only 2 square unit pieces). To make it more challenging for older kids, ask them to fill in the squares using 4 different colours and 4 different sizes and discuss the different ways this task can be done.

Kate is oblivious to the rules of the game

3) Group game

Using the spinner, the children take turns to spin the arrow and fill in their square as they pick up the coloured pieces which has been randomly chosen by the spinner. The challenging and fun part starts when their square is almost filled up but they are not getting the right pieces thanks to the luck of the draw!

This versatile game is only bound by your own creativity. You can even introduce fractions through this set, or use it as a memory game by placing the pieces faced down and guessing the colours. 

{GIVEAWAY} Choice of ONE game


Sane tip: I really like multi-faceted toys as they grow with the child while maintaining age appropriateness. It saves space too, instead of buying multiple sets of toys. Another plus is that these games are also good for the elderly to maintain their mental agility, so the whole family can play and bond together!

Save tip: {GIVEAWAY} Here’s a chance for ONE lucky reader to win either Bears & Patterns OR 4 Colours Per Square (valued at $160), generously sponsored by Learn Well Store.

All you have to do is:

  •  Enter the GIVEAWAY below
  •  Like Mummy Wee’s Facebook page
  • Like Learn Well Store Facebook page
  • Like and Share this post on Facebook with the caption “Educational toys are great!” and tag Mummy Wee
  •  Leave a comment on Mummy Wee’s Facebook post stating which set you would like to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Details:
  • 1 winner will be chosen at random
  • Open to Singapore residents only
  • Ends 30 September 2014
  • Winner will be announced on Mummy Wee’s Facebook page on 3 October 2014
  • Winner will be contacted by Learn Well Store for delivery

Disclaimer: Learn Well Store sponsored us the 2 sets and the giveaway. All opinions are my own.


~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Kate’s Schedule at 18 months

This is Kate’s daily schedule at 18 months.

6.45 am: Wakes up and has her morning milk (180ml)
7.00 am: Tags along to send her gor gor to school
7.30 am: Breakfast
8.00 am: Plays by herself in the room while I shower

Playing her gor gor’s snap game

8.30 am: Goes to the park or playground
9.30 am: Heads home for a shower

Sidewalk chalk from Typo

10.30 am: Milk feed before nap (180ml). By right, babies should not be drinking milk before sleeping, however she has been used to doing this so I haven’t stopped it.

10.30 – 12.30: Naps for 2 hours in her crib

Sleeping like a baby

12.30 pm: Lunchtime!

She loves drinking soup

1.00 pm: Plays by herself if I’m cooking

Sorting toy

Currently Kate is still not able to fit the shapes correctly and I have to point it out to her. She gets a sense of satisfaction when she manages to get the shape to drop into the box. This is a suitable toy for 18 months because it can grow with the child and gradually she can match the correct shape.

Another suitable toy at this age are Mega blocks or the larger Lego blocks. A few months ago, Kate could pull them apart. Now she has no problems fitting them together. Great for their fine motor skills.

Concentrating hard on building her tower

1.30 pm: Tags along to pick the other kids up from school or CCA, or if everyone is back, they’ll be playing with her.

Waiting for her gor gor

2.30 pm: Afternoon milk feed (150ml)
Occupies herself with the other kids for the rest of the afternoon

5.00 pm: Goes to the playground as there are many other kids at the playground at this time. But sometimes I’m too lazy to take her and she’ll just play in our garden.

Loves nature

She loves the trips to the playground in the evenings as there are lots of other children’s skate scooters for her to ‘borrow’.

“Wow, that’s one neat looking scooter”
“This one doesn’t seem to have an owner”
6.00 pm: Dinnertime!
Our daily family dinner
She is daddy’s little girl and if she doesn’t hang out with her daddy for a while, she will be calling for him later when it’s time for bed.
Cuddles before bedtime

7.00 pm: Shower, night milk (180ml), brush teeth.

I know babies past the age of 1 should start to drink from a cup. Oh well, it’s just easier this way. I’ll probably do that when she turns 2!

The other kids will come in to cuddle and kiss her before she goes to sleep.

7.30 pm: Lights out and someone will lie with her (usually me, but the hubs or any of the other kids are able to put her to sleep when I’m not around). When she was younger, she would sleep in her crib. However, ever since around 15 months, she will only sleep in the crib for her naps, and will ask to sleep in our room for the night.

“Yummy warm milk”

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Good toys – Blocks

When #4 was in kindergarten I asked her what her all time favourite toy was. She said she wished she had those giant blocks they had at school. Indeed, that was the toy the kids rushed for during free play time. I had been keeping a lookout for those giant blocks and I finally found them online at Kidspeciality. These Big EduColor Blocks come in a set of 32 pieces which cost $249.90. Yup, they don’t come cheap, but I’ll tell you why I’m a big fan of blocks.

A house to call my own

Benefits of playing with blocks:

  1. Promotes creativity
  2. Improves hand eye coordination
  3. Increases strength and dexterity
  4. Improves concentration and attention span
  5. Enhances logical thinking
  6. Learn about shapes
  7. Learn about colour
  8. Learn about gravity
  9. Learn about balance
  10. Learn about cause and effect

And most importantly, it is FUN!

When a child tries to build a tower and it comes crashing down, what does she do? She tries again using a different method. She is being a little scientist using experimentation, observation, and alteration to problem solve.

Let’s see who can build a taller tower which can withstand the wind


















By lining up her blocks, what is she learning? She is learning Math concepts such as length and measurement, sorting, grouping, comparing – all the basics of what she will learn in Math lessons in future.

When a group of children build together, what are they doing? They are learning how to work as a team – to take turns, communicate, negotiate and cooperate. All these are important life skills they need to acquire.

As a baby, she will love to knock ’em down! You can play a game with her whereby you build up a tower and let her knock it down. She will learn to wait and anticipate as you build, and squeal as it all comes crashing down!

A rough timeline:

1 year:  Knocking them down followed by stacking them up
2 years: Build simple structures
3 years: Move on to more complex structures
4 years: Recognises patterns, shapes, grouping
5 years: Recreate structures seen in daily life
6 years: Pretend play with accessories eg cars, animals

















One step further:
You can combine blocks with books. Read your child a story then play the blocks with her. She may be inspired to come up with new ideas.

I’ll choose blocks anytime over battery operated character toys which my child will probably play with for a couple of days then chuck them aside. More importantly, commercialised toys not only stifle the child’s creativity but they will slowly become familiar to the child, thus indoctrinating them to the consumption culture. Then somewhere down the road you wonder why they want the whole set of Barbie or Ben 10. Construction toys on the other hand are open ended toys which the child can play with for many years. This set of blocks are washable and are even suitable for water play. It is good to start baby off on soft blocks as they have no sharp edges.

#5’s throne

The online store is run by a mom of 2 kids. I met her a couple of years back when her daughter joined #4 for Japanese lessons. I like to support fellow moms who start their own businesses. Sadly, our workplaces do not truly support family friendly work schedules and flexi hours. I applaud all moms who take charge of their own lives and find their own work or start their own businesses so that they are able to spend time with their children, especially in their early years.

This lady has kindly offered a 10% discount (regular priced items only) for all mummywee readers from 1-30 Sept 2013. Please go to mummywee facebook page for the discount code. Do ‘like’ our facebook page to receive future updates on promotions. Kidspeciality provides free normal postage delivery for local orders above $10.

Sane tip: Blocks can definitely keep my kids entertained for longer periods than many other toys.

Save tip: I am sharing these giant blocks with Kate’s playgroup mummies so we can split the cost. Each child will get to play with the toys for a couple of weeks then we rotate. It’s great because kids do get bored of playing with the same toys. When you put them away for a while then reintroduce it, it’s like a new toy all over again! She also sells smaller versions of the foam blocks. 80 pieces ($61.90) 30 pieces ($36.90).

~   mummywee – parenting 6 kids without going mad or broke  ~