Discipline #4: 6 common sleep mistakes for babies

One of the biggest parenting mistakes we made was not knowing anything about babies and their sleep. I did read a few books such as Babywise and What to Expect in the First year and knew about routines and bedtimes. However, I didn’t know just how absolutely important this whole business of sleep is. It was only after I had #5 and a close friend pointed out a very good book to me that I was enlightened.

I went on to read a few more books on the subject, and have come to thoroughly respect a child’s need for good, proper sleep. There is a lot of information to digest, so I’ll start with the 6 most common sleep mistakes for babies that parents unintentionally make.

1. Keeping them awake for too long

Babies can only tolerate a very short amount of awake time when they are young. Once you pass this time, they will start to get cranky and it will be harder to get them to sleep. There is a ‘magic’ window of opportunity when it is easiest for baby to sleep. You have to catch that window before they get over-tired. You know how it is that sometimes we feel drowsy, and suddenly our eyelids start to droop and we really feel like sleeping? That’s the window period where baby will easily fall asleep. If you ignore this time frame and keep baby up, she will start to fuss and get cranky. If you continue to ignore it and baby is not put to sleep, hormones will kick in and it becomes even harder for baby to get to sleep because the hormones drive her into a hyperactive state.


So how long should babies be awake for? Here is a general guide, but observe your own baby for their sleepy signs.

Birth – 6 weeks  : 45 mins
2 – 3 months     : 1 hour
4 – 5 months     : 1.5 hours
6 – 7 months     : 2 hours
8 – 9 months     : 2.5 hours
10 – 12 months  : 3 hours


2. Not watching out for sleepy signs e.g. yawning

I didn’t know about these signs to watch for until I had #5. Well, nobody told me, so how was I supposed to know right? All babies have a signal that it’s time to hit the cot. It could be rubbing their eyes, swiping their ear or pulling at their hair. Watch your baby. You will notice a pattern they display just before they are ready to sleep. Once you identify it, put them straight to bed when you see it displayed.

3. Going to them between sleep cycles

Babies’ sleep cycles last for one and a half hours with a little break at 45 minutes. They will stir, cry or make a bit of noise at this juncture. DO NOT go in to your baby. Give them the opportunity to fall back asleep by themselves. If you go in, they will be disturbed by your presence and will not want to go back to sleep. And it will likely result in a bad habit of wanting you to go in and carry or rock them back to sleep. After about 5 – 10 minutes of fussing, they will fall asleep again for the next cycle.
Kate woke up very early to send us off
4. Too late bedtime

Most people think that by keeping the baby awake later, she will sleep better at night. We thought that too, and our babies used to go to bed around 8 or 9pm. When they were waking up in the middle of the night or waking up too early, the hubs suggested putting them to bed even later so that they would be so tired they would sleep properly. What happened was that they woke up even earlier! I remember #4 used to sleep at 10pm and began her day at 5.30am. It seems like an illogical explanation, but sleep begets sleep, and the later the baby sleeps at night, the earlier she will wake up. After I read about sleep, I shared the information with friends who had babies the same age, and all our babies (from the time they were 6 months to around 4 or 5 years old) went to bed at 7pm and woke up slightly before 7am! We are now firm believers of giving our kids adequate sleep.

5. Sleeping in motion during naps

Sleeping while in the stroller when you are shopping, or in a carrier does not allow the baby to have the necessary deep sleep she needs. Babies have to be placed in the cot or bed to sleep properly. It is akin to us sleeping on the public bus vs sleeping on our own beds. Having said that, we have to balance this with living our lives. We shouldn’t be a ‘slave’ to their schedule and end up being stuck at home all the time and being resentful of it. It’s just to have an awareness of what is happening. I didn’t know all this in the early years and I deliberately took the baby out in the stroller at nap time as it was easiest to put them to sleep that way.
Sleeping like a baby
6. Attributing the crying to colic or other reasons

Many people simply attribute their baby’s constant crying to having colic, being night owls, or that their baby is very naughty. I suggest you try your very best to implement the strategies and allow your baby the opportunity to have adequate sleep before you come to such a conclusion. In most cases, your baby will surprise you. And you’ll have your nights back! 🙂

Do read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr Marc Weissbluth for a better understanding and some case studies of babies. 



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

Feeding baby 10-12 months

Around the age of 10 months, many parents notice that their baby starts to be fussy about food. It could be because they are now able to show their likes and dislikes clearly. It is also a time when textures and  appearances seem to matter to them. I give Kate lots of foods with bright colours which appeal to her.

Carrot and millet porridge

I also try and vary her food in taste and texture so that she doesn’t get bored and it also helps us to figure out her preferences.

Macaroni with minced beef in light carrot sauce

Foods to add to their repertoire:

Vegetables:

  • Brussel sprouts
  • Lentils
  • Onion
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Turnip (steamed)
  • Cucumber
Fruits:
  • Apricot
  • Raspberry
  • Melon

I draw up a 2-week menu for Kate so it is easier for my helper to decide what to feed her at every meal. She doesn’t need to stick to the exact days, but it’s just to give her more options. Without it, my helper was literally feeding her macaroni soup at every lunch.

10-12 months: Menu 1
10-12 months: Menu 2

She is also very big on finger foods these days. I usually start feeding her from a spoon but she will shake her head halfway through her meal. I will then put a few pieces on her tray table and she will feed herself that same food! Maybe it makes her feel more independent.

Orange sweet potato

Sweet potatoes have one of the highest sources of beta-carotene, which is an anti-oxidant. It helps to improve our immunity and is also good for the eyes. Drizzle a little bit of extra virgin olive oil over it to improve the beta-carotene absorption. And remember I mentioned in “6 easy peasy ways to make baby smarter” that olive oil can help your child to learn faster and focus better.

Yum, yum. All done.

It’s good for baby to have finger food as it allows them ample opportunity to practise their fine-motor skills.

More finger food for baby to try:

  • Fruit cut into small pieces
  • Vegetables cut into small pieces
  • Dried fruit soaked for an hour to soften, then cut into small pieces
  • Pieces of bread
  • Small pieces of pasta

Sane tip: I find that it’s much easier feeding her when she eats with all of us. She will usually not mind whatever I’m feeing her and she can sit in her highchair for a good 30-45 minutes. When she eats alone during lunch (the kids are not back from school till 2pm) she will usually tolerate sitting for about 15 minutes and she will shake her head and ask to be let down from her highchair. 

Save tip: I try to align her menu with the rest of the kids so we can save time and money in preparing her food. For example, when the other kids are having spaghetti bolognese, she will have the same, except that we remove her portion before we add the salt and we stir in some carrot puree to neutralise the sourness of the tomato sauce.

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

Feeding Baby: 6 – 8 months (The Why behind weaning)

Weaning your baby is both an exciting, yet sometimes perplexing time especially for new parents. After going through this with the 5 of them, I realise that every baby is different. Some take to food instantly and love eating. Some take a little more time to get used to new flavours. Be patient. If we are relaxed about it, baby will pick up on it and everything will go more smoothly. There is no point in trying to keep up with what your other friends’ babies are doing and rushing your baby into anything earlier than what she is ready for. 

I started feeding Kate at 6 months using this chair

For the 5 of them, I started weaning them at different times, between 4-6 months old, depending on the advice of the paediatrician they were seeing at the moment for their immunisation. Some paediatricians feel that starting at 4 months is fine. Others advice starting closer to 6 months. After reading up on current guidelines, I decided to wait until 6 months before starting Kate on solids. Research shows that it is actually more harmful for babies if you wean them too early when their gastrointestinal system is not developed enough to cope with solid foods. 

I think it was #3 whom I weaned at 4 months, and she regressed a few months later and refused to take solids. I subsequently learnt that this is one of the common problems with early weaning. For those moms who are still breastfeeding, there really is no point feeding your baby solids before 6 months of age. Breastmilk is the best and most complete form of food for your baby, so why give them something less nutritious? Unless you feel that your baby is very hungry even after a full feed, or wakes up at night when she was previously sleeping through, or if she is extremely active (crawling everywhere the whole time and burning up a lot of calories) only then should you consider introducing solids earlier than 6 months if you are on total breastmilk.

Common first food

WHY do we wean babies?

1) To get them used to eating solids. For them to learn how to suck food off the spoon and to learn how to swallow.

2) To replace their iron stores. Babies are born with enough iron to last the first 6 months. After that, it has to be obtained through fruits and vegetables and fortified cereal (and later through meat).

3) Their taste buds are developing so we have to use this time well to introduce them to as wide a variety of flavours as possible, so that they will not end up being picky eaters.

4) For the first few months of weaning, food is not meant to replace their milk. Offer baby the same amount of milk as always. As you gradually build up the amount of food baby is eating, you can then slowly reduce their milk intake. You should feed baby the solids first before their milk. This is because if you feed them their milk first, they are already full and are not likely to accept the food. They should still be getting most of the needed nutrients from their milk for their first year.

WHAT should we feed baby? 

Traditionally, the first weaning food is baby rice cereal. Why is that recommended? Mainly because it is unlikely to cause an allergy. It can also be mixed with either breastmilk or the formula which baby has been drinking, to ease the transition to solids. Furthermore, it is enriched with iron, which baby needs.

However, there are other factors which we should consider, such as nutrition and variety. Are there other foods which are more nutritious, and also not likely to cause an allergy? Remember the window of opportunity I mentioned in 6 Food Rules for babies? What I did for Kate was that I wanted to maximise the variety of foods I could introduce to her in this precious 9 month period, so along with the rice cereal, I started to expose her to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables from the get go. (By the way, I didn’t make all these up. I read some recently published books on the subject just in case things have changed since #5‘s time).

Week 1: 
I started her on rice cereal for her first week. I mixed it with a little milk to get the right watery consistency. This was to ease her into solids. For the first week, they only eat about 1 tablespoon each meal, and only once a day. So it was more convenient to just feed her cereal.

Week 2: 
I jumped right in to feed her all sorts of fruits and vegetables, which she readily accepted. See the list below “Foods unlikely to cause allergic reactions”. I only used her baby rice cereal to mix with the fruits if it was too runny to get a better consistency, or when I ran out of my homemade puree. I moved on to feeding solids during breakfast and lunch. 

Week 3:
Continue to introduce all the foods in the list. Combine them in different ways to expose baby to all sorts of different tastes. Eg. Apple and banana or broccoli and pumpkin. 

Week 4:
She started having 3 meals a day (but still very small portions of about 2-4 tablespoons).


Foods unlikely to cause allergic reactions:

Vegetables:

  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet Potato
  • Carrot
  • Broccoli
  • Potato
  • Spinach
  • Turnip
  • Squash
  • Cauliflower

Fruits:

  • Apple
  • Banana
  • Avocado
  • Papaya
  • Plum
  • Pear
  • Watermelon
  • Cherry

Cereal:

  • Rice
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Buckwheat

What NOT to feed baby in the first year:

  • Honey (may cause infant botulism)
  • Salt and sugar (additives)
  • Whole nuts (may cause choking)
  • Cow’s milk (may cause eczema or stomach upset)
  • Seafood (likely to cause allergic reaction)
  • Peanuts (likely to cause allergic reaction)
  • Egg white (likely to cause allergic reaction
Highly allergic foods
As for egg, there are still different standpoints on whether we should feed it to baby in the first year. Some doctors believe that it is fine to feed baby egg yolk from 6 months old, while others believe it is fine to feed both the egg yolk and egg white from 6 months old. Yet others believe it is better to wait till after the first year to introduce the egg white. However, if you have any family history of food allergies, it is prudent to wait till after the first year to feed it to your baby.

For Kate, I will not feed her egg in her first year as #1 had a serious allergy to eggs. Every time we fed her eggs, she would vomit. However, we didn’t link it to the eggs and we thought it is quite normal for babies to vomit. Finally one day, we were at the supermarket, and she accidentally crushed a raw egg and it splattered onto her face. Her whole face became swollen and we had to rush her to hospital as some got into her throat it almost closed up her airways. Subsequently, she was referred to do a skin prick test and we found out that she was also allergic to shellfish and peanuts. The doctors said that she would outgrow her egg allergy after she reached 7 or 8 years of age. She’s already 15 but hasn’t totally outgrown it. Now, she will not have a serious reaction like vomiting or swelling, but she will break out in rash or eczema when she eats eggs or foods which contain eggs.
Her left eye was completely swollen, yet she posed for daddy

HOW to go about it?

1) Put a tiny amount on the tip of the spoon and gently rest the tip of the spoon into their mouths. Do not push the food too deep into baby’s mouth. 

2) When you start introducing a new food, do it at breakfast. You don’t want baby with an upset stomach or a rash in the middle of the night. 

3) Apply the 2 day rule. Introduce a new food every 2 days so that if there is an allergic reaction, you can easily pin-point which food it was. Keep a diary of the foods your baby is eating, so that in the event of a serious allergy or an intolerance, it will be easier to track. (For the foods in the “Unlikely to cause allergy” list, 2 days is enough as you also want to maximise this window of opportunity to get your baby to accept a wide variety of food).

4) Start with single-ingredient foods, and if there are no allergic reactions, you can move on to combining them for a variation in taste.

5) For the first month, fruits and vegetables should be very well pureed into a thin consistency so that it is more easily swallowed and digested by baby.

6) The best way to cook baby’s fruits and vegetables is to steam it as this retains most of its nutrients and flavour. I would steam her fruits and vegetables over the weekend using the Babycook and freeze them into individual portions. 

7) If baby does not like eating solid food, don’t let it turn into a struggle. Stop feeding solids for a week or so before you try again.

Some rules to follow 

  • Remember, baby cereal has to be discarded 30 days once opened.
  • Discard any leftovers from baby’s bowl after a meal.
  • Never re-freeze food that has already been frozen
  • The safest way to thaw food is to do it overnight in the fridge, not at room temperature. I then pop it into the food warmer to warm it up.
  • After re-heating, use within 1 hour.
It can warm up both milk and baby food

To go organic or not?
If we could well afford it, why not go organic as it is better for the health of our young babies. But for us, our food bills are high enough as it is, so I only buy organic for foods which have a high pesticide content. (A friend who is a vegetable wholesaler told me that if we were to have a whiff of the chemicals when a box of broccoli imported from China was opened, we wouldn’t dare to feed that to our babies!) I try to buy local produce as much as possible, and it is also not necessary to buy organic for foods which have a thick skin such as bananas, avocado or sweet potato. The United States Department of Agriculture has ranked produce by its pesticide content, so it is best to buy organic varieties of the following if it is within your budget:

  • Strawberries
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Spinach
  • Grapes

Sane tip: We try our best to feed our babies as healthy a diet as possible, but sometimes it’s not easy. There were days when I fed her 3 meals of cereal because I didn’t have time to make her purees. Just do your best, and be kind to yourself when you are tired or stressed out. It’s not the end of the world. 

Save tip: It’s much cheaper and healthier to make homemade baby food instead of buying jars of commercial baby food.


To read about an allergy that almost killed #1, click here.

Feeding baby: 8 – 10 months, click here.

Feeding baby: 10 – 12 months, click here.


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

Please take care of your children’s teeth

The National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS) has been reaching out to parents in a bid to educate them on the importance of good dental health. A survey showed that 7 in 10 parents polled had not taken their children to the dentist before. The number of children being treated at NDCS for early childhood caries has doubled in the last decade. Many of these childhood dental problems are a result of parent’s ignorance in this area. I was one of those ignorant parent, and the state of my children’s dental health was terrible. I am determined to inculcate good dental hygiene in Kate.

Kate loves brushing her own teeth

A couple of years back, #1 had a tooth infection. There was some swelling on her gums (like a bubble) and we took her to Pacific Healthcare at Paragon. As she was already about 11 years old, the dentist decided to extract her baby tooth. The swelling disappeared and the problem was solved. The dentist enquired about the other family members and asked us to check the other childrens’ teeth. True enough, we found out that #4 suddenly had a cavity in one of her back tooth. We took her to NDCS and they said that the infection was most likely passed from one sibling to the next due to the sharing of food. As she was only about 5 years old at that time, they didn’t want to extract the baby tooth as the space needed to be saved for the adult tooth which will appear a few years later. So she had to do a crown. She was scheduled for a crowning to be done under general anaesthesia (G.A.). Even though it was done at NDC, it cost me more than $2,000 to fix that tooth!

About 2 years ago, we noticed that #5 had ‘rotten teeth’. Several of his teeth started getting discoloured and we could see that they were decayed. We took him to The Kids Dentist at Camden and Dr. Rashid shook his head after examining him. He said that many of his teeth had started to decay badly and he needed some pulpotomy treatment, 5 crowns and a couple of fillings. 5 crowns?! Wouldn’t that cost me $10,000? This was a nicely set-up private clinic at Camden, so I was sure it would cost me an arm and a leg. As it turned out, Dr. Rashid said we had 2 choices. If #5 manages to be cooperative (meaning sit still in the chair for about 1 hour for 5-7 sessions and open his mouth big) he wouldn’t need to be sedated. A big chunk of the cost for #4’s crowning was for G.A.

Before Dr. Rashid could start, #5 needed to do an x-ray. He was very uncooperative and Dr. Rashid said that there was no way he could do any treatment without G.A. if he behaved like that. I knew I had to convince #5 to be a willing patient. He loves Lego, so I told him that if he did what he was told, we would go and buy 1 set of Lego after every session. That worked like magic! He cooperated fully and after every session, I would allow him to buy a $9.90 box of Lego of his choice. (That was a steal compared to paying more than a thousand bucks for G.A.). In the end, I paid about $3000+ to fix all his teeth.

After discussions with Dr. Rashid, we realised that the cause of his rotten teeth was a combination of factors. When he was young, he would go to bed with a bottle of milk and not brush his teeth prior to falling asleep. Our previous helper also used to give him a bottle of ribena several times a day as he lay on the couch watching TV. It was easy for her as there was no mess (compared to a cup) and he wouldn’t bother her for a long time. His teeth was also not brushed properly and there were times when he was tired and I didn’t insist on having him brush his teeth before he went to bed.

Baby gum cum tooth brush

That was indeed a very expensive and painful mistake to make. Now I am more careful with Kate. From the time she was 3 months old, I got her this tooth/gum brush. It’s bristles are really soft. I instructed my helper to brush her teeth every evening and she replied rather incredulously, “Brush her teeth? But she has no teeth!” I explained to her that it was just to get her used to having her gums cleaned. I will definitely not let her drink any other sweet drinks out of her bottle besides milk. I will also try to wean her from her bottle when she turns 1… or maybe 2 😉 That’s already a big improvement. The other 5 of them drank from their bottles till they were about 4 or 5! ( I seriously thought milk was meant to be drank out of a milk bottle).

Dr. Rashid also told us that if we really wanted to give the child a sweet drink, it was much better to drink it all up in one go, than to take sips of it over a prolonged period of time. It will just be a sugar bath in there. And although we all know that sweets are bad, the nasty ones to really watch out for are those sticky ones. One surprising thing we learnt was that rice, left on the teeth for a long time, will also break down into sugar!

Later on, I asked a dentist friend why #4 had to do her crown under G.A. at NDCS, when #5 could have an option of local anaesthesia if he was cooperative? She used to work in NDCS and told me that they were seeing patients back-to-back there and did not have time to cajole the child to be cooperative. It was more time efficient to just send them all through G.A. I personally will not choose the option of G.A. if I can avoid it, not only because of the cost, but because there is a slight risk in getting a G.A.

Sane tip: Start taking your child to the dentist when she is about 1 year old. It is more to get her used to the dentist and the environment so that she will not protest next time. Also, it is good to start getting their teeth checked from a young age as the dentist can point out any early problems, and it is much easier to prevent problems than to seek treatment. 

Save tip: Taking good care of your child’s teeth will definitely save you a ton of money on dental treatment in future.

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

Why should they read?

We all know that we should be reading to our babies from as young as possible. We discuss which is better: zoo phonics, jolly phonics or letterland phonics. We ask perspective kindergartens at what age will my child be able to read. But have we thought about why we want our kids to read?

Is it to enter Primary 1 well-equipped to handle the worksheets? Is it the better their command of English, the higher they will score at PSLE? Or the better their results, the better their future career prospects? It is only when you know why you want your child to read, can you decide on how you want your child to learn to read. 

Our home library

Here’s my story on their ABCs…

#1 started kindergarten at the age of 3. I knew we had to send our children to kindergarten but was totally unaware of this whole enrichment business out there as I had no interactions whatsoever with other mummies. As we were the first amongst our siblings and friends to have children, I didn’t have anyone to turn to for advice.

Before long, I made friends with my daughter’s best friend’s mummy. She asked me what enrichment I was going to sign my daughter up for, as the school offered a different enrichment after school every day. I was surprised. “Enrichment? What for? Is it good?” She said it doesn’t matter whether it is good or not as they will still learn something. Her rationale was that as she was busy working the whole day, it was at least better than letting her daughter watch TV at home. Her daughter had the whole array of enrichment classes, including phonics. She could read well enough by the end of N2.

My daughter on the other hand, could hardly read a single word even at the end of K1. She was having a miserable time in school as the teacher would ask the children to name 5 things beginning with the letter ‘S’ and she was the only one who couldn’t. She would be punished by being made to stand at the corner of the class. I was shocked. I couldn’t understand why the teacher punished my daughter for not knowing when she was the one who had been teaching her the whole of that year. In fact, shouldn’t she be angry at herself for not being able to have taught her well? 

I started to find out why all the other kids were better than her and was surprised to discover that almost all of them had phonics enrichment outside of school. I also learnt that many of the parents were involved in their kid’s education, meaning they either read to their kids frequently or made them do assessment books at home (yes, at the age of 4 or 5). I thought to myself, ok, things must have changed tremendously from my day when anything to do with school was confined to school. I have to admit I felt rather disconcerted that we seemed to have to ‘top up’ more work just to get by, on top of what was taught in kindergarten.

Anyway, I pulled her out of that kindergarten and transferred her to a Catholic kindergarten. Things were very different there. The whole atmosphere was different. The pace was slower, the children were calmer, the teachers were more loving. And nobody was punished for not knowing their work. I was happy and so was she. Then came shock number 2. She enrolled for Primary 1 and we went for Orientation day. As all the excited K2 students streamed into the hall, I could hear them reading quotes off the walls. They could read words like “wisdom”, “praise” and “diligence”. I was dumfounded. #1 couldn’t even read “Cat”.


I called up my one and only ‘mummy’ friend. I related the incident to her and she gave me a whole spiel about how #1 will lag behind if she can’t read. It will snowball and she will find it hard to catch up and her self-esteem will be affected. She will also have difficulties with Math as she would not be able to read instructions like “Underline the bigger objects”. She recommended a phonics centre and I signed #1 up the very next week. In 2 months, she was able to read fluently enough for P1 standard.

I started getting concerned about #2 who was then in K1, and monitored her reading. Luckily she had an enthusiastic young teacher who followed their class up from K1 to K2. She was very diligent and was able to get the whole class prepared for P1. Not only could #2 read well, but she was able to write simple sentences on her own! I was relieved.

When #2 went to P1, I attended a dinner at her school. At our table was an English tutor of 20 years who previously taught at a prestigious primary school. She was sharing with us parents that there is no point in drilling our children with assessment books. It is much better to get them to read vocariously as they will then have a very strong foundation on which to build on. She kept telling us to get our kids to read, read, read.


So that was just what I did. I told #2 that she had to start reading. I did not have time to read to her as by then I had 5 kids under the age of 8. You can imagine how crazy things were around the house. I bought her a lot of books and she read everyday. Her aunt knew she loved reading and bought her a French classic children’s book called ‘Nicholas’ which was translated into English. When she visited again about 2 weeks later she enquired if she had finished reading the book so that she could purchase the sequel. #2 replied, “Yes, I have finished reading it… 3 times.” She went on to read classics like Anne of Green Gables, Heidi and Little Women.

Sadly, #1, #3 and #4 did not pick up a love of reading as they were not introduced to books from young. As for #5, things started getting less chaotic when he was around 2 years old. By then I knew how important it is to read to your child. I also had more time to spend with him in the mornings as the other 4 were in school. So I read to him every morning. We would go to the library and borrow heaps of books. He loved being read to. He would gather a pile of about 10 – 15 books each day and plonk them on the sofa. We read for about 30 – 45 mins each time.

I read the stories straight through without talking about the pictures or discussing the characters. His teachers commented that he had a nice rhythm to his reading. Most of the other children could also read well, but they sounded flat. That must have been a result of listening to me read to him all the time. He also did well in journal writing as he was brimming with ideas. Reading gave him a wide vocabulary and a whole pool of ideas to draw from. 

So now, why do I want Kate to be able to read?

I have decided that besides the undeniable need for her to be prepared for primary school and to fare well in her future exams, I want her to grow up to love and embrace reading. To be excited to open a book, to discover a different world within. To broaden her mind, to read a wide variety of subjects. To question what she is reading and to draw her own conclusions. To discuss with like-minded individuals what she has read. To be immersed in the richness of poetry. To enjoy reading Bronte, Dickens and Hemingway. For time to stand still when she reads.

What strategy am I going to employ with Kate?

I’m not going to be caught up about whichever type of reading method they use at the pre-school I will enrol her in. I will be wary however if her teacher makes reading a bore or a chore. But ultimately, as with most things, reading begins at home.

I will: 

  • Read aloud to her daily (But not just straight through. I will share how to read to her in another post)
  • Expose her to all genres of books
  • Make a trip to the library a monthly family routine
  • Have regular reading sessions with her (we can find a lovely picnic spot, she reads her book and I read mine)
  • Never make reading a punishment or a bribe
  • Ensure she reads good books, both in language and content

Sane tip: When your child loves reading, she can spend hours by herself immersed in her book. You can either read with her (ah, how relaxing) or you are free to do your own thing.

Save tip: Our local libraries are quite impressive these days. Check out the children’s section at the Central Public Library at Bras Basah. Form book circles with other mummy friends. Each family can purchase a series of books and then swap them around.

Other related posts:

Tips for reading with your child
Help! My toddler refuses to read
The Groovy Giraffe – Great books at great prices

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

6 easy peasy ways to make baby smarter

We all want baby to be smarter but we’re too busy and we don’t want too much hassle (so demanding, aren’t we). Forget about plonking baby in front of an iPhone. Yes, it will help you to babysit junior but even the educational apps will not make her smarter. 

There are 2 windows of opportunity where the brain undergoes rapid development. The first brain spurt happens during pregnancy, starting from the eighth week after conception to the fourteenth week. The second spurt starts around 10 weeks after baby’s birth and continues its rapid profusion for around 2 years. It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity to maximise your baby’s potential so that she will have a good headstart. Isn’t it exciting?

Here are 6 cheap (mostly) and simple ways which will make baby smarter.

1) Create a stimulating environment at home

It is the number of interconnections between the brain cells which determines your child’s intelligence. To increase the number of interconnections, we have to provide different intellectual and sensory opportunities for baby. Make your home rich in colour, textures and aromas. Don’t forget to also make it rich in laughter, conversation and love.

When your older kids bring home their art pieces, instead of relegating them to the far corner of your cupboard, why don’t you pin them up on the walls instead? It will add colour for baby, and your older ones will feel so proud of their work. Dig out your sweaters, scarves and hats to let baby touch and feel different textures. Let baby smell the lovely sweet aroma of a ripe mango and talk to baby about the fruit. 

2) Enjoy nature

Take your baby outdoors as often as you can. Mother Nature can teach baby countless lessons. From the rustling of the leaves to the movement of the clouds, baby’s imagination and creativity can be stimulated. Besides, instilling a love of nature and the great outdoors can go a long way in letting him stay active and healthy.

3) Keep moving

Physical exercise helps the brain develop new synapses which makes baby smarter. Take your baby to the playground every day if possible. Reduce the time spent carrying your baby around or putting your baby in activity centres or support chairs. Yes, I do agree that it’s the most convenient way of leaving baby by herself while you are busy, but they do need ample opportunity to move around. Either childproof your whole house and let your baby move around freely, convert an unused room to a playroom and pad it, or get a playpen. Since I don’t have any spare rooms (obviously, with so many kids) I borrowed a playpen to let Kate play in, and rotated the toys offered to her.

4) Learn more languages

Babies are born with the ability to learn an infinite number of languages. The earlier we expose them to a second or third language, the better their ability to master the language. Research has shown that learning more languages does make children smarter. Perhaps mum and dad can speak to baby in English while grandma and grandpa does so in Mandarin. The other set of grandparents can converse in their dialect while the Indonesian helper speaks to baby in Malay. There you have it, she will pick up 4 languages without much effort!

5) Music, music, music

Let your baby listen to all genres of music. Besides the usual children’s songs, you can let baby listen to classical, jazz, pop, mandarin, k-pop, R&B, etc. The broader the baby’s auditory landscape, the better her neural functioning. Go a step further and allow baby to bang on pots and pans to create her own percussion band.

Singing along to her own music

6) Eat good oils

We need omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs) for the brain to function properly. Children who have sufficient EFAs are able to learn faster and focus better. Just add a teaspoon in baby’s purees just before serving. Rotate between flax oil, hemp oil, coconut oil or olive oil (cold pressed). It is safe to feed baby 1-2 teaspoons a day from 9 months.