Bukit Batok Nature Park – playgroup outing

Today one baby and one mummy are down with a slight cold so we decided to take our playgroup session outdoors so that we could all get some fresh air. This is the first time we are taking the babies to Bukit Batok Nature Park.

Hmm.. why do they look so grumpy?

It is a nice place to push the babies as the terrain is flat. When we entered the park from the carpark, we took a left turn. Soon we spotted a squirrel darting across the road to the other side.

A squirrel

We also spotted some birds which we have never seen before. They are white-breasted and have a beautiful white crown on their heads.

Spot the birds

It was a 5 minute stroll before we reached the playground. This playground is covered in sand. The kids had a few slides down the long slide then they played on this thing which goes round and round.

Mom I can’t hang on much longer

Older kids will appreciate this climbing structure.

Playground

Our toddlers were not able to play on this as the holes between the ropes are too widely spaced.

After a little while the kids had enough of the sandy playground so we plonked them back into their strollers. We walked another 5 minutes deeper into the park and were greeted by this beautiful scenery.

Little Guilin

That was enough for a morning’s outing and we headed back. Time for their naps!

Aly is totally exhausted!

Sane tip: This nature park is actually quite pleasant if you go on a weekday evening. I think we should explore more of our local parks.

Save tip: It’s free!

~ mummy wee – 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  ~

So who’s smarter?

In the recent announcement on education changes, they are going to replace T-scores with grades in a bid to reduce stress. (I seriously doubt their goal will be achieved).

Let’s see what the implications are:

#1 had an aggregate of 240.
#2 had an aggregate of 230.

As a result, we all felt that #1 is smarter.

I even told #2 that as she did worse than her sister, she has to end up in a “lousier” school. (I can’t believe I seriously said that.. worse, I can’t believe I felt that way!)


With the new changes, the PSLE will be based on a grade system, much like the ‘O’ levels. Let’s look at their grades.

#1 had 4 As.
#2 had 3 As and 1 A*.

Just by a policy shift, #2 is now smarter!
She would have been able to enter the ‘better’ school.

#1’s aggregate was 10 marks higher than #2, which is significant. And yet, under the new system, she would have fared poorer. Honestly, I don’t think this move will reduce any stress in the children. The parents will just end up figuring out how to beat the new system and how to find strategies to give their kids the best grades.

This really got me thinking.

1) So who actually IS smarter?

2) Why are we even labelling our children as ‘smart’ or ‘not so smart’ based on some written/oral exams.

3) Are the ‘smart’ children good in other areas? Are they better at problem solving? Better at thinking out of the box and coming up with new ideas? Better at communicating and selling their ideas to other people? Better at designing functional and aesthetically pleasing structures? Or are they merely better at memorising the required answers and reproducing them?

There are so many other smarts. Some pre-schools are based on the philosophy of multiple intelligences. Maybe it’s time our schools adopt this multi-faceted approach towards teaching and testing our children.

We got it all wrong. Education should not be about competition, to squeeze the child to get the best scores to enter the best institutions. It should be about instructing and stretching the child to their fullest potential in the areas of their interests and natural talents so that they are equipped to perform work in an area which they are gifted at. Look at those extremely successful people in any field. Why are they so successful? They have been guided and encouraged in what they are good at and interested in thus they excel in doing their life’s work. They are doing what they are meant to do. That, as parents, is our job. To look for the gifts in our children and to let it bloom. Instead of looking for the best tuition centres to get the best marks for PSLE.

I have never put much emphasis on the PSLE as I have long realised that our Singapore education system is only single-faceted. I think these questions are food for thought. If all parents stop to ponder these questions and groom their children in areas they are naturally smart in, maybe it will be a collective step towards a less stressful and more fulfilling life.

Sane tip: Knowing your child’s strengths and weaknesses and styles of learning will reduce a lot of stress for you. You cannot expect a square peg to fit into a round hole. I give you an example. #3 is a brilliant child, able to think out of the box and is highly logical. However, she does not do well academically. Do I get stressed? No. I lower my expectations in the academic arena but I have high expectations for her in life. She has high EQ, thinks very quickly on her feet, and is very resourceful. I am not stressed, and neither is she.

Save tip: I have saved a lot of money by not sending them to tuition. The extra money saved from 3 kids can easily raise the other 3 kids!

~ mummy wee – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

A chat over breakfast… Think before you choose a school

Met up with my old neighbours (the playgroup mummies) for breakfast at the Grandstand. They suggested Paul at Taka which I had tried once and felt was not impressive. I prefer Maison Kayser as I had a lovely breakfast at the Scotts square branch a while ago. We decided on the Grandstand outlet as it was more convenient for everyone and parking was free. The Grandstand does have a lot of eateries but not many are open at 10am.
















We ordered all their ‘best seller’ items to share. We were slightly disappointed as we did expect a little more from such a renown French bakery. My experience at the Scotts square branch was better, I guess because they had a menu serving hot food plus the lovely ambience!

















Anyway, we did have a lovely relaxed morning catching up… about school, the ridiculous fact that they are not able to complete the syllabus before the exams (what’s new) and a couple of other gripes, about how to talk to our kids about the birds and the bees (some of our kids were asking those questions at P3!), about the P1 registration (this year they allow online registration, so when you go to the school to suss out your chances, the numbers on the board does not include those via the internet). Our kids are in different schools – top schools, mission schools, neighbourhood schools so we can do a comparison and we do see that there are differences in the schools.

One neighbour shared with us her decision to put her daughter into the neighbourhood school instead of one of the top 10 schools (both are in our vicinity). Her husband is an expat and after visiting both schools, this is his verdict: 

The top school: Too academically focused, very limited CCAs available, especially for Sports, and the school has a somewhat cold atmosphere. 

The neighbourhood school: The kids looked happy; talking, laughing, running about (it was recess time), there were many more options with regards to CCAs and the school felt more welcoming and seemed like a better place to study in.

To him, the choice was clear. It was a more holistic, happier environment to put his daughter in. I hope many more parents are able to have an open mind when choosing a school for their children. They should take the trouble to find out more about the schools in their area and consider which one is a better fit for their child, instead of just following the crowd and trying their luck at the most popular schools. 

Afterall, it is a known fact that most of the top schools allocate their better teachers to the top classes in a bid to improve their ‘above 250’ scorers. And that they give them such tough exam papers at the P5 level resulting in many students failing… which leads to parents looking for tuition to improve their grades. Much of the stellar results in top schools are actually a result of tuition, not the schools themselves. In #1‘s school, there was a teacher who was known to tell all his students on the first day of school. “I expect every one of you to get tuition for this subject.” Wow. Talk about delegation.

I myself have realised my narrow-mindedness in the way I made my decision on choosing a Secondary school for my children. I will share about that shortly.

We had a bit of time after breakfast before picking our kids up, so we walked over to Pasarbella, the oh-so-cool market which I love!

















I wanted to check out Pantry Magic which was closed the last time I was there. The things are nice to look at but rather pricey. I ended up getting myself a cherry pitter! It’s not cheap at $11.20, but if it can save me a lot of time cutting out the seeds for them, it’s worth the money.

















There’s also a hair salon for kids, which will set you back $18 per cut. I’m glad my hubby is pretty nifty with the scissors. He cuts my son’s hair at home. 
















If you have a free afternoon, this is a lovely place to stroll and window shop. The displays are all so charming. I’ve been here a couple of times but it’s still nice to wander around.

Organic fruits



















At one corner, there is a Japanese outlet selling sashimi and fresh seafood where you make your selection and they cook it for you. Look at this fish with the goggle eyes!

This is an Alfonsino fish


Sane tip: There’s an indoor playground upstairs – Fidgets. You can drop your kids off to play (if they are independent enough) while you have a lovely stroll around the market.

Save tip: None here!

~   mummy wee – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore  ~

Where’s it gone?

At 10 months, your baby’s separation anxiety may start to become obvious. She would start crying when she sees you leaving. Our natural instinct may be to sneak out when she’s not looking (I was definitely guilty of that!) However, that will only make her more insecure and clingy. The best way is to tell her firmly but gently, “Mummy has to go to work now. Grandma or Auntie will take care of you and mummy will be back tonight”. Give her a kiss and leave. Do the same routine every time. She will know what to expect and will be more secure. This will also help when she needs to start childcare or kindergarten next time.

This is an activity to help her understand object permanence – that when she can’t see the object, it has not disappeared. She will realise that when she can’t see mummy, mummy is not gone forever.

Materials:

2 plastic cups or bowls
1 toy or any object (which can fit under the cup)

I used 2 plastic cups and a silicon muffin cup


















Step 1: Turn the 2 cups upside down in front of baby.
Step 2: Show baby the toy.
Step 3: Place the toy under 1 of the cups.

















Step 4: Observe what baby does. She will probably lift up both the cups. She will be surprised to see that the toy is under one of the cups.

















After she has figured that out, you can start making a game out of it and let her guess which cup the toy is under. If your baby is able to put the object under the cup herself to let you guess, you know you’ve got a cheeky little genius on your hands!

I found it!
















If your baby is able to play this game for 5-10 minutes, it’s enough.

Sane Tip: In the beginning you may not know how to play with your baby, but after you start to do some games with her, you will get to know her better and will even start to have fun with her!

Save Tip: When baby is young you don’t need to buy expensive toys. Just look for things around the house which you can turn into ‘toys’ for baby.

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

DIY Playgroup

We now know that baby’s brains develop most rapidly in the first 2 years of life. Hence the popularity of baby enrichment classes sprouting up in recent years. However they don’t come cheap. One lesson can easily cost $40. Why don’t you start your own baby playgroup? It costs nothing and is not that hard to do. It may seem a little daunting in the beginning but don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it pretty soon.

My neighbours and I started our first playgroup 8 years ago. Needless to say we have stayed close till now and our children always have ready playmates. It was also useful to have one another to discuss little issues that we had as our kids grew up.

Currently Kate is in a playgroup with 3 other 2012 babies. It is nice to watch how the babies grow and change, and how they learn to interact with one another. Gather a group of similar aged babies or toddlers and you can get started! This is the sequence of our playgroup.


1) Good morning song
2) Sing along
3) Story time
4) Activity
5) Puppet show
6) Free play
7) Pack up song

1) First we start off with a “Good Morning” song. This is to signal to them the session has started and to introduce the names of their friends.

It goes like this:
Good morning, good morning, nice to see your smiling face
G       E     E     F      D      D     C    D   E   F     G     G   G
Good morning, good morning, to you and to you.
G       E     E    F      D     D     C   E    G    G   E
Hello Aly, hello Reine,
D D  D D  D  E   F
Hello Vivi, hello Kate,
E  E   E  E  E  F  G
Good morning, good morning, to you and to you.
G      E     E     F      D    D       C   E   G   G   C

2) We will do a series of songs. It’s good to do songs with actions or sounds. You can find these songs on You Tube.

Old MacDonald had a farm
Incy Wincy Spider
The Wheels on The bus
Row, row, row the boat

Row, row, row our boat..

3) We will read a book to them. We usually get a ‘touchy-feely’ book or one that can be dramatized to grab their attention.

4) We will do an activity. This would depend on the age of the children. It could be taking things out of a ‘magic box’, or craft work like sticking coloured paper, or something more active like rolling a ball to one another. Simple activities will do. Today we are doing finger painting.

Reine’s colourful prints

Aly is concentrating hard on getting a lovely green hand print.

And Kate is making one big mess!

Abstract art, mom…

5) We do a simple puppet show.

That’s so funny…

6) Free play (each mummy brings along a different toy every week).

7) End up with the pack up song (to teach the children that they have to clean up after they play). Tune to “Are you sleeping, are you sleeping, brother John, brother John”

Pack up time, pack up time
Let’s all help, let’s all help
Put the toys away, sort the toys away
Pack up time, pack up time

(Repeat twice or three times until all is packed)

Each mummy can be in charge of a section. You can include a theme for each week. Suitable themes: Food, My body, Colour, Animals, Fruit, Numbers, Shapes, Sea animals, Weather, Vehicles, Pets. Each session usually lasts about 45 minutes. As the babies grow older we can stretch it out to an hour or so.

Sane Tip: It’s really helpful to have a handful of mummy friends with kids of the same age. Sometimes you may think that your child has a really big issue which you are concerned about, but after checking with the rest you realise that the other kids may have it too and there’s nothing to worry about.

Save Tip: Some enrichment classes are worth spending on because we can’t replicate the skill of the teachers. But for starters if you just want your child to learn to interact with other children and you want to do something more beneficial and hands-on with your baby on weekends instead of going to the mall, this is ideal. You can also do toy swaps with each other and if the ages of the kids are a few months apart, you can even pass on items which they will outgrow like the walkers, activity centres, play pen, etc.


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

Splashing good time

I used to take them swimming once a week, but ever since Kate was sick with the rash we haven’t gone swimming. She was happy to be in the water again.

This float is pretty cool… the child goes in one side and the adult (or older child) goes in the other end. #4 was relaxing and floating around with her.
How come we don’t seem to be moving?



She’s fascinated with the water. She kept on hitting it and watching it splash.


















An early lesson in science… Beats classroom learning anytime. When #5 was 18 months old, I went for a trial class at one of the very popular enrichment centres (I wanted to see what my friends were doling out good money for). They conducted a Science experiment for the toddlers using water and some boats during the lesson. The kids just sat there and stared at the teacher. Unbelievable. (I mean, the parents. I have much better things to do with my money!)

It’s #3’s turn to take over Kate. She’s much more comfortable with the baby so I asked her to get her used to having water in her face. She played with her and even threw her up!
“Whee….”
#3 went off to play with her friends and #5 took over. He’s ready to fight off anyone who dares to splash her.
Gor gor (brother) says we’re on a mission…
After swimming for about 45 minutes, she had enough.
Let’s call it a day… I’m starving. 
My mom fed Kate her dinner while the rest continued to play with their friends.
Sane tip: Get a 2-person float so you can relax while floating around with her. (Float is from Tom & Stefanie- they have a few outlets)

Save tip: Real life learning is more effective than enrichment classes and the best part is… it’s free!
~   mummywee – parenting 6 kids without going mad or broke  ~


A typical Saturday

We usually try not to go out on Saturdays as everywhere is very crowded. Only 2 of them have regular classes on Saturdays.

#1 leaves the house at 7.15am to attend band practice in school. It ends at 1pm. After band, she went with her friends to buy the necessary items for her OBS (outward bound) camp on Monday. They will be going to Pulau Ubin for 5 days.

They all wake up at different times on weekends as this is the only chance they get to have ample sleep. #5 wakes up around 7.30am (he sleeps at 7.30pm on weekdays and 8.30pm on weekends). After he had his breakfast, he did some origami.

#5 loves doing origami

















#3 has gym class from 11-1pm. She’s a very active and sociable child and gym lessons suit her to a T. In fact, she found out about this gym school from her classmate and enquired about all the procedures to sign up before approaching me for permission to join. We dropped her off (with #4 and #5) then went to run some errands and pick up lunch. #2 stayed at home to help Auntie Jane take care of Kate so that she could do the housework.

After picking #3 up, we came back and had lunch. Kate had woken up from her nap so we took her along to do our weekly grocery shopping. After we came back, it was movie time. Daddy watched a movie with them while I had time to myself. I ended up taking a really lovely nap 😉

We have dinner at 6pm on weekdays. On weekends, we usually eat at the same time unless we are eating out. Daddy cooked his awesome fried chicken for dinner.

Much better than KFC!

















After dinner, I asked if the kids wanted to head down our street and try to ask the neighbours for donation for the nuns. They agreed and we printed some donation forms. However, most of the neighbours were out, and one did not want to donate. We walked to another street and the neighbour (a young man about 20 years of age) told the kids it was illegal to seek donation without permission! (I guess we should have only approached neighbours that we knew). However, he did give the kids $5 cash. I thanked him but told him we were only collecting cheques payable to the building fund and returned him the money. The kids were disheartened and we went home. I’m glad that at least the kids had the courage and willingness of heart to knock on our neighbours’ doors.

Sane tip: I try not to sign too many kids up for weekend enrichment classes so that I don’t go crazy driving them everywhere. I also try to stick to classes in the vicinity of our house.

Save tip: Watch movies at home. Nowadays, cinema tickets are not cheap, especially if you multiply them by 7!

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