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!
#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  ~

Kate is 10 months old :)

What is she like now? She’s very sociable, and likes to join in our conversations. When we talk, she will babble. When we sing, she will sing. When we stop singing, she will look at us slightly embarrassed and then stop singing too. She likes to wave ‘bye bye’ and will clap her hands when we tell her to. She can say words like ‘jie jie’ and ‘daddy’ quite clearly. I was wondering how come she said those words instead of ‘mummy’ which most babies start with as the ‘m’ sound is easier to make. #3 revealed to me that they have been whispering to her constantly “call jie jie”. 

On 2 occasions, she was forced to say ‘milk milk’. Once was when we were going to the supermarket and she saw us getting into the car and she wanted to go. So we took her along (we always do the “grab and go”). Half way through, she started fussing. We kept giving her things to distract her which usually worked. Suddenly she looked at us and cried out in a really desperate tone ‘milk milk’. Then I realised that she hasn’t had her milk since morning. I had a French loaf in the trolley so we fed her a little bit of that and quickly finished up our grocery shopping and headed home. She gulped down a full bottle of milk.

The second time was at night when she was recovering from her illness with the rash. She was fussing so daddy said “ok, bao bao” (meaning ‘carry’) and he cuddled her and tried to soothe her. She kept on fussing and was babbling some words when suddenly I heard her say “milk milk”… ah, ok, we got it.

Her favourite part of the day? Going to the playground!

All togged out in her knee guards and soft shoes

She will do everything. Sit on the ‘horsey’..

Slide down the slide..

Climb anything she can manage to climb.

Her knee guards are from Mothercare

Her brother will rock the see saw for her and she enjoys it. I tell him not to rock her so hard but he says, “Look, she likes it!” I think she’s going to grow up to be a dare devil.

Ok, time to go home for dinner.

All sweaty and happy

Sane Tip: From the time she was around 5 or 6 months old, I would take her to the playground all geared up and she would crawl around by herself. She learnt not to fall off the edges and she even learnt how to climb back up the slide by herself. I try to make her independent so that I don’t have to follow behind her every step which is so tiring!

Save Tip: I got her soft shoes from Stride rite outlet at IMM for $19.90. Limited designs, though. 

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

Who gave the most amongst us?

After I shared with the children the story of the nuns, I asked them “Would you like to donate?”

This was their reaction:

#1: My savings is running low. (I guess that was a ‘no’)

#2: Ok, I’ll donate 1 brick. Here’s $30.

#3: I need to think. The next day, she was ready with her answer. I’ll donate 2 bricks. I paid for my school’s mid-autumn festival tickets for all of us already so you just return me $3. (The tickets were $63)

#4: (her immediate and enthusiastic response) I will donate 2 bricks.

#5: Here is my piggy bank. You can take everything to give to the nuns.
(His savings amounted to a grand total of $5)

I am so proud of them. I’m sure they will be richly blessed for their generosity.

I will take them to see the new convent when it is completed and we will look for our name in the book. It is a tangible way for the children to see where their donation has gone to, and hopefully it will spur them to continue giving generously.

P.S. Just before I wrote out my cheque, #4 gave me money for 2 more bricks. Aww.. such a dear little child.

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Education changes? Please, we need real change

If anyone did catch my comments on 93.8Live yesterday on the new DSA admission criteria, it was only a snippet of what I shared with the interviewer. We have to seriously consider this new admission criteria from the child’s point of view. Imagine the child enters an elite school based on qualities such as resilience, drive and leadership. Will he be able to cope academically? How will his self-esteem be affected if he is surrounded by peers who learn at a pace much faster than himself? If he is not able to cope, will he be able to afford tuition to catch up? Also, will he be able to fit in socially? And if after a year he does not fare well, will the teachers take kindly to him? After all, he is not contributing to the school like the others who enter through a sports DSA.

To be honest, I was sorely disappointed in the changes announced. Yes, I agree they are a step in the right direction. But after dialoguing with hundreds of parents and educators over the past few months, surely they can do better than this? They seem to be implementing a Band-Aid solution to immediate problems and pressures from parents. Not fair for those without links? 40 definite places. Top schools only for the elite? Admit some with character. T-scoring too stressful? Broaden the grading.

We need to go back to the basics.

1) In today’s climate, what should our education strive to achieve?

2) Are they achieving it?

3) Are there any serious problems as a result of our current education system?

1) There is no doubt that our education system worked well in the past, to get a whole generation of people educated to build up our country. However, now that things are in place, what is the next step? We need innovators. We need thinkers. We need our children to develop a questioning mind. We need them to be able to work as a team, to learn to communicate their ideas, to be problem-solvers, to have an entrepreneur spirit, to be visionaries. To build their character, to learn to take risks, to dare to be different. To build on their strengths, to follow their dreams. These should be the goals of our education.

2) If we continue to drill our students, get them to memorise chunks of texts and to churn out model answers, how will they be prepared for the future? How will they achieve the desired goals of our education system?

3) Our children are way too stressed. Too much is being tested and too little is being taught. Too much tuition is needed to plug the gaps. Too many passionate and experienced teachers are leaving the service due to burn out. Too many parents are giving their children undue stress, usually not by choice.

None of the changes proposed will solve any of these real problems. We also need a mindset change amongst the parents.

What is happening to our children? The PSLE year is just ‘so stressful’. Their minds go blank during PSLE due to the extreme pressure to perform. The number of children seeking help at IMH for anxiety and stress related illnesses is climbing. There are children contemplating suicide before major exams. Even if 1 child commits suicide due to academic pressure, that is 1 child too many. What are we waiting for?

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

They’ve helped us… shouldn’t we help them now?

They are appealing for donations

The Franciscan sisters have been serving the needy in Singapore since 1953. They have contributed in so many ways.

These are some of the initiatives they have established to address the needs they encountered over the years:

  • Maris Stella Kindergarten
  • Hai Sing Catholic (to provide secondary education for the girls from the then rural community in the Ponggol area)
  • Apex Day Rehab Centre for the Elderly
  • Vocational Institute for women
  • Filodep (for our domestic helpers to spend their day off constructively in cooking, dressmaking, handicraft classes)
  • Madonna Soup Kitchen (to provide food to the construction workers)

They are still working tirelessly even though most of them are in their 70s! The convent they were living in was more than a century old and they could not live there anymore as it was unsafe. The building was demolished and is being re-built. They still need to raise $1.2m for their new convent.

Unlike a church, they do not have a congregation to turn to for financial assistance. The people whom they help are also not in a position to provide financial assistance. They have helped so many people in Singapore, it’s time we helped them back. Let’s rally our family, friends and colleagues to help these elderly nuns have a decent home to live in.

What can we do?
A donation of 1 brick is $30. We can donate one brick or as many bricks as we like. Every brick counts!

How can we donate?

By cheque:
Payable to: FMM Building Fund
Mail to: Fiesta with the FMM
49D Holland Road Singapore 258851

By bank transfer:
Name of account: FMM Building Fund
OCBC: 7339
Branch: 660
Account No: 898453-001

Their official donation form

If you would like a receipt or acknowledgement, you can email them at or send an sms to 98558808 with your email to get an official donation form. They would record your name in a book for public display when their building is ready in October.

I’m going to make my donation and I will share this article with the kids at dinner tonight. I will explain to them that the home of the dear nuns had termites in their walls and ceilings and may collapse. And that when it rained, the roof leaked and there were puddles of water everywhere. They are elderly (like their own grandparents) so don’t they deserve a safe, comfortable home to live in? Let’s see which of them has a generous heart 🙂

SSO Classics in the Park

Singapore Symphony Orchestra concert in Botanic Gardens

Yesterday, Kate’s playgroup mate’s mummy asked us all if we wanted to head down to Botanic Gardens as she was playing in the orchestra. I love such outdoor events and took the youngest 4 along. The concert commences at 6pm but parking gets full very quickly. We decided to go earlier to show Kate the swans and to feed the fishes. It was also a good chance for the kids to have ample space to ride their wheelies.

What a lovely white swan

We found our playgroup friends and settled down to have our picnic dinner while listening to the beautiful music.

I’m having a good time

The concert lasted about an hour which was perfect timing to pack up and leave before it got dark. We’ll definitely be back the next time!

Kate’s playgroup mates…

“Hey look over there.” “I said don’t touch me!”

Sane tip: What better way to spend a relaxing Sunday evening. Lush greenery, beautiful music… 

Save tip: This is a free concert open to public. The next concert is likely to be held next year. Will keep you posted 🙂