A letter to 8-year old C

<This started as letter to C for her 8th birthday, and for some reason, it was not posted.> 

Dear C,

Time flies, and in a blink of an eye you’ve turned 8. Ever since you’ve started primary school, the clock hands seemed to turn even faster. It’s a mad rush everyday… 5am mornings, homework, music practice, bedtime. With all the activities going on, it’s easy to miss how quickly my little girl has grown.

The change was gradual… then one day, you complained that your uniform was getting too short and you couldn’t fit in most of your pants(!) It was then that I realized that it had been quite a while since I had restocked your wardrobe. I guess that subconsciously, to me, you always remained that little girl who fit into the smallest sized uniform. 

Then, there was the day when you came up to me, proudly showing off your neatly tied ponytail (you had practiced for days by yourself).

I teared. My little girl had grown up. 

You still believe in magic, but I’m starting to sense some skepticism about the existence of a tooth fairy (“Why does she have the same handwriting as you, mummy?”). You used to say that everyone is your friend, but now in our daily chats about school and friends, the word “enemy” has popped up. You ask about world affairs, and have found that google is a way to learn new things. You’ve started the habit of keeping a diary (“a real diary, mummy, no one else is supposed to read it.”) We discuss my work at the office.

I’m trying to cope with the changes. On some days, it certainly feels like you are eight-turning-eighteen.

Yet, with all these changes, you remain a pure-hearted, generous, kind-hearted soul. Your tenacity and perseverance never fails to amaze me. I hope these qualities will remain constants as you continue to bloom.

I’ll always be proud of you, my dear daughter.

With lots of love,

Mummy

8-year old C

 

 

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G starts Preschooler I at Heguru!

Time really flies! It’s been one and half years since G started classes at Heguru. I know I’ve not been updating much on his progress on this blog, but yes, we have been continuing classes at Heguru. 

G has been attending the toddler class since Jan 2013, and last weekend, he finally moved on the the preschooler class! I don’t know about him, but I’m definitely excited about him progressing to the next stage. 

Transition from toddler to preschooler

In order to better prepare the children for the change from parents-accompanied class to attending class by themselves, the school had arranged for a transition period for the children. For the first half of the toddler class, parents would sit with their children as usual. However, during the second half of the class, parents and children were separated for the activities. The usual activities like mandala coloring, iroita, tangrams and number memory were done independently by the children. 

During the first session when the parents sat away from the children, I could sense some insecurity (from both adults and children!) However, our minds were set at ease when we saw how well our children were managing without our help. I was so proud to see G coloring his mandala and doing all the activities with minimal help from the teachers! 

After a few transition classes, G was ready to go in independently for the Toddler class. I met up with his teacher to review his progress, and was pleased to note that he was paying attention in class and did well in his activities. He even managed to draw the shapes in the colour mandala. 

More about Heguru Preschooler

The preschooler class at Heguru is meant for 4-6 years. There are 2 stages – Preschool I (4-5 year olds) and Preschool II (5-6 year olds). 

The objective of the preschooler class is “to consolidate what the children has learnt during the Infant & Toddler class and connect it to the left brain”. Activities that are done help to prepare the children for Primary school. 

Compared to the Toddler class, there were quite a few changes to the class:

Longer duration:

At the preschooler stage, the children start to attend classes independently. Preschool I class duration is 70mins (vs 50mins for toddler class) , while Preschool II class will be 90mins (same as the Primary level).  

Environment:

To prepare for the primary school environment, chairs and tables are used in the preschooler classes. They are no longer seated on the floor throughout the class. 

Activities: 

<As the classes are not accompanied, the following information will be what I gleaned from G and the teacher>

First half will consist of right brain activities, similar to what was done in toddler class. Then, there will be physical activity, followed by desk work in the second half. 

In each class, the child will be handed 3 booklets of worksheets – C, R and H.

Booklet C is done in the class. Some examples of activities include tracing, puzzles (pelican, iroita, tangram, plate), mandala, craft work, dot bar, listening comprehension and matching. 

Puzzles : Plate (top left), Pelican (top middle),Tangram(top right), iroita(bottom)

 

Booklet R is the review booklet, to be done at home. It is essentially a duplicate of the activities done in class, meant for reinforcement of the concepts gone through in class. 

 

G working on booklet R

 
Booklet H is the homework (!) booklet. It includes extension activities based on what was done in class. For example, there could be a different set of matching, tracing etc. This is meant to be handed up the next week. 

Parents information session:

After every class, there will be a 10min session where the parents are invited into the class and the teacher will go through in detail the activities that the child has gone through that day. The objectives of each activity are also explained clearly so parents have a clear idea what to do. For example, the teacher explained how they taught the children to use scissors correctly, how much time was given in class for each activity, how to reinforce concepts at home. 

G’s reaction

I’m not able to observe him in class, but based on the teacher’s feedback, and the worksheet activities, he was able to complete most of the activities independently and on time. Some of the activities that I needed to reinforce are the Pelican puzzle and Mandala drawing. 

As usual, he is happy to go for Heguru and he loves doing the worksheets (he completed both Booklet R and H over the weekend in one sitting!). We are also doing the S2 worksheets and I had to persuade him to stop 😝

My thoughts

I had some reservations initially when I found out that the preschooler class was not parent-accompanied, as I would not know how to guide him at home. 

However, my concerns were addressed during the parents session, where the teacher explained each activity in detail, and we were provided with the booklets to continue with the reinforcement at home. 

In my opinion, the preschooler syllabus is well thought-out, covering aspects such as fine-motor skills training, mathematical concepts, logical reasoning and listening comprehension. As the activities are timed, and parents receive feedback via the timing written on the worksheets to see the areas where we can continue to work with the child at home. 

I’m definitely looking forward to see how G progresses in the preschooler course. 😊

Do stay tuned for more updates! 


Book review: How Are You Feeling Today?

Emotions are tricky things to handle, even more so when you are a young child. For someone like C, who tends to internalize her emotions, it takes a fair bit of coaxing in order to get her to discuss how she feels and identify ways to cope. The phrase “I’m upset” could mean anything, ranging from jealousy, anger to just plain old grumpiness.  

We’ve read stories about dealing with emotions, and discussed how the character should react in the different scenarios, but somehow, I found this method somewhat lacking. I needed a quick go-to book about emotions, something that C could use as an aid to help her deal with all the feelings that were going on inside her.  

A few weeks ago, I was browsing through an online book sale when I came across How Are You Feeling Today? by Molly Potter.

I was drawn by the description of the contents:

Providing children aged 6 and above with straightforward, entertaining and (most importantly) appropriate ideas to help them deal with a selection of significant emotions that might not be so easy for them to decide what to do with, the book lets children choose a feeling that relates to them and offers child-friendly strategies for dealing with that emotion. 

This book sounded like just what I needed!  

There were no look-inside pages available online but I knew C would definitely be enticed by the illustrations (yes, the cover is so very important!) So I went ahead to buy the book!

IMG_7580

How are you feeling today?

When the book arrived, I knew that I had made the right decision. Done in picture book format, the first few pages quickly summarized the range of feelings covered by the book. The first two pages worked like a quick index – the reader could simply refer to the correct page based on what they were feeling that day.
IMG_7581 IMG_7582 Age-appropriate strategies for dealing with each emotion were suggested. For example, if C was feeling worried, she could choose from the serious (confiding in a trusted person) to the not-so-serious (imagining a giant machine sucking worries away!) IMG_7583 IMG_7584     IMG_7585 C’s review 

Almost-8-year-old C really liked the illustrations, as expected. She started flipping through the book as soon as she saw it. I know that she appreciated some of the suggestions given because she was chuckling to herself and mumbling “a giant bubble, really?!” When I asked what she thought of the book, the immediate answer was “It’s really easy to read!” Well, I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t be in the mood to read a chunk of words when she was in a bad mood. 😉 

My review 

Most of the children’s books I’ve read dealt with emotion handling using a storyline. I appreciated that this book was presented as a self-help book, and went straight to the point to identify different emotions. By giving suggestions to the child to deal with each emotion, it empowers them to handle their emotions in a constructive manner. Using illustrations, the author also helped to provide pictorial clues to identifying more complex emotions, such as jealousy. At the end of the book, there were also tips for parents on how to improve emotional literacy. 

This book helped me deal with some difficult times when C was frustrated. I would point to the book, “Please read the book and try some of the suggestions!” – even if the suggestions didn’t work, it still bought me time and gave C a cooling off period! I would definitely recommend getting this book for 6 to 9 year olds. 

Do you have any recommendations for self-help books for kids? 

You can buy the book here: 

Bookdepository 

Amazon 

Linking up with:

Growing with the Tans

Happy 4th birthday, G!

Dearest G,

In a blink of an eye, you’ve turned 4!

I must say that the journey the past year has been a roller-coaster ride.

Truth be told, I had never really experienced the “terrible-threes” with your sister, so when other mums spoke of it, I could only nod in sympathy. Now, I can proudly say that I am a survivor of full-blown tantrums, one that only a toddler going through the terrible-three phase is capable of.

I’ve sat with you for an entire hour outside the classroom, because you decided that you didn’t want to go in (you were excited about the class, until the moment you stepped through the door). I have held you when you had major crying fits, because things didn’t go the way you wanted (the zip wouldn’t work, the blue crayon did not colour red, the teacher looked at you in class). Yes, we survived that together, my strong-willed little boy.

Thankfully, the tantrums tapered off as you grew in eloquence and maturity. You are no longer the shy little boy who hides behind my legs when you meet strangers. Now, you proudly announce your name, age and “this is my mummy” to complete strangers. You are no longer hesitant to belt out bthe entire, extended version of  “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” at the top of your voice in public.

Your ability to express yourself has improved by leaps and bounds over the past year. I’m already starting to miss your “I so much to see you!” (This has been replaced with a grammatically correct “I miss you so much, Mummy”) I’m always amused to see you narrate your own stories – where the 3 little pigs ride off in a car leaving big bad wolf in the dust, or where Dora is helped by the Paw Patrol in the forest when she falls down, or where Jack climbs the beanstalk at Old MacDonald’s Farm. Your creativity never ceases to amaze me.

Yet, you still remain the sensitive and loving little boy who showers hugs and kisses to all near and dear. I love it when you picked up my hand and started kissing it during our class at Heguru (much to the amusement of the teachers), when you give great big hugs when I return from work, and when you say “I love you, Mummy” at random moments. You’re the one who asks if I’m tired, or upset, and tries to cheer me up by offering your toys or a sweet.

You are such a happy little boy, who never fails to make me smile with your cheeky grin, even when you are up to mischief. Your beautiful soul is reflected in your colourful doodles… and this latest self portrait is one of my favourites because it reflects exactly who you are, complete with a big, wide smile on his face.

Self-portrait by G (29May2015)

Self-portrait by G (29May2015)

I pray that you will always keep this rainbow inside your heart. Happy birthday my little boy. I love you lots!

Love,
Mummy

Cheeky G

Cheeky G

Dear Sir, thank you and goodbye

“The Prime Minister is deeply grieved to announce the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the founding Prime Minister of Singapore. Mr Lee passed away peacefully at the Singapore General Hospital today at 3.18am. He was 91.”

23rd March 2015. 5am. I woke up to read this announcement on the Prime Minister’s facebook page. The news should have come as no surprise. Mr Lee’s condition had taken a turn for the worse in the recent days. Yet, the feeling of shock was unmistakeable. Somehow, deep inside, I had expected this giant of a man to make a miraculous recovery to celebrate the nation’s 50th birthday, like he always did. 

The shock was eventually replaced by a wave of great sadness. Mr Lee Kuan Yew had passed away. This time, it was not a hoax. It was real. 

A week of national mourning was declared for our founding Prime Minister. Tributes poured in on the media. His speeches were aired on national TV. Documentaries on his achievements were broadcasted. 

I am born and bred in Singapore, but I had never fully appreciated the magnitude of his contributions and sacrifices. Sure, I knew that he played a leading role in the period of separation between Malaya and Singapore, that he initiated various policies that brought Singapore to what we are today. But to me, he was just a Prime Minister, doing what he should do. 

As the stories continued rolling in, I felt new-found respect and awe for him. I saw him in a new light, and understood why the pioneer generation held him in the highest regards. He had brought Singapore from a third-world country to a first-world country within a short span of 50 years. My mum recalls the early days of Singapore, when riots were common, when they had to queue at the public taps for water, when it was common for a family of 11 to squeeze into a tiny room. Not everyone had the option of attending school then. 

Without Mr Lee’s remarkable foresight and leadership, many of the things that I take for granted today would probably not exist. Clean drinking water straight from the tap. Being able to walk alone in the streets at night without fear. Bilingual education for all. Affordable public housing. The list goes on. 

There is no doubt that he was a great leader and a great politician. Above all that, he was also a loving husband, father and grandfather. The love story of Mr Lee and his wife brought tears to my eyes. I saw photos of his home for the first time. Suddenly, he was so human. 

Little snippets of recollections by people close to him revealed a man who dedicated his life to Singapore. A man who continued to work till his recent hospitalization, who breathed and lived Singapore. Indeed, Singapore is what she is today because of him. 

I’m sure that I wasn’t one of the minority that felt this way, because I joined hundreds of thousands of people queuing to pay our last respects to Mr Lee at the Parliament House. Singaporeans, young and old, queued for up to 10 hours for the few seconds to see him, to express our gratitude. For once, I felt the solidarity of Singaporeans, united in our grief. 

Today is the final day of the week of national mourning. The day that we say our final farewells to Mr Lee Kuan Yew. It’s hard to describe my feelings as I watch the funeral cortège passing through the streets of Singapore, showing Mr Lee the successful little red dot that he spent his life building. 

Good bye sir. Thank you for all that you’ve done for Singapore. 一路好走.

Book review: 布布爱上动物园 (Bubu loves going to the zoo)

In a previous post, I promised to introduce some books that piqued C’s interest in Chinese. Here is a recent series that she has read.

布布 series was introduced by C’s school as part of the recommended reading for Primary 1 students. Written by Singaporean author Lee Kow Fong, also known as Ah Guo (阿果), this series of books follow the life of a boy named Bubu (布布). In this review we will take a look at the first book in the series.

IMG_4187 Continue reading

Book review: Have You Filled A Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids

<This post contains affiliate links.>

IMG_4115

Have you filled a bucket today?

I have been on the lookout for books that teach kindness and empathy. So when I came across this multiple award-winning book on Amazon, I did not hesitate to buy it. In the reviews, Have you filled a bucket today? is described as a “heartwarming book”. Once you open the pages, it’s easy to see the appeal of the simple prose and beautiful illustrations.

In the book, author Carol McCloud uses a simple analogy to describe our state of emotional well-being. We all carry invisible buckets!

IMG_4116

Everyone carries an invisible bucket

The metaphors “bucket-filling” and “bucket-dipping” are used to describe the effects of our actions and words on others.

IMG_4118

You never fill your own bucket when you dip into someone else’s

Examples of day-to-day bucket-filling actions are given: saying “I love you” to our parents, being nice to friends, writing thank-you notes to our teachers.

IMG_4119

A smile is a good clue that you have filled a bucket

C’s review

It was a simple read for 8-year old C. I know she liked the book because I caught her flipping through the book by herself on a few occasions. It definitely made an impact on her because she started referring to her friends as “bucket-fillers” 😉

G’s review

The simple text and vivid illustrations helped to keep his interest. While G understood the literal meaning of “bucket-filling” and “bucket-dipping” (or bucket-emptying in his words),  I had to explain that a full bucket means that the person was happy, and an empty bucket meant that the person was sad. He was also able to describe how he could “fill buckets” – by helping his friends and sharing his toys.

My review

I loved the fact that a bucket was used as an analogy instead of an emotional tank so that the kids could easily relate to it. The examples of “bucket-filling” actions were also easy for kids to follow. I really appreciated the fact that they made an effort to include different nationalities in the illustrations 🙂

The language used is simple and it makes for a great read-aloud (helpful when you have to read the book over and over again!) I enjoyed reading the book with the kids, and it was a good starting point for a discussion on positive and negative behaviors and their impact on others.

I would definitely recommend this lovely book to kids as young as 2, to 9. There are also follow up activities available on the web.

You can get the book here:
Bookdepository
Amazon

Do you have any book recommendations to teach empathy to kids?

 

Linking up with:

Growing with the Tans

Book review: 可爱的鼠小弟

In a previous post(eons ago :p), I mentioned that I would be introducing some books and tools that helped C gain interest in Chinese. Here’s the first of a series of posts on this topic.

One of the first Chinese books that C really enjoyed was the 可爱的鼠小弟 series. shuxiaodi This series is translated from a Japanese picture book collection by Yoshio Nakae, first published in the 1970s. The stories follow the exploits of Little Mouse (鼠小弟) and his animal friends. The story lines are easy to follow, and the charming illustrations hold their attention. Language used is simple and repetitive, like most early readers are.

Here’s a sneak peek into the contents. In the first book, Little Mouse shows off a new vest that his mother made for him.

xxd1

Little Mouse’s Vest

xxd2

This is the vest that my mum made for me, doesn’t it look good?

As the story progresses, each of his friends admire and compliment him on his beautiful new garment, and asks to try it on.

xxd3

Your vest is so beautiful! May I try it on?

The problem is… his friends are all bigger than Little Mouse!

xxd4

It’s a little tight, but doesn’t it look good on me?

I’ll leave you to guess the ending 😉

C’s review
C enjoyed the simple text and repetitive phrases in the book. She found the mouse really cute, and laughed along with Little Mouse’s experiences.

G’s review
I introduced this book to G recently. Like C, he was able to appreciate the humour in the book. Since C was already familiar with the book, she played the part of a big sister to read it to G. Win-win situation 🙂

My review
I enjoyed reading this picture book with the kids. The text was repetitive but not boring. The illustrations, while simple, did a lot to bring out the humour in the situation without being distracting. As I’ve mentioned earlier, C was really resistant to learning and speaking in Chinese, but she was willing to repeat the phrases after me, and learning to recognize some of the characters.

This is definitely a good book to start with young toddlers or even older reluctant readers like C 😉 Do try it!

For those who are residing in Singapore, this series is available at the National Library.

For those who are interested in the English version of the book, it can be found on Amazon.

Do you have any recommendations for Chinese books for kids?

Happy 7th birthday C!

C turned 7 on the 14th of July.

Dear C,

You’ve been looking forward to your birthday celebrations since the beginning of the year, counting down first by the number of months, then weeks, and finally by the number of days. Not because of the presents or party, but because you’ve been waiting to take that teeny-tiny step towards adulthood.

The day has arrived, and you are now officially a 7-year old. “Almost an adult,” you declare, proudly showing off the gaps in your teeth where two adult teeth have started to show. You can’t wait to grow up, but I wish for time to slow down, just a little.

You’ve grown so much over the past year. Sometimes, I forget that you are only 7.

There were the times when I was impressed by the maturity of your speech and actions. Did I tell you that I was extremely proud to hear that you stood up to the bully to protect your friend? Or how comforted I felt when you offered to keep your brother busy when you saw that I was tired so that I could rest?

Then there were the times when I’m reminded that you are still a little girl, one who still believes that the tooth fairy and book fairy is real. I try my best to keep that belief alive, by staying up late to write that note on behalf of the fairies, so that you are not disappointed when you wake. That sparkle in your eye when you see the letter is worth it. I hope that you will always believe that magic exists, in one form or other.

It was not so long ago that I woke up at 5am for your morning feeds. Just the two of us awake, you suckling quietly at my breast. You were a tiny baby then, dependent on me for your every need.

Now, 5am mornings are part of our daily routine again. Just the two of us awake, getting ready for school. But now, you do not need me to brush your teeth, or get changed – you can do that yourself. Then you sit quietly, sleepy and blurry-eyed, while I tie your hair.

You’ve been asking me to teach you how to bundle your hair in a ponytail. I’ve seen you standing in front of the mirror, trying to figure out how to do it properly. I will teach you, and you will keep on practicing till you get it right, just like how you learnt to button your own shirt and how you learnt to feed yourself.

Have patience, my dear daughter. I know that you can’t wait to grow up, to be fully independent. But before you get there, there are so many things that I hope you will learn. Not only to tie your own hair, but to learn from mistakes, to act with grace and humility, to be a person with integrity.

In the meantime, I will put off teaching you how to tie your hair for a little longer. I know that I will miss doing this little task for you, just like I miss the times when I helped you put on your socks, or when I fed you your rice cereal. So, I’m holding back, I want to keep tying my little girl’s hair for a little while longer.

Happy birthday, C!

Love,
Mummy

C-bday1

Happy 3rd Birthday G!

G turned 3 on 31st May, so this post is almost 2 months late (gasp! Where did the time go??)

Dear G,
Last year flew by in a blur. You’ve grown so much over the past year. Your verbal skills have improved by leaps and bounds, and you’re able to express yourself well, be it narrating your own story, recounting your day in preschool, or complaining about your sis :p 

You love to sing, and I would hear you humming to yourself while playing. Your favourite songs? Eensy-Weensy Spider, Alphabet song, and of course, “Let It Go” from Frozen. You’ve also started to learn to play the piano, and your best (and only piece) is Hot Cross Buns. I hope that you will always enjoy music, and be able to sing your heart out whenever you feel like it (like you do when you start belting out Let It Go at midnight in the dark)

You show an affinity for the written word. I would catch you pointing out words in books and street signs, and you love learning how to spell (magnetic letters are one of your favourite toys now). You’ve learnt to spell your name, and simple words like milk, toy, dog. I would often catch you “reading” to your toys at bedtime 😉

G reading

G reading

You’ve progressed from a little boy who was afraid of going up the trampoline, hesitant to jump into a ball-pit or even try the balance-beam, to a little daredevil who leaps off into the ball-pit (or off the bed) if given half a chance. Although mummy is so proud that you’ve come so far, try not to give me too many heart-attacks, ok?

G-leaping

Leaping in with wild abandon

You’re such an affectionate little boy, giving us warm hugs when you sense that we are upset. I love it when I get home from work every evening, to see you running to me shouting “Mummy, you’re home! I miss you!” I miss you too, everyday at work.

You really look up to your elder sis, parroting her words and imitating all her actions. I’m so glad that you are such a loving little brother, missing your sister when she is not around, giving her hugs when she is upset, offering to share your sweets with her whenever you get some. Always, always remember this bond that the two of you share.

Sharing a special bond

Sharing a special bond

Of course, there are the tantrums. Terrible twos and threes were not named by chance. You have a stubborn streak in you that drives me up the wall sometimes, yet I can’t stay upset for long. All it takes is “I’m sorry, mummy. Are you still angry?” and a big hug from you. And who could resist that cheeky grin? Please grow out of this phase soon, though. It’s really no fun. I have the proof on video, and I promise to show it to you when you are older.

I know that it’s not easy being the second child, and you have limited time alone with mummy because she has to work and spend time with your older sis for her school work. As a result, you’ve grown up to be more independent, playing quietly by yourself when everyone else is busy. Sorry my dear G, I will try to spend more time with you. And take lots more photos and videos.

Happy birthday my dear G, mummy loves you lots. Stay happy and healthy. Laugh lots, and I hope you never lose that twinkle in your eyes 🙂

Happy birthday G!

Happy birthday G!

Love,

Mummy