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National Day Activities

Friday, 25 August 2017

August is a month of celebration in Singapore because it is her 52nd birthday! Happy National Day!! 

It has been a period since we did any themed learning. Frankly, it takes lots of time and effort to plan and prepare any theme activities. But since National Day is a day that is widely celebrated in Singapore and it provides opportunities for the kids to learn about Singapore, I decided to just do it! Fortunately, the boys are keen to learn more about this topic. If you have been following me on Instagram, you would have seen me posting the activities we did. So, do follow me on Instagram to have a first glance at our activities before they make it to the blog. 

Books


These are some of our reads for National Day, which I borrowed from the library. We especially like 'Rhyming Around Singapore'. It has rhymes that sing along to the tune of nursery rhymes that we already know but with a twist to the lyrics to make it more Singapore style.



Singapore Flag


The first week, we focused on the Singapore flag. Small J has been seeing the flag at many places and requested to make a flag. So here we go!

I looked up some information on the Internet about the Singapore flag and its significance and made some cards for our discussion. If you want a copy of these cards, continue reading! I got this pocket chart long ago from Taobao. You may search for 'pocket chart' on Amazon, Taobao or EzBuy.


1. S-I-N-G-A-P-O-R-E


After learning about the flag and its significance, we get down to some hands-on activities. Since we are learning about Singapore, of course we need to learn her name! We chant along to the Singapore cheer S-I-N-G-A-P-O-R-E and it definitely makes remembering the spelling easier.


2. Tissue Paper Craft Flag


Next, we start making our flag. This time we settled for a tissue paper craft. We cut the craft tissue paper into small squares and crumble them into small balls. This is great for fine motor and patience as they need to crumble each squares one piece at a time. Then, we stick the balls onto the flag template and it's done!

If you need more inspirations, here is another flag that we made a couple of years. It's a flag that's made of hearts!



3. Rescue the Stars from the Stormy Sea


Do you know that each star on the flag has its meaning? We talked about what they mean and did some stars activities. We also listened and sang a song 'Five Stars Arising' and discuss how Singapore has developed and progressed since the chaotic times.

Next, we are on a mission to rescue the stars that are stuck in the green stormy sea (in relation to the song we just sang).

I hid these mini stars linky (from Daiso) in Theraputty. Theraputty is something like playdough but is is firmer and has more resistance. We bought this from Big J's therapist when he was working on his fine motor. You can buy this from Amazon. If you don't have that, playdough is a good choice too!

The boys will need to stretch and pull the putty to dig out the stars. Great for fine motor skills and hand strength!


To extend the activity, Small J worked on counting and sorting the stars by colours. Big J worked on counting, addition and spelling the number words.


4. How many Stars can you Catch?


Another star activity that is so simple! The boys will grab a handful of stars from the box, count how many they caught and record their answers.


5. Labeling Parts of the Flag


As a recap, we made use of the word cards and the flag we made and did a labeling activity. I'm surprised that Big J has no problem with both the English and Chinese word cards!


Independence


Next, we learnt about Singapore's Independence. We watched a video on YouTube about this very important day in her history. We talked about how days were like during those times, how Singapore is a multiracial country and why is it important to maintain racial harmony. Just right, it was racial harmony celebration in school too!


1. The Pledge


How could we miss singing the National Anthem and saying the Pledge? Big J says the pledge has the words of the stars' significance which we learnt the previous week. How observant! I also tried introducing the Chinese version of the Pledge to them. We also sang 'We Are Singapore' because it has the song version of the Pledge in it.


This book '信约' is a very good book to explain the Pledge. It has photos of stamps with pictures that represents the meaning of the Pledge.


2. How Old is Singapore?


Singapore gained its independence in 1965, so how old is she now? I cut strips with the years passed since Singapore's independence. Big J have to arrange them in ascending order onto the hundreds chart. Then he counted how many years. Singapore is 52!


Small J put the stars on the chart and counted till 52. 


Attractions in Singapore


Next up, we are learning about the places of interest in Singapore. I looked for pictures for these places on the Internet and printed them out. I picked places that we have been to and the boys talked about the places with much interest, bringing back memories when we visited those places. We also check out the places using the Internet and Google Street View. The boys did a matching of the name of the places to their photos in both English and Chinese names.


1. Changi Airport


Following our learning of the landmarks in Singapore, we choose to explore more about Changi Airport. Here we made a model of the air control tower. We discuss what we can see and do at the airport and look at the photos we had taken at the airport.


And because Terminal 4 is about to operate soon, we visited it during the open house. The boys thought they were really going on a flight and were disappointed when we didn't board any plane in the end. 


2. The Merlion


Another well-know icon of Singapore is the Merlion! The boys punched out paper cut outs and stick them onto the Merlion's body as scales. Then we tore some flyers into strips and stick them onto the Merlion's head as hair. We also make fireworks as the background using paper rolls. I really love the colour of the final work! The Merlion template is from here.



Coconut Agar Agar


Small J received a 'Let's Celebrate National Day' book from his preschool. He has been bugging me that he wanted to make the Coconut Agar Agar shown in the book. 

We went to the supermarket to get the ingredients. I asked Big J to look at the recipe and get the ingredients we needed. Giving them something to do really makes the grocery shopping trip more enjoyable and peaceful. 

When we reached home, we got started with the recipe. Big J read out the steps and the boys took turns to mix the ingredients. 

I ever tried getting Big J to help out with some simple preparation of meal but he was quite uncooperative. This time, since they choose to make this together, they were naturally cooperative. Of course, I did 'threaten' that we will have to stop if they don't listen to instructions. 

Then, it is tasting time! The boys were so excited because they can finally eat the agar agar they made. I have to say that the agar agar didn't really taste great. But we had fun making the agar agar together. It's the process that's more important right?!



I hope you enjoy these activities as much as we do. Although National Day is over, you can save these for next year! Or these can be used for a Singapore themed learning.

Over at Instagram, I am greatly inspired by a group of homelearning mummies who also shared their learning activities about Singapore, do check them out!
@playlexue@happytotshelf@ourlittleplaynest and @2mamas4kids

If you are interested in doing some of these activities with your child, here's the download of the activities.



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A Science Escapade by Cognitive Whizz

Thursday, 17 August 2017

I have always wanted to expose the boys to science and do some fun science experiments together. But blame it on my laziness and poor science knowledge, I hesitated. Fortunately, science is all around us. So, there are plenty opportunities to explain why things happen and the science behind it. Real life application you see.

Do you know that science can occur in fairy tales too? Fairy tales are always so magical and fascinating but there are actually science concepts behind the magic! Big J was thrilled when I told him he's going for a science class, with a fairy tale twist!

A Science Escapade!


We were invited by Cognitive Whizz to try out its holiday science program during the June holidays. Held at BrainFit Studio, 'A Science Escapade!' is a 4-day program that integrates fairy tales and hands-on science experiments. Using stories that children are already familiar with, they will need to help the characters in the stories to overcome challenges with the help of science. Through the fun and engaging hands-on experiments, children will develop problem solving skills, critical thinking skills and of course understanding of the science concepts!


Big J enjoyed himself so much during the 4 days and I'm excited to share with you what went on in the class! First up, here are the highlights for the 4-day program. I'm quite amazed there are so much to learn from a simple fairy tale.


Each lesson lasts for 3 hours. Each day, the children will be introduced to a fairy tale and carry-out 3-5 interesting experiments to learn about the science concepts. Real life examples are also introduced to show how these science concepts can be applied to our daily life. I can assure you that your child will be busy thinking and engaged every minute in the class! Let me bring you through Day 1 to have a feel of the program.

How Are You Feeling Today?


The session started off by asking the children how they were feeling. I think this is a very clever way to get the children to start interacting. It is also a way to provide assurance to the children that their feelings are being acknowledged.

On each day, the children were introduced to four new words to describe happy, sad, angry or scared. By day 4, they have learnt 12 new words to describe their feelings!

I am overjoyed to learn about science!

Fairy Tale Time


Next, it is story time! Look at the children listening attentively to the story of Hansel and Gretel. As the story was read, Teacher Denise related the emotions, that the children had learnt earlier, to what the characters experienced.


Science Time!


After reading the story, here comes the interesting part. Teacher Denise told the children that the wicked witch is chasing after Hansel and Gretel. She asked the children how they can help Hansel and Gretel escape more quickly. The children started suggesting them to drive a car, ride a bike or even take a rocket to escape from the witch!

The teacher showed the children some pictures of vehicles and asked what they have in common. Almost immediately, majority of the children said 'Wheels!'


Teacher Denise then took out a balloon racer without wheels and demonstrated that it doesn't move well due to friction between the cardboard and the table. The children said that the racer needs wheels! After attaching the wheels, the racer was able to move smoothly. She then explained that the contact area between the car and the table is now smaller and hence less friction. Therefore, the racer is able to zoom away!


Through this experiment, children learnt about the first science principle for the day:

"Friction acts in opposite direction of the moving object. The bigger the contact area, the greater the friction. Wheels reduce the contact area, hence lesser friction." 

The children were broken up into smaller groups to build their very own balloon racers and get some hands-on experience to learn about friction. Each group has about 4 - 5 children to a teacher. The teacher guided the children along patiently.



Here's Big J trying to blow a big balloon to make his balloon racer move fast!


After the fun, the children are invited back to their seats to complete the worksheet to reinforce their learning. The booklet is fully coloured to attract the children's attention.


After this, Teacher Denise continued to introduce the children to the next science principle:

"Newton's 3rd Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."

Again, she brought the focus back to the story of Hansel and Gretel. The children were asked which direction should the racer be facing to escape from the witch. They first placed the balloon facing the witch and realised that the racer ran towards the witch and the witch caught them! So now, they placed the balloon with the straw end facing the witch. The air from the balloon escaped through the straw, blew up the witch's hair and the racer got away!

More real-life examples were given to reinforce their learning. For example, when riding a scooter, we kick our feet backwards so the scooter can move forward!


The last science principle the children learnt was about Energy Conversion:

"Stretching something elastic stores potential energy. Anything that is moving has kinetic energy."

The children were asked why the racer is able to move despite not having any petrol. Teacher Denise shared that potential energy is stored when the elastic balloon gets inflated with air. As the air escapes, the stored potential energy is converted to kinetic energy, zooming the racer away.


To recap what they have learnt that day, the children were asked to pretend that they were snakes slithering on the ground. They realised that they were moving slowly due to friction. Then they were asked to pretend they were horses galloping. They were able to move fast because the contact area with the floor is smaller and hence less friction.



Next, they had a game of tug-of-war. The children were divided into two teams, one representing friction and the other non-friction. The non-friction group realised they could hardly move when there are equal number of friction members. However, when the friction team got smaller, the non-friction team could move more easily! They observed that it is easier to move when there is less friction and that friction acts in the opposite direction.


As a finale, the children had a racer race to see whose racer will go the furthest. They tried to blow big balloons so there is more potential energy to be converted to kinetic energy for their racer to go far!


Parents' Update


At the end of each session, parents are invited into the room for a parent briefing. Teacher Denise will share the key highlights of the workshop, the experiments and activities done and what the parents can do at home to reinforce the knowledge with the children.

She will also follow-up with a very detailed summary of how the day went via WhatsApp. The summary even includes snippets of conversations that the children had said in class. How comprehensive!


Verdict


Big J has definitely enjoyed the workshop! He also learnt many science concepts and he is able to apply what he has learnt to real life situations. For example, he was telling me to fill up glass bottles with water so he could make music. He also said he wants to do some of the experiments again.

I really love that the workshop is highly interactive and provides many opportunities for the children to do hands-on learning. I believe that kids can learn better when they are able to touch and see what is happening. There were many useful examples given to allow the children to understand the concepts. Instead of just giving them the information, the activities allow opportunities for the children to observe, hypothesize and form their own conclusions!

The small group learning was well carried out. The teachers are helpful and patient while guiding the children.

Another feature that I like is the parents' update. I don't think there are many workshops around that provide such a detailed update than 'A Science Escapade'. The teacher even went the extra mile to note down what individual children said and pass on this information to the parent. Parents like me will be assured of how the child is doing in class. They also provide notes as to how parents can further reinforce the learning at home, perfect for parents like me who struggle with science!

Do note that what I have written above is only for the first day of the workshop. In the subsequent three days, the children continued to explore more interesting science concepts about Density, Oxygen and Sound & Light. Each day is filled with many fascinating experiments and activities! While I was waiting outside the room, I could hear the joyful laughter of the children and that shows the children really love the workshop!

If you are interested to sign up for the science workshop during the next school holidays, do keep a look out on Cognitive Whizz's Facebook Page. I heard the next workshop will be in the November / December holidays.


Cognitive Whizz

Contact No.: 9009 7086
Email: info@cognitivewhizz.com


Disclaimer: We were sponsored complimentary workshop with Cognitive Whizz to try out its 'A Science Escapade' holiday program for the purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was involved. All opinions, texts and photos are mine, unless otherwise stated.

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[Tips] My Cleaning Routine + uBook

Friday, 11 August 2017

When it comes to household chores, it is a never ending struggle, especially with two young kids at home most of the time. Over the years, I have come to realise that the best time to tackle the household chores is in the morning when the boys are in school. That also means I have only about 2 hours to finish what I need to do before fetching them from school. This includes chores, meal prep and homelearning prep. The afternoons are spent playing, homelearning and going for classes. I also try to squeeze all the chores to the weekdays so the weekends is freed up for outings and family time.

Today, I am sharing 5 tips that I found useful in making full use of my morning time to get the house at least 'clean enough'.

1. Cleaning Schedule


Before I realised the pros of having a cleaning schedule, I simply did my chores based on my feelings. Sometimes I would spent time thinking what I need to do and ended up scrolling on social media. Sometimes, I don't even have the motivation to start at all. On some days, I just want to get all the chores done and try to squeeze as many cleaning into the day as possible. At the end of the day, I felt burnt out and this was not sustainable.

Then, I realised that a cleaning schedule can help to make things easier. It allows me to quickly know what I need to do each day, so I do not need to spend so much time thinking what needs to be done. Having a list also gives me some sort of motivation to get things done.


Here's my simple daily cleaning routine. To make it less over-whelming, I only include the chores that need to be done on a regular basis in the morning. So, I just need to look at the list, get the chores done and I am done for the day!

2. Doing Laundry First


On laundry days, the first thing I do upon waking up is to throw a load of laundry into the washing machine and get it going. While I am busy with the morning routine and getting the boys ready for school, the clothes are being washed! By the time I got back home from school, the laundry is done and ready for me to hang them up to dry. We don't have a dryer, so I always pray for good weather when the laundry is out drying.


3. Swiping


Staying in the western part of Singapore means our house getting dusty quite easily. Just vacuuming is not enough as the floor still feels dusty. That means I will need to mop to wipe up all the dust. No way am I going to have the time to do both vacuuming and mopping everyday!


Swiping is what I call the combination of sweeping and mopping. I'm totally in love with the Super Mop from 3M. It can be used wet like a mop and picks up dust effectively. Which means I can have clean floors with half the time! It takes me about 30 minutes to swipe through the whole house.

4. Clean Up After Using


There are also some essential chores which need to be done everyday which I did not include them in my morning cleaning schedule because these are chores that we do after we are done using. Examples are wiping down the kitchen counter and washing of bathrooms.

For the kitchen counter, I will wipe down every time after our lunch. I do not need to cook dinner as we are blessed to be able to have dinner over at my mum's.


For the bathrooms, we only use the common bathroom and seldom use the master washroom. Hubby make it a point to wash the common bathroom everyday after his shower. Families with young boys will know how badly they aim.

This habit of cleaning up after using saves valuable time as we do not need to specially set aside time to get these chores done.

5. Get a Part-Time Helper


Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, time just doesn't seem to be on our side. In this case, one might want to consider getting help from other parties. When Small J was still a baby, we did engage a part-helper to help out with the chores. I was too overwhelmed with nursing, taking care of a small baby and a young preschooler. Having an additional help really helps to calm down the chaos at home and we are able to spend more time with the family.

I have mentioned in a previous post that we are using the services from uBook.  (Read more about our experiences here). Ever since I have engaged the help from uBook, my household chores load has been reduced. My friendly helper will come over once every two weeks to help with the more time consuming chores.

My biggest relieve is having uBook to help me with my 2 weeks load of ironing. (I really dislike doing ironing!) Previously I have to do this over the weekend or at night and I'm really relived that I do not have to do a huge load of ironing now.


Apart from ironing, the helper also does all the basic cleaning, such as vacuuming, mopping, dusting and cleaning out both bathrooms. Of course, she also helped with the wiping of shelves and the higher cabinets. This means that I can take a break from my daily cleaning when help is here!


As I mentioned above, we only clean the common bathroom on a regular basis. For the other bathroom, we seldom use it and it is usually dry. For that, I will leave it to uBook to clean it once every two weeks. Once a month, I will also ask the helper to help with the cleaning of the windows and grills. Last time, we only do this once every 6 months!


For the past few months, I had experience with different helpers from uBook. They are friendly and reliable. During their first visit to my house, I only need to inform them what are the chores that need to be done, tell them where the cleaning tools are and they will get cleaning straight away. At the end of the session, the chores are done and my house gets cleaned!


Getting a part-time helper is really useful for tackling the more time-consuming chores and chores that are not done so frequently. If you are interested in getting a part-time helper, do check out my previous post to find out more about uBook and the services they provide.

When it comes to household chores, what is your strategy for handling the never ending work?

uBook

Operating hours: 8am to 7pm
Contact/SMS/Whatsapp: 9898 7339
Email: enquiry@ubook.com.sg
Web | Facebook


Disclaimer: We were sponsored cleaning sessions with uBook for the purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was involved. All opinions, texts and photos are mine, unless otherwise stated.

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