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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Interactive Online Learning Sites for Kids

Its great to be a kid in this day and age. I love the new medium of instruction available to kids these days: Interactive Online Learning Sites. There are many such sites available in many languages on the internet.

You can easily find many wonderful Interactive Online Learning Sites in English. No problem at all. What better way to learn your ABCs then to watch them come to life, wonderfully animated. Plenty of those around. There are also many wonderful sites with Songs, Nursery Rhymes, Stories all in English. They are easily available.

There are quite a few Chinese Learning Sites for Kids around too. Sites with nice animated Chinese Characters or Chinese Words, Chinese Songs, Folk Tales and Cultural Stories. Its a great way for a child to learn Chinese.

However, I have yet to find a good Interactive Online Learning Site in Malay. I found a site in Singapore but its for much older kids, not preschoolers. I'm still looking for a good Malay Site for Children. If anyone knows of such a site, I would really appreciate it if you could give me the link. Thanks.

Painting with Watercolor Pencils

They didn't have watercolor pencils in my time (at school). I find them fascinating and fun so I bought some for the kids to try. I like the fact that its not messy for young kids. I asked my girl to draw two scenes ie 1. Town and 2. Country.

Then she colored her drawings with the watercolor pencils. And finally we painted them in using water and a brush. Here is her Town and Country watercolor painting.

Here is her drawing and painting of a town. It includes a mall, a hotel and a parking lot for the mall. Lol! You won't win any prizes for guessing that we do a lot of shopping in town.

Here is her drawing and painting of a country. It includes a bunny, a cat, a farmer, a farm house and a car driving beside a field of flowers and a river.

And finally, here is baby's (Baby refers to my 4 year old boy) abstract art. He is seldom left out in our arts and crafts activities and joins in with his own version of art.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Kids Craft: Homemade Teacher's Day Card

My girl loves her teacher. With Teacher's Day coming on 16th May 2008, we decided to make a homemade card for her teacher.

Its been sometime since we've done any crafts together (although she's always bugging me to). Its hard to find the time with her away at preschool in the mornings. When she gets home, its usually time for lunch and homework. So we did this on a weekend when her daddy was busy working.
My girl loves to cut and paste. And so thats what we did.

This is a very easy craft to do. Here are the things you need to make your card:
  1. Paper
  2. Scissors
  3. Glue
  4. Coloured Paper

First, we folded a white card into two. You can also use black as a base if you like. On the cover we drew then cut out and pasted a vase at the base of the picture. I managed to find two pre printed leaf templates from one of their books so we used that but you can easily achieve the same effect by drawing and cutting out the leaves.

Then I asked my girl to draw flowers of various shapes and sizes on coloured paper and cut them out. I instructed her to paste her flowers with the big ones behind and the smaller ones in front overlapping the big ones.

I drew in curved lines and asked her to write her Teacher's Day message using capital letters and with the bottom of the letters touching the bottom line. She used a pencil so she could rub and adjust the lettering to just the right size before drawing them in with coloured pen. I find this is necessary as she oftens writes the words either two small and all squashed to one side or too big leaving no more space for extra words.

She was very happy with the results. I then asked her to draw and decorate the inside of the card with whatever message or picture she likes. She drew those in with gusto. Lol!

This is a fun way to teach kids spelling etc while doing the craft. She got to practise her capital letters as she sometimes mixes them up and she proudly told me that she can spell "teacher" on her own.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Encouraging Creativity in Children

When I attended a kindergarden open day at the end of last year, the kids were given activities to do. As I've mentioned the kids were quite young and some of them couldn't color very well yet. I saw one mum finishing off her kid's activity. She ended up coloring his artwork for him.

I smile because she looks a lot like me. Quite often, I would finish off my kids' work for them because I think they are not doing it the way it should be done or I think it looks ugly. I should really learn to relax and let them do it in their own way (even if it looks ugly). They will take more pride in their own work that way.

Apart from getting impatient and finishing off their work from them, I should also learn to refrain from hovering over them and giving them too many suggestions. That way they will become more creative and as I learned, sometimes they have reasons of their own for doing things in a certain way.

My girl had chosen to color the piglet character (from Winnie and Pooh), The piglet was all pink but she had colored in orange for its clothes. The teacher asked why she didn't color the clothes pink but she didn't say anything. When I asked her why later, she said she noticed that the clothes were pink but there was no pink available, so she tried the peach but it was too light and the color didn't come out because the teacher had asked them to press really hard to make sure the color appeared and that is why she took orange. Haha. So she had her reasons and who said pigs or piglet has to be orange?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Mystery of the Missing Stationaries

I remember when I was a kid, I loved to read Enid Blyton books with titles like these "The Mystery of the Missing Stationaries." Well, right now I am involved in such a case or rather I wish there was an inspector who could help me solve the case of the missing stationaries.

Some years ago, when I was still single, I remember my sister used to grumble about the number of stationaries her kids keep on losing or misplacing. She would buy not just one rubber but a dozen. Sometimes she would take away pocket money from her kids to pay for those rubbers but still the stationaries kept on missing.

I smiled and thought to myself that when I have kids, I shall teach them to be not so forgetful and wasteful. I take that thought back!

My girl who is attending preschool now would come home almost daily with either a missing rubber, ruler, pencil or sharperner. No matter how much I nag at her or try to tell her nicely to check her things before she leaves her class, the stationaries are still lost or missing.

I guess this is just one mystery of the life of a kid. I remember when I was shopping for schools, I was really amused when one of the schools I visited had a showcase full of missing items. The showcase was called "Lost and Found". My sister thought that the showcase was a very good idea. Lol!

The showcase of Lost and Found items may be amusing but not so funny when you are the mother to the one who is always losing things!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My "Baby" is Four!

My boy just turned 4. We had a hard time trying to find a toy for him because we had been over indulgent in buying toys. Finally we decided on a Lego Duplo set which we had not bought him before.

For his birthday, we didn't have any big celebrations as usual. We usually celebrate our birthdays privately, just the four of us and this year was no different. His daddy had taken time off from work just to be with him. The best gift of all is the gift of time.

His daddy kicked off the birthday celebration by waking the boy up with some birthday songs from YouTube. After sending his sister off to school, we let him play with his motorized motorbike on the porch (the one which we got him last year for his 3rd birthday). I swept the porch at the same time while daddy cleaned the water filter. So we managed to accompany him while getting some work done all at the same time. Haha.

Then we took him along to run some errands with us, pay some bills etc. Before we knew it, it was almost time to take his sister home from kindy. We quickly went to the cake shop to collect his cake, fetched his sister then it was off to McDonalds to pack some lunch for everyone. We watched Spiderman 3 together while munching on our McDs. Lol!

Then it was time to sing a birthday song, cut the cake and take lots of photos. And more of Spiderman 3 while munching on the cake. We were so engrossed with the show we almost forgot to ask him to open his present. But we need not have worried about forgetting it completely because he reminded us! Bad mommy and daddy.

Then it was off to Megakidz to play. Mommy and Daddy joined in the fun. We chased them around the bouncy air castle, slid down the slides with them, pretended to watch a movie with them in the little cinema and crawled around the tunnels with them. I almost got lost in the tunnels. Hehe. Of course no visit is complete without completing some craft and letting them take it home as a sourvenir. My now four year old "baby" had a good time squeezing the colourful glue onto his window craft while I tried to do damage control. ;)

After so much fun, we were hungry again. So we went to Padington's House of Pancakes and feasted on sinful fat fluffy sweet and savoury pancakes as well as thin flat ones wrapped around salads. Yummy!

The birthday boy fell asleep on the way home. When he woke up, it was more play as mommy and daddy tried to help him fix his Legos. He was singing and talking to himself as he played with it, a sign that he likes it very much.

Then it was time for bath and bed. My sweet little baby. I guess now that you're officially 4, I can't call you a "baby" anymore but you will always be our baby.

The little ones, they grow so fast. We always remind ourselves to spend as much time with them as we can so that we don't miss any of their growing up years.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Name Calling in School

"You are stupid".

My daughter told me that someone called her stupid in preschool yesterday. "Did you feel sad?" I asked her. "A little bit" she replied.

"Well, next time someone calls you stupid, don't be sad because you know you are not stupid. You are a clever girl. People who call others stupid are being rude, so don't call others stupid as well ok?"

Today, she came home and reported "Mummy, I told the girl who called me stupid that its rude to call people stupid. I told her my mummy taught me!"

Lol! Well, at least the she got the message. I like to chat with my girl about her day at school because it gives me an avenue or opportunity to teach her how to handle situations which she might not have encountered before like name calling for example. Hopefully, she will continue to open up to me the way she is now throughout the years.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Daddy, where did you hide my present?

Since I don't work and am with the kids most of the time, I can't buy their birthday gifts for them without them knowing about it. Mr MG is usually busy over lunch time and prefers to buy them together with me and thats usually during the weekend when the kids are with us.

With this kind of scenario, their birthday presents are usually not a surprise. Usually, they would come along, know what we are buying and then we'd keep it away till the actual day.

Its no different this time but we managed to distract them while buying my boy's present for his 4th birthday soon. However, his sister saw us and of course she broke the news to him. Now he can't stop bugging us all day.

"Daddy, where did you hide my present?"

His sisters birthday is next month and she has requested that her birthday present be a surprise. Going out together to pick a present is no fun for kids. A surprise is much much better.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Help! I can't stop buying toys!

The boy and girl's birthday is coming and as before, we are faced with the dilemma of what to buy them for their birthdays. This is because we have been buying them toys all year round so when it comes to special occassions like birthdays we are at a loss to find something special for them.

Looks like I have not learned at all. Read my old post here: Too many Toys and you will know what I mean.

Looks like I'm not alone either. This mommy is also a shopaholic for toys. In her post she said...

"The thing was, the people who wanted the toys were us. We had a fantasy of what pleasure these toys would give. We had dreams of providing them with something wonderful. And how often is that true about the toys we give our kids? How often is that we want to give them, more than the children themselves really want the toys?"

How true. I have so much pleasure shopping for toys. Sigh! Its part of the joy of motherhood. Lol!

Teaching kids Interpersonal or Social Skills

My daughter is going to be 6 soon and at this age, I am more interested in her interpersonal development rather than her academic one. Now that my girl is in kindy, I am faced with new challenges ie to teach her how to get along with others.

Quite often she comes home and tells me so and so "don't want to friend" her. I am not concerned about that because little ones become friends and enemies and friends again overnight. However, I am concerned in the following scenarios.
  • She tells me she dare not talk to a certain popular girl in school because the girl "don't want to friend her" and she is afraid that if she talks to her the girl will ignore her (how do I teach her not to be intimidated by others)
  • Her teacher tells me that she treats her more like a friend than a teacher for example she will go and poke the teacher in the ribs and tell the teacher "I want to talk to you." (how do I teach her to have respect for older people and figures of authority?)
  • Once someone pushed her near the stairs and worried about her safety I told her to tell the teacher if it happens again. Ever since then she has been coming home daily with tales about "I told teacher so and so did this and that." (how do I teach her that nobody likes a tell tale. I just told her that she should only complain to teacher if somebody does something naughty to her or does something dangerous and to leave the rest alone)
  • She does something naughty in school and does not own up. (I tell her that she should not be doing anything naughty in the first place and if she does she has to own up and apologise to her teacher)

Its things like these that concern me because I think one of the things that makes one enjoy school later on is whether you are accepted by others, your peers and teachers. In fact, its one of the things that makes one successful in life. People skills should be taught from young. Not just ABCs and 123s or 1+1=2.

But its not easy to teach the young, not easy at all. First you have to teach them the basic listening skills and how to follow instructions. Then you have to teach them by example and by giving examples or role playing.

I tried to teach her about respect and this is what happened.

MG: You've got to respect your teachers in school.

My Girl: What is respect?

MG: That means you must be polite to your teachers.

My Girl: What is polite?

MG: That means you must behave well in school.

My Girl: What is behave?

MG: That means you must have good manners. Do you understand what I'm staying?

My Girl: No. No. I don't understand what is respect.

By now she is crying hard.

MG: It means you have to have good manners towards your teachers. You must say "good morning teacher" . "please", "thank you" blah blah blah (I then had to give many examples and scenarios about how she should behave)

My Girl: I scared I forget. Will you remind me mummy?

Hopefully she understood that lesson. I think lessons in life is just as important as academic lessons. It is important to teach our children to be self reliant, confident, to have a good self image and be able to get along with others. One of the ways we can do this is to be close to them, watch out for signs of trouble, so we can help and guide them along the way. Going to school is more than just about studies alone don't you think?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Homemade Party Packs

Since my girl started kindy, she's been coming home with party packs almost every month.

"Mommy, look I have another party pack. Can I open it now?"

and she's almost convinced her little brother to go to school because of these party packs.

"Look baby, school is so much fun. I have a party pack. You don't have because you don't go to school."

My take on party packs is it is unnecessary and yet another thing that we kiasu parents have come up with that creates yet another form of peer pressure for our little ones. Most of the time the packs contain junk food (eg hard candy which I don't allow them to eat because of the risk of choking) So the junk food ends up in my belly rather than theirs (which explains the expanding flabby tummy).

Anyway, my girl's birthday is round the corner. Recently she came to me to show me an activity on How to make a homemade party pack and said....

"Mommy, I really want to make this and give to my friends."

She even suggested some other type of paper we have in our craft cupboard when she saw that we didn't have the one required by the book. I told her "We'll see" instead of "No" when I imagined how happy she would be making and giving out those party packs. Sigh! You see, I'm headed for kiasuville. "Would she feel left out if she didn't have any party packs to give out" I wonder. Kiasu. Kiasu. Kiasu.

Since, I'm headed that direction, I might as well turn it into an activity. And so, we shall make our own party packs (its for just this one year only after all). (Boy oh boy are these kids headed for another culture shock when they go to big school and find that the party packs and birthday parties have been replaced by cane wielding teachers.)

I plan to make it an activity where she shall prepare her own homemade party packs. Might as well make it a lesson too. I can teach her about the concept of multiplication and division. (Example: "If you have 40 sweets and 20 classmates. How many sweets should each of them get?") She may not be able to calculate this now but she will certainly remember the concept and the lesson much more easily than me trying to explain it to her. But most important of all, I can teach her about the joy of giving.

So, no store bought party packs for us. She'll make her own. Then perhaps I won't feel so guilty about giving out something which I don't believe in. :P

Parents, what would you prefer your kid to receive in a party pack?

Friday, April 04, 2008

What do you expect from your child's preschool?

Dear Parents,

Linda, an undergraduate student who is pursuing a degree in business computing in a private college in KL has asked for an open discussion on her Final Year Project called "Technology Intergrated Montessorri Preschool". This project intends to solve some problems that have hindered the positive development of early childhood education.

In her own words "As I am now on the analysis phase, here are some questions that might help for in-depth analysis of the problems by gathering the parents’ opinions on the related problems. At last, it is hoped that this can assist in designing the right solution for each problem.The participation of parents and any opinions with clarifications would be very helpful and highly appreciated."

Well Linda, you have come to the right place ie the blogosphere to get your opinions. Bloggers love discussions. However, perhaps some other more popular blogs will get you more opinions. Anyway, I don't mind helping out and if any other parent bloggers want to help out too, you can post the following questions and your own answers on your blog to get more opinions for Linda. You can treat it like a tag or meme but remember to leave your link here for Linda if you do. :) Or you can just post your answers in numerical order in the comment section. Thank you for your participation.

1. Do childcare and preschool sound different for parents?
Yes, it sounds different to me. Childcare is like another name for babysitter ie taking care of a child's basic needs, food, sleep and looking after the child whereas preschool as the name suggest is a school or learning environment.

2 Will parents choose childcare instead of preschool, or vice versa, by knowing that preschools offers more educational services, while childcares are more custodial and most of the time offer full-day service that benefit the working parents?
I would choose childcare over preschool for younger children and a mix of preschool and childcare for older ones eg preschool in the morning and childcare in the afternoon, something like that if I were working full time and there was no one else available to help mind my kids.

Especially, for Question 3 and 4, Please sort out the options provided, from the most important to the least. In which, the inclusion of some justification and additional important points will be greatly appreciated.

3. What are the requirements that can make up a quality preschool?
- Well-managed curriculum
- Facilities (e.g Library, playground, teaching materials)
- Quality educators
- Learning environment
- Others ___________

- Quality educators - To me the human factor ie teachers are the most important requirement because little ones look up to teachers as a figure of authority. What teachers say is always right. Just ask any child. She won't believe what you say if her teacher told her otherwise.
- Learning Environment - At preschool level, I would pick one that emphasizes on learning through play rather than learning through homework
- Facilities - Safety and cleanliness and not too cramp will be my main criteria.
- Well-managed curriculum - There must be some structured learning and lots of repetition for the little ones to learn. The curriculum should also include other interesting activities that support learning and yet keep the child's interest and enthusiasm for learning.
- Others - Security and fees as well

4. How would parents define “quality educators”?
- A degree holder
- Training certified person
- Patience in dealing with the children
- Others ___________

- Patience in dealing with the children - definitely comes up tops for me
- Training certified person -must be genuine certification and not just someone trained for "one week" by the preschool principal. However, having said this, I actually didn't bother to check up on the teachers background at my daughter's preschool. :P
- A degree holder - Not really necessary
- Others - A parent experienced with dealing with little ones would be acceptable to me too

5. Would you, as parents, allow your children to be exposed to technology in their preschool age (3 to 5 years old) as supportive tools in their learning process? Such as: computer interactive game help in the building of creativity, letters introduction with the use of computers, access to internet, etc. (any example of any kind of technology that have helped your children to learn might be helpful)
Oh yes, most definitely. We're living in the tech age now and the earlier they are exposed the better. I support multi media teaching ie the use of different methods and tools including technology.

6. Finally, any opinions to point out and expectations to be expected from a preschool, please do clarify it further.
Safety and security is the most important criteria I expect from a preschool.

I hope this helps, Linda. Parents, if you post the questions and your answers on your blog, please remember to leave your link behind. I will link to you in this post making it easier for Linda to find you. Thanks and have a nice weekend!

Thanks to the following parents for your feedback and participation:

Mama's Bag of Tricks
Mommy's Life
Jewelle Tan Personally
Kiddo's Realm

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