Archive | February 2010

Going a-mazing, wanna come?

[While walking together to the ladies restroom at lunch today]

DD: Mummy, this is an amazing place.
Me: Oh really? Why is it amazing?
DD: Because it’s such a maze to walk through!

Yes that left me slightly speechless for a bit.  And very certainly. Amazed.

Socialization by schooling?

“So, is your daughter going to school yet?”
“Why not?”
Because she isn’t even three yet.

But anyway why don’t you send her? So that she can learn to socialize and not just be alone at home?”

I’ve been asked this progression of questions so often over the Chinese New Year period that I’m now sufficiently compelled to write a blog post on it.

While the question could really be very innocently well-intentioned, I truly believe that there is a common misconception among young parents today that sending their children to preschool as early as possible will result in better and proper socialization for the little ones, without which otherwise they will not know “how to interact with other kids”.

Why, I ask, would a parent entrust the critical shaping of their child’s principles, perceptions, values and behavioural training to a complete stranger…

  • who is a mere salaried employee with no emotional attachments to the child,
  • who has never shared with the parent what their personal life guiding principles and belief system is, that they will be indirectly imparting to these parents’ children,
  • who is obligated to attend to the physical and academic needs of at least 10 other children within the confines of a three hour schooling session?

It baffles me.

For DH and myself, in the matter of training social skills, [which must derive its first principles from Biblical values], there is no question about who are the key persons to shoulder this responsibility.

Not the government.
Not the school.
Not the teachers.
Not even the church or Sunday School.
Or even the grandparents.

It’s us. Daddy and Mummy.

Because we are the biggest stakeholders in our children’s lives.
Because we are God’s chosen stewards to whom He has entrusted the caregiving of these precious souls.
Because children learn by observing the examples of those around them.
Because parents are the closest and most influential examples in their children’s lives, with the greatest amount of opportunities, situations and scenarios at hand to develop our children’s social intelligence with people from all ages and walks of life.  

And now that I’ve probably waxed long enough to compose the worth of a sermon on the matter, I think I’ll stop right here so I can go formulate a 30 second three bullet point elevator speech in preparation for the next time I get asked this question for the rest of the year.  😉


We’ve been back in KL the past week to celebrate Chinese New Year with the maternal grandparents.
And I was just reminded of how I used to look forward to Saturday evening pasar malams.

How I miss –

  • The 2 hour walks my brother and I used to take, dragging our pull-along trolley behind us along the bumpy tar road as our mother weaved her way through the stalls, buying our family’s weekly needs of vegetables, fish and other dry foods, and the trolley filling up fast as we made our way around the rows of stalls.
  • Lingering around the stalls selling slippers, sandals, shorts and t-shirts made with material that was not great for wearing out but was perfect for wearing at home on hot balmy days. It has been a long long time since I bought a pasar malam RM5 t-shirt or shorts.
  • Waiting eagerly and hungrily for piping hot peanut pancakes, dripping generously with Planta margarine, being whisked off the griddle as they browned to a crisp and then getting briskly wrapped in plastic and newspaper, to be tied onto our trolley.
  • Buying smooth white tau foo fah from the corner stall and sugar cane juice from the Malay makcik’s truck. Thick and sweet, to be chilled in the refrigerator and enjoyed later in the night, when all the chores of the day were done.
  • The explosion of chilli and spice and all things nice, in a single bite of freshly deep fried vadai from the Indian kuih stall. The pack we bought never ever made it home whole. By the time my Dad got it, we’d probably snuck in a few into our tummies along the way.
  • Fragrant tandoori quarter pieces of chicken, sold on wooden sticks, and eaten off them too!
  • Beef burgers, fried beforehand and fried again when you ordered it, wrapped in an egg, and sandwiched between two thin burger buns, grilled with Planta and slathered with ketchup and chilli sauce. So terribly unhealthy yet so incorrigibly yummy. We’d order two each, and sometimes my brother would have three!
  • Bihun soto with gravy thick with the heavenly smells of coriander, cumin, onion, turmeric, candlenut, lemongrass, lime and chilllies.

Ah, the gastronomic memories. 🙂

And all I had time for this round was to get 5 pairs of shorts for DH and 3 pairs of socks for RM35.

Well. At least they were for a REALLY good price!  😛

Fine motor skills with chopsticks

It didn’t occur to me till DD offered to serve her grandparents the yu sheng (raw fish salad) at lunch the other day, that transferring food from one plate to another using chopsticks is a great fine motor skill activity! 🙂

In fact, just holding the chopsticks to toss the salad was giving 18-month old DS a pretty good finger workout. It doesn’t matter if the yu sheng doesn’t land neatly, what’s important is the coordination required to hold two skinny tapered wooden sticks between two fingers and a thumb.  As adults, we don’t think twice about it, but it’s real work for a toddler! 🙂

What are motor skills?

Motor skills are motions carried out when the brain, nervous system, and muscles work together.

Fine motor skills are small movements — such as grabbing something with your thumb and forefinger — that use the small muscles of the fingers, toes, wrists, lips, and tongue. Gross motor skills are the bigger movements — such as running and jumping — that use the large muscles in the arms, legs, torso, and feet.

Click here to read about other activities that encourage the development of fine motor skills.

In my Daddy’s shoes

What’s a little guy gonna do when it’s too much effort to strap on his own shoes?

Slip your feet in Daddy’s sandals and saunter right off!  😉

Rediscovering the saga seed tree

The kids picked these up in the park when they spent some time at the sandpit in the morning.

Their collection of saga seeds reminded me of my own childhood collecting as many of the seeds as I could find to have enough for my mom to sew mini bean bags for the game of “five stones”.  🙂

DD asked to open up the pod.  So we did and found seeds in various stages of maturity.  My curiosity sufficiently piqued, I went to look up information on the Saga Seed Tree.

  • Saga seeds can only germinate if they are scratched (scarified), boiled for one minute, or dipped in sulphuric acid. This suggests that in nature, they must be eaten and go through the digestive system of an animal before germination.
  • The tiny yellow flowers of the saga tree are said to smell vaguely like orange blossoms.
  • The tree bears fruit in the shape of curved hanging green pods that turn brown, coil up and split open as they ripen to reveal small bright red seeds.

  • The tree is native to India and southern China, but is now found throughout the tropics.
  • Scientific name: Adenanthera pavonina

Uses as food: The young leaves can be cooked and eaten. The leaves were also used to supplement animal fodder, or mulched to fertilise crops. The seeds were roasted and eaten in Melanesia and Polynesia and the people there called it the “food tree”. In Java, they are roasted, shelled, then eaten with rice. They are said to taste like soy bean. The raw seeds are toxic and may cause intoxication. Studies show the cooked seed to be rich in oil and proteins and easily digested by both humans and livestock.

Other uses: These attractive seeds have been used as beads in jewellery, leis and rosaries. They were also used in ancient India for weighing gold. The seeds are curiously similar in weight. Four seeds make up about one gramme. In fact the name “saga” is traced to the Arabic term for “goldsmith”. In India, it is believed that a person may have as many wishes as elephants found in a saga seed. The ground seeds can produce an oil which was used as an industrial lubricant.

Role in the habitat:  The Saga Seed Tree is believed to be able to fix nitrogen and thus help rejuvenate soils.

Just imagine, all of that learnt in a morning! 😉

Happy Chinese New Year

A little free art that Daddy and daughter worked on after we finished our cherry blossom paintings.
Spot the pouncing tiger and the other Chinese zodiac animals? 😉

Hehe…well, actually, there are only two intentional animals painted into the picture, the rest are random brushes of blue paint…  😛

Happy Year of the Tiger to all our Chinese readers! 🙂

Chinese New Year – Cherry Blossom Branch Painting

I promised DD we would do some painting today as she’d been asking all week. Since it’s Chinese New Year, I’d planned for her to do a simple little art piece for each set of great-grandparents and grandparents.  🙂

You will need: Postcard sized artblock sheet, three cotton bud tips, carmine red, dark brown, and white paint, painting materials, thick textured paper.

1. Prepare red and brown paint on your palette. Add very little water as you want the paint mix to be thick.
2. Dip one cotton bud tip into the brown, and draw out a tree branch with many little offshoots and twigs.

3. Dip another cotton bud tip into the red, and dot red paint along the branches and twigs.

4. Mix white paint into the red to get pink, and dot pink paint randomly beside the red ones. I also painted the Chinese character for “Spring” on the bottom of the sheet. Hey, my first attempt at Chinese calligraphy with a cotton bud tip, man!

5. Paste your finished cherry blossom branch onto your textured paper.

DD is going to give them out tomorrow when we go visiting. I hope they like it!  🙂

10 Ways To Have Fun – You, me, and the family.

  1. Pick out a favourite book.  Read it together.
  2. Paint a picture. Share an artblock sheet. Marvel at what emerges from your collaboration.
  3. Tell a story. Act it out. Discuss the characters and the moral theme.
  4. Walk around the neighbourhood. Stop and pat a friendly dog.
  5. Make sandcastles in the park. Swing, slide and climb the playground frames.
  6. Pick red saga seeds and fallen ixoras off the flower beds.
  7. Fill the bathtub. Pour in some bubbles. And the bath toys. Climb in and splash away!
  8. Build a house. Build a tower. Build a city. Use all the wooden blocks and Megabloks and Duplo blocks you can find.
  9. Throw a ball around. Try keeping it in the air for as long as you can.
  10. Tinker around with some chords on the piano. Sing a song. Dance to it. Play some air guitar to accompany it. And imaginary drums too.

Live life. To its fullest. Together.  🙂 

Fun with Cardboard Craft IV: Making your own “box-car”

This has been in our cardboard craft ideas pipeline for some time, waiting patiently for the right size boxes to appear. They finally did, and since we needed to keep DD engaged in a quiet but interesting activity for the day so her brother could rest and recover, we decided to embark on it yesterday.

You will need: One large box (of a size that can accommodate your child in a seated position), a small box (whose length equals the width of the large box), one shoe box (that can fit lengthwise against the width of the large box) scissors or box cutter, glue, cellophane tape, plain wrapping paper, marker, pencil, empty water or milk bottle with screw-on cap, old newspapers.

1. Mentally divvy up one of the short sides of the large box into nine squares. In the top middle square, place the uncapped bottle in the centre and draw around the rim of the bottle with a pencil. Cut out the hole.
2. Line up the small box in front of the large one, and draw a circle on the side touching the large box, using the outline of the hole. Cut out the hole on the small box.
3. Place the bottle in the small box.  Push the rim through the holes cut out in both the small and large boxes. Both boxes should now be loosely attached to each other.

Screw the cap on in the large box.

4. Secure the boxes together with some tape. Cover the entire package in wrapping paper.

5. From a scrap piece of cardboard, cut out a circle for the steering wheel. Place the bottle cap on the centre of your circle and draw around it.  Cut this out.

6. Fit the steering wheel onto the rim of the bottle.  Screw the cap onto it. Ta dah, steering wheel that moves! (I would have liked to cover it with some wrapping paper, but I didn’t have any other apart from the yellow sheets available at home. Oh well, another time…)  🙂

7. Fill the shoe box with old newspapers, and place it into the large box to make a car seat.

8. We didn’t make a car door because DH didn’t want the car door to stay flapped outward after opening it once. So he made a convex cut on one of the sides, rounded off the edges and sealed it up with tape.

Now you’re ready to decorate the car! 😀

You will need: 4 plain white paper plates, scrap cardboard from the boxes, crayons, aluminium foil, scissors, coloured masking tape.

  • Wheels – With a black crayon, outline the circle on the inset of a paper plate. Holding the crayon at an angle, shade along the outer perimeter of the circle. This will give you a tyre mark effect.  Repeat for the other three paper plates.

  • Lights – Cut out four circles from your leftover cardboard. Colour two red for brake lights, two white for tail lights and wrap two in aluminium foil for head lights.
  • Number plates – Cut out two long rectangles for number plates. Ask your child to call out a few numbers and letters that she likes and write these down. If your child is old enough to write, you can let them do this step.
  • Add any other optional items you wish, like a radiator for the front. And sporty red racing stripes!     VROOOOOOM!! 😉

Completed Box Car - Front View
Completed Box Car-front view

Completed Box Car - rear view

For our previous cardboard craft projects, click the links below:-
Cardboard craft 1: Making a flannel storyboard
Cardboard craft 2: Making a lion hand puppet
Cardboard craft 3: Making London Bridge