Archive | October 2011

Bookmark Monday: Siblings and friends

Every parent desires to build healthy sibling relationships among our children. So it’s great when one comes across books with simple but meaningful and funny, non-preachy stories about loving one another, playing together and sharing.  Stories that the kids can relate to, and will love reading and re-reading.

Here are two little gems we’ve found that are growing on us, and that we’re planning to slot into our kid’s bookshelf selection tomorrow. 🙂

Flip and Flop by Dawn Apperley

I’ll let the synopsis from the back cover do the talking because it’s worded just so perfectly….

“Flip is five. Flop is two. Whatever Flip does, Flop does too. But one day Flip wants to play in the snow with a buddy his own size. And that leaves poor little Flop out in the cold. How Flop finds a friend of his own – and a game that everyone can enjoy – makes for an endearing romp, written and illustrated with snowy sparkle.”

The MineOSaur; written by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, illustrated by David Clark

Our kids are in a dino-loving phase, particularly our little boy so we thought this book would make a cute addition to our collection. I think he will love this, because as I was reviewing it, he asked me repeatedly to show him the cover.

The Mine-o-saur is a dinosaur who doesn’t want to share, so he goes around, taking away toys that the other dinosaurs are playing with, and roaring “Mine! Mine! Mine!” Oh what a pest he is to the others.

However, he eventually reaches a point where he has claimed all the toys in the school playroom and playground for his own, and comes to the realisation that it doesn’t matter squat to the other dinosaurs, because with or without toys, they are still able to carry on laughing, playing and having fun.  And that is the value of friendship and sharing, a valuable takeaway for him, as the story ends on a happy note with the other dinos forgiving him and welcoming him to play and share together.

Bookmark Monday: Folk tales

Last week, we covered One Grain of Rice, an Indian folk tale with a mathematical angle by Demi (Charlotte Dumaresq Hunt).  And I wanted to expand a little more on folk tales – this week’s focus being a Chinese one, again by Demi.

Traditional stories, or folk tales, are an entertaining method of teaching values and morals and are typically passed down, verbally from generation to generation. In our opinion, we feel they are important to impart to our children, not only because folk tales help us understand different cultures and history around the world, but also because they show that at the heart of the matter, what man sees as good and admirable is consistent, regardless of race or culture.

“The Empty Pot” is about a boy named Ping, who is known for his ability to cultivate and grow pretty much any plant.

One day, the aging Emperor decides that he needs to find an heir to his throne, and being an avid horticulturist himself, calls all the children of the land to his palace and gives each some seeds.  The child able to cultivate the seeds and deliver the healthiest plant in a year’s time would ascend the throne.

Ping plants and cares for the seeds carefully, but strangely, despite all his best efforts, the seeds never germinate. A whole year passes and Ping has nothing to show for his work.

Advising him that he has nothing to be ashamed of because he has tried his best, Ping’s father encourages him that it is fine to bring an empty pot to the Emperor.

Along the way to the palace, you can imagine Ping getting more crestfallen as he sees the other children bringing their pot of beautiful and colourful plants and flowers. However, everyone is in for a surprise when the Emperor chooses Ping.

The Emperor reveals that all the seeds that had been given out were cooked, and would never have been able to grow. The real test was not to find the best gardener in the land, but to find someone with integrity and the courage to be honest. Aside from these values, one could also talk about perseverance, as in the story, Ping thought very hard and tried many different ways to grow the plant, and he never gave up.


“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8


Other traditional stories you might be interested to check out:-

The Hole In The Dike – retold by Norma Green, illustrated by Eric Carle

What’s unique about this story is that it did not originate from the Dutch, but was a fictional story written by an American lady named Mary Mapes Dodge in 1865.

Americans who had read the story in childhood travelled to Holland in search of the famous dyke and town, but were of course told by the Dutch that there wasn’t any such dyke with that history. 🙂  Over time, the Dutch Bureau for Tourism decided to place a statue of the fictitious but heroic boy who saved Holland, in the town of Spaarndam in 1950.

The inscription beneath the statue is in Dutch and English (American spelling) and it reads:

Opgedragen aan onze jeugd als een huldeblijk aan de knaap die het symbool werd van de eeuwigdurende strijd van Nederland tegen het water.
Dedicated to our youth, to honor the boy who symbolizes the perpetual struggle of Holland against the water.

Fin Mc’coul The Giant of Knockmany Hill – written and illustrated by Tomie De Paola.

Based off a retelling of a traditional story of the unfinished series of stepping stones that was meant to link the north of Ireland with Scotland (the Giant’s Causeway!), the encounter of Fin M’Coul, his wife Oonagh (who is the real genius in the story), and Cucullin, a boasting giant who carries a thunderbolt he flattened, in his pocket to show off his strength and is out to kill Fin – is one of the funniest of the many adventures of Fin M’Coul.

My attempts to muster up an Irish accent while reading this to the kids had everyone in stitches, though I’m not sure was it more over the story, or my really atrocious accent.

I wonder if I’ll ever get to go in my lifetime but…wouldn’t it be fun to be able to visit the “fair Emerald Isle” upon which the fascinating basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway reside, walk on them and look out across the waters to wonder how Cucullin crossed Scotland to Antrim in a single leap to hunt down Fin M’Coul. 🙂

In my world: Stables

A hurriedly snapped photo of DD’s horse stables before we had to put away the toys and get ready for bedtime.


Sometimes in the middle of cleaning the rooms, I discover little gems left behind by the children. This Friday series was started with the intention of celebrating the imagination and creativity in a young child’s world…and hoping that it’ll bring a little ray of inspiration and joy to your day, as it does mine.


Kids Say: Flee!

I was working at my laptop in the afternoon when DD appeared at my side and handed me these two packs that came from a birthday goodie bag she brought home from school.

“Here, mummy. This is for daddy (the Twisties) and this is for you (the Tam Tam).”
“Oh, okay. Thank you sweetheart. Where did these come from?”
“It was <..>’s birthday today. But I know I’m not supposed to eat these…so you have it.”

Leaving me a bright smile, she skipped back outside.

Smart kid.

Couldn’t help drawing the parallel. There’s something for me, for us, adults, to learn.  From that simple and pure childlike trust.

Flee from temptation by simply handing the source of temptation to our Heavenly Father, then walk away with a hop and skip in our step and find something constructive to do.

Food (and certainly not the junk variety) for thought.

“…for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14


Singapore Firefighting

Last Saturday, we visited the Central Fire Station on Hill Street, with a group of friends from church.  And learnt some interesting facts about the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

SCDF is an agency under the purview of the Ministry of Home Affairs, in charge of the provision of fire fighting, rescue and emergency ambulance services, mitigation of hazardous materials incidents as well as the formulation and enforcement of fire safety and civil defence shelter regulations in Singapore.

Did you know…

What we generically call fire engine in layman terms, is referred to as PL in the SCDF fleet, which stands for Pumper Ladder. The pumper ladder is one of the vehicles most often deployed in a fire. It carries a wide range of equipment ranging from hoses, breathing apparatus and rescue equipment.

Photo credit: RT

Ambulances are the most widely deployed vehicle of SCDF. Each ambulance has a three digit number, identifying its geographical division, fire station number and ambulance number.  So for example, the ambulance in the picture below is Ambulance number 2, from Division 1, Fire Station 1 (that’s the Central Fire Station).

Private ambulances have a PA prefix in front of their three digit identification number.

Photo credit: RT

The personnel conducting the tour (unfortunately we didn’t get his name) is a volunteer Public Education Officer. He certainly took his responsibility very seriously, and provided our group a very informative and comprehensive walkthrough.

The Red Rhino, or also known as Light Fire Attack Vehicle (LFAV), is a uniquely Singaporean fire-fighting appliance. It is an all-terrain vehicle with a seating capacity of 4-5 firefighters, designed to traverse off roads to provide firefighting aid in densely built up areas which can’t be reached by the Pump Ladder.

It carries pretty much the same firefighting equipment as a PL, and has pumps as well, and a water tank capacity of 50 litres.  Additional water requirements are drawn off the fire hydrant network.

We called this the cherry picker. but its official name is Combined Platform-Ladder (CPL), which is essentially a Pumper Ladder with a hydraulic ladder platform which can be raised up to approximately 30 metres high for height rescue and high-rise building firefighting.

The personnel operating the CPL told us that they used to have an Aerial Ladder which could be raised up to 60 metres in height.  But it is no longer in use as it was only a structure with rescue cage with no pump.

Photo credit: HL

Check out the view from the top!  For the weekend open days to members of the public, they don’t extend the platform to its full height but just bring it up to about four stories high.  Shame…I mean, just imagine, how cool would it be to be up in the air 30 metres above the ground?! 😉

Photo credit: HL

The Central Fire Station is about a hundred years old and is the oldest existing fire station in Singapore. Back in the days when there were no mobile phones, the fire station was the tallest building in the area.

This watch tower served as a lookout, where an assigned personnel would keep watch and alert the firefighting team if he saw signs of a fire in the area.  Today, taller modern buildings dominate the skyline but this grand dame of red and white brick overshadows them all in her majestic architecture and rich history.

Photo credit: RT

Bookmark Monday: One Grain of Rice

First, a note of thanks to our readers who have provided encouraging feedback and comments on Bookmark Monday – I really hope we continue to find and review good books, and that you’ll continue to share your thoughts with us.

On the back of the positive feedback we’ve received on our review of the Warlord series, I wanted to share this other mathematical folktale – One Grain of Rice, written and illustrated by Demi.

We discovered this author and her series of books in the local library, and have put in an order to purchase our own copy of “One Grain of Rice”. While it’s early days yet for our children to be learning squaring of numbers, it’s an investment that we’ll be keeping in store for our own family’s future “math enrichment” fun that one can’t get from doing school workbook assigned pages of sums. 😉

While she is more well-known for folk tales with moral lessons built into the storyline, such as “The Donkey and The Rock”, “The Greatest Power”, and “The Hungry Coat”, we feel that “One Grain of Rice” is an absolute gem because it combines moral lessons about justice, greed and selflessness, with a mathematical theme around squaring and exponential growth.

In the book, there is a chart showing how a single grain of rice, doubled every day for thirty days, results in a haul of 536, 870, 912 grains by the thirtieth day. Added up all together over thirty days, more than a billion grains of rice were delivered. Also, below are some website links I’ve found with math lesson plans themed around the book.   If you do give it a try, I’m always interested to hear how it went for you. 🙂

Synopsis extracted from the book:

Long ago in India, there lived a raja who believed that he was wise and fair. But every year he kept nearly all of the people’s rice for himself. Then when famine came, the raja refused to share the rice, and the people went hungry. Then a village girl named Rani devises a clever plan. She does a good deed for the raja, and in return, the raja lets her choose her reward. Rani asks for just one grain of rice, doubled every day for thirty days.
Through the surprising power of doubling, one grain of rice grows into more than one billion grains of rice — and Rani teaches the raja a lesson about what it truly means to be wise and fair.

Preschooler Craft: Family art time

We hadn’t done art and craft in such a long while that when DD suggested we get out the craft foam and scissors on Monday evening, everyone ran immediately to fetch the supplies and piled onto the carpet in a matter of seconds!

Cutting. Pasting.
Foreground. Background. Grass. Road.

Fire engine. Road divider. Speed bumps.
Pond. Big duck. One-wheeled truck!

Orange water. No, sand. Blue water. Green hills. Tou-tou-tou, tou-can.

Farm. Birds. Rooster. Hen. Chick.
Yellow bird with blue triangles. Many many triangles (except on the wings)!

A carpetful of snips and pieces.
Peace. Warmth. Family.

Copywork: Interest Capitalization

…of the non-financial kind, heh! 😉

I mentioned A Field Full of Horses in yesterday’s post as being one of the latest favourites in our reading shelf.

It’s also the latest favourite as a copywork resource, having made the most of DD’s interest in the book to encourage her to read and write.

While I am aware that the main objective of copywork is to familiarize a child with the look and feel of properly constructed sentences; from our own experience, through copying out a selected sentence in a favourite book, she would recognize it the next time we read the book together and be inspired to keep working at reading.

It’s unconventional…but then, I’ve come to learn, God creates every child as a unique individual. And the benefit of working with one’s own child, is the ability to embrace individuality and customise the learning journey to their aptitude and interest. 🙂

Some of the excerpts she has chosen for writing…

Bookmark Monday: Nature study

Nature study is an enriching and engaging means for children to learn about the world around them. It provides an early foundation to understanding science, learning to be observant and appreciating the wonder and complexity of God’s divine miracle of creation.

Here are some really great books we’ve found and invested in for our own collection.

Written by authors dedicated to developing fun but also factual non-fiction works, based on their own study of nature, and partnered by illustrators who also perform first-hand research to create exquisite and meticulously-detailed art for the books; they (particularly the first two) have become regularly requested “anytime reading” selections by our kids.

Over in the Ocean In a Coral Reef – by Marianne Berkes, illustrated by Jeanette Canyon

A counting book themed around sea life in a coral reef with colourful art relief constructed from polymer clay and photographed  with careful attention to lighting, this book provides an interesting and factual view on coral reef creatures.  We checked out some underwater photography images and videos on the internet and from National Geographic, which validated the visual accuracy of Canyon’s artwork, to the family’s delight.

The back of the book also provides a tune to which the words can be sung, quick facts about each of the sea creatures in the book, and tips for follow-on enrichment activities from the author and artist.

A Field Full of Horses – by Peter Hansard, illustrated by Kenneth Lilly

Peter Hansard took children with him when he went to do research for this book to see what interested the children most and then created an “ideal” paddock for the book filled with all shapes and sizes of horses. Kenneth Lilly is considered to be one of the world’s leading naturalist artists, and has lived around horses his entire life.

The horse illustrations in this book will provide much inspiration and many a pleasant hour of reading for horse enthusiasts of all age.  28 different horse breeds are listed in the front and back pages, and both DS and DD have had much fun comparing their toy horses against the pictures and names.

Tracks of a Panda – by Nick Dowson, illustrated by Yu Rong

We actually bought this book more for the Chinese art as we thought it’d be good to show the children different types of painting styles. That, and it was retailing at below S$6. 🙂

This book follows the story of a mother panda and her newborn cub, the challenges they face to find food and shelter through autumn, winter and spring, and their quest for survival against the elements of nature and the threat of poachers and loggers.

While it does not go into very deep detail, it does provide an introductory look into the world of this endangered species and open up potential discussions about wildlife conservation.


So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind.
God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livstock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
~ Genesis 1: 21, 25.