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Bookmark Monday: You’re Mean, Lily Jean

A new neighbour moves in next door and sisters Carly and Sandy find themselves a new playmate in Lily Jean. Or do they?

Lily Jean only wants to play with Sandy and repeatedly attempts to exclude Carly, her younger sister. And when that doesn’t work, she relegates Carly to subjugate roles – the baby, the dog or the cow – leaving Sandy in a conflicted position.

Tired of the bratty and obnoxious Lily Jean, Carly figures out a way to turn the tables and the sisters present Lily Jean her options – either play nice or don’t play with them at all.

Kady MacDonald Denton’s watercolours are calm, sweet and elegant, but yet succeed in conveying effectively the obviously uncalm and unsweet actions and emotions in play.

Frieda Wishinsky has created a great book that discusses the issue of playground politics, presents solutions without coming across as preachy or heavy, and equips parents and children to identify the difference between having fun vs. being bullied vs. being a bully.

Lily Jean is suitably depicted as the typical smug, overconfident and bossy bully. Children will easily recognize in her the Lily Jeans of their own playground or playdate interactions and perhaps take away some clever, non-violent tips in dealing with a bully or overbearing character as a first level attempt to resolution without requiring adult mediation.

I think it also is a good resource to impart to siblings the value and importance of looking out and caring for each other, and that they are strong as individuals but unstoppable as a team.  Phyllis from All Things Beautiful summarizes the sibling creed values succinctly; click here for the original source article.

As a footnote, I also like the fact that Sandy and Carly are shown as not just playing girly girl games in their make-believe play. They play house, but they also play at dragons and knights, explorers and pirates and mountain climbers and astronauts. Very subtle and very cool! 😀

Bookmark Monday: 2011 releases

I love when we find new releases in the library that still have that crisp new look and feel, and the new book smell still lingers when you thumb the pages.  Below are some new ones we’ve found. 

With double the borrowing allowance for the school holiday period (19 Nov 2011 to 31 Jan 2012), it’s an even better time than ever to stop by your local branch of the National Library to check out its latest offerings.  For our family of four, that means 48 new and old favourites we can potentially cart back home and enjoy for 21 days!

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“AGAIN!” – by Emily Gravett.

About a little dragon named Cedric, who, as all little ones go, has a favourite bedtime book that he wants read again…and again…and again…and AGAIN!
A hole right through the last page and back hardcover and sleeve provides a foretaste of the very funny incendiary story that lies within. 

It appears simple at first look, but from our personal experience, turned out to be a useful tool for teaching early readers what exclamation marks are – (not uppercase “I”s or lowercase “l”s), how they are different from question marks, and the expression each lends to a word or sentence.

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“The Highway Rat” – written by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler. 

The Highway Rat is a ‘baddie’ and a ‘beast’ – he robs all the animals of their food – a leaf from the ants, clover from a rabbit, nuts from a squirrel, hay from his own horse – all foods that he himself hasn’t much appreciation for, but just wants it for the sake of being the rogue that must have it all.

Eventually, the animals grow thin and hungry while he grows ‘horribly fat’. One day, when he tries to rob a duck that has nothing, he states that he will eat her instead. Thankfully the clever duck outwits him and rides away with his loot to return it to all the animals. 

Scheffler always embeds humorous little references to his other book collaborations with Donaldson.  Don’t forget to spend some time treasure-hunting the last page illustration. 🙂

Inspired by the poem “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes,  a deeper appreciation and enjoyment of this book can be gained for both parent and child if the parent first familiarizes himself or herself with the tempo and metre of the original poem.

Note to parents: Click here for more details on school holiday programmes run by NLB Singapore.

Dinosaurs Live!

Last Wednesday we decided to check out the Dinosaurs Live exhibition at the Annexe of the Singapore Science Centre.

The exhibition runs from 21 October to 26 February 2012. In line with the theme, the Omnimax theatre is showing Flying Monsters, a study of prehistoric pterosaurs and their evolution, narrated by David Attenborough.

How do you tell a styracosaurus from a triceratops from a protoceratops?

I got them mixed up but DS was totally in his element, as he called out the names of the dinosaurs from afar even before we got to the exhibit itself.  He was so pleased with himself when we confirmed with the signages that he was absolutely right! Totally precious.

What’s a dinosaurs exhibition without the all familiar, typical tyrannosaurus rex skeleton? 😉

Be forewarned though, the admission charges are on the pricey side.  Especially if you’re questioning the accuracy of the representations…I mean, after all, which one of us could really say for sure that that was truly the colour of an ankylosaurus, or how the parasaurolophus really sounded like?  Ha.  But if you take it with a pinch of salt, the sandpit, colouring station, clay dino-fossil craft table and dino rides are pretty fun to the young, wide-eyed and un-jaded amongst us. 🙂

DD and DS brought home their own clay triceratops and stegosaurus respectively, coloured up some funky velociraptor pictures, and spent a considerable time just digging and raking sand.  Which gave DH and I the opportunity to check out the explanatory notes at the exhibits, and also catch up with some church friends we met who’d brought their grandchildren to the exhibition.

Oh…

A tip from DH: Go to the website link above and download the 3D app if you have an iPhone. You’ll get some really cool interactive images. 😀  ** REALLY. COOL! **

And just one more additional little tip for parents: Stay far, FAR away from the “dino store”, a.k.a. souvenir store.

For one, it’s a gaping toy retail trap.

For another, it stocks the “exclusively designed exhibition trail booklet” priced at $3, but the booklet is not comprehensive enough on its own so you’d feel obliged to complete the pack by purchasing the accompanying stickers, by which time, you would have paid a princely sum of $8 in total for each trail booklet pack.

The booklet is meant to be filled up as you stop at each of the dino-kiosks  in the exhibition to collect picture stamps of various species of dinosaurs. Which is a useful resource, except…

A cleverer zero cost option? Pick up a couple of A4 sized plain sheets of paper from the colouring station, fold them into a mini-book and let the kids stamp those. Kickstart your memory into gear, remember what each of your stamps represent and go home and look up the internet or encyclopedias together as a family for information on the dinosaur species in question.  Save the $8 to buy three packs of chicken rice for lunch…or two McDonald’s value meals with a $1 top up. 😀

*****

(Post update: We’ve just discovered, after downloading the app, that the sticker pack also has the capability to display in 3D with the iPhone app.  So buy the stickers if you would like to have the full 3D collection.  But only if you have an iPhone, otherwise they would just be expensive regular two-dimensional stickers.)

Bookmark Monday: Board Empowerment

Heh, no, not the musings of a working mother still functioning in corporate mode at 10pm! 😉

To finish up our three-parter focus around the power of rhyme and repetition, I wanted to share about what’s worked for us lately in encouraging our little early reader…

Board books!

Hmm…aren’t board books for babies and targeted at the below 3 age group?  Well, yes they are.

But I’ve learnt that what they have going for them are that they are easy to handle, durable, don’t have a lot of pages, and don’t have so much text that it presents a daunting picture to the preschooler just starting out and familiarising themselves with the fact that relying on phonics alone don’t guarantee a firm grasp of English literacy.

Once, I suggested to DD that we attempt Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss together. Although in essence the words are simple and always rhyme, the text font size is small, there are a lot of words in a single page, and many pages to get through.

I might as well have suggested Capital Investments and Financial Decisions by Levy and Sarnat.  (Not that it isn’t an excellent book, but it is seriously a challenge to read cover-to-cover, and definitely not something I’ve accomplished myself!)

Board books helped give DD the empowerment and confidence that she needed to know that she could complete reading a book in one sitting.  Almost on her own. And it was a lesson to me not to overlook those “baby” books that had been pushed to the back of the bookshelf.

Where DH and I used to read to the kids, now we read to-gether in unison.  🙂

Some fun board books we’ve enjoyed and continue to enjoy as a family:-


7 stories – short and sweet. Once you start, you can’t stop till you get to the end.  And after all, isn’t that the mark of a good book? 🙂

Go berserk with the hippos in this incredibly funny and engaging reading and counting book – one hippo all alone, calls two hippos on the phone…more and more hippos join, and all through the hippo night, hippos play with great delight.  How many in all?

 We like this book specially because of the font.

Notice the letter “a’ in Sandra Boynton’s name – this is the more commonly used form in writing as well as in baby flashcards.  And this is the form used throughout the book.

Which makes it more easily recognizable to an early reader/emergent writer, where some may have to grapple with the confusion of the letter a being represented sometimes in the “writing form”, and sometimes in the typeface style, but meaning the same in both cases.

Wordcraft: Copywork short and sweet

Still riding on the coloured marker bandwagon…
Every letter of copywork goes easier for the child incentivised by freedom to use coloured markers. 🙂

I found a short article that provided me a number of useful tips around designing copywork for preschoolers and the benefits to be gained from this activity.

The full article can be found here, but below were my personal takeaways and thoughts (as a mom of a preschooler) after reading it:-

  1. Keep it interesting. Decide the theme and focus based on what’s the latest topic or in our case, art media, of interest for that week. This helps add fun and depth to the activity.
  2. Keep it short. Setting small and achievable goals at the start and measurable timeframes help maintain focus on the task.
  3. Provide information to copy from a variety of sources. For ourselves, Sunday School take-home activity sheets with the Bible memory verse for the week are a great source and help with the memorisation as well.
  4. Assigning copywork should be at the parent’s discretion. Only a parent knows their child’s likes and dislikes; what works for someone else may not necessarily work for us and I shouldn’t beat myself up over it (as with most things related to parenting, but hey, I need to be constantly reminded!).

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Do you assign copywork to your kids at home?  What are your common sources of copywork material?

What do you find are your biggest challenges in encouraging meaningful and effective work output?  What are some of the successes that you’ve celebrated or the benefits that you’ve personally experienced together with your child? 

Preschool Counting with the Eight Treasure Box

It’s a bit of a break from routine this week, so I don’t have a Wordcraft post…but I do have a suggestion on simple math and counting activity for preschoolers with the Chinese New Year eight treasure box.

(Okay for starters, let’s ignore the fact that the one in our home has technically got seven compartments, not eight…analysis paralysis is so not a convenient state to get embedded into…) 😉

Again, as with our counting activities, it didn’t start out purposefully as one.  But since the children had curiously opened the Eight Treasure Box to explore its contents, the idea just quite literally popped into my head when I popped a  milk chocolate bar into my mouth.

1. Simple visual addition and subtraction – for example: if I have four chocolate bars and I gave one away to you, how many would I have left? What if I gave one more away to your little brother?  How many more would I need if I wanted to give one to Grandpa, Grandma, Daddy and have one for myself?

2. Melon seeds planting – for example: if one seed can be used to plant a new tree, how many trees can I plant with these eight seeds?

Make it as simple or as complicated as you like. And bring your dinosaur to play along too! The possibilities are endless as many more different variations of questions can be thought up, and when you’re tired of it all, why, the subjects can just be eaten up!  😛

Some cultural history trivia for those who might be interested:

The Eight Treasure Box originated in the sixteenth to early nineteenth centuries during the Qing Dynasty, and was used by royalty to store small precious items.  Today, during Chinese New Year, it is typically filled with an assortment of sweetmeats, like candy, chocolate, dried fruits, nuts and melon seeds. The content in ours is pretty untraditional already, as historically the following items would be found in a traditional box:-

  • Peanuts – to symbolize longevity.
  • Melon seeds – dyed red in colour to signify joy, these also symbolize a long line of descendants since a melon has lots of seeds.
  • Pistachio – the direct translation of its name in Mandarin is kaixinguo, which means “a happy fruit” because its half cracked shell resembles a smile, and symbolizes a joyous new year.
  • Candied kumquats – to symbolize a sweet, prosperous and lucky year ahead as the translation in Mandarin is jingua, which means “gold melon”.
  • Dried red dates – to symbolize early realization of goals.
  • Chocolates shaped like gold ingots – to symbolize great wealth.
  • Candied lotus root – to symbolize family unity and harmony.
  • Milk candy – to symbolize a sweet and abundant year ahead. 

Ten Tips for a Top to Toe Workout for Busy Moms

1. Bring the family to the zoo during one of the busiest times of year.  Forget to bring the appropriate identification that should accompany the corporate pass, and spend 15 minutes negotiating, then begging and pleading with the admissions counter staff, while trying to remain calm, collected and in control, in front of your children. Mental and physical warm up to get the brain actively working, and with gesticulations, allows light neck and upper arm gross motor movements.

2. Rent a wagon. Place bags and kids inside wagon and take turns with your husband pulling the wagon across bumpy boardwalks and up and down slopes. Full arm, cardiovascular and leg muscle workout.

3. Scan the map for showtimes, and make a subconscious decision that the mission for the day is to make it for all but one of the shows within the morning half. Brisk walk or run while pulling wagon for an active cardiovascular and full body workout.

4. Arrive at the third showtime, and find all seats taken and only limited standing room . Park wagon a fair distance away. Carry the children so they can get a view of the elephants. Crane your neck, tiptoe while balancing your child and trying not to tip over onto the person next to you, to achieve that little bit more viewing height. Weight training for the upper body and upper arms.

5. Lunchtime. Run past milling crowds to get to said parked wagon a fair distance away, and attempt to pull wagon nearer to designated lunch spot. Unpack lunch while trying to chase son up and down steps to get him to sit down. Works lower leg and calf muscles.

6. Agree, upon popular request from children, that as an extended afternoon workout, your program should comprise the following stations in the following designated order: manatees, Rainforest Kidzworld carousel and pony rides, and finally, giraffes. Click here for map to view the route. Brisk walk or jog in afternoon sun works up a good sweat. Second cardiovascular and full body muscle workout.

7. Join the queue for the horse carriage ride, because you know, you’ve already paid for the value ticket to all three rides (oh joy!). To distract the kids and stop them from climbing down the stairs right into the path of the horse carriage, bring them on a circuit walk around the farm animal exhibits. Repeat as many times as necessary to pass time while waiting for queue to move. Full body muscle workout, but thankfully, at a more relaxed pace.

8. After completion of afternoon workout program, begin warm down routine and trek back out to zoo entrance/exit. Stop many times along the way, carrying the kids up out of the wagon to see animals that they can’t see at wagon level. Optional supplementary upper body and upper arm weights workout.

9. Warm down (or was that cool down…) by browsing in the souvenir shop at the exit.

10. Plonk everyone and everything into the car, turn the airconditioning up, take a deep breath, drink water to replenish expended fluids and sink back into your seat. You deserve a good rest after all that hard work!

Always remember to drink sufficient water, slather on sunblock in outdoor activity…and discontinue exercise and seek medical attention if you should experience any discomfort or pain. 😉

Next week: Repeat all steps except no. 1 in Jurong Bird Park. 😛