Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Primary One: Bento Ideas & FAQs

I am officially into week 9 of daily bento for the kiddo. While not exactly totally new to this (I did a 10-min breakfast challenge last year), I still consider myself a bento noob. But I guess that I did good! Besides the salmon udon and blueberry pancakes which Dumpling asked for, I survived 3 weeks of almost no repeats.

I am no bento expert but I figured if I can do it, so can you! So based on the interaction on my Blog FB Page, I decided to put together a list of common questions and share some popular recipes. Hope this is useful!

:: Questions

1) What do you use to keep the items warm? 

I don't unless it is porridge or soup. One of the prerequisites for us in choosing a Primary school (and we have been very blessed) is to choose a school that is near to our home. Because of the proximity, we leave home at 7+am daily and her recess is at 9+am. So, basically I do not see much need to use a warmer.

The only exception is when I prepare porridge / soup and this is what I use:

Thermos Foogo Food Jar 10oz
(Photo Credit: Pupsik Studio)

I bought this via a BP on Singapore Motherhood Forum eons ago and it is still working well (I have 2.) You can get it from Pupsik here

However, Dumpling shared that fried rice which I prepared previously was a tad hard and dry. Bearing that in mind, I will add in a bit more stock the next time I fry it so the rice grains are softer.


2) Where do you get your bento kits / items from?

I was very blessed because my in-laws went Japan last year and came back with a boxful of bento items for us. But I went through a buying craze where I placed some orders here. I was buying tons from Daiso as well as another online shop but I have lost the contact. I have also recently chanced upon another blogshop Jmamababy here where it has a pretty extensive list of bento items.

I also saw some really cute lunch boxes and lunch bags at JED packs which I bought too as I like that it comes with the shoulder straps so it frees up her hands. Cute no? :p
Elephants
While I am at it, here's another that I am eyeing because I like the compartments:
TUMTUM Trainee Lunch Box

3) What are the essentials in doing a bento?

As mentioned, I am quite a noob but here's some things/tools that I use almost daily:

Picks
These picks definitely brighten up any bentos with their cute cartoon characters. (The below is the loot from my in laws!)



Mini trays / holders (silicone and I got them from Daiso)
These are a must if you pack fruits / side snacks.

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Bento boxes
I use a mix of snack boxes (like the elephant series below) as well as the bigger boxes where there are individual containers in them and I stuff them all into the lunch box:


I mix and match them according to the food items (for e.g. the 2-tier ones I use for noodles since I cannot place noodles with other items in the same later / box) hence I have quite a collection of bento boxes (20+ and still counting!)

Amongst my bento box stash are many which I have not unwrapped / used!


For sandwiches, fun stamps / cutters really makes it fun for my kiddo. Additionally,  I realised that when I cut these out and make them into mini sandwiches, the kid eats better and faster.


I also bought some shape cutters (letters of the alphabet and cute animals) and really had loads of fun making them into "open face sandwich" with messages last year:



Bento, Breakfast for Kids

4) What fruits do I pack in?
Based on the advice given by some mummy friends, I usually pack in fruits that are uncut (with the skin still on them) - blueberries, strawberries, grapes, bananas, small apples, peaches, plums as they do not oxidize as much. If I have any left over (especially from the berries, I make them into jams.)

Here's a quick look at the various items packed in her bento boxes:


And there you have it! Hope you find these simple tips useful! :)

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Parenting with Love: A reflection. 100 marks journey…

Dumpling is into her week 9 of Term 1 in formal school and so far, she has been doing great having comfortably settled into her school routine. At the homefront, I am still trying to work out a schedule where we have her activities out of school hours (dance / music / art, etc.) mapped out and balance it out with revisions, her homework and going through with her for spelling and 听写, etc.

I am still adamant about outdoor and play time so weekend mornings are wide open where we have play dates, catch a play / movie and head to the gardens or zoo. Twice to thrice a week, after work, I will bring her to the playground where she has half an hour of playtime too. Truthfully, it can sometimes be hard to balance this with her school work and revisions.

The chat group which we have has been very helpful as it allows me to clarify stuff (when to bring what files) and be updated on class matters. Amongst which are also teacher matters, assessment dates and at times, kids’ performances for some of these tests; the latter being more of a closed book matter as most parents do not share much on that end along with the extra activities their kids do too.

Recently a mum asked in the chat group how the kids did for that week’s 听写 and I was the only mum who shared. 

Coincidentally, a friend in a FB forum group shared this page in a book that she is reading:

(Excerpt is from Wow! 原来德国妈妈这样教孩子 by 赵丽荣著)

Loosely translated, it reads “if your neighbor was to comment that his/her child scored 100 points for his Math exam and asked how your child did, what would your answer be? What if your child was beside you, how would you then have answered him/her?”

In the group chat, I shared to say that kiddo knows her stuff but she was marked down because of her penmanship though I was nagging at her the night before. (Her U was tapered at the ends and while they didn't meet, it looked like a cross between an “a” and a “u”.) And the mum went on to ask, quite specifically, “So not 100 marks?” to which my reply was “Nope” and added that I did not fault the teacher for being strict as penmanship is one area especially for the Chinese Language where the strokes and all needed to be very precise.

So that got me reflecting over this 100 marks journey: are we, as parents, obsessed with this 100 marks journey and does it really make a load of difference if the kids get 100 marks for every spelling and 听写 test? Now, before you jump to the conclusion and say that I am saying this because the kiddo did not score 100 points for this 听写, please allow me to share that for English spelling, the kiddo has had perfect scores since the beginning of term.

On that reflection, take a moment and answer this: would it have bothered you?

My honest thoughts: was I annoyed that she lost marks over that “u”? Of course I was, specifically because I reminded and corrected her the night before. She had another incident in her first 听写 where she forgot the 标号 so she has a tendency to be careless. Now, if it were a question that she truly doesn't know, then of course, she cannot be faulted. But is it worth it to get ridiculously uptight over these mistakes? For me, nope.

It is not good for me to be obsessed with the perfect score as it is not good for my BP and definitely not healthy for her especially when she had a recent episode on being able to deal with mistakes. I have learnt to pick my battles and trust that she will learn to be more careful along the way. As a new P1 student, she is also feeling her way around as she has to deal with new faces, new teachers, new environment, etc.  I did share with her what the mummy asked and what my reply was and she has requested for me not to share on it anymore in that forum. I agreed to it as I have to respect her feelings too.

For myself, I have also learnt that some lessons are meant to be “lived”, not just learnt and well, she will remember one of these days. To me, it is also not so much as to how many marks she got for these tests but rather, what she does when she doesn't, that matters. Does she work harder? Is she resilient where she takes it in her stride and bounces back? For me as long as the knowledge is there and the attitude is right, I will be a paper tiger mum for the moment. J

Disclaimer: photo above is shared by a friend of mine which she borrowed from our library.

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Aesop's Fables by I Theatre - GIVEAWAY!

Aesop's Fables or the Aesopica is a collection of fables credited to Aesop, a slave and story-teller believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 560 BCE. (source). Like many, our home library, especially during Dumpling’s younger days, was brimming with books on these fables and we also homeschooled on them. From Ant and the Grasshopper to Lion and the Mouse, there were always valuable lessons to be learnt from each story.

I Theatre is certainly no stranger to the local arts scene having produced many children’s theatrical productions over the years which Dumpling and I had the chance to watch. Till now, she still recalls plays such as “The Enormous Turnip”, “The Little Red Hen” and “Magic Porridge Pot” where the plays were interactive and the songs, catchy.

In its first production for this year, I Theatre is bringing to us about 8 stories from Aesop Fables in a 50min production which includes the lesser known fables such as “The Jay And The Peacock?” and Androcles And The Lion”.


The play promises an impressive line-up of actors from I Theatre’s previous productions such as Ant and The Grasshopper, Grimm’s Fairytales and Puss in Boots using marvellous masks, puppetry, live action and songs!

I am pleased to share that I have 2 pairs of 2 tickets worth more than $120 to give away!

Earn credits using Rafflecopter below:Do remember to leave a comment on the comment section on "What is your favourite Aesop Fable and why?"
You can share this post with your friends on your FB page for extra credits!
(For Singapore residents only)
The more credits you earn, the higher your chances! :) 

:: Terms and Conditions:

- Entries that do not fulfil the requirements stated will be disqualified without notice.
- Winners will be notified by email, through the email address provided. 
- This giveaway is for Singapore residents only. 
- Tickets need to be be collected by 21 Feb (before 5pm) at I Theatre's office
 
Date of play:                 7 March 2015
Time:                            2.30pm
Venue:                          Jubilee Hall, Raffles Hotel 
NOTE:                          Tickets need to be collected by 21st February BEFORE 5pm at I Theatre's                                            office at 27 Kerbau Road, Singapore 219163
(I Theatre's Office Hours are from: Mondays to Fridays, 11am - 5pm)

About Aesop’s Fables

Date:                             26 February to 21 March 2015
Venue:                                 Jubilee Hall, Raffles Hotel
Recommended for:     3 to 13 year olds and families
Duration:                     50 minutes with no interval

Script & Lyrics: Brian Seward 
Music Arranged and Directed by: Bang Wenfu

Kindly remember to leave your email address so that we can contact you!
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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Primary One: Learning about the English Curriculum

Frankly, the transition into Primary One seems to be easier on Dumpling than on me. Transiting from doing the Math, Science and English on my own to having someone deliver the lessons and not having the level of visibility that I need (yes, the tiger mum in me is growling) have been a tad hard on me. *guffaws* 

So it has been a learning journey (and I suspect that it will be the case for me daily!) but here’s sharing on what my child has been doing for the past month in school for English.

:: English

Stellar Programme

Dumpling's school uses the Stellar programme which you can find out more about here. Basically, the teacher uses a story book with the students and teaches grammar, vocabulary, etc. with it, uses it for discussions and writing experiences.


There is a list of books under this programme and there is no fixed sequence – meaning schools have the choice of introducing whichever titles in whichever order. So what this means is that your child may be reading a different book from your buddy's child. 

Based on chats with my mummy friends and with Dumpling, teachers typically use a big book for “read aloud”. Class activities can range from fun activities such as getting them to move around while learning about prepositions, to re-enacting, and to seat work.

For e.g. with the book “Hairy Bear”, Dumpling’s class has re-enacted the various characters from the story (1/3 of the class was Hairy Bear, the father; 1/3 acted as the mum and said her lines, with the remaining third acting as Baby Bear). They learn about intonation and how to use ‘voices’ when they took on different roles. 

For parents who are exposed to the 'literature based approach', then this method of teaching will not be new to you. Now, for those of you who are going "Alright, fun learning is all good but what exactly do my kids learn?"  There are worksheets and spelling, etc., in this Stellar programme. 

1) Worksheets
Seat work wise, children learn about grammar and new vocabulary from the stories. In Hairy Bear, my kiddo learnt about contractions (e.g. I’ll – I will, I’m – I am, etc.) and did a cloze passage with some of the vocabulary learnt.



She did similar worksheets for Dan, the Flying Man with the focus on prepositions.   

2) Spelling
A quick check with my friends and it seems like the spelling list for most of our children are similar and based on the words introduced in stories:

Spelling lists for Hairy Bear:



Spelling Lists for Dan:



Spelling Lists for Mrs Wishy Washy:



3) Other supporting resources
Besides the worksheets done in class and the spelling exercises, Dumpling brings home penmanship work and the work ranges from 2 – 4 pages so far. For a friend whose child's school does not use the penmanship book, they do hand out their own penmanship worksheets. 

(The above is what we use for penmanship which is part of our Stellar Programme) 

Depending on the school's practice, they may give out other grammar worksheets too. Dumpling's school uses a grammar book which the teacher uses in class. 

So far, Dumpling enjoys the work in school and finds it manageable (except for the time where she had 4 pages of penmanship work but that's another post altogether). If your child is going to P1 in one or two years time, I dare say that most Preschools would have prepped the children well in terms of reading and writing. 

The readers used in the Stellar programme are quite simple so frankly, there really is no need to get your child(ren) to read these before entering P1. I think that may kill their interest as they may find it boring having to do the activities again. It is for that same reason that I do not do any activities relating to the books/stories during our home learning time. I rather she gets that from school. But I do google for materials and watch YouTube for read alouds on those stories so that I know what she is reading in school. 

However, if your child's preschool does not introduce to them the concept of spelling, then I would suggest that you may wish to do so - just 3 to 5 words from the homefront. I personally know some children who struggle with spelling as they are not sure of the concept (for e.g. they thought that the dates indicated on the list is the date that they will be learning the words as a class and not realising that's the test date) or that they are not too sure of the whole phonics / sight word approach. We have yet to receive our Chinese Spelling list at this point and when I do, that will be another post on its own. :p 

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Parenting with love: dealing with 'mistakes'

It was over a dinner a few days ago when Dumpling went “Mama, I made a careless mistake today. I forgot to fill in the HYPY for my Chinese class work.”

That started a long dinner where she was visibly upset and told me a friend of hers had an A star. She got even madder when I said that her classmate may be better at that task this round but we can always improve the next.

She started tearing and started losing her cool.

Then I realized that she was hurt that I said the other kid was ‘better’.

Sigh. My kiddo is a paradox all on her own – she is intense yet sensitive, mature yet throws the most childlike tantrums at times. Moments like these when I see her trembling lips, I have to bite mine and pray for patience.

Me: “Baby, it is ok, all of us make careless mistakes.”

Her: “No, it is not OK!”

Me: “You will do better next time then.”

Her: “You feel that my classmate is better.”

Me: (inwardly sighing because the Type A genes is from who else but moi?) “Baby, there is a difference between being better at something and just better.”

Her: stoic silence and then she pushed me away with a pencil.

Me: “That hurts ok! Stop doing that. I am not angry nor am I disappointed. Is it a pity, well yes because I know you can do it and you know that you can do it? But is it the end of the world, no. There will be many more instances where we make mistakes, sometimes careless and other times, genuine mistakes.”

Her: eyes brimming with tears

Me: “Why are you upset with me?”

Her: stoic silence

Me: (prayed for grace and it suddenly came to me) “Baby?” (she looked up) “I am really sorry that you are feeling that way. I did not mean to hurt you. Can I give you a hug?”

Her: (bawling her eyes out) "I am so upset with myself! I know that I can do it yet I am so careless. I am so disappointed Mama!!!"

I hugged her till her fat tears trickled to a stop and I felt so guilty. Why? Type A genes aside, it suddenly hit me that as adults, when we go through school work with them, we often chide and nag at them for being careless. It leaves almost no room for them to make mistakes.

It did not occur to me that by doing so, we have unconsciously placed ourselves high up on the pedestal where as parents, we can do no wrong and we have never made any mistakes! All our children hear from us are “why is this not done?” or “Why were you so careless?”

I then spent the rest of the hour sharing stories of some silly mistakes I made, how I double up with a coworker at work to vet and proof read advertisements etc., and that I did not pass my driving exam on the first try!


The society and its expectations are moving along so fast at times, that I often forget that my kid is all but 6. Her little legs may not catch up with me and she may not write as fast as I would like for her, but I realized that time with her and these precious moments where we are ‘present’ and where she enjoys her childhood are far more precious than any ‘mistakes’. 

A buddy with me with this quote today and I would like to share it with you.



If you have enjoyed this post, please follow me on my Facebook Page where I share my parenting thoughts, food photos (be prepared for tons of them!), early shout outs for giveaways and interact with you, my readers! You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram.
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