Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Your Thoughts #5 - 华语,原来可以这样学!

I had a rocky start to introducing Dumpling to the Chinese language as she was about 15-16 odd months old. It was the first time I did a Chinese read-aloud for her. I still recall her look of shock as she mumbled to ask me what I was saying. It has never occurred to me that it would be hard introducing another language to Dumpling but at that moment,  I realised my folly. That also started my home support on Chinese learning.

Chinese, to me, is based on 听,说,认, 读, 写 。Before a child can speak it, the child needs to be able hear it constantly. Listening is fundamental as the child can then pick up vocabulary, pronunciation, etc.

Oracy is the next most important area as I believe that being proficient in Chinese is a life skill. To me, it is more than being able to read but to be able to have a language that is useful in our daily lives. The 'progress' for this, comes in various tiers; knowing what to say, how to say and having the confidence to use the language are 3 entirely different matters.

Dumpling has been attending Chinese Speech and Drama workshops during the holidays for the past 2 over years having done theatrical plays such as Alice in Variouslands, Little Red Riding Hood most recently, Hua Mu Lan.

I have the pleasure of knowing Daphne Low, founder of Apple Pie Language, from these workshops and I have learnt so much from her. Today, I am pleased to share a short chat that I had with Daphne on Apple Pie, her views on the language and tips to support this language at the homefront.

Me: I understand that Apple Pie started in 2003. Why made you decide to start a Chinese enrichment centre and naming it Apple Pie? Why is Chinese so close to your heart?
Daphne: Learning the Chinese language should be an enjoyable experience. I have the fondest memories of learning and communicating in this language from young with my family and friends and that's why Chinese is so close to my heart. Thinking of my early school years and personal experience reminds me of tucking and savouring one of my favorite desserts - Apple Pie. Sweet, warm and totally enjoyable. :)

With our students, I wish for them to have the same experience - where they will enjoy the learning process as much as we enjoy teaching them. And through the unique delivery of our programme, I would say that we’ve made a difference when we hear our students and their parents say ‘华语,原来可以这样学!’  Where there is a positive association with the language and that they see that Chinese can be learnt in a fun manner.

Me: It is very common these days to see young children reply and communicate mainly in English instead of Mandarin. What do you feel of such a phenomenon?
Daphne: Most Singaporeans are well educated and the common language used at home is English. Hence the first language that the child come into contact with will naturally be English and that will become his/her main language for communication. As there is a lack of providing a Mandarin speaking environment at home, the child does not have chance to practise the language hence, this becomes a vicious cycle as the child will not be able to pick up the language.

Me: Do you think Chinese is hard for children to acquire and why?
Daphne: Yes. As shared here, there are many factors that make Chinese very difficult to learn. For example the characters (Hanzi) used in the writing system seem to be archaic and obscure. Every word is a different symbol and it’s not phonetic so it gives you no clues as to how it is pronounced. The tone system also is a challenge because Mandarin has four tones. One other reason is, Mandarin has a large number of homophones. For example, the pronunciation “shì” is associated with over thirty distinct morphemes.

Me: What do you think is the biggest stumbling block for children to learn Chinese?
Daphne: A lack of fun and stress-free environment for children to practise the language.

Me: Do you have any tips to share for parents to support this development better?
Daphne: Here's are some recommendations:

1.       If you can, speak Mandarin to your child at home
This is important because learning and the usage of Mandarin should be beyond the classroom setting and where children are able to "see" it as a practical life skill. The more they use it, they better they become at it.
2.       Read Chinese story books to your child
Like the English language, reading is very important as it is through reading that children are exposed to vocabulary and good sentence structure. You can make it fun by reading with emotion and acting out various roles in the story.

3.       Enrol your child in a Speech and Drama class
Speech and Drama is one of the most fun experiences your children will ever have the pleasure of experiencing. Whether they are standing up on a stage, delivering a speech with quotes by Albert Einstein 100 years ago, or merely reading a passage from a book, they will begin to develop their language skills. Research has suggested that drama techniques provide an interesting way of motivating language learning in children.

These classes are fun and can assist in strengthening a child’s communication skills, to speak more persuasively, boost confidence in public speaking, build self esteem, learn leadership skills, increase ability to adapt and improvise, overcome shyness, become more assertive, build awareness of social skills, make friends and understand people. Adults are judged on how they express themselves and their style of speech every day. Drama classes are a perfect way for children to develop these skill

An extremely experienced teacher, Daphne Low has more than 10 years of Chinese Language teaching experience under her belt having taught pre-schoolers and primary school students.

Her forte lies in designing lively Chinese Speech and Drama lessons as well enrichment programs and she has conducted Chinese Enrichment Programmes at private schools such as Agape Student Care Centre and MOE schools such as Hwa Chong Institution and Rulang Primary School etc.

Presently as the founder of Apple Pie Language, she plays an instrumental role in the company as a Programme Designer, Teacher-trainer as well as the Marketing Director.

Daphne is passionate in achieving her greater vision of offering parents and children a nurturing and safe environment to bond, learn and develop through dramatic play.
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.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Parenting with Love - Money Management: Smart Money, Smart Kids

I have great role models from young on being independent and responsible with money. The 2 role models are my mum and my brother. My mum had it tough when I was younger as she had to raise the family on her own. My brother sat me down when I was about 15 or so, and basically said that since I have no plans over the holiday period, it would be wise for me to work during then and save the money as 'pocket' money for myself. That was how I started to work part time which during my adult years, led to me paying for University fees on my own.

Fast forward to some years later (ok, I fibbed - many years later :p) this is what happened recently...

"Daddy, can you give me $10? I would like to buy this keychain please?" Dumpling asked at a bookstore at the airport while we waited for our boarding time. That was not the first time the kiddo has asked for money from us and I knew then that I have to do something effective and fast.

Since a few months back, I noted that while Dumpling understands the monetary value of money, there is a true lack of understanding of the 'work value' that is pegged to money. Being the only grandchild on the hubs' side and our only child, this also means that she is very blessed as she had the chance to experience many things and was gifted with many toys and presents.

So I became increasingly worried about the careless way she handles and views money. I do not wish for her to become an 'entitlement' kid which I feel, would carry with her through to adulthood. To me, being careful with money is much more than just knowing not to bust the budget. Rather, it is about treasuring the opportunities / things that it brings, being responsible with it  and knowing to give, spend and save.

I came across the below title - Smart Money Smart Kids written by Dave Ramsey (father) and Rachel Cruze (daughter) and wow, was I blown away. To say that I was inspired is truly an understatement. I was looking for a book to teach Dumpling on money management but I learnt so much more in return.

Dave Ramsey was a bankrupt who worked, planned and learnt his way out of bankruptcy while Rachel (his second daughter) basically grew up during the days where they had nothing. In this very real recollection of their experience, memories and practical tips, I realised (to my horror!) that I, too, was also contributing to Dumpling's careless ways!

Take tithe for instance. How many of us, while attending church weekly and when it is time to tithe, we would just hand over money to the kiddos for them to place into the contribution bags / envelopes? I am guilty of that. Now, then how can I blame Dumpling for asking for money whenever we are at Daiso out at the retail shops as that's what I have been conditioning her for week after week, in church!

What about credit cards? Have you ever explained to your kids about how they work? We say that kids model our behaviour and as parents, we are ever 'oh-so-careful' with our language and choice of words in front of them. Have you ever thought of how the kids see us make purchases? All they see is us signing for them and that's it. They do not often see the physical bills being handed out and from there, learn how we manage the 'budget' or see the debited amount (if using NETs / debit card). Now, in the long run, are we not also conditioning them to purchases with credit cards?

That would be fine if they are taught how to manage the income and outflow but have we taught / shown or even explained this to them? The issue is, the kids can't see this part of the transaction so how do we aim to teach them to be responsible with money when this is a debt-based society? And I must add that, with all the credit card signing, I have overspent many times too! (That would be another post altogether.)

In the book, Rachel is the main author where she shared the various money handling tips and practical methods that she grew up with, how they were tasked with chores, given the freedom to make mistakes, worked on long term goals (each of the sibling saved for their own car!) and led debt free lives. Dave, on the other hand, would add on remarks in a commentary style on why he imposed those rules and his thoughts on them, as a parent and as a financial expert.

And with that, I have taken on the tips and suggestions and, Dumpling and I have been on a mission of a different kind for the past week plus (giving, spending and saving) which I will share in the next post. Stay tuned!

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.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Parenting with Love: P1 Journey!

2015 marks the start of a new journey - somewhat unsettling yet exciting. It marks the journey of formal public schooling for Dumpling. It was a pretty hard decision to make as given a choice I would pretty much want to continue to homeschool her but that is not to be the case.

On the homeschool end, I have been working with her on things such as money, time telling, etc., so that she will be able to manage those in school. But truthfully, nothing beats receiving the enrolment letter for reality to finally sink in that my baby is ‘no more’. L

Having said that, the hubs and I are quite pleased with the school that she will be attending based on our interaction with them so far. The school seems to be well organised which made our registration a breeze. Unlike some of my friends, we needed only to go to the school once and that was for both Orientation and administrative stuff.

I received our Orientation letter quite early on and items such as book list, dental form, students' data form and an itinerary of the Orientation were all included in the same letter. The letter shared the class which Dumpling has been allocated to.

The morning finally arrived. I like that the process was systematic and clear. Upon arrival at the foyer area, all we had to do was to look for the class names and pick up our folder from there.

Dumpling was a tad unsure and nervous (not unlike moi!) but we had to leave her seated at the hall with her classmates. The Principal greeted us and shared some basic information before the children were led away to their classrooms for next year. (Frankly, this is where I had separation anxiety and I swear that the hubs was rolling his eyes at me at one point!)

After the various reps (CCA Dept, PSG section, etc.) have presented on their slides, the parents were led to the children's respective classrooms. This is where it was useful that we had the 2 of us at the orientation. I was in charge of filling up a Giro Form while the hubs went to the bookstore to purchase the school books.

Once I was done filling up the form, we went to the respective "stations" (according to the child's serial number) set up at the front of the classroom and a designated staff did the checking of our details on the form.

When that was done, the hubs was back and the parents were led to an AV room which was used as a holding area. I could see that Dumpling had settled down well and made two new friends too.

What I was really pleased about is that there was no 'tests' / 'informal assessments' done for the kids. During the entire month of November, quite a lot of my mummy friends also attended Orientation days too. I heard from some of them that their kiddos were led through a somewhat informal 'assessment' where they had to reach a list of Dolch words out loud to the teachers as well as attempt some Chinese activities.

Dumpling had none of those and was in fact watching Tom and Jerry in the AV room. When I asked her how the morning went and what they did, she shared that they were brought their classroom and told that it was to be their room for the next 2 years. Thereafter, they were shown where the bathrooms were and they were also brought around to tour the library (she was especially thrilled to know that there is a library in the school) before being led to the AV holding room.

After we picked her up, we went over to the last 'station' of that morning - to purchase school uniforms and for mummy here, to hand in my PSG form. :)

The queues moved pretty quickly and we were done in about 30 minutes. For uniforms, my suggestion would be to try on sizes which are for your child's age. Unless your child is much taller / petite in size, usually the recommended sizes by the vendor would be quite spot on.

And yup, Dumpling will be starting her new journey in a convent. :)

If I can share 5 tips, it would be the below:

- Prepping the bank details for GIRO Deduction (account name, account branch, account number)
- Bringing along a pen / pencil (shading is needed for the Giro form so pencils would be more suitable)
- Attending the session with your spouse / another adult (so that each of you can queue for different items)
- Bring cash (an approximate amount to be brought for books, badges, online learning portal subscription, etc. for us came up to about $300-350.)
- Water bottle & Cardigan for the kiddo

As this blog is to share my parenting thoughts and journey, this also marks the start of sharing on Dumpling's Primary School journey. I will still be supporting her from home on topics that she is keen on so there will still be posts on home learning and sharing of resources. For the coming year, I aim to share a bit more on my parenting thoughts and I will do so with the next post on something that has been on my mind a bit - one on money management and how to avoid raising a kid with the 'entitlement' mindset. Till the next post, please pray for us that her Primary school years will be fun and enjoyable. :)

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.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Review + Giveaway - SofzSleep

Dumpling is a light sleeper and sleeps very little since young. She’s skipping half of her naps and the other half with me ‘forcing’ her to continue on days where she has no activities to go for. So it is no surprise that I am quite anal about her rest and quality of sleep. :p

As adults, we spend a good 1/3 of our time resting and for the kiddos, depending on their age, it ranges from anything between 10 - 14 hours per day. It is common knowledge that the quality of pillows is directly related to the quality of sleep. So what constitutes as a good pillow?

To me, it's comfort, support and material. We were blessed with a Sofzsleep Junior pillow to review recently and here's our take.

:: Comfort

I was quite surprised to discover that Sofzsleep pillows has a 'natural bamboo cover' and this gives the pillow a satiny smooth feel. That's especially important for younger children and infants where their skin is very delicate. For Dumpling, this is clearly a winner as she is highly sensitive to texture where I still need to snip off clothes labels till now! However, with the Sofzsleep pillow, I have no such issues.

:: Support

I suffer from insomnia so personally I place quite a strong emphasis in the firmness and support of the pillow. If I average 5 hours of sleep daily, I surely will make those hours count!

Now, for Dumpling, it's the same concern too. To me, this relates to the quality of sleep. If she doesn't get a good night's rest, I think she will find it a challenge to stay focused for almost 6 hours in primary school next year.

We have been experimenting and buying pillows of various 'height' and she has previously complained of a stiff neck on an occasion where we used a 'lower' pillow for her.

Sofzsleep pillow is firm yet comfortable. I nudged and pushed into it a few times and as you can see, it didn't 'sink' in. Instead, it adjusts itself where the latex material 'rises' up almost immediately when there is no pressure.

Most of us turn and move through the night as we go through the REM mode so what I noticed was that there was no concern or need to fluff up the pillow; the pillow 'adjusts' itself when Dumpling turns the other way.

With a natural contour in the Sofzsleep Junior Pillow, the shape supports the head and neck properly.

:: Material

I come from a family with strong allergy genes and in the bedroom, we have a purifier, diffuser and a dehumidifier. :p Being a sinus sufferer, this means that Dumpling has slightly more sensitive airways. Hence for me, features like 'Dust Mites Resistant" is another check on the box.

Sofzskeep is also made from natural latex without the use of chemicals and is also anti-bacterial!

Dumpling has been using the pillow for a few weeks now and the shape of the pillow is retained and so far Dumpling has not complained of any neckache and in fact, she lugs the pillow from room to room as she goes about her activities. :)

I am pleased to share that I have not 1, but 2 of these Sofzsleep Junior Pillows (M Size) worth almost SGD120 for a giveaway!

(For SG residents only)

:: To enter:
1. Enter through rafflecopter below!
2. Leave a comment below and share a tip for a good night's sleep!

:: 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. Thereafter, we will require the winners' addresses for the pillows to be delivered to them by Sofzsleep.
- This giveaway is for Singapore residents only. 

- Draw date will be on 28 Nov.  

That's not all! Quote Beanie N Us when you order through their FB page (via PM) at and receive a 15% discount! Promotional period is only from 22 Nov to 4 Jan 2015! Just in time for the new school year! :)

Disclaimer: We received a Junior Pillow from Sofzleep in order to do a review on and give our opinions of it. No monetary compensation was received for this post. Sofzsleep is the sponsor of this giveaway. Sofzsleep is on Instagram too!

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  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Review + Giveaway: A Night at the Safari, A Day with the Duchess & The Lion Dance by David Seow!

David Seow is an author that we are not unfamiliar with having read his books – Emma’s Elephant, If I Were a Blue Kangaroo, etc. David started writing stories when he was babysitting his niece and nephews, and decided to write one about them. And that’s where he drew his inspiration from for the famous Sam Sebbie and Di-Di-Di series.

Sam, Sebbie and Di-di-di are three siblings who go on wonderful excursions and encounter amazing adventures along the way. Here are Dumpling’s top 3 picks.

:: At The Night Safari
The Night Safari is always an adventure for Dumpling whenever we visit it. There is just a hint of mystery in the air when it is a night outing. The tram ride, of course, is a key draw. Dumpling would start whispering and pointing out those nocturnal creatures the moment the ride starts.

And it is the same for Sam Sebbie and Di-Di-Di. The trio started their adventure on a tram ride when suddenly, the tram stopped suddenly with a bump and a bam! Turns out, one very sleepy animal was in the way.

How will they be able to get past the giraffe? Will anyone be able to wake him up? This lovely story, told in an easy rhyming style, is great for younger children as it introduces the various animals and vocabulary in the Safari. 

:: A Day with the Duchess
Amongst all 3 stories, this is my favourite. While “At the Night Safari” is less wordy, “A Day with the Duchess” is more suitable for older children. Dumpling remembers the Duchess’s visit to Singapore, 2 years ago, as I showed her the articles in the papers then. She was very excited that someone from the Royal Family (almost like a real princess mama?) visited Singapore. :)

The story was a joy to read as Kate (Sam’s pet hamster) was brought to meet the Duchess.

(Can you spot where Kate is?)

Unfortunately she was separated from the siblings along the way. The story is ‘true’ as it highlighted the various places the Duke and Duchess visited. From Gardens by the Bay to Queenstown to Raffles Hotel, it also shares how Kate ended up being part of the Duchess ‘entourage’.

Of course, the 3 siblings were worried sick; will they ever be able to find Kate and get her back?

The illustrations by Soefara Jafney were really good! Being quite known for her impeccable fashion sense, I pored through the drawings of her outfits. :p Upon close inspection, I realised that the drawings of the Duchess’s outfits were “true” to what she wore during her visits!  (I did a google to check that out!)  

:: The Lion Dance
The final book that Dumpling has selected is The Lion Dance. On “one extra-special holiday” the siblings (with new member Xandy) were told by their parents that they would be watching a special performance: a lion dance! So who is this lion and where does it come from? Does it really dance?

Like the other titles, the excursion proved to be yet another adventure for the children. They ventured into a ‘hidden’ area, drew open a big red curtain and saw “the funniest lion”. They decided to put on the Lion costume and surprised their parents by hopping out from behind the curtains, only to realise that they are the ones who were surprised instead!

The crowd cheered and the drums went “doong doong doong bang!” and gongs  went “doong doong doong chang”!

“Oh, goodness gracious me!” exclaimed Xandy… “What do we do?” he asked.

How will the children be able to shimmy their way out of this ‘adventure’, or will they :)
This title is a simple yet lovely tale with captivating illustrations. I enjoyed thumbing through the pages and pouring over the traditional Chinese elements - cranes, lanterns and even the 'Bruce Lee' lookalike outfit donned on by Sebbie!
To place an order for these books, you can visit Epigram here.
I am pleased to share that I have not 1, not 2 but a bundle of these 3 autographed titles worth almost SGD50 for a giveaway!
(For SG residents only)
:: To enter:
1. Enter through rafflecopter below!

2. Leave a comment below on how you encourage a love for reading with your kiddos at home! Please include your email address  

:: 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. 

Disclaimer: I received copies of the titles from Epigram Books in order to do a review on and give my opinion of it. No monetary compensation was received for this post. Epigram Books is the sponsor of this giveaway.

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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