Training Kids To Be Independent

I sometimes wonder if I am a helicopter parent.

Dictionary.com defines helicopter parenting as,

“A style of child rearing in which an overprotective mother or father discourages a child’s independence by being too involved in the child’s life: In typical helicopter parenting, a mother or father swoops in at any sign of challenge or discomfort.”

As I am home with the kids most of the time, for the past three years, it is definitely very easy for me to fall into the trap of helicopter parenting. I am very involved in the lives of our three kids. Since I am home with them most of the time, it is also really easy for them to call out to me for help, over the slightest discomfort or challenge.

Is it possible to be very involved in the kids’ daily lives, yet not be a helicopter parent?

I believe it can be done.

These are some of the things we do, to get our kids to be more independent.

1. Avoid solving their problems for them.

Whenever any one of our kids calls to me for help, my first reply is usually, “Can you try to solve that problem yourself? Call me if you still cannot solve it after trying a few times.”

Most of the time, they manage to solve their problems themselves. If they have tried but are still stuck, we will then step in and help.

2. Teach them to do things for themselves.

We teach our kids to shower by themselves when they turn 5. Our youngest is learning to brush her own teeth and dress herself. She is now 3. We get them to bring their own plates and cups to the sink after eating. They have to keep their own belongings and make their own bed.

3. Let them plan their own schedules.

Our eldest, who is turning 9 this year, is growing up into quite an independent boy. He gets ready his own stuff, packs his own bag (for school and for going out), wakes up at 6.15am the moment his Daddy wakes him, and goes to bed by 9pm by himself. After school, he takes the school bus home, takes the lift up home by himself, showers, takes his lunch, does his homework, daily revision, and gives himself time to read and play after work. Basically, he is very independent and I do not have to worry about him. In fact, he is usually the one who comes to me to remind me his schedule for the next day.

So, training our kids to be independent is not such a difficult task, even if you’re at home with them most of the time. In fact, I think kids growing up in families with no domestic helpers can be more independent than those with a helper fussing over them and doing everything for them.

But well, that will be for another post.

Getting Started on Writing – Describing Character

Now that Jay is in Primary 1, I’m trying to get him to write more. Like a typical boy, he would much rather play than write. When left to himself, he seldom picks up a pencil and paper to write. Well, maybe, once in a blue moon, he does. And that usually makes me very pleased… I guess that’s the teacher part of me talking!

There are a few aspects of good writing that I want to teach my kids. One of them is describing the character. This will come in handy when he has to write composition in school.

For a start, I chose a book with a strong character. The Selfish Giant, by Oscar Wilde. We read the book together and Jay enjoyed it.

the selfish giant activities

I photocopied the picture of the selfish giant shown on the cover of the book, cut it out and got Jay to paste it on a piece of blank paper. We then talked about the giant.

His appearance: How does the giant look like?

His behaviour: What did the giant do? How did he behave?

I asked Jay to write his responses on the paper, as shown below.

the selfish giant character

At this stage, I did not interrupt his thoughts or influence his responses. All the words that he wrote down were entirely his own. He only asked me when he didn’t know how to spell a word.

Next, I asked him to pick 5 words out of those words which he had listed, and write 5 sentences with them. He went on to write 7 sentences. This was what he had produced in that 10 minutes of writing, grammar mistakes and all.

the selfish giant

I wanted him to enjoy the writing process. So, I cheered when he handed me this piece of writing, although I could see that he still has a long way to go.

The next day, Jay asked to do more “Selfish Giant” activities. I was really glad that he was interested. So, I handed him a magazine and told him to create a giant out of any pictures he could find from the magazine, and describe his giant.

This was what he produced that morning.

the selfish giant activities

We had a good laugh.

Stimulating Activities For Babies

One of my sisters-in-law asked me for some ideas on activities that she can do with her baby. After already raising 3 babies, I could immediately give her some ideas. But, I also vaguely remembered that I had written a blog post about activities for babies… a few years ago, when our first-born was still a baby!

True enough, I searched through my old blog and found this post, written when Zac was only 8 months old.

If you’re a first-time parent, hope this can give you some ideas on what you can do to stimulate your baby.

Here are some stimulating activities that you can do with your babies:

1. Read to your baby as part of your daily routine.

read to baby

2. Talk to your baby about the people and objects he is looking at.

baby activites

3. Do activities in front of a mirror so that your baby can see himself/herself.

4. Play classical music regularly.

5. Let your baby use as many senses as possible while playing (sight, sound, touch, hearing, taste).

waterplay for babies

6. Gently massage your baby while talking to him/her and play soft music at the background.

7. Show your baby patterns (e.g. red cup, blue cup, red cup, blue cup, red cup and so on).

stimulate babies

8. Count to your baby.

9. Sing to your baby.

10. Play ‘peek-a-boo’.

The list is non-exhausive. If you have other suggestions, do post them! :)

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Gosh.

Reading this again after so many years brings back such fond memories. Makes me realise once again, that kids really do grow up so fast! Zac is already turning 9 this year. Where did all the time go?  =_=

20 Activities To Engage Your Kids During School Holidays

It seems that school has just started not long ago, but before we know it, school holidays are coming!

While all kids love school holidays, some parents are already beginning to panic, with thoughts like “What on earth am I going to do with the kids the entire week?”

If you’re one of those parents, don’t despair. There are many activities that we can engage our kids in, and they do not even have to be learning or academic activities. Let the kids have fun, relax and enjoy. After all, it is their school holidays, isn’t it?

So, here are some ideas to keep your kids meaningfully occupied during the week-long March holidays. Some of these do not even cost a cent!

Here you go,

20 Activities to Engage your Kids

1. Explore the neighbourhood

neighbourhood walk

Have you ever brought your kids on a walk around the neighbourhood? A leisurely, unhurried, without-an-agenda walk? Try it and see what you and your kids get to notice as you explore your neighbourhood. To make it more fun, let them bring along a camera to take photos of whatever things that interest them. You can even print out those photos and create a scrapbook!

2. Go marketing

If you’ve never had a chance to bring your kids marketing during schooldays, plan a marketing day during the holidays. Let the kids help to write the shopping list, look for the items, place them in the trolley and hand them the cash to make payment at the cashier.

3. Do housework

Here is another chore that we are so used to doing and which most of us dread. However, most kids, especially those who are still far from the teenage years, love doing household chores! Hand them the vacuum cleaner, mop and cloth, and let them help with some spring cleaning of the house.

4. Science experiments

fun science

Are there any Science experiments that your kids have been wanting to try out but you’ve not had the time to do them during schooldays? Now is the best time to get the materials and spend a few hours letting the kids be little Scientists.

5. Build a city

building with blocks

Use Lego, building blocks, recycled boxes to build a city. Make it more challenging and fun by using these paper house templates. Add in toy vehicles and your kids can spend hours creating and playing with their little city.

6. Have an indoor picnic

indoor picnic

We had ours, and it was fun!

7. Pretend play

Have a time of dramatic play, letting the kids dress up in costumes, pretend tea party, role-playing as teacher, firemen, cashier, chef… anything they can imagine and come up with. You can also give them some materials to create props for them to act out their favourite fairy tale.

8. Visit the farms

visit farms singapore

Although an urban city, there are still quite a number of farms in Singapore. Check out some of these farms and plan an outing there during the school holidays.

9. Build sandcastles at the beach

We love the beaches at Sentosa. School holidays is a perfect time to bring the kids for some sandplay at the beach. I know my kids will love that.

10. Build sandcastles at home

kinetic sand

If it is too much of a hassle to go to the beach, you can also build sandcastles at home.

11. Bake

baking with kids

Here’s a simple cookies recipe that you can use.

12. Cook

If you cook, instead of trying to keep the kids occupied with other things so that you can cook in peace, why not get them to help out in the kitchen? I know it can get pretty messy, and the time taken to prepare a simple meal may double or even triple, but it will be a great experience for the little ones to be able to assist in preparing dinner or just a simple lunch. School holidays is the best time to do that, since the kids are at home for hours.

13. Create an art corner in the house

I was totally inspired by this idea to create an art corner in our home, for the kids to spend their time drawing, painting, creating and simply doing art.

14. Play board games

Board games are great for family bonding and keeping the kids occupied while having fun at the same time.

15. Water play

waterplay

This is a winner. Every single time.

16. Play with dough

Besides store-bought play dough, there are many versions of dough that you can make for or with the kids. Let the kids have fun making their own play dough and using it to create.

17. Play with farm animals figurines

farm play

Our kids used to love playing with their farm animals figurines. They like to pretend they are farmers, feeding, washing, taking care of the farm animals.

18. Go scootering

Along the corridor, or simply bring them to a nearby park and let them loose!

19. Go cycling

If your kids prefer to cycle instead of riding the mini-scooter, go ahead, let them release those pent-up energy.

20. Read

Read at home or visit the library. Make use of the school holidays for them to read, read, read.

There you go, 20 activities that you can do with your kids during this coming March school holidays, an average of 4 activities a day for the 5 weekdays!

iNbox – Activities for Family Bonding {Review & Giveaway}

I have always been very interested in the literature-based approach to learning. One of my favourite ways to engage my kids is to read them story books and plan activities related to the stories to enhance their learning. You can read about our literature-based learning activities on Deep Ocean Creatures here, here and here.

Honestly, it is very time-consuming to plan such literature-based activities. You have to spend hours searching and planning for suitable activities related to the story book chosen, not to mention the additional time taken to prepare the materials for each activity.

So, I was thrilled to learn about iNbox, a monthly literature-based activity subscription box (suitable for kids 3-7 years old) filled with activities such as art and crafts, Science, board games, card games, puzzles and more, all based on a story book, which is provided in the box too!

iNbox

When we received our iNbox for March, which is based on the theme “Wildlife Safari”, our kids were so excited that they kept asking me what was in the box. They almost tore the box open in their excitement.

What I like about iNbox is the neat packaging and detailed instructions for each activity. Much thought has been put into the design and planning of the activity packs. There was even a cute little apron provided for the painting activity, which is really a thoughtful gesture.

iNbox Smart Alley

As with all our literature-based learning, we began by reading the story. The story books in iNbox is based on the character Flinto, an octopus. Every month, a story book about Flinto’s adventure with his friends is provided in the box. The activities for each month are based on the theme of the month’s story. The story book provided in this month’s iNbox is titled “Flinto’s The Brave Rangers”, which ties in with the theme of “Safari Animals”.

iNbox monthly subscription activity box

After reading the story, we dived into the first activity – creating our standing Safari Animals miniatures.

Activity 1: My Safari Animals

iNbox Wildlife Safari

The kids chose an animal each and started painting. I was impressed that the paint was also provided in the box. As only five basic colours were provided, we ended up learning about colour-mixing, to get the colours we wanted, such as red and yellow make orange, black and white make grey.

IMG_7816

Instructions were given for the kids to paint the different patterns on the safari animals, using only their fingers. After finger-painting for a while, our kids asked for brushes to paint with, and they were at it for a good 30 minutes, happily painting away.

I like to see them totally focused and engaged in meaningful activities. Here are their standing Safari Animals miniatures. Don’t you think they’re lovely? Elly, whose favourite colour is pink, decided to paint her elephant pink and in the process, learnt that red and white make pink. I absolutely do not mind her painting an elephant pink. After all, art is an expression of one’s creativity, isn’t it?

iNbox Smart Alley

Activity 2: Jumbled in the Jungle

Our two boys were thrilled when they saw that there was a board game provided in this month’s iNbox. They had a great time playing with it.

iNbox Smart Alley

Playing with board games is great for family bonding. We had wanted to play this board game as a family. However, we realised that this game was planned for only 2 players. The kids were a little disappointed to find only 2 counters in the pack. So, we asked our two boys to play while the rest of us sat and watched. They enjoyed the game, although they wished that the whole family could play together.

iNbox Smart Alley

We solved the problem by getting our own counters! I think it will be good for the creators of iNbox to make provision for families with more than one child in the planning of their activities.

Activity 3: My Safari Jeep

I did this together with Jay one weekday morning, when Zac was in school and Elly was still asleep. Jay loves creating things out of recycled boxes, so this is an activity that appeals alot to him.

iNbox Smart Alley

The instructions were given in the activity pack. They were simple enough for our 6-year-old to follow.

iNbox

Towards the end of making his Safari Jeep, Jay realised that one of the parts was missing from the pack. He was a little disappointed that he could not complete his Safari Jeep. I was glad that his disappointment did not last long, as he soon had an idea to create his own vehicle using the wheels provided in the pack and our own recycled materials.

vehicles recycled material

Edited to add:
Smart Alley has kindly sent us the missing part in the Safari Jeep Activity Pack. When Jay saw that, he immediately went to fix up the jeep and this is how it looks like.

IMG_7883

Jay was extremely happy.

Activity 4: Animals Facts

Besides all the craft and fun, there was also a booklet with interesting facts about a few Safari animals.

iNbox WIldlife Safari Smart Alley

There are some interesting facts on animals, as well as an empty page for kids to draw the animals, based on the instructions given.

iNbox

This booklet is great to encourage kids to find out more about the Safari animals. Parents who are more resourceful and adventurous can use this as a tool to take their children’s learning further.

All in all, our kids enjoyed the iNbox activities. From an educator’s point of view, I find iNbox to be different from some of the other activity subscription boxes currently found in the market, as it focuses on various aspects of learning, such as academics, language, creativity and discovery. From a parent’s point of view, I like it that iNbox promotes family bonding, as family members gather to complete the activities together.

iNbox aims to help parents make learning fun for their kids, reduce screen time and increase quality activity time.

Most of all, I think this is a wonderful resource for busy parents, who may not have the time to research, plan and prepare their own learning activities for their kids.

Our kids have requested for more iNbox activities, and we have already made our subscription for the next 3 months!

Smart Alley, the producer of iNbox, is offering a subscription promotion from now til 31 March 2014.

iNbox Smart Alley

If you are captivated by the idea of iNbox, here’s your chance to win one Wildlife Safari iNbox for your child!

Smart Alley is giving away 100 March issue of “Wildlife Safari Theme” subscription box!

To redeem your iNbox, simply follow these steps:

1. Log-in to http://www.myinbox.sg

2. Click on “I Want My Inbox” button

3. Read the Terms and Conditions.
Register your information and contact.

4. iNbox will be delivered to your door step within 3-5 days!

iNbox is now available at Smart Alley or iNbox website. Follow their Facebook to receive updates of latest iNbox news and promotions.

Disclosure: We were given 1 Wildlife Safari iNbox for the purpose of this review. All opinions and photos are entirely my own.