Saturday, 23 November 2013

DIY Rain Sticks

Another paper roll craft!

As we have many empty toilet roll holders at home, I decided to do another project I've seen around on Pinterest - the rain stick, a cylindrical musical instument that mimics the sound of the rain when upended or shaken.

Rain sticks are believed to be from South America, and traditionally used to invoke rain. Traditionally, rain sticks are made from dried cactus (which are hollow) with the thorns pushed inside in a spiral or helix pattern, and filled with small pebbles.

Since I don't have any cacti, but I do have an abundance of paper towel holders, I used those instead.

In place of the thorns, I used two different materials - metal paper fasterners and bamboo skewers.

What you need:
Empty paper roll holders
Sharp pencil
Bamboo skewers OR
Paper fasteners
Masking tape
Stiff paper or cardboard

First, I used a sharp pencil to poke holes in the roll. I used the spiral seam of the roll itself to ensure that the holes were in a spiral pattern. I'm not sure how essential it is to have the spiral pattern, though. Maybe it is more important when using bigger pebbles or beans to ensure that they don't get stuck. However, since this is how they're supposedly made traditionally, that's what I did too! (No point reinventing the wheel.)

This is the type of paper fastener I used, in case anyone was wondering.

Next, I pushed the paper fasteners through the holes in one tube. In the other, I pushed bamboo skewers through, cutting the extras off.

A photo showing the spiral pattern from the outside.

The two tubes with the different insides.

I then secured the fasteners and bamboo skewers with masking tape as I didn't want the Little Ones to pull them out and hurting themselves.

I sealed one end of the tube by attaching circles made from stiff paper with masking tape.

Little Man helped me to fill the tubes with rice. (We used left over coloured rice from our sensory play a long time back).

We tested it a few times before we were satisfied with the sound.

When we were finally satisfied (we used quite a bit), I sealed the tubes up with more pre-cut circles and masking tape.

Then we decorated it by gluing construction paper over the whole thing and paper cut outs of shapes and flowers.

We put rice in both tubes, and due to the different material used, they sound a little different. The tube with the bamboo skewers sound a little softer to me, but not significantly so.

Little Lady quite enjoys turning it over to listen to the sounds. Little Man, in addition to playing with it as intended, has turn these into trains and 'chutting wheels' (shredders).

What I would do differently if I were to do this again:
1) I would use longer tubes or join two tube to make a longer tube. This would make the 'rain' last longer.
2) I would put the bamboo skewers / paper fasteners closer together. I think this might slow down the rice / pebbles, once again making the sound last longer. (I'm just guessing here though. If anyone has tried this, do let me know.)
3) I would also try a different 'filling'. Maybe beans or small pebbles, to see how that sounds.

Little Man: 3 years 5 months
Little Lady: 16 months

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Crayon Resist Painting

In order to add some variety and fun to painting, I recently introduced crayon resist painting to the kids. They had a blast!

It is really easy to do too!

What you need:
White paper
White crayon
Water colours
Paint brushes

First, I drew on white paper with a white crayon. If you squint at the picture above, you can make out the hidden/secret picture.

Next, the kids went to town with their paints and brushes.

As you can see, Little Lady was initially more interested in painting the tubes of paints and the table. She eventually got into the swing of things, though.

The Little Man, on the other hand, was delighted to discover the hidden/secret pictures that were revealed the more he painted.

He did eventually get bored and decided to paint his new toy instead.

Little Man: 3 years 5 months
Little Lady: 16 months

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Our Favourite Books to Read Aloud

One of the things the Little Man loves is being read to.  He's been read to by his Grandma, Grandpa, the hubs and myself since infancy.

In this post, I'll share 10 of the books Little Man and I enjoy reading together, and I'll focus on books with wonderful rhyme and rhythm which we've read since he was 1+ and still enjoy now.  

Rhymes are important as they help children to focus on the sounds in words, which would later help them to distinguish the phonetic constituents of words, which in turn will help them learn to read when the time comes. 

Books with flowing rhythm are so much fun to read.  Thus, they are more engaging for the younger ones as compared to prose.  In addition, rhythm helps children to follow sound patterns, which would in turn help them to develop language. Apparently, rhythms help create neural pathways as well. (Even better!)


    by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
By the creators of well-known The Gruffalo, this book is about a lost monkey and a butterfly who tries to helps him out but keeps getting it wrong.  It has beautifully detailed pictures, a catchy rhythm and wonderful rhyme.  Little Man learned to identify several animals reading this book.

Strangely, on, it is known as Where's My Mum?

Buy on Amazon: Monkey Puzzle (Where's My Mum?)
Buy on Book Depository: Monkey Puzzle


    by Cynthia Platt and Veronica Vasylenko

The Little Man loves this bouncing story about hungry Little Beckett in search of bamboo. He does not notice all the other hungry pandas following behind him, leading, naturally, to panda-monium.

Buy on Amazon: Panda-moniumn

Buy on Book Depository: Panda-monium


     by Nick Bland

I love this one!  Four animal friends want a warm dry place to play on a cold, rainy day.  But a very cranky bear is in the cave they found.  Can they cheer him up and convince him to share the cave? The rhythm and rhyme in this one are fantastic.  I always have so much fun reading this to the Little Man.  I suspect I like this more than he does and he lets me read this book to him because I enjoy it so.

Buy on Amazon: The Very Cranky Bear

Buy on Book Depository: The Very Cranky Bear


    by Julia Donaldson and Karen George

By Julia Donaldson, who also wrote The Gruffalo, this book is brilliant.  She worked with a different illustrator this time, and the drawings are absolutely charming.  Freddie helped out a fairy who was tangled in a tree, so she wants to thank him by granting him all his wishes.  However, she's a little hard of hearing and he mumbles.  

The Little Man used to insist that I read this book to me the moment he woke up, so I had it memorised and would flip the pages and recite it from memory with my eyes closed.

The above is the Little Man's illustration of the fairy all tangled in a tree done when he was 2 yrs 4 months old.

Buy on Amazon: Freddie and the Fairy

Buy on Book Depository: Freddie and the Fairy


    by Sue Hendra

This is another book that I had to memorise so that I could 'read' it in the mornings.  It is a fun book about how everything is upside down in Upsydown Town.

Buy on Amazon: Upsydown Town

Buy on Book Depository: Upsydown Town


     by Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter

One of Little Man's all time favourite books!  A festive tale about Danny and his Christmas present - a hungry dinosaur that ate up Christmas.  What goes in must come out...  Gross, but I guess all kids like gross stuff.

Buy on Amazon: The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas

Buy on Book Depository: The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas


     by Russell Punter and Andy Elkerton

Another dinosaur title that my not very dinosaur crazy boy loves.  Sid loves to scare his friends with his very loud roar.  What would happen if he lost his voice?  Once again, the flowing rhythm and rhyme make this very enjoyable.

Buy on Amazon: The Dinosaur Who Lost His Roar

Buy on Book Depository: The Dinosaur Who Lost His Roar


    by Julia Jarman and Guy Parker-Rees

A fun little tale about not excluding anyone.   The upbeat rhythm and the cheery pictures appeal to Little Man.

Buy on Amazon: Ants in Your Pants

Buy on Book Depository: Ants in Your Pants


by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Once again, from the creators of The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child.  The Little Man enjoys them too, but I didn't include them because they're mostly read by Grandma as the books are at her place.  We have almost the entire collection of books by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, and this is the one that he requests for most at home.  It tells about how, while it is nice to dress smartly (or spiffily, in the case of, it is much more important to be kind.

Buy on Amazon: The Spiffiest Giant in Town

Buy on Book Depository: The Smartest Giant in Town


      by Alia Zobel Nolan and Peter Cottrill

Another fun book.  This time about the misadventures of Mrs McGee's coconut when she tries to open it.  

Buy on Amazon: Mrs McGee's Coconut

Buy on Book Depository: Mrs McGee's Coconut

Little Man: 3 years 5 months

What do you and you Little Ones enjoy reading?

Friday, 8 November 2013


These past two weeks have made me more aware of the frailty of human life, and how blessed I truly am.

A friend of a friend experienced amniotic embolism, a rare but serious condition, while giving birth to her third child.  The doctors saved the baby, but removed her womb, but she went into a coma for a few days. The last I heard, she was out of the coma, but was able to blink in response to questions only for a day or two.  She is now awake, but unresponsive.

A friend of another friend had a still-birth at 8+ months.

Yet another had a friend collapse and die after a run.

I am extremely blessed.

I had my children late in life.  Past the 'recommended' 35.  For both, the risk of Down's Syndrome was high, especially when they factored my blood work in the OSCAR test.  Fortunately, they both tested fine when I went for the Amniocentesis test.

A note about the OSCAR and amniocentesis tests.  I was sure that I would not terminate the pregnancies if the results were not favourable.  Why did I undergo both tests then?  Mainly for peace of mind.  If the tests showed the Little Ones to be fine, then I could enjoy the pregnancies.  If the test results were bad, then at least I would be mentally and emotionally prepared.

I am extremely blessed that they were both born healthy, and that I suffered no complications whatsoever.

First Bundle of Joy
One Day Old 

 Little Man arrived at 38 weeks, on the first day of my break.  I was looking forward to the two weeks of rest from work, and getting the place ready for him, but it was not to be.  I woke up at my usual time, thought blissfully that since I did not have to get to work, I could sleep in a little before organising the place.  I turned onto my side to get comfortable, and my water broke.

Thank goodness my Mum stepped in to help get the house ready while hubby ran around buying stuff we had not gotten yet.  (Thanks Mum!  Love you!  Thanks Hubs!  Love you too!)  I had an emergency C-section with him because he wasn't very cooperative.

Second Bundle of Joy
Three Days Old

Little Lady arrived even more unexpectedly at 36 weeks, one day after I had seen my gynaecologist. I thought I might be having contractions, but the hospital sent me back after monitoring me for a couple of hours and told me I was probably having cramps.  I bore with it till I could no longer take the pain (and the irritation of getting up to relieve the pain).  I was just about to give in and ask the hubs to drive me to the hospital again when I noticed the show.  We all got into the car and went to the hospital, Little Man included, as it was in the middle of the night and I was not going to bear with the pain of driving 25 minutes up north to my in-laws', then 20 minutes to the hospital when the hospital was only 15 minutes away (no traffic because of the time).  I delivered her about half an hour after arriving at the hospital.  I probably could have delivered her sooner, except that I had to wait for my gynaecologist to arrive.

My Two Blessings

I am extremely blessed that they are both healthy, happy and so full of life.

Linking to

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Homemade Edible Finger Paint

Tried my hand at making some homemade edible finger-paints today for the Little Lady's sensory play.

Please don't be mistaken, I am not actually trying to encourage her to eat the paint. I just want something non-toxic and edible so that I will not fly into a panic should she decide to taste it.

I searched the web, and there are many options available - adding food colouring to yoghurt, condensed milk, pudding mix, etc. However, as I am not trying to feed the ants who think this is their place, I decided to go another route.

2 cups cornstarch / cornflour
1 cup water
4.5 cups boiling water
Food colouring of choice

Note: Cornstarch / cornflour refers to the starchy type used for thickening sauces or for baking shortbread, not to be confused with corn meal (also known as corn flour in some places - see why I asked you not to confuse them?) which can be used to bake muffins and things like tortillas. Apparently they are called different things in different places, so be clear what you're getting.

Some recipes that I've seen online include sugar to make it tastier, but like I said, I'm not encouraging paint eating, either by kiddos or ants.

First, mix the corn flour with the 1 cup of water. Many recipes online call for cold water, but I simply used water from the tap.

Stir till well mixed.

Then add the 4.5 cups of boiling water and mix some more. My water was not hot enough, so I popped the whole thing on the stove and heated it up. Just keep stirring and it should thicken up.

Little Lady decided to wake up from her nap when I was at about this point, so I switched off the stove when I got this thick gloopy texture. If you heat (and stir) it some more, it should become translucent.

I then divided them up into various jars. You can see that I totally underestimated the amount at the start when I took out such small jars. Thus, I had to break out the bigger jars.

I placed some food colouring in each jar. The Little Man helped by choosing which colours to go into which jars.

We mixed everything up!

The Little Man had fun with the paints.

But the Little Lady didn't really want to have much to do with it. She was more interested in putting straws into the funnel.

This recipe made quite a large amount of paint. Next time, I would probably halve the recipe for the two kiddos.

Also, since it is made of food, and has no preservatives, do keep any leftovers in the fridge.

So there you have it, non-toxic, edible finger-paints for the little ones. I hope they enjoy it!

Little Man: 3 years 5 months
Little Lady: 15 months

Edited to add that this makes quite a huge amount. You should halve the recipe if you only have one kid and do not wish to finger paint for days on end.


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