Thursday, 26 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Our Christmas Trees

Our Christmas trees are up!

For some reason, I did not manage to take any pictures of the tree wiith the red or yellow lights on. So it looks a little odd here (to me, at least). It also looks a little lonely, without any presents under it. I've got to quickly wrap up the presents to put under it.

Both kiddos had great fun with the whole process, and Little Lady was very taken with the ornaments. She's quite good at not pulling off the ornaments after a few reminders.

Since both kiddos had so much fun decorating the tree, I also put up the felt Christmas tree I made last year.
Only this time, I made more felt ornaments, as there are two of them now. Also because it looked quite sorry last year.

Little Man requested shapes for ornaments, so here Little Lady is putting up a triangle.

Working together - big brother decorates the top of the tree while little sister decorates the bottom.

Little Lady testing to see if felt sticks to the wall.

Are your trees up yet? How did you keep your children from pulling off the ornaments?

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Fun with Levers

Left to his own devices one evening, Little Man took some unrelated items such as a swimming kick board, some blocks and a stuffed toy and invented a new game for himself. He called it "pouncing". He had essentially created a springboard from which to launch his stuffed toys. He had so much fun that the only was to get him to go to bed was to promise him that he could play "pouncing" again in the morning.

How does one play "pouncing"? The Little Man will show you how in four easy steps!

This, to me is the beauty of learning through play. He discovered the principles of levers all by himself. As he plays, he will discover the finer elements, such as the position of the fulcrum and so on. Eventually, I'll introduce the terms to him, but now, it is pure FUN!

Little Man: 3 years 6 months

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Wild Wednesday: A Visit to the Zoo and River Safari

As it is now the school holidays, and the Little Man does not have to go to school, we decided to go on a little excursion last week.

As Little Man was interested in seeing the giraffes and the pandas, we went to both the Singapore Zoo where the giraffes were, and the River Safari where the pandas were.

Set in the rainforest of the Central Catchment Area, the Singapore Zoo celebrates its 40th year this year, and prides itself on being an open-concept zoo with naturalistic habitats. What this basically means is that the animals are not behind bars in cages, but in spaces that mimic their natural habitats, separated from the visitors by wet or dry moats.

Our first photo of the day! We started at the Zoo, and I love how Little Lady seems to be giving the two guys a "What are you two up to?" look.

First, we took a tram around the zoo. (Iforgot to take a picture.) Although we've been to the zoo before, we've never actually taken the tram, so Little Man was rather thrilled.

After we had gone once around the zoo, we checked out the giraffes.

We also saw the other animals in the Wild Africa zone, including the white rhino.

We then made our way to Frozen Tundra Zone. The kids played in the display igloo. Here is Little Man telling Little Lady to look at the camera.

Also in the Frozen Tundra is the polar bear exhibit. We had our picnic lunch while watching Inuka, the local born polar bear swim.

As Little Man was clamouring to see the pandas, we made our way to the River Safari, which is an entirely different park beside the Zoo. The theme of this park, if you haven't already realised from its name, is rivers. The animals featured are grouped according to river ecosystems, namely the Mississippi, Nile, Congo, Murray, Ganges, Mekong, Yangtze and Amazon Rivers.

At the Mekong River area, we were stopped in our tracks by some filming taking place. I didn't recognise any of the actors, so I think this could be for an advertisement. Although admittedly, I've not watched local TV for a long time, so these could be new faces that I'm not familiar with.
The actors waiting for their cue, and the crew hard at work.

The Mekong catfish, when we finally got to see them.

Located in the Yangtze River habitat is arguably the highlight of the River Safari, the Giant Panda Forest! It was definitely the reason we were there.

The Giant Panda Forest houses golden pheasants, the red pandas, and, of course, the giant pandas.

We only saw Kai Kai, the male panda this time round. Jia Jia, the female, wasn't feeling particularly social.

After seeing the pandas, we stopped for a snack at the Mama Panda Kitchen, where we had, what else, but a Panda Pau (bun).
Isn't it adorable?

By this time, Little Lady was awake from her nap, so it was time to pose for a couple of photos.

The very last exhibit, the Amazon Flooded Forest, is my favourite. It is a humongous freshwater aquarium that depicts the forest when it is submerged by about 10 metres of water when the river overflows. The lighting and the music just add to the sense of wonder and awe when seeing the manatees and other fish swimming around.

The manatees were not terribly active when we visited this time, but an arapaima came over and said 'Hi!' to the Little Man.

It was a fun but not over-tiring day.

Next visit, I'll bring them to Kidzworld within the Zoo, and let them get up close and personal with the animals at the Pets' Corner, as well as some fun at the Wet Play Area.

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

Monday, 2 December 2013

13th Wedding Anniversary

Today is our 13th Wedding Anniversary.

We celebrated it yesterday as it was a Sunday.  We re-visited a place where we had considered holding our wedding, but did not for logistical reasons, Mt Faber.

We took a cable car over to Sentosa, where we had great fun on the Skyline Luge, both going down on the luge, as well as taking the chairlift up again.  We took up the 3 Luge and 3 Skyride package for S$20, which was a lot more value for money than the single Luge and Skyride package for S$13.  There was a 5 Luge and 5 Skyride package (at an even better value at S$28), but we weren't sure we wanted to go that many times.

After exhausting our 3 luge and 3 chairlift rides, we made our way back to Mt Faber and had dinner at The Garden, Spuds and Aprons at the Jewel Box, which, coincidentally was also hosting a wedding.

Hubs had the Pork Belly and I had the Mustard Roast Chicken.

The food was plated nicely on a chopping board and looked nice.  Unfortunately, they looked better than they tasted.  The flavour was sadly lacking.

The best dish was the Chempedak (a type of jackfruit) Bread and Butter Pudding.  Unfortunately, we forgot to take a photo of it before polishing it off.

Fortunately, the view, ambience and the happy, friendly staff (bar one) made up for it, and we had a very pleasant time.

It was nice to go on a date sans kiddos.  (Thanks, Mum!)

Happy Anniversary, Dear.  Here's to many, many more.

Top Toys for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Christmas is coming, and the geese are getting fat. 
Please do put a penny in the old man's hat. 
(I apologise.  I love Christmas songs so.)

It is also time to start thinking about presents, if you haven't already.  (I haven't.)

Recently, a friend asked for suggestions of toys suitable for her 2.5 year old, which got me thinking about the toys the Little Man loved when he was that age (and still does now).  This is a list of toys (tried and tested by Little Man) that encourage open-ended play, curiosity, imagination and creativity.

So, if you are still in the market for toys for young children, here are some for you to consider.

Construction Toys
Blocks / Building Bricks

A mainstay in any toy box.  Ranging from the basic to the fancy, blocks are extremely versatile toys and are suitable for young toddlers up to school-aged children.  Young toddlers can stack them (Little Lady enjoys holding and throwing them at the moment, but she'll eventually try stacking them).  Older toddlers and preschoolers can sort by shape and colour, and build anything they can imagine.  By looking at the pictures on the box or tub, the little ones can learn to follow instructions too (precursor to LEGO and IKEA furniture, where the instructions are completely pictorial).  Now at 3.5, Little Man still takes them out to play.

Train Set

Available in plastic or wooden sets, these are suitable for any train enthusiast or budding engineer.  When younger, the Little Man prefered to power the trains by himself.  He went through a phase where he liked to watch them run on their own, but generally he prefers to create different stories with them and can be occupied for a long time when playing with them.  Little Lady enjoys playing with them too, but generally because whatever her older brother is playing with is much more interesting that what she has.

Marble Run

Another toy that Little Man is fascinated by.  Sadly, we have been playing less of this at the moment because of Little Lady - both because of the choking hazard the marbles pose, but also because she has a tendency to take the structures apart while they are being played with.  The possibilities are endless with this.  And it is just so much fun watching the marbles do their thing.

Lego Duplo
Another classic toy that can fire up the imagination and creativity of children of all ages (and their parents too!).  Both Little Man and Little Lady enjoy playing with these.  The Little Man builds all kinds of things with them while the Little Lady practices connecting them and taking them apart again.

Imaginative Toys
Wooden Doll House

Contrary to popular belief, doll houses are not just for girls.  They are good for all little ones to role-play, and what better environment than the home?  If you are still iffy on the idea of boys playing with dolls (although we are in the new millennium, and they do spend most of their time in houses), you can get more boy themed sets, such as fire stations and police stations , or something more gender neutral such as farm sets . It is an investment, but a worthwhile one, I think.

Kitchen Set

A kitchen set is a wonderful toy for both girls and boys.  It allows young children to mimic the preparation of food, which is excellent for building healthy eating habits in the future. Some friends place theirs in their kitchens so that their little ones can 'cook' alongside their parents.  We don't have enough space in our kitchen for that, but the Little Man enjoys preparing 'meals' for us nonetheless.

Sensory and Investigation Toys

Besides developing their imagination and creativity, playdough is great for developing strength and dexterity of the hands and fingers too.

You could definitely get store-bought playdough , but they are so cheap and easy to make, I prefer to make them myself.  I almost always add some essential oils to them so that they smell great too.

Colour Blocks

A new addition to our toy collection, colour blocks are a very versatile toy.  Little Man builds with them, and explores colour with them.  He likes holding them up to his eyes and seeing the world (our home) through red, blue, yellow and green tinted lenses.  They can also be used to reinforce colour mixing, and are so pretty when the sun shines through them.

Musical Instruments
Our musical instruments get quite a lot of use.  The Little Ones get them out every now and then to just hear what they sound like.  We also sing and dance while playing them.

Water Table

Similar to the one pictured, our water table gets lots of use in good weather, especially when it is sweltering.  Both Little Man and Little Lady love to pour and splash and generally get wet.  We sometimes put in ice cubes so that Little Man can play with his colour changing toys, and the Little Lady gets in some sensory play at the same time.

Games and Puzzles
Pattern Blocks and Board

Little Man is into shapes at the moment.  I was planning to print and cut out some foam shapes for him, but saw this set on sale in a shop.  He uses the boards to place the shapes, but also makes his own patterns with the shapes.

Outdoor Play

Kick Scooter

Little Man's favourite outdoor activity is to go 'adventuring' on his kick scooter .  He's been fearless on it since he was about 2. Thankfully, he's mellowed a little since then.  Little Lady is obviously too young to use it at the moment, but it doesn't stop her from trying, especially after she sees her brother have so much fun on it.

Sand Toys

Living on an island means that we have plenty of access to the beach, and Little Man loves scooping sand and making all kinds of thing.  Little Lady has moved from being interested in sand to wanting to have nothing to do with it.  When she is more comfortable with sand, she'll have plenty to play with.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list of wonderful toys for the little ones.  I was actually aiming for a Top 10 list, but overshot by 3 because I could not bear to leave any out.  

(This post contains affiliate links to my Amazon account.  If you decide to buy something after following a link, it will not affect you in anyway, but I may get small commission, so I thank you in advance. :) )

Little Man: 3 years 6 months
Little Lady: 16 months


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