Review: My First Games - Pylos


When I felt laid my eyes on this game, I was struck by how beautiful it is. I am first and foremost a visual person, and then kinesthetic. When the smooth wooden balls were in my hands, their lovely wood grain and comforting weight were a delight to my senses.

My friend, Pamela of My First Games, and I were meeting up for coffee a couple of weeks after my mother was discharged from hospital after her long illness. The always kind Pam had brought along games that she thought my mother and father would like to play at home, since they were going to be home-bound quite a bit as my mother was still rather weak. Pylos was one of the games, and I have since purchased one set for myself, and another to be gifted to a dear friend soon.



This 2-player game is suitable for older children and adults. Its handy size makes it an ideal game to take along for trips! The basic colours and straightforward rules remind me of my childhood favourite game of Othello! No fancy pieces and pictures, but still loads of fun and friendly competition. The central idea is to aim to place the last ball on the top of the pyramid.



If you follow My First Games's Facebook Page, you will see Pamela's passion in playing games with her three children. It is encouraging to see how she engages each of them in games play, and in the process they learn to follow rules, take turns and strategize, among other skills.

My First Games offers a good variety of games suitable for children of different ages. I have my eye on the popular Spot It!, Froggie Boogie, and Snorta, and recently bought Ticket to Ride Europe for a nephew. Pamela is always very helpful in making games recommendations.

Do pop by My First Games to have a look. It is a great site for picking up games for your children or as gifts!

Review: I-Theatre's Round the Moon, Blue the Sky


We were invited to watch I-Theatre's latest production "Round the Moon, Blue the Sun" this week.

Bun has never been for a theatre show before, and upon seeing that the production is suitable for children from aged 2, I readily said Yes, and looked forward to taking both Bubbles and Bun along.

Here is the synopsis for Round the Moon, Blue the Sky:

::
Why is the moon round? 
Why are there so many colours and shapes in the world? 
Come, journey with Smallest Dragon as she goes in search of answers in a magical, whimsical and colourful world. 

I-Theatre brings you a special collaborative project featuring the best from Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. Round the Moon, Blue the Sky is a fast-paced, lively and physical production about Smallest Dragon. She is always asking questions, poking her nose into things and curious about the world. What are her favourite words? WHY and HOW and WHAT! One night she sees the moon, and wonders why it is the shape that it is. Fascinated, she sets off to find other round things – and quickly realises that there are many other important shapes too. As she explores, she also discovers the wonder of colours! 

Combining a unique blend of physical theatre, riveting puppetry, black light magic and lots of audience interaction, this highly engaging and educational performance is specially tailored for children from 2 to 8 years old; although older children and grownups will find much to amuse, enthrall and engage too! 
::



This 1-hour production is shown in the cozy Alliance Francaise Theatre, a stone's throw from Newton MRT station. Little children were provided with small Ikea footstools to sit on atop the seats, to give them a better view, and sitting stability.

The story centres around three main characters - Smallest Dragon, Leaf and Twiglet. Among the three, Twiglet had a fixed mindset that only certain things can be found in specific shapes and colour - for example, only the Moon is round, and only the Sky is blue. Her friends Smallest Dragon and Leaf helped her to overcome her fear of exploring new ideas and what the world has to offer. It was nice to see her overcome her fear.

The performance included music and dancing, and parts where the children were teased into pointing out characters that were hiding. The children loved these bits and Bubbles joined in to shout and point out the characters "He is there! He is there!" while Bun chuckled and mimicked her sister. The children were also taught to "Look, See, Explore, Discover" - four actions that we remembered after the show ended.



Towards the end of the story, two children were invited on stage to play with some large cut-outs of different shapes. They were asked to form different objects with the shapes. This was quite interesting and Smallest Dragon and Leaf played along as well, forming objects such as an ice-cream cone (a triangle and a circle), and a cat (a circle and two triangles).

This production is based primarily on actions and sounds, with minimal actual conversations. The actors only spoke key words and phrases to make certain points, and would use vocal sounds and other gestures to tell the story. It was interesting to see how little words are needed for the story to unfold. However, on the flip-side, because of this, I feel that this production is probably more suitable for younger children, say 5 and below, as older children may prefer or expect actual words to be spoken or sung.

I was glad that both my girls said a resounding Yes when I asked if they enjoyed the show :)

Children were treated to a photography session with the characters after the show too - a nice keepsake especially as Bun's first brush with theatre.



Round the Moon, Blue the Sky is running till 27 July 2014 and tickets are still available.

The show times are:
Mon - Wed: 10am & 2pm
Thu - Fri: 10am, 2pm & 4pm
Sat & Sun: 10.30am & 2pm

Thank you I-Theatre for providing us with four tickets for the show!

My iHerb Haul: 9 (more) items to buy from iHerb


I shared my first iHerb haul in an earlier post, and listed five items that I liked. Now that several more purchases have been made, here are 9 more favourites to share with you.

If you are a first-time iHerb buyer, I would like to invite you to use my code FLV421 to get up to US$10 off your first order. Stick within the price and weight limit and shipping is a very affordable $4. I have saved a lot shopping on this site!

9 items to buy on iHerb:

1. Country Save Laundry Detergent
This is a recommended detergent for washing cloth diapers! We don't use cloth diapers but we use this detergent for all our laundry. It cleans beautifully - we could tell the difference between this and my former regular detergent. A box like this goes a long way too. We will be sticking to this brand for now!

2. Naturally It's Clean Floors 
My children play on the floor every single day and I felt that we needed a no-nasties floor cleaner for their sake. This one leaves the floor feeling nice and clean, and with no strong scents. Like the laundry detergent, a little goes a long way for this, so each bottle of this size lasts as long as our former supermarket-brand large bottle.

3. NatraCare Organic & Natural Panty Liners
Without TMI, these work well for those of us with more sensitive skins in our nether regions. These are sold in specialty shops here too, but at marked up prices. I have used boxes of these. No complaints!

4. Alba Botanica Even Advanced Deep Sea Facial Mask
Ok I have to admit that I am a lazy bum when it comes to skin care. Still, I enjoy the feeling of a face mask, and this one feels just like you would expect a deep sea face mask to. It is cool and thick, and you can feel the gunk being sucked out of your skin when the mask dries on your face. I just bought this brand's Sea Algae Enzyme Facial Scrub as well, but I have yet to try it!

5. Nature's Gate Natural Toothpaste
I believe in using fluoride-free toothpaste because in Singapore we already have fluoride added to our water, and it is not necessary (or healthy, according to some research), to get too much of it into our bodies. This toothpaste leaves a fresh, minty, clean feeling that I like. It thicker than regular toothpaste so it takes a bit more strength to press this out. After trying this, I topped up my personal supply and bought a tube for my parents to use too!

6. Rainbow Research Baby Oh Baby Organic Herbal Shampoo (Unscented)
I bought this for my children to try and we quite like it. I found the pumping mechanism useful too. My first purchase was the scented version. I actually really liked the scent and I loved to sniff my children's hair after a shampoo. However, my gut feel is that it is usually better to go scent-free, so I bought this instead! But it is a personal preference really!

7. Yum Earth Organics Gummy Bears (10 Snack Packs)
This is fantastic for parties - to be part of goody bags or stuffed in pinatas! Most parents will prefer their children eating these than many other nasty candies out there. I will also consider popping these into snack/lunch boxes as a special treat!

8. Yum Earth Organics Organic Pops Assorted Flavours (50 Pops)
Another great find for parties (and the reason why I bought them!) I also keep some in my kitchen to serve as rewards, or to be whipped out when my kids are ill and need some cheering up. The price is unbeatable.

9. Nurture Inc, (Happy Baby), happyyogis Yoghurt & Fruit Snacks
Bun has taken a fond liking to these organic yoghurt snacks and I have purchased them in all sorts of flavours. If your children like these, the prices here are better than most shops in Singapore.

That's it! Another 9 great buys that have served us well.

Let me know if you like these recommendations!

Psst..my friend L has also listed some of her fave iHerb buys here. That skin cleanser looks like a must-try!

Mint Museum of Toys


I wrote about visiting the Mint Museum of Toys on my day out, and thought to share some photos of what I saw in the museum.

The short visit was enjoyable, and the whole notion of being on my own felt magnified when I realised that I was the only visitor during the time I was there. (It was slightly spooky initially, to be in darkened rooms with dolls staring down!) However, the delightful experience of being able to take my time to read the write-ups and look closely at the exhibits probably did present to me a rose-tinted view of the place, as any place would, given the situation.


Still, for the sake of a light-hearted walk down memory lane, this museum is worth a 30-40 minute visit. I would not recommend it for young children though, as the toys and memorabilia are all encased in glass units - there is nothing to touch or to interact with. The glass casings (that were slightly grimy in some places), and the lighting made photography quite a challenge, and I therefore snapped photos with the intention of showing them to my children, without the additional effort to get perfect shots.

Here are some of the exhibits that caught my eye, see if they jog memories for you too!

A day of exploring and reflecting

There was one special day last week that I spent mostly alone. It was a day carved out for me to enjoy some solitude and to do some quiet reflections. As someone whose days and weeks go by in such a flurry of activity, that one day was something I really looked forward to, and planned for.

I put some thought into how I wanted to spend my time. A day can go by in a flash if not planned well. Instead of the usual self-pampering massage or a long-needed hair treatment, I felt drawn to doing something quite different. I wanted to put on my explorer hat and to bring with me a sense of wonder as I did some wandering. Exploring the city on foot seemed so appealing, perhaps because I am less likely able to do properly with my children in tow. I downloaded a number of these heritage trails to consider, and hope to do more exploring in the near future!

In the end, I decided to spend my time around the Bras Basah area of Singapore, within the Civil District, just to enjoy the architecture in the area and poke my nose into little shops. I also made time to visit the Mint Museum of Toys, a place I have been meaning to see.



The plan was to first get some exercise by walking, followed by sitting somewhere for breakfast and to journal, and then to take a walk down memory lane by visiting the museum. I later had a long, slow, and I daresay very enjoyable lunch at Saveur all by myself (I chewed so very slowly and sipped my wine), before making my way into Bras Basah Complex, visiting favourites like Evernew, Basheer Graphic Books and Cat Socrates, among other shops.


Throughout the day, I had turned off social media notifications and for the most part ignored the phone. It felt a little awkward at first but then there was also sense of liberation to be in the present totally uninterrupted, to think and to take in all that was around me. I felt like I was seeing clearer, breathing better, and was just really aware of my being and my surroundings. It took me a while to get used to eating without looking at my phone (a bad habit I have when I eat alone), but because I had all the time for my meal, I soon got the hang of it, and even enjoyed the experience. 

I ended the day with a some thoughts and a super long to-do list scribbled in my notebook. Many on the list are boring, unexciting things, but looking at them as a whole, and knowing the thought-processes and plans behind each one, has been encouraging to me. The heart is more settled, the brains in less of a disarray, and I have emerged more centered and ready to tackle reality, craziness and all.

Old School Delights, Upper Thomson Road


Old School Delights has been on my "must-try" list for a while, and it was with delight that we made our way there recently. Located along a stretch of shophouses along Upper Thomson Road, it is a little eatery with a menu (and decor) aimed to take one back to the good old childhood days of those of us who grew up in Singapore.

The place is deck out with chalkboard walls and old school toys on each table for patrons to play with. It also sells tidbits and toys from yesteryear that many of us grew up with.




We were given a little whiteboard to write our orders on (can you guess which is mine versus Roboman's handwriting?), which was a bit of a novelty. The food was surprisingly good and true to the flavours we remember and were expecting. I really liked my Hainanese Chicken Rice and thought the portions to be generous. The Tuckshop Wings were good too although more decadent than I remember the chicken wings sold at my schools to be!

Roboman was most impressed with the Kueh Pie Tee, one of the best we have had around. The shell was not as thin and melt-in-your-mouth as we get at our aunts' homes during Chinese New Year, but the fillings really hit the mark. My children could not resist the rich chocolate cake, and I have to admit that we did indulge them that day!


Old School Delights is worth a trek to visit. I must warn you that parking can be quite a pain. It is mainly parallel parking along a narrow road, and at peak hours be prepared to either wait for a spot or park much further away and walk. We will go back for the food, especially the Kueh Pie Tee.

Old School Delights 
215M Upper Thomson Road 
Singapore 574349 
Tel: 6458 4518 

Opening Hours: 
Tuesday to Friday - 11.30am - 10.30pm 
Saturday to Sunday - 11am - 10.30pm

A post-dinner performance treat


One evening after dinner, my children decided that it was a perfect time for a picnic. We packed a little picnic basket and a picnic mat, and trooped out to somewhere nearby. It was late - maybe 8ish - but my girls were in their element of childlike wonder, exclaiming about how beautiful everything was, the stars, the breeze etc.

Suddenly Bubbles told Roboman that her sister and her were going to perform for us. Without missing a beat, Bun immediately took her place next to her sister on top of a bench.

We were treated to a ballet performance followed by a monkey dance, and a grand finale of Kungfu Panda moves. (Bubbles gave a running commentary along with the performance by the way, and her sidekick was an ever enthusiastic one who followed instructions pretty well.)

I took these grainy photos with a hand shaking from all my laughing, and they have cheered me up many times since that magical evening.

Giveaway by Lorna Whiston: Phonics Tales Book Set by Scholastic


If you have read my post on Lorna Whiston's Short Course on Reading and Phonics for Adults, this is a follow-up entry with a nice giveaway.

Lorna Whiston is offering a set of Phonics Tales - 25 Read-Aloud Storybooks that Teach Key Phonic Skills to one reader!

To enter the draw, will you need to do is to go to this Facebook post and leave a comment: "I want this for......pick me!" This giveaway is available to residents in Singapore, and will end on Wednesday 9 July 10pm. One winner will be picked thereafter.

All the best!

Review: Lorna Whiston's Short Course on Reading & Phonics for Adults


Children in Singapore today are mostly taught to read by learning phonics. I was from the generation where phonics was not taught in school, and when I saw Bubbles having to learn it, I found that I had to learn along with her.

When I was asked by Rise & Shine if I wanted to attend a sponsored short course on reading and phonics by Lorna Whiston, one of their partners, I could not say no. Prior to this, I had no idea that such a course was available! This programme is designed for teachers and parents supporting children aged 3-7 years in reading and phonics. Each class is 2-hours long, held over four evenings, one evening a week. As I have no prior knowledge or formal experience in this subject, I attended Level 1.


The cohort I was in had about 13 students. Among us were teachers, parents of young children, a volunteer who helps underprivileged children with their schoolwork, and a grandmother of a pre-schooler. It was a cozy group of interested participants.

Our class lecturer was Rose Griffiths, a teacher from Lorna Whiston. She brings with her years of teaching experience both in Singapore and in the UK. Primarily an early childhood educator, she teaches a number of classes for children at Lorna Whiston. Her experience helped her provide breadth and depth of examples of what works, possible challenges, and common issues early readers face. I found her to be succinct, patient and deliberate in her teaching, making the class worthwhile and interesting.

It was clear from Day 1 that the base knowledge of the class was quite varied, and I was curious to see how this would be handled. I found that she was able to create a safe environment for questions to be asked, and kept herself available after each class for quick discussions about specific issues that were beyond the scope of the class. Being a facilitator myself in my day job, I observed that Ms Griffiths included many techniques to engage the group, many of whom were naturally tired after coming by from a day's work. While she is not a high energy lecturer, she was able to give a good pace to the lessons through different group and individual activities, including games, to effectively engage the class and increase participation in discussions.

The course objectives and class dates are stated in the poster below:


What did I learn in the Level 1 programme?

Some of the content covered include:
  • Teaching Phonics - Where to begin?
  • Teaching Letter Names
  • Sight Words 
  • Different Approaches to Teaching Reading 
  • Stages of Phonetic Development 
  • The Importance of Alliteration 
  • Phonemic Awareness 
  • Blends 
  • Word Families 
  • Focus on Rhymes, Rhythm, Print, Meaning 

For all of these topics, Ms Griffiths gave many examples of games and activities that we can use to teach our children. The class had the opportunity to play some of these games and try out a few activities. We were taught how to help children to be aware of sounds and shapes/letters that will form the basic foundation of reading. We were also pointed to many useful resources that we can consider using - things like books, learning materials, toys, and websites. I found many of the ideas shared very useful, and wished that I knew some of them earlier, when Bubbles was younger! I really liked that Ms Griffiths emphasized many times that every child is different - each child learns at a different pace and in different ways. She was however also able to empathize with many of the parents in the group, as most knew about the high standards children here are expected to hit once they reach primary school! She did her best to offer helpful suggestions as solutions to problems some of us faced with our children.

All in all, I found the course well-worth the time spent, and for the price of S$240 + GST, a reasonable investment. Light refreshments like drinks and biscuits are provided in class but if you think you will get hungry, do try to grab an early dinner! There are many options in United Square. You may want to bring along a cardigan/jacket too as it can get a little chilly. I also carried my own ring file along to serve as a table-top to write on, and a place to keep the handouts.

If you are a homeschooling parent, my feel is that this course will be really useful to you. The ideas and tips shared are quite invaluable. As a parent of children who are (and will be) attending a Montessori pre-school, I found some of the ideas familiar as my children's school use similar methods of teaching. It was encouraging for me learn of ways where I could continue similar threads of learning at home. The course also highlighted some mistakes I made in "teaching" my children to read - mainly things I did not even think of doing, and how I emphasized on certain wrong things. As I mentioned above, I really wished I attended this course earlier so that I could have been a better support to Bubbles. Still, I am glad is not too late, and I will be doing some fun activities at home to encourage her to read.

If you are interested to sign-up for the next run of the classes (dates above), do contact Jane at 6348 7550. If you would like to find out more about the programme, you can email Ms Rose Griffiths herself at rosemarygriffiths@lornawhiston.com.sg.

Lorna Whiston has offered a set of storybooks from Scholastic that teach key phonic skills to one of A Dollop of Me's readers. Look out for the next post on the giveaway!

(Credits: Photos and Image used in this post are courtesy of Lorna Whiston)

Kranji Countryside Farmers' Market

(Image Credit: http://sgfarming.wordpress.com/)


There are few shopping experiences that I enjoy more than pottering around at farmers' markets! I was thus thrilled when my friend Delphine alerted us about the inaugural Kranji Countryside Farmers' Market organized by the Kranji Countryside Association. Unfortunately, we made it there late (7ish in the evening), and many of the stalls were either closed or closing, with most stalls not prepared for the crowd. A happy problem for an inaugural run, I say!

Coincidentally we bumped into Delphine and her family as they were leaving. Do pop by her blog for better day-time photos of the market.



Although we were not there for very long, we still managed to buy a few things, and Bubbles even got a chance to do some pottery. The people at the stalls were all really friendly, and it was so pleasant just going around chatting with them and looking at all the interesting produce and goods.

I had Bun on my hips for most of the time we were there, so forgive these photos taken with one shaky hand. There was obviously a lot more than I managed to photograph! I particular, I did not photograph any of the fresh produce (as I already have a full fridge at home) but there were many stalls selling those. Do go pay the market a visit to see the stalls yourself if you can, there is still Day 2 (Sunday). Well worth a visit! I am looking forward to this market happening more often!

You can view the list of vendors here.


Kranji Countryside Farmers’ Market
28 and 29 June, 2014 (4pm to 10pm) (But do try to go as early as possible!)
D’Kranji Farm Resort 
10 Neo Tiew Lane 2, Singapore 718813 

Free shuttles will leave from YEW TEE MRT STATION BUS STOP to D’KRANJI FARM RESORT at 4pm, 4.45pm, 5.30pm, 6.15pm, 7pm and 7.45pm. These shuttles will return from D’KRANJI FARM RESORT to YEW TEE MRT STATION at approximately 4.20pm, 5.05pm, 5.50pm, 6.35pm, 7.20pm and 8.05pm.