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

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:

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.

InterContinental Planet Trekkers Menu & Dinner Party

InterContinental Hotels Group is rolling out its new signature InterContinental Planet Trekkers Menu, created exclusively for children, across its InterContinental® Hotels & Resorts properties. Designed exclusively for young InterContinental hotel guests by award winning chef Theo Randall and child food expert and best-selling international author Annabel Karmel MBE, the new menu was developed from start to finish with nutrition and food exploration at its core. This menu will be available from end-July 2014.

In celebration of the launch, InterContinental Singapore hosted an exclusive dinner party for over 20 children. We were privileged to attend this party, where the foodie feast took guests on a culinary adventure, treating us to a first taste of the new menu. Food explorers were served a selection of appetisers, main courses and desserts, including Smiley Tomato Soup, Broccoli Sweet Corn Fritters, Spaghetti Bolognese with Hide & Seek Vegetables, Wok & Roll Pad Thai, Iced Watermelon Popsicles, Lychee Frogurt and Chocolate Brownie Ice Cream Sundae.

Bubbles absolutely loved the tomato soup, and Bun liked the burger patties! We often use in-room dining when we travel with our children, and knowing the care that went into planning this signature children's menu does impress. You can see that there is a variety of classic favourites and international delights that reflect the breadth of the 60 countries that the InterContinental Hotels Group is based in.

The hotel also treated young guests to a make-your-own Frogurt buffet, a magic show by the affable Mr Bottle, and had balloons sculpted for them by N2 The Balloon Ranger.

Mr Bottle in particular was a hit with the kids. I have never seen Bun laugh so hard at a performance! She was throwing her head back and laughing out loud at his antics! She even went up when he asked for volunteers, solemnly nodding to both his questions (Are you 2 years' old? Are you married?) before realizing that she was facing a crowd and away from me!

Thank you InterContinental Singapore for a fun dinner party. We look forward to ordering from the Planet Trekkers Menu the next time we are at one of the InterContinental properties!

(Photo Credits: 1st two photos are courtesy of InterContinental Singapore)

Lorong Selamat Food Stalls, Penang

While in Penang, Roboman and I left our girls with my-laws for half a day to see the sights in Georgetown on our own. We hired a taxi driver to take us around to visit some historical landmarks, and to make a pit-stop for lunch.

We told the good man that we wanted to go to a place where we could eat a variety of Penang street food, and he dropped us off at a corner coffee-shop at Lorong Selamat.

The place looked tiny, and unpromising, but we got off anyway, choosing to trust our driver's recommendation. To our pleasant surprise we enjoyed the food so much, and later found out that this place is rather well-known! In fact, TripAdvisor lists it as a place where you can find the "World's No. 1 Char Kway Teow".

We first placed an order for char kway teow, and were told we had to wait for 30 minutes! Roboman and I used those 30 minutes very well, ordering other dishes like Oyster Omelette, Penang Prawn Noodles, and Penang Laksa. The latter two were fantastic, while the oyster omelette was just good, in comparison.

I am hungry just looking at these photos!

Penang Prawn Noodles
Penang Laksa

Oyster Omelette

And here are two photos of the famous Char Kway Teow, each plate with 3 big juicy prawns. This dish did not come cheap though, at MYR$8.50 per plate!

I highly recommend this place if you are visiting Penang and do not have much time to spare looking for good street eats. You can get almost all the famous dishes here. The place is buzzing with both locals and visitors, and it is because the food is good, if not cheap. Another advantage of this place is that it is not far from Georgetown's tourist sites, so you do not need to travel far to fit this into your schedule.

Lorong Selamat Food Stalls
Off Jalan Burma, Chinatown
Penang Island

pout's eco.kid and Circle of Friends Review and Discount Code

We were on a beach holiday in Penang recently and we brought along with us a few hair products from pout. We were offered three products to try, and I picked all hair products because those are what  my often-tangled-haired girls need most right now! They like to swim, and have fine hair, so their hair gets dry and so messy. I sometimes joke that they have birds' nests on their heads!

The three products we tried (L-R): eco.kid Daily Tonic Leave-in Conditioner (S$19.50), eco.kid Hydrate Intense Conditioner (S$19.50), and Circle of Friends Kylie's Pre-swim Conditioner (S$28).

I am not sure about your children, but mine really detest getting their hair brushed. It is a chicken and egg problem because when their hair is tangled, it is painful to have it brushed. But then hair does not untangle itself!

Bun also hates having her hair washed, so putting shampoos and conditioners are always an issue at bath time. Fortunately Bubbles is now alright with getting hair washes, so that is one less problem for me. Still, I chose a leave-in conditioner to try because hey, it is just a spray! No more screams at bath-time to get hair nice and smooth!

So here is the result of a couple of sprays on Bubbles' regular bed head. Note that I did not comb or brush her hair after I put on the conditioner. I simply ran my fingers through her hair, and smoothed it down a little when my hands! Not bad, huh? Even Bubbles was impressed when I showed her these photos!

The Hydrate Intense Conditioner is very rich, and great for regular swimmers. It has a mild scent and a thick texture like this:
You may like to know that eco.kid products are certified organic. They are made in Australia and formulated for kids aged 3-12. There are no silicones, sulphates, biocide preservatives, artificial fragrances and artificial colouring. Products are anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory.

And how about Kylie's Pre-swim Conditioner?
Our verdict is that it was very easy to use. I simply sprayed it on my children's hair after they were plastered with sunblock on their bodies! The spray comes out as a fine mist, so it was easy to get it all over the hair. It has a slight coconut fragrance.

The product information states that this conditioner helps to protect hair from turning green, breaking and drying. It also contains an exclusive blend of polymers, emollients and Vitamin B5. I found that my children's hair did not have that over-chlorinated dry feeling to it after their swims with this product. I like it, and if they keep up with regular swimming like that do now, I will definitely be purchasing this product when it runs out!

pout is now offering a special discount to my readers!

Use discount code: 
to get 10% off your purchases. 
Valid till Sunday 6 July 2014

Happy shopping!

ACT 3 Drama Academy Workshop: "There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly"

Bubbles was invited to attend an arts-filled workshop over the weekend conducted by Act 3 Drama Academy. Based on the amusing story "There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly", the children (aged 4-8) were treated to a performance, participated in a drama workshop, experienced some visual arts activities and interacted with an exhibition.

As it was a drop-off programme, I hung out a while at the start before leaving Bubbles at the ION Art Gallery where the workshop was held, and went off to get lost in the crowded mall. When I returned 15 minutes before the session ended, Bubbles gave me a grin, waved, and said "See you later, Mum!", before skipping off to continue her activity. I quickly asked: "Did you have fun?", as she ran off exclaiming: "Yes!"

From what I saw, the children were well-engaged in the activities. They were split into groups after watching the performance, so that in smaller numbers they moved around the space to participate in the various elements of the workshop.

Bubbles particularly enjoyed the craft work, as well as the opportunity to add to the wall murals. She proudly showed me her drawing on the wall at the end of the session.

Many children were obviously taken by the doodling station, where through clever use of hidden buttons rigged on a table, they were able to see their own drawings come to live on the screen!

This run of the drama workshop has ended, but you can sign your child (3-7yo) up for a 2-hour workshop in September: The Owl Who Never Speaks.

There is also another week left of the 5-day June Holiday Drama Workshops to consider, if you need something to fill-up the last week of the school holidays!

The following five-day workshops took place from 2 to 6 June, 9 to 13 June, and 16 to 20
June, and and will take place too from 23 to 27 June 2014.

To the Land of the Wild
Inspired by Maurice Sendak’s ‘Where the Wild Things Are’, 3 to 5 year olds will embark on
an adventure through forests and oceans, and meet zany characters along the way!
S$300 per child.

The Little Quest
Children will go on an adventure with the debonair mouse named Stuart Little as he faces comic misadventures during the journey. Suitable for 6 to 8 year olds.
S$300 per child.

Expedition Weird, Wild and Wonderful
This workshop is an opportunity for 9 to 12 year olds to go on a journey in search of treasure just like how the Famous Five did in Enid Blyton’s ‘Five on an Island’.
$380 per child.

Adventures in Middle Earth
Strange and amazing creatures come together on a journey across Middle Earth to attain what they wish for. Teens aged 13 to 16 will be challenged with character work and achieving a sense of mastery as they story tell and dramatise.
S$450 per child.

To register for the workshops, parents are invited to book online at, call ACT 3 Drama Academy at (65) 6735 9986, email at or visit the premises located at ONE-TWO-SIX Cairnhill Arts Centre, 126 Cairnhill Road. More information can also be found on the website.

An exciting new project: petite travellers!

I am so excited to share with you about a new collaborative project that a few of my friends and I have started. We have launched a new blog called petite travellers!

This blog aims to document family-friendly holidays for discerning little people. There will also be travel tips and other interesting content about travelling with children.

I have contributed a post based on our recent visit to Batu Ferringhi in Penang. You can read my post here

We would love for you to visit this new page and to tell us what you think! Comments on the page will be much appreciated, so do pop over to show some love, ok?

You can also connect with petite travellers on Instagram (@petitetravellers) and on Facebook. Come travel with us on our new space!

Media Book Launch of "Dear Mister Cat" by Elieth Sardiñas

I recently attended a media book launch of "Dear Mister Cat", a children's book written and beautifully illustrated by Elieth Sardiñas. Elieth is one of two winners of Nandos Singapore's "Dear Nando's" contest, and had her wish of self-publishing this book fulfilled through a full-sponsorship by Nandos.

At the event, Nandos treated us to a lovely spread of their specialties, including the tasting of a new dish called Espetada Carnival - marinated chicken chunks kebab-style, stuffed with feta cheese and garlic. I have always been a Nandos fan and used to insist on a meal whenever I had a chance abroad, before the chain arrived on Singapore's shores. I adore spice and I like grilled meats, so Nandos' spicy Peri-Peri chicken really hits the spot for me.

We were also served a number of their designer drinks that included fresh fruit and herbs. They were refreshing on the palate!

Elieth also made an adorable felt cat pin for every guest. Such a lovely gesture!

"Dear Mister Cat" is a heart-warming story of love, adventure and imagination. You can pre-order the book on Elieth's website here. It is retailing for S$15.

Shopping for Shoes at Zalora

I am sure most of you would have heard of the fashion focused online shopping site Zalora. It offers over 500 brands and is present not only in Singapore but also in Indonesia, Malaysia & Brunei, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Hong Kong.

I myself have been acquainted with it for some time, as my sister is a fan of the site. She does quite a bit of her clothing shopping through them!

Recently, I had a bit of time to browse through their site more thoroughly, and was impressed with the large variety of fashion products that they carry. After being assured by my sister about their hassle-free returns policy, I signed up for an account and ordered a number of items.

To my pleasant surprise, my items arrived really quickly, within 3 days, and each packed neatly in plastic. I tried on all the items, kept those that fit, and sealed back those that did not. It was like having a store's fitting room in one's own house! I then filled out the form provided - it was easy to just tick of the reasons for the return - put the items I did not want back in the plastic envelope, and dropped it off at the post office. In just a few days, I received an email informing me that my money has been refunded! I was impressed by how easy it was.

The two items that I bought from the site - a top and a skirt - have served me well too, and I wear them often!

Having had this lovely experience, I told Zalora that I am ready to partner them to share more about their site on my blog, so here is my first post...and it is about SHOES!

Shoes at Zalora

Zalora carries almost 100 brands of shoes on their site - for both men and women. Like Zalora's clothing offerings, you will see affordable options, regular high street finds, and many popular brands like Melissa, Betsey Johnson, Steve Madden, Nine West, Aldo, Dr Martens, and Nike, among many others.

Here are a few of my picks - in the 3 broad categories that I classify my own shoes in!

Comfy choices for running about with the kids:
Brands from L-R: Melissa, Koumi Koumi, Koumi Koumi, Nine West


Non-boring pumps for work:

Brands from L-R: Aldo, Edge, Steve Madden, Koumi Koumi


Get-into-my-shoe-closet-now gorgeous things: 

Brands from L-R: Nine West, Betsey Johnson, Blink, Edge

I had fun picking out these shoes, and I hope you enjoyed the eye candy! Do have a browse around the site yourself and see if anything catches your fancy!

(This post is brought to you by Zalora Singapore. Photo credits: The words, opinions, and photo layouts are my own.)

Capturing Kids at Play with Canon Singapore: The ABCDE of Photographing Kids!

Being such homebodies they are, I seldom take my girls to events unless I am absolutely sure that they will enjoy them. When Canon Singapore invited our family to spend an afternoon at Fidgets, I knew that it will be an event that will be a hit for everyone.

While the children were treated to a choice of cupcake baking, arts and craft, or free play at the large indoor playground, the adults had the opportunity to attend a talk by Bob Lee, a photographer and former photojournalist. Canon also provided us a big tea of sausages, pizzas and sandwiches.

Bob was an effective, personable speaker who quickly built a rapport with the group with his funny anecdotes and stories about his family. He gave us quick tips on photographing children, using many beautiful photographs of his own as examples. In particular, most of his photographs were of his only son, for whom both Bob and his wife decided to take on freelance work, so that they could spend more time with him. There were several touching moments when he shared special snapshots of his son, each picture telling an interesting story.

Here's a summary of the photography tips he shared:

His tips for G-Z is to Just Keep Shooting! Indeed :) My greatest takeaway from all of his examples however, was that photographs should tell a story. Most of us already sort of know that, but I am going to try to be able to be more conscious about this in my photography from now on.

After the talk, we were given free reign to enter the Little Baker's Cottage to take photographs of the children at work. Here are some of photos of the cupcake making session:

Thank you Canon Singapore for the lovely afternoon!

Writing Process Blog Hop

Lyn of Little Blue Bottle introduced this blog hop to me. We have known each other since our wedding preparation days, and incidentally got hitched on the very same date in March 2007! Fast forward a couple of years and we are both now mothers with two little girls each. 

You can see Lyn's Writing Process Blog Hop blog entry here. Besides myself, Lyn has also linked to Life Is In the Small Things.

Just for the record, I do not usually take part in blog hops or linkys but was drawn to this one as it gives me an opportunity to take you "behind the scenes" of this blog. I hope that you enjoy reading my responses as well as the entries of other writers that are linked to this hop!

a. What am I working on? 
I am putting in place content ideas, mainly in the areas of health and lifestyle. After a few years of writing about children and family, I am ready to restart my engine to write about other areas that I am interested in and enjoy. You can expect to see more posts about living a healthy lifestyle, reviews of food places, and fashion posts!

Besides content, I am constantly tweaking the blog design, the sidebar banners, and other nitty gritty adjustments to make the blog read better. I have plans to grow the blog's community but have to wait till I have more time on my hands!

b. How does my work differ from others in its genre? 
A Dollop of Me has in recent years been classified as a family blog because (let's be honest) I cannot resist writing about my children and family life. One thing that sets my blog apart from the majority of family blogs is that I do not use real names, and I stop putting facial photographs of my children once they reach a certain age. Protecting their privacy is something that is important to me, and I believe I can still write good pieces and reviews without putting them out there. Happy family photos and close-ups of facial expressions are kept for private viewing! I am well aware that this decision may (and perhaps has) made A Dollop of Me less enticing to corporate sponsors, but that is something I understand and can live with!

c. Why do I write what I do? 
This question is a hard one to answer because the WHY about keeping up with this blog has changed over the years. Right now, it feels like this space has become so much a part of my life that it will be difficult to let it go. It has been years since I have written in a public space in a rather personal manner, and while the blog has grown tremendously in terms of readership and opportunities, it still feels like a safe and happy place to be. I write today because I enjoy sharing experiences, using photographs to tell stories, and having a conversation with the wider world.

d. How does my writing process work? 
I almost feel embarrassed to answer this question! In the past year, I have not been as systematic as I would like to have been with writing and publishing blog posts. It was a conscious decision to prioritize the family, in particular my two girls. That said, I am looking forward to July when Bun starts playschool and there will be a short window of time in the mornings to get work done!

In general, however, I will start a blog entry with an idea about what I want to say, and then put in photographs (or images) to complement the piece. I keep a list of ideas for blog posts that I hope to write, and will work through these ideas as and when I obtain the additional information (links, photos, quotes etc) that I need to write a post. Each blog entry can take a few hours to put together, including time taken to gather information, take photographs, and edit images and writing. The satisfaction of publishing a good blog post is my reward.


Now, I would like to invite you to hop over to these lovely blogs that I enjoy:

1. Little Projects In Style
(Writing Process Post Here)

2. Bubsicles

3. A Happy Mum 
(Writing Process Post Here)