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Posts Tagged ‘Toddler’

At last week’s Asian Festival of Children’s Content, I was a speaker on the panel topic “Talking about a Love for Reading”, where I shared tips that I use to make reading fun for my tot.

Ways to make reading fun for young children

Make Reading Fun for Young Children

At 3 months old, Caleb was a captive audience because he had to sit there until I reached the final page and announced “The End”. But once he past 6 months, he crawled off, and later ran off after he gleefully closed the book and shouted “The End”.

So, I devised ways to sustain his interest:

1. Read on

If he walked off, I simply said, “Okay, I will read the book to myself.” I realised then that he was listening because if I paused, he ran back or looked up from play to ask why. It pays off because he now asks me to read to him.

2. Dramatise

When I read Caleb the picture book Guess How Much I Love You, I used stuff toy rabbits to enact the scenes. I also had him play Little Nutbrown Hare whilst I played Big Nutbrown Hare.

3. Skip Words, Talk Pictures

At times, I skipped some words and talked through the pictures with him, spending more time on pages which piqued his interest.

4. Go with Interest

Caleb loves cars and trucks so I look out for such picture books even if they put me to sleep.

Check out Baby Center’s post for more tips on “How to Make Reading Fun”.

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Mastercard had a very catchy ad on a credit card for women which ended with the tagline – the men don’t get it. I really did get that tagline this weekend.

Caleb-haircuttingYesterday, Caleb had his first professional haircut at a kiddy hair salon since he was born. A master cut. And I was completely unprepared for it.

It started innocuously enough when Ben said, “Shall we try to see if he will sit still for his first professional haircut? I saw a kiddy hair salon at West Coast Mall.”

“Well, okay,” I said, without much expectation. I didn’t think he would sit through anyway.

We went in, explained to the hairdresser that it was Caleb’s first time and he might not cooperate.

She seemed prepared enough. She popped in the Despicable Me DVD and switched on the little TV screen positioned right in front of the barber highchair, sat Caleb in it and put the barber sheet around him.

No protest or resistance. Hmm. I wondered.

She offered Caleb some sweets – coincidentally the same ones he likes. He took it and held onto it.

“Would you like to have a sweet now?”

“Not yet,” he said, holding on to it like treasure.

“Not too short,” I told the hairdresser Auntie.

“Yes, yes. Layered, okay?” She took out a kiddy razor and started to raze inches off the hair on Caleb’s neck.

The next thing I knew, chunks of hair fell to the ground.

“Too short,” I exclaimed as I started to panic.

“It’s okay,” Ben told the hairdresser.

Next thing I knew, it was too short and too late. With strangely no protest from Caleb, obvious delight from Ben, and the razor going zzzng zznng, my heart sank lower and lower.

“He looks like G.I. Joe,” I cried. “I prefer the mushroom hair, like Rain’s!” (the Korean pop star, not wet weather).

Ben chuckled. “It’s nice. Anyway, it will grow out in a month.”

I can barely recognise my baby that evening after his haircut

I can barely recognise my baby that evening after his haircut

“But he looks like a different kid. Not mine,” I protested weakly. After 3 years of cutting Caleb’s hair myself, this was too much for me to take in one afternoon.

“Do you like your new haircut?” Ben asked.

“Yes,” Caleb answered. “But like it a bit longer.”

“My baby!” I cried.

“I’m a big boy,” Caleb replied.

“Now you look just like Daddy!” my overly delighted husband enthused.

Caleb looked at my glum face, then chimed in,”Look like mummy too.”

When we got into the car, I stared at Caleb and said,” I’m so sad.”

“It’s all right,” Caleb replied, as though he was the adult.

Today’s haircut wasn’t just a haircut. It was a rite of passage.

The same rite of passage as when:
– I permed my hair Maggie Mee style in Sec 1. when tight curls were all the rage (think Kelly McGillis in Top Gun, Maggie Cheung and Cherie Chung in the 1980s Hong Kong movies). And I did it because the school rules finally permitted us to.

– I snipped it all off in college, page boy style (like a J-Pop star and the drummer girl in The Breakfast Club)

– as when I grew it out into a shaggy bob in University

– snipped it off after I broke up with my first boyfriend, grew it back for my first job, snipped it short and sharp when I started work at a male-dominated environment, doing acquisitions at Raffles Hotels & Resorts

– and finally went to a short girly bob ala Mary Poppins style to go with my new chapter as a children’s books author

And those moments were planned, agonized over with time spent poring over photos in magazines. Each major hairstyle change signified a new season in my life.

And then there was this weekend, snipped off without any preparation or warning. Caught offguard.

Caleb with his Rain hairstyle, by Mummy

Caleb with his Rain hairstyle, by Mummy

Caleb’s first master cut wasn’t just a professional hair job. It was a rite of passage for me as a first-time mum. With that big snip, my baby looks twice his age now. A big boy. Minus baby cuteness. Unrecognisable from the back.

One day, Caleb will grow up. In time to come, he will decide his own hairstyle. He will want to look older.

But for now, he’s still three. He’s still my baby. And I can’t wait for the next two months when his hair will grow back out again to his mushroom Rain hairstyle.

Men don’t get it.

Sniff sob.

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In Prince Bear & Pauper Bear, a sad teddy bear without a mouth finds his voice when a boy brings him home and repairs him.

Now, Pauper Bear, Rusty Horse, Just Teddy and Bunny have all found new voices…thanks to compatibility with smart pen Pen Pal Whizz!

books + penPrince Bear & Pauper Bear, The Tale of Rusty Horse, Just Teddy and Bunny Finds The Right Stuff have just been reprinted in a new paperback edition with features similar to a print version of a book app, so to speak.

With the tap of smart pen Pen Pal Whizz,
– a narrator reads the story
– the book characters speak (with additional scripts which tie with the story text)
– bonus game questions on each page spread reinforce key points of the story

Check it out here!

My paperback titles are now available in Singapore through:
– Leading bookstores in Singapore
JLB Educational Technology (exclusive distributor for Pen Pal whizz)
The Learning Connection‘s Prince Bear & Pauper Bear mobile theatre shows to preschools
– Marketasia Distributors

For a demo of the pen and my book, you can go to JLB’s year-long booth at MPH Bookstore at Raffles City or contact JLB directly.

Related link:

The Gingerbread Mum – review of The Tale of Rusty Horse and Bunny Finds The Right Stuff

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I was recently invited to contribute an article to an anthology titled Healthy Kids. Happy Kids. by Lyndon Yeo (published by Write Editions).

I’m reproducing my article here:

Give that “Being” to your Kids

As an author of children’s books, I’ve met and spoken with many young children in the course of author visits and school talks. As a stay-home mother to Caleb, my spirited two-year old, I see what makes my child happy on a daily basis. From these experiences, I would surmise that there are few common things which make children happy:

1) Being involved

 During my author visits, I usually ask for a few helpers to assist me with the reading session. It might be flipping the pages of the books in tandem with my reading so that their classmates can see the pictures. Or, it could be holding the stuff toys that are part of the act. I always get lots of eager hands shooting up to volunteer.

At home, my two-year old loves to be in the thick of things. When he saw his grandfather using a magic mop to clean the floor, he joined in. He would hold the lower end of the mop and mop along, although he was really just being swung back and forth with the mop!

Young children like to be involved and that is a good thing.

2) Being heard and validated

I like to always like to ask questions during my book readings to hear the views of the children and see their emotional response to the story. Of course, it’s also nice to hear other voices other than my own for a change!

The children who share their thoughts about the story display a sense of pride when I agree with them or validate their viewpoints. And when the others see that there is no right or wrong answer, they are more emboldened to speak up and be heard.

3) Being accepted

Several of my books revolve around the themes of identity, acceptance and self-worth. I notice that these always touch a strong chord with the children because they too have a strong need to belong and feel accepted by their peers.

When I wrote Prince Bear & Pauper Bear, I personally rooted for Pauper Bear, the badly stitched bear, and assumed that children would also like him over Prince Bear. I was surprised to discover that arrogant Prince Bear was a hit with the children. Then I realized: it was because Prince Bear was the attractive and popular bear who was accepted. And likewise, children want that acceptance.

4) Being able to spend time with both parents routinely

What makes kids happy - airportAs the primary caregiver, I am also the one who takes care of all the “boring” stuff as far as Caleb is concerned – the feeding, cleaning, sleeping. For that reason, I suppose that’s why I am also the one whom Caleb runs to when he wants reassurance.

My husband is the one who does all the fun stuff with Caleb. If he is home from work early, he takes Caleb on bus-rides and buys him snacks and ice lemon tea.

We both play different roles but in a routine which Caleb is familiar with. He looks forward to having me around in the day and he flies to the door the moment that he sees Papa return home. And I think time alone with each of us routinely makes Caleb happy.

My husband enjoys his father-son bonding time and I enjoy my evening breaks. So, I should add that happy parents are also a recipe for happy kids!

5) Being able to accomplish new things

I read somewhere that the amount of development and skills that a child picks up in the first couple of years of his life far exceeds all he learns when What makes kids happy - skatinghe enters Primary One. He goes from suckling milk to eating proper food, rolling over to walking, crying to speaking. The milestones stretch a mile long. I have always made it a point to cheer Caleb on in every little milestone. Although he may have been frustrated initially, the cheers seem to spur him towards accomplishing the task. And now, he reminds me to clap if I had not done so already!

6) Being hugged

One of Caleb’s first picture books is titled HUG by Jez Alborough and it is a concept he has understood well.
If I have just disciplined him for doing something naughty, I will end it with a hug and tell Caleb that I love him. It always soothes him. I guess that’s why his first words when he wakes up is “Hug Papa” and his last words before bed are “Hug Mummy”!

Note: “Give that “Being” to Your Kids” was first published in Healthy Kids, Happy Kids – The Magic of Cycling (Lyndon Yeo, Published by Write Editions) and launched at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2013.

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It’s been just past two years since I became a mum. If there is one thing that consistently turns me into an Angry Bird, it will have to be mealtimes.

Angry Birds

Angry Birds (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Caleb is a reluctant eater. From the time that he was introduced to solids at six months till now, mealtimes have been a battle of wills. Before he turned one, distractions and persuasion (lots of that) worked to a certain extent. He grudgingly took porridge for months and loved his prune and apricot puree for a time. I found a Dr Sears 3-in-1 yoghurt (Yobaby and YoToddler with cereal, sweet potato and fruit, and several other flavours) as a fallback option on days when he refused food.

But once he past his first year, it has become an increasingly uphill battle. Any recommended recipe that starts with “Your child will surely love this…” pretty much tells me that Caleb is not going to love it. He would eye the food suspiciously like it has been laced with poison. Block the spoon from reaching his mouth with the skill of a martial arts expert. Keep his mouth tightly sealed should I break through his armed defences. And if I did get the food into his mouth, he would resort to his last resort – spitting it out or worse, wretching. The expert books’ advice to skip that meal if toddler doesn’t want to eat has an opposite effect on Caleb. He was simply happier, as if he scored a goal with that missed mealtime. I was also reluctant to skip meals since he fell all the way to under the 10th percentile past his sixth month and hovered marginally higher past his first birthday.

And so over the months, I have gone through mood cycles (much more than THE time of the month) of trying everything new to going back to old recipes for a second try. As food restrictions are much off once he passed his first year, I’ve finally fallen back on the “whatever works” rule.

I would like to eat this, this and this...just kidding!

I would like to eat this, this and this…just kidding!

One of the few relatively fail-safe foods that he will eat is fried-crispy chicken wings. It’s not the healthiest but better that than not at all. He’s open to certain kinds of soups, so that’s another way to get nutrients in. Instead of battling to get him to eat cut fruit, I’ve now gone the way of freshly made fruit juice and sneak in an avacado at times.

After my Paed told me to stop trying to the reach the 25th percentile target that she had wanted me to shoot for, he got there. That came down to prayer for divine intervention because I had pretty much given up trying.

Now that Caleb has just started pre-nursery, I’m hoping that seeing other children sit and eat their food will encourage him to do so.

Shortly after turning one, after months of rejecting his push-walker, Caleb asked for it after attending his first play gym class. And within a week, he was running without brakes around the house.

Meanwhile, I will go with “whatever works” and whatever it takes to bring out the foodie in my toddler.

Related Links:

Understanding Picky Eating in Singaporean Kids

 Winning the Food Wars

Fussy Eaters – Feeding Toddlers (everydayfamily.com)

Mealtime Zen: The How of Offering (mealtimehostage.wordpress.com)

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In a twinkle of an eye (a very bleary eye), Caleb turns two today!

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The past year has sped by like a bullet train. And it is incredible how much goes on for a toddler from one to two years:

1) Crawl, walk, fly

Although Caleb showed signs of being able to walk a few months earlier, he simply refused to. Crawling was much faster.

When he saw some of the older kids walking at his first play gym class just past his first birthday, he came home and immediately gestured for his walker. Within a week, he was walking. Soon after, he was practically flying.

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2) Talking Talking Happy Talk

Caleb said his first word  – “mum-mum” – at 6 months, which had no reference to me or food.

Before his first year, he had amassed a number of single words, from recognising titles like “Papa” to favourite objects like”Ball” and plenty of action words – “Go”, “Come” and all-time favourite “No!”

Once passed his 1st birthday, Caleb started going into 2-3 word phrases. Mostly bossy bear instructions like “Go there”, “Papa, clean there”, “Do again” and new favourites “Hug Mummy” and “Hug Papa”.

From 18 months to his 2nd birthday, he turned into a complete chatterbox, bursting with new vocabulary and longer sentences.

“Uncle Jack’s Car no roof, ” he said, referring to my brother’s soft top convertible.

“Papa, Mama and Cleb sit big airplane. Big Airplane sleep at airport,” he said when we were explaining about our upcoming vacation.

Last week, he threw his toy bus from his high chair and the roof fell off. “Oh no, roof broken.”

After I fixed it and checked him, he reflected and replied, “Cleb throw double-decker bus on floor. Bus broke. Mummy pick up.” Then with a change in tone of voice, he said, “No throwing on floor. Naughty! Naughty!” and proceeded to smack the table.

I had to hold my chuckle to maintain the strict parenting moment.

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3) Chuckle Bunny

Caleb showed pretty strong character traits from quite early on. Something my friends (who are mums) noted too. And once words came into the picture, his personality has shone through even more.

He has a mischevous streak  (which I trace to my dad, his Grandpa).

He chuckles easily and has a good sense of humour.

He has a heightened sense of curiousity. He’s usually the only one inspecting the room for decor changes when I take him for enrichment classes. And the decor does change – from butterflies and bees decals to trains and cars – depending on the week’s theme.

He never rushes into something new until he is comfortable (that’s from Ben and me)

Wild horses can’t pull him to do something he doesn’t want. Only hard-won persuasion and tactical distraction.

Post46-photo2

4) The Long and Short of it All

One thing that continues to astound me is when I look at the romper that Caleb wore on the 1st day that he was born. It’s amazing how tiny he was then and how tall he has grown since. And soon, he will be ready to start pre-nursery.

A friend and mother of three boys said something which really stuck when I asked her a while back if she let her kids cry it out or if she rocked them to sleep when they were younger. Rocked, she said. Sayang! she said. And you also want to hug and cuddle as much as possible now. Because once they hit a certain age, the boys in particular don’t want to be hugged anymore.

So, in short, I will give big bear hugs and plant many more kisses on Caleb for as long as he will let me!

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Yesterday, I received two lovely emails from two people I came to know recently.

Vivian Kirkfield, my 1st friend whom I met in blogosphere, awarded me the Positive Parenting Blog Award!

The Positive Parental Participation Blog Award

The Positive Parental Participation Blog Award

I was frankly quite surprised since my parenting posts are usually about how clueless I am about parenting as a first-time mum! So, it was a sweet affirmation from an educator like Vivian, especially with the rest of the line-up being people with more “meat” than me (in Singlish, also called “liao”)! Her full list of awardees are at her blogpost The Positive Parental Participation Blog Award.  Vivian’s site is a great resource for parents who believe that positive parenting participation is the best way to building up children with good self-esteem.

The other lady who emailed me is Sharon, a homeschooling mum, whom I recently met when I gave a talk to a group of homeschoolers. It was an amazing turnout of 70-80 parents and kids at the clubhouse facility of one of the parent’s condominiums. Sharon’s Oak Tree Baby blog stemed from a single idea – Oak which is a commonly known symbol of strength. Oak Tree Baby is about parenting kids so they bear strength as oak of righteousness (courage, resilience, justice, integrity, equity, compassion, kindness, patience etc.) Post 41 DSC_0392

Sharon has decided to commemorate the 1st anniversary of Oak Tree Baby with the sale of my Mustard Seed Book collection on her site and our interview at her Character First blogpost.

One other person who has been a lovely friend is Maria. She has been a big encourager through the Hearts of Mums blog, set up for moms with a heart for building up their families. Maria has been very supportive of my writing journey from the start with her postings about my new books which I constantly update (also called spam!) her on.

Thanks Vivian, Sharon and Maria!

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Ben and I took two vacations a year for the 12 years before Caleb came along. I also travelled a fair bit for work. I thought we were seasoned travellers.

Then, last month, we took our first family vacation. I’m not sure what it is about being a first-time mum going on a first-time trip with my toddler. I wasn’t even that panicky when I planned the itinerary for my company CEO and travelled with him for the first time way back when.

8 weeks before the trip, I googled a whole list of baby-friendly places that we could visit in Perth and Margaret River, along with a list of restaurants to eat at.

6 weeks before the trip, I googled and downloaded three checklists on things to pack when travelling with a toddler.

Then, I checked the lists several times over to make sure I brought everything short of the kitchen sink.

As always though, I checked out about 100 places online that we could stay at Margaret River in Western Australia. One thing I refused to compromise on was accommodation. It had to be a well-appointed villa, with natural wood ceiling, open plan bathroom – close to what we had the previous times we travelled to Australia.

Caleb’s luggage alone came to over 25kg (that used to be the weight of my luggage). This time, Ben and I shared one luggage bag which weighed under 20 kg.

I would have thought I was ready.

But a day before we flew off, Caleb came down with a severe viral infection. Horrendous flu, cough, vomiting. The whole package. So we saw the doctor and into my bag went the medicine cabinet.

With all the anxiety, I forgot to bring the trip folder I had prepared. First time ever.

When we got there, we were clearly not prepared for the amount of work travelling with a toddler. Especially a sick toddler.

Caleb did not eat for three full days. We couldn’t get him into the high chair. And we took over an hour to get him to take his medicine each time round. Needless to say, we never got a chance to sit down to eat together till the day we flew off.

To add to that, the accommodation I booked turned out to be a place to make Calebs, not bring Caleb. It could not have been more impractical and child-unfriendly. But that’s another story.

We needed a vacation after we got back to Singapore.

So, we have already planned what we will do next year. We will take a “staycation”. Given the number of new attractions that Singapore has opened recently, we will stay put and just create an itinerary around those.

We have now told just about anyone (who cares to hear) about how we are so not-ready for a vacation. So I thought that for this post, I should at least include the happy photo moments when it felt briefly like one (and Caleb didn’t look all dopey and medicated).

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Ben and I recently celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary. After upping the ante in my last present for his birthday which I blogged about in A Birthday Present for “Not Just Daddy”, I was hard-pressed to better that. So, I decided to milk my earlier idea further.

So, with a little more help from the same Pakistani advertising agency (which is another story) and my 4th book Bunny Finds The Right Stuff, I came up with something to match Ben’s birthday present.

Now, we have both presents displayed side by side which look more complete.

But there’s only so many times you can milk this cow so the sequel ends here!

(And in case anyone like my dad believed me when I said that Nikon Dgo is my Korean illustrator for the cover, ah well…)

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Since Caleb arrived in our lives, I have fallen into the new parenting trap. Everything has revolved around baby.

Most of the time, it has to be because someone has to feed, diaper and change Caleb.

But over the past year, it has extended into birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. I simply picked Caleb up and handed him to Ben.

“Happy Birthday!/Happy Anniversary!/Merry Christmas!Here is your present.”

And he would reply, “It’s my best present!”

And that was that for presents.

Gone was the extra thought and effort of writing cards (my annual must-do) and thinking up creative or meaningful gifts.

This weekend, we celebrated Ben’s birthday. And I did my usual but with slightly more presentation – a blue ribbon to top off.

Wrapped in matching colour and a blue ribbon

But I also decided that it was time to climb back out of the new parenting trap.

So I cranked up my mummy brain and brainstormed.

I took one of my favourite photos of Ben and Caleb.

Golf R Us

I stared very hard at my book covers. And finally, I found inspiration in Just Teddy.

So, I hired a graphic design firm from Pakistan (but that’s another story). They helped me with some computer cut and paste.

Cover Dad & Cover Baby

Of course Caleb is still the best present. But it was nice to add more than a blue ribbon to top off.

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