Tuesday, 31 May 2011

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Montessori Activity: Inserting Fanta Color Pegs




Age: From 2 years 3 months

Activity Duration: 5-15 minutes

Preparation Time: 3 minutes

Objective(s):

1. To train the child’s fine motor skills.
2. To train the child's hand-to-eye coordination.

Materials:

Fantacolour plastic pegs and pegboard

Directions:

1. Show your child how to create beautiful mosaics by inserting the pegs into the pegboard.

2. Encourage your child to try.

3. Show your child how to undo by turning the pegboard over and pushing the pegs directly into the case.

4. Encourage your child to try.

Total Cost: 10 DKK (2.40 SGD) from the Flea market

Additional Information:

J tried this yesterday (2Y2M25D) and today. He enjoyed it very much. I actually wanted to wait until the weekend to introduce this toy, but he discovered this new toy on the shelf yesterday morning and pointed at it. As seen in the picture, J loves orange colour and he picked all the orange pegs for this activity.


Thursday, 26 May 2011

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Things to Remember When Teaching Children...


Below are some tips shared during our church, FIBC's Children's ministry seminar, which I find really helpful and would like to share it here. Interestingly, all of the ideas are very agreeable with Montessori.

1. Movement is essential to learning because movement builds the brain.

2. Each brain is unique and must be taught uniquely.

3. Keep it simple - too much information given too quickly will not be retained.

4. Repeat, repeat, repeat - the brain rately gets it right the first time.

5. Vision triumps all other senses.

6. Emotions drive learning.

7. Safety is critical - emotional and physical.

8. Help children to see patterns and relationships

Monday, 23 May 2011

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Danish Raspberry Dressing/Danske Hindbær Dressing/丹麦山莓沙拉酱


Serves 4

Preparation Time: 5-10 minutes

Ingredients:
- 100g frozen or fresh raspberries
- 1 TBS mint leaves minced
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 TBS olive oil
- Dash of salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Blend raspberries in a blender with sugar.

2. Sift out the seeds from the raspberries using a strainer (optional)

3. Add the minced mint leaves, olive oil and dash of salt & pepper and mix well.

4. Serve with green salat and bread.

Nutritional Value:
Raspberries are an excellent source of fiber, manganese and vitamin C. They are a good source of vitamin B2, folate, niacin, magnesium, potassium and copper. In addition, they contain significant amounts of the anti-cancer phytochemical ellagic acid.

Additional Information:
My camera has malfunctioned, thus I could no longer take any pictures, until we purchase a new one.

I notice that as I grow older, I have the tendency to become more and more Chinese and Singaporean, and my Significant Other more and more Danish. For example, I eat more and more Chinese food, and follow closely the Singaporean election and political scenes, while my Significant Other follows closely the Danish political scenes. So when I am viewing videos and podcast from the Straitstimes, he is watching the Danish news. This is a pit-fall of cross-cultural marriage that we have to prayerfully guard against. Otherwise, we will easily be leading separate lives, with different habits.

The only person who is really doing well cross-culturally is J. Thank God that so far, he seems to be weaving naturally between Danish and Chinese.

The good news is that with God and love for each other, we can always improve. It takes sacrifice, and I pray that as I become more and more Singaporean, that I will also become more and more Danish. That becoming more of one, will not mean become less of the other. Vice versa for my Significant Other.

God always tells me to change myself, and not expecting the other party to change. God says let me decrease and let others increase, yet so often I fail. So today, I will try again, with new forgiveness from God.

So today, I took out the Danish recipes, and make an effort to experiment into making Danish food again.

The original recipe calls for 50ml of olive oil, but I find that 2 TBS are sufficient for us.

You can make this dressing beforehand the night before, put it in the fridge, ready to be used for dinner the next day.

References:
- Recipe from Føtex Supermarket

- http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=39

Saturday, 21 May 2011

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How to Find a Good Montessori Kindergarten?

This post writes specifically on how to find a good Montessori kindergarten, but it can be applied to finding a good non-Montessori kindergarten as well.

1. Don't just visit the kindergarten, stay and observe

Instead of requesting the kindergarten for a "rundvisning" (tour of the school in Danish), ask if you can observe a class for 1-2 hours. The children will go about their work and play, while the observer sits quietly, keeping interaction to a minimum so as not to disturb the children's concentration.

For example, Montessori schooling is known to produce in attention, or at least that is one of the major goals of Montessori schooling. Observe and see if this is true in the kindergarten you visit.

Nowadays, many kindergartens are certified. It does provide a sense of security choosing a kindergarten which is certified by for example, the Association of Montessori Internationale (AMI) (http://www.montessori-ami.org/), but it is no guarantee. There are many excellent Montessori shools which are not certified, because they do not seek distinction. Thus, don't just select a kindergarten, because it is certified, visit the kindergarten. However, don't just visit a kindergarten, stay to observe the class.

I made the mistake of just visiting, instead of requesting to stay as an observer of a class, when I was picking J's daycare. I paid the price of selecting the wrong daycare, and was really sad about it. Thankfully, God answered my prayer, when I managed to convince the county to allow me to change the daycare. When selecting the next daycare, I had the opportunity of being a secondary observer, i.e. through the eyes of a friend of mine, whose daughter attended the same daycare. It is difficult to get a feel of the school, without having the opportunity of observing a class. But it is a rare opportunity to be allowed to stay and observe a class.

If a kindergarten does not allow you to stay on to observe, it speaks volume of the school in a negative way. So, it may be a signal for you to go on looking around for other kindergartens. In Singapore, where many kindergartens are privatized, it is easier to find kindergartens which would allow observers. It is a uphill task for me in Denmark to be able to find one, since it is common for "rundvisning", but not observing, but I will try.

2. Observe a "Teacher's Presentation Session" and "Work Period"

Ask the principal usually what time of the day, the teachers make presentation/demonstration to a group of children as part of teaching the children new things. Usually this is done in the morning. If the kindergarten has such a schedule, it is a good sign. If not, it may signal questions about the quality of the kindergarten. Proceed to ask for permission to watch a teacher's representation of the work and then the permission to observe the children at work, i.e. "work period". In many kindergarten, usually in the morning, the teacher would present and demonstrate a new activity. Observe and see how he/she represent the activity.

In an excellent kindergarten, you would find teachers working with one or two children at a time, advising, presenting a new lesson or quietly observing the class at work.

2. Ask Questions

According to the book, Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, the following questions reflect what one should look for when observing in a Montessori Classroom:

1. Is there a feeling of peace? (Beware if you see chaos and an disorganized atmosphere, with toys splattered all around)

2. Is the classroom orderly, structured and neat?

3. Is there a variety of different kinds of work being done?

4. Is there an absence of worksheets and workbooks?

5. Do the children seem to be relaxed and happy?

6. Do the children seem to hae a sense of purpose?

7. Are the children kind and courteous with each other?

8. Are the chilren concentrating very hard on their work?

9. Are the children appearing to work seriously even while some are casually carrying on conversations with others?

10. Does the teacher appear to be constantly aware of the whole room, intervening only when children seem aimless or nonconstructive, or are bothering others?

11. Is the teacher sensitive to the timid and shy ones, trying to encourage them to try out activities or to speak up, while the self-confident and bold ones to flourish and not get bored, but yet not dominating all the attention?

In the very best kindergarten, the answer to all the above questions is yes

References:
- Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius by Angeline Stoll Lillard

- How to Raise an Amazing Child The Montessori Way by Time Seldin

Useful Links:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kjr9FmMXv8
http://www.honeykidsasia.com/singapore/schools-cat/child-centred-preschools-in-singapore-white-lodge-preschool-parent-review/

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J Summary (2Y2M15D) - Finally out of Diapers!

Yesterday, we were at Amy's place. And J saw that Amy is no longer wearing diapers. I took the opportunity to inspire him to stop using diapers, telling him that he is a big boy now.

This morning, I encouraged him to start the day without the diapers, and it was the first time, that he agreed. I told him that I am so proud of him, and that he is showing himself to be a big boy now. He repeated after me that J is a big boy now. We did without diapers altogether the whole day, but there had been 6 accidents altogether through out the day.

I did the mistake of asking him to tell me when he would like to pee. Then I did the mistake of asking him whether he would like to pee. At the end of the day, I finally have grown wiser. I don't ask him whether he would like to pee anymore. I just brought him to the toilet every 30 minutes, and asked him to try. Then I wanted to get out quickly, I asked him to be patient. It seemed to have worked to reduce the number of accidents. I shall do the same tomorrow.

But J is still using diaper at night.

Compared to many European toddlers his age, J is considered a fast developer, but compared to many Asian toddlers his age, he is behind by more than a year. Asian toddlers generally began toilet training and got out of diapers at the age of 1 year old.

What attributed to the success rate of Asian babies?

I don't really know, but I think it is due largely to parental expectations and society's pressure. In Denmark, it is generally believed that toddlers are not developmentally ready to do so. If you think your child can't do it, he would not be able to do it. In Asia, parents generally believe that toddlers can do it and are capable to do so. Asian parents are eager to do without diapers as soon as possible, as many can't afford diapers in the long run, unlike in Europe, where household income is higher. Thus, it is also forced by finance that Asian parents believe their toddlers can do without diapers and are more determined to toilet train earlier. It is also a social norm to get out of diapers earlier, thus there would be a certain element of shame, if one's toddler is still seen in diapers. Thirdly, in China, pragmatic Chinese design the pants with a hole strategic cut, so that they can with lightning speed rush the toddler to the toilet, whenever nature calls, minimizing accidents, which also increases the success rate of training. Although I am pragmatic, I would not use such a pair of pants for J, as they are really ugly!

However, such mentality may change with time and growing economic affluence, as having one's toddler in diaper in China may increasingly be seen as a symbol of wealth, since only the affluent Chinese can keep their child in diapers for so long.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

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Montessori Activity: Grocery Shopping with Toddler (Part 2)



Inspired by Montessori Moments

Age: From 2 years old

Objective(s):
1. To teach life skills.
2. To teach language skills.

Directions:
1. Find a time when the supermarket is not super-crowded.

2. Together with your child, fetch the child's shopping cart (if not available, just use the shopping basket).

3. Ask your child to look for the items in the grocery list and tick them off after the items are found one-by-one.

Tips:
1. When your child can read, or is learning to read, you can add the corresponding words into the grocery list.

2. Name the item with your child as you shop.

3. Let your child select some items off the display.

How to Make a Grocery List for Toddler?

Just download pictures from the web. For your convenience, you can download J's grocery list which I have made here.

Additional Information:
J has been helping me to do grocery shopping for some weeks now, and he is becoming very good at it. I will ask him to pick the item I name or if he can't reach it, I will pick the item and hand it to him to put into the shopping cart. He will then push the shopping cart, and following behind me, while I go on to pick other items. Grocery shopping so far has been very pleasant. I try to choose the time, when he is not hungry or sleepy.

I think it may be a good time for me now to introduce a grocery shopping list, which I learned from http://www.mymontessorimoments.com/. I have prepared the J's grocery list for him. Ideally, it should be a one page list, but I got carried away, and made a 4 pages grocery list!

I tried out the grocery list with J on 21.5.2011 (2Y2M15D). I placed the shopping list in the front of the shopping cart and asked J to look for one item on the list (oranges). He tried to do so, but I had to guide him along the way to where the oranges were placed, as the shopping market is very big. He enjoyed the grocery shopping as always, and I could feel that he felt very proud pushing the shopping cart all by himself, putting the packet of milk into the shopping cart and when he saw the oranges. unfortunately, my camera gave up on me half-way through, so I won't be able to take pictures from now on until we buy a new camera.

References:
http://mymontessorimoments.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/grocery-shopping/
http://www.anamazingchild.com/kates%20blog/files/d290349c1f665d4720d523b822f71a15-67.php#unique-entry-id-67

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Montessori Activity: Matching Containers with Lids



Inspired from Montessori Moments

Age: From 2 years old

Activity Duration: 5-15 minutes

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Objectives:

1. To train the child’s fine motor skills.
2. To train hand-eye coordination.
3. To teach about different sizes.

Materials:

1. 3 - 5 plastics or metal containers and bottles with lids
2. 1 Tray

Directions:

1. Demonstrate by taking the lids out of the container one-by-one and then putting the lids back.
2. Hand your child a container, and then hand him the lid.
3. Encourage him to try to put the lid back.

Additional Information:

For younger children, start with one container first, and add more for complexity along the way and let your child try to match the different lids with the respective containers.

J (2Y2M14D) tried this on 20.5.2011, and he managed to match all the lids correctly. He also managed to screw in the cap for the bottles correctly, though it wasn't as easily. Then he wanted me to fill in some water into the bottle.

References:

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Montessori Activity: Cutting Paper Strips with Scissors/Skæring med Saks/使用剪刀 [shǐ yòng jiǎn dāo]



Age: 2 years 3 months

Activity Duration: 5-15 minutes

Preparation Time: 3 minutes

Objective(s): To train the child’s fine motor skills

Materials:

1. 1 pair of scissors for kids
2. Strips of cut vanguard sheet approximately 2 cm wide (to allow the child to cut through the strip in 1 snip)
3. 1 basket (optional)

Directions:

1. Demonstrate to your child by cutting the playdough with the scissors slowly one by one.

2. Then assist your child to hold the scissors with thumb and fingers in the handle himself and have him practice opening and closing the scissors.

3. As your child opens and closes the scissors, hold the playdough in between the scissors while he cuts the playdough.

Tips:

1. You can sing and make the scissors motion as you cut the strips :-).

2. You can sing the song "Open Shut Them" and below are the lyrics:

Open Shut Them
Open Shut Them
Open, shut them, open shut them.
Give a little snip, snip, snip.
Open, shut them, open shut them.
Make another clip.

Here is a youtube video on the tune:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwQ4n_8G5yA&feature=related

Additional Information:

J (2Y2M14D) tried this for the first time this today. He was able to use the scissors with two hands to cut the scissors. Towards the end, he was able to use one hand to hold the scissors and cut the strip, but it was with much difficulty.

Updates:

Monday, 11 July 2011 J Summary (2Y4M6D) - Cutting with Scissors with One Hand
We tried again the scissors activity and today J cut by controlling the scissors with one hand successfully, but at time, he used his left hand to hold the other hand to give it more strength. We used the normal scissors, as the kid's scissors did not work.

References:

http://theattachedmama.blogspot.com/2010/07/pom-pom-sorting-and-cutting-activity.html

http://mymontessorijourney.typepad.com/my_montessori_journey/2009/09/cutting-work.html


Wednesday, 18 May 2011

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J Summary (2Y2M13D) - Giving Respect to "Majulah Singapura"

Lately, J is very jumpy during bedtime. He likes to play basketball, ping pong ball and blabling in his bed. It has been very challenging to get him to settle down. One evening during bedtime, I sang "Majulah Singapura" (Singapore's National Anthem) which I introduced as part of Heritage Education sometime ago. All of a sudden, he became very quiet, willing to lie down in his crib and listened very sensibly. I thought it was a coincidence.

The next evening, I tried again. J was reciting the numbers repeatedly, and it was time to stop. I started singing "Majulah Singapura", and again he dropped what he was doing, lie down more still in his crib and listened.

The other evening, Daddy was very sweet to suggest that I sing "Majulah Singapura", while I was about to drop it, and again, J (and Daddy) listened attentively.

This evening, when I tried again and sing "Majulah Singapura", he listened very attentively and held my hands.

After 3-4 experiences, these could no longer be a coincidence. I know it could not be that he understood the concept of standing still when singing the National Anthem, but it must be something about the tune, or something in my singing or my voice that made him willing to settle down from what he was busy with doing and listen quietly.

I don't know how long this will repeat itself, but I am taking all these moments into my heart.

Singapore recently had its General Election. I am never one who follows the General Election, but something touched me inside the heart with this one, which I could not quite explain. Never before do I feel so Singaporean. I cannot explain it. I started introducing "Majulah Singapura" back into the bedtime routine with J.

I wrote about how sad I was when I was back in Singapore last December to see the beautiful transformation of the Singapore Waterfront... funded by casinos. I felt hopeless then. And I wrote in a post, that I didn't have an answer. Despite the superb economic growth and affluence, there is a sense of emptiness... a large part of the population is suffering from not being able to bring home enough income to meet the increasing cost of living... the soul is lacking. Now I know that I am not alone. Perhaps, that is why I felt so Singaporean these few days. From the main party PAP to the opposition party WP to SPP's Chiam See Tong to the Singaporean voters, this election revealed that we all truely have one heart. It is a win-win election. And it now fills me with hope.

And J, thanks for these moments. You never know how much it meant to mommy. Let's continue to together keep Singapore in our prayers here from Copenhagen.
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Montessori Activity: Transferring with Children's Chopsticks




J's friend, Amy (2 years 11 months) transferring beans and stones with chopsticks in Xiamen, China
Age: From 2.5 years old

Activity Duration: 5-15 minutes

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Objective(s): To train the child’s fine motor skills.

Materials:

1. 2 containers
2. Approx. 10 pom poms
3. 1 pair of chopsticks
4. 1 Tray

Tips:

For older and more advanced kids, try using beans and stones instead to make it more challenging.

Directions:

1. Demonstrate it to your child by transferring the stone slowly one at a time with the chopsticks
2. Encourage and let your child try it.

Special Warning:

1. Supervise closely with pom poms and don’t start with a toddler who is still mouthing. Remove and store away immediately after activity.

Cost:

European Chopsticks 10 DKK (2.40 SGD)  for 2 pairs from Tiger.

Additional Information:

I was very excited when I found these chopsticks from Tiger. Although it is more suited to be described as "cheat"-sticks, as it is chopsticks made easy for Europeans, which is a cross between a pair of chopsticks and a tong. But because of that, it makes it easier for young children to use, and at the same time, it adds an element of heritage education to Montessori activity. I can't wait to let J try it this weekend!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

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Montessori Activity: The Silence Game/静游戏


Adapted from How to Raise an Amazing Child and Motessori Learn to Play

Age: From 2 years old

Activity Duration: 1 minute

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Objective(s): To train the child's attention to sound

Materials:
1. 1 small  bell (optional)
1. 1 hour glass measuring the passing of time in a visual manner (optional)

Directions:
1. Get your child's attention and signify the start of the game by ringing a small bell.

2. Your child should stop what he is doing.

3. Show him the hour glass. Turn over the hour glass and ask him to sit down, close his eyes, remain perfectly still and listen (make the hand sign for listen) until the hour glass is empty at the top.

4. After the time is over (30 secs. for very young child to 1 minute). in a whisper, ask him what sound he could hear during the silence.

5. Talk about the noise:
- Did he notice the sound of cars, planes, weather, birds, washing machine, dish-washer, etc.
- is it loud or soft?
- Is it nice to listen to?
- Is it quiet or very noisy?

Tips:
You can play this game anywhere indoor or outdoor. Once the child is familiar with the game, you do not need the bell and the hour glass anymore.

References:
- How to Raise an Amazing Child by Tim Seldin
- Montessori Learn & Play by Lesley Britton
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J Summary (2Y2M9D) - A Kiss & A Special Moment

This morning, I went into J's room to pick him up and bring him down for breakfast, as I usually do. I gave him a kiss. He looked at me very sweetly, lean over and gave me a kiss on my cheek. Then he looked into my eyes with a shy smile on the face, seemed to be saying, "Mommy, I love you. Mommy, thank you for being so sweet to me, and bringing me down for breakfast".

Tears rolled down my cheeks. I have been feeling rather down these few days... at the moment, I know that it is God's divine comfort sent down to me through J.

I kissed J again, and he kissed me back, again with the same intense look of empathy.

This morning at breakfast, J started stroking my hands as I fed him. I stroke him back and said "sayang, sayang" meaning I pamper you in Singlish Malay. He repeated back saying "sayang, sayang". I know this came so timely as God's comfort to me.

Language Development

Yesterday during bedtime, we conducted a random experiment on the progress of trilingualism development. Daddy asked question in Danish, J repeated in Danish the names of animals pig, lamb, horse, dog, cat, chicks, etc. in Danish. Mummy asked the same questions in Mandarin Chinese, and J answered in Mandarin Chinese those animals. Daddy and Mommy then asked in English, which most of the animals he could not answer.

J could now count from 1-10 in Danish and Mandarin Chinese, well almost. He always missed out the number "4" in Mandarin Chinese, which might as well, since the number "4" is considered an unlucky number and not very popular. I didn't tell J that. Thus, it is a concidence that he is weak in the number 4.

Bed Time

J loves to play with "basket ball" lately with lots of laughter. These few days, in addition to his usual request of reciting the Tang dynasty poems, J has been requesting all by himself to recite the alphabet phonics and the numbers. Only after we have done that, that he is willing to sleep.
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Montessori Activity: Sorting Stones & Beans




Adapted from the book Montessori Play & Learn by Lesley Britton

Age: From 2 years old

Activity Duration: 5-15 minutes

Preparation Time: 3 minutes

Objective(s):
1. To train the child’s fine motor skills.
2. To teach concept of different sizes - small, medium and large.
3. To stimulate the child's brain development during the sensitive period through touch.

Materials:
1. 1 large bowl containing the big stones, small stones and beans (I use soy beans here)
2. 1 large bowl for the big stones
3. 2 small bowls for the smaller stones and beans
4. 1 tray (optional)

Directions:
1. Sort one set of the stones and beans into each of the bowls.

2. As you go along, say the size of the stones.

3. Encourage your child to try to sort the other 4 sets of the beans by putting each of them into the correct container/bowl allocated for that bean.

4. Pour back all the beans into the big container and repeat.

Tips:

Once your child is familiar with this game, you can use a blind fold and ask him to sort the stones and beans by feeling them.

Additional Information:

J (2Y2M8D) tried this yesterday evening and really had a lot of fun with it. He asked to do it again and again, and we spent 15 minutes on the game.

References:
Montessori Play  & Learn by Lesley Britton

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Montessori Activity: Scooping Stones & Beans with Gardening Spade


Age: From 2 years old

Activity Duration: 5-15 minutes

Preparation Time: 3 minutes

Objective(s): To train the child’s fine motor skills.

Materials:

1. 1 medium bowl
2. 1 pot
3. 1 gardening spade
4. 1 tray (optional)

Directions:

1. Demonstrate to your toddler by spooning the stones and beans from the bowl to the pot.
2. Encourage and let your child try it.
3. Demonstrate to your child by pouring the beans from the jug back to the pot.
4. Encourage and let your child try it.

Cost:

Kid's size gardening set 49 DKK (11.55 SGD) from Netto

Additional Information:

J (2Y2M9D) discovered the new gardening set that I bought and requested to play with it today. I started him off with Montessori activity, and later he can use it to play with the sand box. He enjoyed this Montessori activity this morning.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

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Chinese Stir-Fry Green Pepper Bell


Serves 2

Preparation & Cooking Time:
30 minutes

Ingredients:
- 2 piece of lean pork fillet (svine koteletter) chopped to bite size (or you can use any chicken meat you like)
- 1 green pepper bell chopped
- 1/2 cucumber chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic chopped
- 2 TBS cooking oil
- Dash of oyster sauce (optional)
- Dash of salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Heat frying pan or wok with cooking oil and fry garlic until fragrant.

2. Add pork and fry until brown and sprinkle some salt and pepper.

3. Add green pepper and stir-fry for 1 minute.

4. Add cucumber and oyster sauce stir-fry for a minute or until the sauce is absorbed into the cucumber.

5. Serve with rice.

Additional Information:
I have been busy with planning Montessori activities, that I have neglected this department and has been relying on take-away. Today, I finally pull my act together and put some heart back into cooking. It is very hard to juggle work, child's education and family nutrition. At times, it can get me a little down... but I just have to try my best.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

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Montessori Activity: Playing "I Spy"/视觉游戏



Age: From 2 years old

Activity Duration: 5-15 minutes

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Objective(s):
1. To prepare the child to listen for sounds in words.

Materials:
1. Alphabet cards (optional)
2. 3-5 objects that match the beginning letter of the alphabet card.

Directions:
1. You can also play this game on a mat and putting out a few objects start with clear sounds such as a dog, apple, cat and ring, etc. *

2. Take out a letter card and say, "I spy something that begin with 'd', can you tell me what it is?"

3. Then place the letter on the object (the dog) on the mat that begins with 'd'.

* For younger children, according to The Learning Ark, when introducing them to the "I Spy" game, you may only want to start with one object. Take one object from a drawstring bag and place it on the table. Then say, "I spy with my little eye something beginning with 'd', can you tell me what it is?" Since there is only one object on the mat, the child will be able to succeed and reply "dog". Reply: "I spy dog" and emphasis the 'd' in the word. Put the object back in the draw string bag and take another object, repeat the activity for the other object.

OR

1. When your child is familiar with the "I spy" game, you can expand the surrounding such as identifying something in the room, garden, park, street, etc. that for example, begins with the letter 'd'.

2. Then say to your child "I spy with my little eye something beginning with 'd' (make the phonic sound of 'd'). Can you guess what it is?"

3. Your child has to guess what it is that you can see. For example, if you are in the street, you may be seeing a "dog", which is something that begins with "d".

4. Reverse the game and let your child have you guessing what he sees by him saying the letter's sound.

Video Demonstration:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXD10pIUZcA

Here is a good video on the sounds of the alphabets:

http://momtessori.blogspot.com/2009/09/you-want-me-to-do-what.html

Additional Information:
I haven't started playing with J on "I Spy" yet, as English is his third language, and I am already struggling just to allocate a day a week to speak English to him. I can't use this game on Chinese, because the Chinese language is not based on phonics... aaarrrrgggh. But I hope that I will be able to start this game with J during our English class soon. I am feeling a little overwhelmed with my determination to stick with 3 languages, but some days are like that... Whe I focus on Chinese, I worry about his English! When I focus on English, I worry about his Chinese! As such, I could not do anything well. I should worry less, pray and just do my best and be happy with it.

References:
- http://thelearningark.blogspot.com/2010/11/montessori-i-spy-sound-game.html

- Play and Learn by Lesley Britton

Saturday, 7 May 2011

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Heritage Education: How to Nuture Your Child's Mother-Tongue Ability?






Many children living in an environment, where his/her mother-tongue is not the predominant language of the society, will when entering kindergarten or primary school, refuse to converse any longer in his/her mother-tongue.

I discussed this with a few cross-cultural mothers, and here are some ideas, which I will be trying out to sustain Joshua's interest in his heritage and mother-tongue, Mandarin Chinese:

1. Expand Vocabulary before Kindergarten

My friend, Yang Li, and I have been analyzing the issue of why children refuse to speak his/her mother-tongue. Upon entering kindergarten and primary school, the child's language ability will explore due to the exposure he/she gets when interacting with others. The child will naturally use the language that he/she has the most words and can express himself/herself best.

To prevent refusal from speaking mother-tongues from happening, according to my friend, Yang Li, Chinese mothers need to be very determined and diligent in expanding his/her child's vocabulary to be on par with the dominant language in kindergarten and school.

Daily conversations with Mommy is no longer enough. More sophiscated, deep and rich expressions are needed to carry the child through for his/her need to express himself/herself in their increasingly expanding world. This is done through reading, reading and reading to your child. Here are some books she recommend from China based on her contacts with the Chinese teachers in China:

Read to the child story books with increasing text and expressions that will still capture the child's interests. The best children's books are actually the story books which are translated from English to Chinese, because nothing beats the Danish and English fairy-tales, which never fails to capture a child's interest in story-telling and reading. Hans Christian Andersen, for example, is one of the most popular Children's authors in China. 


Next, read to the child the children encyclopedia in Children Chinese edition. You will find that even Chinese mothers in China had a hard time knowing all the Chinese terms. Here are some book Chinese Children's Encyclopedia's titles.


The above books are appropriate for a child from 2 - 3 years old.

I fully agree with Yang Li, but this is a very tall order for a cross-cultural working mom like me. It is a long journey ahead, I am not sure I will be able to do it, but I will do my best.

2. The Secret Language

My colleague, D, shared this tip: Tell your child that this language is the secret language that Mommy and child share exclusively, that his/her classmates do not understand. I think this is a brilliant idea too.

3. Make a List of the Successes of your Heritage

Very often, the child stops speaking the mother-tongue, because the language has a low status in the environment he/she is growing up. The child becomes ashamed of his/her mother-tongue and heritage. No matter how small the successes of your heritage is, make a list and share it with your child. Teach your child that he/she has much to be proud of his/her heritage and should not be ashamed.
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Montessori Activity: Multilingual Number Tiles/多语言数字牌 [duō yǔ yán shù zì pái]






Note: This is usually carried out together with the Number Rods.

Age: From 2.5 years old (Level 3)

Activity Duration: 5 - 15 minutes

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Objective(s):
1. To asscoiate the named quantities represented by the Number Rods with their written symbols.
2. To give sensorial key to the sequence 1 to 10.
3. To develop an immediate visual recognition of the quantities 1 through 10.
4. To provide an introductory sensorial key to addition and subtraction.

Materials:
1. 10 small wooden or paper tablets with numbers on each from 1 to 10. (I made my own using paper and cardboard, see below)
2. An open box which holds the tablets upright (optional, I use the pill organizer to hold the "tablets").
3. 1 tray

Directions:
1. Arrange the rods in a random order on a tray/floor mat, so that your child can see them clearly.

2. Put the rods horizontally to the right of you and ask your child to sit on your left.

3. Lay out the Number Tablets in random arrangement on a tray.

4. Introduce the '10' tablet, name it and ask your child to repeat the name, locate the corresponding rod and lean the tablet against it.

5. Invite the child to pick another tablet, read it, locate the corresponding rod and lean the tablet against it.

6. Repeat for the remaining of the numbers until all 10 tablets are paired with their corresponding rods.

Video Demonstration:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjmsmQqBLvA

Tips:
1. You can repeat the exercise with the nubmer tablets in another language. For us, we will repeat it with the Chinese characters for the numbers 1 to 10.

How to Make Number Rods with Lego?
1. Print the Number Tablet template here.
2. Paste it on a red cardboard.
3. Cut out the tablets.

Additional Information:
J is probably too young to try this, but I have prepared it so that it is ready when that day arrives. As we are a cross-cultural family, I have made the number tablets in 4 languages English, Chinese, Danish and French (the last one French is more for myself, since I am taking French classes at work).

I meant to wake up at 5am this morning to make this, but I woke up late today at 7am, which means that we were 2 hours behind schedule today :-( Somedays are like that.
References:
- Basic Montessori: Learning Acitivities for Under-Fives

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

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Montessori Activity: Sorting by Colors


Age: From 2 years old

Activity Duration: 10-15 minutes

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Objective(s): To train the child’s fine motor skills

Materials:

1. 1 basket of Lego bricks with 3 sets of 4-5 colours bricks
2. 1 muffin tray
3. 1 tray

Directions:

1. Demonstrate to your child by sorting the bricks into each of the muffin tray compartment by colour.

2. Put the bricks back to the basket.

3. Encourage your child to try.
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Montessori Activity: Scooping ABCs


Age: From 2 years old

Activity Duration: 5-15 minutes

Preparation Time: 3 minutes

Objective(s):

1. To train the child’s fine motor skills.
2. To teach the phonetics of letters.

Materials:

1. 2 identical medium bowls (I use the free plastic takeaway containers)
2. 4-5 fridge letter magnets into one bowl (not too many, keep it simple)
3. 1 deep spoon
4. 1 tray

Directions:

1. Demonstrate to your toddler by scooping an letter from the bowl and while doing so, repeat the sound of that letter.

2. Repeat with the other letters.

3. Encourage and let your child try it.

4. Once your child master the first 4-5 letters, move on to the next set of letters.

Tips:

You can also sing the alphabet song as you do this activity.

Benefit(s):

1. A very good way to train your child’s fine motor skills.
2. A fun way to learn the alphabet.
3. Kill two birds with one stone, especially for the working mom, by combining Practical Life lesson with Language.

Total Cost:

Alphabet magnets : 27 DKK for (4.99 USD or 6.40 SGD)

Additional Information:

This is my own idea, and I can’t wait to test it on J! The results: J (24M9D) had difficulty scooping each of the letters from one bowl to another. So I simplify this activity by asking him to pick the right letter by hand instead. He has difficult picking the right letter. Thus, this will be my signal to put this activity away and let some time go by before re-introducing it.
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Fun with Table-Tennis for Toddlers


Age: From 2 years old

Ideas:
1. Play it against a wall

2. For older children, use masking tape to form the center line. Then sit down and play against each other.

3. Use the dining table as table-tennis table and play against each other at home.

Additional Information:
I accidentally saw this at Tiger and bought it to play with J when he is older. However, when we played this today during bedtime, he enjoyed it so much. At this age, J (2Y1M29D) doesn't know how to play table-tennis, but he watched with great interest the demonstration made by daddy and he enjoyed hitting the ball with the bat. He also enjoyed running after the balls and picking them up. Table-tennis is one of the most popular games in China. Thus, it is also good for J to learn about his heritage, so that he would not be a stranger to this game. It is a good way to get J to exercise, although bedtime may not be the best time to do so. Since I am a working mom, I have no other time to do so. Thus, this evening's bedtime was a little too active, and I took a longer time to settle down J as a result :-(

It is not necessary to have the table-tennis table for this game. Just use the wall as shown in the picture for toddlers. For older children, use masking tape to form the center line. Sit on the floor and play against each other. You can also use the dining table as the table-tennis table, instead of sitting on the floor.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

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Montessori Activity: Mystery Bags (Touch Sensory)


Age: From 1.5 years old

Activity Duration: 5 - 10 minutes

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Objective(s): To give your child a fun way to practice in identifying and naming objects only through the sense of touch.

Materials:
1. 2 identical drawstring bags.
2. 2 sets of different small objects such as apple, orange, animal figures and geometric objects such as cube, pyramid, prism, etc.

Directions:
1. Get your child to hold one bag and you hold the other.

2. Put your hand inside your bag and select one of the objects, say the cube, bring it out and show it to him.

3. Ask him to put his hands inside his bag and try to find the same shape, using only his sense of touch. He is not allowed to look inside the bag.

Video Demonstration:

http://www.ehow.com/video_4940979_matching-mystery-bag-montessori-activity.html

Additional Information:
I quickly prepared these bags, while Daddy was giving J a bath. I placed in each bag a goat, a penguin, a dog, an apple, a figure of 10 shape, a cube, a triangular block, a oblong block, a crescent block and a roof block. For more ideas on Mystery Bags/Boxes, click here for a good post from http://www.mymontessorimoments.wordpress.com/

J (2Y1M28D) tried this game this evening, and he enjoyed it. There were times when he kept taking out the wrong object, while searching for the cube. He then laughed and finally asked me to help him, which I did. But he had no problem finding the goat and the dog.

References:
- Montessori Play and Learn by Lesley Britton
- http://www.suite101.com/content/the-montessori-mystery-bag-a182138

Monday, 2 May 2011

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Montessori Activity: Deciphering Between Sizes with the Red Rods


Age: From 3.5 years old (Level 2)

Acitivity Duration: 10 minutes

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Objective(s):

1. To teach the child to decipher between sizes.
2. To indirectly prepare the child for later work in geometry through the general observation of the geometrically regular differences in the rod's length.
3. To indirectly prepare the child for the concept of numbers by demonstrating the unit difference in length between the 10 successively longer rods.

Material(s):

1. The red rods
2. A floor mat or a tray.

Presentation:
1. Arrange the rods in a random order on a tray/floor mat, so that your child can see them clearly.

2. Put the rods horizontally to the right of you and ask your child to sit on your left.

3. Tell your child that you are going to build the rods into a staircase starting with the shortest. select the shortest rod and put it in front of you. When you are selecting your rod, run your right hand along to the end so that your child will see that you are finding the next length.

4. Build up the rest of the staircase, finishing with the longest rod. Take the opportunity to introduce the mathematical language of long and short.

5. Tell your child that you are going to dismantle the staircase so that he can build it.

6. Take the rods one at a time and place them to the right of your child in a random order.

7. Invite your child to build the staircase.

Video Demonstration:



How to Make the Red Rods Yourself?

1. Cut 10 pieces of cardboard in the following dimensions: the length 5cm, 10cm, 15cm, 20cm, 25cm, 30cm, 35cm, 40cm, 45cm and 50 cm long by wide 2.5cm long.

Cost:

Cost of the real stuff: 46 USD from http://www.bambini-montessori.com/price_list.htm, since I made it with cardboard, it cost me only the price of 1 cardboard, which is almost free.

Additional Information:

Since I don't have so many red Lego bricks, I have decided to make the "Red Rods" with red cardboards, as many people do. The Red Rods are simplier than the Number Rods, in that it is just one colour. It is to be introduced before the Number Rods. Although I have made the "Red Rods", I am quite relaxed about whether I will introduce both the Red Rods and the Number Rods to J. I think it is alright to just introduce either one, as they are very similar in terms of functions. But if you think that I could be wrong, please feel free to share your opinion, as it is always good to have a second opinion.

This is one of my favourite books providing hands-on guide on Montessori activities that is practical, simple, easy to follow and fun to read. The book also provides lots of ideas on using simple equipment that you can find at home. I found this idea in this book. You can find them in Amazon:


References:
http://www.infomontessori.com/sensorial/visual-sense-red-rods.htm
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Montessori Activity: The Number Rods Made with LEGO Bricks



Age: From 2.5 years old (Level 3)

Activity Duration: 5 - 15 minutes

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Objective(s):
1. To introduce the concept of length.
2. To teach what the quantity of each numeral means.
3. To indirectly prepare the child for later work in geometry through the general observation of the geometrically regular differences in the rod's length, faces and total volumes.
4. To indirectly prepare the child for the concept of numbers by demonstrating the unit difference in length between the 10 successively longer rods.
5. To teach counting and addition.

Materials:
1. 30 red and 25 blue Duplo Lego bricks (3x3x2cm each)
2. A tray or a floor mat.

Directions:

Method 1:
1. Put the first two number rods onto the tray.

2. Take rod one and put it infront of your child. Point to it and say, "This is one." Repeat with rod two.

3. Ask your child to repeat the numeral as you say it. Repeat it twice more, using both rods.

4. Put both rods in front of your child and ask, "Can you point to one?" Repeat with two.

5. Move the rods around, but say, "Show me one."

6. Repeat for the third time, but say "Which is one?"

7. Place both rods in front of your child, and point on the one. Then ask, "What is this?" He should reply, "One." Now put your finger on the two, and ask, "What is this?". He should reply, "Two."

8. Encourage your child to count both rods, and say, "One, two."

9. Repeat the rods and repeat the same steps twice more.

Tips:
1. Teach the quantities up to 10 using the number rods. Go slow, First introduce 1 and 2. Then 3, 4 and 5. Then 6, 7 and 8. Finally 9 and 10. Each time, review the numerals from the previous session.

2. As your child begins to recognize number quantities, introduce counting. Ask, "Which set has the largest number of bricks?", "Which set has the smallest number of bricks?" and "Which two sets have a number of bricks equal to another?"

Method 2:
1. Arrange the rods in a random order on a tray/floor mat, so that your child can see them clearly.

2. Put the rods horizontally to the right of you and ask your child to sit on your left.

3. Tell your child that you are going to build the rods into a staircase starting with the shortest. select the shortest rod and put it in front of you. When you are selecting your rod, run your right hand along to the end so that your child will see that you are finding the next length.

4. Build up the rest of the staircase, finishing with the longest rod. Take the opportunity to introduce the mathematical language of long and short.

5. Tell your child that you are going to dismantle the staircase so that he can build it.

6. Take the rods one at a time and place them to the right of your child in a random order.

7. Invite your child to build the staircase.

Video Demonstration:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjmsmQqBLvA

Tips:
1. You can discuss the same concept by showing photos of family members and their varying heights.

2. You can get everyone to line up in a row from the tallest to shortest as well.

3. When your child is familiar with this game, you can ask him to place the "one" number rod at the end of the "two" rod, so that they create a new rod that is the same length as the "three" rod just above. He can explore similar relationship with all the numbers from one to ten.

4. You can also place a number flash card (or what is called the number tablet in Montessori) next to the corresponding number rod. You can make this number tablet on your own using card board. I am already thinking of making 4 sets - one with numbers, one in English, one in Danish and one in Chinese, hopefully in a post in the near future.


How to Make Number Rods with Lego?
1. The first "rod" is simply one red brick.
2. To make the second "rod" all the way to the last and 10th "rod", always start with a red brick first and put a blue brick on top of the red brick.

Cost:
Cost of the real stuff: 49 USD from http://www.bambini-montessori.com/price_list.htm, since I made it with the Lego bricks I have already have at home, it costs me nothing.

Additional Information:
It is very expensive to buy Montessori materials and they are not easily available. That means that one needs to order it over the internet and pay a very high shipping cost. For this, I thought of using the lego bricks (but someone else thought of the same idea too!), since we have a lot of them at home. If you want to reduce the cost further, you can also use a cheaper brand of bricks such as Mega Blocks. You can also use cardboard, although I prefer to use lego bricks, because they provide a 3-dimensional understanding. However, if you want to buy the original Montessori number rods, you can buy on-line from http://www.bambini-montessori.com/, a Malaysian company which has a value-for-money price with good quality compared to many other Montessori material companies.

According to the book "Raising An Amazing Child" by Tim Seldin, "grasping the concepts of numbers by counting objects is more difficult at first. While young children can learn to "count" by rote, reciting the sequence of numbers from one to 10, most cannot easily grasp the difference between one quantity and another when looking at more than three or four objects. It's almost as if they are thinking: "One, two, three... many!" One way to avoid this is by allowing children to visualize the concepts of numbers and quantity by using a series of segmented rods, rather than trying to teach them to count sets of separate objects. In Montessori," this is done by using the number rods.


This is one of my favourite books providing hands-on guide on Montessori activities that is practical, simple, easy to follow and fun to read. The book also provides lots of ideas on using simple equipment that you can find at home. I found this idea in this book. You can find them in Amazon:

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