Sunday, 29 April 2012

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A Pair of Prayerful Hands for Children


Rochelle taught me this today, which I would like to share with everyone.

Age: From 2.5 - 5 years old

Objectives:
1. To teach the concept of praying to God in a fun way.
2. To teach counting.
3. To train fine motor skills with cutting with scissors.
4. To provide opportunity to practise writing skills in a fun way for the older children.

Materials:
1. 1 piece of construction paper
2. 1 scissors
3. 1 pencil

Directions:
1. Tell the child that as usually when we pray, we fold our hands. Thus, today we are going to make a pair of hands.

2. Fold the paper into half.

3. Trace the hand of the child very closely to the edge of the folded side of the paper so that you only get to cut it on 3 sides, with the left hand side as the folded side untouched.

4. For older children, let them cut out the hand themselves. For younger children, help them to cut the hand.

5. Open it up like a book. Take this opportunity to revise Maths with the children, and invite them to count the fingers. For younger children, count the 10 fingers with them.

6. Tell the child we are going to list down 5 - 10 people whom we could pray for this coming week.

7. Ask the child who he would like to pray for and invite your child to write it down for each finger. For younger children, write down for them the names of the peope he would like to pray for. For older children, it is a chance for them to practise writing :-)

Additional Information:
This is a fantastic idea from Rochelle that I learned and I would like to record it down. The pair of hands above is traced from Joshua's left hand. I asked Joshua who he would like to pray for and we talked about the following people:

1. Amy
2. Anna
3. Jeffrey
4. Jesus
5. Chen Ying
6. Daddy
7. Mommy
8. Farfar
9. Farmor
10. Ye Ye in Singapore
11. Nai Nai in Singapore
12. himself

Joshua was so thrilled to show it to my Superstar, when we reached home, that he did not take off his shoes, but rushed straight in to Daddy.

We were going to my Superstar's parents' place for dinner, and before we leave, Joshua said WAIT, and ran to pick this to bring along and show to Farfar and Farmor.

We don't have enough fingers to write all the names down. This evening, I hope to take this pair of hands out and use it to pray with Joshua.

Thank you to Rochelle for such a fantastic idea :-)

Saturday, 28 April 2012

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Heritage Education: Teaching Chinese Character in a Fun Way


Age: From 2.5 years old

Objectives:
1. To teach recognition of Chinese characters in a fun way.

Materials:
1. 1 set of 8 name card size cards with picture and the Chinese characters.
2. Another set of 8 name card size cards with only the Chinese characters.

You can make your own, or if you are a working mom and do not have the time, you can buy a set here:

http://www.betterchinese.com/ProductDetail.aspx?CurriculumID=1&ProductID=4

It contains simplified Chinese characters used in China and Singapore, pinyin and English translation for billingual children.

Here is another good option from Amazon with very nice pictures, the Chinese pin yin and English translation:


How to Play?
1. Display all the picture cards face up on the table.
2. Put the word cards in a pile face down.
3. Ask the child to pick the first word card, turn it around and read the Chinese character to him.
4. Ask the child to match the Chinese character to the picture. He gets to keep the pair.

Additional Information:
As a working mom, I know my time will be very hectic and limited, once Joshua comes along. Thus, I have planned 4 years ahead. I bought and read most of the books as well as the teaching materials when I was expecting Joshua. The risk of such a strategy is that the things you bought may not be as new, but given my very hectic time constraints, it is a risk and down-side that I gladly accept. Joshua discovered it last week and asked to play with it. Finally I found the time this week!

I have classified it as from 2.5 years old, because for some children, you can already start this at 2.5 years old. My friend's son, Daniel, could already recognized 40 - 100 Chinese characters between 2.5 years old to 3 years old (Whoever said that learning Chinese is difficult! I found it hard to believe, especially from my fellow Singaporeans with that complaint. It is all in the attitude of parents.) For Joshua, it suits him better to start this at 3 years old as I devoted his second year to Montessori Practical Life. Joshua also has to juggle three languages, thus, he was not ready to start any sooner.

Joshua (3Y1M22D) tried this yesterday and he enjoyed it very much. He was not very good at it initially, but quickly understood the concept. However, he is looking more at the pattern than really reading the Chinese character. That is nevertheless a start. Amy and Joshua played it today. It went very well. Amy is a very motivated and determined girl, amazing at her age. After this trial run, we hope to introduce this game in our next Chinese playgroup.


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J Summary (3Y1M21D) - My First Self-Made Gift to Mommy



This is the very first home-made work that J gave me. It is a braclet he stringed himself today at the kindergarten. It was his second week there.

Daddy and J came home with it, very excited. Daddy said, "Mommy, J har en gave til dig." Then J came and gave it to me. It was very sweet. I wanted to take a picture and record it down for memory.

It brought me to think and wonder what my own mum's feeling was, when she received gift from me as a child. She must have felt the same.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

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J Summary (3Y1M21D) - It Is Jesus, Him Who Was On the Cross

Daddy asked J, "What made you such a sweet and sensible boy?" J replied, "It is Jesus, Him who was on the cross." Daddy pondered. Quietly I hold this in my heart.

For a moment I thought J would answer, "It is Mommy, of course :-)." Then I could elicit praise and appreciation from Daddy and congratulate myself for having such a filial son, giving me credit for all my efforts. But J did not. For a moment, my heart sank a little with disappointment... oops, here I could see my pride reigning its ugliness.

But my heart floated straight back up again. It at least took away all the pressure from me. I am not the one who made J sweet and sensible. God did.

Of course, the glory belongs to God. J had rightly and wisely answered the question, far beyond my amazement. So simple, yet so correct, from a 3 year old, speaking straight into my heart. Yet so profound to be understood and made Daddy pondered for a moment (After note: Daddy forgotten everything by evening time and when we talked about the incident, apart from remembering that J mentioned something about Jesus this morning.... ok... the depth of human's memory! Which is why I am recording it down now furociously in my blog, to capture every bit of memory).

In case this painted a distorted picture of J as a sweet and sensible child all the time, it is not always the case. J is a human like all of us. He can be mischevious like all 3 year old, especially so now that he has started kindergarten!

On the other hand, if Daddy was to ask J, "What made you such a naughty and self-centred boy?" What would J have replied? I hope he would not say, "It is Mommy, of course :-)" But the truth is, it is me! However hard I try to be, I fall way too short as a human being, to be able to set J a good example. Wretched as I am, I am so full of faults - proud, stubborn, strong-willed, self-centred and typical Chinese, as the Singaporean saying goes, "die die also must save face". How can I as a mom exemplify my life to be full of grace? Each day I tried, each day I failed. I say or write things which I regretted afterwards. How can I be sensible, wise and gracious as a mom? I haven't reach there yet, and far from reaching there. It can be discouraging, but I have to learn from J saying, "Mom, it is Jesus. Look to the Cross, Him who was on the Cross, Mom". God hasn't given up on me yet. For He is giving me opportunties each day to try again. Hopefully the failing is lesser and lesser.

I learned a lot and have been reminded a lot from J's reply. It is like God repeating to me, "Elaine, apart from me, you can do nothing. And on the cross, Jesus has died and paid for your sins. You have been forgiven to try again, and again and again." This indeed is the message of the Cross.

I pondered more. It made me realized the significance and importance of our Church Nursery Class. I believe J had learned a lot from it, to which I am really thankful to the teachers and helpers. It also made me realize that I need to pray more for our Nursery Class and our Sunday School, as at some point the head knowledge is transferred to heart knowledge, and that is the work of the God that none of us could do. We could not claim the credit and it also takes the pressure off the teachers. But God is definitely using us as tools. We need to pray, as it pleases God to see our desire for the heart knowledge to occur in each and every child in the Nursery and Sunday School. We need to look to the Cross to equip us for our work.

The Bible says in John 15:5

"I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

Thank you J. What a privilege it is to be your mom and learn together alongside Daddy and you each day.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

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J Summary (3Y1M19D) - J's First Tattoo



After dinner, J was quietly colouring upstairs... very quietly. We were still having our dinner. We thought to ourselves, wow, how nice, he was happily entertaining himself.

We went upstairs... and saw that he had tried to paint his own legs with orange and pen mark!!! Didn't know to laugh or to put on an expressionless face. We didn't want to encourage him to vandalize things or vandalize himself. But we decided to take a picture of him for memory.

J is certainly getting more mischevious lately after entering kindergarten. Help with parenting please!
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Montessori Activity: Recognizing Traffic Sign for Pedestrian/交通信号灯


Age: From 3 years old

Objective(s):

1. To teach traffic safety and the ability to read traffic signs.
2. To teach obedience at a young age.

Materials:

1. Homemade traffic signs - red mand and green man
2. 1 Duplo Lego man
3. 1 string or ribbon for demarcation
4. 1 street rug or carpet (optional)

How to Make?

1. Cut 2 circles made of black construction paper of approx. 14cm in diameter each.
2. Draw a green man and paste it in the middle of the circle.
3. Draw a red man and paste it in the middle of the other circle.
4. Laminate them and stick a ice-cream stick behind each sign with scotchtape.

Directions:

1. Explain to your child the concept of red man and green man.

2. Hold up the red man and ask your child whether the person should stop or cross the road.

3. Change the traffic sign and ask your child to manipulate the lego man according to the traffic light.

Tips:

Don't feel disappointed, if you don't have a child carpet street rug. You can still implement this game easily. Just use the string to demarcate the line on a plain floor as shown in the picture below:



Additional Information:

I adapted this idea from a Chinese Montessori book I bought in Singapore from the Popular Bookshop (www.popular.com.sg).

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Montessori Activity: Recognizing Traffic Sign for Drivers/交通信号灯


Age: From 3 years old

Objective(s):

1. To teach traffic safety and the ability to read traffic signs.
2. To teach obedience at a young age.

Materials:

1. Homemade traffic signs - red light, green light and orange light
2. 1 toy car
3. 1 string or ribbon for demarcation
4. 1 carpet (optional)

How to Make?

1. Cut a circle of approx. 11cm in diameter and laminate it.
2. Stick a ice-cream stick behind with scotchtape.

Directions:

1. Explain to your child the concept of red light, green light and orange light.

2. Hold up the red light and ask your child whether the car should stop, go or slow down.

3. Change the traffic sign and ask your child to manipulate the car according to the traffic light.

Tips:

Don't feel disappointed, if you don't have a child carpet street rug. You can still implement this game easily. Just use the string to demarcate the line on a plain floor as shown in the picture below:



Additional Information:

J is at an age, where he can understand traffic signs. I teach him when we cross the road, but I just want to concretise it more with this activity. I got this idea from a Chinese Montessori book I bought in Singapore from the Popular Bookshop (www.popular.com.sg).


Monday, 23 April 2012

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Montessori Activity: Playing Hide-&-Seek with the Stop-Watch (3D)

Idea adapted from the book "Phonemic Awareness in Young Children"

Age: From 2.5 years old

Objective(s):
1. To stimulate the development of phonemic awareness in children.
2. To further train your child's ability to focus their attention on specific sounds of interest.
3. To develop the child's ability to concentrate and focus.

Materials:
1. Ticking clock, alarm clock or stop-watch
2. Blind fold (optional)

Directions:
1. Show the child the stop-watch, start it and let him be familiarize with the sound.

2. Stop the watch and tell your child that he should cover his eyes, while you are going to hide the stop-watch.

3. While your child's eyes are covered, find a hiding place for the stop-watch and start it.

4. Ask your child to open his eyes, listen very carefully and try to locate the stop-watch.

5. During the search, everyone must be as quiet as possible.

Tips:

For younger child or child who is not so sensitive to stop-watch, try hiding a musical box until the child is familiar with this game. Then re-introduce the stop-watch.

Additional Information:
It takes discipline to introduce language activities to Joshua. I haven't been that discipline and consistent with it, as I find the Maths activities more fun and interesting to implement. But I will persevere on. This is quite an easy activity to do, so I will try to do this tomorrow.

Actually, I believe this activity would be also good for children with ADHD, to train their concentration skill.

I highly recommend this book "Phonemic Awareness in Young Children" by Marilyn Jager Adams et al from Amazon. It provides a very organized approach to teaching language, which I like:

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Montessori Activity: Mommy Mommy, Where are you? (3C)



Idea adapted from the book "Phonemic Awareness in Young Children"

Age: From 3 years old

Objective(s):
1. To encourage the child's willingness to listen sensitively and thoughtfully, according to the book "Phonemic Awareness in Young Children".
2. To train the child's ability to locate the source of a sound.

Materials:
1. Blindfold
2. Musical instrument such as a flute (optional)

Directions:
1.  Tell your child you are going to play a game with Mommy, and that he is to sit in the centre of the room with his eyes covered.

2. Mommy goes to any part of the room and makes an animal sound, for example, moo, bow-wow, chip, bzzz, etc.

3. Ask your child to point to the direction where the Mommy is.

4. In addition, ask your child to name the part of the room to which Mommy has gone and indicate whether Mommy is lying down on the floor or standing on a chair. The purpose is to pinpoint from where in the room the sound is coming.

5. When the child has figured out from where the sound is coming from, mommy and child change role and the game is repeated.

Tips:
You can also use sounds other than animal sounds such as sounds tied to a particular theme being studied or musical instrument such as a flute.

Additional Information:
This is another version of hide-&-seek game which is more targeted to the purpose of language training.

I highly recommend this book "Phonemic Awareness in Young Children" by Marilyn Jager Adams et al from Amazon. It provides a very organized approach to teaching language, which I like:

Sunday, 22 April 2012

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Fun Activities to Promote Math Skills for 3 Years Old

Just to file this down in my blog from Babycenter:

http://www.babycenter.com/0_fun-activities-to-promote-math-skills_64460.bc?scid=mbtw_post3y_1m_1w:1279&pe=MlV5WWE1aHwyMDEyMDQxMg..
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Montessori Activity: Teaching Counting with 4-In-A-Row Counters




Age: From 2.5 years old

Objectives: To teach counting objects in a fun way

Materials:
1. 1 counting worksheet (Confessions of a Homeschooler has a fantastic one you can download here)
2. 1 bowl containing 4-In-A-Row Counters
3. 1 tray

Directions:
1. Demonstrate by putting one counter on the label called "One" and two counters on the label called "Two", saying, "Joshua, this is one, it gets one counter... this is two, it gets two counters. This is three, how many counters should it gets?"

2. Encourage your child to try to do the same for the remaining labels "Three" to "Five".

Additional Information:
Joshua (3Y1M18D) and Amy tried this today and completed 1-5, but got impatience with 6 - 10. Amy was more determinded and interested in it though.

You can get 4-In-A-Row game from amazon:



Saturday, 21 April 2012

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Montessori Activity: Teaching Pattern Recognition through 4-In-A-Row Counters




Age: From 3 years old

Activity Duration: 10-15 minutes

Objective(s):
1. To get the child ready for Maths.
2. To teach logic and number pattern recognition.
3. To train the child’s fine motor skills.

Materials:
1. 4-In-A-Line
2. 1 tray

Directions:
1. Make a row of pattern using the 4-In-A-Line counters, for example, alternating between red and green counter as one of the easiest pattern to start with for 3 years old child.

2. Encourage your child to try to make the next row repeating the pattern you have just made.

Additional Information:
Recognizing patterns is part of the pre-school kindergarten curriculum in Singapore, and I saw such a problem sum from the Singapore pre-Maths book. I got inspired to turn it into a fun and educational Montessori activity, after browsing those books.

Here is another variation to teach pattern recognition in a concrete way, rather than using a 2-dimensional Maths book and another way to play the 4-In-A-Line game. I occupied him with this small Montessori activity to buy myself some time and to get a little peace. He could repeat the pattern for 2-3 rows. Thereafter, he got lost, and then it was time for breakfast :-)

You can get 4-In-A-Row game from Amazon:



Tuesday, 17 April 2012

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J Summary (3Y1M12D) - Tea Time with Mommy


Today was the second day of kindergarten. It was another day of sunshine. I took leave from work today to be with J at the kindergarten and had time with J thereafter too. We had our mommy and J tea time again. I fulfilled my goal. Daily time with our child is so short as working mom. I had to seize every second of our time together, when I am on leave. It is n...ot always that I managed to do it. But I thank God, I found the energy to do it today. It helped a lot that I am on leave.

We started with ringing of the bell. This we learned from the kindergarten today. They rang the bell for lunch time. I also happened to buy the bells that arrived last week, perfect timing and in J's favourite orange colour, of course.

After we prepared everything, J rang the bell. We started our tea time. We prayed for it. We had a great time.



J set the table, also for daddy (but daddy was at work of course). He was really happy to have the tea time together.

I contemplated to put his favourite musli bread on the table, but decided not to. If the bread was there, the fruit will remain. I was right. The bread wasn't there. The fruit was all eaten up.




J had the most fun pouring "tea" for all the tea cups. That was probably the highlight of our tea time, to a 3 year old child. He felt proud to have the chance to handle real porcelain. That's part of Marie Montessori's that really hit home for a 3 year old's child.

J enjoying his "tea". Such simple joy... to him... and to me.


Tea is an Asian tradition, perfected by the Japanese. It was thus a joy for me to see J sitting straight with respect and enjoyment, when drinking "tea".

More practise with pouring... he took it seriously and took pride in his work.


J poured for all the "guests".


We talked about how his day at the kindergarten went, what he did, what he learned, how he felt - as much as it could for a 3 year old. It was a lot of experience for him to be able to articulate all. It was a good rounding off to have a de-brief session in the form of tea time to help put words to his experience.


Today, we learned counting to almost 20 at the kindergarten. We practised over tea time. J's idea to count each of the pieces of the fruit.


We read a verse from the Bible. I chose Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."


He asked me to show him the page where he could read the story of Easter and Jesus' resurrection. It is his favourite Bible story for now. I turned to the Gospel of John. He asked me to point where on the page it is.

Being with him for the past two days, I now understood why it could be tough for a child to be in a new kindergarten for the first week. So many changes, all alone, all the new friends. He may not understand the verse I read to him. But somehow somewhere, I would like him to know that he can trust God for the changes in his life. Life, after all, is full of changes... and it starts now. But God is our anchor in life, and I hope he would remember that.

I also learned from J these two days. He is a very emotionally strong boy, always smiling, just like my nephew Jeffrey. Something mommy could learn from.


J loves to ask the "why" questions, which I could not answer. Today, it was my turn to ask back. He said, "boys should eat pears, and girls should eat apples." I asked, "Why". He said because... it was so. He got my point - why sometimes I could not answer all his questions, as he could not answer mine now :-)


J's laughter really encouraged me and brought me joy.


We rang the bell to mark the end of our tea time and promised each other that we would do it again. It was a really nice time. I captured the moment with my camera. The words just flowed... and I have got to captured them down as well.


J did the clean up with the tray. No activity ends without a clean up, as long as I have the time to implement it.



Monday, 16 April 2012

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Bonding with Your Teenager with Afternoon Teatime/下午茶


Age: From 3 years old

Objectives:
1. To provide a means to create closeness, bonding, communication and with your teenager so that they will confide in you (yes, this is not a typing mistake - with your teenager - but the preparation and bonding starts now at age of 3.)

Materials:
1. 1 porcelain teapot
2. 2 porcelain tea cups
3. Milk or Chinese red date tea
4. Kid's size table and 2 chairs (if you don't have them, you can substitute with coffee table and stools)

Directions:
1. Sit down, set a goal, frequency and time for your "mommy and child teatime".

2. Prepare your child for that day of special first day of afternoon tea time with mommy.

3. For Christians, start with prayer to thank God for the opportunnity to have tea.

4. Simply sit down with your child and have tea (remember to take some pictures of the first tea time together as memory). For people like me who is not a good conversationist, here is a post on possible conversation topics to help me along.

5. For Christians, prayerfully aim to share a Bible verse with your child to encourage him as God impresses upon your heart what would be appropriate.

6. Repeat it regularly as part of your family tradition.

Additional Information:
I read somewhere about this having teatime with your child to as a bonding activity. That was when Joshua was very young and still using a milk bottle. But I don't believe in giving coffee or tea to young children... not good for the brain... but I can substitute it with milk or the tonic Chinese red date tea (if I have time to make them). But then I forgot all about it... until recently my friend Yang Li reminded me of it. She is having regular teatime with her 3 year old daughter Amy. She introduced this activity to Joshua and Amy.

Encouraged by her remarkable resolve, finally, one Saturday, I brought Joshua down to pick his tea set. Between a black pokka dotted and a red pokka dotted one, he picked the red one, because it is closer to his favourite colour - orange. You can get a similar tea set here:


But don't let the lack of budget to get such a set deter you from this activity. Just use real adult cups and jug as substitute.

Joshua helped washed the tea set as his Montessori activity. I rewashed them in the kitchen after him. Then I got swept away by the frantic schedule and two weeks passed. Joshua came to me with his cleaned new tea set and reminded me of afternoon tea he wanted to have with me. I was touched and promised an afternoon next weekend. Weekend passed again and we didn't find the time.

Finally, today (3Y1M11D) I am on leave, and we had our first teatime together after Joshua's first day at the kindergarten. We also had a special guest, Chen Ying, who came to visit us, and we had tea together.

It does not have to be tea time. It can be called coffee time or hot-chocolate time, if coffee or hot-chocolate is more your "cup of tea". It can be football with your son. It can also be a regular walk in the forest, park or garden. But it should be regular.

Our neighbour Brian is an inspiration. He decided one day that life in the fast lane as a consultant in the USA was empty. He returned to Denmark. You could see him playing with full focus and attention with his 5 year old son, Viktor.

I am not sure if this novelty will fade, and if Joshua would approach me again to remind me to have our special teatime. I do not know if this will help us mother and child to be close, when Joshua grows up to become a teenager. There is no guarantee. But I am going to make the effort now and put it in my plan. If you don't plan it, it is not going to happen. The good thing is that I am a planner.

Our action plan is as follows and by publishing it, it helps me to be accountable:

1. Once a quarter.

2. Afternoon at 3pm.

This means I will have to protect our tea time and it may means putting aside Montessori activity, academic pursuit, music practices, swimming classes, etc. Not an easy thing to do for a kiasu mom like me.

This post is about bonding with your teenager, why is it showing a preschooler? It is because the preparation starts now. Bonding is not achieved overnight and when your child becomes a teenager..., when you have gotten the CEO's post and retired with time in your hand..., you have alas missed the boat with your child.

Life in the modern world is frantically fast-paced, even in Denmark (I can't imagine how many times worse it is in Singapore!) Determine with resolve and courage in your heart how you could guard your time with your child. It requires courage and faith, because it means you have to take your mind off your work when you reach home, but to be present in your mind with your child, a very tough thing for many people to do in such times of economic slowdown and insecurity. Man afterall does not live on air.

Can I do it? Do I not get distracted? Have I no fears? Do not life's worries crowd me out? Am I not easily swept away by personal ambitions? Can I keep my resolve and determination?

I don't know. But I will try and take one day at a time. I will start. Today is a good day. It had gone well. The sun was shining bright. We had a great time with Chen Ying. I thanked God.

References:
http://www.havingfunathome.com/2008/10/just-mom-and-me-having-tea.html


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