Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How to potty train your child – the FUN & stress-free way!

My daughter just turned 4 in March, and I think it’s time to really get down to business and potty train her for real. I have tried training her before shortly after her 2nd & 3rd birthdays, but both attempts failed miserably. She just could not get it. It completely stressed her out; she would wail and whine and scream while squatting/sitting on the potty I bought for her, crying her heart out “I can’t pee, mama”, “There’s nothing coming out”, “Why is this taking so long?” and many other heart wrenching pleas that I can’t remember.

There are plenty of books and plenty of articles out there saying how you can potty train your child in one day, one week or whatever. I read a lot of those articles on parenting and children websites saying that your child should be potty trained by 18 months old or 2 years old the latest, or your child could be behind on her development milestone. What I think is – if there’s no major physical limitation e.g. the child still can’t walk by the age of 3 – you can forget all those psychological bullshit. You are the mother of the child; you should know what’s best for your child and work around that principle.

So that’s what I thought. If she’s not ready, then she’s not ready. There’s no use pushing her until she screams her head off, both of us getting all stressed and achieving nothing in the end. I do have friends and relatives that comment that she’s too old to be wearing diapers anymore and how their child/grandchild/niece/nephew was potty trained before the age of 3. (This seems to be the gold standard. Any later that this means your child is a slacker.)

So I’m gonna do this my way.

Also, I’ve found out that the No 1, ultimate, essential tool in potty training.  

Not a very state-of-the-art potty, but very cute nonetheless.

A state-of-the-art potty trainer? It helps, but it’s not necessary. When your child is good and ready, she won’t even need a potty anymore.

The answer is:   Patience. Lots and lots of patience.

The process of potty training my daughter took about 1 ½ months, which is quite long compared to the “normal” toilet training as recommended by the parenting experts.

However, after the first two failed attempts at potty training, I abandoned all the knowledge I’ve gained from the parenting websites, magazines and books and asked my mother and my mother-in-law for tips. Both of them said the same thing; start by taking the child to the toilet every few hours. Okay, very logical. In fact I have tried this before, resulting in the heart wrenching screams.

How to push her to succeed without pushing

What I need is to do is motivate her without putting too much stress and pressure on her. It has to be fun, visual and seem to be a like game. And it can’t be chocolates, sweets or ice cream, all her favourite things.

The obvious solution is: Stickers. Kids LOVE stickers. And not just ordinary stickers. Special, squishy and glittery stickers, awarded only upon successful potty usage.

At first I bought a roll of colourful, smiley-face stickers that has motivation phrases on them, such as ‘Good Job!’, ‘Well Done!’ and ‘You’re a Star!’ on them. But they all look pretty much the same, and after a while, doesn’t seem so special anymore. So I bought other stickers in random shapes.

I searched for free potty training charts in the internet and printed 2 copies, one for my daughter and one for her younger brother. I didn’t want him to feel left out, so I let him play along too.

Then I thought of another visual motivational goal – a photo of my kids actually on the potty. So I printed out 2 copies of a child on the potty and superimposed their head shots on the child’s body.

The early days - my son wasn't actually potty training, but I had to give him some stickers too to avoid any hard feelings. :)
I also bought a packet of pull-up pants diapers for my daughter to get used to wearing. I pasted the two charts on the wall in their play room with the superimposed head shots above each chart.

Purpose? (Get her toilet trained.) Check.
Motivation? (The special stickers) Check.
Visual goal? (The chart & the super-imposed photo) Check.

Then I explained to my daughter how it works.

How it works

In the beginning, she will start wearing the pull-up pants. Every time she wants to pee, she needs to tell me or the maid that she needs to go, so either of us can help her take off her pants and sit her down on her potty. I also reminded my maid to ask her every two to three hours whether she wants to go to the toilet. Then I showed my daughter the ‘special’ stickers, telling her that I will keep them for her, so every time she succeeded using the potty, I’ll give her a sticker and she could paste it on her chart. 

To start the engines running, I gave her a first sticker for ‘free’. (I had to give one to my son too, because he was there listening. He’ll throw a fit if he sees his sister getting a sticker and he doesn’t.)

You should have seen how their little faces light up when they see the stickers! I didn’t have to wait long for results; she told me the next day that she succeeded going to the toilet. She was literally skipping and smiling to let me know she did it. Going to the toilet became such a fun thing to do! I praised her repeatedly for her achievements, with kisses, hugs and high-fives. 
At first, success came only once a day, then it increased to twice a day, and three times a day, and about 2 weeks later, her diaper stayed dry all day. So I decided that it was the ripe time to start losing the diaper.

Progress 1 – Losing the diaper

All carpets were rolled up and stashed away, just in case of any potty accidents. I put on a diaper on my daughter only when she took her afternoon nap. It went pretty well except for 2 accidents, both happened at home, when she was too engrossed playing and she totally forgot to go to the toilet. It’s really hard to stay calm when such accidents happened, especially when you just get home from work, all grumpy and tired, or when you’ve just finished cleaning up the house, as one friend told me. Remember that no 1 tool? Patience, patience – and if you feel like screaming at the top of your lungs – more patience.

Progress 2 – Losing the diaper while travelling

When my daughter stayed dry at home and was accident free, the next step was to not wear diapers when travelling outside the house. I kept asking her every hour if she needed to pee, and she kept saying no in a really confident way. She also had to learn to make do with any toilet available, whether we were in shopping malls or a relative’s house. At first she felt a little icky of shopping malls’ toilets which were, admittedly, less-than-spotlessly-clean, but after a few times, she didn’t just care anymore.

Progress 2 – Losing the diaper during afternoon naps & moving on to the “big” job

Her bladder control is getting better, as I began to notice that she did not pee at all during her afternoon naps. So I decided to try not diapering her while she napped. I’m happy to report that no accidents occurred other than the first two I mentioned previously. 

Even better, she has even started to poop in the toilet. Previously whenever she wants to poop, she would ask to put on her diaper pants and poop in it. So whenever she did successfully poop in the toilet, I would give her extra stickers. I’d say this is a great achievement for my daughter, since she used to have bouts of constipation that left her traumatic to even sit on the toilet.

So many stickers that the chart can't fit them all! I didn't show my son's chart as there wasn't much change, anyway. 

All in all – a learning experience

My daughter still wears her night diaper and I haven’t started on the night toilet training yet, which would be another challenge. But it was such a fun and relaxing method, I didn’t mind the slowness of progress at all. Rather than setting my standards on my daughter i.e. you must be toilet trained in 3 days, I let her set her own learning pace, even at 4 years of age.

It was an educational journey, for both my daughter and me. Of course she learned how to go to the toilet on her own and all that, but the most important lesson here is independence. She also learned that to get the reward, she needs to earn it. She learns to appreciate the reward, because she has achieved it on her own. The chart is a visual proof which shows her achievements and encourages her to improve, without putting on any pressure.

I feel that I got to know my daughter’s personality better during this process. Her emotions are quite volatile, in the sense that when she’s happy, she chatters endlessly and sings all day long. But at a moment’s notice, that could flip right into a screaming fest of emotional outbursts. I’ve learned when to back off and chill when it’s not working and accept the fact that my daughter will not be able to toilet train in 3 days, and that doesn’t make her, or myself, a failure.

Breathe, stay calm and try again another day.

If you’re getting all stressed up & hot and bothered at how your child just can’t get the hang of using the potty just yet, relax and take heart. I promise you she won’t go to college in diapers.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How puzzling is that? – How puzzles can rock your child’s world

Alphabet wooden puzzle
I’ve never taken a liking or interest for puzzles or chess, or any thinking games. No one has ever told me that I should, or showed to me that puzzles are fun, or has educational benefits, or can make a person smarter. From what I can see, puzzles are anything but fun. How can arranging things to make a picture seem fun? (That alone should show you how I suck at organizing and arranging stuff. Yikes.)

But that all changed when I became a parent myself. You know how a mom always wants the best for her child? I thought “I can’t let my child become a dumb-ass like me!” or somewhere along those lines. I knew that play is a child’s work, so I started researching on smart and educational play. I mean, why let them merely play, when they can play and learn and become smarter individuals at the same time? You know, kill ten birds at one time. Moms are nothing but time-saving, efficient multi-taskers.

I started exposing my kids to puzzles from they were about a year old. I bought 2-3 pieces large puzzles of animal pictures for my daughter to assemble. At first she doesn’t know how to match the head of the animals and their bodies. I’d have to show her which is the cat’s head and its body, the fish’s head and its body, and so on. But after several attempts, she seemed to catch on. She would try and match the heads and bodies and see if they fit. Then when it doesn’t, she takes another piece and tries to fit it, until she finds a perfect match. It’s amazing to see a child that young being able to match something correctly. These all happened before I started researching on the benefits of puzzles.

Physical benefits
Young children are learning and developing fine motor skills, meaning the ability to make small or fine, controlled movements. Puzzles are a fun way to improve their motor skills i.e. the ability to pinch, pick up and grasp small items which are important for writing later on. You know how babies and young toddlers are always picking up small items on the floor such as buttons, coins, dust particles and leftover foods? Yeah, that’s gross motor skills in action. Puzzles are a much cleaner and safer way to learn, don’t you think?

Another physical benefit apparent in playing with puzzles is the hand eye coordination, which involves the coordinated vision and hand movement to execute a task. We as adults may not think twice when picking up something or writing with a pen, but a young child has to learn to do this. When assembling a puzzle, the child places each piece in the puzzle and manipulating it to see if it fits. This trial and error process is also enhancing the hand eye coordination.  
Intellectual benefits
Puzzles are a way of stimulating the thinking side of a child’s brain, focusing on problem solving and reasoning skills such as process and logical thinking. As your child tries to fit and match the puzzles, they realize that there several ways to attack a problem and experiment with ways that works best for him.

Puzzles also improve a child’s cognitive skills, i.e. learning to understand how the small puzzle pieces fit together to form a complete puzzle set. Depending on the puzzle theme, they’re also learning specific subjects such as alphabets, numbers, animals and colours, among many others.

My daughter arranging puzzles on her own.
Emotional and social benefits
You know how it feels to accomplish something? How satisfying that feels? Children feel that too. You can see how absorbed and determined they are, trying to fit them together until they match. And when they finally finish the puzzle, they clap and cheer to acknowledge that sense of achievement. The accomplishment and the praise by the audience (adoring parents, of course) increase self confidence.

Puzzles are the one of the best family or social games around, just like card and board games such as Monopoly and Uno. Fitting a puzzle requires cooperation and thinking as a group, which is also a great bonding tool. As parents guide their children on matching the puzzle pieces, they could also encourage them to try again when the child gets it wrong, encourage them not to give up and think around the problem, teach them how to handle frustration. Quality time with your kids, and learning so many things at the same time. That certainly beats your child hogging your Ipad playing Angry Birds for hours.

So keeping in mind all these benefits, it’s about time that you start buying some puzzles for your kids, don’t you think? ;)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Alphabet Match Up activity for kids

I originally found this at Muffin Tin Mom website, and I think it’s quite simple to make, using cheap stationeries, so I decided to give it a try. I did it from scratch in about an hour or so, while the kids were taking their afternoon nap. I already bought the materials beforehand for quite a while now, but I never had the time to do it (or possibly, too lazy to think about it. Hah!).

So, laying out the materials.

A large cardboard in any colour you prefer. I chose orange to make it nice and bright.

A stack of paper. You can use normal A4 paper if you like (or if you’re more cheapskate than me), or buy some nice cardstock like I did. You can even cut up some boxes and then paste the alphabet card on it, to make a sturdier card.

A strip of Velcro, scissors and coloured pens, if you’d like to colour and decorate the cards. I didn’t have time to do any decorating as my kids woke up just as I finished.

I forgot to take photos of my own stickers. Hmmph.
2 sets of alphabet stickers. You can just print out 2 sets of alphabet flashcards from the internet, or buy some, if you like. It would save more time, as you won’t need to cut up the paper or paste stickers. Up to you, really. My kids love stickers, so I decided to buy some.

Ok, let’s start!

This is the fast and easy way to cut up the paper. (I’m racing against time here, remember?) Fold the paper in two and cut it up. Then fold the long strip of paper into four and cut them up. One sheet of paper can produce 8 little cards, just about the size of a flashcard. You don’t want it to be too big, it’ll take up too much space on the cardboard.

As there are 26 alphabets, you’ll need 52 little cards in total. (Did you have to count how many letters are there? Heh.)

Here’s the fun part – pasting the stickers on the cards. Go ahead, it’ll bring out the child in you, I promise! And you’ll understand why kids love stickers so much.

I have no idea why this picture came out vertical like this.  Can someone tell me how to fix this?
Before you start sticking the Velcro on the cards and on the cardboard, I think it’s better to arrange the cards on the cardboard first, just to be sure of the placing. Good thing I did, I couldn’t fit all the letters on one surface, so I had to continue on the back. As you can see from the Muffin Tin Mom, her cardboard is bigger so it could fit all the letters. Or maybe my arrangement is a little off, I don’t know. It’s okay, we’re not trying to be too precise, it’s an activity for kids anyway. Unless you or your kids have OCD.

Then cut up the Velcro strip into small pieces. For people who have never used Velcro before, (like yours truly) you might wonder why there are two strips. One strip is the hairy one and the other is the rough one. They only stick on each other i.e. if you try to stick the hairy piece onto another hairy piece, it won’t stick. So you need to stick the rough ones on the large cardboard and the hairy ones on the back of each little card.

Okay, go ahead and stick them all.

Like I said, I had to continue on the back.

Unlike the Muffin Tin Mom, I forgot to make the small open box the put in the second set of cards. Oh well.

All done!

That wasn’t too hard, was it? ;)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Personally, I've never read any of his books. Only today that I realized that The Grinch and Horton the Elephant are characters from his books. I guess with the launch of the new movie 'The Lorax' (what the hell is that??) and his recent birthday, March 2, that I begin to get the "Seuss" awareness.

But I'd like to share this image I found here with his famous quotes, which are really fun to say. They're like tongue twisters!

And check out his official website, Seussville. It's like a fantasy playland, where everything's waving and playing merrily.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pneumonia again; and stitches in the head

My daughter came down with pneumonia again in November and was admitted to the hospital for 4 days.  She had had pneumonia for 4 times now since she was born, and she’s only 3 ½ years old. Poor thing. I’ve never been admitted to a hospital in my life until I gave birth to her. 

It started innocently enough; she developed a mild cough, so did her little brother. But as her brother recovers, hers got worse to the point that she started wheezing. The night before she was admitted, she couldn’t sleep (neither could I) because she had trouble breathing and she was already burning up in a fever.  Both my husband and I are well versed in pneumonia attacks - as she’s had it 3 times previously – we were pretty sure she’ll have to be admitted. 

Aliah getting the nebulizer treatment in the emergency room
So when the doctor confirmed that she needed to be admitted, no one was surprised – except maybe my daughter herself. Luckily we left her brother at day care before coming to the hospital. This time was a little more complicated than before; all previous pneumonia attacks happened before her brother was born, meaning she was still the only child. Now we had to think of who could take care of her brother, as I couldn’t watch both a sick child and monitor a healthy child. My husband could not take additional leave days; his job was pretty crazy at the moment. Lucky for us, his parents had just retired a few months ago, so they volunteered to care for the little guy. But as my son is still breastfeeding at night, so my husband would have to pick him up after he leaves work at night. So all four of us camped out at the hospital for 3 nights; me and my daughter on the bed, and my husband and my son on a small, travel mattress on the floor. The first night we had to stay in a four-bedded children’s ward as all single bed wards were full. 

My husband left for work around 6.30am, so I have to bath both kids, dress them and feed them breakfast while waiting for my in-laws to pick up my son for the day. Not an easy feat when one of them is a healthy child. Luckily all the other beds were empty (all of them got transferred to other wards during the previous night) so we had the ward to ourselves. He managed to spill orange juice, spill a container of cornflakes on the bed and on the floor, pressed the nurse button several times (I had to apologize embarrassingly to the nurse) and almost tipped over the IV drip stand; all in the stretch of a couple of hours. At the same time, I had to coax my daughter to take her oral medication and her nebulizer treatment, which she had to take every 4-5 hours.

We got to transfer to a single bedded ward on the second day, around 8pm. So the remaining 2 nights we slept more fitfully, as we got an extra bed; the travel mattress was left in the bag. On the third day, a fruit basket with a Smurfette arrived for my daughter; my office sends fruit baskets to all employees that got hospitalized. The cheerful faces were like a ray of sunshine in a rainstorm; both kids were tearing up the plastic covering like crazy. I was smiling to watch them whooping in delight, until my son started playing soccer using the persimmon as a ball. Lucky the persimmon didn’t crush into pulp under his little feet. 

so happy!
All in all, I think kids and hospital just can’t go together, especially when the kid had to be strapped to an IV drip. The bed was pretty confining and TV got boring after a while; I had to let her watch the Disney Channel to keep her occupied, which kept playing Mr. Bean cartoons again and again. Whenever the IV drip was taken off, she begged to go to the playground at the children’s ward entrance or the small shop downstairs. I spent some money buying magazines, small toys and various biscuits for her, to keep us both from going insane. At first she doesn’t mind the nebulizer treatments, but later she started acting up and refused to take it. I had to make it an entertainment for her; sometimes I carried her and we danced around the bed where the IV line permitted; sometimes I took a few turns at the nebulizer myself, to be ‘fair’ to her. What a mom wouldn’t do to get her child healthy again. So on the fourth day when the doctor proclaimed that my daughter is good to go home, we left as soon as possible, hoping not to come back to the hospital until next year, at least.

My hopes were short-lived.

It was almost 3 weeks after my daughter left the hospital. I was doing a full medical checkup at that same hospital. My employer covers a full medical checkup for all employees once in every three years, and this was my first time. I was waiting for the ultrasound when my maid called. She was new and had just worked with us 2 days after my daughter left the hospital; she doesn’t understand our language very well, so there were some communication problems in the beginning, but she was getting better. She told me that she was washing up my daughter (she just pooped) when my son came running into the bathroom, slipped and fell down, hitting the back of his head on the door ledge. I didn’t hear my son crying, so I didn’t worry too much about it. 

I immediately called my husband, asking him to get home and check on our son. He was at a car workshop, luckily nearby our home. My son seemed perfectly fine despite cutting his head open; he was already playing with his sister as usual, he wasn’t even crying anymore. My husband took one look, called me and said “I think he’ll need stitches.” I was like “What???” I thought it was like a graze when you fall down on your knees. Since I was already at the hospital, my husband packed up the kids, hailed a taxi (our car was left at the workshop) and came to the hospital to meet me.

I had to cut short my medical checkup and postpone to a later date, and went to the emergency room to meet them. It was already noon, so naturally the kids were getting a little cranky for their naps. I was a little freaked out to see my boy’s little head cut like that. The blood was just oozing slightly out of the cut, without any spills. He doesn’t seem to be aware of the pain too much; he remembered the pain when somebody touched his head, or when he lied down on my lap to nurse. Even when the doctor first looked at him, he said “He doesn’t seem to be in any pain at all.” But he did cry when the doctor cleaned his wound and bandaged his head. We had to wait for the general surgeon for about an hour, to come to stitch him up. While waiting, he jumped around on the sofas, ate some chocolate biscuits and pulled off the head bandage three times. A nurse commented to me, “Weren’t you here a few weeks ago…” I was like, “Yeah yeah, that was my daughter getting pneumonia, now my son cut his head.” 

Aliff in his head bandage
Then the surgeon arrived, looked at his wound, and asked us whether we would prefer for our son to take the general anesthesia or the local anesthesia. To take general anesthesia, he would have to be admitted, not eat anything for 6 hours and stay at the hospital at least for one night. I had had enough of hospital wards, so we decided to take the local anesthesia. I didn’t have the heart to watch my son’s head being stitched up, so my husband stayed with him during the procedure. My daughter was already asleep in the stroller outside in the waiting room, so I stayed with her. 

But that didn’t stop me from hearing my son’s cries, which was pretty distressing for me, imagining what he was going through. I braved myself enough to peek through the door, and I saw him lying face down on the table, my husband soothing him while holding him down with a nurse, the doctor on his left side, stitching away. My son was whining and crying a little, definitely uncomfortable. I was glad that my husband stayed with him; this was totally different than holding down my daughter while she was being pricked in the hand for an IV line. 

Half an hour passed and my husband came out, holding the little boy in his arms. He immediately reached out for me, crying. It was the combination of discomfort, pain, weariness, disorientation and the after effect of the local anesthesia. He doesn’t want to be put down on his feet, but when he does stand on his own feet, he seemed to sway a little on the spot. I tried showing him my phone to distract him but then he took my husband’s phone and matched them, saying “same.. same..” Truth be told, it was rather funny. After getting his meds, we hailed a taxi and scrambled back home. I breastfed my son, and he was asleep within 10 minutes. 

Sleeping on his tummy, like I said.

For the first 3 days, he was still feeling the pain, so he remembered to sleep on his tummy or on his side at night. He was even scared to lie down to nurse or to put on his diapers, so we had to hold his head or put a small bolster pillow underneath his neck to support him. On the 4th day he could already lie down with his head supported with a soft pillow. Now he’s already forgotten the pain and could put his head down like normal. Every time he jumps on the sofa or on the bed, we’ll remind him that he might fall down and hurt his head again. He’ll remember the pain for 5 seconds, touch his head and continue jumping. Ahh, the blissful ignorance of childhood.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The 2-year mark – Success is Sweet

That's my little boy. He's reading A Time to Kill - John Grisham.

My little boy turned 2 years old a few weeks ago. With that, it’s finally official – I have successfully achieved my goal to breastfeed him exclusively for 2 years. And let me tell you; success is sweet. 

                It was difficult, at least in the beginning. Breastfeeding did not come naturally to me, like it is for some lucky moms. It was hard, painful work – in the literal sense of word. I was diagnosed with breast abscess when my son was barely two months old, and I had incision and drainage (I&D) done, which means my breast was cut about 4 inches long to drain out the pus, and was not stitched up, but patched with  dressing to let the incision heal from inside out (whatever that means). 

                Oh, there were a couple other obstacles as well, such as the fridge breaking down, so I had to throw out 50 bags of frozen milk, and the doctor advising me to take medication to stop my milk flow as to let my incision heal. Nothing serious, nothing death-defying. 

                But you know what? What doesn’t kill you, can only make you stronger. The hardships I went through made the success even sweeter. You can only appreciate your success properly when you know how hard it was to get there. After all, you can’t make a rainbow without any rain, right? 

                In a way, breastfeeding an older infant i.e. more than 1 year old is more satisfying and rewarding. By this time, the bond between the mom and the baby would have been cemented that your baby wants to be with you all the time and mom became the ultimate comfort, which can be very flattering to the point of annoyance. (Again?? You just fed like, 10 minutes ago!) But believe me, this phase will pass. The time will come when you’ll be the one chasing your kid around, calling out “Hey (put your child’s name here), you want mommy’s milk now?” while he’s busy playing ball or building a bricks castle. 

                The convenience is nice. When travelling, I just need to bring bottles and formula for my older daughter, no milk bottles needed for my son, therefore less space taken up in diaper bags and less time washing up bottles. When he wants milk, I just sit down somewhere comfortable, keep us properly discreet and there we go. I have breastfed in zoos – on the tram and during animal shows, during corporate family days, in the middle of the living room surrounded by relatives during festive seasons, even in the middle of a futsal tournament, soaking wet and sweating profusely. I should have asked my husband to take a photo of us that time, but my face was all red and puffy, it would be too embarrassing even for me to look at it. Heh. 

                I’ve stopped pumping at work now, and supplementing with some fresh milk, as he still won’t take formula. He doesn’t drink too much milk, but I’m not too worried as he’s a big eater for such a little guy – you’ll be surprised how much food can go into that tiny body – he gets his calcium dose from other sources such as cheese and broccoli, his favourite vegetable. But as soon as I get home, he’ll run after me, asking to be picked up, and wants his milk immediately, hands patting my breasts. Sometimes I had to let dinner start without me. I keep asking my boy to stop for a while, and we’ll continue ‘milk’ right after I eat. But he’ll mumble and shake his head, and put up his little hand, telling me to wait. Huh.      
                People are telling me to stop, now that my son is already 2 years old. He’s getting bigger, taller and heavier for me to hold on my lap. As he feeds, his legs dangled around and his hands would sometimes rub my nose, play with my hair strands, and pat my chin. Sometimes he smiles as I tickle him, showing his little dimple. And I realized how much I love breastfeeding him, and how much I treasure this bonding time with him, and I just can’t bring myself to wean him off, at least not yet. Despite the many times he wakes up at night to feed, and despite the clinginess that I have to sometimes cook while holding him in my other arm, I really LOVE breastfeeding. Needless to say, I’m hooked. And I’ll stay hooked until the day he pushes me away and grows up. Sob.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I’ve been sending my 3 year old daughter, Aliah to a nearby playgroup, ALIMKids, for about 6 months now. The playgroup is held on Saturday mornings, perfect for working parents like me. Despite the belief that playgroups are for stay-at-home parents to be able to get together with other parents with their children in tow, my ultimate reason of sending my daughter to a playgroup is for her to socialize with other kids her age. As she stays at home with her little brother and my maid all week long, I thought it would be good for her social skills, besides the fun things she could do and learn at the playgroup.

As my kids age gap are quite close (their birthdays are 20 months apart), the sibling rivalry is pretty intense i.e. a lot of fighting and bickering and pushing, and of course, bawling. The playgroup actually teaches my daughter to share things, take turns at doing something and learn some manners and the appropriate behavior with her friends. In turn, she teaches her little brother how to share. It’s really funny to see them ‘sharing’ a toy; they weren’t even playing, they just keep passing the toy back and forth to each other!

As a working parent, I have to admit, it’s difficult to find time to do activities with your kids by yourself. Just imagining myself sitting with them, painting and scribbling, gives me a headache. Because they definitely won’t sit down quietly; they’ll bicker over the crayons or paints, or even worse, run around the house and mess up the walls, sofas and the tv! A child may not be allowed to use scissors or make messes at home, but painting, scribbling, cutting, gluing and messes are definitely encouraged at playgroups.

Activities like these are best supervised by parents, but knowing the busy moms nowadays, who would have the time to play all day when you have cleaning and cooking and laundry to do? At playgroups, the playtime is somewhat structured; you sing first, then do some crafts, then you put away the crafts and do some physical play, then finally a group reading. When it’s time for the next activity, the children would clean up to get ready for the next task. For example, when a child wants to keep on colouring, she sees her friends cleaning up and gathering around the teacher to read a book, she quickly cleans up too, not wanting to be left behind. It’s like the children are automatically conscious of their peers, making them want to blend in, do the same things together, conform to each other and work as a team.

It’s kinda funny, but I myself look forward to these Saturday playgroups, which means exclusive bonding time spent with my daughter. This exclusive time is pretty scarce, as both my kids are endlessly fighting for my attention (sounds flattering, I know. But believe me, it’s a lot of headache.). It’s nice to be able to focus on her alone, see her play and sing and scribble. This one hour is also like a break for me from things, stuff, tasks – to do at home.

Here are some of the activities they do at the playgroup, which are mostly group reading, craft play, alphabets, singing and some physical play.

Group reading

Singing and dancing with body movements

Messy crafts such as finger painting


Even birthday celebrations

Making music

Lots and lots of colouring

Ribbon play

A special activity done by ALIMKids – Parachute play

The truth is, I’ve never seen a parachute play before encountering this playgroup. So I feel that it’s worth a brief explanation in itself.

Benefits of Parachute Play

  • Encourages cooperation, teamwork and creates a group awareness
  • Non-competitive - Differing abilities and even differing ages are non-issue. It focuses on playing, not winning
  • Refines perceptual skills - Reinforces turn-taking/ sharing
  • Develops a sense of rhythm - Requires following directions
  • Promotes social interaction - Enhances language development
  • Delightful imaginative play – encouraging role play such as pirates, princess or treasure hunter




Finally, graduation!

I highly recommend enrolling your kids to a playgroup like this. It’s a fun and great social environment plus informal learning for your child. It’s also a great bonding experience for you and your child. What’s not to love?

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