Wednesday, March 29, 2006

We Have Tadpoles

It's been raining quite a bit lately. And so while many people are cursing the rain because of traffic jams and floods, the frogs have been happily spawning. What a great time for a Science Lesson! So off we went with our plastic cups and a RM3 plastic aquarium to Taman Aman. Thank goodness not all the puddles were dried up. The kids tried to scoop up every tadpole they could see. Poor Mom had to keep reminding them, "we REALLY, REALLY don't need that many frogs!"
Well, we get home with our new "pets" and it hits me, "what do tadpoles eat?" Looks like it's turning out to be
more of a science lesson for Mom then for the kids. So I had to do a little bit of research and found out they could feed on goldfish flakes. Yay! I already had that available, so no sweat. But then their diet will eventually change and that part, I haven't figured out yet.
Also, as they morph, they will need less water and a place to crawl out of the water. So Damus and I went back to the park the next morning in search of stones and some sticks. Hopefully, that will do the trick. The science lesson is still in progress. Let's see if we manage to rear some hoppers. Stay tune for the results.

In the meantime, you might be interested on doing some extra reading. You know, just in case you come across some tadpoles and decide to host a REAL LIFE science lesson too.
1. How To Raise Tadpoles
2. Dealing With Tadpoles
3. Toad and Frog Tadpoles

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Do Lazy Parents Make For Independant Children?

I admit I'm NOT one of those moms who would do everything for a child. Especially when I know they can do it for themselves. Here are a few examples:

1. I'm too lazy to pick up toys.
My rules regarding messes:
i. You mess, you clean.
ii. Things need to be picked up from the floor before going to bed or before leaving the house.
iii. You do something for me, I'll do something for you.
iv. If it resorts to me picking up the toys, it means you will not see them for a long time or they will end up in the rubbish bin.

Lately my daughter has been pretty good. She cleaned up her playroom yesterday without me even asking (it has been messy for days). Woohoo! Yesterday the kids wanted ice-cream and I cunningly told them that the ice cream says it won't come out until things were off the floor. In 5 minutes my floor was walkable again.
Of course for me to be "lazy" I also have to make the task easy for them e.g. shelves must be low enough, boxes/containers readily available, don't demand perfection etc....

2. I don't like to wait "forever" for my kids to finish their food.
Right from the beginning I swore never to be one of those parents who run after their children trying to get a spoonful of food in their mouths.

My rules regarding eating:
i. If you want me to feed, you stay close. You want to eat, you come to me not the other way around.
ii. If I have to wait like 15 minutes before you come take another bite, you feed yourself (remember, I'm talking about children who already acquired the skills).
iii. Good food must be finished before junk food or snacks are allowed. I will not entertain any request for "other" food if lunch or dinner was not finished. Hungry? Wait for the next meal.

iv. After eating, all plates, bowl, cups and utensils must be taken to the kitchen sink.

The kids really do their best to finish their food now. Of course I have to be reasonable and help them be good eaters. I have 2 strategies that has worked well for me:
i. Put less than what I expect them to eat. If they want more, then they can have a second helping. Psychologically they feel they are such good eaters. Boost their moral. Instead of scolding, scolding, scolding and reminding them how much food they waste I get to tell them what a good job they did.
ii. Get your own food. I now leave it to my older girl to get her own rice and choose what she wants to eat. BUT she must understand that she must finish what she takes. Of course she will leave out the veges. She takes after me. I too grew up not liking veges so I know how irritating it is for people to keep telling you to "eat your veges." So I either cut the veges up very small or make it up by giving them more fruits. No use trying to move a mountain. Just find other ways to get around it.

3. I'm too lazy to pack and carry their bags.
If we need to go somewhere and I know the kids need to be occupied, I always ask them to pack their bags. They decide what goes in but I do the last inspection. I put them in charge of getting their water bottles ready meaning look for it, check if there is enough water, if not bring it to me to be filled up. And yes, I'm too lazy to carry their bags. I already have my own things to carry.
My oldest girl had to learn a hard lesson today. She was dilly dallying getting ready for school this morning. I refused to pack her school bag even though it would hurry things up. I told her it's almost time to go and said her school bag is her responsibility. She, of course, had an attack of "excuse-itis" e.g. where is my water bottle, I cannot go into the room to get it, I want someone to turn on the light etc.... I just walked to the car, turned on the engine and waited for her. I know some of you may think that is cruel but I am reminded of a Tiger Woods story. As a youngster, he turned up at the golf club one day without his golf bag. He had expected his father to get it for him. His father in turn reminded him that that was his responsibility and to be a good golfer, he has to shoulder that responsibility

Ok, that's only 3 of my lazy things. So, do lazy parents make for independant children?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Tag Your Child Before They Get Lost

What would you do if you lost your child in the crowd? Do your children know what to do if they got lost in the crowd?
I've been pondering on these questions a bit lately. Today I took my kids to Petrosains and of course, being the school holidays they were lots of people. I was a bit worried as I knew I hadn't drilled enough safety procedures into my kids. Took the train (LRT) the other day with my kids and realized I hadn't briefed them on what to do if one of us got on/off and the other didn't. Had a quick lesson right then and there. Before any trip I make sure the kids are aware of the dangers of running off without me. Here are my two usual threats (I know I need to tone down on the threats and be more positive):

1. If you run off someone might grab you and take you home with them. Then you cannot see Mommy anymore.
2. If I can't find you I will have to go home without you ok?

My rule is that they must ALWAYS stay close or hold hands. But even then, we never know when mishaps happen. It usually takes a couple of seconds for them to get lost. Anyway, my worry is also due to the fact they my kids have yet to memorize my phone number or the house address. Thank goodness they at least know what their parents' names are. Yes, our names are not Mommy and Daddy.

I've been thinking of making an "Info Tag" for them to carry -- something that has my name, their name, my phone number and the house address etc.... Today I just scribbled my name and number on a piece of paper, put in their pockets and told my children to have someone call me if they get lost. But I think I need to make something more lasting and also add in information for the person that finds them.
Plus I need to also teach them who to approach. God forbid they approach the wrong person and end up in a worse situation (I shudder at the thought). Read in an article that it is best for children to approach other mothers that have children with them.

Well, I found this ID bracelet on the net. Looks kinda what I need. Unfortunately it's in the U.S. so I will have to stick with a homemade one.
Click here to view.

Managed to get hold of a copy of the Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers. Really a great book to teach a toddler about being wary of strangers. It's got lessons like don't take presents from strangers and never to anywhere with a stranger. My favorite is Mama Bear's analogy of the barrel of apples. She says that every barrel of apple has a few bad apples. So it is with strangers. Not all are bad but some are. So we have to be careful because of the few "bad apples". Plus you can't judge a person by its appearance. Like some of the apples had a weird shape but was good on the inside. Then she pulled out a good looking apple but had worms on the inside.
Was going to put the book for sale on my bookshop but my daughter got hold of it first. If you can't wait for me to find another copy, you can download the digital format.
Get it here!
The digital format is priced at USD 2.99. I think that is a fairly reasonable price and very worthwhile, don't you think?

Here are some interesting reading for you:
1. Don't Lost Your Child!
2. Preventing Abductions
3. Suggestions for Parents for Preventing the Abduction of Your Child

In the meantime, if you have some creative ways on how to make this "Child Info Tag", let me know.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Art on Balloons

I've heard many parents fret over children drawing on floors and walls. It definately is a headache to clean up (that is if it can be cleaned at all) but it just goes to show the zest of exploration in a child testing their new found skills on different textures. Well, here is a wonderful and acceptable way to encourage their love of drawing -- Art on Balloons! It was a spur of the moment thing that I happened to discover this wonderful activity. The kids wanted me to blow up balloons for them to play and I thought why not draw faces on the balloon to make it more fun. Well, the kids decided they wanted to draw on the balloons too. And let me tell you, they enjoyed it tremendously. So now whenever they get their hands on a balloon, they rush for the marker pens.
I wish I had taken pictures of their "masterpieces". Maybe next time. In the meantime, let your children create their own masterpieces.

Below are some interesting sites on children and drawing. I enjoyed reading the information there and know that many parents will benefit from the reading as well. Do check it out.

1. Drawing Encounters
2. Young in Art
3. Teaching Children to Draw

Friday, March 10, 2006

How I Got My Daughter To Make Her Bed

I have been trying to get my girl to make her bed in the morning but without success. It doesn't matter that she is only 4+ years old, I know she is capable of doing it. If she only had 1 pillow and 1 blanket I wouldn't mind so much. But she loves to surround herself with countless pillows and has 3 blankets. (Why she needs 3 blankets in this Malaysian climate I don't know.) So you just imagine the mess her bed is in. Oh, and not forgetting her resident soft toys too.
Well, as we were fooling around on the bed this evening, I decided to try the magic of storytelling. This is how it went:

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who got a new bed from her parents. It was a beautiful bed and so very comfy. She loved it. Her mother gave her one pillow but that wasn't enough. She asked if she could have a few more and have mother said ok. She was given one blanket but she wanted more. Again her mother said ok. That night, the little girl slept very well with her soft toys, pillows and blanket.
The next morning, the girl woke up bright and cheery. She didn't cry. (My girl is not a morning person). She jumped out of bed and left her it in a mess. Well, guess who came? It was Mr. Cockroach. He just moved into the house and was looking for a good place to stay. He was searching and searching when suddenly... AHA! "I found it" he said. He saw the mess the little girl had left on the bed and decided it was a good place to stay.
Then guess who came along? It was Mr. Rat. He was looking for a place to rest. He looked and looked and he saw the little girl's messy bed. "Oooh, that looks like a good place to rest" said Mr. Rat.
Then guess who else came along? It was Mr. Centipede. He wondered "where can I find a messy place to hide?" He too saw the little girl's messy bed and decided that was where he wanted to be.

The next thing my girl said was "Mommy, can you help me fold my blanket? I can't do it myself. I take this side and you take that side and we fold it ok?"
Hahahahaha. Beats all my reminders and coaxing. Magic of stories! Unfortunately it had some side effects. As she was straightening up her bed, she was afraid to find cockroaches, rats or centipedes. Oh well, most medicines are bitter.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Malaysian Primary School Registration

Today I registered my girl at Puay Chai (SS2) Primary School. The task and confusion of registering a child in school is a common experience among Malaysian parents. These are our common questions:

1. Which school?
2. When to register?
3. Where to go?
4. What to bring?

Since I am done with this responsibility of mine, let me share with you my experience.

Well, I too was confused with the "Kebangsaan vs Chinese" school issue. I will not go into that as each have their pros and cons. Each parent will have to search out that answer themselves. It depends on what you want for your child and knowing the capabilities of your child. Therefore, there is no one answer for everybody. As for me, I chose to go with the Chinese School. Now all I can do is pray that I made the right decision.

This year registration is open to children born in the year 2001. To be more exact, registration only began in March (meaning now lah). So, don't listen to people who tell you to register the moment your child is born. Next year will be for children born in the year 2002. So just calculate from there and you will know when to register your child.

Head to the school office and they will give you a form to fill out.

1. Original birth certificate
2. Photostated copy of the birth certificate.
3. Utility bill noting your current address. (Bring more than one to be on the safe side).
4. Photostated copy of the utility bill.
5. Envelope with a 50 cent stamp. (Not sure if it's just with Puay Chai or all the schools). Anyway, I didn't know about this and paid RM1. Better than going home and coming back again.

Okay, so it's as simple as that. I had to learn all this through word of mouth. So I hope I've at least helped some other worried parent out there.

Here's another website I found that may be of help:

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Encouraging Prewriting Skills

One of the things I truly believe in is that children must be given plenty of opportunities to scribble. Of course the trick is to teach them that scribbling is to be done on paper and not on tables and walls. I have seen parents shower their toddlers with toys and toys but never give them the pleasure of holding a pencil. Now some parents may ask, when do I start? My answer is simple, when they are ready. Every child develops at a different rate. You know your child best. Use your observations skills. Like I said before, provide the opportunity. Have pencils and paper readily available and easily accessible.

Children learn best through modelling. So start out by having drawing sessions with your toddler on your lap. Even better if you illustrate while telling a story. Don't worry if your elephant looks like a crocodile. You do not need to be a Michaelangelo to teach your child what a pencil can do. Later, give them a pencil and see what they do with it. If they put it in their mouth, then obviously they aren't ready. When they start making marks on paper, the answer to your question whether they are ready or not glares you in the face.
Don't rush them into drawing shapes and writing alphabets. According to Susan Striker in her book entitled "Young At Art" she says, "This point in scribbling development is so crucial to the child's normal development that it can be devastating to now rush the process or "teach" the child how to represent realistic objects." In other words, scribbling is important. Don't disrupt their learning process.

Make writing fun. Writing doesn't just have to be paper and pencil. My kids have a blast with their blackboard and chalk, and whiteboard and markers. Kindergartens these days can dish out really boring work. Kids come home copying the strokes over and over again. Where is the excitement? Check out the pictures below. Damus was happily drawing lines and circles on the animals. Karina, who is already passed prewriting stage, was also eager to do the activity.

So ignore the old lady who screams at you for giving your child a pencil that will poke his eye out. Provide the opportunities, make them fun, then sit back and enjoy watching your child grow in skills and imagination.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Dangers of Labeling a Child

How many of us have nicknames for our children? Goodness knows how many nicknames I've created for my children since they were born. It seems to come naturally and often than not, its done out of our affection for them. For example, when my girl was a baby, she liked to sleep on her stomach with her butt stuck up. So we started to call her "butt-butt". Then as she grew older, someone commented she looked very handsome like her daddy. Her nickname changed accordingly and we called her "our handsome girl." Our little boy also has his share of nicknames. Recently, we have been calling him "Funny Boy" coz' he does things to make us laugh and is always laughing himself. Well, he asked me a question the other day that made me think I had better be more conscience of what I call my children. I can't remember what he did but after he had done it, he asked me "Mommy, was that funny?" Alarm bells started ringing as it was obvious to me that this little boy was trying to live up to the label his parents had conveniently tagged on him.

Many child experts have discussed the negative consequences of labelling our children or pushing them into certain roles. Children tend to live up to their names. So imagine a child who is always referred to as "naughty boy" or "lazy girl"? How will they know how to act otherwise if their parents have already deemed them as such. And how do we as parents expect our children to be otherwise when we keep reminding them what we really think of them.

Now you may say, what harm would I do then if I use good labels on my child such as "smart boy" or "angel girl"? Even these labels may cause pressure and tension in a child. Just imagine "smart boy" stressing out because he didn't get all As on his last exam or "angel girl" trying hard to hide and cover up her mistakes because she doesn't want to "spoil" her image?

Reflect on your own life? What labels did your parents put on you? What role do you play in your family? Were you the Big Brother/Sister, the Baby of the Family, the Crazy One, the Helpful One, the Talented One, the Genius, the Strong Headed one, etc.... How has that effected you even until now?

So, what should we do instead? In the book, Liberated Parents Liberated Children by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish, there is mention that a parent is a "storehouse for his child's finest moments." In other words, we remind them of all the good they had done. If a child finds difficulty reading, recount the times when he/she got it right. If a child keeps bullying a younger sibling, remind him/her of all the kindness bottled inside.

I actually like what is written in the book, so I'm just going to quote it:

"Children see themselves primarily through their parents' eyes. They look to us to tell them not necessarily what they are, but what they're capable of becoming. They depend upon us for a larger vision of themselves, and for the tools to implement that vision....
There is no such thing as a child who is "selfish." There's only a child who needs to experience the joys of generosity.
There is no such thing as a child who is "lazy." There's only a child who is unmotivated, who needs someone to believe that he can work hard when he cares enough.
There is no such thing as a child who is "clumsy." There's only a child who needs to have his movements accepted and his body exercised.
Children -- all children -- need to have their best affirmed and their worst ignored or redirected."

So with a lesson learned, I come before you with a pledge to free my children from all labels I have pinned on them. If you hear me label my child again, I ask that you do me a favor and pinch me.