Friday, April 26, 2013

Road Safety Park

Those born in the 1980s will remember the Road Safety Park located within East Coast Park. It was a popular attraction for school excursions, and the last time I was there was when I was in Primary 5 some 20 years back.

Several months back, I brought Nathan cycling at East Coast Park. We cycled past Road Safety Park and I was pleasantly surprised to find the gate open. But since I wasn't sure if we were actually allowed to enter, we didn't go in.

Subsequently, I found out that the park is open to the public and we're free to use it as long as there are no school / community group bookings. So we made our way down yesterday...

Our first stop was the petrol kiosk...

Then we stopped by 7 eleven to grab a snack...

We got to see the different road signs, and I explained to Nathan what they meant...

Nathan learnt to stop at red lights...

And to stop for pedestrians. It was a weekday so we were the only people on the 'road' together with a group of old folks, who were getting briefed on how to use the roads safely. They were really sweet, thanking Nathan for stopping for them to cross...

He brought his bike for regular servicing...

And sent it to VICOM for its annual inspection...

We cycled past bus stops, went under overhead bridges... cycled on straight roads and roads with a slight bend...

On our journey, he saw a man cutting down a tree illegally, so he went to the Police Station to make a report...

All in all, it was a nice change from the usual cycling spots we frequent. I'm sure Nathan will be asking me to bring him back here again. There's practically no one using the park except us on weekdays, might be a bit more crowded on weekends, but that'll probably be more fun too!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Where is it?

From the time Nathan could talk, he started asking questions. Many questions. I am okay with him asking me who questions, what questions, when questions and even how questions... but what really drives me up the wall... is when he asks me... "mommy, where is my xxx". xxx is usually a toy or a tiny thing attached to some part of his toy... He'd promptly get reprimanded whenever he asks such a question. I'd tell him that it is his responsibility to look after his toys, that he should keep his toys after playing with them, so he knows where to look for them when he wants to. He has learnt that I will not look for his missing toy for him. So, after a few of these episodes, he knows that he has to be responsible for keeping his own things. Although the house isn't always neat & tidy, it is an organised mess. We have designated places for things, and the boys kinda know where to keep their things.

So one day... we were getting ready to go out of the house...

Me: Nathan, did you see my car key? I think I misplaced it.

Nathan: Mommy, you can't find your key because you didn't keep it properly. You need to look after your own things. You can't find it now, because you didn't keep it just now. See, it's missing!

I was taken aback by his response...

Me: Can you just look around to see if the key is somewhere?

Nathan: No... I do not look for your missing key. I keep my toys properly so I know where to find them. You have to keep your car key properly so you know where to find it when you want it.

Sigh... at least I know that what I've been telling him isn't falling on deaf ears.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Playsets of Yesteryears

The National Parks Board has a roving exhibition of nostalgic playsets at Raffles Place Park (till May 19, 2013). I wanted my boys to see what mommy's & daddy's playground used to look like so we took them there last Saturday morning. So glad we bumped into Delphine and Anya when we got there... so Nathan could ride the see-saw with someone his size. We had a greaaat time!

My favourite item at the playground used to be the swings... just because of how high they let you go... I remember how we just knew not to walk in front / behind the swing lest you get knocked down... but the kids needed to be reminded so many times when we were there. Gone are these swings in today's playsets. Perhaps they are too dangerous? The see-saw was my next favourite... mostly because you needed to ride with a friend, and somedays, there just wasn't anyone who wants to ride with. I found them pretty scary when I was a kid though... I remember them to be much longer than what we saw at Raffles Place.  And the old school biscuits with coloured icing on top... I remember having these for tea as a toddler. These biscuits have stood the test of time... now, almost 30 years later, my kids still enjoy the same snacks... Relive the memories...

Wooden Rocking Horse

A trishaw

A garden swing

The see-saw from another view

Precious old school biscuits


Building sand castles

Bring your family down for a fun time at the old-school playground. I'm sure you'll have lots of fun like we did.

The playset of yesteryears will be moving to the following locations:
East Coast Park (June to end July) 
Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park (mid August to mid-October) 
Singapore Botanic Gardens (November to December)

I do hope it becomes a permanent installation somewhere at the end of the tour.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Balance Bike Review - Strider vs Kazam

When I was a toddler back in the 1980s, I don't think balance bikes existed. Kids learnt to cycle by using a regular bike with training wheels attached. As the kids got more confident, the parents would slowly raise the training wheels, a bit at a time, until the kids got the idea of balancing on their own.

The key to learning to cycle is balancing not pedalling. Kudos to the people who invented balance bikes for kids. These are essentially bicycles without pedals. Kids as young as two, who are confidently walking on their own, should be ready to ride a balance bike. They start off by walking with the bicycle, and as they get more confident, they'll move on to taking big strides and running with the bike. In the process, they figure out to steer, how to lean / move their bodies to counter balance and hopefully how to ride safely too. 

We bought Nathan his first balance bike for his 2nd birthday. We decided on a Strider because it is one of the lightest balance bikes around.

Getting his helmet fitted
First time riding a Strider (24 months old)

When he started out, he was really just walking with the bicycle...

A few months later, still walking, but a teeny bit faster now...

Taking bigger strides, but still hardly lifting both legs off the ground at the same time.

As he got more confident, he was taking bigger strides and running with the bike... around this time, Noah was ready to start on a balance bike too. So I passed Nathan's Strider to Noah, and got Nathan the Kazam.

Noah on the Strider

Now, he's capable of cruising & steering...

He's going so fast now, I actually have to run after him to keep up. I will probably need to get a bike rack for the car so I can bring my bike to the park to cycle with him next time. I'm also thinking of transiting him to a real bike soon. :)

If you want your child to learn how to cycle, get him a balance bike, NOT a bike with training wheels. Training wheels do not allow children to learn how to balance. Take off the training wheels, let them run with the bike, and they'll learn how to balance intuitively.

So what's the key difference/s between the Strider and the Kazam? I attribute the differences to the bicycle weight and the presence / absence of a foot rest.

The Strider weighs about 3kg, whilst the Kazam is about 5kg. For kids starting out young (say around 2 years old), the Strider's light weight makes it much easier for them to manage.

Foot Rest
The key feature of the Kazam is the foot rest. Most balance bikes do not have a foot rest like the Kazam's. When Nathan got more adept at running and balancing, the foot rest became incredibly useful. He had a comfortable place to rest his foot while he steers the bike down a gentle slope. With the Strider, there was an 'integrated foot rest' which did not allow the child to put their feet in a natural position. I found that Nathan just lifted his legs up, and left his feet in midair. From my observations, it seemed to hinder his balance.

Both the Strider and the Kazam have adjustable handlebars and seats, and should grow with your child till he's ready to transit to a proper bike. They cost about the same too. So for kids starting out young (at about 2 to 3 years old), I would say the Strider is a better option. For older kids, either the Strider or the Kazam will do fine... but Nathan certainly preferred the Kazam.

One more question that many people ask... where to cycle? It seems there isn't that many places that is accessible and safe enough for kids to cycle. The cycling track nearest our place is a 10 minute walk away, and it involves walking / riding by the road. I am not all that comfortable letting Nathan cycle by the road, and would usually load his bicycle in the car and drive to the track. Another place we frequent is West Coast Park. The stretch between McDonalds and the Go-Kart rental shade is a lot less crowded than the stretch near the playgrounds. The gentle slopes around the park is good learning ground too. For now, our favourite place to cycle is the stretch between Satay by the Bay and Gardens by the Bay. Park at the Satay by the Bay carpark and the track is just a short walk away. If you have a favourite place to cycle... let me know. We'd love to check it out!

Cycling near Satay by the Bay

Disclaimer: This is NOT a sponsored review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I'm thinking... Disneyland this weekend!

I was driving Nathan & Noah to school yesterday morning...

Nathan: Mommy, I want to go to Disneyland. I want to go on the Buzz Lightyear ride so I can shoot all the bad robots.

Me: That'll be nice. I'd love to go to Disneyland again too!

Nathan: I'm thinking... this weekend? How about we go to Disneyland this weekend?

I love how things are so simple in the eyes of the little ones. And I do wish we can pack up and go on a holiday anytime we feel like it... :)

HK Disneyland, Dec 2012

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ready for Army?

Nathan's quite fascinated with the army... last year, we took him to the army open house. He got to see army tanks up close, dress up as an officer, see soldiers in their full battle gear...

Mini Officer
A very happy soldier
"Daddy, take a photo of me!"
Army tattoos

Recently, we let him watch Ah Boys to Men... then he kept asking us to sing one of the army songs over and over again. After 1 week, he finally knows the lyrics to this first verse by heart.

We showed him pictures of daddy when he was in BMT...

Deanaling at 18 years young

It seems that he's looking forward to his enlistment. But I am certainly not looking forward to having him grow up so soon.

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Fishing at Bishan Park?

Did you know that there is a man-made mangrove swamp at Bishan Park? The water is shallow enough for kids to wade in, and there are tiny fish swimming in the water too. For Noah's very first school excursion, we hopped on the bus (a first for Noah) and trooped down to the park...

Bring along a hat, sun screen, sandals or slippers, t-shirt & shorts (and another extra set to change into after the activity), a small fishing net and a small tank (if you'd like to bring home your catch), and you're all ready to go.

Nathan was all ready to go fishing, while Noah wasn't all too keen on getting wet (initially). After some coaxing, Noah eventually got into the water. The water was clean (as clean as a mangrove swamp can be), and is shallow thru out, so it is pretty safe for kids.  I decided to let them walk in with their sandals as I wasn't sure if there's anything underneath that would hurt their feet... but there were some kids who decided to go barefooted and they were fine. :)

While everyone was busy trying to catch fish, Noah found an empty snail shell...


He busied himself by filling the shell with water, walking to the fish tank, and filling it up... He must've gone back and forth about 30+ times, and could've gone on if it wasn't time to wash up.

Nathan's t-shirt was all wet at the end of it, and he was pretty disappointed about not catching any fish. But the teachers did manage to catch some tiny ones, and they very kindly gave some to Nathan & Noah.

By tiny, I really mean tiny... the big fish swim too fast!

 All in all, it was a good experience for the kids. I have never been to Bishan Park before, and never knew such a swamp existed. Pack your gear and troop on down with the kids. I think they'll enjoy splashing around in the swamp. :)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

All Things Bright & Beautiful

Mama Shoppe is happy to launch our very own clothing line. Made of 100% cotton sourced from USA, we're sure you'll love the bright & cheery prints that we've selected for you. 

Find unisex shortalls, girl's twirly dresses, summer dresses, heart-back dresses, boy's shirts, ladies' tops and men's shirts - you'll find matching outfits for everyone in the family.

Our clothes are sewn by ladies who've recently acquired the skill of dress making. Ladies who did not have the opportunity of receiving formal education and would otherwise not have any livelihood skill to earn a living. An NGO trains them in dress making, enabling them to find meaningful employment to support themselves and their families. We are glad that we can engage the services of these ladies. It is our small way of giving back to society and we hope that you'll support us in this worthy cause.

Shop now! We are offering free delivery for all clothes orders.