Books

Helping Your Child Develop Focus and Self Control

One of the new activities I took up this year was to join a book club. The book club is organised by younger Gem’s school for parent volunteers and meets monthly. The inaugural book club meet took place in April and Beth Fredericks, an early childhood specialist, was invited as a speaker, highlighting the importance of exercising executive functions from a young age.   

Focusing on executive functions, “Mind in the Making” by Ellen Galinsky is the book the club will be discussing throughout this year. The book identifies seven essential life skills every child needs. I reckoned, every parent needs! There are quizzes in the book to help us identify areas we need to work on and some practical ideas for us to engage our kids to focus and practice self control.

Just a few days ago, the book club met again to discuss the first skill, focus and self control. Here are my 2 key takeaways from reading chapter one and the book club sharing.

A Well Rested Mum is a Super Mum!  

I believe the optimal way to teach our children focus and self control is us parents modelling in our daily lives. There are days I feel like a super mum, checking off to-do list in lightning speed, cook all healthy meals and making effort to look at the girls at eye level while conversing but the next day… lacklustre… It is not rocket science to identify the common characteristic for my super mum days; sufficient sleep! When I am well rested, I am calmer and able to focus and pay attention to the needs of my girls. So now I need to work on my inhibitory control, to spend more time studying the bible, less Netflix and Disney+ and sleep early (cause my girls wake up at six-ish!).

Encourage Your Child to Identify their “Lemonade Stand”

A practical way to develop focus and self control – Ellen Galinsky uses a lemonade stand as a metaphor for something that your child cares about. The idea derived from watching a bunch of kids who put in their heart and mind into making their lemonade stand succeed. Basically, when you are motivated to achieve a goal, you will be able to focus and practice self control to attain it. Therefore, encourage your child to find their “lemonade stand.” “Lemonade stand” may change or evolve as they grow older. At the moment, I believe dancing is older Gem’s “lemonade stand”, while she may not be an excellent dancer, the joy she exudes while dancing is contagious.  

Books, Learning Through Play

“I Love Chocolate”; Messy Kitchen with the Girls!

HBL = Making chocolate truffles!

Since it was full home based learning and stuck at home, I headed to the book shelves for some ideas to engage the girls. Pulled out “I Love Chocolate” written by Davide Calì and illustrated by Evelyn Daviddi; originally written in Italian and translated to English as part of Singapore based publisher, Epigram Books’, Stories from Around the World Series.

This book was part of a mystery pack I ordered for the girls for Children’s Day a few years ago and usually sits on the book shelf without much of our viewing attention. The story got me craving for some chocolates and I decided to get the girls involve in making some chocolate truffles!

Adapted an easy and simple chocolate truffles recipe from (https://www.recipetineats.com/chocolate-ganache-truffles/) and so the story of the messy kitchen begins.

Check out the vid of them in action!

I asked younger GEM which part she enjoyed the most… EATING them! I totally agree! Now I need to go clean up the kitchen!

Art & Craft, Learning Through Play

Learn to Spell Your Name!

In my bid to generate ideas for younger GEM to learn how to spell her name previously, I headed to Pinterest for some inspirations. I came across the following website and followed the idea of using pegs. Having each letter of her name on a peg and matched it to a card with her name. I used popsicle sticks instead as it appears more aesthetically pleasing.

This was such an engaging activity for her; to match the letters and use her fine motor skills to attach the pegs on the right space. I was amazed that younger GEM could learn to spell her name rather quickly.

Seeing younger GEM enjoying the activity, I proceeded to using numbers and alphabets. Upper case on the popsicle stick and lower case on the pegs. She would often take these out to play during quiet time. 

These are also excellent personalised gifts, hence I gifted these DIY sets to kids for their birthdays and Christmas instead of getting store bought items!    

Art & Craft, Books

Henri Matisse Inspired Activities for Kids

Our Matisse inspired space

My first encounter with Henri Matisse’s art was a visit to the Rosary Chapel located in the South of France. I was 14 then on a school trip to Europe for an art history tour. The facade of the chapel was white and plain looking; a stark contrast to the majestic churches filled with Gothic and Renaissance frescos, which I was used to seeing earlier during the trip. It was a welcome change for me I recalled. 

I remembered sitting inside the chapel and in front of me just behind the altar was a mural of a man drawn in black outlined. I thought to myself “Hey! I think I can do that too!” It was Matisse’s masterpiece of Saint Dominic. What caught my attention was the bold coloured stained glass which stood out against the white interiors. The chapel was designed by Henri Matisse in his final years.

Using resources from the Singapore library, I borrowed two books “Henri’s Scissors” by Jeanette Winter and “How the Snail Found Its Colours: The Art of Matisse ” by Jeong-Yi Kee. These books opened the world of Matisse’s cutouts to younger GEM.

Book I: Henri’s Scissors

The story briefly details the life of Matisse from how a young boy who enjoyed the arts became a lawyer but eventually followed his passion to become an artist.

Matisse’s art in his later years were putting together coloured paper cut outs as he was no longer able to hold a paintbrush due to his ailments. Despite his inability to paint, he didn’t give up but channeled his passion of art to another artform. He formed collages using his colourful cut outs on walls. I am a fan of his collages!   

I planned for younger GEM to create her own coloured paper and make cutouts to decorate the wall and a recycled milk bottle to be used as a vase. 

Materials & Tools:

  • Drawing paper
  • Paints
  • Brushes
  • Scissors
  • Recycled milk bottle
  • Double sided tape

Our Process:

  1. Just like how Henri’s assistants painted the paper for him to cut, younger GEM painted the drawing papers with the colours she chose.
  2. I traced the some of the designs found in the book for us to cut. Both the “birds” were cut by younger GEM while the rest were too challenging for her.
  3. Decorate the milk bottle with the cut outs using double sided tape. A little fine motor skill practise from peeling the tape!
  4. Create a little Matisse inspired space! See image at the beginning of the post!
Painting papers for the cutouts

Practising her cutting skills.

Decorating her vase with cutouts.

Book II: How the Snail Found Its Colours

This is a story of a colourless snail embarking on a journey to find its own colours and along the way met a number of artworks by Matisse. Finally, the snail found its own colours from Matisse; from a colourless sad snail to a colourful fabulous one!    

From this story, younger GEM saw some of Matisse’s art such as “Dance (II)” and “Music”. The highlight was “The Snail”, which we will attempt to replicate. 

Materials & Tools:

  • Picture of “The Snail” by Matisse  
  • Square drawing paper
  • Crepe paper: black, orange, dark blue, dark and light green, yellow, red and pink
  • Scissors
  • Spray bottle with water
  • Tray

Our Process:

  1. I cut out the shapes similar to the original piece using crepe paper.
  2. Display the cut outs and place square drawing paper on tray.
  3. Younger GEM to place them on a blank piece of drawing paper according to the original artwork.
  4. Spray water over the entire piece of artwork and let the crepe paper colours “bleed”.
  5. Wait for a while and remove the crepe papers gently.
  6. Let dry.

The end product looked similar to a water colour painting and it was perfect as a birthday card for grandma! 

Experiencing God, Learning Through Play

Creation by Days with Spielgaben

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. Genesis 1:1 (NKJV)

We began our study on the book of Genesis with the story of creation. There are many ways to approach the story of creation with young kids. What better way than to bring our kids outdoors and experience God’s creation firsthand. However, just this approach can be overwhelming for the young minds. Younger GEM and I spent a couple weeks to run through the six days of creation; reinforcing through craft and play using Spielgaben. We looked at the process of how God created the world, how it was carefully planned from the atmospheric elements to vegetation to lifeforms.     

Other than using the playboards or story mats provided with the Spielgaben set as a base for play, I prefer to use alternatives such as mirrors, gym coloured markers or by creating your own!

Using Spielgaben 3-6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 we built scenes of creation from day one to six.  

Day 1 – Light (Genesis 1:3-5)

First day of creation and it was light. Just like how Jesus came to be the light of the world (When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12). We used Spielgaben 8 – Sticks to spell “LIGHT” using a mirror base. 

Day 2 – Sky and sea (Genesis 1:6-8)

We created our sky and sea background canvas by painting the Ikea roll of drawing paper. Light blue for the sky and a darker shade for the sea. This story mat will also be used for activities for day 3, 5 and 6.

Using Spielgaben 9, semi-rings to create waves. For the clouds, we used Spielgaben 7. Younger GEM enjoyed the process of creating funky shapes for the clouds. While it doesn’t appear to look like clouds to me, it certainly did for her! Her favourite was the rocket! Are you able to spot it?

Day 3 – Land, plants and trees (Genesis 1:9-13)

Using the same canvas as day 2, we painted the bottom right, brown, for land. We planted some flowers and her favourite apple tree using Spielgaben 7 and 8. We followed the Spielgaben guide for the flowers and apple tree. It was challenging for younger GEM to follow the guide so I had to assist her. For example, dissecting the “apple tree” by identifying the different parts that made up the tree and rote count the parts while looking for them in the respective drawers. Use your intuition on how much help your child needs.   

Day 4 – Sun, moon and stars (Genesis 1:14-19)

We used a piece of drawing paper to create the day and night sky as our backdrop. Dividing the piece of drawing paper diagonally in half, younger GEM painted light blue (day) and black (night) on each half. 

We used Spielgaben 7 and 10 to create shapes for the sun, moon and stars. 

Younger GEM used a square piece for the centre of her sun initially and she decided it did not look quite like the sun and swap it for a circle. Let your child take their time and decide, let them think and rationalise for themselves. You will see they them delight in their accomplishments. 

Day 5 – Sea and flying creatures (Genesis 1:20-23)

Scrolling through the Spielgaben user guide, younger GEM picked the sea otter (sea creature) and seagull (flying creature) to represent each of the two categories of animals.

Day 6 – Land animals, man (Genesis 1:24-31)

Again, using the Speigaben guide, younger GEM chose the bear to represent land animals. The bear mainly uses Spielgaben 3-6. Spielgaben 7 for the ears and 10 for facial features. She exclaimed that the bear was the easiest compared to the otter and seagull. Indeed, she could execute the task with minimal help since the parts (Spielgaben 3-6) used were 3D; much easier for her to handle.

Finally, God created man, which He claimed was “very good”. We added stickmen to represent Adam and Eve on our story mat. 

At the same time, we used Spielgaben 7, 8, 9 & 10 and gym coloured markers, to form the faces of Adam and Eve. Each of the family members made our attempts!

Experiencing God

Closer Walk with God Through BSF

“And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.” Luke 24:45

Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) adopts a four-fold approach of Question, Discuss, Listen and Learn. First we attempt the questions individully then the group discussions followed by a lecture by the teaching leader and end off with the reading of the notes. Each year studying a book or theme in the bible with your discussion group reassigned allowing you to meet ladies from all walks of life.  

I started attending five years ago with the Women’s Day classes when older GEM started Nursery 2 after a church friend’s recommendation. My intention was to make better use of my time. Looking back now, BSF has been a great part of my life as well as my family’s. Although it can be challenging completing the “homework” before discussion, I always draw new insights from the study which keeps me going. To me, BSF is multi-facet; knowledge gain from the studies, non-judgemental discussion and sharing of God’s grace and mercy. It is not about finding the right answers to the questions but challenges you to think and change for the better in Christ’s likeness. It makes application of the principles learnt more natural. I feel recharged after each study. 

BSF has been a great part of me especially in the first year of study when I was contemplating for a second child after a difficult six months post birth of older GEM. Seeing many ladies who have multiple kids (like 4 and 5!) and it just seems natural for them. Turning point came when someone shared with me the following verses.

“Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:28

“And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; Bring forth abundantly in the earth And multiply in it.” Genesis 9:7

God gave the same instructions, first to Adam and Eve then to Noah. I was encouraged. Younger GEM then came along! 

BSF also conducts a Children’s Programme (CP) so the kids are well-taken care of while the ladies can participate in the group discussion and lecture in peace! The CP is run by CP leaders and each lesson’s study runs in tandem with the adults’. Younger GEM started her BSF journey at six months old. The CP leaders would pray with and for them, sing praises, have bible story and verse time. The highlight for younger GEM is “quiet time”, where the kids will lay quiet on their blankets for a couple minutes to be still before the Lord. She would often practice “quiet time” at home!

Here we have younger GEM praying alongside the CP’s recording.

Then came COVID-19 where I thought BSF might come to a standstill but God has greater plans. BSF moved on virtually and group discussions started on ZOOM in February 2020. My mum, who is in her 70s, had to start going tech savvy in order to participate in BSF too! CP and lectures moved to recorded sessions.

Hubby and I started doing BSF questions together as couple studies in 2019. I have always asked him to join the Men’s Evening classes to no success so when BSF started a mini-study series of Noah over ZOOM, I signed him up. Subsequent to the mini-study, he signed up and is now a BSFer!

Thanks to daddy, older GEM is also on board, attending BSF over ZOOM every Monday! I must say she is the most disciplined amongst the family to complete the homework and pressure mounts when she asks if I have done mine!

So here we have the family studying the same passage of the bible each week with our respective groups!

I found it beneficial to make a case in point when I have to reprimand my girls for inappropriate actions or attitudes. Just the other day in the midst of their screaming and shouting at each other, I reminded them of how Joseph forgave his brothers for selling him to slavery. Joseph did not blame his brothers but shown forgiveness. As the study was still fresh in their minds, the girls apologised and gave each other a hug immediately.

Now you must be thinking that embarking on BSF is a huge commitment. It is! Try it out and see for yourself God’s purpose in your life!