Friday, March 30, 2012

Puppet theatre

Ryan absolutely loves this. Have a look! The Youtube video is about 5 and a half minutes long.

This was the very first performance that we did with this theatre. After this video was taken, Ryan tucked all the puppets inside, drew the curtains closed and gently patted the puppets to sleep, telling me with a finger to his lips, "Ssshhh". We then switched off the lights and left the room. But not for long! Ryan went back inside to check on the puppets and I ended up doing the puppet show for the remainder of the alphabet, all the way to "Z". Then it was the same routine - kissing and hugging the puppets and tucking them in, closing the curtains and pat pat pat to sleep, with a "Ssshhh" on our lips. After switching off the lights and leaving the room, he tried to get it going for the third time and was pretty upset when Richard told him that the puppets were all asleep and there was no more show for the night!

It was very heartwarming to see Ryan's reaction to the puppets - you can see how affectionate he is towards them in this video. In subsequent performances, he was even more affectionate. He came up close, fondled them, patted them and took them gently in his hands for close-up kisses and hugs. It was incredible to see how he accepted, without question, that the puppets were real. Such beautiful childlike innocence, with such a rich capacity for fantasy and creative imagination.

When I showed Ryan the video the next day, he chuckled and giggled throughout the whole thing and insisted that I replay it over and over agin.

In case you're wondering - we bought this puppet theatre sometime last year at a Takashimaya Toy Fair. It came with two puppets, we bought extra puppets although we couldn't find all the puppets to make up the  complete set of 8 puppets. We do have some other (non-Sesame Street) puppets which can be called upon to take on other acting parts!

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Not in the mood to write so I decided to pull out some random photos taken over the past few weeks. 

Here's Ryan trying to solve circular tangram puzzles, and reading.

Spelling numbers 1-10.

Free play with blocks.

Pretend play with playdoh.

Identifying shapes, counting, playing with texture.

Playing with beads (fine motor skills).

More play with beads - here he is rolling the beads around the cardboard lid, taking pleasure in the sounds generated.

Playing with the glockenspiel. We asked Terri to buy the glockenspiel for us from overseas when Ryan was less than a year old. Lovely instrument.

Stamping letters. The stamp set was a gift from Chris and Alicia for Christmas last year. The big red stamp pad was separately purchased by us for a different stamp set. 

Finger printing.

Painting with pastels.

Swimming class.

Building train tracks.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A sparkling good time

Our weekend was a quiet affair. We mostly vegged out at home, in between going for Ryan's classes on Sunday. The evening rain showers kept us indoors and away from the playground for the second week in a row.

Ryan watched a LOT of videos on Youtube. He loves the videos on phonics and it's pretty amusing to see and hear him sing and dance along to the songs. He has learned to sign the alphabet using American Sign Language (ASL) from watching a Youtube video. I was impressed because he watched the video just a few times before he started signing away. No matter how often it happens, it's always incredible to me to witness how children absorb stuff so quickly.

Saturday evening/dinner was delightfully spent with good friends at Riders' Cafe. Ryan was thrilled to meet up with his pals, Brayden and Rou Ern, and as usual, they went around exploring the surroundings together, with the fathers in tow. Occasionally, a horse would pass by and they would excitedly follow it back to the stables. When they weren't together, for instance when they were checking in with the mummies, they were calling each others' names and making sure that their little gang was rounded up for the next run.

Ryan received lots of lovely stuff from Alicia and Shann (I got something too - thanks so much dearies!). We're looking forward to opening all the treasures up!

I sewed a backpack each for Brayden and Rou Ern, using the basic pattern from indietutes, which I modified and improved slightly. Learning from the first prototype, I made these a little stiffer (by putting heavier interfacing). I added a loop between the straps and a velcro closure for the flap. I also added some decorative details. Here are some shots of the backpacks which I took while in the car to dinner!

This is Brayden's backpack. Like Ryan's backpack, I added a green tape along the straps. I also added the line of green tape across the front, just under the flap, to highlight where the opening is, and I used the same green tape to make the loop between the straps.

This is Rou Ern's backpack. She just started taking baby ballet classes and so I bought this fabric specially for her. I double stitched the ribbon on the straps and also on the side of the bag, plus I used the same ribbon for the loop between the straps.

Richard designed a label for me, which I stitched inside the backpacks.

My original intention to have a label was so that we could identify front from back, for example if I made a pair of pants, but of course, the labels can be applied to anything.

The sewing on the backpacks is far far far from perfect, but I do like them!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sewing 02 - Basic toddler backpack

I made this backpack on Thursday night. Well, actually I finished it in the wee hours of Friday morning, as I couldn't sleep and decided to get out of bed to get it done.

I got the pattern from indietutes. This is the second pattern made by someone else which I've used (the first one being the shirt/tunic I made before this). Previously, I would make up my own pattern (for example, when I made all the costumes for Ryan) and I enjoyed the creativity and engineering that was involved in that. Working with professionally marked patterns now, my focus is more on the techniques involved and I also enjoy it because there is so much to learn - from the way the pattern is laid out on the fabric, the various markings on the patterns, the various techniques of cutting the fabric according to the pattern, etc. Although I'm not involved in the design process, I still find it to be great fun and I like knowing that I'm learning new skills.

I can't bear to be completely left out of the design process though. I like to add my own improvements and personal touch. For this bag, I double stitched some green heading tape to the middle of the straps and I used a contrasting fabric for the side of the bag (plus I also made an inner lining for the side of the bag). 

So what do you think? It's meant strictly for toddler use - there are no zippers or buttonhole closures or snaps for the flap to fiddle with. The flap is just an overlap, which is good enough to prevent stuff falling out. There are no pockets in the bag, because toddlers will likely just dump their toys in without any organisation. Without all the bells and whistles, it is extremely light, almost weightless. It's also a little soft so it doesn't hold its shape very well, which is something I'm not thrilled about.

With the lessons learned from making this "prototype", I made two more backpacks for Ryan's friends, with some modifications and improvements - will share in another post!

Ryan is just ok with the backpack. Sometimes he's keen on it, sometimes he isn't. Now that I've come up with an improved version, perhaps I'll make another one for him in a more "childlike" fabric.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


I've started another sewing project, making something for Ryan - will update tomorrow. In the meantime, here are some photos taken about two weeks back of Ryan doing a patterning exercise.

Generally, I prefer to use counters or manipulatives instead of worksheets (although we have done a few patterning worksheets). I feel that it makes things a bit more attractive and fun for Ryan. The ones in the photos are bento picks which I bought from Daiso (the blue stuff is playdough!). We have many other counters/manipulatives - I'll take some photos of our "collection" to show you.

Patterning is not confined to counters/manipulatives and worksheets of course. You can do patterning with simple things like socks or clothes hangers or shoes or anything really. There are also patterns to be found in our surroundings, in our day-to-day activities, and in the most familiar places. I'll elaborate in another post!

Ryan is doing two sets of patterns here, both in ABCABC format. I would advise that, if you want to do patterning with your child, get the ABAB pattern absolutely mastered before you go on to other patterns.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sewing 01 - Shirt/tunic in poplin

I happily bought a ton of fabric from Spotlight recently and I had a ton of happy ideas of how to use it. Such a dilemma - what should I start with? After a long deliberation, plus a trip to the bookstore to pick up a few pattern books, I decided to make the Easy Linen Shirt from the book "Sewing For Boys". 

After three nights of sewing (stealing some time here and there), here it is!

I used the 2T size pattern - fits my little 3 year old pretty well! Lots of room for movement!

I love the print on this fabric, although I do think that I should have chosen a slightly heavier fabric. I used poplin (although the name of the pattern is "Easy Linen Shirt").

Richard asked me to put a contrasting colour on the collar so I put some red on the inside - nice? Turned out pretty well, I think. This was actually the first time I sewed on a collar - the stitching is far far far from perfect!

Here's Ryan on the first day of the project, trying it on for size.

On to the next project!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Shichida on Sunday

Ryan had his Shichida class on Sunday. We arrived a little late, because we took a bit more time than expected at the ASA Travel Fair at Suntec City. Ryan made a grand entrance and brought chuckles to everyone when he walked in wearing this.

Haha! It was a gift from the travel fair. Ryan kept it on throughout the whole class, right up till the end when he collected his sticker from sensei! Here he is, lining up for his sticker. He is usually the last to collect his sticker and normally he does not even bother to join the queue until everyone is done - he prefers to stay in his seat and enjoy the foreign language songs/music videos which are playing at this time.

This term, Ryan's sensei was particularly impressed when she noticed that Ryan was able to read and do the math activities. She did ask me, during one of the classes whether we sent him to phonics classes and I told her no, we taught him at home. Ryan has also been particularly impressive in the memory games, prompting Ryan's sensei to ask me if we practiced at home. I said yes, to which she said, oh no wonder! I told her that we try to keep up with the home practice because, with that, Ryan is more confident and happy in class and is better able to benefit from his time in the classroom. She agreed, saying that she had the same observation about him.

We collected his term report (although there is still one more lesson before the term ends).

As always, he scored at the top for all areas. I mentioned before that I suspect all the children do, so I am always more interested in the specific comments at the end. This term, his sensei wrote:

"Ryan, you always display great eagerness to learn. You are able to understand the signs '+', "=" and use them to make number statements. You are learning to attack words independently and interested in books and reading. Powerful memory skills for linking memory! =) Continue the great effort and do home practice okay? You are an A* child! =)"

Fantastic work, Ryan!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Weekend update

How was your weekend? We had a lovely one, hope you did too.

Saturday was peacefully spent lunching and shopping at Plaza Singapura. Spotlight was having a storewide 30% sale so, despite having popped in the previous Sunday, and again on Friday, I just had to go back again for the third time. We did our grocery-shopping at the hypermarket and came home to cook dinner.

Richard made a request for our stoved chicken, so that's what he got.

The rest of the night was spent at home, pottering about, doing various things.

Sunday was taken up by the usual classes - swimming and Shichida. In between we visited the ASA travel fair at Suntec City and, after Shichida, we paid a visit to Kinokuniya at Ngee Ann City. Coincidentally, Kinokuniya was having a 20% sale for members (we didn't know), so we went a little crazy with our book shopping.

Home for an early dinner, and then more pottering about, doing various things. Ventured out for supper and, after some more pottering about at home, plus some footie on the telly, the weekend came to an end. It was good - pleasant, stress-free and happy.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Texture Boards

I haven't shared a craft post for a while, so here's one - I made some texture boards!

Each board is about the size of a CD case. Richard cut all the styrofoam boards for me. I happily rummaged in my craft cupboard and went around the house collecting stuff to mount onto each board. Ryan can touch the item on each board, explore and compare textures, and learn new stuff!

From left to right in the photo above:

1st row: rubberbands, mesh, sequins, cords, scouring pad, buttons.
2nd row: cardboard, pipe cleaners (chenille stems), drinking straws, cotton tips, felt ladybird, twine.
3rd row: sandpaper, bubble wrap, macaroni, straw, metal link chain, velcro (one of each side).
4th row: foam numbers, raffia, popsicle sticks, wadding/batting, fake fur, plastic.
5th row: puffy glitter glue, large hanging sequins, cork squares, ribbon, crepe paper, suede heart.

Plus one more which somehow got left out of the photo: this is a strip of lace.

They fit nicely into a CD box. 

The photos above were taken before I made some changes. The first two from the last row (puffy glitter glue, large hanging sequins) didn't work well. Once dried, the puffy glitter glue slid off the styrofoam. The large hanging sequins started falling off. So I ditched those two boards and added these three: aluminium foil, metal brads and a piece of wood.

Ryan is happy learning about the items and how they feel to the touch. There are lots of new words for him to learn too - rough, smooth, soft, hard, crinkly, metal, fabric, plastic, stretchy, rubbery, etc. He also learns the names for the various items - aluminium foil, metal brads, twine, cork, mesh, suede, velcro, sandpaper, etc.

I did some web surfing and found some similar boards where the children place a piece of paper on top of the boards and shade a pencil over the item so that a pattern forms on the paper. That's a great idea, but we're not taking that step yet.

The nice thing about doing this project was that I didn't buy anything new. Everything I used was already in my craft cupboard or already in the house. The items are either glued on with tacky glue, sewn on, or taped on with masking tape. Some, like the velcro and the foam numbers, were already adhesive-backed. The cardboard board is a piece of cardboard cut to the same size as the styrofoam boards. The yellow mesh is wrapped around the board and taped up at the back. The plastic is actually a plastic bag - I put the board in the plastic bag and taped up the back. The metal brads are pierced through the board. All the loose ends at the back of the boards (thread, brad ends) are taped over with masking tape.

Ok, that's all. Happy weekend!

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