Workbooks for Preschoolers

Summer it is!

School Holidays are on and that means it’s that special time of the year when we are with the kids 24X7 and the sanity goes out of the window in a flash!

Even though my both the kids are in a childcare, so they do not really have holidays, but since both the monkeys do not nap in the afternoon, the afternoons are l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-n-n-n-g! But luckily I came across some great activity books which keep them engaged.

workbooks-3Read about them on RheaWrites here: http://rheawrites.com/life/workbooks-for-preschoolers/

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My Little Rockstar

I don’t know what my kids would grow up to be – I think it would be much fun following their journey as an observer.

Here’s some fun I had with a photo of my son as he napped!

rockstar-baby

Inspired by the super talented Calfifornia-based artist Queenie Liao.

Few Things that my 1 and 3 year old kids are playing with these days…

 

Me: “It’s Leela’s birthday coming up. She’s turning three – what do we buy for her?”

Hubby: “We don’t know what she likes so why don’t we give her something that is a hit with our own 3 year old. Hopefully she will like it too.”

That was a conversation we had last weekend. I find it difficult buying toys / gifts for kids whether our own or others’ – we don’t know what will and what will not catch their fancy.

Kid’s toys are expensive these days and when we buy something for our children we always hope that they will play a long time with them. Pheww! if only things happened the way we want! Parents would know how kids want a particular thing and few moments after getting it, the novelty wears off and it is shoved aside beside a heap of other ‘forgotten’ toys! Been there, right?

There are very few toys/books in our house which have been well played with and are winners with our two kids – the 3 year old El Mono and 1 year old El Gato. I am listing down a few here.

El Mono loves to play with picture puzzles nowadays. It makes him very happy to finish putting them together and scream ‘Hooray’ every time. Being the super active monkey that he is, this is the time he spends sitting down and giving me a break!

The zoo picture puzzle I got on an impulse from ELC is just amazing with the touch and feel effect, big pieces and is not too expensive.

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Doesn’t it feel great when an impulse buy turns out to be so good?!

And I love seeing him complete the full puzzle himself.

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Duplo or building blocks are a hit too ! My preschooler has just started making houses, boats and cars with these (with a little help of course), a great improvement from just stacking them up to make what he would call a “tall tower”! I like it that he patiently tries to complete a structure like a house, car, etc and then pretend play with the toy kids and animals who are supposedly his friends.

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All animals are friends in my little boy’s world -The lion lives in peace with the dog, pig, deer and goat!

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My jumping jack loves to listen to stories too, but he only wants to listen to Jack and the Beanstalk since the first day we told him a bedtime story! Recently on his birthday he got The Gruffalo book and Oh My Goodness, isn’t that a gem of a story! He cannot stop looking at the pictures and asking me to read it to him every day these last few days. His thirst for all things scary is fully satisfied by the tale of this ugly monster!

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No wonder it is an award winning book! A highly recommended storybook for young readers to enjoy.

Cycling and scooting are two of his favourite things to do when he goes to the playground every evening. I can’t imagine what he would do at home if he didn’t get his dose of physical activity for few hours in the day!

So glad that we had invested in a good sturdy scooter last year, which would endure the impact of frequent collisions with the door, table, even the wall (when in the house). The heavy weight of the scooter also prevented him from toppling over when he was a newbie at it. Still going strong and I am now thinking of handing it down to my toddler after a few months.

My Aunt had given a shape sort and stack activity board when older one was one year old. He found it extremely fun arranging bright coloured fun shapes into the pegs on the board. This would keep him busy for quite sometime during the day. Recently the little Gato (my second boy), who also just turned one, has a newfound interest in the same toy. Every time he stacks the little doughnut shapes into the peg with his chubby fingers, he claps! Such innocence!

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Fellow parents, I would love to know what toys your kids are playing with. Please use the comments section. 

Have  a good day.

xo

Links to the Items mentioned in the post:

Shape and Colour Sorter

Zoo picture puzzle

The Gruffalo book

Duplo

14 inch Bicycle

YGlider Scooter

4 Books that bring back my childhood memories!

My husband and I love passing time in bookstores. Browsing in a nearby store one day, my eyes suddenly caught the attention of a gem which instantly transported me through time to my childhood! The sudden find sent memories rushing through my head; I stood there with the book in my hand and then I called out to my husband loudly: “Look! This is the book I had told you about” and kept on gushing about it: “used to be my favourite book back in school…look at the illustrations”. I felt like jumping about I was so excited.

That moment of joy also brought back the memories of some other books I enjoyed in my childhood. Here’s a list of four of them along with my fond memories. I start with the book which prompted this post.

1. The Fire Bird – Russian Folk Tales 

It’s a collection of amazing short folk tales about princes and princesses. The Russian names used to fascinate me – Ivan, Vasilisa, Baba Yaga (who was a sorceress!!). I used to make paper dolls and name them after these characters. Every afternoon I used to read this book to sleep after coming back from school. I knew all the stories by heart and would narrate them to my little cousins when babysitting them.

the fire bird

I used to love the colourful illustrations as much as I loved to read the book

The moment I saw the book I wanted to buy it for my children to read it too. A whopping S$50 price tag made me cringe and I resisted the purchase. I remembered to bring back this little treasure when I made the next trip to Calcutta. I am proud that it has survived in good condition for my kids even though it is older than me – it belonged to my Uncle who got it as a birthday gift in his childhood and he had passed it to me and my sister.

2. Pat the Cat and Pat the Bunny  by Edith Kunhardt

Pat the cat book1

This book is just right for my sons now – it is touch & feel book for toddlers and preschoolers. Apart from caressing the furry little pets in the book, the kids can have fun doing things like withdrawing fake money from the wallet and handing it out to pay for groceries, playing peek-a-boo, scratching daddy’s beard (a little sandpaper strip on the page), smelling ginger before mom cooks dinner. Haha! So cute, isn’t it?

pat the cat

My older son loves to do all the little activities in the book

It was such a fun book for me and my sister when we were kids. The books are presently with her, so I ordered a copy from Amazon. My son loves his Cat book and every time he reaches out for it, I relive my childhood once again! Ah! – the nostalgia. By the way, I had no idea that the book is so popular in the U.S, one of the best-sellers since its publication in 1940s. No wonder!

3. Animalia by Graeme Base

Animalia book 1

Oh Boy! This is by far the coolest book I have ever owned! And it screams out nostalgia to me! I cannot remember how many hours me and my sister and sometimes our parents have spent pouring over this book trying to name all the crazy things in the pages! It is a hit with children and a fantastic way to keep them busy.

It is an alliterative alphabet book, which means each page of the book is dedicated to a letter of the English alphabet and has pictures of numerous animals starting with that letter. The fun part is that the beautifully illustrated pages of the book have many many  other things which start with the same letter. The game is to name them all. It surely did keep me engaged  for a long time. To make it more challenging, the author had a hidden picture of himself in every page – finding him used to be very interesting.

Animalia book

Animalia is great for kids to increase their vocabulary and although I have not let my 2.5 year monkey play with it yet, I am sure we are going to have some quality mother-son time once he is old enough.

It is a keeper for sure. It has won the Young Australian’s Best Book Award in 1987 for Best Picture Story Book among other awards (courtesy wikipedia).

4. Feluda series by Satyajit Ray

Feluda-satyajit ray

The fourth is not one book but a series of novels on the character Feluda – the creation of one of the greatest Indian film-maker and writer of the 20th century. Do I hear a loud cheer from my Bengali friends! Lol!

Feluda’s character was written by Mr. Ray with teenagers in mind – but it has become a favourite for all ages! He is the famous suave Bengali sleuth, who makes use of his brains more than his brawn. He’s our homegrown Sherlock Holmes! Mr. Ray also made movies from few of the books. My father and I still use dialogues in our daily conversations, we are so fond of Feluda.

To be honest, I think he was my first crush! The coolness in his attitude was unbelievable and the way he used to solve challenging cases was incredible. I have read re-read all the books in the series and I still do, whenever I get the time. It transports me to those golden memories, where my dad would buy a new book for me at the annual book fair. I used to wait the whole year for that. Reminds me of the simpler times. I feel grateful that I could enjoy the books in the language they were written in and not the translated ones, and I wish my boys can get the same enjoyment someday.

Writing this post made me go back to my childhood in a sort of way. I will be taking the a Feluda novel and a big smile (which I am wearing right now) with me to bed tonight.

What are the books that remind you of your childhood?

Good night! xo

8 Tips for Travelling with Small Kids

I love to travel and have been fortunate to find a partner who shares the interest in equal measure. We have two kids – an infant aged 8 months (El Gato) and his pre-schooler brother, exactly two years older (El Mono). Every time we get back from a vacation, the usual questions we get asked by friends and relatives are:

“Did you take your helper along?”

“Wow! You are so brave! Isn’t it painful for the long haul flights? How do you manage?”

“So many diaper changes and feeds? Isn’t it very stressful?”

“We are waiting till our boy turns 5 to go on a long distance vacation”

Even Hubby Dear (HD) had some of these fears before the first trip. But since our first baby, we have travelled a few times: a mix of short flights (1-2 hours), medium duration (4-7 hours) and long ones (13 hours) to various places when El Mono at different times was 6 / 8 / 12 / 18 months and more recently with the two kids together.

Since the first trip HD has been as comfortable as me with travelling with small kids. We are no experts in parenting, but I thought I would share some of the tips and ideas which worked to make the experience pleasant for us.

 

Tip 1#: Night Flights

We always try to get the direct night flights with a bassinet seat and one needs to book early for bassinet availability. Bassinet helps to avoid a paralysed arm the next day. This helps the kids to sleep especially if we tire them out on the day of travel. Even if the kids don’t, my logic is: for how long will they cry, couple of hours??, but eventually they are going to sleep and you can also close your eyes for a while. A rested mom on a holiday is the most important of all. Trust me!

Carry essential medicines in cabin baggage. Kids’ nose can get stuffy, so saline sprays can be a saviour during those moments. Panadol sachets are useful for any unfortunate fever in the flight. The homeopathy medicine Chamomilla for those times when nothing seems to stop a baby from crying.

All major airlines let you carry water for your baby and have kid’s/infant’s meal available. If my babies are asleep, I generally take those jars and crackers with me in my bag for the next meals.

 

Tip 2#: Packing Cubes and a separate Kids “Go-to” Bag

We got introduced to packing cubes before our last trip to Melbourne and Sydney and it changed everything, for the better!!! Read about these wonderful cubes in a separate post here.  In this trip we had a 4 consecutive nights spent in 4 different hotels – the cubes made the daily unpacking and repacking very quick and convenient.

This time around, we had made a “Go-To Bag” – as I referred to it the whole trip, out of a gym shoe-bag that we got free with some promotion; it was filled with all the snacks, the feeding bottles, few diapers, wipes, some scented plastic bags (you definitely don’t want that disgusting smell when kiddo decides to go poo-poo in the car), a thick table cloth (for those moments when you see a lush green patch and wish for a relaxed sit-down), a small toy, colouring pencils and so on. This was very handy and every time the kids wanted something, we like “Jeannies” had fulfilled their needs! This way you don’t have to stop the car all the time, rummage through the suitcases or the backpacks, and also when stopping for meals, just take the handy little bag along and you are set.

 

Tip 3#: Keep outdoor time for Kids in the itinerary

In advance of the trip, we now plan out a good balance of parks, places of interest and shopping in the itinerary, so that everyone is happy!

Disclaimer: Our kids are pretty young, so entertaining them is not so much of an issue, as long as El Mono has a ball to play with or a paper plane to fly, a green park, where my little one can crawl, and some planes, helicopters, birds in the sky! When visiting open places like parks, we would definitely carry a ball, a bubble maker and and one toy with us and we knew the kids were sorted. The kids at this age can easily be amused with things around and if some silly stories can be made up about those things, then its even more fun – for example I may say: “El Mono! Do you see that tree? Can you go and find out if there is an elf hiding behind it?”

Australia has no dearth of parks and plain green grounds for kids; there are so many things for the children to do there that you are spoilt for choices. So in the most recent trip, every morning we had a long list of things to see/do which had few hours of touristy sightseeings, an hour or more in the sandpit/parks (always with the hope that the more they play, the more tired they get!) and some tidbit shopping here and there.

 

Tip 4#: List of items for Shopping

It maybe difficult to shop with kids in tow, so it’s best, if possible, to look online for the things to buy or make a list of the must-haves from a particular shop/mall. This way it makes it easier in the mind if you know exactly where to go, what to ask and what to buy. We had some basic things to buy in Australia, like something you don’t get in Singapore easily or it’s too expensive here. I knew exactly what to get, so one evening at Woolsworth, before retiring to our hotel after a long day, I picked up organic eatables, vegemite, Tim Tams, some organic body lotions and such for the kids. Apart from the above boring shopping I did pay couple of visits to Sephora and a few Australian boutiques too!

Making a list for everything makes me feel sorted and relaxed. Believe me, I have had those moments when I went absolutely crazy and nearly had a panic attack thinking I had to buy so many things without a “things I want to buy” list and got lost in glitzy overwhelming malls! Not very productive and it makes you feel depressed later.

So do some Googling beforehand and know what to buy, because you will always be short on time for shopping when travelling with kids.

 

Tip 5#: Hide the stains on the kids’ clothes

The last thing you want in your precious vacation photographs is your kids looking dirty in those 3 day old, sauce smeared sweaters and muddy trousers!

The trick is to pack dark coloured clothes mostly, because they are quite forgiving in the photos.

Layering is also a clever tip. If your little one decides to rub his cute chocolatey fingers on the t-shirt, do not fret, just put a short sleeved t-shirt / a shirt for a second day use.

 

Tip 6#: Serviced Apartments or Airbnb

Staying in a serviced apartment or Airbnb (as opposed to a regular hotel) makes living out of a suitcase slightly more comfortable when you have kids with you. This way you have to carry less utensils with you, like bowls, plates, spoons, etc so the luggage is lighter. Laundry if at all, becomes easy too.

Cooking light meals for El Mono was very convenient, like oats and banana, French toast, etc. Even for us, on those hasty mornings, homemade breakfast was very convenient and hassle free. Somedays it got really chaotic getting both kids ready on time, for the limited time breakfast spread in the hotel.

I try to feed my kids whatever is available and I believe if they are really hungry they will eat whatever is given. However, El Mono still doesn’t eat pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, etc. I let him eat whatever he is okay with (mashed bananas with oats, boiled eggs, bread, french fries, etc) knowing that it’s only for 1-2 weeks and I can get him back on a balanced diet once we are back.

 

Tip 7#: Lightweight Strollers

For our last trip we had taken one stroller thinking that mostly El Mono will walk and when he is tired we will carry El Gato in a baby carrier and El Mono will sit in the stroller. It was a big mistake not to take two strollers: Both the kids fell sick for a couple of days and we had to make the older kid sit in the stroller and carry younger kid the whole time for a few days. This took a big toll on our backs especially in Sydney where we had to walk all over as we couldn’t find a taxi with an infant seat: it’s mandatory in Sydney to put an infant in a baby seat even in a taxi.

 

Tip 8#: Share your itinerary with the pre-schooler kid

We find that El Mono can get quite cranky for no apparent reason. We have also found that if we tell him in advance of what is to come he is less cranky with changes. For example: “We are going to get into a car and you will have to sit in your own seat and wear a seatbelt” or “You can play with your ball when we are in the park but that will be after we have finished lunch”.

 

Finally, when travelling with small kids, we keep an open mind: we know that we may miss visiting a place on our list, or we may lose half a day or more to an unfortunate fever, or we may not be able to dine at a popular restaurant due to a cranky toddler. We expect for such things to happen and do not fret about it and it helps us to carry on with a smile.

So those are some tips we follow on our travels.

I would love to hear back from you awesome parents about what you do to make travel easy. Please leave your valuable tips and tricks in the comments section.