[Friday Flips] F’s rendition of Van Gogh’s Starry Night

After almost three weeks into 2017, we are more or less settled with the new schedule. The family is still coughing our way into the nights but at least we are on the road to recovery. Mornings are precious because those are the times when the kids are fresh and eager to learn. So far, we had fun doing grocery together, exercised and enjoyed our playground time, busied ourselves in the kitchen and had an artistic morning.

Faith has always indicated an interest in art and I have wanted to enrol her in some art classes. Alas, our last school holidays were so packed (with activities and rest and getting sick) that she didn’t get to attend any in the end. Despite that, we attempted to learn about artists and their works last month and I thought we should continue what we have started.

The next artist that we learnt about is Vincent Van Gogh.

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This book talks about how a boy followed the attitudes of the adults around him and bullied an eccentric painter (Van Gogh) before realising that there is more than one way to see the world when he met the painter face-to-face. I thought this book is one that helps to address bullying and how one ought to treat others. Our girl ‘catch no ball’ (couldn’t comprehend) although she got acquainted with Mr Van Gogh and his artwork through this book.

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The next book that we read was Katie and the Starry Night which is definitely more interesting and enjoyable. We went through some of the paintings of Van Gogh such as Vincent’s Chair, Noon, The Olive Grove and Fishing Boats on the Beach before starting to work on her rendition of The Starry Night. The main materials that we used were square sponges, cotton buds and the heads of Bok Choy (because I was cooking them the night before).

Using the square sponges, she dabbed them in blue to paint the sky.

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The next stage is to use the cotton bud to create the swirls in white and yellow. This was when Dan came in. He could well have fun with it too!

After the paint had dried up a little, it’s time to put in the stars using the head of the Choy. The design is lovely, isn’t it?

Lastly, I got Faith to cut out the houses from the corrugated paper and pasted them on the artwork.

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This took us the whole morning (plus playground time while waiting for the paint to dry up a little) but we were all satisfied at the end of it.

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We love the Katie’s adventure series a lot and thankfully our libraries stock them. You can read more about Monet’s works through Katie and the Waterlily Pond!

Which artist shall we touch on next?

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Read, read, read

I believe we all know that reading is an important skill and many of us read to the child even before he/she was born. As a (ex) language teacher, I know it is vital that the child knows how to decode a word and therefore read before he/she enters formal school (Primary School). It is my goal that my children acquire a love for reading and so I read to Faith diligently even before she was born and continued to do so after that.

BUT… a few months back, I was overwhelmed with work and by that I mean teaching Faith, household chores, looking after a very energetic boy, etc and I was tired out. We still made it a point to visit the library and borrowed many books but those books were placed on the tabletop, some untouched. There were times when Faith asked me to read to her but I was just too tired and told her we could do so the next day…the next day…the next day. Gradually, I realised that she had lost her interest in reading and when I did ask her to get a book to read, she would prefer working on other stuff to reading.

That’s when I ‘woke up’. This has got to stop! And I started to Drop Everything And Read to her. I make it a point to read at least five books a day to her. You might think this is a low target but at times, I can’t even get past two books. Seriously!

So I persisted with my #fiveaday for a few months and am glad to say that Faith’s interest for reading is back! How do I know? She would ask me to read books to her and would stay glued to the story even though it is a long one. Now, when I ask her for predictions, she would respond based on the illustration or her own knowledge. We talk about a certain book over conversations and her eyes will light up, “Remember, the boy who….the one in the book we read yesterday?”

It does good for me too. I rekindled my love for reading and started to find time in between chores to read. When Faith saw me reading, she asked to be read to as well. Ah…we are sharing the pleasure of reading again!

I would like to share a book that helped me (sort of) get back to reading for pleasure, and not just for information.

img_0614Found in the Adult Lending section
Call No. 011.62 HUN

This book talks about using books to help children grow and lists some of the best-loved books for children from 0 to 14 years old. However, there is only one copy available in our library and I’m currently holding on to it (as of 21st October). It’s quite possible that I would fork out $$$ for it. 😉

Here’s sharing with you ten ways to raise a reader (adapted based on this book):

  1. Restrict screen time drastically.
  2. Keep the computer, ipad, phones under control and where they can be monitored. Don’t allow too many hours on pointless games or in chat rooms.
  3. Have books and other good reading material within easy reach, an enticement to read.
  4. Let your children see you reading.
  5. Read books aloud together regardless of age.
  6. Talk about books together; play games together.
  7. Have well-lit rooms with comfortable chairs that invite reading.
  8. Balance activity schedules with reading time. Let your kids know the library is as important as the gymnasium (sports).
  9. Encourage reading in bed with good lights to do so.
  10. Visit the library often, and listen to books-on-tape when travelling.

So, I say..

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Friday flips | Learn Chinese Books – Shapes

I’ll go straight to the point. I love this set of Learn Chinese Books.

I stumbled upon this series of books during a book fair. The lady who recommended them first introduced Taoshu Learn Chinese Books and then shared with me this set of books that is based on ‘SHAPES’, an animated TV series produced by Peach Blossom Media. Squares, circles and other basic shapes are used to retell famous folktales with humour and wit. I thought the graphics were interesting and might spark off some creativity in Faith and bought volume 1 whose stories centre around friendship and kindness.

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We went home and started reading. The story was so interesting that the girl asked to read another book. Before we knew it, we have read all six titles in one go.

Thankfully, our local libraries carry these titles and the kiasu me borrowed what I could find for volume 2 and 3.

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What I like about these books:

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I can try my best to articulate and speak properly in Mandarin but in terms of word recognition, I fail. I could still remember the basic words though but anything more than that, I would have to look up the dictionary for its pronunciation and meaning. I always welcome hanyu pinyin and these books have included hanyu pinyin for the more difficult words and phrases.

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And if you are one of those who really cannot make it in terms of reading Chinese, they provide hanyu pinyin for the entire story!

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Don’t understand what you are reading? Fret not, there’s the English translation for you! Faith got me to read the English version after reading the text in Chinese.

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What I like about these books is that there is a moral to be learnt for each story.

So yea, do look up these books when you are at the library and I’m sure you will enjoy reading them to your kids too!

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Friday Flips | A is for Australia & Are We There Yet? 

It has always been a practice, that when I travel, I would purchase a (Chinese or English) book from that country and read it when I am on the plane, train, bus or taking a break in the hotel room or cafe. It is no surprise then that I bought books from the recent Melbourne trip but nope, this time round, they weren’t solely for my consumption but for my kids as well.

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Sharing two awesome Children’s books about Down Under – A is for Australia & Are we there yet?

I’m not sure if we could purchase them from the local bookstores or borrow them from the libraries. Last I check, they weren’t available from the libraries so I made it a point to hunt down these books after I saw an Australian Instagrammer sharing one of them.

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A is for Australia by Frane Lessac is a factual book about the country and we could explore the A to Z of it – from Bondi to Kakadu all the way to Taronga Zoo. I admit I do not know much about Australia and this book gives a summary of the wonderful places that can be found in this beautiful country.

Did you know that….

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Faith and I are exploring the different countries in the world (part of our Geography homelearning curriculum) and I thought these two books will help in giving her more facts and knowledge about the country.

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This book is  slightly easier to read but also contains facts about the country. Faith loves to play ‘I-spy’ and I thought this is a great book to bring along when we are on the go. I love the illustration too!

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This page is certainly something she could relate to.

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I bought these two books from the souvenir shop at the Melbourne Museum. There are lots more wonderful books found in there but I could only afford to bring these two back. If you have interesting books on the various countries, please share? I would love to read them to Faith!

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Friday Flips | Windblown

How many of you will pack some activity materials for your kids to work on as you go out with them?

I do because I find them useful in ‘entertaining’ young kids and this is especially so when they are waiting for their food to be served during mealtimes.

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Normally, I will pack sticker books or some colour pencils and a small notebook for Faith to doodle. Along with that, a book or two are good choices too. Recently, I saw this book on the library’s bookshelf, flipped the pages and knew I had to borrow it.

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Windblown
by Édouard Manceau

“‘Shhh. . .’ said the wind.
‘I blew and blew as hard as I might.
I toppled the tree found by the frog,
shaped by the snail,
that the bird made into paper
that the fish cut into the pieces
that the chicken saw lying around.'”
— from the book

This story tells of seven scraps of paper blown along by the wind. On each page, the scraps create an animal who claims to be the owner of the scraps. The chicken claims they are his, the fish claims them too and so do the bird, snail and frog. Finally, the wind claims the scraps and blows them with one gust to the reader. “They are yours now too. What will you do?”

As you can see, this story screams for us to create something from the seven scraps of paper. So, I cut out the shapes (you can print it off here and laminate) and went through the story with Faith. With each page, the girl recreated the animal using the scraps of paper. You can bring along a piece of blank paper and have the child complete the picture by drawing the lines. In response to the last page in the story, I invited the girl to design a creature based on the scraps but she chose to work on the frog instead.

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I know it’s a safe choice and I respect her decision.

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I think her brother wanted to join in too.

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I decided to stretch the activity further by asking her to paint the picture since she kept asking me when she would be going for another art class. Moreover, we have just read Mix It Up and I thought it would be a good follow-up activity to the story.

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The activity actually became really fun when painting was involved. So I reckon this book is good to bring along to engage the minds of the young ones when you are out and as you go back home, you could continue to work on it like what we have done.

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I’m actually pleased with the outcome and frame the picture up.
This is a good home learning activity and we took about an hour to complete it. 😉

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On language development

Our family adopts the One Parent, One Language (OPOL) method when we communicate to the children. I would speak to Faith in Mandarin and the hubs to her in English. Faith’s first words are in Mandarin and I was mighty pleased with the progress and outcome until she was a little older, about 1.5 years old. 

As I’m the main caregiver and teacher to the children, I find that I have to split between speaking in Mandarin and English. Initially, I was concerned that Faith will be confused but apparently, she could distinguish between the two languages. What I need to do and be mindful of, is NOT to mix the languages when I speak to the children and if I should speak in either of the languages, I should do so in complete sentences and with the right intonation. This requires a fair bit of discipline and effort on my part. 

Upon attending school, Faith speaks English more than Mandarin which is not surprising even though the school spends more time in Chinese instruction (60%). Subsequently I signed her up for one more hour of Chinese class because she likes 儿歌 and I need more time to rest. Hah. Four hours of school is just right. 

Currently, Faith speaks well and more regularly in English as compared to Mandarin but she could definitely recognise more Chinese characters than English words. I didn’t leave language teaching only to the school because I believe there is much that I could teach at home. Having said that, #iamnotatigermom. 😜


Flashcards. I have quite a fair bit of them lying in the house, thanks to friends and my sister who do not have any use of them since their children have grown up. I didn’t use them until the girl was around 2 years old. A few months down the road, I bought this set of Chinese characters and got Faith to learn them. I prefer this set because the characters are big (font size) and the pictures are clear. Initially, she took quite a while to remember the words but at 3YO, it seemed her mind had opened up and she could recognise one set in a week and we moved on very quickly since then. Consistency is key. 


This set of readers helps boost Faith’s confidence in reading. Since she has learnt the characters, she could read the books on her own. You could see the pride that is reflected on her face when she completed reading each book. Priceless. 


I also signed her up for a Chinese enrichment class because I need her to acquire a love for the language. I could definitely drill her in recognising the characters but she does need the environment to speak. I have heard good review of this Chinese class and thankfully, Faith likes it! 

I do have to be honest that she was rather apprehensive in the beginning and had told me that she didn’t want to attend the class. However, by the third lesson, she was looking forward to it.✌️✌Having said that, I still see crying students in the class and they are pleading not to attend. 


I used a few materials to teach Chinese to Faith and I want to specially mention this book. The book is organised in a manner in which the highlighted character will appear in every sentence, thereby helping the child to remember the word read in context. When the child finds that she could read, it boosts the confidence which happens to Faith and she wants to go on learning the characters and reading the text. 



I have had success with using this set of books and subsequently went on to buy the whole series. #kiasumama


I wish Faith could read that well in English but I can’t expect a lot since I have not really focused on teaching her the English words apart from helping her work on her phonics. 

A few things to note: 

:: I am recording this as a reference for me to teach Dan in future.

:: Faith started off with fewer spoken words in English and I have friends who suggested that she might have speech delay but fret not, she had been storing those vocabulary words in her mind and now I wish she could give me some peace.  The seemingly fewer words could be a result of processing /storing words in both languages.

:: At home, there will always be music playing in the background and more often than not, it’s Chinese 儿歌。But when I’m reading to them, the music will have to stop. 

:: Faith could well communicate in Mandarin given the right environment. However, she much prefers to speak in English since everyone else is speaking in that language. 

:: Reading is key. Start reading even when the kid is a baby or in the womb. Read both English and Chinese books because they have the ability to distinguish the different languages. 


This kiasu mama has acquired the entire series (from Popular bookstores). This is not a sponsored post.

I really ought to be more diligent in recording what I do with Faith at home for my and Dan’s sake. #homelearning.

Stay tuned! 

Related articles:

Parentingjoy wrote a post on the use of 四五快读

Book Study -One Smart Cookie

[This post is first published in the Asian parent]

Reading is one of our favourite past time and recently, I decided to plan learning activities based on the stories that we have read. One of the titles is ‘One Smart Cookie’ and boy, did we have fun!

I must say that the content of this story is a tad difficult for a 3-year-old but we can always improvise. I like it that the illustration is clear and that there are values that we can learn from the story. We read the story once through before the commencement of each activity. Don’t worry, the kiddo doesn’t mind rereading the book.

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One smart cookie : bite-size lessons for the school years and beyond
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Available in NLB
Call Number: English ROS

Practical Life

Faith and I had a baking session after reading this book. Since it is about cookies, I got the girl to help me bake a batch of buckwheat cookies. During the process, I introduced her to the names of the various equipment as well as the ingredients. The little girl was proud to be able to assist her mother and definitely enjoyed the cookies after they came out of the oven!

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Values

One of the words in the story that I want to highlight to Faith is ‘Kindness’ and that means giving some of the cookies to her friends. I got her to pack them in a bag and give it to a family whom we were visiting the other day. The word literally came alive!

Art & imaginative play

Faith loves to play with playdoh and it would be fun to get her to cut out various shapes from the cookie cutters and decorate the cookies herself. It was followed by a time of pretend play in which she ‘baked’ the cookies in her own kitchen oven and then offered the baked goods to her furry friends, the soft toys. So much conversation was taking place!

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Math

Numbers and counting can be boring on paper. Why not use food to make it more interesting? After printing out pictures of cookies, I laminated them and have Faith count and put the specific number of M & Ms needed onto the cookies. There was so much energy and motivation from the little girl. Who says Maths is boring? 😉

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Language arts

C is for cookie, that’s good enough for me

Oh, cookie, cookie, cookie starts with C

After reading the story, I got Faith to think about words that start with C and to revise the initial sound ‘C’ with Faith.  Scaffolding is needed and I thought the video on C is for Cookie helps to set the stage for this activity.

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What would the next title be, I wonder?

Friday Flips: Chinese New Year related books

Two more weeks to Chinese New Year (CNY)! Are you busy spring cleaning your homes or spending time baking those delicious pineapple tarts?

For me, I’ve been trying to share as many stories on CNY as possible to Faith, as well as items related to the festival, like hong bao (red packets), lanterns and Chinese greetings.

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The following are some books that I find are relevant to the festival and suitable for toddlers. They are found in our local libraries.

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Location: Junior Lending Picture Book
Call number: English LIN

imageThough this is a book on colours, there is information such as dragon, drum and firecrackers which you can share with your child.

Location : Junior Lending Picture Book
Call number: English THO

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This is a book on numbers but provides a little information on CNY. I thought it is suitable for Faith who is learning about numbers now.

Call number: English THO

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Since this his page talks about the Chinese greetings, I got Faith to work on some craft and to learn this new Chinese word.

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imageThis is a complete story on the Chinese New Year and it could be pretty long for a toddler to sit through. It’s still good to read to them.

Call number: English ZUC

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 Call number: English KAT

imageI don’t recall having fortune cookies as part of the CNY tradition and I only came to know about it when I was overseas for a while. This book makes me want to bake some fortune cookies too. Good to teach the different days of the week towards the end of the story.

Call number: English BIT

I’m pretty sure there is a whole lot more collection of storybooks that touches on the CNY theme. Do you have any to add?

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Orientating Faith to her nursery school

The other day, F and I went down to her nursery school for orientation which basically means information dissemination for the parents. She was happy to see the playground but since it was raining, she couldn’t spend time there.

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I wish the space was bigger but since their enrolment is small, I guess it’s ok? The little one was fascinated by the kids’ sinks and toilets and wanted to wash her hands by herself.

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The briefing took about an hour an the little one was bored. Thankfully, I had quite a fair bit of rubbish in my bag and got her to tear the carpark coupons and to share her stickers with her future classmates. The other children, obviously restless, came swarming to her for stickers which she willingly shared -strategy for making friends. Hah!

20141118_104507I guess the little one felt comfortable in her new environment because she went off by herself to mingle with the other kids while I busied myself with settling the administrative stuff. Perhaps I was around and thus she was at ease. In any case, I’m glad that she’s no longer sticking to me for her dear life and only looking out for me occasionally.

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I hope she’s ready for school. For a while, I’ve been resisting the thought of having her in school since she is still young. But I guess the scouting of schools and subsequently admitting her into one was timely as the hubs has a change in his job scope and would most probably return home later than usual. And that would mean I would be looking after her for a longer period of time! I guess the few hours in school would help me keep sane?

Time to get her to be more ready for school and I thought the following books are good to prepare her for her upcoming adventure!

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