Review & Giveaway: Cultivating reading habit at Owl Readers Club

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


We love books! It's no secret! Hence when Owl Readers Club introduced themselves to us, we were exhilarated. Ok, in all honestly, we were skeptical. It may probably be one of those online bookstores which has an overwhelmingly huge host of books. Honestly, I detest those as I'm often lost and in the sea of books. Where should I start from? Which is suitable for my child?

The Club is founded by a husband and wife team who has an inquisitive little toddler. Being parents themselves enable them to understand which books are best for kids. A quick look at Owl Readers Club's website and I realised that their variety is more than decent and in fact, the books curated are stuff which are very much sort after in top 10 lists of must-reads for kids below 6years old. Think Julia Donaldson and Oliver Jeffers. One can search for books according to age group of language which makes the whole search a lot easier. Apart from curating quality children titles at reasonable prices, they organise reading-related events too, providing opportunities for book-loving families to meet up. 


Add Owl Readers Club on your FB to keep abreast of their Story-Telling Sessions. 

An event previously held at Giggles. The Dot at Giggles

What also drew me to it is also their collection of Chinese books specially curated by Jiang Meiru, owner of  Flip for Joy 乐翻天, a Singapore-based online children's bookstore, dedicated to sourcing the best Chinese books around the world. Now, I am no guru in Chinese and knowing that Meiru is a trained Chinese language teacher put me all at ease. 


So what differentiates them from other online bookstores?


OWL READERS CLUB MEMBERSHIP


1) Basic and paid members earn reward points which can be redeemed for purchases. 5 points are awarded for every $1 set. Redemption begins at 500 points which can be exchanged for $5 credit. Pretty much like the rebates credit cards love giving right? And we love such kickbacks. Sign up as a basic member for FREE and start earning reward points. You will earn 200 points simply by signing up, 50 points for writing a book review and 200 points for attending the club's events! So easy to earn! Writing reviews not only help us earn points, but help others in the community to decide on which books to get.


2) Should you wish to upgrade your subscription to a paid one, 2x reward points for every dollar spent will be extended to you, as well as 2X reward points for writing book reviews and attending book club events. To add on, you can enjoy exclusive benefits from various merchants like:
Sign up here as a basic member for free! Currently, they are having a promotion:

6-month Owl Member (Usual price $98, current promo $68)
1-year Owl Star Member (Usual price $188, current promo $98)

OWL READERS CLUB APP

With the advent of technology, Owl Readers Club is set to launch their app in December and members would be able to buy books through the app as well as connect with other like-minded members, arrange book exchanges or organise book-related activities. Great way to know more friends!

WHAT WE GOT?



Very apt as we are moving into December. 



This bundle was going for only $19.90! Cheap right?



This must be one of my favourites amongst the loot! I have always been advocating that the Gramps should speak to my kids in dialect. So far, only mom is doing that hence they can understand a small bit of Teochew. However, with Hakka being a minority, it isn't spoken that much, if any at all, amongst my in-laws. Even my hubs himself does not comprehend the dialect! So, with this book, I am hoping that they can pick up this dying dialect and hopefully be able to converse a little with the older generation in the near future!


Pssssst! Now, for some goodies! Christmas is round the corner and I've just heard, they are running a promotion! Don't say I don't share!




GIVEAWAY

In addition, the people at Owl Readers Club believe that reading starts from young and would like to kickstart your love for books with a generous giveaway! 

One lucky reader will walk away with a complimentary 6-month membership (worth $98) and $25 credit to spend in their online store. All you need to do is to carry out the following:



This giveaway ends on 8th December 2016 and the winner will be contacted by Owl Readers Club. Good luck and have fun reading!


Disclaimer: We were given a complimentary annual membership and store credit points to purchase books for the purpose of this review. No additional monetary compensation was received. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/ services.


Big K turns 5:: A Peppa Pig Party

Saturday, November 19, 2016


Yup, it's real. The kids are growing up wayyyyy too quickly! Big K just turned 5 last week and I am thankful that i was able to organise, yet again, a small scale thematic party for her. As much as I'd like to invite more friends and excite her a little bit more, i have always kept it within the immediate family and school. Namely, it is an excuse to bring together the family who otherwise would not find time to meet up as often. As well as to thank them for all their help and support. Without a village, it would have been impossible for me to achieve this much. But also, undeniably, as much as I'd like to, pushing it to a larger scale would also break an arm and a leg! Haha



This year's theme was Peppa Pig. I love dressing up a party. I mean how many years would your kid want to celebrate their birthdays with you and for that matter dress up the entire place in Elsa and Anna or Peppa. So i really treasure this process despite it being a bit of a hassle. Unfortunately for the last couple of years, we mainly held our parties in restaurants. Particularly because the hubs did not want the fuss of cleaning up and also, our house was in a perpetual mess. It still is. But this year i insisted on doing it at home. Why? Because we have just moved in our newly renovated home! It's so nice and cozy so this is definitely my first choice! Also, often when i hold it in a restaurant, what would happen was that right after cake cutting, the fil and bil and my dad would all disappear. Fil isnt someone of great patience at the dining table and dad and the bil would head out for a puff. No one bothers eating the cake. No one bothers even waiting for the kids and i to have our cakes. In fact, it would be best if we had just blew the candles and pack up. If i were to be lucky, they would try a small slice and end up complaining that the cake was way too sweet for their palettes. It is really tiring managing everyone's requirements. 

So this year, the plan was to order a small boring cake for our home party. I had my eyes set on the pretty swiss roll baked by a certain homebaker whose business name started with J. I do not wish to point her out lest i am giving her more traffic. About a 1.5weeks before the event, I contacted her. She agreed to bake us a customised swiss roll and some nutella blossoms. A few days later, the hubs announced that he might have to fly on that date and I had to push forward things by a day. I discussed with the baker who agreed to deliver a day before. No firm timing was given till a day before she said I could collect the cake between 4-5pm that fateful day. Thinking that party would only start at 6pm, I thought i would  be in time. The day before i asked for an exact time and address as well as mobile number umpteen times but after 24hrs, there was still no response. An ominous feeling loomed. All the way till noon on party day i did not hear from her! Imagine my panic! I was tethering at my wit's end! At 245pm she finally replied my private message claiming that there was some techinical fault with her system such that she wasn't able to reply me and that she wanted to inform me that her fridge could not start up! Major horrors! I was frantic and despite not being a baker, I knew that with only an hour to delivery, it was impossible to set a cake even if her fridge was working. She requested for 10minutes and i was still hopeful. I waited but after 10minutes, it was still silence. I gave a chaser and fate was sealed, we had no cake! Immediately i spammed my resourceful mummy friends as my brain was completely busted. I couldn't think straight. Thankfully lots of ideas poured in and I finally managed to calm my nerves and get a cake from Flor Patisserie. Why didn't i think of that place earlier instead if driving aimlessly for half an hour. It is just a stone's throw away! Where was the hubs all this while? Napping away! He told me to chill even if there wasn't a cake as it wasn't Big K's actual day! Does that even matter?? A cake is a cake. What is a birthday without a cake! So anyhoots, I was just glad I made it in time and managed to get a refund after 24hrs and after persistent pestering, with me issuing a threat to report the matter to the police before she finally made the refund. She claimed she was busy running around doing deliveries. Wow! So suddenly her fridge was working the very next day? Nice. It was thereafter that several friends came forth to share that this baker has a bad name on a certain baking forum on fb! Who would have known! Especially since I engaged her after seeing an ig mummy raving about it. Just my luck i guess. 


 

So the above two cakes were the ones I got from Flor. They pride themselves for their Japanese-French inspired pastries. The Cocoa Royal cake was chosen coz it resembles the muddy puddle which Peppa and George love to jump on. I was hesitant to get a chocolate cake in all honesty coz we all know how sweet that would be. However, I took the risk and surprisingly, most of the guests tried! There were also hardly any comments from them except from the FIL who commented that it was sweet after chomping down 2 large slices. The second sliced cake, Bara, was a moose cake. The MIL's birthday was actually just 2 days away from Big K's hence I had to get her a little something too right? Especially when her own 3 flesh and blood do not do much (if any at all) to celebrate for her. This, despite the fact that she isn't a big fan of cakes. So I really hope she appreciates this gesture of mine!


Next, I gotten some brownie popsicles from Garden Slug. I thought it was pretty cute and got a couple. Took out one to serve as a cake to another birthday boy -- the SIL's husband. yeah, once again, I go the extra mile for these people who don't really give a hoot about birthdays. 



On decorations. This year's effort was pretty minimal. The buntings were bought from Taobao and the rest were either printables that are easily obtainable on the net, or stuff we've already have at home. I was pretty pleased with the outcome. :)






My birthday girl, all grown up. Awwwwww....

Everybody's birthday is their birthday!



Baked cheese green mussels with Thai sauce


Food packed from a nearby Zichar store. 


Cereal prawn


Claypot rice


Herbal Chicken

Food glorious. Another tricky thing with the oldies. You see, my dad is a pretty fussy person and not a very adventurous one. He only eats Chinese. My in-laws are very critical and would comment about how bad the food is instead of pouring compliments. In addition to that, we had a small crowd. Most buffets catered to a minimum of 15 pax. I was this close to taking on the task of cooking myself which THANKFULLY I did not! How would I have been able to pull off everything plus cook? So I googled around and was glad to have found Stamford Catering. They had mini party sets catered for 8-10pax! That was awesome as we were expecting a crowd of 9 adults and 2 kiddos. Perfect. The food arrived on time and the standards were more than satisfactory. The number of receptacles given plus the whole presentation was amazing! I got to keep the claypot which came with our claypot rice! As well as a wooden container which came with our Double Boiled Herbal Chicken. All these were packed in an insulated bag which again, was mine to keep! So aunty! I don't even know when I'd have a chance to use such a big bag! The quantity of food however, in the hub's opinion was a little too little for 10pax. In fact, upon unpacking, he immediately sent me down to pack extra dishes and rice! End of the day, we had leftovers. 


So that was Part one of our little celebrations. 
On to Part two -- Celebrations in school. Even though it was a mere school party, I tried to make it as pretty as possible as well. My own obsession mostly. Big K was very excited to share this day with her friends so I had to make it as memorable as possible for her right?



Starting with the all important cake. I had waited for 2 years before Susanne from LovingCreations4u agreed to bake me a cake. Our timings somehow never seemed to gel, hence the long wait. I love how she is able to turn a simple chiffon cake into a 3D creation. In addition to that, she uses natural food colourings. It was a hit with the kids and the teachers alike. Our form teacher even emailed me later to say that she overheard the teachers raving about the cake. I was initially a little worried as the kids just had a birthday cake the day before and it was the typical creamy fondant cake. You know how kids and sweets are? They are inseparable. However, the little mashmellow surprise plus the taste of the cake went well with the kids. Many asked for seconds!


I even went to the extent of dressing up my Vitagens. haha..the kids named it Peppa-gen.


This year's party packs were of minimal effort too. I always seem to be DIY-ing something for their packs but this year, they were all bought instore and put together. A lot of thought was put into it though. Like how the girls should get a pink bag and the boys a blue. I wanted the bags itself to be useful too, and was mighty happy that I managed to source for a drawstring bag. 






So that rounds up our little celebrations for my big girl. Sigh, I can't help but wish that time would freeze! Baby, may you grow up to be a fine young lady with abundance joy and wisdom! 

Happy Birthday my apple cheeks!




Review: Activities at Heguru and how to conduct home practice

Saturday, October 29, 2016



Did you know that to encourage creativity in children, you could draw with your eyes closed/ draw with your non-dormant hand/ encourage your child to be bored/ daydream/ engage in word games? Well, those sound simple enough but to go a step further and to stretch that right brain, we have been attending Heguru at Citysquare mall. A centre which encourages right brain training. I believe through such training, I am igniting creativity which will be useful in his future. Right brain education opens neural pathways and it is best to be completed by age ten. Through this programme, I am not hoping that my child will become an overnight genius but the constant inputting will enable him to absorb new information quickly and easily. This has been quite apparent from my observation of Small K who is like a sponge! During each lesson, there would be over 30 activities done. Excellent deal to condense the week's worth of learning into just one lesson isn't it? Something which, if left to me, would not have been achieved in a mere 1 hour. I will be sharing with you the activities in two parts. There are simply too many to squeeze into one post! I will also share with you how we DIY at home to complement our right brain training. After all, the child would benefit more if we are able to follow through with home practice. So without further ado, here are some of the activities: 

1) Math
What's included: Abacus; Dots Programme; Multiplication table; Addition Table; Dot Bar; Nummer Kaisten; Number memorisation; Perfect Intuition 


The Dots programme introduces the concept of quantity and sequencing. We are familiar with some aspects of this. The Dots programme is very much similar with The Shichida 63 Dots programme and the Doman Method of teaching Math. They all have the same rationale which is that it is to help he child in mental calculation using dot imaging or intuition. Back when Big K was about 3yo, I had used this method and was pleasantly surprised by its results. We are able to conduct this training at home back then using pre-packed cards and was supposed to do it every single day without fail. However, as a busy mom, most would know that this isn't possible and we would end up missing some days. Hence, I am really thankful that the dot programme is included in Heguru and that Small K is able to benefit from it. 


The Dot Bar is another aspect of Heguru which is unique. This is used to complement the Dots programme. Each time, the trainer would demonstrate a few concepts like addition and subtraction using grids and dots. As we are in the toddler class, typically a 3 by 3 grid or a 5 by 5 grid would be used. 


I managed to DIY something similar at home using a magnetic board and round magnets bought from Daiso. 


The Nummer Kaisten is an in-house manipulative which allows children to learn mental arithmetic in a visual way. Concepts of addition and subtraction is demonstrated here.


Abacus training is used at almost every lesson. At this stage, the giant abacus is used to teach the child how to count. From counting in ones, to counting in tens, the abacus is a great tool to capture attention. In fact, Small K loves it so much that I frequently caught him "teaching himself" using the small abacus we have at home!

Number memorisation
At the very beginning, this is my most hated activity. Yup! You heard right! I actually dislike something in the class! Why? Because sleep-deprived mommy here has to be attentive and try her best to memorise a string of numbers in a mere few seconds! I found it really tough to recall a long string of numbers, but strangely, after a few terms of training, I actually found myself pretty good at it! Acing it most of the time! So how is the child involved for this activity you ask? We basically have to whisper the number to the child. In time to come, the child will use his peg memory (which will be discussed later) concept to link up with the numbers and be able to recite them out. For now, Small K has wowed me by being able to say out the last digit once in a while. He isn't able to write out the numbers as yet, but I think to be able to say out the last digit, whether it is by a stroke of luck or not, is amazing!


Apart from the above, Heguru also strives to introduce concepts like mass, volume and density through interesting experiments. At a young age, children are inclined to learn visually, hence, such presentation of concepts will benefit the child tremendously.

2) Flash cards


Super Flash
Young children have a natural love for learning and they absorb like sponges. This is why over at Heguru, there is a segment called Super Flash. This comprises of more than 15 themes each time. Don't ask me for exact figures, because things happen so quickly, I can barely keep up! This works out to approximately over 400 cards flashed each time! Some examples of the themes include: amphibians, hazard symbols, flower arrangement tools, flags, types of dresses, types of chairs, Numbers 1-10 in Hungarian; types of burrowing animals; bones and so on. I am a strong believer in this and have a great volume stashed in my cupboard. Mostly were homemade by yours truly back in those days when I only had one child. They really aren't that difficult to make. We just need time. These days with the advent of technology, I can even do them on my iPhone! Once home, all I need to do is to proofread and send to print. The painful part is cutting them into A5 size which even then, isn't too big a deal with a cutter. 

Benefits:
So what are the benefits of Super Flash? 
  • For starters, it is great to input as much information to the child. Even if it seems too advanced at this moment. In the future, when he/ she does touch on this topic, it will somehow be easier. 
  • High speed flashing of cards activates the right brain, needless to say and will develop the child's photographic memory function. This is especially important before the age of 6, after which, right brain development will see a dip. The cards are all picture cards and as far as possible, they try to use real life images. Names of the pictures are verbalised at the same time, hence helping to create a connection between both the right and the left brain. The left brain would process language whilst the right processes images. Don't worry if the child is not paying attention. Take a break. Even if he is moving around, he is absorbing. The strange thing for Small K is that he sits attentively at Heguru, whilst at home, he is always monkeying around! 
How to DIY?
  • Decide on a topic and start googling for pictures. Have them printed out on A5 cards, preferably of 300gsm. The words should be printed behind so as to facilitate flashing. I used to laminate my cards (adding to the time and cost), however, I realised that if I use a thicker cardstock, it would go a long way too. Furthermore, by laminating, at certain angles, there may be reflection which may not be good for the child's eyes.
  • To flash, one needs to be fast. The teachers over at Heguru are all professionally trained and examined. 1 second per card is preferred.
  • As many topics are to be covered each time and the same topic should not be repeated twice at a time. It can however be repeated on a daily basis, but to prevent memorisation, the cards should be shuffled and changed after 1 to 2 weeks.

Apart from Super Flash, flashcards are also used to teach words in both Chinese and English. There is also a segment called the Encyclopaedic Baby Programme where flashcards are used to teach things like ordinal numbers (1st, 2nd, 3rd)  This is complemented with songs and manipulatives used by the assistant teacher. 



3) Photographic memory
Linking Memory; Peg Memory; Chic Chak Time; Spatial Memory; Mandala

Once a child enters Primary school, it is a constant challenge to cramp as much information as possible, in the shortest possible time. Therefore, it would be great if the child is equipped with techniques which will help him in memorisation.



Peg Memory
This is a system of associating numbers to images. For example:
71 - Nun
72 - Shampoo
73 - Cemetery
74 - Store
75 - Housewife
For a few weeks, the child will be taught ten peg numbers before moving on to the next ten. In order to help the child with recollection, a silly story is made. For example: I saw a nun put shampoo on her hair at the cemetery.

Below is how we DIY. I managed to find a printable over at mummyshymz. I have yet to complete cutting as you can see, but we'll get there!



Linking Memory
This is more random. Picture cards are presented and the trainer would narrate a story to connect the pictures. This is a method which even the cave men used! The story doesn't have to make sense. In fact, the more ridiculous the better it is. Put things in unbalanced positions and don't be afraid to make things do what they don't usually do, e.g. A pig flying over the sea. The class would then each use 3 cards to form a story. You can't expect to develop an extraordinary memory overnight, but by learning useful techniques and learning them periodically, one can be more proficient in it. 
The key to linking memory is to use your IMAGINATION and PRACTISE!

Below is what we use at home to aid linking memory:
photo credit: http://owlissimo.com

Mandala
While most of the time in class, it is the me who is doing all the memorising and Small K is the one who is doodling, it is it is great that he is participating. In fact, when practising at home with fewer colours, he is mostly able to get them right most of the time!


At home, using the Everyday Mandala for Children series


This activity can be done on the go too! While I don't advocate too much screen time, I do allow the kids to have a bit of exposure on weekends. So, rather than watching senseless cartoons, this, is a great alternative! Some apps to consider:

4) Physical Activities 

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Heguru recognises that children need to let their energy loose. At around midway through the lesson, we will go out for some physical activities. These activities varies but the overall aim is to train the child's gross motor skills. This is vital for the child's development and lays the foundation for a healthy life. Physical activities establish connection between different parts of the brain. Whenever Small K hears the song to indicate the start of physical activities, he would be like a horse losing his reins and charge towards the door.


5) Puzzles
Iroita; Tangram


This is a favourite with Small K! Puzzles are great for cognitive development. When the eye sees the puzzle, it sends images to the brain which envisions and translate to the hand. The hand will then manipulate and get the right piece to fit. Both Iroita and tangram are pretty much the same which works on shape recognition. This is an important part of a toddler's development. Order of recognition for children includes:
  1. Colours
  2. Shapes
  3. Sizes
  4. Numbers
  5. Amount/ Quantity
  6. Spatial recognition
  7. Comparison
  8. Order
  9. Time 
  10. Money








Thrifty me wanted to replicate something similar and I did! All for a mere $8 vs a retail price of $49.90 (jaw dropped)! All materials obtained from Daiso. Am mighty proud of myself!


I am really impressed that Small K is able to identify and fit the shapes in so accurately. I haven't quite taught him shapes officially so he definitely picked up this skill over at Heguru!


For any form of enrichment, I believe that it isn't overnight success which we would see. It's through constant drilling and hard work. Whilst hard work most of the time translates to mundane and boredom, I feel that right brain training at Heguru is really fun and keeps the kids and parents alike, on their toes. The fast pace of the lesson also ensures that the child would not be bored. I really love the vibe. In fact, most of the time, I might feel a little zombified prior to attending lesson, however, the moment I'm in the lesson, my adrenaline gets pumped. School in the 21st century is no longer the same. Right brain training starts young and dips when we enter Primary school as that is when left brain activities are predominant. Academic excellence is undeniable important and the paper-chase situation worldwide is real. Heguru Program, however, is not centrally focused on a repetition of academic specific practices for children. The real focus is the development of learning abilities in the children that they teach – fundamental concentration and endurance power, memory power, comprehension and application power amongst others. If a child is equipped with the right skill, he would find his learning curve a little less steep.  

In my next review, I will share with you other activities done at Heguru and also how you can conduct home practice. Stay tune!

Follow Heguru Citysquare mall on Facebook or check out their website or more details! They have regular parents info sessions, so do give them a buzz to catch a lesson preview! Also, Citysquare mall is having an education fair on 19th & 20th November 2016 during which Heguru would be one of the vendors participating. Do drop by to find out more about their courses!

Disclosure: We were invited by Heguru CitySquare mall to review their courses and attended complimentary lessons in return. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/services.  


DESIGNED BY ECLAIR DESIGNS