You Are Always On My Mind

It’s 10.24pm on a Friday night.

Most people I know are spending time with their family and friends after a dreadful week of peak-hour commutes, school runs, deadlines and run-ins with their bosses, colleagues, clients or (gasp) children.

I, on the other hand, am alone; yet again lounging in bed and having some me-time online. And I know that after I finish penning my thoughts, I will curl up with a good book before turning in for the night. Such is the story of my life in recent months.

You see, M has signed up to work in one of the most intensive departments. He yearned to pick up whatever he can learn from this rotation, but in return, his hours are long, gruelling and intensive. He practically works the graveyard shifts now, and rarely gets to sleep partly due to a largely confused circadian rhythm, and partly because he tries to see Faith and me as much as possible during our waking hours. Our family of three has been thrown into the deep end once again with his work schedules. Well, it kinda feels like the times when F was still an infant…you know, the times when days and nights are not what they should be.

It’s very tiring, this solo-parenting-not-seeing-M-as-often-as-I-wish-thing. As is juggling between work, rest and family time for M. Even F is feeling the heat from the recent arrangements. She didn’t used to cry when Papa left her in the past, but ever since M started work in this department, she has taken to wailing whenever Papa ups and goes to work at different times of the day. It’s hard for us to stomach the separation, and harder for her to grasp the abruptness and irregularity of it all. I would be lying if I said this isn’t taking a toll on us. These days, I’m usually flat out by the end of the day and I can’t sleep because I worry about M. M would be shattered with exhaustion and torn with guilt on neglecting us and his buddies because of unyielding demands from work (I mean, you can’t just leave your patients and insist you want to knock off at the end of a stipulated shift). M doesn’t say it, but I know from the glances he throws at us, that he misses us terribly too.

But we are, strangely, stronger in parts and as one. And I am very thankful for that bond and love we have for one another. For the most transient father-daughter exchanges that I get to witness in that few seconds and beam at for the rest of my life. For the times when F goes, ”Papa?” and she quietly nods when I remind her gently that ‘Papa is at work.’ For the times when I stir as M reaches home in the wee hours of the morning, squeezes my hand and whispers, ‘Don’t worry, I am here.’ just before he falls into a deep slumber. For the bunch of the most beautiful blood-red roses that M (wouldn’t have usually bought because he doesn’t believe in buying flowers) surprised me with after a 10pm-8am shift, and the way he asked me to not forget that I am always on his mind even though I am mostly alone these days. For the times when I throw my arms around M and watch his favourite Hobbits series, just because I know he would like some company whilst trying to get himself accustomed to sleeping on demand, when all I really want to do is to catch some sleep.

Suddenly, every word spoken, every second spent together, every gesture is much more precious and memorable than before.

While our lives are currently fraught with unpredictability, exhaustion and our future, with uncertainty, I cannot remember a time when we were happier, more contented, and more comfortable with walking on a tight-rope. It’s almost as if we have truly grown as family, even with F at the tender age of (almost) two and we are somehow (surprisingly) letting the obstacles roll off our backs like they don’t matter. Children are creatures of habit but F seems to know how important it is to flit and float with us now that our circumstances have changed, and she has adapted well, save for the separation anxiety when Papa leaves for work. I cannot be more thankful for what we have going on here to cope with our new lives.

So, on this Friday night, as people around us snuggle up to their loved ones and recharge for the coming week, we fight together in spirit and take comfort that we shall see one another tomorrow morning, even if it’s for a few minutes.

Because…Faith, Papa thinks of you all the time, and M, you too, are always on my mind. And that is enough to keep us all going.

201408 Red Roses

GIVEAWAY! Yamatoya Norsta Desk & Chair Set Worth S$158

Parents endeavour to give their children the very best, and I am no exception. As a mother to baby Faith, I am always on the lookout for quality clothes, toys, books, foods and other knick-knacks.

In the series ‘I Have My Eye On‘, I share my favourite finds for my little girl.

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[SPONSORED POST* - GIVEAWAY details in this post] Now, you have heard the story of how Faith has gone all Picasso on us, and how Fairy Godmother aka Yamatoya Singapore heard our cries for THE desk & chair set that would grow with Faith. Well, Santa must think we have been really nice this season, because we have been gifted another desk & chair set, this time, the Norsta (in White), waaaaaay head of Christmas this year! You know what this means, don’t you? Yamatoya Singapore is giving one of you a Norsta desk & chair set too! Before you get all too excited, I thought you might want to know what we think of the Norsta and how it compares to the Buono Amice.

The Norsta is a real lightweight beauty; it is made of 100% pine wood, as opposed to the Buono Amice which is constructed out of 100% rubber wood, and is much lighter and more portable. Being lighter than the Buono Amice, naturally, it can only bear weight up to 30kg, which is still a reasonable number because this set is suitable for kids of up to 5 years old. Despite being very light, the set is rather stable; the legs of the tables and chairs are strong and sturdy. The only downside of it being lighter than the Buono Amice, is that Faith accidentally shifts the set if she leans her weight on either piece of furniture when she is standing against it. I noticed, though, she quickly learns that she shouldn’t lean against the set if she wants the set to stay put, so that isn’t a huge problem for us. We chose the set in White, which means the writing surface, back rest and seat of the chair are in white. The combination of the natural colour of pine wood and the white parts lends a bright addition to the furniture in our home; I actually love these colours more than the rubber wood on the Buono Amice! 

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The Norsta is also designed in Japan and manufactured in Indonesia and boasts superior carpentry that works to enhance the safety of the set. The edges are all nicely buffed and very smooth; there are no sharp corners that may hurt a child. As with the Buono Amice, the screws are all deep-set and there aren’t any protruding metal bits that may cut or snag when one runs their fingers over the set. Similar to the Buono Amice, the built-in drawer has a stopper within to prevent children from pulling the entire entity out.

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This set grows well with the child too. The desk is adjustable at three levels, and the chair at two (note that the Buono Amice has three settings for the chair). Unfortunately, Faith is still a little short for the lowest height on the Norsta chair; as you can see from the photos, her feet do not rest flat on the floor. Yamatoya suggests the Norsta for children from the ages of 8 months to 5 years, but I reckon your child needs to have pretty long legs to sit comfortably on the chair when it’s at its lowest setting. Not that this is a major problem, as we all know, children grow up much too quickly and soon enough, Faith will be sitting in the chair with her feet flat on the floor!

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As for the useable space on the Norsta, it does seem smaller than the Buono Amice at first glance but if you look carefully, this is also because the Norsta desk does not have any space designated for the trinkets like those on the Buono Amice. I would say the areas of useable writing surfaces on both sets are about the same. The Norsta also has a rather spacious drawer to keep your child’s writing materials out of sight when the set is not in use, and this is always a lovely feature for all you clutter-phobes.

I was also surprised to learn that the Norsta is even easier to assemble than the Buono Amice. I spent less than 15 minutes on my own, and all the parts are simply put together with the supplied screws and an allen key. It helps that the parts are much lighter than those in the Buono Amice set. Even Faith had a go at tightening the screws on the Norsta!

I am keeping the Norsta set for when Faith is a little older, as her feet aren’t quite resting on the floor when she sits on the chair at the lowest setting; I reckon this set will be perfect for her in another six months’ time. I love that the set is very light and portable, and when Faith is older, she can move the desk and chair around on her own to whereever she likes when she wants to do some colouring or reading. In fact, she loves to move the chair to where the television is now, so she gets to watch from the comfort of her very own ‘throne’ when she gets a TV treat from us!

We are very spoilt for choice with the Buono Amice and Norsta at home. I would say, while the two sets are a little different, both have met my requirements in terms of (adult-friendly) appearance, safety, longevity (grows with the child!) and functionality. We feel the same way about the SukusukuES high chair as well, and are very impressed by the range of good-quality products that Yamatoya has to offer. Suffice to say that it is one of our favourite to-go brands now for children’s furniture, and I hope they keep up the good work of filling that gap in the market!

WANT TO GET YOUR HANDS ON THE NORSTA SET?

If you’re interested to have a look at the set up-close before purchasing it, I’d highly recommend you to drop by the Yamatoya Singapore booth at the SUPERMOM BAZAAR at Suntec City Hall 401-404 from 22-24 August 2014. As Yamatoya Singapore does not have a physical retail store or stockists, this is a great opportunity for you to have a look at the Norsta set, Buono Amice and other products (we love the SukusukuES high chair too, which we have given away a few months ago!) at a central location in Singapore!

GIVEAWAY!

Now, Yamatoya has kindly sponsored one Norsta Desk & Chair set to a lucky reader of mine (you have to be based in Singapore as Yamatoya does not deliver internationally). It comes with 1 desk and 1 chair, a built in drawer, and the tools required for assembly. Delivery is provided free-of-charge as well! What are you waiting for? Enter the giveaway here. Some steps can be done once a day, so don’t forget to check back to get more entries into the draw!

Terms and Conditions of the giveaway:

- One winner will be randomly selected to receive the Norsta Desk & Chair Set; choice of colour depends on availability.
- Giveaway is only open to those based in Singapore.
- Free delivery within Singapore; assembly service of the set is not provided.
- Yamatoya Singapore will contact the winner after the giveaway closes.

GOOD LUCK, AND THANK YOU, YAMATOYA!

*I was gifted one Yamatoya Norsta Desk & Chair Set to review, and another set worth S$158 to give away to a lucky reader. No monetary gift was received. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products. Sponsors have been notified that I am not obliged to write a review upon receipt of sponsored items, should I find the products unsuitable.

You can now shop online at Yamatoya Singapore!

GIVEAWAY! Yamatoya Buono Amice Desk & Chair Set Worth S$198

Parents endeavour to give their children the very best, and I am no exception. As a mother to baby Faith, I am always on the lookout for quality clothes, toys, books, foods and other knick-knacks.

In the series ‘I Have My Eye On‘, I share my favourite finds for my little girl.

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[SPONSORED POST* - GIVEAWAY details in this post] So. Faith, at the grand old age of (almost) two, has discovered the magic of pens, crayons, pencils and markers. She makes herself comfortable on the floor and Picasso-s anything which resembles a piece of paper (I’m glad that she knows not to draw on OTHER surfaces, that would be criminal) but sometimes, she ends up spilling her masterpiece over onto my poor parquet floor because she doesn’t know how to restrict her overzealous movements to MInistry-of-Mum-Approved drawing surfaces. Faith has also been going to pre-school for a few hours every week, and enjoys doodling with her teachers. When we were sitting in with her during the first few classes, she was absolutely enamoured with the desks and chairs at school and practically rearranged the furniture to pander to her newfound obsession. I told the husband that we needed to get her a desk and chair set, pronto. We headed to a couple of places to hunt for a set that we think would work well for Faith and still look great in our living space, which we have conscientiously tried to keep in neutral tones ever since Faith was born. We failed. The ones we saw were either good-looking or functional; it was impossible to have the best of both worlds. The sets we saw couldn’t grow with the child too, and I most certainly didn’t want to spend on something that Faith will outgrow quickly.

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We were a little disheartened with the search and almost gave up, when Yamatoya Singapore approached us to review the new Buono Amice Desk & Chair. How timely is that; Fairy Godmother must have been listening! Some of you may have heard of the original Buono, and the Buono Amice is a bigger and better version of it! I swooned over the photos of the set I saw on the Yamatoya Singapore site, and was absolutely eager to try it out because it looked like everything we wanted in a desk and chair set! And it is!

P7303800Designed in Japan and manufactured in Indonesia, the set is made of 100% rubber wood; the natural wood grain is something that I really, really, really like (I’m very fond of wood when it comes to furniture). Being made out of solid wood, the set is a little heavy but this means it is incredibly sturdy and can bear weight up to 60kg. I squished my butt on the chair, put my full weight on it and I didn’t break it; the chair didn’t tip over due to a significant change in the centre of gravity either, because the side bars and leg protrusions of the chair distribute the weight very effectively. When Faith sits on the chair, she isn’t able to rock the chair backwards because of the unique design of the legs. That really puts my mind at ease; I recall a kid in my primary school who rocked his chair, fell backwards, hit his head hard on the floor and suffered from a concussion. True story that haunts me to this day!

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While I have seen Faith struggle with the chairs in school (which are ironically made for kids her age), Faith gets in and out of the Buono Amice chair fairly easily on her own. It really helps that the heights of the chair and desk are adjustable at three levels as well; this means that the set grows with the child, something that I am always on the lookout for when I purchase furniture for children. Mind you, the Buono Amice is suitable for children from the ages of 1 to 5! For her height and proportion, I have assembled the set on the lowest levels to accommodate her frame, and she sits in it so comfortably! No hunching over because the desk is too low. No raising of arms to rest her elbows on the desk because the chair is too low. Her legs tuck nicely under the table without having her thighs and knees rub against the underside of the desk. Her feet rest flat on the floor. And look at her posture, it’s so well-maintained with the ergonomic design of the chair!P7303802

The work surface of the desk is also very spacious, allowing Faith to work on larger masterpieces at any one time. The cute red and blue trinkets are excellent holders for stationery, and fit in pre-carved grooves on the desk to prevent them from getting knocked over easily. There is also a shallow ‘pool’ of sorts in between the two trinkets to hold extra pencils and what-not. Faith has no problem reaching for her coloured pencils and decorative pieces stored in the trinkets and the ‘pool'; I like that she doesn’t have to go, ‘Mama, help, please’ whenever she needs something. Everything is so easily accessible on this workstation!P7303781

The desk comes with a built-in drawer that glides in and out smoothly for ease of access; it doesn’t fall out when Faith yanks on it because a built-in stopper prevents that from happening. Brownie points for safety! It is a rather large drawer and I find it useful for storing materials, books and more stationery. I’m a clutter-phobe, so I’m all for furniture that boasts storage space! Of course, Faith loves hiding her favourite belongings in them and I end up finding all sorts of weird things in there…but that’s a story for another day.P7303790

For something that is so thoughtfully designed for children in every aspect, I would have expected it to be a challenge to assemble. But it was SO FREAKING EASY that I, being far from acquainted with the ways of carpentry and heavy, manly tools, could assemble the desk and chair in 15 minutes. I have to say the Japanese are really at the top of their game in coming up with the simplest, yet highly functional designs! The set comes with an allen key and all the screws you will need to put the pieces together. The most difficult part of all, which isn’t tough to begin with, is to figure out the height you want to fix the desk and chair at for your child. And the truth is, even if you get it wrong, the set is very easily disassembled and re-assembled at the correct heights. Just check out the gallery below for the photos of how I assembled the set. And yes, again, it was so easy that I could hold the parts together with one hand while photographing with my other hand. Speaks volumes, doesn’t it?!

We are incredibly happy with the Buono Amice set, and so is Faith; every time she comes home, she runs to her workstation, pulls out the chair, plonks her butt down and starts scribbling or reading. I have to say it is one of my favourite products to-date, largely because it is so very beautifully made and yet, highly functional and safe for Faith to use. The rubber wood is so smooth and there are no offensive, sharp corners that may hurt Faith. The screws are all deep-set; hence, there isn’t a chance of her scratching herself on protruding metallic bits and bobs. Most of all, she sits so comfortably in the set, and I know that she will continue to do so even when she grows taller (or fatter, tee hee) because the heights are easily adjustable. Even Mama’s childbearing hips can fit in that chair! I’d like to add that I use the beautiful wood grain on the desk as THE background for my food photography these days…tell me about maximising the potential of my kiddo’s things; don’t you dare judge, you would too if you own the Buono Amice!

WANT TO GET YOUR HANDS ON THE BUONO AMICE SET?

If you’re interested to have a look at the set up-close before purchasing it, I’d highly recommend you to drop by the Yamatoya Singapore booth at the SUPERMOM BAZAAR at Suntec City Hall 401-404 from 22-24 August 2014. As Yamatoya Singapore does not have a physical retail store or stockists, this is a great opportunity for you to have a look at the Buono Amice set and other products (we love the SukusukuES high chair too, which we have given away a few months ago!) at a central location in Singapore!

GIVEAWAY!

Now, Yamatoya has kindly sponsored one handsome Buono Amice Desk & Chair set to a lucky reader of mine (you have to be based in Singapore as Yamatoya does not deliver internationally). It comes with 1 desk and 1 chair, a built in drawer, red and blue trinkets and the tools required for assembly. Delivery is provided free-of-charge as well! What are you waiting for? Enter the giveaway here! Some steps can be done once a day, so don’t forget to check back to get more entries into the draw!

Terms and Conditions of the giveaway:

- One winner will be randomly selected to receive the Buono Amice Desk & Chair Set.
- Giveaway is only open to those based in Singapore.
- Free delivery within Singapore; assembly service of the set is not provided.
- Yamatoya Singapore will contact the winner after the giveaway closes.

GOOD LUCK, AND THANK YOU, YAMATOYA!

*I was gifted one Yamatoya Buono Amice Desk & Chair Set to review, and another set worth S$198 to give away to a lucky reader. No monetary gift was received. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products. Sponsors have been notified that I am not obliged to write a review upon receipt of sponsored items, should I find the products unsuitable.

You can now shop online at Yamatoya Singapore!

 

The Kid Doesn’t Always Say No

So. Faith is turning two in a month’s time and of course, the terrible twos have descended upon this peace-lovin’ home. In fact, I think we were first hulk-smashed when she was 19-20 months old and have since lived through some pretty jaw-dropping episodes. The tantrums have somewhat given way to a subtler, more civilised form of protestation, where F launches into verbal diarrhoea that has the consistency of 10364 resounding No’s. Case in point:

‘Faith, can you please drink some water?’

‘NO.’

‘Faith, can you please eat your dinner?’

‘NO.’

You get the picture.

She doesn’t shout when she says no, but it can be really grating when *clenches teeth* I.just.want.to.get.the.job.done.

But of course, things are getting more complicated now that Faith makes sense of the world and understands more than we think she does.

After a particularly rough night, I was just about to fall into deep sleep when F woke up. I practically dragged myself by my nostrils as I shuffled over to her room to pick her up, and promptly hauled her to my bed, in the hope that she would snooze a little longer and let me catch some winks. As any parent’s luck would have it, the kid was fresh as a daisy and buzzed like an Energizer bunny; I tried to sleep through her jumping on my bed and of course, I couldn’t. I don’t know what came over me but I decided to reason with her.

‘Faith, Mama is tired. Can Mama sleep?’

‘No.’

‘Please? Mama wants to sleep.’

‘No.’ (pause) ‘Mama wear spectacles!’ (That’s Faith’s way of getting me up from the bed because I always put on my glasses the instant we wake from our lunchtime naps.)

‘But Mama wants to sleep. Mama is tired.’

‘No.’

(resigned to fate) ‘You want Mama to wear spectacles?’

(exuberantly) ‘YEESSS!!!’

Well, I wish the kid said no, like she used to. But with any parent’s luck…

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Shop My Designer Bags!

Just a shoutout for a new section on the blog, ‘My Shop’!

I am doing a little spring-cleaning and am selling some pre-loved designer bags that were barely used/are brand new, including a Kate Spade diaper bag, Salvatore Ferragamo and Gucci totes. They are all in pristine/excellent condition and are up for sale at really good prices! If you’re interested, please hop over to My Shop to have a look and drop me a line to make more enquiries or to lock down a purchase. If you know someone who’s looking to own some very well-kept designer bags, please send them my way, thank you soooo much!

Have a lovely long weekend, everyone!

GIVEAWAY! WINK to LEARN Speak & Read Chinese Program Review + Promotion!

[SPONSORED POST* - GIVEAWAY and promotional details in this post] Parents endeavour to give their children the very best, and I am no exception. As a mother to a little girl, I am always on the lookout for quality clothes, toys, books, foods and other knick-knacks.

In the series ‘I Have My Eye On‘, I share my favourite finds for my daughter.

201407 WinktoLearn Chinese review

I have a confession to make. I wish I could say that I’m an on-the-ball mama, but I really am a mother who is much too laid-back. I barely plan any educational or enrichment activities for F other than let her roll around wherever we end up (that includes scrutinising strands of hair lying on the floor and exclaiming ‘HAIR,’, true story, yo!) and err…let her fiddle around with egg shells and markers for that ONE crafting session I planned during Easter. The most educational thing I have done with her is to read our library of board books with her (because I would love for her to revel in the power of imagination one day); even that lonely stack of English flashcards was gifted because I didn’t see the need in buying them. What about pre-school, you might ask, ‘You seem to put her in one pretty young for a laid-back mum?’ Well, we put her in one only because we wanted her to socialise and be a wee bit more independent; I won’t deny that putting her in the care of teachers I trust for a few hours every week gives me much-needed time off to manage other aspects of our lives. So, now that you know my parenting style, you wouldn’t be surprised to find out that I know NOTHING about the methods of early childhood learning, let alone plan insightful activities. I grew up playing and imagining and messing with things around me and I’d like to think that I turned out fine, unless you count my laid-back parenting style as anything but. YEAP, I’m a tiger mum’s worst nightmare.

Even then, I do recognise the benefits of conscientious teaching and early learning. My social media feed is chock full of mummy and daddy friends who make impressive efforts (they put me to shame!) to teach their children languages, science, math, music, arts and the likes, and also to nurture their creativity. The benefits are there for all to see; their children are very engaged and learn so very quickly at such a tender age! Even F, whose can’t-be-arsed mother (ME) is lazy and absolutely uninspiring, has been demonstrating the plusses of going through that neglected stack of English flashcards. She started learning the English language from our daily interactions and one day, asked about the flashcards that she got so very curious about. That was when I began teaching her its contents, always at her pace and at her request, and very, very soon after, F was going through them like a pro.

I did think about getting her started on the Chinese language too because M and I are bilingual, except that I had no clue as to how to do it (I went to a Chinese school for years, the irony…对不起, 老师们). We speak Mandarin to her occasionally and sing loads (which she absolutely loves), but I have never really gone on to get her to associate nouns/verbs in Chinese with objects/subjects/actions, etc. It sounds very silly, especially when I am fluent in Mandarin but teaching the Chinese language, for some reason, intimidates me! It didn’t bother me though. I figured that she would pick up the language sooner or later, as with everything else, but when The Groovy Giraffe invited me to give the WINK to LEARN Speak & Read Chinese Program (including simplied and traditional Chinese) a try, I thought, ‘Why not?’

I had my reservations though. The program comes in the form of six DVDs. As laid-back as I am, I try not to let F have too much screen time. I don’t want to go into details on the adverse effects of excessive screen time, because the truth is, I’m not an expert and I don’t know how it will affect MY child (for example, I grew up watching lots of TV and I wasn’t and am not hyperactive, whatsoever) but I don’t want her to be sucked into a screen and not interact with the people and environment around her. The rationale behind minimal screen time in our household is as simple as that. Everything is done in moderation, as with screen time, and we do let her watch the TV when we are too tired or unwell to keep her occupied, or during ER-worthy times like when we have to, erm, snip her fringe or fish a scale wedged in her gum, or when she is dying to sing along to the tunes of Frozen (can’t say no to those puppy eyes). But, I did a quick research on the resource, and was very glad to know that the program is planned on a one-lesson-a-day basis over a period of six months; that works out to only less than eight minutes of screen time a day, which is perfectly okay in my books!

There are a number of things that need to be adhered to for the program to be effective, as detailed in the parents’ guidebook. Two aspects, which stood out for me, are for the parent to watch the program with the child, and for the parent to stop the lesson before the child gets bored. These made perfect sense to me, as I would want to know what F has learnt at every lesson, and I would want her to stay engaged. The latter wasn’t a problem for us though; every lesson is so short and succinct, that F almost always asked for more after each lesson has ended. I have to be firm and say no, and she is fine with that as well.

We have been on the program for slightly more than a month now, and have covered topics in the first level, including the body, actions, numbers, nature, belongings, animals and relations. Every lesson alternates the image depicting the word shown, followed by the word itself (similar to what you do with physical flashcards). This goes on for a number of different words in the same topic, and the entire sequence is repeated. The lesson then ends with a song that puts the words into context. It is all very simply laid out and easily followed by children. To be honest, I really wasn’t expecting anything more than F recognising the images and yelping ‘眼睛’ (eyes), ‘笑’ (laugh/smile), or ‘走’ (walk) when she sees the images, but she did this and so much more! She actually recognises some of the words, not just from the Chinese characters displayed on the screen, but also from the ones I scribble on scraps of paper; this means that what she has learnt is transferable! I was utterly shocked when she piped up after I wrote the words ‘一’ (one), ‘二’ (two), ‘三’ (three), ‘爸爸’ (father), ‘耳朵’ (ear), ‘鼻子’ (nose), ‘头’ (head), ‘妈妈’ (mother), without showing her the accompanying images. The amazing thing is each topic (i.e. numbers, relations, body) was only played twice a day (a total of less than eight minutes a day) for two consecutive days before we moved on to the next topic. A revision of the older topics was only done at the end of the month, after all the lessons in the first level have been dished out. I’m not sure how or why retention is possible with minimal repetition, but the teaching methods by Dr. Glenn Doman and Dr. Makato Shichida, which inspired this program, must have worked!

Onto some things I like and don’t like about the program:

Likes: Each lesson is very short and succinct. The songs chosen contain words that round out the topics nicely and make for good revision. Screen time is minimised, even though it’s not entirely eliminated (this is okay with me because I believe that moderation is key), and the program is presented in a convenient format for parents to incorporate into daily educational activities. The methodology used is very effective, judging from the fact that F has learnt so much from every (again, I emphasise) super-short lesson.

Dislikes: I am a sucker for type and design but the fonts, riot of colours and images grind my gears. They aren’t what I call pretty, even if they are very practical and realistic. I wish the lessons could have been more pleasing on the (well, MY) eye, but hey, whatever floats the boat for the kids! F didn’t seem to mind one bit at all. I also think it would be great if the program captures a person on the screen enunciating every word to aid lip-reading. I found that F had difficulty reading the third intonation in hanyu pinyin and ended up mistakenly reading that word in two distinct syllables. F also couldn’t make out the p’s, k’s and other consonants at the start of certain words and end up pronouncing them inaccurately, but I could easily correct these as I watched the program with her (as advised by the developers of the program). I’d like to add that I think she found it useful to look at my mouth as I enunciated.

My dislikes aside (which are far from being deal-breakers), we have seen shockingly good results in learning to speak and read Chinese with the program, and I’m definitely going to go through the remaining five levels provided in the set. It’s a great way to get children to love the Chinese language, something which I see F doing;  she asks for ‘Chinese show’ (referring to the program) everyday and flashes big smiles whenever we go through the lessons. She also recites the words whenever she spots similar subjects/objects/actions in real life, even when the DVD isn’t on, and is happy to converse and sing in the Chinese language, something that I deem important in picking up a language easily. The program is a wonderfully easy platform to aid clueless parents like myself in coming up with informal lesson plans for picking up the Chinese language. The best part is it only takes a wee bit of time every day, leaving the rest for play (yay!) and other activities, and the short duration ensures that kids stay engaged without getting restless before the lesson ends. After all, we know that children have short attention spans, and should be given frequent breaks during learning! I like that F is more bilingual now, and we can converse with her in two languages (well, three, because I speak Hokkien to her too). If only I learnt Japanese, French and Spanish…I wouldn’t hesitate in getting F started on those languages as well!

PROMOTION!

Want to give the WINK to LEARN programs a shot? The Groovy Giraffe is giving readers of The Pleasure Monger a whopping 20% off all programs, including the ones on sale (which means you get an additional 20% off the discounted price)! It’s the perfect time to get a set for cheaps and I’m pretty sure you can find a program to suit your needs. Other than the Chinese language, the Speak & Read sets come in English, Thai, Spanish, French, Malay, Filipino, Japanese, even German! The Groovy Giraffe also stocks SING to LEARN programs in English and Chinese, and encyclopaedic DVD sets on Animals in the Safari, Amazing Rainforest, Australian Wildlife, just to name a few. Don’t forget to check out the Super Saver Bundle Deals, many of which are already going for half-price (and this is BEFORE you take an additional 20% off with our promotional code)! Simply enter RachelTPM at checkout to enjoy the 20% discount, valid until 25 August 2014.

GIVEAWAY!

We know some of you will be keen to try the program out on your child, and so The Groovy Giraffe is giving away one set of the WINKtoLEARN Speak & Read Chinese 6-DVDs program (comes in a DVD case with a cover page inlay) to a lucky reader! Enter the giveaway HERE! Certain steps can be done once a day, for every day of the giveaway, so don’t forget to check back to get more entries into the draw!

Terms and Conditions of the giveaway:

- Giveaway open to those based in Singapore only.
- Winner to collect the prize at The Groovy Giraffe (Everton Park) or pay $5 for shipping (within Singapore).
- No exchange of product or conversion to store credit.
- Winner will be contacted by The Groovy Giraffe.
Thank you, The Groovy Giraffe!

* I was gifted one set of the WINKtoLEARN Speak & Read Chinese program to review. An addiional set will also be sponsored by The Groovy Giraffe for the winner of this giveaway. No other monetary compensation has been received. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/services. Sponsors have been notified that I am not obliged to write a review upon receipt of sponsored service/items, should I find the products/services unsuitable.

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