Saturday, July 31, 2010

My First Question and Answer Book

Some children's reference or general knowledge books tend to be too wordy, over-intense in terms of the content, and crowded with small print with boring pictures and layout.

When I found this book two years ago for my then five-year-old daughter, I was quite surprised and pleased as it is very colorful with lots of white space, yet containing attractive and descriptive pictures. Most of all, it is easy to read with simple yet adequate facts for pre-school or elementary school kids to understand.

Although it's quite thick (512 pages), the book is properly organised with 18 categories. Each category has its own table of contents, with an additional general index at the back. Every question is answered in two pages with short paragraphs, and sidebar facts and trivia.

It also contains activity boxes that encourage the child to think and probe further.

Subjects covered in this book: space, planet Earth, oceans, weather, science, inventions, your body, dinosaurs, bugs, reptiles and amphibians, birds, mammals, ancient Egypt, ancient Rome, Vikings, knights and castles, pirates and finally explorers.

This book is published by Miles Kelly Publishing (ISBN 978-1-84236-914-2).


If your child is interested in online activities, check out this site called StoryPlace. They call themselves "The Children's Digital Library" and have two main sections, pre-school and elementary.

This site is very colourful and easy to navigate. It contains many short stories that the child can read online on his own (read: minimal help from mom!) as they are very simple with short sentences, colorful graphics and arrow prompts for the child to click on to go to the next page.

Besides stories, it also has online activities and print-outs, plus a reading list of recommended books and activities for parents to have with their kids. There are lots of themes for the child to choose from to read or play, such as animals, music, shapes, colors, bath time, etc.

So if you wish to keep your child quiet yet doing something productive, this kid-safe and kid-friendly website could be the solution.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Fun with Dr Seuss

Many of us know Dr Seuss for his rhyming stories for children. His unique style is peculiar yet sensible, his rhymes are catchy and funny.

My daughter was first introduced to Dr Seuss and his infamous Cat in the Hat when she was three years old. She was enthralled with the sound of his words and his illustrations. Thereafter, we got more of his books and PC games for her. One of her favourite stories then was Horton Hatches The Egg and later on, Horton Hears A Who!

Do you know that Theodor Seuss Geisel was once a political cartoonist? He was chief editorial cartoonist for a New York newspaper before World War II. You can read more about it and view a catalog of his political cartoons here.

Besides books and educational games in CD-ROMs, your child can also learn and have fun in this website, Dr Seuss's Seussville . It's definitely a good place to go to when your child cannot go outdoors to play (it's the rainy season here in Malaysia and Singapore now).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Not so tyke-friendly train system

As any mother would know, during those infant months, when it is time for a feed, one must drop everything to make sure that the screaming baby's tummy is filled. And often such episodes are unpredictable especially during a growth spurt. Fast forward to a year later when that cherub is now a busy toddler. Sometimes the only break our sleep-deprived bodies get from having to run after the active tot is when they get a favorite snack.

If you are a parent that would fit into either of these categories, and if you plan to visit Singapore (or you already live here!) you may want to be informed that you can be fined up to S$500 for either breastfeeding or giving an impatient rug rat some snacks (for keeping him from another meltdown) on Singapore's Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) train system. This no-food, no-drink rule applies not only on the trains themselves but also in the station. So, the next time your two-month old wails for your breasts, do not even think that you can appease her until you "approach our customer service officers who will accord them the temporary use of the staff room" - according to the FAQ's on the SMRT website (click here to read the restrictions).

While I love the fact the trains are mostly pristinely clean due to this restriction on eating and drinking, I do wonder if this regulation has been taken to its impractical extreme. Here's a scenario from a personal experience: you're in a crowded train with your 18-month old and you've a 30-minute ride on the train. After 10 minutes of reading the books you've brought along to entertain him, he starts to get bored - and finicky. His verbal protest soon turns into squealing and his noisy retaliation is clearly bothering the other passengers. The ONLY thing that will stop him from a full-fledged meltdown is his favorite string cheese. Question - should I give him his snack - that will immediately ease the stressful situation for everyone - OR should I maintain my adherence to the "rule" and let my poor tot bawl for 20 minutes till we reach our destination?

My other question: Should some of these rules be reviewed for their baby-friendliness (or unfriendliness) in view of the Singapore government's drive to increase the national birth rate?
(Pix credit:
It would be interesting to note here that back in 1994, a legislation was signed in New York to protect a woman's right to breast-feed "in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether or not the nipple of the mother's breast is covered during or incidental to the breast-feeding."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Home away from home

Sometimes a hotel room, however luxurious it may be, may just not be practical when you're a family with young children. Once you fit in an extra bed or baby cot, there's hardly any space left to move around. And with kids having to change clothes ever so often, laundry service at a hotel could just put a dent to your pocket.

You could get a family suite which will solve the space issue but you'd still be left wondering if you need to pack ten days' worth of clothes for a five-day trip, and wash baby's bottles in the bathroom sink, among other considerations.

Serviced apartments, in my opinion, are a great alternative. They offer comfort, space and all the amenities of home. They are good value for money for the cost-conscious. While some cater for long-term stays only, there are others that accommodate short-stay visitors.

During my last trip to Singapore, I stayed at the Somerset Compass serviced apartment for four nights. The three-bedroom apartment was very spacious with a well-equipped kitchen.

The spacious living room with TV, DVD player and cable TV:
The dining area with 8-seater dining table:
The fully-equipped kitchen, with toaster, fridge, microwave, cooker, kettle, coffeemaker, pots and pans, crockery, cutlery, washer/dryer:
Located off Orchard Road, Somerset Compass is just a five-minute walk away from the closest mall, Paragon. It is also walking distance from the Somerset MRT station.

You can either call or get online to make your reservation. Customer service was satisfactory and we had no problems during check-in. The apartment is cleaned everyday except Sundays. Breakfast is provided at a small resident's lounge. While the spread cannot be compared to the extensive ones offered by hotels, it was functional. When I was there, they served pastries, bread/toast, eggs, sausages, milk, coffee, tea, juice, cereal and fresh fruits.

They also have a children's wading pool, adult pool and playground.

What I like about the place:

- Location: Walking distance to shoppers' paradise on Orchard Road, and transportation such as bus, taxi and MRT. You can even catch a shuttle service from a nearby bus stop to go to the Night Safari at the Singapore Zoo.
- Ample space for children to rest, or rather be active, indoors. The living room is equipped with a television with cable TV, and a DVD player (so you can bring along Junior's favourite DVD without having to pack a player!)
- Comfort: king-sized bed in the master bedroom with ensuite bath, proper living and dining area with good furniture.
- Kitchen: clean and spacious with enough crockery, pots and pans, toaster, large fridge, coffee maker and microwave to cook up a feast. Dishwashing liquid is provided.
- Laundry: a washer-dryer is at your disposal with detergent provided as well. Just pop your clothes in before you go out to the Zoo, Bird Park, Sentosa Island, Orchard Road etc, and voila!, you don't have to contend with a mountain of dirty laundry after your holiday.
- Internet connection is available with no extra charge, but you need to bring your own laptop.

The Somerset Serviced Residence has properties all around the world. Find them here.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Music for all in the family

Many of us have probably heard of the Mozart effect where it is believed that listening to classical music would boost the intelligence of your baby. While researchers may have debunked it recently, one cannot deny that music definitely has some kind of effect on the little ones. That is why many of us hum, sing or play the lullabies to our cherubs at bedtime. In a separate study in New York, however, it was found that music boosts memory retrieval in young infants (this was reported in an issue of The America Association of Pediatrics’s newsletter).

Regardless of the benefits listening to certain kinds of music, my husband and I both decided before our son was born that we want to expose him to a diverse genres of music – especially the ones that we love which covers a pretty broad range between husband and me. After all, who would inherit all our CD collection if not him, our singleton? But playing a White Stripe CD to a 2-month old baby would seem rather inappropriate. Besides we would not want to deprive him of the silliness of three escaping blind mice or Old MacDonald and his farm. But we want to heed the warning that one day demands will be made for a same song to be played over and over again. So, is there a way to compromise between a toddler’s wants and his parents’ tolerance for the same song the 100th time?

Then, we found a series of jazz CD's which claims to have songs for kids which won't drive parents crazy when they are played for the 20 millionth time - Jazz for Kids. What it is is jazzy renditions of fun and silly kiddie songs. We ordered one from the series, Jazz for Kids: Sing, Clap, Wiggle and Shake, and WE loved it! Our son first heard it when he was 3-month old and he still loves it today after a year. His all-time favorites from the album are Old McDonald (Ella Fitzgerald) and Ain't nobody here but us chickens (Louis Jordan). I personally love it, too, being a diehard jazz lover. We subsequently got a few other similar ones including Nicky’s Jazz for Kids and Miss Ella’s Playhouse.

If jazz if not your cup of tea - never mind - they also have Motown for Kids and Johnny Cash for Kids (if you’re into Country music). The next one on our list to purchase is Barenaked Ladies’ Snacktime.

For a sample of how some of these albums sound, go to, search for the album by name and listen to the one minute clip of all songs on the album. Good fun – for the kids and you. Enjoy!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary

If you are looking for an outdoorsy, no-frills, back-to-nature type of outing with your kids, you could check out the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary which is located in Pahang, Malaysia, about two hours' drive from Kuala Lumpur.
This elephant conservation park had been set up in 1989 by Perhilitan (Malaysian Department of Wildlife and National Parks) to protect these beautiful creatures.

The location is a distance away from towns or cities so prepare for the trip with enough snacks and drinks in the car. While there's a small canteen and convenience store, I would suggest you pack a proper picnic lunch. The garden area of the place has picnic benches and wooden pavilions for you to rest and have your lunch there if you wish.

They have a small museum providing information about elephants, a video room where you can watch a short documentary of how elephant rescue and conservation efforts are conducted, and take part in activities such as feeding, riding and bathing with the elephants in the nearby river.

Bring along a set of extra clothing, cap, tissues and wet wipes just in case. With kids, you never know how sweaty or dirty they can get from running around, or accidentally spilling food or drink. And you'd certainly need a change of clothes if you intend to jump into the river with the elephants! Wear comfy clothes and sandals as it could get quite hot in the outdoors.

It would suffice to make a day trip there. Click here to get directions to the place. This other website gives a good overview of the place and the activities conducted. Entrance is free but they welcome donations.

If you have extra time, there is also a privately-run place called Deerland nearby which charges an entrance fee for you to visit their collection of wild animals.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cozy dining at Bayu Timor

Bayu Timor is a cozy restaurant cum Indonesian wooden furniture gallery located in a bustling neighbourhood called Taman Megah in the suburb of Petaling Jaya.

If you're looking for a quiet and cozy place to dine with your family, this could be a nice change from the regular busy restaurants or fast food outlets in malls. It occupies two shoplots with one a smaller cafe setting furnished with glass-topped tables and wicker-type breakfast armchairs; and the other a restaurant setting furnished with original Indonesian wooden furniture and craft, giving it an almost homely and rustic feel.

Everything here is for sale, even the chairs and tables you're dining on I was told by a friend who first introduced me to this place over a year ago.

Their menu is extensive enough to give you a good range of soups, appetizers, local/Asian fare, Western dishes, pizza, sandwiches and desserts. A number of food bloggers have recommended their rojak, Sarawak laksa and nyonya kuih. I like their set meals as they offer four separate menus to choose from, each menu comes with dessert of the day and coffee/tea. They offer it daily (unlike some other places that offer them on weekdays only) and the portions are just nice, reasonably good value for money (RM19.90).

My husband ordered the Chicken Maryland set while I had the roast lamb with black pepper sauce.

Chicken Maryland with sweet and sour sauce, chicken sausage (partly hidden behind the chicken), banana spring roll, corn fritter and coleslaw.

Roast lamb with black pepper sauce, potato au gratin and vegetables

Dessert of the day with tea (or coffee)

They also have a Children's Menu that comes with iced Milo and ice cream for dessert (RM12.90 for children below 12 years). My eight-year-old daughter had the Fish and Chips set. The portion was sizeable (four chunky fish nuggets) and she couldn't finish everything as it was served with fries and coleslaw. For a kid who shuns vegetables and raisins most times, she enjoyed the coleslaw which had a slightly tangy and refreshing zing, and even ate the raisins. Her verdict: Yummy, better than coleslaw from XXX (a certain fried chicken fast food chain).

Fish and chips, french fries and coleslaw

Vanilla ice cream with nuts

The skinny?
Good, quiet, cozy family dining venue. We were there before the usual 1.00pm crowd on a Saturday so the place was about 50% full. Food served quickly enough, satisfying in taste, portion and menu range. Pricing is reasonable considering the menu and ambience. Suitable for families with young school-going children as they have a children's menu.

The cafe section could be more suitable for families with babies/toddlers. although the floor area is not as large as the restaurant, it has more free space to accommodate fold-up strollers and active toddlers, and devoid of heavy furniture and fragile displays. The air-conditioning there is cooler compared to the restaurant section which covers a larger area and has a back door that's left open constantly to let light in I believe (because they are sliding metal shutters).

Their wait staff are foreign workers. While we didn't have any major problems with them, I feel that they could be trained a bit more to have an added finesse in going about their duties. You need to tell them clearly your needs/orders. They may not have the presence of mind to ask if you're done with the empty plates and remove them. One waiter came to our table with a slightly wet empty tray and decided to shake off the water right in front of us onto the floor before clearing our table.

Their food is also for take-away with nyonya kuih and cakes available in a glass covered case for your selection in the cafe section. They also sell their cakes whole and you can pre-order whole turkeys or roast leg of lamb.

They have branches in Sungai Wang Plaza (Kuala Lumpur) and Alamanda (Putrajaya).

Address: 13, Jalan SS24/8, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya.
Tel: +603 7804 6436

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Good for guts

A little over a month ago, my then 15-month old son had a bad case of gastroenteritis. After spending two days at the hospital, he was allowed to go home armed with some antibiotics. However, our pediatrician (as much as we like him, we wished he's not a man of so few words!), failed to warn us that the little guy's gut will take weeks to fully recover from the infection and that we should continue to give him probiotics supplement even though his runs have stopped. Soon the damage caused by our cherub's infection resulted in his temporary lactose intolerance and yeast infection. To make things worse, a mere ten days later, he had another bout of diarrhea. The probiotics that we have been giving him did not seem to help much.

Then, I was let in on a secret by a fellow mom who is a nurse (I later discovered that this was really a public secret as many parents already knew about this. So this post is for the benefit of those who, like me, have somehow missed that boat!) The secret was a highly effective and beneficial strain of probiotics called Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (ATCC 53103) found in a product called LactoGG. Click here to the site. Though slightly more expensive than other OTC probiotics, I have found that the relief it brings to my little boy's gut (and mine, from the anxiety of parenting a sick child!) far outweighs the extra cost.

A day after we started the little guy on it, his condition began to improve and by the second day, his yeast infection was gone and his runs got more infrequent. Soon, he was back to his normal self. Informed now that it takes a while for his gut to heal completely, we plan to continue to give him a capsule of LactoGG a day by adding it into his yogurt at snack time. It has been a while since I last rave about anything this way but I would recommend LactoGG even as a regular supplement. Great thing about it is that it works for adults, too.
We found it at a neighborhood pharmacy retailing around S$68 for a box of 30 capsules: