We, at The Garden House Preschool, believe that living and eating healthy during childhood results in strong and healthy men…
Monday 15th of June, 2015
At The Garden House Preschool, we try to base our meals as much as possible on the vegetables we have in our own organic garden. It has been a difficult process for us, understanding the soil was a learning journey.
It can be pretty challenging getting to our papayas before the birds do or harvesting our cabbage without losing them to the snails, or tomatoes before the children pluck and eat them but it’s all part of the process. But when we don’t have the right vegetables or enough of them, we turn to local organic farms in Singapore. Here’s a list of our favourites:
Quan Fa Organic Farm http://quanfaorganic.com.sg/
This organic vegetable farm uses a Japanese technique of composting to cultivate its produce. You can order online for a flat delivery fee of $8 for orders below $50 (the delivery fee is waived for orders above that). The downside is that they only deliver on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, but they do have a large range of vegetables, herbs, fruit, and even sprouts, which most organic farms here do not grow.
GreenCircle Eco Farm http://www.greencircle.com.sg/
Another farm you can order online from is GreenCircle, which has vegetables and fruit like papaya and passionfruit. There’s a flat delivery fee of $5.
Bollywood Veggies http://bollywoodveggies.com/
Bollywood Veggies doesn’t have an online store, but their farm has an inhouse cafe where they make delicious vegetarian food that’s also children-friendly. They specialize in fruit vegetables (like aloe vera), herbs, and ginger, but they’re best known for their bananas – they have over 20 varieties. You can vegetables directly from the farm when you visit.
Pasar Organic http://www.whatsupatfairprice.com.sg/
Going organic doesn’t have to break the bank – Pasar Organic by NTUC Fairprice offers over 40 fresh product lines that are up to 70% cheaper than other national brands. Organic fruit and vegetables are from Thailand but accessibility (and affordability!) makes Pasar Organic a go-to for us. Available at all FairPrice Finest and FairPrice Xtra outlets.
Zenxin Organic http://www.organicdelivery.sg/
Zenxin Organic is a wholesale importer that’s available at Cold Storage. You can also buy online, but note that Zenxin imports their produce so it’s not the best option if you’re looking to minimize your carbon footprint. Organic boxes to your door come in $30 and $60 options, but you must order a minimum of $50. Delivery under $150 is $10, otherwise it’s free. They also have a physical store at Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre.
Best Organic Food http://www.bestorganicfood.sg/
Like Zenxin, Best Organic Food carries produce flown in from countries like Australia, China, Malaysia, and Indonesia. You can shop online – there’s a minimum delivery of $20 but orders above $30 qualify for free delivery. They also have a physical retail location in Hougang.
Nature’s Glory http://www.natures-glory.com/
Purchase your fresh stash online or swing by Nature’s Glory at Tan Boon Liat Building. They carry both local vegetables and organic fresh produce air flown in weekly from countries like Australia, Thailand, and USA.
Eat Organic http://www.eat-organic.com.sg/
This gem tucked away in Bukit Timah offers certified organic produce flown in weekly from USA, Australia, and New Zealand alongside local organic and natural vegetables. They offer same-day deliveries for orders made before noon and customised hampers that are perfect for gifting.
Oh’ Farms http://www.ohfarms.com.sg/
Oh’ Farms is a hydroponics farm that grows tropical vegetables like Chinese cabbage and kang kong, as well as herbs and spices like sweet basil and pepper. You can’t shop online but you can visit them at their farm, where you can not only purchase fresh produce but also a herb garden kit, which lets you grow 2 crops of herbs hydroponically at home. Bring the children along and they can hang out at the butterfly lodge.
Green Valley Farms http://www.gvalleyfarms.com/
You can shop fresh veggies online at Green Valley, but why stop there when you can adopt a plot at the farm to grow your own vegetables? The farmers will teach you the right techniques so even rookies can have their own veggie patch, even if they live in a high-rise apartment.
Wednesday 10th June, 2014
It is that time of year again where people travel to go home or go on holidays as the local schools close for the June holidays! Well with two four year olds in tow, I completely understand that travelling can be more ruination than rejuvenation.
Here are my tips for getting through the long haul with the children.
The usual mum preparation applies: always be ready. This means packing snacks and enough clothes for the flight to keep them warm and dry. Bring their favourite toys – if you have a few children, you’ll want to bring favourites and then some, just to avoid a sibling meltdown on flight.
If you’re a stay-at-home mum, it’s a great idea to start your children on holiday-related projects pre-departure. With older children you can watch films or read books on the history and geography of the place; with younger children try looking up animals and plants that are native to your holiday destination. If your children love being in the kitchen, expose them to new recipes that will give them an inkling of what to expect while on holiday.
Other more common plane issues often involve the low humidity of cabin air. Make sure to get children to drink regularly – I usually just bring their empty water bottles and get a stewardess to fill them up. Another mum tip: if anyone has a streaming nose, wet the insides of their nostrils with a finger dipped in water.
Make sure that things are accessible to you for emergency situations like the unexpected throw-up or when your little ones need the bottle. Breastfeeding children may find it easier with cabin pressure; so ensure you have your breastfeeding cover!
If you were changing them before touch down, I suggest rolling their clothes and underpants (or nappies) together so its take and go. I also find it easier with two children to pass one set to the husband.
I hope these tips help!
Friday 20th June, 2014
Before we delve deeper into how to help your child transition from nappy to potty, it’s important to establish first and foremost that the perfect age to begin potty training does not exist. (Sorry for the shocker, folks!)
Potty training readiness presents itself at different stages for different children (some at 18 months, others past their second birthday) so rest assured it’s completely normal (and natural) for children to learn to use the toilet in their own time. Trust us – when the time is right, your child will not want to be wearing nappies any more than you would want them to – they’ll want to keep dry too!
So take a backseat on stressing and look out for these telltale signs to signal that your child is starting to take control of his or her bladder:
– They become aware of their wet or dirty nappy
– They know when they need to go and tell you about it
– Letting you know in advance if they need to pee or poo
And when your child’s ready, here are our tips on how to help your child learn to use the toilet:
– Ensure that the environment is supportive of their need to learn to use the toilet. One of the ways to instill habit is to always ensure a potty/ stool for the toilet is placed at the same spot and to let the child knows where it is.
– Let the child decide when they want or need to visit the toilet rather than lead them to it.
– Dress your child in simple clothing so it’s easy for them to use the toilet when they need to.
– Accidents will happen for awhile and if your child has one, don’t rush them to the toilet/ potty. Instead, show your support by communicating constructively – some key phrases you can use include ‘when you are ready, you can do a wee in the potty’ and ‘let’s go clean this up and put some dry clothes on’.
Potty training is a big milestone for your child. Remember to give yourselves time – they don’t call it nature’s call without a reason!
Wednesday 18th June, 2014
At the start of each term, it’s not uncommon to see some children upset when their parents drop them off in the morning. It’s also pretty common to see parents upset… and as a mum I’ve been there, done that, and am still learning how to cope. (Although I admit that saying goodbye is easier now that my children have turned three)
Here’s the thing: this separation anxiety is completely normal. Yes, it may be difficult to deal with, but remember that most children go through this anywhere from 6 months to 4 years old. It tends to start when children realise they are separate individuals from their parents, i.e. instead of always being with their parents, they begin separate routines like going to bed by themselves, being left with a babysitter, and commonly, starting school. They become upset and agitated when they’re separated from their loved (and trusted) ones because they are uncomfortable with being out of their comfort zone.
Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to help ease your child through separation anxiety (and stop the waterworks):
1. Communicate with the caregiver (i.e helper or preschool).
2. Never sneak away when it’s time to say goodbye. Letting your child know you’re leaving even when they’re upset builds trust between the both of you.
3. Keep goodbyes short and sweet.
4. Show that you understand their feelings e.g. “I know you would like me to stay.”
5. Let your child know when you’ll be back in a way that they understand e.g. “After lunch” or “Before you go to bed.”
6. Be reliable and return when you say you will.
7. Think baby steps – start with short separations to get your child used to being apart from you before increasing the length of separation gradually.
Of course it’s not just children who have to adjust to being on their own. Us parents often go through a period where we’re constantly worrying about our children’s safety, feeding, sleeping etc., and stress out especially about introducing children to school. From one mum to another, here are some tricks I’ve picked up to help ease the nerves:
1. Acknowledge the anxiety. It’s okay to be nervous about leaving your child in the care of someone else, but trust they are in good hands.
2. Know that everyone does things differently. Other caregivers may not share your approach, but children are remarkably resilient and adaptive. No matter how small they are, they’re not going to fall apart just because someone else is taking care of them! As long as they are secure and well looked after, they will be okay!
3. Understand the importance of separation. Exposing your children to different caretakers instills a sense of belonging and community in them.
4. Have a ritual. Saying goodbye can be tough no matter how many times you’ve done it, so have a ritual that will allow your child (and you) know it’s time to go. You can play a goodbye game or even exchange token so that throughout the day, the both of you will have a memento of each other’s for comfort.
Hope this helps!
Your friendly neighborhood gardener,
Friday, 13th June 2014
I run a preschool where we try to grow our own vegetables and teach children the importance of eating well. But just like any other mother out there, there are days where my toddlers will do nothing but throw their broccoli to the ground, before loudly proclaiming they’re not having any of it.
Yes, you can cajole. You can sit with them for a whole hour if need be. And you can even go to extremes like hiding the veggies in their favourite food – I will be the first to admit that I’ve been there, done that. But here’s my take on trying to get our children to eat vegetables: just because they’ve refused it 10 times does not mean they’re not going to eat it for the rest of their lives.
I could easily reveal ways of getting children to eat vegetables, like “hiding” it in soups and dips, or making vegetable pizza for dinner. But I won’t, because not only am I sure you’re already familiar with these methods, I also think that there’s too much pressure for parents to constantly deliver 24/7. And we all know we need a break.
At The Garden House preschool, we introduce our children to a variety of fruit and vegetables, and I think that’s really the key to getting children eating well. You need to constantly expose and introduce them to the food. They might refuse it the first time or the tenth time, but constant exposure will lead to eventual tasting.
My own children used to hate guava. As someone who can survive on nothing but guava (perhaps I’m taking this too far, but I do love the fruit), I could never understand why they hated it so much. I used to persuade them – even beg them – to just try it, but we all know there’s no talking sense into toddlers sometimes. But one day, after months of them watching me enjoy guava, they asked to try it – on their own accord. And they slowly began to take to it. On the flip side, I don’t fancy berries that much and my children have picked up on this – they too pick at their strawberries when they have them in school.
Children learn so much from us, which is why it’s important to practice what you preach, especially with the younger ones. If you want your children to eat your vegetables, you need to show them you eat them too. And you always need to offer it to them on their plates. There are days where I’m so tired from running after my children I don’t really care whether or not they want their vegetables at dinner. I’m not going to make a fuss just because they refuse a carrot or two. But, and I cannot emphasize this enough, always keep it in their line of sight. That will make the difference eventually.
Wednesday, 11th June 2014
Breastfeeding, to put it briefly, is a taboo topic that we don’t talk enough about. There’s a lot of research out there on how long you should breastfeed for and why a mother’s milk is always better than formula, but there’s this whole other side of breastfeeding that remains pretty controversial.
Every so often, I see the same type of article or picture that goes viral on social media. The most recent one pictured a mother breastfeeding her toddler – not infant, mind – in public. Now I’m not sure what people were more outraged by – the fact that the mother was breastfeeding in public, or the fact that the child was older than one would expect.
As mothers, we always want what’s best for our children. Sometimes that makes us feel entitled to a certain opinion – I think something is right just because I have children – and that pits us against each other as mothers. I think it’s important to recognize that just because one mother stops breastfeeding her child at six months and another stops at two years old doesn’t make one way of parenting bad and one good.
My personal philosophy about breastfeeding is that mums should do it for as long as they can. But this is my own philosophy and not something I want to impose on everyone else. I am still breastfeeding my three year olds.
Do I get funny looks? Sure. And did I ever feel defensive? Of course. But what I feel is that the provision of a mother’s milk is such a natural thing – our bodies automatically produce it – that it doesn’t make sense to deprive children of it. (That, and the fact that formula is outrageously expensive!)
So mums, whatever you choose – remember there is no right or wrong. Listen to your child, your body, and trust your instincts. And when it doubt – stay away from the Internet.
Monday, 9th of June, 2014
Biting is something that parents always ask us about. The easy answer to why it happens is that biting children are trying to cope with a challenge and fulfill a need e.g. to express a strong feeling. Of course as parents we know there’s no easy answer to parenting (although some day I wish there was!), but don’t panic: biting is a common issue and can be easily resolved once you identify the trigger.
If a biting incident occurs, firmly tell the child “Stop. No biting. It hurts.” It can be trying, but don’t let your frustration get in the way. Children pick up on our cues so your stress and frustration can aggravate the situation. Remember that children under the age of 5 are not aware of their behaviour and are still learning self-control. We know you’ve seen it and we know it can be alarming; sometimes they just cannot seem to stop themselves! (Also let’s be honest – even though we’re all adults self-control is still something we’re working on, so imagine how hard it is for toddlers.)
It’s also important to help children understand that biting is not an ill-intentioned, spiteful act, but a means through which their friend has chosen to express themselves. Encourage them to talk about how they feel; you can also ask them questions like “are you feeling angry? Is there something you want to tell me or your friend?”
If you child is persistently biting, you have to understand why in order to effectively stop them from biting. When a biting incident occurs, take the time to assess the situation so you can anticipate it next time. Ask yourself questions like:
1. what happened right before the bite?
2. who was your child playing with?
3. what was your child doing?
4. where was your child?
They may be over tired, teething, or just experimenting to see what will happen. Some children bite because they feel neglected and want attention, but more often children bite because they lack the language skills to communicate what they want or how they feel. I often find it’s when they are frustrated that they bite. Frustration can occur in many situations: when their personal space is being threatened, when someone has something they want, or even when they’re tired.
Once you’ve identified the trigger, work on diverting your child from biting. The first thing I tell parents who have or know children who bite is to not label them a ‘biter’. Labeling can lead to reinforcement of this identity, which will only result in more frequent and aggressive biting. Instead, suggest how your child can handle the situation by giving them words to communicate better. Words like “you’re in my space” can help a child express his feelings, as does asking for help from a caregiver/ parent. Make sure to show attention to the child who was bitten to avoid giving negative attention to the child who bit. This helps children who bite for attention to understand that biting doesn’t get them extra love. Showing concern to the child who was bitten also shows empathy.
Working through biting can be distressing, but remember that partnership with your preschool or kindergarten is important. It helps to have the same strategies too. Make sure to let the teachers in school know of incidences at home too so they can anticipate situations and help re-direct children away from biting.
Wednesday 7th of May, 2014
In an emergent programme like ours, children are always in charge of their education journey – they decide what they’re interested in, and together with teachers, co-construct their knowledge experiences. Of course, with an unorthodox approach to learning (i.e. without a standard curriculum), parents are always concerned of their children’s progress.
Over here at The Garden House Preschool where we adopt a Reggio-inspired teaching methodology, getting our children ready for big school is a priority and as counter-intuitive as it sounds, children don’t need a formal curriculum to learn fundamentals like their alphabets and their numbers! Although these concepts aren’t directly taught in an emergent curriculum, the skills are learnt and encouraged through experiences like water play, garden play, storytelling, and even role play.
The Reggio environment (i.e. our school) is set up in a way that always encourages the natural curiosity of children. We carefully construct our space to resemble a ‘third teacher’ – as a place that will inspire and engage exploration. For instance, we incorporate literacy props like alphabet blocks in all our classrooms. Writing and reading utensils like letter stamps, crayons, and stencils are available for children to use at all times, and we have labels throughout the school (on cubby holes, artwork on walls etc.).
Recently we’ve also implemented some other ways that encourage literacy among children, like signing in and out with their names when they arrive and leave. We have story-telling everyday where children develop an understanding of how phonemes make words. This way they learn their alphabets meaningfully rather than through a sequential approach.
Other ways of using the Reggio approach to literacy include using books to direct experiences, like writing invitations to a pretend party, or providing dramatic play opportunities and props that are literacy-rich. At home you can pretend to go grocery shopping with a shopping list or write and mail letters within the house.
Numeracy is another important concept that we introduce to our children through authentic experiences. Water play allows children to explore measurements by experimenting with different-sized bottles, which they can fill or empty to learn about liquid measurements, or group and arrange by shape and size for their first encounter with geometry. Similarly, gardening can be used to develop an understanding of shapes, sizes, and patterns (with leaves). Children discover length measurements through activities like digging e.g. “how deep does the hole need to be to plant this seed?” Even playing with sand can help with the learning of division when children divide sand equally between different containers.
Our teachers are strong believers in the Reggio approach, so they have experience in documenting the learning progress of children, which helps us understand where a child’s interests lies and how we can use that to further enhance their knowledge experiences. Like all good things, learning isn’t an overnight thing, but learning through these ways will help ensure a lifelong love for learning too. All the better to tackle those teenage years!
Monday 5th May, 2014
I have two children – N, who is my biological daughter, and A, my son whom we adopted from Morocco. Both of them are toddlers and are only a month apart.
My husband and I have always wanted to adopt. People adopt for many reasons – I cannot explain mine except that I genuinely love children. On my first date with my husband, we talked about how many children each of us wanted and I told him that I wanted to adopt. It sounds strange talking about children on our first date but it was love at first sight – which you will soon find is a recurring theme in my life.
We were engaged 11 months later, married a year after, and became pregnant the year after that. My biological daughter N was a premie and – I kid you not – while still in hospital we decided we would adopt our next child. So when N was 9 months old, we started our Home Study Report and embarked on our adoption journey.
Unlike giving birth, going through the adoption process means everyone and every detail in your life will be examined. We were asked to think about things no one asked when we were pregnant – practical questions like “how many fire alarms do you have in your home?” to bigger questions like “what do you think of God?” My helpers, my mother, and my brother were interviewed and we were asked to provide reference letters.
Seven months later, we finally obtained the Home Study Report and planned a trip to Morocco so we could visit an orphanage we had identified. We initially planned a five-day stay so we could travel and help out at the orphanage. We turned up in the morning where the Director told us we would need to wait a year for an infant. We knew this already of course; we just wanted to hand in our Home Study Report personally so she could match us a child with our little family in mind.
But then – and this was a major turning point – she told us about a 16 month old toddler she had in the babies’ room upstairs. I remember her saying, “he’s a little serious. He has a head full of hair, he looks like you, and I think his Mummy (referring to me) just arrived.” She also told us about his medical condition, but wasn’t fully aware of the situation because his medical records were in the care of the hospital that the orphanage was affiliated with.
I remember being seated opposite the director with my husband behind me. I turned around to look at Miles and we had an unspoken understanding that we should meet this boy. So I asked if it was okay to meet him, and in a few minutes, Laela (the head nurse of the orphanage) was holding this gorgeous little boy in front of us.
I looked at his hair, the dimple on his chin, and his amazingly long lashes. Again I was hit by love at first sight – and so was my husband. Laela handed this boy to Miles and the little boy had such a look of awe on his face. The children in the orphanage are looked after by female caregivers so I think that was the first time he had been held by a man.
After spending some time with this boy, we requested for his medical records so we could understand his condition. We also met his orthopaedic surgeon who explained that he has a missing fibular amongst other things in his right leg. We sought the advice of my brother-in-law and a friend’s husband, as well as a second opinion from N’s paediatrician and a surgeon in Florida. After a couple of sleepless nights and heartfelt discussions later, we returned to the orphanage to tell them he’s our son. Smiles, tears, and praises to Allah later, we met with the social worker to get the adoption petition in Morocco started. This process would take 2.5 months to formalise as Morocco does not allow for adoption according to Muslim law but formalises Kafala (legal guardianship).
Our little family made plans to stay in Morocco for 3 months – once you know someone is your son, there is no way you can leave. We walked to the orphanage every morning and after a few weeks, he started to cry when we left him after his lunch for naptime. It was torture for me to leave when we had to leave for the UK for a few days during those 3 months. I remember walking out of the baby room crying and the other parents visiting from Spain saying (what I assumed they had said in Spanish), “imagine us having to wait almost a year.” Moroccan law at the time required a child to be be ‘abandoned’ for 6 months before the orphanage was allowed to apply for an abandonment order; only after the courts pass the order can a child be adopted.
We met so many children at the orphanage. We were there every day, helping to feed other babies and playing with other children. We were resolved in spirit to advocate adoption. The Kafala order was finalised on 8 August 2012 and from that day on, he became ours for the rest of his life.
We often think of the children we left behind and my heart aches for them. We remain in contact with the orphanage and our friends in Tangier but it’s not the same. I advocate adoption because every time I think of the children’s faces, I feel it’ll be selfish for me to get pregnant as there are many children who would love a forever family – a sister, a mummy, and a daddy. We hope to adopt again but Moroccan adoptions are now closed and we’re still researching.
We chose not to use an agent as being personally involved in the process was important to us. It was also important that N was part of it – she made friends and fell in love with her brother. I am third generation adopted while Miles was adopted by his stepfather, and I hope our children will continue this tradition.