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Science for preschoolers? You bet! Growing up, the love of science was driven by my innate fascination for the subject. At the same time, I credit some amazing science teachers in my school days for igniting the curiosity in me to understand the world beyond what we see on the surface. Ultimately, these early impressions paved the way for me to pursue a PhD in the biological sciences! So, you can imagine my excitement about wanting to instill the same love of science in my preschool and kindergarten-age kids.

Here I have put together a list of some simple, fun, and age-appropriate science (and some science-meets-art or STEM) experiments to try with your kiddos. They are great for kids starting from ages 3 and up. The best part? They can be done at home with ingredients you can easily find in your bathroom or kitchen! None of these activities take more than 15-20 minutes to complete but the joy is in the setup, gathering of all the ingredients, seeing the reactions occur, and then talking about it after. Involve your kids in every step of the process and get them excited about the cool world of science! Importantly, don’t dwell too much on theory and big scientific words (there's school for that). Things can get messy, be imperfect, but who cares? The purpose is to have fun and encourage curiosity!

Volcano Explosion (first science experiment I ever did with my son!)

Baking soda
Red food coloring
A volcano: Make one out of cardboard or do this outdoors in a mound of dirt made to look like a volcano
A small container or bowl to place inside the volcano

Steps: Set up the volcano and insert the small container or bowl inside it. Drop a spoonful of baking soda and a few drops of red food coloring inside the volcano. As the last step, pour in the vinegar and watch how the red lava bubbles out from the volcano!

Explaining the science to kids: This is a classic grade school science experiment. But I did this with my son when he was 4 years old. At the time, I explained to him as vinegar and baking soda mixing together to create a fizzy combination. Meanwhile, the red food coloring mimics the color of a real volcano eruption. For older kids, you could further explain that vinegar and baking soda have a chemical reaction that creates a gas called carbon dioxide. That’s what we see bubbling out from the volcano.

Slime Making

¼ cup of White Washable PVA School Glue
1.5 cups of Foaming Shaving Cream
¼ tsp of Baking Soda
½ tbsp of Saline Solution (Can use contact lens solution or saline eye drops) (contains both sodium borate and boric acid as ingredients)
Add food coloring and glitter for extra fun

Steps: Mix everything up in the order listed!

Explaining the science to kids: Slime is neither a solid nor a liquid! It’s one of those weird in-between states and it’s called a polymer. To older kids, you can explain further that the sodium borate and boric acid in the saline solution mix with the PVA (polyvinyl acetate) glue and forms this cool stretchy substance. This is called cross-linking, resulting in what we call a ‘polymer’. As for the shaving cream? It is simply used to add a dose of fluffiness to the substance!

Invisible Message in a Letter

Squeezed lemon/lime juice
Cotton bud
Blank sheet of paper

Steps: On a blank sheet of paper, use a cotton bud (or even fingers for a younger child) to dip in the lemon juice and make a secret message or drawing on the paper. Wait for the paper to dry. Once dried, press a warm iron over it or hold the paper carefully over a small candle flame. You will see the message slowly reveal itself like magic!

Explaining the science to kids: This experiment shows you a reaction called oxidation. Lime juice is a weak acid which contains carbon. Carbon is absorbed into the paper and when it comes in contact with heat, it turns dark. This is one of the effects of oxidization.

Bouncy Egg Experiment


Steps: Ever imagined that you could bounce an egg? Well, here’s how: In a clear glass, fully submerge an egg into vinegar solution. Cover the top and let it sit for 24 hours at least. The hard egg will turn into something that is rubbery and bouncy! (Note: You can bounce it gently but if you do it too hard, the egg will burst). Try shining a light through the egg to see how it has turned translucent (when it was opaque before).

Explaining the science to kids: This was actually my 5thgrade science experiment! The beauty is that you can do this at a far earlier age and simplify the explanation to your little ones. The vinegar essentially ate away and dissolved the egg shell, resulting in this bounceable egg toy. To older kids, you can explain further that the acetic acid in the vinegar reacts with the calcium carbonate in the eggshell to make calcium acetate plus water and carbon dioxide. The bubbles that you see on the surface of the shell is the carbon dioxide. The egg looks translucent when you shine a flashlight through it because the hard outside shell is gone.

Melted Crayons Experiment

Broken, stubby pieces of crayons of all colors

Steps: Ever wonder how to make use of those broken bits of crayons that your children won’t use anymore? Well, you can give your old crayons a new lease on life. Put them all together in a baking mold (have fun with different shapes!). Then pop them into an oven set at 120 deg C. The crayons will melt into each other and result in a single, multicolor crayon! After 5-10 mins, take out the molds and let the crayons cool and harden. You’re ready to use your old crayons transformed into brand new ones!

Explaining the science to kids: Crayons all contain wax and just like candle wax can be melted at a certain heat or temperature, so can crayons. Ta-da! 

3D Puffy Art

Ingredients: (You can half the amount if you want to start off with a lesser quantity)
1 cup All-Purpose flour (or if you use self rising flour, skip the salt and baking poweder)
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 cup table salt
Water, as required
A few drops of food coloring or watercolor paint

Steps: Mix all the dry ingredients together first and then add water and food coloring. The mixture should be pasty, like thin cake batter. Using thick paper (better if you use something less flimsy), create your artwork using a paintbrush (older kids) or fingers (for the younger ones). Pop the paper with the artwork into the microwave for a short 10-20 seconds. Have your child watch and be amazed as their artwork rises and turns into 3D!

Explaining the science to kids: This is essentially baking science at play, i.e., the same way cakes are made. The heat from the microwave plus the water and baking powder release small amounts of carbon dioxide gas, producing bubbles. The bubbles try to rise and make their way to the surface, making the entire mixture rise and turn into ‘3D’ food art.

Lava Lamp in a Bottle

An empty bottle of mineral water
Vegetable Oil
Fizzing tablets (such as Alka Seltzer)
Food coloring

Steps: Fill the clear empty bottle with water. Roughly fill it ¼ or 1/5 of the way through. Fill the rest of the bottle with vegetable oil. Wait for the mixture to separate. Then add several drops of food coloring of your choice. Then drop a tablet of fizzy alka seltzer (or some equivalent like Eno) into the bottle. Watch as the colorful blobs move up and down the bottle like a lava lamp! For a true lava lamp effect, shine a flashlight through the bottom of the bottle.

Explaining the science to the kids: Oil is lighter than water (or more accurately, less dense) and that is why it separates to sit above water. Now when you add the fizzy tablet piece, it releases gas bubbles. As the gas bubbles rise to the top of the bottle, they take some of the colored water with them. When the blob of water reaches the top, the gas escapes into the air and the colored water blobs go back down. Anytime you want to bring the "lava lamp" back to life, just add another fizzy tablet piece.

Create Your Own Rainbow

Prism (can order online for $6-8 on www.lazada.com)
Source of natural sunlight

Steps: Place the prism against a plain white surface. Angle it such that natural sunbeam passes through it. See how the white sunlight is then broken up into the colors of the rainbow!

Explaining the science to kids: Did you know that white sunlight or white light is the sum of all the colors of the rainbow? But you can separate these colors into their individual parts using something called a prism. When light passes from one medium to another medium of a different density (e.g. from air to water), the light bends. This is called refraction. In real life, we see that when it rains with the sun still shining. The sunlight passes from air through water droplets and results in a rainbow. Similarly, with a prism, sunlight passes from air through a solid substance, resulting in refraction and a split of white light into the different rainbow colors.

Fun with a Litmus Test

Litmus paper (I ordered mine on www.lazada.com for $2-3 and it’s easily available on other websites too)
Small samplings of different types of liquids of your choice. Suggestions include: water, coke, lemon or orange juice, vinegar, milk, baking soda dissolved in water, soapy water, etc.

Steps: Create a line-up of 4 to 6 different types of liquids ranging in pH. Take strips of the litmus paper and dip a single one gently into a small bowl of each liquid. See how the color changes!

Explaining the science to kids: This experiment illustrates how liquids can fall into the category of acids or bases (meant for slightly older kids). I did it with my 6 year old and kept the explanation “basic” – get it? Haha! So this experiment demonstrates how a litmus paper test indicates pH. pH in turn is an indicator of acid or base (alkaline) solutions. I explained that the pH scale ranges from 1 to 14. pH 7 is the middle, neutral point and water is a perfect example of that. Anything lower than pH 7 is called an “acid”. Meanwhile, anything higher than pH 7 is called a “base”. The litmus paper test yields a certain color and allows you to determine the pH of a solution. To keep it relevant and interesting for my son, I showed him how Coca Cola is quite acidic and hence not a good beverage. Meanwhile, other weaker acids like orange juice are good to have. Milk is close to pH 7, falling at pH 6.5-6.7. I also made my son record the results down on a sheet of paper, like a true scientist recording his results would do. :)


Link: https://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/make-saline-solution-fluffy-slime
Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEYS5i5P7YY
Link: https://childhood101.com/melted-rainbow-crayons
Link: https://fusspotandfoodie.com/blogs/blog/home-made-non-toxic-puffy-paints?_pos=1&_sid=11283fbd2&_ss=r
Link: https://artfulparent.com/diy-puffy-paint-for-kids
Link: https://www.rookieparenting.com/why-is-the-sky-blue-science-experiment

I am always amazed by women who choose to pursue an idea and turn it into a business of their own. Over the past few years, I have had the privilege of meeting some incredible women who chose to start their own SMEs in Singapore building upon a passion or unique idea. It’s no mean feat! Be it in the areas of women’s fashion, children’s education/toys, food or lifestyle, I feel incredibly lucky to have worked and collaborated with these ladies and their brands. As a "globalized Indian" having grown up and lived in four different countries, including Singapore, I strongly believe in building a sense of community around me and my family. Hence, a common thread that binds all my partnerships with these brands is the intent to build a sense of community in a globalized setting - it could be in the form of healthy foods that bring families together, support of local artisans and their trade in India, products that promote sustainable living and social enterprise, learning that connects families to their Indian culture and roots, or creating products that are truly made in Singapore. Thank you to these brands who chose to work with me time and again. In turn, I believe in their products and brand ethos because I know that I and/or my family would use it in real life, not just “reel life".

So in the spirit of women supporting women, I decided to put together this post to spotlight some of the women-owned businesses in Singapore that I've had the pleasure of working with. Thank you to these partners for graciously offering exclusive discounts to my dear readers (all are one-time use per customer).

Maisha Concept

Through its contemporary designs, Maisha's designs pay homage to the culture, heritage and skill of local artisans and textile manufacturers across the globe. Their most recent collection features modern designs which incorporate block printing done by Jaipur artisans. The brand ships internationally as well.
Review here.
Use UMAISHA for 10% off any item (valid until Sept 12, 2019).

Feroza Designs
Light and airy hand-printed cotton dresses, fully lined and with pockets. I have worn these dresses in the heat of Singapore, sight-seeing in Burma, walking around in Mumbai, and street shopping in Bangkok and find them easy breezy chic.
Reviews and lookbooks here.
Use URBANMANTRA for 10% off the dress collection. For both local and international orders, discount only applies to retail item, not shipping.

Linen n More
This store features a collection of linen and cotton dresses, tunics, and kaftans. The brand sources high-quality linen and cotton material from India to create a everyday wearable collection of clothes with beautiful colors and embroidery.
Reviews and lookbooks here.
Use UMLINEN10 for 10% off in-store purchase.

Ellybean Designs
Personalized items for children, from name crayons, doodle sketch books, and light-up canvas frames. These make for great gifts and party favors. 
Review here.
Use URBANELLY for 10% off entire order (valid until Sept 12, 2019).

Fusspot & Foodie
As a meal kit and catering setup designed specifically for kids, Fusspot & Foodie provides healthy, wholesome, kid-friendly meals and snack options. The food items are planned and cooked using fresh ingredients here in Singapore.
Review here.
Use URBANMANTRA for 10% off any item.
A sustainable stationary and lifestyle brand which makes products from eco-friendly, organic, recycled materials (all made in India). Every item purchased from Left-Handesign is recyclable and/or made from sustainable materials, down to the packaging of the product. 100% eco-friendly.
Review here.
Use UMGREEN for 10% discount on minimum order of $20 (valid until Sept 12, 2019).
Lustre specialises in fine, hand-crafted jewellery using natural gemstones which are vibrant and eye-catching. The collection features a mix of statement pieces or ones that you can layer over pieces you already own. 
Review here.
Use URBAN20 for 20% off all full priced items (valid until September 12, 2019).

Just Gaya’s
A multi-label boutique, Just Gaya's features a unique collection of bags, earrings, and clothes. I'm a huge fan of their tiered tassel earrings and their clutch which uses Ikat silk from Uzbekistan. You can shop online or from stockists such as The WYLD Shop, The Cinnamon Room, and The Social Space. 
Reviews and lookbooks here.
Use URBANMANTRA2019 for 10% off entire order (valid until Aug 26, 2019).

Power Pops
Inspired to create healthy snacks for her kids, the mom behind Power Pops came up with a simple yet delicious solution - frozen yogurt-based popsicle sticks which are made with all-natural ingredients. 
Review here.
Use URBANPOP for 15% off order of 12 popsicles (delivery charges apply or self-pick up available at Dover; valid until Sept 10, 2019).

This brand takes real photos of iconic places around Singapore (think colorful shophouses, facades, and other cool landscapes) and then transforms them into a collection of home decor pieces and fashion accessories. These make for a great addition to your home or souvenirs to gift to visiting friends. Products can be purchased online or in-store locations such as Jewel Changi, Design Orchard, and others. 
Review here.
Use URBAN15 for 15% off on all products (valid until Sept 12, 2019).

Indian language-focused children's books that include nursery rhymes and stories of the Ramayana in Hindi script and English. Beautiful illustrations and pull tabs make these boardbooks interactive and visually appealing.
Review here.
Use UMT4KP6VI for 10% off books from Amazon India and code or 10UM for Amazon US (valid until Aug 20, 2019).

I get asked a lot about how I introduced cultural and religious stories to Krishnav. My answer is, I had always intended to teach my son about our culture and heritage through the Ramayan and Mahabharat epics and other mythological stories*. However, how it happened was completely organic.

One night, when Krishnav was about 3.5 years old, he asked his Papa to tell him a bedtime story. My husband decided to give Krishnav his first teaser of one of our epic stories, the Mahabharat. He shared a bite-sized story from the larger storyline, telling him about the five young Pandav brothers and their guru, Drona, and the famous story of shooting the bird on the tree with a bow & arrow. There was a lesson in there too, about how complete focus and concentration upon your goals will lead you to achieving them. That night began the first of many nights where Krishnav became increasingly spellbound with the Mahabharat and demanded to hear more and more. Soon, we moved to the Ramayan which further captured his imagination. Before age 4, he was singing the entire Hanuman Chalisa at least 5 times a day (to the point where we had to ask him to stop singing it because we could hardly hear ourselves think!). What's more, he began rounding up his friends in the playground every evening to act out scenes from the stories. Care to be part of the Vanar Sena anyone? By the time I was pregnant with my second one, there was almost no point in refuting Krishnav's proclamation that his baby brother-to-be would be named Arjun. :)

As a parent who wishes to share stories on religion and mythology to your little ones, my advice would be: don’t feel like you have to know everything to begin with. Whatever little you know and pass down to your children is a great start towards creating a sense of connection to one’s roots and cultural heritage. If you are thinking about how to start on this journey, here are some suggestions:

1. Get a headstart for yourself first. As I mentioned earlier, don’t feel like you need to be the authority on this topic. But if you prefer to brush up on your own knowledge about the stories before you can talk to your child, seek out the right resources...or it’s not the worst thing if you read and learn along with your kids, right?

2. Baby steps. Begin by sharing small, bite-sized stories from the bigger story arc which are age-appropriate and relatable to the kids. This will spark their initial curiosity without overwhelming them with the full, complex storylines. Over time, you can add more stories to feed their interest. For example, tell the story of Eklavya. Or how Arjun won the swyamvar of Draupadi by shooting the arrow through the fish’s eye. Or the stories of Bal Krishna. Endless little stories to tell!

3. Take the opportunity to share a lesson or a takeaway from the stories you tell, no matter how small. Importantly, keep it relevant to our modern times. Stories like the Ramayan and Mahabharat are works of literature that portray the conflict between good and evil and the various facets of human emotions and character such as love, loyalty, anger, pride, and jealousy. In many ways, the stories are as relevant in today’s age. It’s how you choose to present it to your child in an engaging and relatable way. As an example, here is a good read about what your child can learn from the Ramayan.

4. Focus on verbal storytelling to start with. There is a huge power of verbal storytelling and, in our case, was the most effective in drawing Krishnav into the rich, fascinating story threads. My husband and I shared whatever we had remembered from our own childhood memories of these stories. For example, we would talk about certain characters (Do you know about Ravan’s sleepy giant of a brother, Kumbhkaran? Let me tell you…) or side stories (Do you know how Abhimanyu knew how to break into the chakraview during the Battle of Kurukshetra?) during car rides, over meal times, or as part of bedtime.

5. Besides verbal storytelling, opt for books on Hindu mythology over videos. I have a collection of about 30 books from the classic Amar Chitra Katha collection from my school days. Sadly, I realized they are not appropriate for very young kids. Also, I don't think you need to show any videos on this topic initially (in fact, with a few exceptions, I find many cartoons and movies of this genre to be quite violent in depiction for the younger age groups). Luckily, there is an increasing number of children’s books and materials that cater to the toddlers and preschoolers.

To name a few:

  • Meet My Hindu Gods by Desi Babies (Reena Puri, Mital Telhan): A great introduction to your toddler or preschooler to the Hindu gods and goddesses
  • Kahaani Puraani by t4tales (Pridhee and Alicia Souza): A beautiful boardbook on the Ramayan story for toddlers and up
  • Amma Tell Me series by Bhakti Mathur
  • Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth by Emily Haynes and Sanjay Patel: A funny retelling with a twist of how Ganesh came to write the Mahabharat)
  • Collection of books by Swamini Supriyananda. Examples include: Mata Mama & Me, Go Hanuman! Go!, Ganesha’s Mousecapade
  • Toka Box has also provided some great resources and links to additional books on the Hindu epics: 
  • Not a book but learning materials from Jai Jai Hooray: The Goddess Power Tower which teaches about the iconic Hindu goddesses and the Hindu deity flash cards
  • Not a book but an app which you can use to teach about Hindu gods on-the-go: The Jai Jais

6. If possible, enlist the help of grandparents or your neighborhood elders. These are your sources with bountiful knowledge to impart on our culture and traditions. Giving where credit is due, both sets of our paternal and maternal grandparents played a huge role in drawing Krishnav into stories on Hindu gods, teaching him about our festivals and their importance, learning prayers, etc. Indeed, the grandparents have played a key part in our children’s religious and cultural upbringing.

7. Visit temples not just for worship but also for bringing the stories to life. You’ll find that temples often feature carvings and murals on walls/ceilings, depicting scenes from familiar mythological stories. Indeed, they serve to parallel what the children might have learned from you at home. I remember how Krishnav was so keenly interested to see the figures of the different avatars of Vishu carved on the side of one temple wall in Singapore. So yes, temple visits can be fun learning for the kids!

Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Singapore
8. Classes? You may consider putting your child in Balvihar/ Balvikas classes if you really wanted to formalize the teachings. We didn’t do this for Krishnav but it is an option. It’s not difficult to find such classes being run in most big cities.

(*Admittedly, I struggle a bit with using the term “mythology" when referring to our Hindu epics, Mahabharat and Ramayan. This is a controversial topic as many believe that these stories are based on real life occurrences whereas others believe they are meant to convey religious teachings and lessons and hence are myths. For the sake of simplicity, I will use these terms interchangeably with the hope that it doesn’t offend anyone’s sensibilities).

As a parent, figuring out which preschool is right for your child is a daunting task. There’s that feeling of, What if I make the wrong choice? What am I really looking for in a preschool? Will my child be happy here? So many questions, so many schools, so much confusion!

When first looking at preschools for Krishnav (my older one), I remember feeling so unsure of my choices and how to go about the process of selecting schools. But by the time Arjun’s turn came up, the whole process - from researching preschools to enrollment to settling him in - was a completely different experience! The second time around, I was much more confident of what I was looking for in a preschool, what aspects matter most to me, and the kinds of questions to ask during the school tours. Between both my kids, I have visited and evaluated about 20 schools and weighed the pros & cons of local vs international schooling systems in Singapore. I have seen my children through a local Singaporean preschool, a play-based preschool, and  a Montessori preschool. I’d like to share what I have gathered through these experiences which can be applied to most places regardless of where you live...questions to ask and things to look out for, in my perspective. For those exploring preschools for their little one and also if you’re in Singapore, here are a few pointers! (Note: The list below pertains only to preschools. When talking about the "big schools" like the international schools, there is a whole additional set of considerations!).

1. Be systematic. Create a notebook or spreadsheet with the list of schools you plan to visit and make appointments in advance. Be sure to jot down your observations and notes about the school within the day of your visit while your memory is still fresh. A lot of this search process is also based on intangible things, such as the vibes you got from the school while visiting. Thus, along with the raw facts and figures about the school, it is important to write your thoughts and feelings down before you forget them.

2. Timing of preschool visits is key: I would suggest making the visits about 6-12 months before you plan to enroll your child in preschool. I understand that it may be hard to think about doing this a whole year in advance. However, these days many schools have long wait lists. You don’t want to be in a situation where you found your ideal school but it has is no availability. At the very least, make the visits 5-6 months in advance.

3. Set the framework for your search: Think about what type of big school your child is likely to enter when they go for kindergarten or grade 1. This is especially pertinent if you’re in Singapore. The dicotomy lies in local versus international school. If local school, you will have a different angle from which you approach your search vs those planning to send their kids to an international school. Both are very different in teaching style so it does become a factor to consider when searching for preschools. I knew my kids would be going to international schools so I mainly considered preschools which feed children into the international school system. This is not a hard and fast rule but just something to be aware of.

4. Determine what type of teaching approach resonates with you and your child. Read up beforehand what the strengths and focuses are of each type of school system/teaching philosopy and visit the different schools. Is it Montessori? If Montessori, is it a true Montessori system or a Montessori-inspired one? (There is a difference, and many schools claim to be Montessori in Singapore but they are not completely so). Reggio Emilia? Primary Years Program which is inquiry-based learning? Is it a local Singaporean preschool (where teaching methods are very similar to Indian schools) with greater academic rigor? This link summarizes some of the main types of preschool pedagogies here

5. What is the student profile like? (i.e., which proportion of children are locals vs expats/foreigners). I ask this from a diversity perspective as well as using this to understand what kind of feeder school it is. If there are mostly local Singaporean kids, then this school will be feeding into the local system and the preschool’s foundations will have a greater likelihood of focusing on reading, writing, math, and a different approach to teaching. If mostly international/expat kids, then you know this school’s approach might be more experiential-based learning with focus on social skill building and creative arts. (This isn’t a hard & fast rule and there are nuances to this which I won’t go into).

6. Bilingual schools: Specific to Singapore, are you looking for schools with Chinese immersion programs? This means there is a Chinese teacher who speaks exclusively in Chinese with the children. Some schools will just cover 1 hour of Chinese speaking in a day while others will spend more than that (half a day or so).

7. During your visit, ask to see the older class levels and see the work being done in their curriculum (i.e., worksheets, lesson sheets, artwork, etc). Then compare what you have seen from all the schools in your search. You are likely to notice a difference - in some schools, kids may be doing more advanced writing and math, while in others it could be more creative or exploratory-based activities. See which one appeals to you/which one your child will respond to more because this is where he/she will likely be 2-3 years from now.

8. Ask the school how they help to transition children to preschool. Many schools will allow parents to sit in the classroom for the first couple days or so and then ask them to remain out of the classroom. Some are flexible while some strictly ask the parents to stay out. For Krishnav, I switched him out of a local preschool to a play-based one and I saw a stark contrast in his settling in and adjustment process. Meanwhile, the school I chose for Arjun had a gentle approach to settling a child into his new school. They held familiarization sessions for 7-9 days where Arjun attended class for an hour prior to his official first day. I think that really made a difference in getting him comfortable with the classroom environment and his teachers.

9. Cost! Let’s not forget a key driving factor in our decision-making here! Understand where the money for the tuition goes. Does the cost of the school seem justified for what you're getting compared to other schools? I have found that schools which are modest in cost do offer excellent curriculums - it's just a matter of finding one that feels right for you. 

10. How much does school “branding” matter to you? Some preschools are very impressive with gorgeous campuses and facilities and may even have several branches around town (Eton House, MindChamps, Pat’s Schoolhouse, etc). Others may be more humble in appearance or smaller in size. For kids at this age, my own opinion is that fancy places don’t really matter. What makes them comfortable is being in a nurturing, safe environment. Sometimes the smaller schools are just as effective as the “bigger” branded ones.

11. Ask questions about how children are treated when discipline issues arise. You can ask something like, If a child is misbehaving in class or isn’t listening to the teacher, how do you deal with that? The type of answer you get will reflect the school’s approach to dealing with children in general.

12. How much outdoor playtime do the children get? It’s important that the kids get to step outdoors for a while everyday. To that end, when you visit the preschools, take a look around to see if there is sufficient space for outdoor play. Some schools have big grounds for outdoor place while others are inside malls and hence have very limited outdoor space. 

13. May be a no brainer to do this but it’s worth mentioning: Observe the teachers as you visit the classrooms and how the children are interacting. Do the children look engaged and happy? Do the teachers seem warm and nurturing? How are they responding to a student’s needs? Take the time to observe this during your preschool visits. 

14. Ask about the student:teacher ratio and the qualifications of the teachers. (This is a standard question but had to be stated!)

15. Ask how and when they introduce writing to preschoolers and whether they get homework. This is a key indicator of the type of school and its academic rigor, in my opinion. In Krishnav's first preschool which was more academically inclined, the children were getting homework at the age of 3 and were beginning to be practice writing letters and taught "sight words" in order to read. I was surprised at how early they started! Meanwhile at the play-based school and Montessori schools where the boys later went, the approach was different. Homework was not given at this age level and children were taught to hold pencils and practice writing of letters only after gross motor skills and fine motor skills with pencil grip were solidified. 

16. Other factors which will play into your decision: School hours and availability of half-day and full-day programs? Proximity of school to your home? Food menu for the kids and whether it aligns with your dietary preferences? 

17. Speak to parents who send their children to the preschools you are considering. But here’s the thing: If you ask a general, broad question about the school, you will almost always hear good reviews from the parent because they wouldn't be sending the children there otherwise. Here's a better way to phrase your question: What do you like about the school? What are its strengths? What do you think are its shortcomings? or What do you think it could do better? What was your child's adjustment to the school like? Do you see a difference in your child since they started at this school? 

AAAH, summer holidays with the kids! It means no early morning wake-ups to get the kids ready for school. But the flip side? Finding ways to keep them busy! Whether you're a home-bound mom or an office-bound mom, it's a struggle either way. In my case, my older one (who is 5 1/2 years old) is past the age of taking naps in the day. At the same time, I'm away at work so I have to think of ways to keep him occupied while he's home. Here I'm sharing a few tips and ideas on how I plan to keep my kiddos busy this summer. (Note: Many of the ideas keep in mind a mom who has to head to the office every day. Also, many of them will be more applicable for kids age 4 and up).

Before I begin...

Thought #1: First of all, be okay with boredom. I definitely believe that it's important for kids to actually be bored for certain periods of time. Boredom allows downtime for your child, gives them time to synthesize their thoughts and learnings, and even breeds creativity. So see the summer break as "downtime" for children without the need to constantly pack in learning all the time.

Thought #2: Having said the above thought, children still do need to channel their restless energy into something productive. So I highly recommend making a daily or weekly plan of activities for the kids. This way, you'll be well-organized and feel like the children are engaging in good, happy play!

Alright, now let's get started with these ideas!

1. Assign 4-5 mini-projects for the children to do daily. To motivate them to do it in your absence, agree with them ahead of time that completion of these activities will earn them screen time that day (that strategy always works but if you’re not comfortable, pick some other reward system that works for you). See section below on "Activity Ideas" for some at-home things to do.

2. Create an "activity box" with a whole list of things to do. This is something for them to resort to when they have run out of ideas on what to do on their own or if they have completed their mini-projects for the day (as listed in #2).

3. Playdates! It's essential that you plan ahead for some playdates with other moms. Let's face it, other moms are in the same situation as you and would love for their child to have some company. Arrange to send your child to a friend's house and return the favor on a separate day. It's a win-win situation! (Tip: The kids can even refer to the "activity box" for ideas on things to do together).

4. Plan for some outdoor activity everyday. At this age, kids need have plenty of exercise and outdoor time. Plus, it's a good way to tire them out! For every day of the week, plan something that takes them outside - be it swimming, picnic, playground, bike riding, scooter time! This can be done with you around or with the nanny/helper while you're at work.

5. Plan for the kids to do some baking, something they can easily do with the nanny even if you are not around. This can range from rainbow bread painting, making sugar cookies with sprinkles or fruit kebabs (see here), to muffins recipes which are healthy and delicious (see here).

6. Try out science experiments using ingredients and materials easily found at home! I have done a bunch of them with Krishnav and it's been really fun! We've tried the volcano lava explosion, puffy paint food art, secret letter with invisible ink, lava lamp in a bottle, and slime making.

Puffy paint 3D art using basic ingredients from your kitchen

7. Plan a day out for your child along with a couple of his friends. I'm talking about a day at the zoo, a visit to Bounce trampoline park, the National Library, Bedok Forest Adventures, playareas, the ArtScience museum or Science Center (so many options)! Plan ahead with the moms and decide on a date when the kids can have their day out with adult company and supervision. Be sure to pack snacks, water, sunscreen, and other necessary items the night before!

8. Summer camp and summer classes: Admittedly this is the easiest way to keep the kids busy for a big chunk of the day! There are lots of options of summer camps to consider and you can read all about it on the Sassy Mama page. However, these camps do get expensive which is why I have also shared my ideas above for some of the more "home-based, inexpensive" things to do.

I would also recommend the holiday camp and storytelling workshops by Creative Kulture. These classes are run in small group settings and focus on teaching different topics to children (e.g., learning about the solar system, healthy eating and digestive system, etc) through fun arts & crafts. This group also teaches kids about Indian culture and festivals in a colorful, interactive way.

Lastly, you can also look into interesting, one-off workshops for the kids to try. For example, the pottery class for kids at the Goodman Arts Center sounds like a cool experience!

Specifically for office-based moms: 

9. Bring your child to the office! If your office allows for you to bring your children to the office, they can easily come for a half-day and spent some time sitting next to you and doing coloring and other quiet activity while you work. Plus, they would love the chance to visit your workplace. I know this isn't possible at all workplaces but it's something to consider.

10. Talk to your manager about flexi hours in the summer. Arrange to leave work earlier so that you can get time with your little ones in the daytime hours. Once they're in bed, you can log back on again to finish your work.

Activity Ideas:

Cognitive skills
Puzzle making

Social skills
Write a letter to your cousin or friend or grandparent - like, a real letter letter! Wouldn't that be fun?
Facetime with your grandparent and say hello!

Vocabulary building and reading/writing skills
Read a book (pick an age-appropriate one) and write down the words you don't know.
Pick a book and write down the sight words that you recognize (it, he, she, and, or, etc...).

Phonics and fun play
Use a camera phone to take pictures of 5-10 items around the house that start with the letter __ (pick a letter of your choice)

Outdoor exploration
Pick 5 different leaves from outside. Then tape them on a piece of paper. On a separate piece of paper, draw them out the same way they look in real life. Note the differences in shape and size.

Use materials from outdoors to build something of your choice (example below of a bow & arrow set that Krishnav made from twigs and leaves)

Observation skills
Use a camera phone to take pictures of 5-10 objects around the house that are round or circle in shape (or some variation of this)

Motor skills
Peel an egg.
Pop bubblewrap!
Use Legos or blocks to build something (a fort, a castle, anything) and tell a story about it.

General Knowledge Building
Draw and color in the flags of different countries

Arts and crafts
Take an empty bottle and put a treasure map inside it. The treasure is some chocolate or candy stashed away somewhere. This is to be played with a group of friends.

Create a book with drawings that illustrate a story (a made-up story or one you already know)

Stock up on arts & crafts supplies like glitter, paint, markers, buttons, pom poms, glue, string, colored paper, playdough, etc. (Daiso and Spotlight are places to check out in Singapore). Then come up with a fun art project to do. You can easily find great examples online but here are some unique ones: making a necklace with colored pasta, making rainbow crayons, and bubble paint project.

Thanks for reading this and hope you found this helpful. Good luck, mommies!