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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! 



Phuket is quite the popular travel destination in Southeast Asia. I remember visiting Phuket in the 80s when I was really young…while my memory might be fuzzy about that first trip to Phuket, I do distinctly remember the pristine vibes of this locale long before it became part of the tourist map. In the past two years, I’ve made several trips to Phuket with family and friends. Now, Phuket is far more developed and highly frequented by visitors than ever before. But it still has its charming beachy vibes and you can still get that authentic experience if you know where to go.

I’ve stayed in different parts of Phuket every time I have visited – Patong, Kamala, Kathu, and Laguna. In addition, I have stayed in AirBnBs, hotels, and hotel villas. It’s been a different experience every time and each setup has its pros and cons when traveling with kids. Here are some of my recommendations of places to go in Phuket and where to eat (by no means exhaustive but just sharing what I have enjoyed).

Picture taken at the Banyan Tree Hotel in Phuket. The hotel is part of a group of hotel and resort properties in the Laguna community. Staying in one of the hotels allows one access to the other hotels in the Laguna area.
Beaches:
I have generally found the stretch of beaches along the west coast of Phuket to be quite good. Other than Patong Beach which is overexposed and overcrowded, I have enjoyed the following beaches: Kamala Beach, Bangtao Beach, Surin Beach, and Kata Beach.

Most, if not all, of these beaches will have water activities such as banana boating, parasailing, etc. Some will have horseback riding along the beach (for grownups and kids alike). You can even light the night lanterns which can be released in the sky.

Restaurants:
- Baan Rim Pa (there are two locations, Patong and Kalim, both of which are good): Thai restaurant overlooking the hilltop with a stunning view of the sea. Besides the stunning view, the food is also very good.

The view from Baan Rim Pa Restaurant
- Salvatore’s Italian Restaurant: Located in Old Phuket town, this restaurant has delicious Italian cuisine and the service was attentive. The staff catered well to our group with kids, accommodating to our requests and vegetarian food requirements.

- Tung Ka Café: Thai restaurant on top of Rang Hill. I would suggest going here a bit before sunset to get a spectacular view of Phuket city and the sea beyond. Take time for photos and then follow it up with dinner at Tung Ka Café. This place has authentic and delicious Thai food but since it’s out in the open, be sure to take mozzie patches and repellent.

- Baba's Nest at Sri Panwa Resort: This is a rooftop bar in the Sri Panwa Resort located towards the southernmost part of Phuket. From the rooftop deck, you get a stunning view of Phuket peninsula and the Andaman sea as you enjoy cocktails. Just make sure to make reservations in advance!

Shopping:

- Old Phuket Town is a historical part of Phuket noted for its Sino-Portugese shophouses lining the streets. The main roads within this neighbhorhood are Thalang Road (which has a small lane called Soi Romanee), Phang Nga, Krabi, Dibuk, and Yaowarat. Here you’ll find charming heritage shophouses of various candy colors selling souvenirs, clothes/apparel, and other trinkets. You’ll also find cute coffee shops and some hipster cafes. Definitely worth a visit to roam around and do something non-beach related. If you can, visit this area on a Sunday evening. That is when the weekend market (called Lard Yai) which takes place on Thalang Road on Sundays from 5pm to 11pm. 

Exploring the characteristic Perenakan historical shophouses in Old Phuket Town. Many of these have been converted to coffeeshops and stores selling souvenirs, clothes, and other speciality items
Bulan store located on Thalang Road in Old Phuket Town

Fresh fruits from the Thalang Weekend Market. You will find a variety of local fare here

Local style popsicle sticks at the weekend market - a perfect way to cool off in the heat
- I’m not a fan of visiting the generic malls when I travel abroad. But having said that, the Jung Ceylong Shopping Mall undoubtedly offers tons of options for restaurants, a supermarket (should you wish to buy some basic necessities), and local and chain stores. Sometimes that’s what you need when traveling with kids and looking to get some easy shopping done!

Other activities:

- Patong Night Life: A bit seedy for my taste but it’s definitely rocking at night!

- Go-karting: Patong Go-Kart Speedway is a fun activity to do for the adults. Racing around, vroom vroom!

- Horseback riding: I have tried the one in the Laguna area called Phuket Riding Club. They have ponies for kids to ride and horses for the adults. You can choose to do a one hour-long horse riding along the beach or even longer. Krishnav (age 5) surprisingly lasted an hour and had a great time!


- Elephant sanctuary: There are several in Phuket but I encourage you to look into the ones that are ethical and offer proper care for rescued elephants. Phuket Elephant Sanctuary claims to be the only one to do so.

- Massage places: There are numerous but I had a very good experience at the Oasis Spa (it's a chain so you will find several locations around the island). I liked their quality of service and massage there. 
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Oasis Spa
Hi guys! It’s that time of the month again – when I share my monthly lookbook details! Without further ado, let’s dive right in!

First up is this dress by Label by Ritu Kumar (they do free international shipping on orders above USD $180, by the way). This was actually gifted to me by my mom-in-law. I liked the elegant cut of the dress and its modest style. Perfect for occasions when you want to add a touch of ladylike appeal and class to your look. I borrowed my own mom’s Prada bag and a pair of closed-toed heels to complete the look. I felt like someone out of the 50s in this look  - all I’m missing is a prim hat! 

Label by Ritu Kumar dress | Prada bag | Charles & Keith shoes


From modest to something a bit more modern and edgy, here are two looks I sported in March. One is this crop top and green pants combo from Urban Revivo, a Chinese brand which has a chain of stores in Singapore. This store sort of reminds me of Zara but a slightly cheaper version of it. I threw on a silver necklace which I had purchased a long time ago from Stella & Dot and added my camera bag for a fun, quirky look. 

Urban Revivo crop top and pants | Charles & Keith shoes | Bag from shopping in Haji Lane
The other look is where I paired my new polka dot blouse from Zara with my old Bershka yellow blazer. You would think that a yellow blazer would be hard to pair with anything but I actually wear it quite often! I paired the blouse and blazer with denim shorts and booties. If I was in a colder climate, I would definitely have worn tights as well – they always look so good with shorts as a winter look.  

Zara polka dot blouse | Bershka blazer | Cotton On denim shorts |
Booties (old) from US | Michael Kors bag


Now for something a bit more fun and flirty. I bought this dress from Konacoco, a Singapore-based label, which is up and coming. The dress has a very spring/summer feel to it with its frill and flare details and spaghetti straps. But I chose to throw on a utility jacket just to cover up a bit more for a professional event I was attending. The belt and the shoes are matching and kept a neutral nude color given the bright color of the dress. 

KonaCoco dress and belt | Charles & Keith shoes | Zara Basic blazer |
Tassel earrings from Wyld Shop 

This look might look familiar! It’s essentially a slightly modified version of the look I styled with the Sezanne polka dot skirt from last month. The only difference is that I turned what was a professional, corporate look (see here)  into something more casual by wearing sneakers and putting on a striped blouse. Played around with pattern mixing, using stripes and polka dots. What do you think? 

Sezanne skirt (this skirt is no longer available but similar ones listed here) | Blouse from Pull & Bear (old) | Miu Miu purse 


You don’t see me often in Indian ethnic wear. As much as I like wearing desi clothes, I’m just not in the habit of it. But I did pick up this simple suit from Rangriti when I was in Mumbai last December on sale. I liked its peachy orange color with cream. It’s very wearable for the daytime so I hope to wear it a lot more often. 

Hi everyone! I'm back to share my February look book with all the details on what I wore and some styling tips for you mommies. I'll be sharing 5 different looks I posted on my Instagram during this short month. You might notice that I veered towards lots of reds, pinks, and florals. We all know February to be the so-called month of "love". Not sure if that had anything to do with it or if it was purely coincidental. But there's no denying it - I love color and sweet, feminine styles.

Outfit 1: Look of Love
For this Valentine's Day post, I had worn this red top from a store in Singapore called Sans & Sans. I paired the top with an old floral skirt I bought from Bangkok a few years back.  The skirt was something I had spotted while passing by a small, unbranded boutique. The price was super cheap and I have since worn the skirt so many times. Who says everything in your closet has to be branded? As long as it looks good, you can create different looks with it.

Sans & Sans Top | Skirt from Bangkok | Coach clutch | Belt from KonaCoco

Outfit 2: JodiLife Look
I'm a huge fan of everything Jodi Life. Everytime I visit their website, I literally want to buy everything. The way they create pieces with different pattern mixing and modern silhoutetes with Indian aesthetics is really what sets it apart in my opinion. I got this Cherry Bomb jacket late last year and it's so bright and cheery. I kept my look here simple because I wanted the bomber jacket to do the talking - white top, white denims, white sneakers. Just added those pink tassel earrings for a complementary look. I can't wait to style this jacket with other prints and colors!

Cherry Bomb Jacket from Jodi Life | Coach purse | Espirit jeans 


Outfit 3: Powerhouse Corporate Look
Sezanne is a French clothing brand with price points which are on the higher side. But there is something so distinctly "Parisienne chic" about their clothing that I fell for it. I ordered this skirt online and although it's a bit pricey, I know I'll be wearing it a lot. This style of skirt can be worn in various ways, if you like polka dots. Also, the pleated look and the side slit adds more interest to the skirt!  In this look, I created something that looks more like office wear. Soon, I'll be sharing how to style this skirt differently in a more casual manner. In this case, I paired the skirt with a white top but to avoid looking too dull, I chose this Club Monaco fringe top and added the belt.

Sezanne skirt (no longer available but similar one here) | Club Monaco fringe top (no longer available but I liked this boho style here) | Belt (old) | Zara shoes (old) | Staud Shirley bag


Outfit 4: Floral Glam
I always feel that if in doubt on what to wear, choose a dress. A dress is so feminine, so simple to wear, simplifies the process of figuring out what to pair with what (versus a top and bottoms kind of look), and makes a statement. For a date night with my husband, I chose to go extra with this strapless number. I got this dress on sale from a store called Tiffany's in Singapore last year (the label on the back is The White Closet). Threw on a hat and a bucket bag and ta-da!

Dress from Tiffany's | Bucket bag from Mango (read about it here) | Hat from Haji Lane, Singapore

Outfit 5: Hello Sunshine!
If you followed my Instastories about this post, you would have seen that I shared my love of gingham print. I have several colors in this same print, and recently I added yellow to my collection. Haha! I ordered this top with a paired bottom from ShopBop (one of my favorite online shopping sites for the wide selection and good deals they have. FYI, they do free shipping to Singapore for orders over $100 and $10 shipping otherwise). However, the combination of this tie-up top and bottom was a bit skimpy for my taste so I decided to wear this white denims instead. I love the yellow & white color combination because it's so summery and fresh. Doesn't this photo make you feel that way? :)

Kos Resorts Tie Top | H&M jeans | Just Gaya's Tassle Earrings |
Urban Revivo shoes | Nine West clutch (old)