Summer activities – Visit the Zoo

Most kids would enjoy a trip to the zoo.

Because the winter here is quite long and harsh. I find the best time to visit a zoo is no doubt during the summer. Most special and seasonal exhibits are opened from mid-June through mid September and so you will get to see more animals during this period than you normal would in other months.

Visiting a zoo can be fun and educational. The children can learn about animals, have fun watching them, and sometimes even feed and pat some animals.

Here are some things/tips you can do to make your trip to the zoo more enjoyable.

1. Most zoos will have some educational activities for the kids so check the Zoo website for daily schedules, exhibition guides, educational programs and special events prior to the trip. This will help you decide which exhibit to go and avoid wasting time upon arrival.

2. For older children, you may want to print out some zoo-related activity sheets for them to bring along, give them some papers to jot down the things they learn about the animals or even a scrapebook to draw.

Here’s what the girl did during our recent trip to the zoo. She made her own journal and drew pictures of the animals she saw at the zoo. 🙂

3. Speak with a Zookeeper, whenever possible.
I find that children learn more when they get a chance to speak to someone who know best about the animals. So, do encourage your kids to ask questions and talk to the zookeeper.

4. Take some time to read the fact sheets of the animals with the children. That’s another way they can learn more about the animals.

5. Allow some play time at the playground for young children. This will make them happy. 🙂

6. Bring lunch and snack from home.
You know how picky young children are. The food selection at the park cafes are usually limited and the only way you can be sure that the kids would enjoy their food, is to pack your own food. The children would love the idea of picnicking. If possible, pack some special treats for them to make the picnicking exprience even better.


My children enjoying a cup of homemade strawberry yogurt ice and fresh strawberries for snack.

7. Zoo admission fee can be quite expensive. So, check out your local library for free or discounted Zoo/Museum passes. You can save a lot by planning and reserving your pass ahead of time.

8. Lastly, but most importantly – Slow down and take your time to enjoy your time at the zoo. There’s always something happening at the zoo. It is only when you slow down that you can see and appreciate the beautiful park and the animals.

Grass Growing Project : Sprouted!

Something magical happened overnight! The kids were very excited when they spotted the grass seedlings yesterday morning!

grass growing project
(Grass @ Day 7.)

It is truly amazing to see how nature works and how fast grass grow. With just a little soil, water and plenty of sunshine, grass seeds started to germinate @ Day 7 after we planted them. This morning, we also have a surprise when we went to check the grass out. They seem to grow an inch taller than yesterday!

Anyway, the girl and I have started taking the measurement of the grass. I have promised to let her give them a haircut when the grass is long enough! Well, we’ll see how long it takes for that day to happen! 🙂

garlic & ginger
(Garlic in the big round pot, and ginger is in the small one.)

By the way, inspired by my friend who is into organic gardening, I also planted some garlic and ginger. Hopefully, they will do well in pots. 🙂

Related posts:
Follow our Grass Growing Project here. (Link)

jack-o-lanterns, seeds, steamed pumpkin cake

Part of our Halloween tradition is to carve jack-o-lanterns on the eve of Halloween. This year we decided on Thomas the tank engine and a funny pumpkin face patterns and I found these patterns on this site (link). I usually draw the patterns with free hand because I find it a hassle to push pin on the paper pattern. But if you are not comfortable with free hand drawing, you can certainly print the pattern out and trace it on your pumpkin.

Besides the jack-o-lantern craving activity, we also look forward to having a tasty and healthy snack to enjoy after we complete the jack-o-lanterns! We would salvage the seeds and toast them. If you haven’t tried freshly roasted pumpkin seeds before, you should really try it soon! 🙂

Since the seeds are naturally flavored and we like our seeds to be unsalted, I didn’t bother to wash them with water and just roast them at low temperature (350F) for 15-20 mins (stir occasionally) until they turn golden brown. As both my children prefer to eat the seeds with shells on, so I have to take extra care (i.e. eyes on the oven) to make sure they are roasted properly. When it is done properly, the seeds with shells can be wonderfully crunchy and easy to eat.

If you like salted version, here’s what you can do…

Put the seeds in salted water (about a half tablespoon of salt for every cup of water) and bring it to a boil.
Let simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and drain.
Finally, spread them evenly on the baking sheet and roast them in the oven at 350F for 15-20mins until golden brown.

steamed pumpkin cake

This year I decided to salvage also the pumpkin cutouts. (Well, we should always think the 3R – Recycle, Reuse, Reduce!! ;)) My mother-in-law ever mentioned to me before that we can use pumpkin to make into Chinese-style pumpkin cake so I thought why don’t I try it out this year. And to my pleasant surprise, the steam pumpkin cake tastes really good. It is sweet and savory at the same time.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients :-
A : 1200ml water
350g rice flour
20g tapioca flour

B : 50g (or 2 sticks) Chinese sausage, finely chopped.
50g dried shrimps, soaked and finely chopped
2 cups of pumpkin dices

Seasoning : salt, soya sauce, pepper, chicken stock granules (optional) to taste – make it slightly more salty than u normally like becos the mixture in A has no seasoning.

Steps :
1. Grease the baking tin and prepare a pot of boiling water for steaming.
2. Combine A ingredients and mix well.
3. Heat 1 Tsp oil in wok and stir fry dried shrimps until fragrant, then add minced chinese sausage and stir fry until fragrant.
4. Add diced pumpkins and seasoning. Stir fry briefly.
5. Add Ingredient A and stir constantly until you feel that the mixture is thickening (or glue-like).
6. Pour mixture into baking tin and steam over high heat for about 40mins.
7. Remove and let cool.

Singapore national pledge

The other day the girl asked me to say the Singapore national pledge in Chinese and I couldn’t. So, I quickly google and found the Chinese version on Wikipedia. I better start remembering it myself, in case she ask me again. 😛

We, the citizens of Singapore
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society,
based on justice and equality,
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and
progress for our nation.

我们是新加坡公民,
誓愿不分种族、言语、宗教,
团结一致,
建设公正平等
的民主社会,
并为实现国家之幸福、繁荣与进步,
共同努力。

That also reminds me to start reading up on the American history, which I know nuts about it!! Argh…
It’s not easy to be a mom these days!!

Acorn Jack-o-lanterns craft

Maybe because we had more rain this summer, there is abundant of acorns this fall. The kids and I would sometime pick some acorns and compete with each other to see who can throw the acorns the farthest across the street. It is a really fun game and you should try it if you haven’t play this game before. Anyway, back to the craft… As I believe in doing our bit in looking after the environment, I try to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as I can. I especially love to use recycle or natural materials for the craft projects I made with my children. So, when I came across this cute but really simple craft project on the FamilyFun site using acorns, I just have to make it with the girl. 🙂

Materials Used
Acorns
Acrylic/tempera paint (brown, orange, green)
Permanent marker (black or any dark colors)

Instructions
1. Coat each one with orange paint, you may need to put 2 coats like we did.
2. Add a bit of brown/green to the acorn’s point for a stem.
3. Let the paints dry and add a jack-o-lantern face with a permanent marker.
That’s all.

Have fun!

Other related posts:
Halloween and Autumn crafts See our other Halloween and Autumn crafts here!

Updates on our woolly bear caterpillar – the fuzzy cocoon!!

Exciting news to share…
One of our woolly bear caterpillars has spun into a fuzzy cocoon!
(Picture coming soon…)

We read that the transformation would take about 2 weeks for the moth to emerge from the cocoon. We hope we will be able to see the moth soon. 🙂

Other related posts:

A companion for maomao
Updates on our woolly bear and teaching responsibility
Woolly Bear Caterpillar
not moving
Go, Maomao, Go!
caterpillar

Recycling fun: Vegetables!

scallions

Lian from Tips and Tricks to Effective Parenting shared a very interesting recycling idea last summer i.e. recycling vegetables. She suggested planting the stems of the greens into a pot, instead of throwing them into the trash. I love recycling and I think this is another wonderful way to recycle kitchen waste beside composting. I wanted to try this recycling idea ever since I saw her post but as usual, procrastination got the better of me, I only tried it like half a year later. *roll eyes* Anyway, I’m happy to share with you that my scallions (green onions) are growing and looking healthy. I hope to harvest some of these organic homegrown scallions in a few weeks time. That is, if they ever survive my little boy’s “gentle” touch.

By the way, Mumsgather just harvested some vegetables which she grew using the same method! I’m so going to try planting some other greens this Spring too. (My bag of soil and pots are still covered in the snow now. Sigh.)

A companion for Maomao

Introducing our new addition – Yangyang, the crawl-very-fast woolly bear caterpillar!

The girl found Yangyang while raking the leaves in our yard with DH. She was super excited about her find and quickly asked for our permission to keep this caterpillar with her Maomao. Of course, we had to agree. With the new addition, I think the chances of seeing the caterpillar emerge into moth stage will be higher now. Wish us luck! 🙂

Other related posts:

Updates on our woolly bear and teaching responsibility
Woolly Bear Caterpillar
not moving
Go, Maomao, Go!
caterpillar

Updates on our Woolly Bear and teaching responsibility

Since last weekend, our woolly bear caterpillar Maomao hasn’t been eating anything and it has curled itself like a fur ball. A quick check on the internet resources, we found out that our caterpillar is ready to hibernate for winter. How exciting! Now we have to put the caterpillar in a place where it is unheated like the shed or basement and wait till next Spring for it to become active again. Hopefully by then, we will get to see it transforms into a beautiful moth. 🙂

Frankly speaking, I actually wanted to release Maomao back to the nature. I was worried about whether we can provide enough food and the right environment for the caterpillar to strive and grow into a moth. If it dies because we didn’t do a good job in taking care of the caterpillar, I would feel really upset and guilty. If it wasn’t The girl, who is so fond of the caterpillar and assured me that she would take care of Maomao, I would have release it. But I’m so glad now that I didn’t because if I did, I wouldn’t know how responsible my daughter is. *Proud mama*

Everyday after school, the girl would take time to choose the best leaves on the branches to give to Maomao. She would also clean out the dried old leaves and once every few days, she would even empty the container to get rid of the poops of the caterpillar!! As she is really responsible and attentive towards the caterpillar, I didn’t even have to do anything! I’m praying hard that her effort will not go wasted and Maomao will emerge into a beautiful moth in a few months time.


The girl caring for Maomao.

It is so true that getting a pet would help to teach young children about responsibility and other important life lessons such as discipline, patience, kindness and attentiveness. But if you are not ready to make a long term commitment to a pet like us, I highly recommend you to rear a caterpillar! 🙂

Other related posts:
Woolly Bear Caterpillar
not moving
Go, Maomao, Go!
caterpillar

Another use of the Chinese word cards

I’m so happy that the word cards that I made from recycled old name cards, have a new use again! We used it for our Hanyu Pinyin revision.

Because The girl had problems recognizing and differentiating the 2nd and 3rd sounds (i.e. á ă), so I came out with this simple “pinyin” game for her to practice. I gave her a stack of the word cards and she is supposed to sort them out according to the 4 tones. For example, if she had the “一” or “我” cards, she had to place them into the 1st tone box and 3rd tone box respectively. Once she completes the whole exercise (usually about 10-20cards), she is allowed to have a small treat like a piece of chocolate or a candy. As she sees this drilling exercise as a game, she learns faster and enjoys the pinyin lesson more.

After playing the game for 2 weeks now (I try to have pinyin lesson with her once a week), she is able to recognize and differentiate the pinyin tones much better now. 🙂