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Legoland: Perfect Theme Park for Kids Under 7

September 13, 2012 Leave a comment

One of the highlights of our trip in the US is visiting theme parks because there’s no way a three year old kid would enjoy a trip without this.  However, as we all know, even theme parks tend to be for young adults (13 yrs up) or big kids (7 yrs and above).  Therefore, in theory, there’s not much of a choice.

Learning from Previous Trips

When we went to Hong Kong Disneyland in 2010, my little princess did enjoy being with Mickey and Minnie (waiting for 2 hours on the queue) and taking some family rides like the train (going around the Disney Land), some 3d show (like Shrek) among other things.  I would not say that at age 2, Disney is not advisable because she already had her fondest memories with that.

What I learned is that you cannot really ‘maximize’ a theme park trip by riding all you can and running here and there if you are with a toddler or for a little kid aged  5ish or below. You have to leave kids be kids.  That means letting them ride what they want and expect some snooze time as well.

My Legoland Perception

While planning our trip to California last March, Legoland was part of the itinerary designed by my sister.  Though I have not heard of Legoland before, by its name, I can sense some interesting things there.  Surely this is created by the Lego company known for this toy bricks you put together to come up with something.  But I could not imagine anything else.

My Legoland Experience

Legoland Carlsbad was just across Palisades where we stayed.

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In Legoland, everything that Midas touches becomes a masterpiece of lego bricks!

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While Aurora, the Sleeping Beauty laid on her bed, all other creatures were turned into statues made of lego…

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Other interesting sights at the Legoland

Bonding moments with the neighbors in the backdrop

Older kids can also try this!

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While queuing, there are play areas to keep little princess from getting bored

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Here goes the rides!

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This one requires motor skills to control the cars. Too much for a three year old. See her face?

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The horse ride requires kids height at least .9 m.  She almost missed this ride. Look at her toes!

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Short slide that has scary moments. Look at my face!

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Most of the rides were really fit for young kids aged 7 and below.  I can imagine older kids being bored with the rides already.  Well that makes it really for young kiddos!

We tried a mini-roller coaster that left my little princess shaken a bit though she’s fine.  For my standards (I don’t ride roller coasters), I won’t go for it again.

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At the Lego factory ‘museum’

 

Legoland Comes to Southeast Asia

Now that the Legoland Malaysia is opening in a few days, assuming they have the same standards which I expect it would have, I definitely recommend this for those who have kids under 7 years old.  Surely, it’s worth a trip to Johor.

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Categories: Parenting, Reviews, Travel

Don’t Fly United If You Have Kids

April 23, 2012 2 comments

After a hiatus of weeks, I am finally back with a revenge! We spent three weeks of vacation in California visiting family and relatives.  The worst thing that could happen is end this with a bad experience on the plane.  I have ranted this out on social media including Facebook and even Instagram so let me do this for the record on this blog.

Me, my wife and my three year old daughter all in middle seats.

 

Last day finally came, a day after my birthday, 28th March. At the airport, while checking in, I was told by the ground attendant that my seat will be separate from my wife and daughter. Well, that’s not good news. So I asked if she can arrange for us to be together. She said she cannot do anything about it. So I thought I’ll try to find a way when we get there and hopefully I could find a good soul willing to swap seats.  So we got into the plain and there turned out to be a crazy situation awaiting us.  We learned that we were all assigned to separate seats including my three-year-old daughter. What the heck! I did not bother to check that out when I was checking in but who would have expected this?  I have not traveled so much with my family but most in my experience was that it was always common sense that we were assigned seats together. A three year old kid sitting beside a parent really makes sense.

Fortunately, I was able to arrange a swap with  a gentleman so my wife and daughter could seat together.  I did not bother to ask the other guy seated on the other side because it was obvious that he was not interested.  I wanted to seat close to them for obvious reasons. I found a seat on the aisle still unoccupied and so I sat there hoping that no one will show up or at least I could ask to swap.  While waiting, I talked to one stewardess and told her what happened and my intention to swap, her only comment was something like “Oh that’s the usual thing that happens every day”.  She brushed off the incident casually and said I can wait and see if the passenger assigned to the seat will not show up.  After some time, the person came assisted by another matured stewardess. So I asked if I could swap and explained what happened.  Her reply was that I cannot do that. She said I could only swap if the person does not show up and that I cannot talk to the passenger to swap. What kind of crap is that? They were comfortable that I managed to swap a seat so my wife and daughter could seat together but they never offered any consolation.  Now, I may be asking for more than the minimum, but can’t you at least be nice?

I wonder now what would have happened if we did not get to swap a seat for my wife in the first place!

Moving on, I shared this in the social media and was thankful for those who shared my story.  One United Airlines staff picked it up from my Instagram post. Thanks for the comment but did not offer any other solution to move on with that.  Lastly, I logged on to their website to report the issue and never even got an email acknowledgement of my complaint-  which is odd because I would normally get this even from the most ordinary company or even government agencies.

Well, as I learned, some friends who fly using United Airlines have expressed that indeed this airline is the worst- and yet they do not have a choice because its routes seem to be the only convenient choices from america to Asia. Oh my,  see how a monopoly could kill good customer service!

I missed my wife and daughter during that 12 hour trip from Los Angeles to Japan stopover.  It was like missing them for weeks and months! I could only look at them from afar and would drop by once in a while.  I would not have let the airplane take off if we were not together on our final destination trip back to Singapore. But the same ground attendant did it correctly for this flight.

So  then, would I have a choice next time I fly?  The lesson I learned here is never assume companies will provide good service.  Next time I check in, I will give a dumb instruction: “Can you please make sure the three of us are seated together? You see, in our last flight with United Airlines, we were given seats apart from each other including my three year old daughter. “  Seriously. This is something I have always taken for granted. Now don’t wait for your turn. Remember this and you’ll be forever grateful to me!

My priority is United Airlines' priority except my family 😦

 Update: On 26 April 2012, I received an email from their Customer Care undersigned by Martin Hand (Senior Vice President, Customer Experience) apologizing for not replying immediately and explaining that the United and Continental merger caused some trouble in their systems. Strange that this email came just days after I published this post. They said that they have documented my complaint and promised to send an electronic travel voucher as token of appreciation for the feedback. Thank you, United for the gesture. Surely I had to write this on my blog to reach you.

Now, I have this song in my head: “A man can tell a thousand lies; I’ve learned my lesson well; Hope I live to tell the secret I have learned till then; it will burn inside of me…” (Live to Tell, Madonna).  😉

Coming up next…  Bring The Right Baggage Going to US

Categories: Parenting, Reviews, Travel

First School Day Anxiety Strikes!

January 21, 2012 1 comment

All smiles on the bus

New school year just started this month and the most anxious would be parents of the preschool kids. Yes, it’s us.  It could be because we are first time parents, or simply because kids as young as two or three years old is much more vulnerable than any other age.  We do not want them to be hurt, physically or emotionally.  She would be the little baby we saw inside her mum’s tummy, the one we watched sleeping soundly, the one we excitedly held as she learned to walk and the one we patiently taught to speak.  While I think these kids should be enjoying the free time of this phase in their life, we had to send her anyway so she could learn to mingle with other kids and be at par with kids of her age.  I just do not think she should be be too much pressured at her age.

I was looking at my blog stats the other day and someone landed on my blog with the search that run like “not happy with playgroup”.  Well, that’s probably another nervous parent trying to find a way out of the playgroup due to the first school day anxiety. A year ago, we had less anxiety as my girl’s playgroup was just walking distance from our block.  While her first day last year did not end up with cries, Yanna took about another day or two to realize she was being left in the school with the teachers before she got those anxious “don’t leave me” plea (Flashback: January 2011).

Back in the first week this month, we felt our heart wrenched seeing Yanna ride on the school bus for the first time.  She cried like we would send her away! Aaargh. Worse is that we learned she would be the first to be picked up, the trip is going to take like an hour (because the bus had to pick up other kids of course) and the pick-up time was 1 1/2 hours before school time! Who would not be stressed by that?  It was mind boggling if my daughter would ride a bus and uneasy for more than an hour! The school bus arrangement was rather odd as we did not get the details until the first day of school.  My wife called me and was thinking of transferring her to another school. Well, I am concerned but not not in panic as she was.

We sent her to Damien Center, which was the ultimate choice we made because it was the most reasonable in terms of cost.  There was no other school nearby and besides, it was run by the same church we went and it was in the same compound.  That was sufficient trust among other things we took into consideration. We have registered and have paid all that was needed including uniform and stuff.  Now my wife wants to transfer her!

She eyed on the next school option we had which was in the walking distance of our block but was like SGD 200 (per month) more expensive.  We were close to deciding on that.  She asked the current school of our plan to transfer due to the school bus arrangement and distance which we did not realize in the beginning.  Fortunately, as I was expecting, the school offered an alternative school bus that would pick up our daughter 45 minutes from school time; would reduce her travel time to about 30+ minutes and would not be the first to be picked up which will perhaps make her feel better to see other kids on the bus.  That pacified us.  So far, she’s doing good.  I’ve seen her picked up and brought back to our block by the bus and I feel relieved.

I am sure a lot of other parents have fallen trap what I call the FSDA (First School Day Anxiety).  Well, relax. With a playgroup or preschool, there is much more flexibility and therefore making rush decisions should not be taken.  This  will definitely going to be at the expense of your child’s peace-of-mind. I am sure you have taken some thought about the school before enrolling them there so deciding to transfer impulsively is not a solution.  Take it easy. Here’s some tip to make you think clearly:

  1. If it’s not a matter of life and death, sleep on it.
  2. Talk it over with the teacher or school management.  Raise your concerns or clarify doubts. Is it about the safety of the children? Did you notice the school premises to be health hazard? Any question can pop-up and if you do not get the facts, you will be the loser.
  3. Look for alternatives regarding your issues.  In our case, as we did not like the first bus arrangement, we could have opted to just bring her to school ourselves.
  4. Outside of the current school, think what options you have.  Why think of transferring the kid to another school if there seems to be no option?  Is the option affordable? Is it favorable to you geographically? How sure are you that you would not have the same issue or other issues if you transfer your kid to another school?

Keep in mind that there is no perfect world.  I am not saying you lower your standards about concerns regarding your kids.  Just be reasonable enough. Take a balancing act.  Everything will be fine.

Categories: Schooling

It's Also Fun If Our Kids Speak Filipino

January 16, 2012 2 comments

Bilinguals tend to perform better than monolinguals on exercises that require blocking out distractions and switching between two or more different tasks. (www.sciencedaily.com)

Parents living overseas contend with raising their kids speaking the language where they are based. The practical reason is survival. On the contrary, is it really necessary to give up teaching the parents’ mother tongue to their kids if only to ensure that the kids learn the local language (where they are based) more effectively?  It has been a general perception that teaching kids two or more languages early in their childhood can confuse them.  However, many experts have challenged this belief.  The Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington D.C. even claimed that there is no existing evidence that hearing two or more languages in the environment can become a cause for delay or disorder in language acquisition.

In the Philippines, growing up as a child, I learned Tagalog first and later English- partly by media exposure and education.  It was not difficult to learn the language then, given that English was the medium of instruction and the official language.  Furthermore, I grew up watching English cartoons (as there were no Tagalized cartoons then).  I was also int he environment where grown-ups watched local news in English as well as English TV programs.  From the different parts of the world, we know of Spanish-speaking kids growing up in the U.S. or Chinese and Indian immigrants speaking their native tongue elsewhere in the world.  So why in the world are many overseas Filipino parents afraid to teach their kids the Filipino language? When I say teach the language, I mean to speak and write proficiently.  And not just mediocre “marunong ng konti” (know a little bit).

I would not be wanting to “attack” the guilty parents. I do not think anyone intended to abandon the native tongue for their kids intentionally.  I understand that the easiest route to do is to teach their kids the local lingo.  I can guess that most of these parents did not have the awareness of what is possible.  That was why, I have posed the question months back: Should we raise our kids as bilingual speakers? I asked this for myself and for all the overseas parents out there.  For one, I am not an experienced parent myself, for I am just in my first three years of the journey as parent.  I could only try and see what other expat colleagues have been doing.  And there are two basic things I have learned:

1. It is possible to teach kids more than one language early in their childhood.  A former Indian colleague has a daughter who can speak Filipino, apart from Hindi, English and Chinese.

2. Give the kids some borderline in order not to confuse one language for the other.  For example, a French colleague speaks to her daughter in French and leaves the nanny to speak to her in English.  This way, the kid clearly knows what is French and what is English.

My wife and I have started to speak to our daughter in English and therefore have learned to speak using the language.  In the beginning she could utter some Filipino words picked up from our conversations.  But eventually, she learned to speak with English.  When we have seen that she was already stable in expressing herself in the first language, I started talking to her in Filipino and eventually teaching her to try some first words.  To apply #2 above, I exercised her in the native tongue at a certain time of the day only- in the evening before we sleep. She started learning the language using the conversations of the evening such as about sleeping or the things used for sleeping such as bedsheet, blanket and pillows.  As our daughter Yanna liked bedtime stories, and repeat the same ones all over, I started to say this in Filipino.  In no time she started to ask me to tell her stories in Filipino, “Tatay, kuwentuhan mo ako tungkol kay Dorothy”.  Interestingly, she started picking up the native words and started to speak on her own albeit some grammar lapses- of course.  Now, she can easily pick up some words and start talking in Filipino. Although it is too early to claim success, I am confident that she will be able to speak (and eventually write) proficiently in our mother tongue.

I think that learning the language does not all come by just merely teaching.  As we spoke in the vernacular in the house, she somehow understood the conversations such as when she would panic when she felt we would leave her to the nanny.  I guess that’s the start.  For many of us, this is also the beginning and it should not stop there.  I think that when we start encouraging and teaching kids how to speak a new language, they gain confidence in doing so and become bold enough to try go further.  I believe this is part of the process of learning any language.  Even among adults, we only start learning a new language if we speak among those whom we know are supportive in this exercise and so we do not hesitate to make mistakes and be afraid to be corrected.  I could only see why this works with kids as well!

With the continuing diaspora, we cannot care less about preserving the Filipino identity. Let us be proud of our heritage.  Let us teach our kids our culture, values and our languages. After all, it’s more fun speaking in the native tongue.

Categories: Language, Living Overseas

Finding A Stroller For Kids Over 15 kg

January 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Strollers or prams are a necessity in Singapore if you have a toddler or any kid below 6 years old.  In fact, I have seen even older kids still riding the strollers. Why? Because most of us would probably be taking the public transport and most of these are located in specific places which means we need to walk quite long distances. Going places like Botanical Garden or Sentosa, you would not have an easy-to-find public transport to hail to bring you three blocks away.  With malling as a past time, the more a stroller is needed if you would like everyone in the family to enjoy the day…READ MORE ON NEW WEB ADDRESS.

Rob A Minute! has moved to a new web address.  Please feel free to visit: www.robaminute.com and subscribe.  Thank you for your support.

Categories: Parenting

Finding A Stroller for Kids Over 15 kg

January 7, 2012 1 comment

Strollers or prams are a necessity in Singapore if you have a toddler or any kid below 6 years old.  In fact, I have seen even older kids still riding the strollers. Why? Because most of us would probably be taking the public transport and most of these are located in specific places which means we need to walk quite long distances. Going places like Botanical Garden or Sentosa, you would not have an easy-to-find public transport to hail to bring you three blocks away.  With malling as a past time, the more a stroller is needed if you would like everyone in the family to enjoy the day.

Yanna’s first stroller was bought in the Philippines worth around SGD 200 and was of premier class.  It even had a detachable baby basket.  This kind of stroller is something you only see in movies. Hehe.

When my family followed to Singapore before Yanna was 6 months, they brought along this stroller and her crib.  Not only because it would have been more expensive to buy a new one but because I tried to look for its equivalent and did not find anything suitable.

As  we got used to the country, we learned the “dos and don’ts” of family making trips here and there.  It is definitely a must to bring stroller on trips.  But we found the stroller bulky as it did not fold compact enough.  Also, it did not have a convenient carrying mechanism that I had to carry it with my two hands if I need to do it safely.  In short, it is not your typical “portable” easy-to-fold stroller.

 

Yanna’s first stroller was pretty but bulky

It was hard to accept that the stroller was not good enough because it was expensive even by Singapore standards.  But the most practical thing to do was buy a more convenient one.  My initial knowledge of strollers in Singapore was that they were expensive.  The brands that I would see everywhere were Combi and Maclaren.  When I did window shopping one day, I was surprised at the prices! They ranged between SGD 200-400.  But I believed there were cheaper ones.  I only need one that could carry my daughter when we go out and one that is easy-to-fold-and-carry.  Good thing, we found them in the right place.  We went to Giant and found an array of cheap but pretty much decent carriers. We bought a SGD 39 pram.

We used this for almost two years and without a regret.  Our SGD 39 was value-for-money.  The only thing that did not work well with this stroller was that it did not have a good wheel balance that when you turn it on one side, one wheel’s direction does not necessarily turn the same way.  But it did not matter because at the end of the day, it follows since you have one human pushing it. Also, one wheel would be detached and fall from time to time- to our amusement. Thankfully, we never lost that wheel at all.  This stroller has traveled Hongkong, Macau and Kuala Lumpur.  Now time has come when our dear Yanna has grown too heavy for it, at 15 kilograms, and we can feel that it is slowly giving in.  We did not want to wait for it to collapse and so we started our hunt for a new stroller.  The challenge is that most strollers were made to carry 15 kg child. From the sources we knew, we did not find one that had the capacity of over that weight.  this time we were not looking for a stroller to just hang by and carry our daughter.  It had to be sturdy, of good quality, and easy-to-carry features.  We would probably use it in the next two years. Our budget in our mind was between SGD 75 to 150- probably coming from the SGD 30 price, it was hard to go higher.

Light and handy, enough for lightweight toddlers

Easy to carry but need to have a good grip

We were disappointed with going back to Giant because we did not find any that could carry our requirement and also because there was not much.  After this failed trip, my wife discovered a Mothercare branch in Harbourfront where there is a wide array of strollers. We found the expensive strollers all lined up beautifully. We found one that we like, in terms of looks and function but the price is cumbersome – SGD 598.  My wife did not seem convinced at first.  But there was not much of a choice.  We found a simple looking stroller that looked sturdy but turned out to cost around SGD 550 and could only carry up to 15 kg.  We need a heavy duty stroller that can carry Yanna’s size and one that would last 2-3 years more. So where else do we go?

Baby Jogger City Mini Single

Comfy for Big Sized Kiddies

Good looking

Looks bulky in size but easy to carry

Tip to parents: Buy a stroller for long-term foreseeing the capability even up to 20 kg. In case you already bought but need to buy a new one for some reason as we did, consider the following;

1.  How long else will the kid need the stroller.  They would typically need it until 6-7 years old- in Singapore.

2. How much is your budget. If you are really on a shoe-string-budget and your kid is still small, buy the cheaper ones like what we had.  It could last two years depending on how fast your kid grows.  And you won’t regret it because the cost is not even 10% of what it would cost when you buy a new one.  Also, you would have saved some years of depreciation if you had to buy another one that is expensive.

It showed to be a happy ending for our stroller hunting

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Check out other options and accessories (click images below)

Note: The image links above are affiliate links. The review made on this post is independent and only based on our experiences.  Everything shared in this blog are honest reviews and I do not recommend anything that I do not believe in.

Categories: Parenting, Shopping

IPads and Pre-schoolers – Confessions of a Perplexed Parent (via INNZ is the word)

July 30, 2011 2 comments

Guide your kids in using technology such as IPads and IPhones

I have seen how my daughter Yanna tinkered into our IPhones to find her way to youtube and all other apps she likes. I realized that truly how a two-year old kid could actually learn a lot in such a touchscreen gadget. Yet, the caveat is, these gadgets can also be addictive. When Yanna starts getting into the IPhone, she would not give it up without tantrums. We’ve seen how she gets stuck into it and so we started to control it.

Some weeks ago, when my wife registered Yanna to a pre-school for her Nursery 1 classes starting January 2012, one of the fees listed, although optional was “Computer Program”. We thought, “What in the world are they going to teach three-year old kids about computers?” Maybe they have IPads. Well, I am still for the traditional educational system where the focus is on reading, writing and comprehension. Many schools may boast of a “computerized” education system but does that seem to emphasize on the basics. Just like teaching someone how to fish instead of giving them the fish, you teach the kids how to learn properly, they will be on top of their classes.

I stumbled upon this blog and realized that the IPad technology seems to put us all parents in the warning mode. We need to take precaution and guide our kids in getting them into the use of technology.

iPads and pre-schoolers – confessions of a perplexed parent OK I admit it – my nearly-three-year-old daughter is more familiar with iPads than I am. It’s not hard – I think I have only just fully realised I am raising a “screen-ager”. Once they started appearing at her preschool, I should have realised that if I didn’t catch up soon, I was goi … Read More

via INNZ is the word

Categories: Parenting
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