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LEGO is such a timeless toy and the boys are big fans of it. They regularly create various machines and creatures, breaking it apart, recreating, and improving their designs. When I  heard about LEGO robotics, I thought it would be something that would definitely interest the boys and would introduce an exciting new dimension to the their LEGO playing.

They went for a trial Junior Robotics Engineers class at Wonderswork, a place that offers courses for children on robotics and inventions. Wonderswork seeks to nurture creative and inventive thinking, problem solving, critical thinking, and cross-cultural communication in children. The LEGO robotics programs, in particular, aim to educate and equip children from young with essential skills in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

At each Junior Robotics Engineers class, kids are given a project to complete. This project involves following instructions on a computer to build something, then using simple graphical programming to make the object perform a particular action. A graphical format is adopted so that it is not too complex for children, but yet still teaches them the logic and thinking behind programming.

While I was confident that Asher would be able to follow what was going on, I was a little worried that Ellery would be distracted and unable to keep up. I was also concerned about whether they boys would have problems using a computer because, if you can believe it, the boys have never used a computer! They’ve watched things on a computer, but not used one.

So I was happy to see that Enzo, the founder of Wonderswork, and the other teachers were extremely patient with both of them, and especially so with Ellery. They took the time to explain how to use the computer (!) and the computer programme, they guided Ellery on how to determine if what he was doing was correct and let him figure out whether he was on the right track by posing questions and letting him draw his own conclusions.

Tapping on the arrows to move to the instructions for the next step

Tapping on the arrows to move to the instructions for the next step

I would say the teachers functioned more as facilitators. Children are guided through the project and assisted when the teachers saw they needed help, or the kids asked for help. I thought that was a good approach. It is in the doing that kids learn best, and they need space to figure things out for themselves. I found out from Enzo that this is also how they approach the Young Inventors class as well. In that class, kids are given a challenge and have to create their own solutions to solve the problem.

It was also good to see that the other boys who were there for their regular class had very good rapport with the teachers. The kids and teachers were talking and joking with one another, clearly enjoying themselves.

I was surprised at how Ellery remained focused on his task throughout. He has a tendency to be easily distracted when disinterested in something, but that was clearly not the case here. By the end of the session he had built a rocking horse, and with some guidance had programmed the horse to rock back and forth. He was happily tapping on ‘Enter’ and ‘Esc’ to start and stop the horse over and over again. He was also able to explain to me how the horse could rock – that the electricity came from the computer and powered the motor, that the motor moved one a long block that was connected to the base of the horse, and that in turn moved the horse.

Ellery's rocking horse

Ellery’s rocking horse

Enter! Esc! Enter! Esc!

Enter! Esc! Enter! Esc!

For Asher, he was delighted to have been given a Star Wars walker to build. It even had a sensor that made the walker stop when it reached the edge of a table. Enzo also showed him how the sensor could be triggered to do different things. Besides stopping at the edge of a table, it could be programmed to play a sound when something came near. Asher’s favourite was when the walker made laser shooting sounds whenever he put his hand in front of it :) He was quite amazed by the sensor and mentioned it to me several times after we left the class, and was one of the first things he told Jon.

The Star Wars walker

The Star Wars walker

Watching his walker move

Watching his walker move and waiting for it to reach the edge of the table

The Junior Robotics Engineers class was fascinating and the boys loved it! I’d definitely recommend the robotics class, especially if your kid – girl or boy – is interested in LEGO.

Wonderswork conducts its robotics and invention classes weekly. There are also two holiday camps coming up – a Space Inventors camp and a Master Inventor camp. Five sessions of each camp are being conducted until the middle of December, but spaces are limited so you should sign up quickly if interested! You can click on the links above for more details.

Space Invention Lego Robotics Invention School Holiday Camp Nov - Dec 2014

Camp 1: 17-19 Nov (over)
Camp 2: 24-26 Nov
Camp 3: 1-3 Dec
Camp 4: 8-10 Dec
Camp 5: 15-17 Dec
All camps from 10am-230pm

Master Inventors Lego Robotics  School Holiday Children Camp Nov - Dec 2014

Camp 1: 20-21 Nov (over)
Camp 2: 27-28 Nov
Camp 3: 4-5 Dec
Camp 4: 11-12 Dec
Camp 5: 18-19 Dec
All camps from 10am-230pm

Wonderswork also offers a by appointment one-time drop off class that’s held on weekends. This is great for parents who want to meaningfully engage their kids while they take a much needed coffee break :) You can find out more about the regular classes and other programs here. If you are interested to sign up, they are currently running a promotion on the program fees.

Junior Robotics Engineer (for 5yrs and above) – $380 (Usual $500)
Young Robotics Engineer (for 8yrs and above) – $460 (Usual $550)
Young Inventors Level 1 (for 5yrs and above) – $380 (Usual $500)

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Kids at a Robotics workshop (Photo courtesy of Wonderswork)

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The kids who attended the last space camp (Photo courtesy of Wonderswork)

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Testing their space inventions (Photos courtesy of Wonderswork)

I’ve signed Asher up for the Space Inventors camp and he’s extremely excited! I’m excited to see what he’ll get to do too! Ellery is unfortunately too young to attend, but I might bring him back for some of the other workshops instead.

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Wonderswork offered a complimentary trial class for the boys. All opinions are my own.
You can call Wonderswork at 6333 4088 to arrange for a trial class if your kids are interested.

Junior Claus

Christmas started early for us this year. We attended the opening show for Junior Claus and were treated to a charming story about the young Junior Claus who is Santa’s son. He tries to save Christmas from being ruined forever by Grumpo the greedy elf who took control of Santa’s workshop after Santa fell into a deep sleep due to the Belief-o-Meter falling to dangerously low levels.

Junior Claus_MAIN VISUAL

It felt good listening to the Christmas songs piped into the theatre before the show started, and I thought it was especially important for our particular show since it was (and still is) a long way from Christmas. Perhaps that was why the Christmas buzz wasn’t quite filling the theatre as much as it could have. But I really believe it’ll get more and more ‘buzz-y’ as Christmas draws nearer. Kudos to the cast for giving their best to invoke the Spirit of Christmas at the start of November!

Dwayne Tan (who reminded me of the earnest Woody from Toy Story), put in a good effort at portraying Junior’s eagerness to make improvements to Santa’s workshop and his lack of belief in the Christmas magic. Junior tried to find practical and logical ways to do things instead of believing in the Christmas magic. It did feel abrupt when he suddenly did believe, but I suppose that has to do with the flow of the story. It was at the end when Junior spoke about what Christmas was really all about that I felt his conviction. That part was quite moving and I felt something stir inside me. I hope the kids felt it too.

Chipper the elf (Seong Hui Xuan) and Junior (Dwayne Tan) flying off to Singapore with Dasher (Benjamin Chow)

Chipper the elf (Seong Hui Xuan) and Junior (Dwayne Tan) flying off to Singapore with Dasher (Benjamin Chow)

I loved Timothy Wan as Grumpo! He made Grumpo evil but endearing, and one of my favourite characters from the show. Grumpo’s plan to corner the toy market and force parents to pay ultra exhorbitant prices for gifts was just wicked and wonderfully innovative, and hopefully that never happens, ha!

But my favourite character has to be Pengy the penguin. Cheryl Tan again put in a fantastic performance. I remembered her from Rapunzel and she further impressed this time around by playing two characters with panache. The boys and I loved the talkative and ever-positive Pengy. Like really loved him. Like really really loved him (watch and you’ll know what I mean). The minute Pengy appeared, the entire show was lifted as Cheryl filled the stage with her presence. It was wonderful how she spoke and sang with different accents for the characters and threw herself into making them believable.

Junior (Dwayne Tan) and Pengy (Cheryl Tan)

Junior and Pengy (Cheryl Tan)

One thing that would make the show even better, I thought, was if the music could be turned down a little, or the volume of the feed from the cast could be increased. It sometimes felt like the music was drowning out the voices of the cast members, particularly those who had voices that weren’t so strong. As a result, I thought it was sometimes difficult for the kids to catch the words of the songs.

The cast of Junior Claus

The cast of Junior Claus

Overall, this is a fun-filled show to bring your kids to this holiday season, and will be a real treat as Christmas gets closer! Although the recommended age is 5 years and above, Ellery, who turns 4 on Christmas day, was able to follow the story and still remembers what was said in the show. I was so surprised to hear him say, two weeks on, that “you don’t have to understand, you just need to believe”. What an appropriate takeaway for Christmas.

Junior Claus is showing at the DBS Arts Centre until 14 Dec 2014. Tickets are available via the SISTIC website and hotline (63485555).

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We received complementary tickets for the show. All opinions are my own.

Growing Steadily

It’s been a good long while since I blogged, in a large part because Alyssa is now much more alert than before. And she’s taken after her eldest sibling in one thing for sure – she hardly naps! There are days she naps for a total of 45 mins! Asher was exactly like that. But thankfully Alyssa cries much less than he did.

So anyway, she’s now 6 months old. I realise I forgot to do an update when she was 5 months, and there’s been a lot of changes since then.

As mentioned in a previous post, she’s able to sit steadily on her own now. She’ll still topple backwards if she gets excited and starts to wave her arms about a lot, but otherwise she can sit and play quite well.

Sitting and playing with the tambourine I got when I was five :)

Sitting and playing with the tambourine I got when I was five :)

She’s been rolling both to the left and right. And I think she’s gonna be a tummy sleeper like me. We put her to bed on her back but she often flips onto her belly to sleep. According to the experts I don’t really need to worry about her since she’s able to flip anyway.

She’s also started eating, and seems to enjoy her food so far. She’s not got a large appetite, but she accepts most of the food I feed her. So far she’s tried most the usual first foods – brown rice cereal, sweet potato, pumpkin, spinach, carrots, broccoli, etc. She loves carrots and can eat a lot more of that compared with the other vegetables.

Spinach day. She was quite fidgety that day, plus I hadn't yet refreshed my skills at feeding a baby. If you can believe it, more spinach ended up in her belly than on her face :)

I love how messy this is! Spinach day. She was quite fidgety that day, plus I hadn’t yet refreshed my skills at feeding a baby. If you can believe it, more spinach ended up in her belly than on her face :)

When she first started eating rice cereal, Ellery was so excited he kept telling anyone who would listen (including strangers) that his sister could eat rice cereal! Then both he and Asher wanted very much to feed her, so I let them. That was how she started having dinners, instead of just lunches.

Ellery was so happy to finally get to feed Alyssa

Ellery was so happy to finally get to feed Alyssa

Dinner with all three kids in my messy house

Dinner with all three kids in my messy house

And as if it’s the trend for my kids, she’s also not really taken to the bottle, but instead has taken to the cup. She’s now able to drink proficiently from the cup without spilling much, if at all. And she drinks fast! She can gulp down her milk in no time at all from a cup. Weaning her has made her a lot easier for others to take care of her if needed. Like on Saturday, we left her home when we went for Asher’s primary school orientation and she was apparently quite easy to handle. I’m so grateful!

Glug glug glug

Glug glug glug

She’s still her happy self, and actually I think even happier. She seldom cries in the car now. Someone suggested putting a mirror in the car for her to look at herself. I was willing to try anything to stop her screaming in the car. I bought a child safe mirror and found that looking at herself did not help, but looking outside did! I angled the mirror such that she could see the outside world even though she’s in the rear facing seat. It’s been much much more peaceful in car rides now. If she does cry it is for a clear reason like she’s tired, or has a poopy diaper. Even then, nowadays when she’s tired she’ll just quietly nod off to sleep. Again, I’m grateful!

She’s certainly been living up to her name and bringing great happiness to those around her. We love her, the boys love her, and it seems she brings a smile to almost every person we walk past. She simply loves when people stop to talk to her and will flash a big big smile at them, causing them to smile, and then she’ll smile even more. A positive cycle. She even smiles at posters! There’s a poster in our building’s lift that shows a lady looking shocked because she got scammed, and Alyssa laughs every time she sees the lady’s shocked look. She must think the lady is playing with her!

Well, I’m curious to see how she continues to grow and develop. I was struck tonight by how small she is compared to her brothers, and compared to us adults. Babies are so small and so cute! I need to treasure her period of babyhood. She’s the last kid, and there ain’t gonna be no more babies until I become a grandma!

Taller, with bigger thighs :)

11 Nov 2014: Taller, with bigger thighs :)

Finding something very funny

Finding something very funny

She was particularly happy that day

She was particularly happy that day

No space for her outstretched legs anymore

No space for her outstretched legs anymore

Playing with her favourite two bears. She especially loves that dark brown bear we got in Hong Kong

Playing with her favourite two bears. She especially loves that dark brown bear we got in Hong Kong

Playing with her brothers

Playing with her brothers

At the playground

At the playground

Photo my cousin took :)

Photo my cousin took :)

Fedora

I bought the boys a very affordably priced Fedora to play with and Asher loved it so much he wanted to sleep with it that first night! He’s also worn it out for a party too. Fedoras are so nice though, so I can see why he likes it :)

They were playing their favourite game of dress-up when suddenly Asher asked me to take a picture of him ‘eating’ Ellery. Such a funny boy!

Here he is in the Fedora eating his brother

Here he is in the Fedora eating his brother

Beach Day

After we came back from Hong Kong (posts on this coming up eventually…) Ellery kept asking to play with sand. So we headed to East Coast Park one Saturday evening to make good on our promise to him. It’s been a long time since we just relaxed by the beach like that, and it was Alyssa’s first time at the beach too. A gorgeous, windy day, we had a nice time playing before joining some friends for dinner.

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Hop & Honk

The boys and I went to watch iTheatre’s latest offering, Hop & Honk, at the Drama Centre Theatre. On until 15 Nov 2014, the story weaves two classic fairytales, The Ugly Duckling and The Frog Prince, into one.

HAH014 LandscapeHiRes

Usually I am wary of theatre companies trying to give their own take on classic stories, but this was done very well. iTheatre extrapolated the story backwards to its origins and gave their take on why the Prince was turned into a frog in the first place, and how the swan’s egg ended up in the duck’s nest. The story flowed smoothly with good pacing, the characters were memorable, the music was generally good, there was lots of humour (with some funny references to local issues that would amuse the adults), and strong performances in particular by Ethel Yap who played Cygna the Ugly Duckling.

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Being ridiculed by her duckling ‘siblings’

The prince before he was transformed into a frog by the witch

The Prince Anura before he was transformed into a frog by the witch

I loved how each group of animals was given a distinct style. The frogs were so hilarious! I loved the entire scene with the frogs. The swans were also so amusing with their funny walks, Cantonese accents, and conceited personalities. After the show the boys and I talked like the frogs and walked the swans just for fun. Interestingly the boys’ favourite character was Herodias. For Asher it was because Herodias was such a strong character and had a great costume to boot, for Ellery because of the pranks played on Herodias!

The Frog Prince looking for his family In the pond

The Frog Prince looking for his family In the pond

Funny frogs!

Funny frogs!

Macey & Lacey the busybody swans

Macey & Lacey the vain and busybody swans

Herodias and his two sidekicks

Herodias and his two sidekicks

The songs were generally okay, but there were some really bright sparks like “Different Worlds” and “Travellers” that were very much in the style of Broadway musicals. We are still bursting into the frog’s “Bubbling Up” song every now and then too just because it’s so catchy! It is in singing that the cast really shone. While some of the cast did not always have the best pronunciation and enunciation, their singing voices could not be faulted. Windson Liong especially surprised me, and I think there’s lots more to his voice than he displayed at this show. The other surprise was Darren Guo. I wasn’t liking his portrayal of the duckling too much, but he proved to be a versatile actor giving a fresh take with each subsequent character, and his acting grew on me.

Cygna & the Frog Prince Anura

Cygna & the Frog Prince Anura

Themes of bullying, self-confidence and self-worth stood out strongly. Bullying has been on my mind lately as Asher approaches primary school. I recently heard stories from friends whose kids encounter bullies in school. I hope he will not meet any bullies, and that if he does he will have the wisdom and confidence to know how to protect himself and when to stand up to the bully. I hope he learns that what people think does not define him and it’s what’s on the inside that matters, just as Cygna discovered for herself.

We really enjoyed the show and I think it’s a show worth catching.

Hop & Honk
Date: 29 October to 15 November 2014
Venue: Drama Centre Theatre, National Library
Recommended for: 4 to 18 year olds and families
Duration: 85 minutes plus 15 minutes interval – TOTAL = 100 minutes approximately

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We were offered three complementary tickets for the show. All opinions are my own.

All pictures courtesy of iTheatre.

C is for Cereal

Throughout our Hong Kong trip, Alyssa kept eyeing our food and trying to grab at our spoons. She was clearly ready for solids, so I decided to start her on baby cereal when we got back.

She had her first spoon of Healthy Times baby rice cereal, the same first food Asher and Ellery started on too, and she liked it! After that she kept trying to grab the spoon from me to stuff into her mouth!

A happy eater. Just like Mummy. Yay :)

All ready for her meal

All ready for her meal

Gimme gimme!

Gimme gimme!

Mmm...this is so yummy!

Mmm…this is so yummy!

She really did seem very steady in the highchair and I thought I’d try to let her sit independently on the mat. She was able to! I just had to be careful that she didn’t make any suddenly movements that made her flop backwards. I can’t wait for her to learn to get to a sitting position on her own.

Sitting steadily enough to sit up and play

Sitting steadily enough to sit up and play

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