Spell CraftINK

One morning I woke to find Asher engrossed in the first book of Harry Potter. I wasn’t quite sure what to think, and wondered if it was a bit too dark and scary for him. After assuring me that it really was okay and not too scary*, he promptly said, “Petrificus totalus! Mummy you cannot move anymore!” Followed by gleeful laughter.

In the days that followed he would burst into the house when he came home from school and cast the body bind spell on Ellery who gamely froze up each time. We decided that a kiss would remove the spell and I managed to save Ellery for a few days. That was until Asher came home and put the body bind spell on both Ellery and I. Yes, during that period it was not safe to be in our house at 7.10pm everyday.

Imagine Asher’s excitement when I told him we would be going for a workshop where he could design his own spells!

We were invited to Spell CraftINK, a creative writing workshop for children by Monsters Under The Bed (MUTB). INK stands for Imagination N’ Knowledge, and INK Workshops are three-day creative writing programmes that stimulate children’s imagination and passion for writing. Participants engage in role-playing, group discussions, and physical activities that expand their creative space. Each INK Workshop has a unique theme, from zombies and Greek mythology, to investigation and in this run, magic!


Monsters Under The Bed

The fun started even before the first day of the workshop. We received an email from Monsters Under The Bed a week before the workshop with a letter from Professor Double-X, the Principal of the Mundane School of Monsters and Magic. In it, we were told that Asher was provisionally accepted into the Mundane School of Monsters and Magic because he displayed some innate magical ability. As a result, he was invited for a trial course to assess his capabilities at wielding his latent magical powers. Depending on his performance, he would either be accepted by the school or rejected. We learned that ordinary non-magical people were known as Mundanes, and Mundane children, Munlings.

Along with the letter came a sheet giving detailed explanations of the different types of magic: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Chaos. We were told each Munling had an affinity with a particular type of magic depending on their month and year of birth. Asher was so excited to discover one of his affinities was Fire magic because it is the magic of destruction. Uh huh. Like, so happy. Metal was his other affinity and he thought that was cool too since it was the magic of transformation.

Professor Double-X had tasked them to start thinking up spells related to their affinities in preparation for the Munling trial course. Munling Asher (with sidekick Munling Ellery) plunged into the pre-workshop activity with so much excitement that I regretted telling them about it just before bedtime. Even after lights out they kept talking in the dark about the spells they wanted to create. I had to go in to cast the powerful, “OR ELSE” spell to make them sleep.

Spell CraftINK!

Spell CraftINK!

The day of the workshop was one of those rare days that I didn’t have to nag at the boys to get out of the house. The children met Professor Double-X, an artificial human that did not possess any imagination. This was unusual because only those who had imaginations could cast spells. So even though she was the principal of the Mundane School of Monsters and Magic, she could not cast any spells! She spoke in a robotic voice from the moment she introduced herself, and I wondered if she was going to continue to do so the entire time. Halfway through the day one of house masters cast a spell on her to let her speak normally, but you gotta give her credit for staying in character though!

The excitement of all the children was palpable, and they sat with rapt attention as Professor Double-X introduced the different houses and their unique characteristics. The kids were sorted into houses (which corresponded roughly with their age groups), and met their house masters. Asher was in the youngest group, called Muse house, and he was thrilled because one of the main types of magic used by this house was, you guessed it, Fire magic!

On the pretext of thinking up some magic, the kids were led through some warm-up activities to get them primed to think out-of-the-box and be totally free to dream up anything they wanted. This then led nicely into the process of ‘scribing’ their spells. They had to come up with one of each type of spell, and give details like what words to say, what the effects of the spell are, how widespread its effects were, and how long those effects lasted for. Through the process of scribing, the children learnt how to systematically develop their ideas, building on it bit by bit. They were encouraged to be as detailed as possible, as that would lead to more powerful magic.

All the kids plunged into the activity, and even Asher eagerly scribbled away at the table, writing down his ideas for one spell after another. Normally it’s very hard to get him to write if it’s not for school work, but here he was eagerly doing so!

First activity to warm up

First activity to warm up

Kids taking turns to tell their house master what they wrote

Kids taking turns to tell their house master what they wrote

When everyone had scribed all their spells, the house masters demonstrated how the different spells could be used by having a duel! They picked various spells from the kids and used them on each other to the kids delight. Turning everyone into rabbits, shooting fireballs, creating monsters, blasting zaps…the kids had such a good time feeding the house masters more and more spells to use.

A duel!

A duel!

The highlight of the day came when the kids could exchange the ‘essence tokens’ they had earned through the course of the day for a magic wand! Asher took this very seriously and really studied all the wands before picking his. I must say the facilitators really put in a lot of effort to make each wand unique – every single wand was handcrafted with a different style!

The school store

Brisk business at the school’s store

Hand-crafted wands

Hand-crafted wands

Selecting his wand

Selecting his wand

Using the wand straightaway!

Using the wand straightaway!

Playing spell tricks on their house master

Playing spell tricks on their house master

The kids were tasked to go back and work on their spells some more because they would need them the following day.

Day 2 was an action-packed day with lots of magic flying around everywhere! First though, the kids walked into the room to find a warning message written in…blood? From who? Who wanted the Munlings to leave? The mysterious writer left no clue, so the kids had no choice but to move on with their Munling training.


Who wants the  Munlings gone?

There was to be a tournament among the houses to see which house could get past all the magical protective layers of the opponent’s house and retrieve an orb in order to control the opponent’s house pet. Not your average pet please, but a dragon phoenix, a shape-shifting cat, and a zombie mermaid. The houses split up to discuss their defenses and build their imaginary fortresses. I appreciated how the facilitators made sure to let each kid contribute ideas so that they all felt included in the process, no matter how wacky the idea. The facilitators really listened, and where needed they made suggestions to tweak some of the ideas to better suit the story.

Gathering ideas from the children of Muse House

Gathering ideas from the children of Muse House

Planning the layout of the Muse House dungeon

Planning the layout of the Muse House

Once all the houses had built their imaginary dungeons, the tournament commenced! The houses went to each other’s dungeons to try and break in using the spells they developed previously. The opponent’s house master acted as the story master, telling them what was happening and the obstacles they encountered. The kids would then have to agree on the best course of action to tackle the hurdle. Teams were awarded extra points for active participation and cooperation.

So much excitement, so much drama and magic, and lots of ideas tossed about! The facilitators were really excellent. They encouraged all the children to speak up and share their ideas, they made sure everyone was listening to the idea, and after hearing a few options, they let the children decide what they felt was the best decision. Sometimes the decision led to them overcoming the obstacle, sometimes it didn’t and the kids would go back to discussing options again. The tournament took up the rest of day 2, but the kid’s energy levels did not wane. They were so eager to infiltrate the opposing house’s fortifications, and cheered when they finally retrieved the orb!

Thinking of various ways to combat Minerva and Metis House's obstacles

Thinking of various ways to combat Minerva and Metis House’s obstacles


So many eager hands wanting to share their ideas

The final day was less dramatic, but was very useful for consolidating all the ideas and stories the kids had created and role-played the day before. Day 3 was spent writing down their experience of breaking into one of the opposing house’s dungeons. They had to write down how they got past at least two of the obstacles in as much detail as they could.

Professor Double-X telling the kids what to do for the writing activity

Professor Double-X speaking to the kids before they started writing

You would have thought that the kids wouldn’t been so interested in day 3’s activities, but the whole room was filled with the quiet buzz of kids writing, thinking aloud to themselves, double-checking with each other what had happened at a particular battle, etc. I was completely floored by the amount that Asher wrote. I have never in my life seen that boy write so much. And with such neat handwriting to boot. His school teacher has mentioned how his handwriting needed a lot of work. She would have been so impressed with him! Seriously, even the spacing between words and letters was good! I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was clear to me that when a piece of work was important to him ( and I made a mental note about how important school work was to him…) he can do things very neatly and nicely. Ok, on the bright side, at least I know he’s capable of it :)

Helping some kids recall the details of the adventure they went through the day before

Helping some kids recall the details of the adventure they went through the day before

Totally engrossed in the writing process

Totally engrossed in his work


Shockingly long (and neat) piece of work

The kids then compiled their spells and stories into a little booklet that they could bring home. There was also the final tally on the house points, and Asher’s Muse house won!

Putting everything together into a book

Putting everything together into a book

Muse House celebrating their win!

Muse House celebrating their win!

And then, the grand finale! I was revealed that one of the house masters wanted to shut down the school because he didn’t believe Munlings should learn magic. He wanted to finish off Professor Double-X! Oh no! The Professor couldn’t defend herself because she couldn’t cast magic! What now? All the kids whipped out their wands and started casting spells to try and defeat the house master, but he deftly overcame them all. Until someone hit on the idea of giving Professor Double-X the gift of imagination! Now able to cast spells, she put a powerful spell on the house master and defeated him!

All the kids casting spells to save Professor Double-X

The kids casting spells to save Professor Double-X

The kids left the workshop still yammering away about the spells, the stories they wrote, how they defeated the bad house master, and playfully putting spells on each other. Suffice to say that they had a blast.

If there was one thing I thought could improve the workshop further, it would be for the facilitators to perhaps talk a little bit more explicitly about writing techniques, perhaps on the last day. I believe they were trying to let the children absorb the techniques on their own, which is fun but it’s uncertain whether the children know what techniques they have learned from the workshop. While it could be useful to state the purpose of the activities, even in passing, so that the kids understand how what they are doing could relate to future writing activities, I can see how that could interrupt the flow of the activities and dampen the momentum. Perhaps what can be done is for the facilitators to sum up the techniques learned on the final day before or after the kids get down to writing their stories (before as a guide to their writing, or after to summarise the key takeaways).

Nevertheless, it was a very good workshop indeed. Asher was very proud of the story he wrote and eagerly showed it to Jon at night. The workshop succeeded in showing Asher that he capable of writing longer stories and that story writing is fun. I hope this translates to more interest in writing in school, and neater handwriting too! If nothing else, it was really a lot of fun and Asher had a great time at Spell CraftINK! He’s already looking forward to joining another INK workshop in the year end holidays!

Munlings with Professor Double-X and the house masters

Munlings with Professor Double-X and some of the house masters

The cast of Monsters Under The Bed

The cast of Monsters Under The Bed

Monsters Under The Bed are organising two more workshops at the end of this year. HowlINK run from 25-27 November and has a spooky werewolf mystery theme, while INK to the Void runs from 14-16 December and had to do with space adventures (the new Star Wars film is opening afterall).

***Up for Grabs***

MUTB are generously offering three 10% discount vouchers for three readers for the upcoming HowlINK. It will be a case of first come first served, so hurry and be the first three to leave a comment below! All you need to do is leave your name, email, and say “Aaaahhhwwwwooooooooo!”
HowlINK Poster copy

You can register for the workshops online, call them at +65-61004363, or email them directly at riza@mutb.com.sg.


Disclaimer: Asher was given a complimentary invitation to attend this workshop, but all opinions are my own. 

For the discount voucher, winners will be contacted by email to confirm their win and must respond within 24 hours, failing which, the next person in line will be given the voucher instead.
*After discussion with the hubby, we’ve drawn the line at book 1. Asher is clamouring after book 2, but he has been told to wait and not borrow it from the school library even if it was available. General consensus among those I’ve asked is that book 2 onwards is too dark for kids his age.

Endor Cuties

You know you’ve brainwashed your 17 month old daughter to be a Star Wars fan when she sees this book and says, “Ewok!”


Ahoy there! Somethin’ excitin’ is comin’ o’er yer way come the end of October! Better be on the lookout for it, me hearties!

Singapore Repertory Theatre’s (SRT) The Little Company (TLC) will be staging the exciting and swashbuckling story of Treasure Island from 30 Oct 2015 at the DBS Arts Centre.

A new adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s popular novel of the same name, Treasure Island follows the adventure of Jim Hawkins, who receives a treasure map from a kooky old seaman. Jim is tasked to help find the hidden treasure, but the road to riches is never smooth sailing. In this version of the Treasure Island, Jim Hawkins is cast as a lion-hearted 13-year-old girl rather than a boy, possibly to appeal to the girls, though I think the story itself should be compelling enough.

Look out for other colourful characters like Captain Smollett, Squire Trelawney, and of course, Long John Silver!

Treasure Island promises to be a hilarious and action-packed musical about friendship and trust, and is suitable for the whole family! It’s a great way to welcome the year-end holidays, and reward the kids for working so hard throughout the school year.

My boys have read Treasure Island the book and really enjoy the story. So much so that when Ellery saw a children’s illustrated version of the book at the Book Swop at the recent Octoburst Festival, he exchanged a book for it even though we already have the longer version at home.

We sure are looking forward to joining those buccaneers on an adventure to find gold! Argghh!!

Treasure Island is being staged from 30 Oct – 13 Dec, 2015 at the DBS Arts Centre.
Tickets are available through the SISTIC website or via their hotline (6348 5555).


SRT has generously sponsored 1 Family Package (4 tickets) worth $153 for Treasure Island on 7 November, 11am, to be given away to one lucky reader! Please make sure you are available to watch the show at the stated date and time before joining this giveaway. To qualify for the giveaway, please do the following by 28 Oct, 2359H:

  1. Answer the question below by leaving a comment at the end of this post. Please include your email address so I can contact you if you win.
    “In The Little Company’s stage adaptation of Treasure Island, Jim Hawkins is a girl. True or False?”
  2. Share this post with three friends, and let me know your FB name so that I can verify your entry.

Good luck me hearties! May ya get yer hands on that ticket treasure!

UPDATE (22 Oct 2015)
Instead of just 1 Family Package (4 tickets), SRT will be sponsoring 2 Family Packages to 2 readers! What are you waiting for? Take part in the giveaway now!

Terms & Conditions: The winning entry will be selected at random from all qualifying entries and the winner will be announced here in the comments section of this post, and will be contacted via email.  The winner will have 24 hours to respond, failing which another winner will be selected. To be fair to our sponsors, please note that all fake Facebook accounts (e.g. accounts set up purely to take part in contests with no or very few real friends) will also be ineligible to win. Tickets will be available for collection on the day itself at the performance venue. 

Quoridor Kids

I’ve always loved playing boardgames, though after the kids came along I didn’t have much opportunity to play them anymore. I have fond memories of playing boardgames with my family when I was growing up. My parents were very into Monopoly and there used to be regular Monopoly sessions among my parents, uncles, and aunties that lasted way past our bedtime. It was always lovely to hear the adults bantering, jibing, and joking with one another while they played.

When we were older, there were monopoly sessions among our neighbours and cousins, especially during the school holidays. I also remember playing boardgames with my cousins when I went to stay at my grandmother’s house during school breaks.

And then there were the word games like Scrabble and Boggle that I still adore to this day largely due to the influence of my Mum, whom I’m sure can still easily trash us at them! She’s a real master at word games.

My school friends and I also used to gather at each other’s houses to play various boardgames late into the night, and I had one friend in particular who came up with the funniest extra rules just to keep things exciting!

So, when I think of boardgames I think of family and friends, of happy times, and of good memories. And it is for this reason that I very much wanted my kids to discover the joy of playing boardgames. I have long wished to revive the tradition of ”boardgame nights” at our house  to create special memories for the kids too.

To get my children interested in playing boardgames, I started to look for children’s games that were attractive, and simple, but yet not so simple as to make them lose interest quickly. When I heard about My First Games, I was really excited to see the wide range of children’s games available. Most of them I had never even heard of! There were so many fun and interesting games, I didn’t know where to start.

Thank goodness for Pamela, a boardgames enthusiast and the founder of My First Games, who gave me some recommendations. One of them was Quoridor Kids, which I chose to go with in the end.

Quoridor Kids is a game of mice and mazes that has children scurrying their mice to the opposite side of the playing board. The first mouse to reach the other side wins. It is not a simple task though, as each player may move their mouse 1 space at a time or decide to block their opponent with a wall. Yet the maze that is built may cause delays for every mouse, including their own, as it approaches the finish line.

The kids love the game and it has proven to be something they pull out to play repeatedly. Here are some reasons why we love Quoridor Kids.

Attractive & Well Made

It may seem a bit shallow to pick a game because of how it looks, but I think for kids half the battle is won when the game looks like it’s going to be fun, even before they know what it’s about. With a cheery yellow board, cute little mice, matching pieces of cheese, and a handful of little green walls, the kids couldn’t help fingering the pieces, asking what the different parts were for and how to play the game.

Everything is made from wood, and it’s so sturdy I can see it withstanding years of play. I’ll probably be able to pass this on to my grandchildren, if there are any!

Little mice trying to get their cheese

Cute little mice trying to get their cheese

Simple Rules

With an attractive game set, all that children want to do is start playing immediately. It’s a good thing that there aren’t that many rules, and most of them you can learn as you go along. The rules are also simple, making it easy for young children to understand.

Basically, try to be the first to get from one end to the other. Always leave the other player at least one way to get to the other side. You cannot move diagonally. When it’s your turn you can either move or block, not both. Easy peasy!

Playing the game

Playing a couple of rounds before bed


It is fascinating to see how the kids discover more strategic play as they gain experience with the game. The very first time, they tried to rush across only attempting to do some blocking at the end when it looked like they were going to lose. Then slowly, slowly, they started to think ahead. Being older, Asher is more able to catch on to the strategy aspect and carry out his plan, adjusting it as the game proceeds. There have been a few times where I was completely blind-sided by him, and he was extremely gleeful about his successful surprise attacks that helped him win. Ellery tends to play more for the moment, but he often has an idea of what he hopes to do during the game (like whether to block first, or start moving first).


They love playing this game with their grandfather

Adult & Kids Version Essentially the Same

Quoridor Kids is actually the kids version of Quoridor, which is targeted at adults. However, the rules are exactly the same! The only difference is the size of the board. Quoridor Kids has a smaller 7 x 7 board, as opposed to Quoridor’s 9 x 9 board. The smaller board means game play is shorter and better suited to the attention spans of young children. I think it is amazing that the kids version and adults version are virtually the same. Quoridor Kids is not simplified just because the game is targeted at children. What that means is when you play with your kids, you’re going to enjoy the game too! It’s one of the rare games that my husband has actually sat down to play with the kids. And that says a lot!

Always Different

No two games are the same because the maze is built up by the players as the game proceeds. However, it is possible to devise your own version of the game because of the opened-ended nature of the board and it’s pieces. On their own, the boys came up with variations like having to reach the exact square where the cheese is at; pre-building part of the maze and hiding the cheese inside then seeing who would reach their cheese first; allowing players to slide the walls, instead of just building them up, etc. It’s interesting to see what they come up with when left to their own devices.

No two games are the same

No two games are the same

A new

Devising a new way to play the game

Opportunity to Teach Values

Well, this applies to all competitive games really. Things like following the rules, not cheating, taking turns, being a good loser, and being a gracious winner. All these things can be learnt while playing Quoridor Kids. There were more than a few instances of “Hey! You already put that piece there you cannot take it away!”, “Mummy, he is cheating!”, and “AHAHAHA! I WIN!” accompanied by  “Wahhhh! I don’t want to lose!”

Yes, many teachable moments.

There is much less drama now when they play Quoridor Kids. Learning to say “good game” comes more naturally to one boy than the other, but both are learning and improving.

Bonding over Quoridor Kids

Bonding over Quoridor Kids

Quick Game Play

I like playing with the kids, but sometimes I really just want to move on to other things. Each round of Quoridor Kids lasts no more than a few minutes so I can easily play a few rounds before doing other things. It’s especially good when Alyssa is fussy and wants my attention but the boys want some of my time as well. I can play a few games and move on to play with Alyssa, and they feel like they’ve had some time with me. Better yet, when I’m distracted by Alyssa I often make bad moves, so the boys are more likely to win. They are happy, I am happy. Win-win!

Playing with Por Por

Playing with Por Por

It is no wonder that Quoridor Kids has won Game of the Year before. With simple rules but so many variations in the outcome, it’s beautiful, really. Beauty in simplicity. It’s a game that will be a pleasure for adults of all ages to play with kids.

You can purchase Quoridor Kids from My First Games. It makes a nice addition to your home collection of games, and also makes a good gift (Christmas is coming!) You can check out the store for many other children’s games as well.


We received a discount on Quoridor Kids, but I would have bought and reviewed it even without a discount because the game looked, and is, so good!

Octoburst 2015

It’s Octoburst time!

Last year’s activities were so engaging that we went back again and again and again. The boys loved the hands on activities, the performances, and the book swop. Each time we went, we spent hours at the Esplanade, and even then I had to drag them away when it was time to go home. This year’s Octoburst promises another fun-filled, activity-packed programme to treat your kids this Children’s Day.

Held annually at the Esplanade, Octoburst provides a host of activities – free and ticketed – for children to explore a world of endless possibilities through the arts. This year there’s also a cute new, colourful mascot called PIP that will make its appearance at Octoburst.

PIP! Looks like a cuddly, colourful merlion to me (Image taken from here.)

Among the ticketed events, there’s a Sensory Walkabout where children will be guided to notice the textures around the Esplanade and use these as inspiration to create a whole new city.

Go on a sensory walkabout (Photo credit: Esplanade Theatres on the Bay)

There’s My Bright-Light Idea workshop where you and your child will transform a piece of cardboard into a brand new night-light that you can bring home.

An upcycled lamp (Photo credit: Esplanade Theatres on the Bay)

And if crafting is not your thing, join a ukelele workshop with your child and learn to play an instrument together. There are also several shows, including Casa by La Baracca Testoni Ragazzi, which tells the story of a grown-up and a child who meet, get to know each other and start to build. Building turns into play, and little by little, they build a story, a structure, a roof, a house. Sometimes the little one pretends to be the grown-up, while the grown-up pretends to be the little one.

Building with pipes (Photo credit: Esplanade Theatres on the Bay)

The one I’m definitely not missing is the Dance Appreciation Series: Introduction to Swan Lake by the Singapore Dance Theatre. I like this series of performances and think it’s great they present ballet in an accessible way to children. We’ve gone for Nutcracker, and the Introduction to Ballet Classics, but the boys’ favourite so far has got to be Romeo & Juliet! I’m hoping Swan Lake will be as good and they boys will thoroughly enjoy the show. It’ll also be Alyssa’s first ballet related show, so I really can’t wait!

Swan Lake (Photo credit: Esplanade Theatres on the Bay)

There’s actually one more show called Spot that plays with light and challenges your children to notice things they normally wouldn’t have, but’s sold out already. If you are interested in the other ticketed events, you should book your tickets quick.

Besides these, there are plenty of free activities! So many that you better take a look at the line up and plan your time if you hope to catch all the ones you are interested in! You can print out this festival guide to help you along. Some of the highlights include A Pipe-ful Play Garden by Playeum where you can grow your own little pocket garden and together with other kids, build a living and ever-growing pipe-maze! I think the kids will love this, and I’m hoping the haze will go away this weekend so we can head outdoors to try this activity.

There’s also Doodle City where the kids can add their own touches to doodles by the Band of Doolers, Book Stop where you can bring along a pre-loved children’s book to exchange for another book, Happy Stamping activity with over 200 stamps to choose from (and which kid doesn’t love stamping??), storytelling sessions, and the chance to let your kids watch an angklung performance by Sri Warisan Angklung Ensemble.

Stamps galore! (Photo credit: Esplanade Theatres on the Bay)

There’s lots going on, and there’s no better place to spend the Children’s Day weekend with your kids! See you there!

Octoburst is on from 9 to 11 Oct at Esplanade Theatres by the Bay. The activities take place at various locations around the Esplanade.

I’ve been wanting to bring the kids to the DreamsWorks Animation and The Deep exhibitions at the Art Science Museum for a long time. We tried during the National Day weekend when the entrance fee was waived, but the queue was so ridiculous there was really no point. I had to humbly concede my husband was right (he was against the idea of going down during the busy weekend, but let me try anyway).

Hubby had said he wanted to go for the exibitions, so we waited for him for more than a month. But since the DreamWorks exhibition is ending on Sunday, and since he’s gone on holiday with the friends without us, we decided to go without him! Wahaha!

If you haven’t gone for the exhibition, go!

I have two good reasons for you. First, both exhibitions are so interesting and one ends this Sunday! Second, it’s a great place to hide from the haze!

Penguins from the show Madagascar

Penguins from the show Madagascar

The day we went, the PSI soared above 300. We were happily oblivious to it all since we were wandering about below the concrete lotus.

It makes sense to go for both exhibitions because the price for the DreamWorks exhibition alone is $15 (for local adults) and $10 (for local kids), while the price for both DreamWorks and The Deep is $19.50 and $13.50 respectively. If you, like us, were already planning to catch both exhibitions, this is a good deal provided you have the time to spare. It even comes with a free beverage coupon per ticket, and free tickets to the Singapore Stories exhibition.

Staring in awe at a life-sized model of Toothless

Staring in awe at a life-sized model of Toothless

When I told the boys where we were going that day, they were so excited. Catching a glimpse of Toothless from the foyer above made them literally jump for joy, and they couldn’t wait to go see the model.

By the time we got the tickets it was about 10.30am. The kids usually get hungry between 11 to 11.30am. Knowing we usually take a very long time to get through exhibitions, and having two exhibitions on the same day, I decided that even though the crowd was building up, we should go get some food to fuel the kids. That way, when people headed off for lunch, we could continue to enjoy the place. That’s probably the best tip I can give any parent handling the kids on their own while on an outing there. Bring enough food along. Sometimes it’s worth the detour and delay.

We got sandwiches, bread and bananas from Cold Storage at the basement of MBS, then went back into the museum. True enough, just as we were going to go into the exhibition, Ellery said he was hungry. Score! I felt so pleased with myself.

The Art Science Museum has these lovely big benches outside the exhibition spaces, and it’s perfect as a rest stop. Ellery ate his sandwich, Asher ate a banana, and as I was getting hungry too, I ate my sandwich as well, sharing some with Alyssa. Hungry kids are not happy kids. And happy kids make a happy mummy. So it was time well spent!

Finally all fuelled up and ready to go, we jumped into the DreamWorks Animation exhibition. We have only watched a few DreamWorks cartoons, but the ones we have watched, we love. In particular, the boys are gaga over How to Train Your Dragon. Recently I found a book called How to Train Your Dragon: Incomplete Book of Dragons by Cressida Cowell, the creator of the How to Train Your Dragon Series that served as the inspiration for the movie. The boys have been talking about all kinds different types dragons mentioned in the book and which ones they want as pets. It’s times like those that make me very glad they both enjoy reading, so they can keep up with each other and have someone to talk to about the craze of the moment. They’ve long gone past the stage where I can keep up with their books, so I’m glad they have each other.

The exhibition brings you through the broad stages of creating an animated film. From imagining the character and his traits, developing the world the character lives in and where the story takes place, to story boarding and the animation itself. It was fascinating to see what some famous characters, like Shrek, looked like in the initial stages of development.

The Shrek & Donkey we are familiar with

The Shrek & Donkey we are familiar with. Come to think of it, it would probably have been more interesting to have taken a picture of an early-stage Shrek. Didn’t think of it while I was there – you’ll just have to go see it yourself!

It was also interesting to learn that the main characters from Madagascar were created based on a different shapes.

Shapes and characters

Shapes and characters

I liked how there were videos of the creators talking about the films and their development. For How to Train Your Dragon, they adapted the story to make it more suited to a cinematic experience. They created greater tension between the villagers of Berk and the dragons by starting the movie on the context of a war between the humans and the evil dragons. In the original story, everyone has a pet dragon. I liked that the boys understood how the movies may not follow the book exactly, and later on in the car, they were telling me what they liked more from the show and what they liked from the book.

Comparing the number of story boards needed for each film

Comparing the number of story boards needed for each film

I was so excited to see the actual set/prop used for Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit. I love Wallace and Gromit!

Cheeese! *waves hands in air*


Gromit among the veggies

There were props and scale models of the sets used in the various films, and I loved looking at how detailed everything was.

Isle of Berk

Isle of Berk

Right down to the little sheep you see appear in the show

Right down to the little sheep you see appear in the show

Far Far Away

Far Far Away

The best thing about the DreamWorks Animation exhibition is that it’s very interactive. The boys enjoyed manipulating the facial features of the Hiccup, and controlling the background lighting for The Croods. Its fascinating to see all the parameters you can choose to control the characters face. Even different parts of the eyebrow were controlled with a different set of parameters. It then dawns upon you just how much time and effort is needed to make the films that we watch. All the expressions, every single one of those quick moments was created painstakingly by someone in the studio. Much less painstaking than it must have been way back when animation first began, but with technology they take everything further and even control things like how much light from fireworks you want reflecting off the character’s skin!

Manipulating facial features

Manipulating facial features

The kids loved the ‘ride’ on Toothless’ back, and it was Ellery’s favourite activity. Sitting in front of a very wide, curved screen, you can imagine sitting on Toothless and flying over Berk. Make sure you sit nearer the screen so that the two ends of the screen are beyond your field of vision. That really helps to immerse you in the experience. Each film was only 3 minutes, and we watched it several times until the kids were satisfied :)

Riding on Toothless!

Riding on Toothless!

Asher’s favourite bit was having a go at animation. There was a room with 5 to 6 animation stations set up. You could create your very own animation from any drawing you wanted. Asher created an animation of toothless bending and flying over another giant dragon, nearly getting eaten in the process. Ellery’s animation showed dragon #1 (there was a name but it was so long I don’t remember ;) ) happily frothing up the sea water when suddenly another dragon (with a name that I also don’t remember) leapt up to eat it.

This was where our eat-before-the-exhibition tactic worked to our advantage. We got to the animation room around noon when most of the crowd had left. The boys still had to wait while others finished up their animation, but there weren’t that many people. When they got their turn they could draw more and create more images to make a longer animation sequence. Later as more and more people came, and with the stares and frowns from hovering parents, everyone had to have a shorter turn.


Using the animation station


Ellery’s dragon

We popped in to ‘ride’ on Toothless one more time before heading out to the common corridor for a quick lunch break before going to The Deep.

Toothless browsing some books

Toothless browsing some books


A quick lunch

Read more on our experience at The Deep soon!



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For Goodness Sake

Sometimes we experience physical discomfort for good reason.

Yesterday night I was reminded of this. I had gone for my weekly aerial circus class (my once a week escape for some me-time), and we did so many spins that I had a splitting headache and a nauseous feeling that wouldn’t go away. Usually I do a spot of grocery shopping after class, and this week was supposed to be no different. In fact, I had a longer list than usual to fulfil. However, when I walked into NTUC, my head spun even more with the bright lights and music and general background noise. I wasn’t even very steady when I walked. My aerial instructor had suggested mints, so I stumbled over to the sweet section, struggled to make sense of the colours and words, and finally picked a pack of mints before stumbling to the cashier.

I contemplated for a moment whether to press on with the grocery shopping or not, but in the end decided I simply couldn’t do it and wanted to go back home quickly to rest.

The mints helped, and I was feeling a bit better as I walked to the car. Started the car, and turned out of the lot. As I did so, I heard an ominous noise.


What was that?!?! It sounded like something came loose from under the car. I decided to quickly head home anyway since the car seem to be driving fine.

5 minutes later, there suddenly flashed at me a warning sign that made me panic for an instant!

“STOP the car NOW”

At the same time I saw the needle for the engine temperature soaring up to the highest reading and beyond.

Telling myself to keep calm and not panic, I moved slowly to the side, switched off the engine and waited. Would the problem go away? I tried starting the car again. The temperature seemed ok. I moved off.

“STOP the car NOW”

Ok…Is the car going to catch fire? I better stop again.

5 minutes later I tried one last time. Maybe I could be third time lucky.

“STOP the car NOW”

Okokok. Time to call for roadside assistance. Called them, established that it was probably the radiator or one of the pipes leading to it that burst. I had to wait for the tow truck. It would come in 1 hour.


Then…I realised why I had my headache. Can you imagine if I had gone ahead with purchasing all my stuff, the dairy food, meat, fish, would all be spoiling in the heat. I’d also have a problem carting those, and some other things from the car since I had to remove some things before the car got towed away.

As I walked home, I still felt extremely tired from the class, but I realised that my headache had gone. Yes, sometimes we have discomfort and pain for a reason. I thank God for my headache.

And I also thank God that it wasn’t hazy last night.

Getting hooked up to the tow truck

Getting hooked up to the tow truck

On a funny note, I was asking the tow truck driver if my car would have caught fire had I kept on driving. He said no, it doesn’t usually happen when cars overheat. I then asked how come in the news we see the sports car catching fire. Then he said, “你的车没有这个本领!”

Evidently, my car doesn’t have the kind of engine that’s so powerful it’ll catch fire. Good to know.


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