7 Hidden Things To Look Out For During Your Next Preschool Visit

I was out on a mommies' night out with some friends I met at Lauren's playgroup. Naturally the topic of childcare and education popped up. One of them used to work in one of Singapore most prestigious and expensive preschool. She revealed many appalling things she had seen there. So when it comes to choosing a preschool for her child, she is naturally choosy and has visited over 30 campuses.

While my fellow mommy bloggers had already blogged about questions to ask, what to expect when starting preschool, and blow-by-blow accounts of each visit, I shall share the insider tips on what to look out for when we visit a childcare centre or preschool.



Go in an hour early or later than appointed time
Child care centres and preschools usually have an allocated timing everyday for visits. This is usually when the children separated by their ages (easier to manage), while the teachers knowing it is visitors time, are usually on their best behaviour. So try catching them off guard when you visit outside the regular visiting hours. See if there is any difference in the teachers' demeanour and tone of voice when there aren't any visitors around.

Also, try popping in at different hours of the day. It allows you to get a sense of how the staff interacts with the kids at different hours and routine. Be wary of childcare centre that discourages parents from stopping by unannounced.

The toy box
The best toys and books are usually displayed on the shelves. But those are not all the toys your child would be playing with. Ask to see the toy box. That's where you might find broken and dirty toys. Or worse, small parts that may be choking hazard to young children.

Inspect the 'other' classroom
Each center usually has a 'dressed up' classroom for visitors. They make sure this room is clean and tidy. Have a look at another classroom to make sure it is as immaculate as the one they show you.

Ask for teachers turnover rate
Children need consistent, predictable care. They can't form a secure attachment to their caregivers if the staff keeps changing. Find out how long as the current caregivers have been working there and how much turnover the centre usually experiences. Also, a better caregivers usually have higher standard and wouldn't stay very long at a subpar center.

Caregiver's age
If they are wishy washy on their staff turnover rate, try to gauge the teacher/staff's age. If they look like they are fresh out of college, chances are they won't stay long. And if they are too old, they are most likely to be very demanding.

Look at the food and taste them if you can
Don't just trust the weekly menu the school show you. According to my source, a penne bolognese could just mean pasta dressed in tomato sauce, while chicken rice is just flavoured rice, no chicken. If possible, taste the food to gauge whether it has too much salt or has MSG added.

Gut feeling
Trust your gut feeling. Another mom told me, at her son's last childcare centre, every time she visited, any carer who saw her first would always yell out "[Insert child's name]'s mom is here!", even before she reached her son's classroom. Trust your gut feeling. If you feel something is amiss, you are probably right.

As for me, I'm intending to keep Lauren at home until she is four years old. But it is easier said than done. Because everywhere I go, people are asking me which school she is attending. I get weird looks when I say she stays at home. So maybe one day, I might succumb and send her to school. Until then, I'm taking my time visiting preschool every now and then and hopefully, I don't have to visit 30 campuses before making up my mind.

So tell me, how did you decide on your child's preschool or daycare centre? What do you look for and what are the deal breakers for you?

PS: Dominique from Dominique's Desk has kindly shared a downloadable complete guide to choose the right childcare center here.

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The Paw Prints Books (Review & Giveaway)

Well we all know how important it is to read to young children. Young children who are regularly read to have a larger vocabulary, higher levels of phonological, letter name, and sound awareness, and better success at decoding words. Trouble is, they may not have the longest attention span at this age.

This is why I think The Paw Prints books stood out for me.


Written by Sarah Mounsey who is a primary school teacher; it is about a boy, Eddie and his playful dog Oscar who accidentally leave a trail of chaos wherever they go. Purple Paw Prints is about Eddie trying to get Oscar white again after painting it purple; Paw Prints on the Magic Sofa sees Eddie and Oscar on a magical adventure on their sofa; and Eddie tries to stop the itch in Paw Prints and the Itchy Spots.




The stories are humourous and silly enough to resonate with my 2 year old. It has repetitive catch phrases and rhymes that makes it easy for Lauren to follow along and guess what comes next. I also like how it helps increasing a child vocabulary by using different words to describe the same thing. Example, 'popped, sprouted, ballooned and sprawled' in Itchy Spots to describe how the itchy spots appear on Eddie.


Lauren enjoys counting the spots on Eddie.
Each page is filled with big vibrant illustrations by Jade Fang that definitely captured my kids' attention. Even 7 months old Georgia squeals delightfully every time I read the books to her. She would goo goo gaa gaa and try to reach out to the pages. Either she is really into it, or she is just trying to shove it in her mouth. Either way, she wants it.

So yeah, I definitely recommend the books to parents with young children between the age of 2 to 6 years. Don't just take my words for it. It has after all, been awarded a bronze medal in the Moonbeam Children's Book Awards. They have been adapted into performances, educational tools and are being made into e-readers and apps.


The books are available on www.sarahmounsey.com at SGD13.90 each or SGD35 for the series (3 books). Alternatively they are in most good bookstores in Singapore such as Kinokuniya, MPH, Bookaburra, Tango Mango, Playdate Books and Woods in the Books.

Giveaway

Author, Sarah Mounsey has kindly sponsored a set of Paw Prints Series to be given away to a reader of The Chill Mom. Each copy will also be personally autographed by Sarah herself. Please enter the draw via Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Giveaway contest ends 23 Feb 2015, midnight. Winner will be announced here and on my Facebook page the next day. Good luck!

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Growing with the Tans

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Our Trip To Legoland Malaysia Waterpark

Last week I was on fire and published 4 posts on 4 consecutive days. So this week, I'm just gonna cheat and just fill a post with photos and let them do most of the talking. Here goes....

We went to Legoland Waterpark during the last school holiday. We set out bright and early at 9:30am from Singapore Flyer. There are 'direct' shuttle coaches that departs 4 times/day to Legoland Malaysia. For more info, go here.

Despite leaving early, we finally got to Legoland just before noon. WHAT?! The 'direct' coach wasn't so direct after all. It went via Woodlands and made a pitstop at City Square to drop some passengers off. Apparently, there was a Doraemon exhibition. Hopefully, this isn't always the case and one could actually get to Legoland faster.

So we head off to grab some lunch outside the waterpark before heading in because it is one time entry. NO re-entry after you exit the park. But don't worry, you can grab food INSIDE the water park too. We will come that later.

Here is Dulop Splash Safari - the toddler pool. You see what you get - animal statues, sprinklers, mini slides and styrofoam lego blocks that floats.

I know I look more excited than my toddler here. But trust me, she did make go with her over and over again. 

Meanwhile, my 7 years old nephew, Rohan and 9 years old niece, Mithraa were having a blast at Joker Soaker. It is basically a massive water playground for children above the height of 102cm to play unsupervised. I took Lauren there but she was having none of it.

Here I am, anticipating 350 gallon of water to splash down from the bucket above.

Oh no... here it comes!

AHHHHHH!!!!! The water was cold!

We spent most of our time here at the Build-A-Raft River.

We took a long time to build a raft.

Turned out there is a special method of building a raft from Lego blocks. Luckily a staff came over to show us how.

We, of course, were then proudly parading our raft along the river ride, which took about 10 minutes.


We managed to get on just long enough to snap this photo before we all tumbled off. Err.. by the way, that's how the smallest life jacket fits on Lauren. Doesn't she look ecstatic?!

If you don't have a raft, you can float along the river in one of these giant floaties too.

Looking so proud on board HMS Rohan's Raft. He told everyone he built it.



These cabana are up for rent if you are keen to have a spot to call your own to chill. You know, away from the crowd. These would come in handy for breastfeeding and toddler nap time too.

I didn't get one. So I breastfed and held Lauren this way while she napped in the changing room for AN HOUR.

If you are feeling hungry, there are 2 options at LEGOLAND WaterPark. There's Beach N' Brick Grill (located next to Wave Pool) that serves substantial Asian and Western meals and this one - Brick Bay Cafe serves sandwiches and light meals.

Photo credit to Legoland Malaysia
Meanwhile, my sister, niece and nephew busied themselves with Legoland waterpark's thrilling slides. Too bad I'm there with a toddler who is below the minimum height of 102cm.



The only water ride I tried was this Brick Blaster. I screamed all the way down. Mind you, the last time I went to big waterpark was 17 years ago. 

After her nap, this was pretty much where Lauren spent the rest of her afternoon. Younger kids seems to gravitate towards this Imagination Station where they get to built bridges, buildings AND play with water guns.

Lastly, we cooled off at the Wave Pool. Nice consistent waves lapping on us without any sands.


Although most slides and water station were catered to older kids, I think what's there was enough for toddler like Lauren too. She may not get to play everything, but judging from this photo after they had a shower and ready to go home, I think we had some pretty happy customers. 

I can't wait for both Georgia and Lauren to be older, so we can try all the slides. We will be back!

PS: We went to Legoland Malaysia Theme Park too!

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RISIS Love Meets Love Giveaway


Valentine's Day is approaching and what better time for me to show my appreciation to you, my awesome readers!

Since you've shown me so much love, I'm partnering up with RISIS, a premier lifestyle gift-maker, known for its artisanal techniques and unique designs, to give one lucky reader a beautiful bracelet from their 2015 Valentines's Day collection, Love Meets Love. Get it? Get it?

The bracelets (worth S$248) is crafted in 925 silver and plated in 18K gold. It is embellished with a red enameled saga seed (symbol of affection in the region) and a pink rose quartz, specially cut to resemble the unique, organic form of the saga seeds.


So make sure you enter by completing these few steps!
1. Like RISIS Facebook page.
2. Sign up for my weekly newsletter here. (Current subscribers are all eligible since I already have your email addresses!)
3. Comment on this post telling me what you love to read on The Chill Mom.

Bonus entry: Share this post on Facebook and gain additional chance at the draw.

This giveaway is open to all Singaporeans and permanent residents in Singapore. It starts today and ends on February 13 (Friday) midday.

Have a lovely weekend!

Update: Congratulation to Ashley Tan! Please drop me an email at mich.hon@gmail.com with your mailing address and contact number to receive your bracelet!

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5 Things To Do Differently in 2015

When Rachel Teo of Catch 40 Winks suggested this blog train in January, I had a million things at the top of my head. I still do. But since I've made the promise on my 'quality' blog post about being fully present when I'm with my family, I have little time left to blog. So please bear with me as this post is rather last minute and is all over the place. That is what happened when I've composed the post in my head and just vomit it all out at one go.

One thing.. I've just celebrated my 35th birthday over the weekend and I'm done thinking I'm old. No, seriously, for years I have this thing about not having a big celebration for birthdays for fear that people will know how old I am in the future. Like I am worried for the future me, just in case I need to hide my age in the future.

Somehow this year, something clicked. I feel alright being my age and I'm gonna embrace that from now on.

Talking about embracing. Lauren, Georgia, Nick, dad, sis and bro, watch out. There will be more hugs for you people this year. Literally and metaphorically. Since we (my dad and siblings) are not logistically close to each other, hugs will come in the form of whatsapp messages, skype and phone calls. Yes, turn off your phone if you get tired of me... coz I'm ready to give lots of sugar this year.

So what triggers the sudden flowing of love, you ask?

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, a girl lost her mom to asthma at 34 years old. Her maternal grandmother passed away at around the same age too. This girl grew up thinking she might live until 34 years old only too. So all her life she has been fiercely independent, living her life exactly how she wanted to a point when she's been called self-absorbed and she didn't even mind it. Because life is short. Then one day, she turned 35. She had a sudden realisation that she had outlived her mom and grandmother. She looked around and noticed that her life hasn't worked out exactly the way she wanted. She spends her day looking after others but she couldn't be happier.


I'm grateful and happy as of this moment, being 35, happily married with 2 super adorable girls. I will strive to wake up every day excited about the day ahead. For days when I don't feel so great, I will think of all the things I'm grateful for.

I say this because sometimes I lament and complain about things. Life gets crazy sometimes - with so many articles out there telling you how to be a good parent and I lose it. I forgot how to be a fun, happy mom, wife, daughter, sibling and friend.

Maybe it is the chilly weather today or maybe the house is a little quiet at the moment (although this may change at any moment's notice when a child wakes up from nap), I feel that this year, in order to gain some equilibrium, I should also start listening to myself. Listen to my gut feeling. If a social invitation or blogging opportunity comes up, and I don't immediately go, "Hell yeah!"; I would just say no. This way I could focus my time and energy into things that really matter. Doing some educational activities with the kids, for instant.

I want to manage my time better too. I will get rid of time-robbers activities like watching TV, shopping unnecessarily or killing time on the computer. Maybe not entirely, but it is a work in progress.

And finally, I want to look after myself well, so I can look after my family. It is time to take out those bottles of supplements from the kitchen cabinet and actually eat them on a regular basis. I also need to sleep earlier than my usual 1am sleep time.

So I ended up with 9 things instead of just 5. When you are ready to make changes in life, it is hard to contain yourself. These changes are not just for 2015. It may change or it may evolve as time goes by. These are just the beginning towards a better me.

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What will you do differently this year? For more inspiration, click on this badge to see what other mommy bloggers have planned for themselves. Next on the blog train is Ashley Lee of Mothers' Avenue.

As an Infant Teacher by day and mommy by night, Ashley spends most of her free time at home, occasionally taking off for 'me-time'. Ashley, a mother of one spends her time typing away for her blog, Mothers' Avenue Singapore and she shares raw emotional views on parenting and marriage related issues.

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Dreams Avenue: Affordable Party Dresses Lauren Loves

Has your daughter been pretending to ballet dance in front of the mirror? Has she been taking your handbag and dragging it around the house? Does she love tiaras and princesses? If your answer is yes; you, my friend has a girly girl on hand. And I think she might like this collection from Dreams Avenue. Psst..You will like it too as they are very pocket friendly :)


I am going to gush a lot on this post. I mean, just at her. How cute is she in this white Belle of the Ball dress?

It is made with eyelet floral material with pretty rosette in contrasting colour on one side of the collar and a lovely bubble skirt. It comes with matching handbag and floral hairband. 

Lauren started hopping in front of the mirror when I put this dress on her. Maybe it reminds her of a fluffy bunny? By the way, anyone needs a flower girl for their wedding? I have one for loan and we have a perfect dress for it too.



If white isn't your thing, this baby blue Like You Dots! Twirl Dress is just as sweet and ladylike. The lace ribbon brooch on the shoulder is detachable; I just love the fully lined circle skirt with ruffles. With the matching handbag and faux pearl necklace, your girl is ready to join you on your next high tea.




Sometimes less is more. This mod dress with ruffles at the bottom is just enough to bring out the fashionista in little girls. It is called Diamond in the Ruff Dress for a reason.

Comes with a matching handbag and an elastic faux pearl necklace, this red Earn My Stripes dress would be perfect for visiting during Chinese New Year.





I love the subtle floral prints on the skirt. So sweet! This detachable rose brooch would also look great on the shoulder.






Lauren loves this lovely Cutie Pie Striped Tank Tutu dress. She refers to it as the 'ballet dress' and wants to wear it everyday. Available in 3 colours - red, blue and Lauren's favourite purple, the attached top is a comfortable stretchy cotton tank. It is really good enough to wear daily.

This Flower Power Dress in magenta is so photogenic. I had a hard time choosing which photo to include in this post. It features a rosette and ribbon on one shoulder and comes with a matching handbag and a faux pearl floral hairband.




Lauren is about 91cm tall and all the dresses shown here are sized 3-4 years old. The Asian mommy in me always pick a larger size but I reckon she could wear these at least for another 2 years. The dresses come with matching tie-back, so the waist will always fit. The skirt will get shorter as she grows, but aren't short dresses just as cute?



Most Dreams Avenue dresses are catered for children aged 2 to 8; while some go as small as newborn sizing. Georgia and Lauren are both wearing the super cute Beary Fine Cropped Jacket. It could be worn alone or draped over the shoulder. Yes, babies can look chic too! If you are unsure about which size to get, feel free to drop the helpful and prompt Dreams Avenue team an email.

Besides fancy dresses, I spied some fashionable blazer, cardigans and t-shirts for boys on the website too. For my readers and friends, Dreams Avenue has kindly offered 10% off all purchase. Just enter THECHILLMOM10OFF as you check out. Offers ends 2 March 2015.

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About

Dreams Avenue is the brainchild of a husband and wife team who wanted to provide the same great, comfortable and affordable children-wear they wanted for their daughter, for everyone. Sourcing from different countries, Dreams Avenue brings in a multitude of chic designs for different ages and for all occasions.

Dreams Avenue | Website | Blog | Facebook | Instagram

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