Friday, 9 March 2018

Review # 1 Jigsaw puzzles (set of 4) from "My Greatest Child" Store

Jigsaw puzzles ( set of 4) from My Greatest Child

There are 4 puzzles that come in a box, with increasing level of difficulty and number of pieces varying from 9,12,15 and 20. The dimension of each solved puzzle is 15cm X 10.5cm. This particular box had an animal(s) theme and all the pictures are shown at the back of the box (Fig. 1). The pieces are sturdy and pasted on ~2-3mm thick cardboard and are easier to handle especially for toddlers. The puzzle pieces are almost uniform in size  and big enough not to pose a choking hazard. The picture quality is very good and has a uniform matte finish to the picture, when it is solved. The puzzle pieces have an excellent fit and the  texture is perfectly plain and has no bumps, whatsoever. The pictures have good contrast and is easy to distinguish between different puzzle pieces. I feel the design was carefully chosen to give just sufficient clues for young minds to identify the puzzle pieces. What I liked most about the product is the increasing level of complexity it offered in terms of the number of piece, which helped me to introduce one puzzle at a time. So, when the kid became fluent at solving the 9 piece-puzzle, I could easily introduce the 12 piece puzzle, knowing that the kid is motivated and yet finds it challenging enough to attempt it. At S$ 6.90 per box, I really consider it a valuable buy for a single puzzle at under S$ 2.00. Shown below are the snaps of the puzzle box and the videos of a 3 year old attempting the 20 piece puzzle in this set. ( The videos of her solving the 9, 12, 15 piece puzzles are posted here.)
Fig. 1 Top : Front view of the box Bottom : Back view
4 sets of puzzles in a box - lion (9 pieces), bambies (12), elephants (15), leopards (20)  -
each solved puzzle size 15 cm X 10.5 cm


Review Summary
Product  Jigsaw puzzles ( set of 4) from My Greatest Child
Bought from  : My Greatest Child, # B2-03, City Square mall, Singapore
Price : S$ 6.90 per box (of 4 puzzles)
Customer age group : We used for our 3 year old ( Product does not specify any age)
Highlights : Excellent introduction to jigsaw puzzles for 2-4 year olds, budget option, sturdy and toddler friendly pieces, gradually increasing complexity from 9 to 20 piece puzzles, attractive packaging, good picture quality
Lowlights : Nothing in particular; our kid being a restless one, managed to tear the cardboard layers (after innumerable bends and twists) for one piece, and I glued it back and works well.


Friday, 23 February 2018

Jigsaw puzzle fun

Timeline : February 2018

Our few attempts of introducing Jigsaw puzzles when Anouk turned 2 years ended up in she biting off the edges of the jigsaw pieces, rather than solving the puzzle J So we had shelved it for a while and had kind of forgotten about it.
On a junior basket ball shopping trip to Decathlon at City Square mall, early February, we chanced upon a children's shop "My Greatest Child" with such an attractive line of Anouk's favourite Julia Donaldson (Axel Scheffler combo, in particular) collection. We were just browsing through the books when Arun saw some interesting looking jigsaw puzzles - the attractive features (for us) were (1) number - there were 4 puzzles in a box (2) size - each puzzle was roughly around 15cm x 10cm (3) number of pieces - varying from 9, 12, 15 and 20 piece puzzles, in a single box (4) sturdiness - the pieces looked quite sturdy and durable (might withstand a bit of Anouk's biting and chewing, we thought J). So we brought home one box, as below and decided to give her one puzzle at a time, starting with the smallest number of pieces.


4 sets of puzzles in a box - lion (9 pieces), bambies (12), elephants (15), leopards (20)  -
 each puzzle size : 15cm X 10.5cm

Anouk took to the puzzles quite instantly and we showed her a couple of times how to solve from an edge, any edge that seems easy for her and was eager to follow instructions and solving. After a week, we found that her dexterity has greatly improved and could make good sense of the piece shape and the fitting pattern. Slowly and steadily, she made her way through all the four puzzles.. One thing we found a bit perplexing, was she actually spends time to look at the original photograph initially, by slowly solving it by herself 2-3 times and then we see her solving the puzzle without looking at the original picture much. Both the parent creatures have difficulty remembering such random picture's jigsaw puzzle position and can not solve fast without looking at original picture, but may be kids are wired like that. J Anyways, turned out to be a great introduction and motivation for Anouk to continue with puzzle solving. Below are couple of videos of her solving the 9 piece and the 12 piece puzzles.
Update : 1 Mar 2018 - Added the 15 piece puzzle solving video.







Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Periodic table fun

Timeline : January 2018 (Anouk is almost 3)

We had made a wall-hogging periodic table sometime in April 2017. And from time to time we used to read out the complete table to Anouk in the order, just for fun and because she was ready to sit through the whole thing. J And though she never repeated with us, ( we never insisted, just read it out, without asking her to repeat), we were quite surprised to see her reciting the elements, 10-20 of them in a stretch. It was quite fun to name the elements in the order.. After a while she started showing a bit of correspondance between symols and actual names.. She started a routine of going through the periodic table after dinner time and we tried to record her recitation, but she'd rarely complete the list - either due to waning interest towards the end or digress to a variety of reasons - to say good night to her nanny or spotting a bug somewhere.. :D
And finally on 28th January night, we could record her Periodic table of elements "reading"(mostly reciting the by-hearted list) completely in the first and only go, for the night :) I sometimes listen to the recording on the days I feel low, and the whole elements list in 3 year old baby voice surely perks my mood and day J



Voice recording on 28/01/2018 
Image : Our DIY periodic table (1.22 m X 0.72 m)

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Canada - Oct '17

Lap 1 : Singapore to Vancouver

Top left clockwise : 1. Changi Airport 14 Oct'17 2. Onboard the China
Southern airlines  SIN-Guangzhou 3. Guangzhou to Vancouver 
32 month old Anouk and her parents set off for the 2017 vacation from Changi airport on the morning of 14 Oct’17. Anouk slept off her way to airport from our Jurong West home and seemed all set for the first stretch of the 18 hour journey with China Southern Airlines flight to Vancouver - the 4 hr flight to Guangzhou. Bade goodbye to Princy at the airport, who was boarding her flight back to Trivandrum, couple of hours after ours. Anouk was all excited to have the first official flight journey with a seat of her own. A warm Indian meal, very polite flight attendants and a quiet nap for Anouk made the first stretch a pleasure. Reached Guangzhou and the 2 hr transit time was easily filled with security check, finding the boarding gate and Anouk getting refreshed and changed for the next stretch of flight to Vancouver. “Amma, thats a TV in front of Scout’s seat !!” and “Amma, there is Andy-going-to-college-Toy-story in the TV!!” were some pleasing comments that the parents set gleefully listened to in the first 10 minutes which guaranteed a peaceful stretch of travel. Anouk was super co-operative to eat her meals, to make regular trips to loo and to stretch her feet in the pantry area whenever asked to. Surprisingly we also managed to catch up with movies and reading.

Lap 2 : Arrival @ Vancouver and travel to Toronto the next day

From left bottom (clock wise) - 1. Settled @ Hotel YWCA on 14th
2. All set for the trip to Toronto 15th early morning
3. At the Vancouver airport (domestic terminal) for the trip
 to Toronto
Reached Vancouver the morning of 14th local time.. Yay, the beauty of gaining almost a day :D Completed all the PR formalities and out took all the Down jackets and toques, for the chilly and windy short walk from the airport to the Skytrain station outside. Caught the Sky train from the Airport to Stadium-Chinatown and checked in at the YWCA for a day’s stay before going to Toronto, for a week’s travel. Settled into the cozy room, had warm showers and Arun went out to get a local sim and grocery for dinner and next day breakfast before setting out to airport again. The room was equipped with a small refrigerator and the pantry was just outside our room. So fixing a small breakfast the next day before setting out to airport was painless.



Lap 3 : Toronto 15 Oct -22 Oct

Reached Vancouver airport from the YWCA via train. The Air Transat flight to Toronto was at 11 in the morning and was expected to arrive around 6 pm at Toronto. Because we had a long flight the previous day, all three of us were barely awake through the flight. Things that I previously believed “only happened to others” like the flight not getting a slot in Toronto to land, but low on fuel, hence re-routed to Hamilton airport, getting re-fueled and reaching Toronto, around 3 hours late, while not getting any meals in the airlines- were happening and tiredness really was taking new dimensions. Took a taxi from the airport to the apartment at Vaughan. Our AirBnB host was very and commendably polite and showed us around the place before he handed off the keys and we literally crashed in to the bed.

Top row L-R 1. Inside Real Canadian Superstore 2. Some veggie purchase 3. Getting ready to go out
2nd row L-R 4. A quick nap in bus 5. Snack time in front of Service Ontario 6. @ Service Ontario after medical insurance
3rd row L-R 7. Anouk's paradise J ToysRUs 8. Ämma, Look at Thomas" 9. @ SBI Toronto
Come next day morning, and it was grocery time. We three set to the nearby Real Canadian Superstore by foot. Purchased the supplies for a week and the rest of the morning was spent in cooking the lunch - rice, moru curry, french beans and fried fish. Tummies happy, we all set out to finish the various admin tasks we needed to finish in Toronto. Our daily trips included those to Service Canada, Service Ontario, State Bank of India, CIBC Bank, Driving license tests and little Anouk’s Paradise.. ToysRUs (multiple times).. We also bought an ultra light travel stroller from ToysRUs, which really helped the now-not-so-little Anouk’s stroll and day time naps, during our trip. We travelled mostly through subways, public bus (GO and TTC) (one of the questions Anouk had when we came back to SG was whether the SG bus was a GO bus or TTC J) and a fair share of Uber. We found the people very warm, polite, cooperative and happy to help. We really have nice memories of the chats with the cab drivers and the warm greetings of the people we met on the sidewalk, as we set out for the day. On 20th Oct, we made a full day visit to the Royal Ontario Musuem. This turned out to be a spectacular treat for all of us, with the dinosaur fossil exhibits in particular. Anouk was super excited to see her “Rex” and flying dinosaurs..
L-R 1. Royal Ontario Museum  Row 1 L-R 1. Looking up at a Dinosaur 2. Triceratops  Row 2: L-R 3. Another fossil
4. In front a Tyrannosaurus Rex  Bottom Row : 5. "Ämma, look more and more Dinosaurs :) 

From top left clockwise - 1. View of apartment living room and kitchen 
2. Anouk lobbying to eat some "Neyy" :)  3. Outside the apartment 
 4. View from the Vaughan apartment
The apartment we stayed at Vaughan, Toronto was a fully furnished one, with fully accessorized kitchen. Apart from the pressure cooker that we carried with us, I didnt have to use any of the emergency kitchen accessories I had brought along. The apartment proved to be a real value for money in terms of the staying comfort. Anouk started to define new meanings to the word “vacation” as the time in life where you are allowed to watch one movie every single day, while her parents finished stuff around the place, before setting out everyday to tour the city. Our weekly routine pretty much was - finish preparing all the meals, including dinner by 11 am, getting ready and finishing lunch by 12 pm and setting out to explore and return by 7:30-8 pm to have dinner and off to sleep.

Lap 4 : Vancouver 22 Oct -29 Oct

From Top Left Clockwise : 1. Set to leave the Toronto apartment 22 Oct
2. At Toronto Pearson airport (domestic terminal) 3. Some reading at the
boarding gate 4. Indian grocery aisle @ Walmart, Surrey 5. Anouk inspecting
all the leaves on carrot @ Walmart :)
We packed our bags from the Toronto apartment on 22 Oct noon to catch the evening Air Transat flight back to Vancouver. We reached Vancouver by around 9:30 pm, took a taxi (with a very friendly driver who lives in Surrey) to the AirBnB apartment in Surrey. The AirBnB host was quite warm and friendly and after taking us on an apartment tour, he handed over the keys. Next day morning, after the breakfast, we again set out to buy the week''s groceries. Our apartment was a minute's walk from the Gateway sky train station. We caught the train to the next station (Surrey Central) to go to the nearest Walmart. Stashed the groceries for the week and came back, prepared lunch. Anouk surprised us with a nap that prolonged all the way to the night and we decided to call off any roaming plans for the day.


Next day, after finishing off breakfast and packing lunch and snacks, we set off for a day long picnic at Queen Elizabeth park, in the sky train. The park was a further 15 minutes walk from the train station. Anouk had her more than fair share of running around on the grass, splash-sploshing all puddles along the park and more running around. The park was an ideal place to spent all day for a toddler and was picturesquely beautiful in the late fall colours. After so much running around, Anouk immediately went to a nap when we started our way back and napped peacefully in her stroller.
At Queen Elizabeth park : Bottom left - view from the top of the Queen Elizabeth park - distant view of Vancouver city
View from the Surrey, Vancouver apartment in the mornings

The weather was nicely cool (9-14 C) and the landscape was really new for someone like us, who had been living in the sunny coastal towns for so long. The simple view from the apartment living room itself was so amazing and soul pacifying and we always looked forward to looking out through our apartment windows in the morning -to see the mist and the mountains and the beautiful falling leaves. This city is truly gifted by nature.
Over the course of next few days, we made day trips to Simon Fraser University campus at Burnaby, Univ. of British Columbia in Vancouver and also went to the stunning Stanley park with the 9km seaside walk (we didnt walk all that far J). The stroll along the sea-walk was so humbly beautiful and even little Anouk with her shouts of "Seagull !" & "Maple leaf !" thoroughly enjoyed the light stroll.
From right bottom ( clock wise) - 1. In front of Academic Complex (SFU) 2, 3 : At SFU  4,5 : At Metrotown Skytrain station

At Stanley park and the seaside-walk



At Univ. of British Columbia Vancouver campus


Lap 5 : 29 Oct - Back to SG home !

Finally we were all packed for the return travel to Singapore on 29th noon (local time) flight. Finished off breakfast, packed lunch, handed over the keys back to our host and set out in the skytrain for our trip back to the airport. The long queues and the boarding time occupied the rest of the time till we were finally seated in the China Southern flight to Guangzhou (14 hour). Anouk  was all easy to deal with in the flight back too, and again the parents set enjoyed some movie time :) The transit time at Guangzhou was around 4 hours before the last leg to Singapore. We finally reached Changi at 4am on 31 Oct (SG time) and was back home by 5:30. One set of relaxed parents and happy child.





Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Xmas '17 - the tree, ofcourse.

Xmas time '17.

Brought the ornaments from IKEA and set up the Xmas tree, much to the delight of little Anouk. Arun made good use of his Origami skills to make the silver top star as well as two small golden stars. All in all a happy kid and relaxed parents and still-standing-in-one-piece-Xmas tree.

Friday, 6 October 2017

DIY #9 - Indoor toddler tent

Its indoor camping time. Timeline : September '17.

We had two sponge foam (each 1" thick) mattresses, ever since kiddo was around 6-7 months. We initially joined them together using a duppatta and kept it on ground for kid while the kid learnt to crawl and later used it as a safety filler under her spring cradle. After the cradle era, the mattresses were stashed away for a long time, and in early September, we finally revamped the two mattresses - folded each one into half and stitched new covers - and voila, it easily made a kid's corner in the house. 
This gave us an idea about building a tent around it and make it a better toddler's-own-space. But we also wanted to be able to easily move it around everyday, while dusting and mopping the floor. The ever creative father guy came up with an idea of how-to for the tent and we proceeded with the plan immediately. One evening was all it took, from planning- procurement -conditioning - building - wrapping. 

Raw materials we used, as below.
  1. Bamboo poles - 2 (each ~2.5 m long)   
  2. Plastic twine
  3. Some old clothes and socks - for covering up exposed ends and making it child & floor safe
  4. Bed sheet -1 ( as a tent -wrap)(single size)
  5. Good mood and diplomacy skills - a lot, the kid wants to do everything, so had to ward off from time to time.
  6. Hooks/ Velcro - to keep the tent-wrap in place.
We cut the poles into halves, making four poles for the kid size tent. Tied them together using diagonal knots that I had learnt in Girl Scouting decades back. Just re-inforced using plastic twines and covered the exposed ends on top with some old clothes. The skeletal structure is super sturdy [Fig. 2].

Used a bed sheet to wrap the tent around. Stitched the hooks on to the bedsheet and secured it 
(1) at the top - this was very important, as it kept the bed sheet in place.
(2) around each front pole
On hindsight, velcro might have been a better choice and may change over to it, in future, when time and mood permits. The bed sheet length did not give room for too much flaps in the front. We also used some of the kiddo's old socks, padded it up and tied to poles as bushes - to prevent marks on the wooden floor.

For the final layout, we used a Rexine sheet on the ground, as a safe cover for the mattresses, placed the tent and filled the inside with mattresses. Thankfully, it turned out to be an instant love for the kid, who would go straight from her bed in the morning to have some tent time. From time to time, we see kid bringing toys, books, bowl of popcorn, to the tent, enjoying her own time and space.  The finished look is snapped below.

1. DIY Toddler's tent - Sep'17
2. Skeletal structure

Vidyarambham

Om Harisree Ganapathaye Namah

Anouk's Vidyarambham on Sep 30, 2017. Morning 11:20 SG time.