Saturday, April 14, 2012

Wet And Wild @ Tampines 1

Even before getting to the roof top at Tampines 1, everything seemed to notify patrons about the newly opened water playground. We decided to stop for photos with some of the publicity posters before heading up.

The playground itself is narrow and longish and has a wet and dry section each. The dry sections have structures and toys for the young (5 years old and above) and the younger (2-4 years old).

The wet section is divided into two parts: the first is a north pole themed water slide and shallow pool for the older kids, and the other is a safari themed pad with fountains of different heights spouting out from the ground for younger kids.

We were there on a public holiday and it was crowded with families and people who just wanted an open space to enjoy the fresh air and fair weather that day. Even though all the benches were occupied, families made themselves comfortable by sitting on the dry boardwalk areas. There are kid sized toilet and shower facilities for the boys and girls with swinging doors so no one accidentally locks themselves in.

Overall, we felt that the playground here was more friendly to younger kids below five years of age compared to some of the other ones we have visited. There were many babies splasing around the fountain area in their rompers. The area is not very large, so it's easy to keep an eye on the young ones.

After the wet and dry playing, we headed to the foodcourt for a quick bite followed by a little shopping. Before we knew it, we had spent a good three hours at Tampines 1 and were ready to head home.

Definitely will return due to its proximity to our home, readily accessible food and beverage, and safe playing areas for younger kids!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Our Craft Place @ East Point Mall

We bumped into the owners of Our Craft Place at East Point Mall during a road show they were doing. The art and craft ideas they suggested to the girls were intelligently easy to do, and we were impressed by their understanding of the abilities children under the age of five have when it comes to glueing, pasting, and decorating. We decided to sign up for two sessions which we could use in the upcoming school holidays to entertain the kids.

On our first session, the instructor Justina first asked the two girls to choose a foam door knob each, and then pulled out boxes and tupperwares of stickers, buttons, paper decorations, glue and beads.

Before I knew it, the girls were busy choosing their favourite stickers, laying them out on the foam, as Justina briefed them on how best use their chosen tinklets to bring out the best in their design. On our second session, the girls decorated a foam photo frame. Each session lasted about 45 minutes. The kids were well-occupied which also meant that I had 45 minutes all to myself.

The owners, Justina and Kelvin have outlets at Siglap Center and East Point Mall, where they conduct craft and scrap booking classes for kids, youths, and adults, and sell all sorts of high quality craft material to satisfy your creative craft juices. You can find out more about Our Craft Place at their facebook page here or at their website

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Western Australia Part 9 Perth City

We rented a car for the remaining one week in Western Australia and off we went on our exploration. We headed to Hay Street Mall to meet some friends first. Having driven on the open roads for 2 weeks, driving in the city was quite a challenge. It didn't help that we did not know our way around and had to ask kind passerbys for direction to find parking. One-way roads made it all the more challenging. By the time we got out of the car, we were 1 hour 30 minutes late for our appointment. Good thing our friends were kept occupied with all the shopping Perth city has to offer. After lunch at Miss Maud, we decided to do some window-shopping. Just the right exercise to aid digestion. Interestingly, we were lured into a very nice-smelling shop by a friendly shop assistant. She was all smiles and asked the kids if they would like to make soap. She explained that they were going to make some and invited the kids to join in. The ladies in the store were so friendly that we were all 'pulled' in. The kids had fun and so did we. Thanks, Lush!  After that fun and slippery experience, we made our way to The Bell Tower, where the kids could run around abit.
Still warming up to the soap-making process

Getting the hang of it

Getting excitement out of it

The kids' concoction

Walking along Hay Street, stopping to observe and learn. I suppose only tourists do that?
The Bell Tower (Photograph by J. Zheng)

Next stop, King's Park. It was huge and we parked at Wadjuk Carpark which is near the visitor information center. It is also near the State War Memorial Precinct. There one can find ANZAC Bluff Commemmorative Plaque, Cenotaph and Court of Contemplation.  The Flame of Remembrance within the Pool of Reflection burns solemnly, reminding visitors of the sacrifice the soldiers made, in exchange for a better country for their families and future generations. Maybe because I have my own children so such sacrifice made it all the more emotional for me. We spent a fair bit of time there, reading through the list of honors and stood in respect for those who fought. We took the opportunity to explain to the kids what war is about and why people go to war, the importance of respect and peace and how they can start by being sensitive and kind to their classmates and friends.

A reflective walk around the Pool of Reflection

The Flame of Remembrance

'Lest We Forget'

List of Honors
Sisters' Rolling Good Time
View of Perth City at the background.

"Mummy, my shadow runs with me!"

Some light snacks from food kiosk outside the visitor information center.

Everyone was tired after the whole day out and everyone was eager to have a good warm bath and dinner. We stayed at a family friend's place at Perth Hills and the view from the house is simply amazing. Thanks Uncle Alan and Aunty Amy. We love the hosts and the house!

At the balcony, overlooking Perth City.

Let's Go To The Zooooooo!

It was the school holidays some time back, and we decided to set aside a day for the zoo. We prepared snacks, including freshly cut fruits, packed the usual contingencies, water-play essentials, cameras, and cabbed down to the Singapore Zoological Gardens! We decided that this time, we would allocate more time for the kids to play at the water-themed playground. On the way, we managed to catch the feeding of the Orang Utans, and view some of the larger birds and mammals, along with our favourite reptiles.

It's interesting to note that the zoo rents out scooters, strollers, mini-trailers, wheelchairs and other equipment to accomodate almost anyone. We did not ride on the trams till much later in our trip when the kids started to get tired of walking.

We made sure we stopped by at all our favourite exhibits, one of which is the elephant bathing time where tourists get to interact with the bathing elephants by buying a basket of fruit for $5 each and feeding them right in their baths! It's easy to forget just how huge these giants are until their thick trunks reach out to take the apples out of your hand and toss it whole into their bucket sized mouths.

Feeding the giraffes has also become one of the activities we look forward to when we visit the zoo. We always recall the day three years ago when we brought our older girl to feed the giraffes, and the then baby took a mouthful out of the carrot meant for the giraffe. You should have seen the shocked look on the giraffe. I could imagine the giraffe saying, "Hey! That's mine." It was so funny!

We took some pictures of our best animal imitations and compiled them here. Can you tell what we are pretending to be? (*Hint: the animal is in the picture too!)

The kids' area was our focus today. There is an animal themed carousel, small mammal touch pens, playgrounds, and the main fuel of the day: Kentucy Fried Chicken! We bought a ticket that allowed us to try the carousel, and pony ride, but we did not get round to trying the horse drawn carriage.

The KFC just fronts the water-play area making it an appropriate launch pad to hours of fun in the sun. There were about three different slides, and we lost count how many times the older girl came down each one.

Water cannons, climbing nets, stairs and ladders, misting and water spouting structures, even a gigantic tipping bucket that pours out a crashing waterfall every few minutes. There was much running about, and kids everywhere. There were employees dispatching the kids down the slides and maintaining safety.

Needless to say, the girls were more than tired after their lunch and water-play, and the trip back to the main entrance was on the tram as everyone did not feel like walking very much. I think we all fell asleep in the cab on the way home. The zoo is one place we never seem to get bored of. We've made a handful of trips here and we always enjoy ourselves. We look forward to our next trip here!

Educational Aspects:

- The exhibit groupings (for example Fragile Forest, Australian OutbackWild Africa, Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia) provide an appropriate and readily available educational dimension to the trip. If you have school going children, it is useful to highlight the different characteristcs of the different habitats, and how the animals in those habitats have adaptations that allow them to thrive in the habitats they live in.

- Why is it important to showcase wildlife in a setting like the zoo? What are some concerns and issues with regards to deciding where these animals come from? How far should we go in conserving natural habitats and how can it be balanced with economic development and bettering the lives of the people who live there? Your young ones, if they are old enough to understand, can learn that like many issues, conservation is sometimes tricky and while public education is crucial to future protection of a species, some institutions can be unethical when it comes to sourcing for their exhibits.

- While surfing the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) website, I came across a treasure trove of multi media resources, articles, and newsletters informing readers about upcoming educational activities for children. The activities on the website are divided into sections for Preschool, Primary, Secondary and above, and there is even a page for teachers. To make the visit to the zoo even more enriching, a suggestion might be to view some of these videos highlighting conservation issues before the trip so that we can talk about these issues inbetween walks from one exhibit to another.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Road Trip to Coral Coast, Western Australia Part 8 Swan Valley Margaret River Chocolate Company

As we drove on, we would feel the effect of city life elbowing its way in. The number of cars on the road increased exponentially and so did the crowd. Somehow we were beginning to miss the sparse Exmouth again. It also meant that our long holiday was coming to an end soon. *sob sob sniff sniff*

We had time for one stop before heading back to Perth City. Yummy chocolates and ice-cream were the obvious choice. It was also a good place to stock up on gifts for family and friends.

Time stopped as we came face to face with the inviting chocolates

Chocolate factory. Stools are provided just outside the viewing glass for children.

Cafe within the building. Majority of the guests opted for outdoor dining.

A happy ice-cream fan
Time passed very quickly when we were enjoying ourselves. In a short while, we would be in Perth city and it would be time to say goodbye to our home for the past 2 weeks. Would certainly miss the motorhome and I sure will miss the space and convenience it gave. Thank you, and Maui.

Road Trip to Coral Coast, Western Australia Part 7 Cervantes

The Pinnacles in the Nambung National Park - a must see. That is what friends who have visited the place told me. On top of that, websites and Australian travel magazines have promoted The Pinnacles as being world famous. So of course, we were not going to miss it. It was a bit challenging getting to the place as the driving signboards were so far apart from one another that we thought we missed one and hence a turn somewhere. Even with the GPS in the motorhome, we were uncertain. It kept chanting, "You have reached your destination." but there was no sign in sight. Geesh, it didn't help that the kids were ready for their legs exercise long ago. The younger one was also starting to get hungry and I needed to get her food ready. Somehow, Daddy had the wisdom to make a left turn, with the practical reasoning that the national park has to be inland. We were driving along the coastal road. Thankfully, Daddy was spot on with his intuition and we were there in a jiffy. Boy, were we all glad.

After lunch, (That's the good thing about driving a motorhome. We were able to whip up yummy hot food anywhere, anytime) we headed to The Pinnacles Desert. It was a nice slow stroll in and the kids were fascinated with the caterpillars they saw along the way. Weather was nice and cool so we were able to stop and appreciate the little things.

Meeting their new small friend

Love their laughters

When the pinnacles appeared before our eyes, we were in awe. Such beautiful creation. I couldn't help but feel dwarfed by these giant works of nature. If you were there, you too would feel the grandeur of the numerous towers so somehow, the photos we had taken didn't do the limestone structures any justice. Good to be there around sunset when the shadows spread their wings around the area, making it more surreal.

The sand amazed the kids more than the pinnacles though

Our own version of 'David and Goliath'
Running around the natural running track

View of the pinnacles from the viewing platform

Next, we headed to The Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre. It is located within the Nambung National Park and is just a short stroll from The Pinnacles. It explains in detail theories regarding the origin of The Pinnacles and the flora and fauna around the region. The displays of animals are also very lifelike, intriguing the kids greatly.

After a good walk around the centre, the kids were tired. Just in time for a well needed nap as we headed off to our next destination - Swan Valley's Margaret River Chocolate Factory.

Changi City Point

We had seen advertisements promoting a new mall in the heart Changi Business Park and heard a lot about the outdoor Water Park for kids, and decided to see it for ourselves! Situated just beside Expo MRT, it was no wonder that the place was crowded even on a weekday mid-afternoon. My first impression of the place was that it resembled a mini 'Vivo-City'. Cafes, boutiques and branded sports apparel factory outlets lined the floors. They even had their own roving balloon artist dressed in clown costume giving out balloon sculptures to everyone from kids to ''kids at heart''. The girls got themselves a balloon flower each. Fish-feeding was also possible at the outdoor and indoor fish ponds but we missed the feeding time. Would be sure to catch it the next time we go.

After grabbing a drink and purchasing a bargain jacket, we continued a quick tour around. There were many children themed shops; I noticed a baby spa called 'babySPA' (what else?), where babies can go for a float-assisted swim, TV assisted haircuts, and other forms of pampering. There is also an educational store, Smart Alley and it stocks a good range of educational books and toys for young children. I couldn't resist myself and got the kids a few things. There is a new indoor children's playground, Petite Park, featuring a bar counter like boundary where parents can leisurely sip their cappucino's while watching over their little once run, climb, and bounce around the play area. The playstations are very much like SingKids at Changi Airport Terminal 3. Singkids is a whole lot bigger so there is more space for the kids to run. Petite Park is very small and the playstations are very close to one another. It just needs a few kids to make the place feel crowded.  Still, it is a good option if you want some 'me-time'.

The children however will have to wait for another time to try out the ball pool, merry-go-rounds, and slides, for today, we decided to check out the Playground & Treehouse, the mall's very own outdoor water-themed playground! The facility features water canons, mist emitting structures, a suspension bridge, merry-go-rounds, and a 'Treehouse Trail'. Parents occupied the wooden benches around the playground. The modern looking toilet facility had an outdoor shower and only one large male and female cubicle each.

We were much less than prepared as we did not come from home. Fortunately, we had a change of clothes with us, so we gave them the green light to jump in with whatever they were wearing. It was a raining slightly, and we wished we had come more prepared with a towel or two. After about an hour of play, the kids seemed to be getting cold and we swiftly changed them into dry clothes and headed for the food court that the playground was fronting for some warm dinner.The kids had noodles with tofu while I tried a fusion chicken chop.

Overall a quick, fun time spent together as a family in a family friendly place. We definitely will be back to enjoy everything else that the mall has to offer.