Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dads Toolbox GearUP Challenge

Click on the image to find out how you can enter the contest!

Daddy came across this contest by Dads for Life, which is a "national fathers movement that seeks to inspire, mobilise and involve fathers to become good influencers in their children's lives... for life". 

We decided to enter the contest for a shot at $50 vouchers (and of course the more noble objective of taking this opportunity to encourage like-minded parents to spend quality time with their children!). We decided to share a blog post we did some time back about Daddy's running date with A (click HERE to read the post), and were pleasantly surprised when we were told that we had been picked as a winner in the August edition.

The entry has been published on the Dads for Life Toolbox blog (click HERE). The blog suggests innovative ways dads (and moms) can spend quality time with their children. The Toolbox is  full of interesting things to do and places to go. More significantly, it's a resource for Singaporean parents by Singaporean parents.

Well, it's the school holidays! With a few helpful tips from fellow Singaporean parents, here's the chance to find that 'special moment' with your child.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Canopy @ Changi Airport Terminal 1

The "Kinetic Rain" moving sculpture at Terminal 1 resembles golden water droplets dancing to the piped music.

Daddy had a rare weekday off and the girls were at home as it was Teachers' Day (here's a shout out of best wishes to all educators out there!). It was the perfect scenario for some Daddy-daughter time except for the heavy rain. There is thankfully no shortage of indoor options in Singapore and one of our favourites remains the airport.

While the free playground at Terminal 1 dubbed the 'Canopy' was our target destination, there was little reason to rush and we took our time enjoying the sights on the MRT. One of the perks of non-peak hour travel was that we were able to get seats. A special mention must go out to the commuters whom we observed offering their seats to parents with children and the elderly.

Examining the station map to see if we've arrived.

"Hmmm... which way to the airport?"

We arrived in Terminal 2 and took the Sky Train to Terminal 1, another 'ride' the girls usually look forward to.

Here it comes!

Sky Train ride!

The 'Canopy' is so named likely because it is at the corner of the highest floor. It's background is the scenic viewing gallery. Though not especially a large playground, it was generally well maintained, clean, and had enough nooks and crannies for preschoolers to expend their energy. The most important amenities conveniently located just next to the playground are the toilets!

"Can you spot the playground?"

Putting on our socks!

Remember to bring along your socks as they're required for everyone using the playground (including adults). However, there are no staff to enforce any safety or rules, and the playground should be used at your own risk. Parents are expected to mind their own kids.

The playground is a small play area right next to the viewing gallery. Although not very big, it was relatively well utilized for a Friday weekday morning.

There is a tree house that the kids enjoy climbing into.

Mesh tunnel to crawl through...

A little climbing here and there...

There are two slides in the compound...

Parents making themselves comfortable while watching over the kids. The small area makes it easy to see the children no matter which corner Mommy or Daddy decides to plant themselves.

"Hold on tight!" Rotating pillars mean a 'spinning good time'. 

"Help! I'm stuck!" Just kidding!

Peering out from their hideout...

Some obstacles to navigate...

There is a bench with paper and crayons for kids to doodle with just next to the playground.

The airport has much more to see than just playgrounds...

Mommy met us to get some duty-free shopping done in the basement of Terminal 3 just before lunch. Interestingly, we overheard on three separate occasions during the visit, families commenting that the airport looked more like a shopping mall. Indeed, clever integration of spaces has allowed the airport to become a family friendly hangout for play, dining, shopping... and if you're in transit, even 'hiking'through the nature trail (click HERE).

We'll be back!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Back to the Zoo with Uncle & Auntie

Daddy and Mommy got a morning off last weekend! Well, not really. It's just that we had other things to attend to. However, it was really nice of Uncle and Auntie to offer to take the girls out to the zoo. Apparently they managed to get passes and took the opportunity to bond with their lovely nieces.

Uncle & Auntie came to pick the girls just past nine in the morning in a vehicle they rented for the weekend. Just minutes earlier, Daddy decided to surprise the girls with a much anticipated responsibility: since they were going without Daddy and Mommy, they were tasked to use a small compact camera to take photographs of their trip to share with their parents when they got home. Needless to say, we'll get to use them for our family blog as well. The girls were first taught how to operate the point and shoot functions. Next, we put in place some guidelines for caring for the device, and ensuring that this new toy was fairly shared by the the sisters. It was an appropriate opportunity to teach them responsibility for property, and looking out for one another. After some discussion, we agreed that each girl was only allowed to take two photos in a row before passing it on to the other and so on. Also, they were reminded that despite not holding on to the camera at any one point in time, it was still their responsibility to care for it and remind the person holding on to it to take it with them as they move from one point to another. They were told what they should do if no one was using it, and encouraged to use this opportunity to show Daddy and Mummy that they could be entrusted with bigger things in the future. It was a risk to take, but a useful developmental step we were finally willing to take. I forgot to mention that the model entrusted to them was one of the most rugged-proofed models of its day, which helped to cut out the risk of damage due to impact or water-logging.

The staff explains the uniqueness of the free-ranging concept here in the Singapore Zoological Gardens. This means that it is all the more important for visitors to mind where they throw their trash to prevent unwanted accidents happening. Many animals are free to roam and their curious tendencies.

Flamingos always fascinate me with the their talent to stand on one leg all day.

The leopard is out sunning himself today...

The penguins are so graceful in the water, but absolutely clumsy on land. Makes me want to go spot wild ones in Australia like we did last time!

The initial plan was to visit exhibits and try things we did not get to do during our last visit here in July. Water-play was not on the itinerary, but there's a lot of other things to do at the Rain-forest Kidz World. So here it goes: many of the pictures were out of focus or fuzzy, but a selection of nice ones are included here for your enjoyment!

One of K's favourites are the pride of lions. She often imitates them at home with a ferocious growl.

Watching the elephant rides. This brings back memories of the elephant safari we did in Chiang Mai.

Wow, the difference a wall of ice can make! I didn't know this.

We were here at the Frozen Tundra last time, but the Polar Bear Inuka has always been a favourite and we were not going to miss it. The girls came home quizzing Daddy and Mummy about how heavy Inuka was at birth. The answer: 500 grams!

The giraffe exhibit was closed the last time, so it was nice to be able to visit one of the most magnificent and intriguing beasts this time. Always one of our favourites!

We missed the Reptile Garden the last time, and one of our favourite animals here are the majestic crocs. 

The entrance to the Kidz World: here you can purchase tickets to ride the horse-drawn cart, ponies, or the carousel.

Having a go at feeding some of the smaller kid-friendly animals.

The Carousel wasn't in operation the last time, so it was a treat to have a go on it. This must be one of the larger ones we've tried, and the girls always have a soft spot for it.

Uncle and Auntie 'returned' the girls to us before evening. The girls shared that they did well with the camera, sharing and taking responsibility when they were supposed to. However, they got tired of taking pictures quickly, and the the camera spent a good portion of the visit inside the bag during the second half of the trip. They were obviously tired, but they were beaming. Just being away from Mummy and Daddy gives them the freedom to enjoy things they usually don't get to I guess. We are certain that they would look forward to the next outing with their Uncle and Auntie. So would we.

IKEA at Tampines

We have always assumed that everyone, well, almost everyone, knows that IKEA is a family friendly environment so writing up a post on our visits there would seem a bit redundant. This was until we met some friends from overseas who were only familiar with the IKEA at Alexander, which encouraged us to put up an informative post on the Tampines outlet.

It was the school holidays and when asked where they'd like to go, a resounding "IKEA!" made the decision process a very quick one. IKEA opens at 9.30 am for breakfast but the indoor play area only opens at 10.00 am. We were there at 10.00 am hoping to beat the school holiday crowd. At Småland, we got a queue number, filled up a form (one for each child), donned a number bib, kept the shoes in the allocated box, sanitized their hands and off they went. The kids knew the drill. Mummy would sit outside with a book in hand while the kids played for the next hour. A good one hour break and some quiet moments for Mummy while Daddy hit the store. The older A took it upon herself to supervise the younger K, showing her the toilet, and ensuring that she was taken care of while Mummy waited outside. The best part? It was free.

The girls are Småland members (or citizens as they call it), and each has a little log booklet they bring along on every visit. The booklet is scanned, and they receive a ladybird sticker for the visit. In addition, each child is entitled to one meal discount coupon per day. Each visit also contributes $0.50 Småland dollars which can be used to redeem merchandise or workshops.

The giant ladybug scanning machine. Scan the booklet and the sticker is dispensed.

Some merchandise on display at the counter that "citizens" can exchange their accumulated points for.

The Småland

Get a queue number

I remember waiting for the day when K meets the height requirement of 90cm!

For kids under 90 cm, they can still be entertained while their older siblings play 'indoors'

A ball-pool to slide into. There is also simple rock wall just beside the stairs (not captured).

Cartoons are usually played so kids would gather at the top of the stairs to watch and chat.

Drawing tables. Toilets are situated inside the play area.

Mummy picked the kids up after an hour (just hand the staff the same queue number tag) and headed to the restaurant on the second floor. It gets really crowded during meal times so it was a relief that we were there early. The restaurant is newly renovated and the small gazebo sized kids area has now expanded into a spacious kids zone, complete with building blocks, train tracks, and play cooking sets. Wonderful news for the kids (and the parents too). IKEA Family Card holders can show the card at the cashier counters for complimentary coffee or tea.

Newly renovated restaurant

The new kids area is more spacious and has a wider selection of toys.

The Swedish items on the menu are all novel to us, and any item we picked often led to a new experience. Speaking of new, the restaurant frequently rotates the dishes to their menu to keep the dishes appealing. Of course, there's always their signature chicken wings, salmon and meatballs that are oh so addictive. I know of friends who would visit just for the occasional dose of these popular delights. There's also a counter that serves halal dishes, and just like the rest of the menu, they're usually rotated every now and then.

Today's menu includes baby back ribs with fries.

Needs no introduction...

Salmon salad

Crayfish... this got a little messy, and Daddy got his hands dirty.

Smoked salmon with the signature chicken wings in the background.

We picked our seats on the counter facing bordering the kids' play area, making it convenient for us to keep watch over them and enjoy our meal at the same time. The kids often request to spend a little more time playing before the meal, so if we're not in a rush, such as on a holiday or when Daddy is on leave, we let them play first while we tuck in. This gives us some time to talk and catch up before they come out and join us, usually after noticing how delicious we make the food look.

Our spot overlooking the play area.

Panoramic view of the play area from the table counter.

The check-out counter area seems to be yet another regular stop on our way out of the store. We just cannot seem to ignore the 50 cent soft-serve ice-cream cones and hot dogs. I'm convinced the 'screaming' pictures of these are strategically placed here as visitors would have worked off their meals browsing the showrooms, making the aroma of freshly baked hot-dogs literally call out to you... oh wait, it's not the aroma but the kids that are reminding me that we need to make a stop here. "Well, since we're not in a rush and have some time, ..."

"Let me help you with that.... no I mean, let me help you eat that..."
Staying in the East also make visits to IKEA a very convenient and cost-saving way to spend the hours away. With Courts MegaStore and Giant Supermarket just beside and opposite IKEA respectively, it would serve as a good one-stop venue for everyone in the family.