Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tidings of comfort and joy

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! This advent season, I wanted to impress on B the true meaning of Jesus' birth and how it is not just about gifting but also the act of giving, and God's ultimate gift of life. Although it was hard to break free from all the commercialism, we found a few simple ways to reflect this while still doing our fair share of Christmas mall hopping :)

We made an advent calendar from B's artwork with clear plastic pockets to mark the 24 days, which was December 1 to 24 this year. I liked how this simple template could be re-used many times for things like learning numbers, letters, words, days and months, etc. Each day, we prayed for specific family, friends, those in need, our country and world, ending with the fruits of the spirit -- which B coincidentally learned in Sunbeam (Sunday School) year. On Christmas morning, we visited a single mother of 5 kids as part of our church's community blessing project before joining our cell group for food and carols. I look forward to more fun, faith-based activities as he grows up. For 2014, we could try this weekly series based on proverbs, more on the fruits or even try working through this catechism as our church's awesome new Devotional Journal weekly family section doesn't quite work for young tots.

Of course, we also covered the usual Christmas craft and books. Between work, colds, family visits, playdates, parties and our year end holiday to Hong Kong, we couldn't complete a nativity project or join many church events. After reading some books and our toddler bible, B recalls the nativity story by acting out a pregnant mama (Mary), old hunched men with presents (three wise men) and a wailing baby (Jesus).... It's a start I guess ;)

As for craft, this time around I let him try cutting, gluing, threading (punched holes around the art), and letter tracing (glued glitter on words).  We started with a Christmas star for the tree, stockings and poinsettas. We used the remaining painted rolls to make a turkey for a friend's Thanksgiving dinner. 
Wreath with holly, berries and gingerbread men
(Grandma made those cute origami mini-Santa Clauses)
Sticking ornaments on a car track painted Christmas card for his cousin

Home-made watercoloured ornaments :)
Rudolph the red nosed reindeer 
 
B in a snow globe
Collage art of peace, love and joy - the last 3 days in our advent calendar

Turning 2 has been a tipping point with some of the worst and best developments to date. B started shrieking for attention, tipping over his bowl/plate/cup when almost done (sooo annoying!), had bouts of skipped naps, early waking and general crankiness throughout the day. On the plus side, his interest in print (numbers and letters) keeps growing. He correctly spells out most words in big letters, is getting better at small letters, loves counting as well as spotting numerals. To my delight, soon after his birthday, he finally started singing. In tune! All the time! What was previously a monotone rap transformed into spontaneous singing and dancing to favourite songs and those he hears often (i.e. Jingle Bells). I even caught him singing nursery songs that I used to hum to him as a baby. Quite amazing what our kids retain at this age!

This Thursday, B will start half-day nursery, with mommy joining for a few hours/days before transitioning to a complete drop-off. I got him a personalised preschooler book, and also printed out photos of his new school to add to our scrap book to get him familiar with the concept.  It's encouraging that the school also focuses on being global citizens, i.e. donating for charity and recycling for art.  Here's hoping B's new journey with Odyssey will be even more rewarding and fun than it's been with mommy and me so far.

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Friday, December 6, 2013

To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul

Lately, B spontaneously calls out letters he recognises and sometimes sings the A-B-C Song while he pretends to "read" the print. Looks like he's taking the next step to read WORDS on his own initiative, and not just recite from memory, vocalise or narrate what he sees. What a nice milestone for our brand new 2 year old :) B's also developed a list of places to ask for when we're getting ready to go out. To my secret bookworm delight, we hear "go library and read book" almost every other day! Other regulars include "Bus stop and MRT?", "play outside, playground, park", "Botanic Gardens" (where he likes feeding the fish), "ama 公公", "爷爷 奶奶" and his buddies' "house", "buy food at Fairprice" (we grocery shop together a lot), "ride toy car/train at shopping mall", "music" and "Chinese class" (i.e. Kindermusik, Jiggle Wigs, Chengzhu). It's encouraging to see all the time and effort in immersing him in a print and word-rich environment paying off - from getting his first library card at 7 weeks (!), daily newspaper browsing and storytimes, thematic flashcards if he wants to, and just when we relax, chat and read quietly together.

We couldn't have done it without the network of public libraries in Singapore, notably the Bishan, Toa Payoh and Central NLB branches. The breadth and depth of parenting, baby and preschool books to toddler/family friendly activities is amazing AND free (or reasonable enough if you're a foreigner). B's been exposed to a wider range of authors, formats, topics - in both English and Chinese - than I ever was at his age. The books expand his vocabulary and imagination, plus save us money and reduce clutter with more informed buying (i.e. the read-everyday or hard-to-find ones) mainly online via The Book DepositoryFishpond or at the local Popular bookstore. 

Last, a shout out to Fun With Tots, an ongoing series of six library workshops on print motivation, print awareness, phonological awareness, letter knowledge, narrative skills and vocabulary.  I didn't know what to expect when I signed up with B, but was pleasantly surprised by the dedication of each of the librarians who prepared a handout of notes/resources and facilitated their topics with songs, books, parent/caregiver tips to keep everyone from adults to the little tots engaged. Even though it was close to bedtime (8p), B enjoyed each session and would say "go library at night"!  The only disappointment was that so few folks attended. It's ironic that parents prefer to spend money (sometimes up to ~$50-$100 per session) on enrichment classes based on early childhood experts, but can't make time to visit the library or attend a hands-on workshop together (which BTW, costs $2 per 30 min session). Even if our kids attend daycare or preschool, or we work full time, we should still actively participate in fostering a love of reading, a thirst for knowledge and the capacity to imagine in our kids. Seeing is doing and believing. My dad was dubious when I wanted to borrow books on space for B ... who liked it so much that he could eventually name or describe all the planets in the solar system!

SO.... Head on over to your neighbourhood library and browse/borrow some books for the holidays.  You can also find out what's going on at Bounce, the NLB channel dedicated to kids 0 to 12.  BTW, if like B, your kid is just learning his letters and enjoys music, take a look at all these alphabet songs and see what works best!


"The more that you read, the more things you will know. 
The more you learn, the more places you'll go." 
- Dr. Seuss, "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!"

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!

This week, B turned 2 while mommy took a step closer to 40 ;)  We had a terrific two party at Happy Willow - which daddy flew back from overseas to attend before flying back out again to work!  As we opened up the birthday gifts from friends and family, I reflected on the precious two years B and I have had together.  Despite the ups-and-downs with tantrums, self-feeding, potty training, language and math, the best gift we shared was simply the ability and freedom to IMAGINE together.

To paraphrase Albert Einstein: "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited while imagination embraces the entire world."  So I controlled my tiger mom urges, withdrew him from early childcare, limited his exposure to commercial toys and enrichment programs (after a few eye-opening trials) - no matter how kid-friendly, educational and/or successful these claimed to be.  Instead, we focused on simple early years ABCs i.e. Art, Books, Craft with as much music, drama, library and outdoor time as possible. B learnt to observe and appreciate our environment - nature, everyday things at home and about, picking up a wider vocabulary and interests along the way, including an obsession with transportation, animals and space; and a love for music and rhythm - though he can't sing on pitch, he recites plenty of songs in a quirky monotone ;)  

Sure, all of this involved additional time and effort and we never did as much as I'd like, but it was worth it!  Moving forward, we intentionally chose a school that builds on this approach too when he starts N1 next year and plan to maximise the remaining time on learning through play.  Let's not "educate our kids out of their creative capacity" as was mentioned in this thought-provoking TED video on How Schools Kill Creativity:


On a lighter note, we recently dabbled in some eco-friendly cardboard craft. We added a ball ramp (works best with ping pong balls) behind the previous road ramp. 


And built a multi-purpose, open-ended play house which his friends helped to paint:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Warp speed ahead

My month long (un)common cold resulted in an excessive white blood count which was double the average and one day in A&E when all my joints were inflammed!  I finally caved in to see doc #1 who cleared B and I of bronchitis, but gave me antibiotics and allergy/congestion meds that I reacted badly to.... this led me to doc #2 who found some lung tissue scarring from my x-ray but nothing critical after various tests. He then prescribed painkillers, even more antibiotics and asked me to stop the previous meds. After 1 week of pill-popping and clinic hopping, I'm feeling closer to normal again.

Besides that, October turned out to be a full-on month of milestones and learning through play with B.  Even though I'm with him almost all the time, his growth spurts still amaze me, not just physically, but also how well he picks up vocabulary and grammar.  After accomplishing a task on his own (like his jigsaw puzzles), he claps and says "Yay! Good job, B!" or if he's cheeky, "pandai boy" \o/ At breakfast one day, he placed his toy kangaroo on the table and said "Kangaroo watch B and mama eat pancake" and "daddy go 运动, then work” when dad went for his morning gym workout.  While in the car, he describes what he sees on the road and at times, will launch into a narrative, mainly on vehicles (of course), e.g. "Fire engine park in fire station, make loud noise nee-nah-nee-nah, lights go blink blink, firemen put out fire, many smoke, hot!"

We covered Geography and Astronomy which mommy and B thoroughly enjoyed.  We looked at continents, oceans, water and land formations, and then, our solar system. (I know this may seem odd, but he started asking questions about rivers, stars and satellites ... so what to do?!)

Map of the world on a paper plate where rubber band = equator between the hemispheres;
some of the library books (this time, the selection was quite good!);
 
an ocean/rockpool diorama, using a re-cycled box;
 penguins and icebergs in Antartica; 
land and water formations (which double up as bases for modelling clay/water);

And last but not least, sand art and puzzles on space: the final frontier!  This was also a perfect opportunity to learn comparatives and superlatives, i.e. planet Earth is smaller than Saturn, Mercury is the smallest, Jupiter is the biggest!   Now he applies these words in all sorts of situations :)

This month was also about confidence building and independence.  He started to enjoy scooting on the YBike glider which we have on loan from a friend.  He's walking his brand-new Kazam balance bike, an early birthday gift from 爷爷.  He even climbed out of his toddler cot bed once, alarming everyone! B grew more cautious climbing since that incident while I placed his large foam playmat under the bed until we switch him to a kid bed (or just a mattress). And on a bittersweet note, B got off the waitlist for N1 next January - it's a half day, drop off for the year they turn 3. Lots of implications there, some of which I'm still processing internally.

Wheeee!  

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Dem aching bones

A late recap post as September was a tiring month. Everyone in the household fell sick, helper was on home leave, hubby and grandparents were frequently away.  While regular laundry, home-cooked meals and toilet cleaning were somewhat neglected, holding down the fort (while sick too!) gave me a nice super-mom buzz and of course, a deeper appreciation for all dedicated caregivers and homeschooling moms out there...  Some days when a me-only holiday or even full time work seemed like a nice break (not in reality, I know), I turn to this article's quote: "The more time a mother can spend raising her kids, the better. The better for them, the better for their souls, the better for the community, the better for humanity. Period."

That said, we still worked through a theme: OUR BODY, following B's weekly Gymnademics home material as I had little time for much else. B even got "kicked up" to the 2-3 years Fellows class a tad early (hope they don't regret it!)

ABC:  We didn't find a "wow" body book at the library as the many kids books were either too simple or too wordy.  So we revisited a few classic books and flash cards around the body, reinforced by simple craft on Saturdays with dad.

Our best activity:  Making our B-sized skeleton.  Mommy traced out B's body on paper, drew and cut out the bones, while B painted it.  He loves greeting "skeleton" every morning and night, sticks food stickers in his mouth because it's hungry.  All those bones must make him look quite thin!  Bonus: The skeleton makes a perfect profor Halloween :)

Music: Songs worked wonderfully in this theme!  Now that B actually sings (well, he strings all the words in a run-on-sentence), music really aids his recall and encourages him to move more parts of the body.  We'd been singing Head Shoulders Knees Toes for a while now, but he's also responding more to the Chinese versions too (the ones in class have different, fun variations of 拍拍手).  This month, B picked up on a few more:

Outings:  It's that time of year for birthday parties again!  Besides that, we tried to go outdoors as often as possible before the rainy season hits. We joined a few friends for a beach playdate, visited The Garden House (a new nature-themed preschool), went back to Gardens By The Bay for the Mid-Autumn Festival show, fed fish and picnic-ked out at Botanic Gardens, among others.

Personal
  • B truly started conversing in Chinese! 好棒 兴烨!
  • Started singing with words, not just sounds/tones (mainly in English): Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Row Row Row Your Boat, Hokey Pokey, Wheels On The Bus, Rain Rain Go Away, Happy Birthday, and snippets of everything else he hears around him. 
  • Tantrums remain infrequent and can be pre-empted as it's usually related to (1) Too tired and don't want to bathe before nap (2) Too hungry yet don't want to give up his cars
  • Growing independence - he's increasingly saying "Mama, B do" whether it's drawing, stamping, reading, eating, choosing what to wear, etc.  Feels like my little boy wants to be a man too fast!  
  • Growth spurt!  One day he suddenly outgrew his 2 year sized shoes and pajamas. When we were at IKEA this week, we also discovered that he's 90 cm - the "magic" height for entry into some playgrounds, and also, bus and MRT payments ;)  When did that happen?  He'd been seemingly stuck at 86 cm and just around 12 kg for the past few months

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Wishes and dreams that are yet to come true

It's almost the end of September. While I look forward to celebrate with dear friends who will give birth over the next few months, I can't help thinking that baby #2's due date would have been around now.  What a frustrating, "deferred" year this has been!  I'd put off the job search when I initially found out I was pregnant at the turn of the year.  After the miscarriagewe postponed the start of B's preschool (i.e. nursery drop-off) and any serious job switch till next year, so that we could maximise our time with B as well as our efforts to conceive again, esp. given hubby's frequent business travel. Sadly, so far, no luck with #2 (or rather, #2b) and I worry that my career is stagnating the longer I stop working. It's days like these that I need to pause and reflect that God has given me such a blessed family, with rich life experiences, and all that we hope for will come to pass in His time, in His way.

All that I am, all that I have 
I lay them down before you, oh Lord 
All my regrets, all my acclaims 
The joy and the pain, I'm making them yours
 

Lord, I offer my life to you 
Everything I've been through 
Use it for your glory 
Lord I offer my days to you 
Lifting my praise to you 
As a pleasing sacrifice 
Lord I offer you my life

Things in the past, things yet unseen 
Wishes and dreams that are yet to come true 
All of my heart, all of my praise 
My heart and my hands are lifted to you

What can we give 
That you have not given? 
And what do we have 
That is not already yours? 
All we possess 
Are these lives we're living 
That's what we give to you, Lord 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

No time for flashcards?

This month, we covered TIME.  Thankfully, I managed to save time (hah!) searching for, making and adapting material for B as the theme coincided with the Gymnademics weekly home material.  It allowed us to reinforce numbers as B's been sporadically saying 0 to 20 (in English) and 1-10 (in Chinese). We also dived into the concept of day and night, seasons and weather patterns as B loves pointing to the moon, sun, stars, rain, clouds, etc. ;)

Books. There are soooo many good books about time, numbers and weather. Reading books is even more fun now that he repeats most words and memorises familiar phrases that he likes. Here's what worked well for us among the titles we could find in the library and had at home.
 


BTW, we really enjoyed "Only My Mom and Me" by Alyssa Satin Capucili which covers the days/seasons that a mom and child spend together.  But I had to return it to the library and haven't bought it online yet :(  Also, there's many book-based activities from Margaret Wise Brown's "Goodnight Moon," a classic bedtime fave that shows how time passes before bed. Maybe we'll try that in Sept....

Craft. We made a weather/week/time wheel to complement the theme.  B loves spinning it while saying the words and numbers. He's also slowly learning how to manipulate the wooden clothespegs. 

Music and Movement. When we reviewed the days and months, B would get stuck on Wednesday and had a tough time associating the months with "concrete" things.  These music videos helped! (Note: There are many out there online, these were the ones we liked more)  
  
Chinese?! One day, B re-discovered our stash of bilingual flashcards, gleefully exclaimed "WOW!" and brought them over to read together.  Whenever there's time at home, he would open box after box to flip through. I try not to repeat the cards and end leaving him wanting more.  He tends to say the English word when he sees/hears me read out Chinese characters, but he does vocalise some Chinese, esp. those he hears frequently from songs, conversations and his first set of Chinese storybooks.  


Art:  Since this was mommy's first year as a Singaporean, we hosted a casual National Day BBQ, jet flypast and fireworks watching at our place. B excitedly says "boom boom fire" and "zoom zoom airplane" when he sees his artist impression proudly displayed on the art wall :)


Outings and Special Projects: This month, B visited Megabugs Return! and the Science Center (rather underwhelming, seriously in need of upgrading), the Art Garden @ SAM (again!) and the Istana Open House for Hari Raya and National Day. We also returned to the Esplanade for Hello Ling, the second in the PLAYtime! series, which dramatised the effects of light or in B's words "sunlight, starlight, moonlight ... and rainbows!" To cap it all, B made his first (?) science discovery, i.e. a simplified "taugeh" project to grow green bean plants over time (i.e. the 7 days in a week) with the help of water, air and sunlight.

Personal:
- When asked "What's your name?"  He'll say it all in one run-on word "bwxy!"
- Mr Manners. B calls "Hi, Thank You, Please, Good Morning, Bye, Day, Night (and Sleep Tight)" if prompted though once in while we'll get a spontaneous "Morning/Bye uncle/aunty!" while in the lift, charming our neighbours (and some strangers). The family tree will come in handy for those Chinese titles and names!
Potty training steps.  B regularly voices when he needs to pee and poop, does it in the toilet more often and has fewer accidents. Even though we've not yet gone all-in (i.e. he wears diapers/trainers when sleeping and when outside for extended periods), this has been so encouraging for us all. Yes!
- Hello, tantrums. Our gentle, observant 21 month old B has finally succumbed to his undeveloped cortex :) Thankfully the tantrums are not frequent and rather predictable (i.e. he'll say "No like! No want!" or throw a fuss when he's upset, tired at end of day or had a poor nap, or wants to be independent).  I guess a happy, stimulating and secure environment with a balance of love and discipline is no longer enough at this age! B needs his autonomy, and we should “never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”  Maria Montessori said this best
- Gimme freedom! That's perhaps why B likes music and movement so much.  I flip through the newspaper with him in the mornings, let him choose how many and which books to read, have regular messy, art and music playdates.  As his vocabulary expands, he's forming more and more 2-3 word phrases to better express himself and is gradually overcoming his shyness to say words in Chinese and Malay too 

"Today is Monday" everyday according to B, and it's a delightful day!

Monday, August 5, 2013

我爱我的动物

July saw a big leap forward in B's cognitive, and in particular, speech development. Words started to "click" and it was great to be there with him along the way.

Theme: Animals!  It started with us doing an extended craft activity around Margaret Wise Brown's "Big Red Barn" when we were stuck indoors during the worst of the haze.  The rest of the month was spent on tonnes of books, songs, art and craft, puzzles and outings. We even managed to make this bilingual as B's new Chinese term was all around the  (Farm) 


ABC or Art, Books and Craft: Maybe it was a matter of time but I felt like we found a key to unlock his brain by engaging in more kinesthetic learning this month. We expanded upon a few fave books with a big red barn diorama, a zoo numbers and colouring activity based on Eric Carle's "123 To The Zoo," and built our own family tree after reading "Who's Like Me."  Some highlights below:




Music and Movement: I finally brought all 6 kids CDs into the car to play on repeat whenever it's just B and me.  From the classic Old MacDonald (he loves the E-I-E-I-O!) and Incy Wincy Spider actions to his Chinese Playclub's ditties like "的" and "鸭" as well as Kindermusik's Morning Song (with different greetings for animals/people).  It was nice to see him not only sing to the words and rhythm but overcome his shyness to move and dance along.

Outings: No surprise, we went back to the zoo to check out the Breakfast With Orang Utans with friends (overpriced, not worth it!) and the new Frozen Tundra polar bear exhibit (cool!). Next time, we'll visit in the afternoon as B is up longer and can catch more live shows.  We also went to the Maritime Experiential Museum and Aquarium (nice, esp. the spider crabs, jellyfish and dolphins). Here's other animal adventure places we hoped to/will visit as there wasn't enough time to see them all! 

Personal:
- Hearing B say "I love you" (sounds more like "I low you") melts my heart :)
- I know I've said it earlier, but the Big Red Barn opened up a world of language, esp. speech for him.  He comes up with 3-word descriptors like "big purple ball" (i.e. my yogilates ball) and "dark blue sky" (the view from his window when he wakes). Loves to make animal and vehicle sounds, say opposites thanks to Dr Seuss (big/small, in/out, up/down, high/low), colours (primary+secondary+some tertiary), numbers (1-10) and family names. His thirst for books seemed to have grown exponentially too. He demands to read "more, more books" every time and delights in finishing up familiar sentences or words. Of course, he repeats interesting new words in English, Malay, Chinese and especially, my in-car swearing :0
- Self feeds when hungry and when he likes his food.  Otherwise, he'll eat with distractions and/or help.  Developed a temporary bad habit of throwing down his spoon/fork/food when done or cranky, but that's stopped now since I told him off with frequent reminders to put it down on the table (practicing les gros yeux!)
- Naps are still too short but nights are great so we're rolling with it. I get my downtime or work done at night, spend quality time with him in the mornings, try to take him out each day with a special/ family outing once a week
- Potty training still ongoing, slow and easy.  Undies at home, diapers when out
- All in, it's been a pretty awesome though tiring month.  Gratifying to see the effort pay off, esp. when I wonder what's become of me and where I'm headed this year....

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Growing up sage

Pamela Druckerman's Bringing Up Bébé was a rather different read from the usual parenting books so far.  I was quite surprised that French parenting (in the early years at least) resonated with my own East meets West blend so far.  I don't agree with it all, esp. the non-attachment-friendly actions and a rather socialist approach to do what others do with minimal individual affirmation.  

YET I do appreciate some elements, mainly:
  • Help him grow up sage (wise and calm) as well as éveillé (awakened, alert, stimulated). A child in control of himself, absorbed in activities with doucement (gently, carefully), mindful of himself with no n'importe quoi acts without regard or consideration for others 
  • Have a cadre (framework) where firm limits are set within which tremendous freedom is given
  • Focus on the right éducation (upbringing) rather than discipline
  • Teach him to attend (wait... stop!) by self entertainment/distraction and not be an enfant roi  who is constantly at the center of attention. Building patience and delayed gratification will help with the caprices during the tantrum-throwing frustrations
  • Reinforce FOUR magic words: "Hello, "Bye," "Please" and "Thank You" 
  • Small acts of foolishness (bêtise) call for moderate responses but major acts require a firm non, les gros yeux (that LOOK of admonishment) and punishment with serious consequences
  • Equilibre (balance) includes not letting being a parent overwhelm your life. Don't become a daily maman-taxi (tough one, that) 
  • Goûter (afternoon snack) is the ONLY snack of the day beyond the three square meals, ideally together with family
  • Allow autonomie, a blend of independence and self-reliance early on, including separation from parents such as école maternelle (free public pre-school) from the year the child turns 3 and colonie de vacances (kids' summer camps) from four years on
  • Practice complicité, the mutual understanding that parents and caregivers try to develop with children from birth.  Small babies are perceived as rational beings, with whom adults can have reciprocal, respectful relationships. Note: several baby experts would disagree...
  • ... which leads to French "sleep teaching" aka the PAUSE, typically by 4 months. My take on this is not that every newborn parent must sleep train by letting their baby cry.  Rather, consider waiting a little before responding to let baby learn to sleep on his own in between cycles, and then enter to determine if it truly is hunger, a dirty diaper, anxiety, et al.  This gradual "wait" approach worked for us even though we never liked or resorted to full cry-it-out
Caveat: The lowest grade I got in college was in French, so pardon any errors

Thursday, July 4, 2013

You can never talk too much ... to your kid

I just finished Jill Stamm's "Bright From The Start" and was encouraged by her section on how live, repetitive interaction boosts early language development. Language development begins in utero.  Understanding its use begins as infants interact with family and caregivers, while language acquisition explodes by the time they're three years old. Babies are born physically equipped to hear distinct language sounds (phonemes). By age one, they tune out words not frequently spoken around them, which in turn, they cannot easily pronounce.  In fact, normal and deaf-signing toddlers go thru similar language development milestones: 1st word (11-14 mos), two word combos (16-22 mos), complex rule-driven communication by 3 years on.  While the ability to read early is not consistently linked to advanced intellectual performance later in a life, it's increasingly necessary to excel in local school, and thus, influence self-esteem et al.

Live, repetitive interaction is not about putting a CD, radio or video on constantly nor about having a non-stop verbal diarrhea with your child.  Rather: 

0-6 mos: 
  • Use intentional parentese to stimulate brain and extend attention span
  • Speak Multi or Bilingual naturalistically, preferably with dedicated caregivers or playdates
  • Engage him face to face at an appropriate distance, use music, hang photos, selected mobiles
  • Lap read! Enables a visual embrace as you and child are looking at the same object.  Start short (5 min) but frequent, 4 mos on when visual acuity improves and he can reach out to see and touch objects/pages
6-18 mos: 
  • Deliberately point and label objects by name (light, door), attributes of objects, highlighting ones that are same or contrasting ( smooth, rough, big, small, square, round, blue, red), feelings (tired, hungry, happy)
  • Read over and over!  Hold him close, let him turn pages randomly and be hands on (fine motor skill practice). Modulate voice and facial expressions, even use props to invite participation. Vary intonation to match enthusiasm, emotion, meaning.  Intro simple books with 1-2 sentences per page and plenty of rhythm, rhyme, repetition, rhyming songs, and random play with rhyming words. Knowledge (i.e. retention) generally kicks in after two weeks of repetition
  • Talk frequently! Describe actions and objects. Positive tone, conversational interactions. 
18-36 mos:
  • Dialogic reading: Read with children while engaging them throughout.  Describe the illustrations (where's the frog, how many), describe what they think is happening, predict what might happen next (what's he doing, where's he going), personalise ideas (remember the frog at the park?), share feelings about things in the story, leave lines incomplete -- let them fill in the blanks!
  • Start simple music lessons (keyboard, violin, percussion). Sing fave songs esp with actions
  • Follow tots lead on interests and expose them to environmental print (EP). Read all around you, ask open ended questions. Differentiate printing vs pictures vs sounds that describe them
3 years on: Phonemic awareness (ability to hear beginning, middle and ending sounds), Phonics (linking sounds to letters) and EP recognition evolves by then too.  
Choose books that match your child's brain level of engagement.  Stages of a reader (based on cognitive development):
  1. Attends to pictures, doesn't form stories - picture/photo books, flash cards
  2. Attends to pictures, forms oral stories - creates own story across the pages with "nonsense talk" - listener has to see pictures to follow along 
  3. Attends to pictures, forms written stories - spoken words and intonations sound like reading 
  4. Attends to print - recounts and retells stories they already know while pointing to the print rather than pictures, not actually "reading" 
Recommended tot books (the list is endless, here's a few from her book)
  1. Interactive/lift the flap - Dr Seuss, Margaret Wise Brown, Karen Katz. Baby Dance (Taylor, A). Fit-A-Shape: Shapes.  Where's My Fuzzy Blanket (Carter, N). Wheels on the Bus (Stanley, M). Touch and Talk: Make Me Say Moo (Greig, E). Quack Quack, Who's That? (Noel, D). 
  2. Emotions: Winnie the Pooh: Feelings (Smith, R).  WOW! Babies (GEntius). Faces (Miglis, J). Baby Faces (Miller, M). Where the Wild things Are (Sendak, M).  Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Viorst, J).  The Selfish Crocodile (Charles, F). Glad Monster, Sad Monster: A Book About Feelings (Emberley, E). No David! (Shannon, D)
  3. Rhyme & Rhythm: Dr Seuss, Margaret Wise Brown. Each Peach Pear Plum (Ahlberg), Moo, Baa, La La La (Boynton). Five Little Ducks (Raffi). Five Little Monkeys (Christelow). This Old Man (Jones). The Itsy Bitsy Spider (Trapani). Find the Puppy (Cox)
  4. Scribbling (Pre-Drawing/Writing):  Crayon World (Santomero), Figure Out Blue's Clues (Perello). Blue's Treasure Hunt Notebook (Santomero). Harold and the Purple Crayon (Johnson). Get in Shape to Write (Bongiorno). Messages in the Mailbox; How to Write a Letter (Leedy)
  5. EP books: Cheerios Play Book (Wade).  M&Ms Counting Board book (McGrath). Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Counting Fun Book (McGrath). Kellogg's Froot Loops (McGrath).  Sun Maid Raisins Playbook (Weir).  Oreo Cookie Counting Book (Albee).
  6. Helping Young Children Learn Language and Literacy: Birth Through Kindergarten (Vukelich, C. Christie, J. Enz, BJ)