Get Organised for Primary School – 3 Essential Skills Your Child Needs

It’s the end of the first year of primary school for Vera. We are thankful that she has done pretty well, and has been able to take responsibility for most of her school work and studies.

There are however still some gaps that I hope to work with her on during the holidays…here are the 3 essential study skills I wish I had taught her earlier.

1) Time management

Time management is a crucial study skill when it comes to exams (both preparation as well as actual taking of the papers) but it’s also important in day to day living.

Since school started, I’ve tried to wean her off my involvement as early as I could, since I felt she is capable enough to take care of her own daily schoolwork. For the most part, I think she’s learnt that homework is her responsibility, and if she doesn’t get it done, she has to live with the consequences.

But she has had days where she would have her lunch, dive into a book and then suddenly realize that she has homework to do in the evening…after dinner.

These little incidents (hopefully) serve to teach her to be more aware of the way she has chosen to use her time. I’ve also tried not to nag or scold her for it (it’s hard, I know. I literally have to bite my tongue to keep from saying “I told you so!)

Ideas on how to teach your child time management during the holidays:

  • Setting up a simple and visible routine and schedule would be helpful for kids starting on their primary school journey. It helped us to set her up in the morning and now I see we may need one for the afternoons too.
  • Use everyday lessons to think about time. Eg., if I choose to watch a DVD, I will not be able to finish my assignment – do I really have that luxury of choice or is it better to finish what I’m doing first?
  • Model time management – if your child sees you always in a rush for time or constantly late, what kind of lessons is she learning? It’s tough that our kids are looking and learning from our daily lives, but I think it also makes us try to do better each day.

2) Money concepts

Money is a great asset if only we learn how to manage it wisely. It’s a good idea for your child to learn how to handle money from kindergarten age. Start small – she wants to buy a bun from the bakery? Ask her how much it is, and give her the money to hand over to the cashier. Then check the change together. Kids are mostly excited to learn such skills and you don’t even need to encourage or cajole them to do it.

Before starting school, sit down and plan how much your child needs for recess. It’s a good time to check the meal prices at the school canteen during orientation. Usually a plate of veggie rice or noodles is about $1.50, but if she needs a drink or an extra snack, it may be safer to budget $2. I give Vera an allowance of about $10 a week. I chose to start off with a weekly allowance so she learns how to budget $1.50-$2 for each day, and not over-spend, but it really depends on you and your child how you wish to structure it.

At the end of the week, she always has some left over for her piggy bank. So it’s a good way to teach her frugality and the value of saving money for something worthy as well.

Tips on how to teach money concepts:

  • Give ample chances to order food at the food court/hawker centre. Check the change together.
  • Let your child accompany you to grocery-shopping and help him calculate the cost of your grocery list. (Start with a short list of 1-2 items)
  • If your child really wants to buy something for herself / a gift for someone, work with her to save money from her allowance. Or if she doesn’t yet have an allowance, you may choose to even give small rewards for household chores that she can do. I sometimes give 50 cents or a dollar when the kids make themselves useful, eg., packing the messy shoe rack, folding the laundry, or washing dishes, or vacuuming the floor.
  • Have 3 small piggy banks in the home – one for savings, one for spending, one for sharing (or giving to a cause). We teach the kids to dedicate roughly a-third of their “earnings” to each piggy bank. (But you and I both know it’s tempting to put most of it into the spending bank…so this is also work-in-progress.)

3) Planning and prioritizing

This is closely related to time management. How much time do you have in total for that English paper? How much time should you dedicate to the different sections to ensure you have sufficient time left for the final few questions? All this is related to being able to look ahead and plan accordingly.

This is also helpful for homework. If your child has 3 different kinds of homework due at different times, ask her, hmm which should you do first? When do you need to hand these up?

Sometimes your child will be able to tell you, “this is more urgent because…” Let them think and verbalize and come to this conclusion by themselves as much as you can.

If your child gets fixated over a particular piece of work, let her experience the natural consequence of that choice. Say she enjoys colouring and drawing, and so spent time on these unnecessary aspects while neglecting to answer the questions of the assignment, then she rushes through the last part and makes a couple of careless mistakes as a result. Use this as a teaching opportunity. Ask questions that will allow her to reflect on her choices: what do you think you can do differently next time?

Ideas on how to teach your child planning and prioritizing this holidays:

  • Work on recipe based cooking or baking during the holidays. Being able to ensure you have all that you need and when you need it is part of that same essential planning process.
  • If you’re going on a family vacation, encourage your kids to be a part of the planning and packing process. For instance, help him to think about what is necessary and what should go into the luggage first.

Vera and I will continue to work on her time management and prioritizing skills as we believe these are essential study and life skills that will serve her well for life.

With these tips in mind, I hope both you and your child will be better prepared for school next year! If you do feel that your child needs specific help to get organised and motivated to learn, you may also want to check out The Little Executive’s upcoming P1 prep camp in December. Happy holidays! :)

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What is the Size of Your Problem? (Problem-solving for kids)

Middle brother got really upset and whiny yesterday when he was told to wait to go swimming. He took awhile to calm down. In the evening, I drew this on the doors of our wardrobe and did some problem-solving and brainstorming with them.

What is the size of your problem?

When I asked him to identify where on the scale to place the size of the problem, he could rightly identify it as a small problem. When I asked where was the size of his reaction (a bit of crying and whining), he identified it as level 6 on the scale.

Then I asked, “Is the size of your reaction proportionate to the size of your problem?” Where should your reaction ideally be? He thought a bit and said, “it should be lower – maybe 1 or 2.”

I said, “Yes! That’s great! You can see that the size of your reaction should be lower on the scale.”

This is the second time I’m going through this concept with the kids so he’s had some prior understanding of it. On the first occasion, I identified what a level 1 problem looks like, for instance losing a toy or dropping a spoon. While someone falling into the pool would qualify as a level 10 problem : where there is real and imminent danger. As for reaction, kicking, screaming or hitting would be level 9/10, while frowning or sulking would be level 1. In the middle could be whining or crying.

Then I moved on to get them to think of ways that we could battle with the emotions of feeling frustrated and impatient at having to wait. So the next time he would have some strategies or ideas.

The kids came up with:
1) not whine
2) think about something you can do now
3) look at the schedule for ideas on what to do
4) don’t get stuck
5) think of a game to play (I contributed this one)

Essentially, these strategies/ideas are meant to help distract the child from his frustrations of the moment. (Tip: While brainstorming, it’s helpful to list down every idea that the child contributes and not throw them out just yet.)

I picked up this concept from a recent Social Thinking conference I attended. I learnt a few useful things in relation to parenting and helping kids with social / learning difficulties. This was one social tool that I immediately related to and started to apply at home.

I think it’s extremely useful in helping kids think about their reactions. Here are some lessons you can point out to your child while applying this “size of your problem” tool.

  1. We always have a choice on how we act and behave – Our goal is to choose to behave in ways that are more acceptable and in line with the problem or situation.
  2. Our reactions should continue to move down the scale as we grow older and more mature, even though our problems may get larger and more challenging.
  3. Our reaction has an effect on others – When we react at level 9/10 on a daily basis, we regularly cause small problems to become BIG HUGE problems. Other people are affected by it and may start to have negative feelings about you. If they continue to react at such high levels when small problems occur, it also causes a lot of stress to their family and carers.

Now all this may take a while to sink in and translate into real self-regulation and social consideration for others, but it’s definitely a good and helpful framework to introduce such social concepts to them early.

Whenever we meet with certain issues, I would stop and ask out loud “hmm, what is the size of this problem?” This gives the kids a chance to think and self-monitor, and measure their reactions accordingly.

Note that it may not work if the kids are already emotionally strung or in the middle of a wild tantrum, but I’ve seen it work when they are just at the beginning stages of a negative emotion.

Even for myself, when I mess up and over react, it gives me a chance to laugh at myself, and point out how I over reacted to a small problem. It has helped me to breathe and calm down, and not have big reactions to little things like a kiddo dropping his plate of food on the floor.

This is something I’ll continue to work on with my kids. It’s not just teaching them self-awareness, it’s also imparting the skill of problem-solving. And when they have the right attitude towards solving the little problems that crop up in daily life, I believe they’ll also be better big problem-solvers in future, be it handling school-stress, relationships, or even work.

Do try this at home! And let me know how it works out for you too. ;)

Here’s a shot of the size of your problem poster available from Social Thinking’s Singapore website.

size-of-problem-poster2

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6 Tips On How To Protect Your Family From The Haze (Giveaway Closed)

We escaped the haze this year for the most part, save for a couple of days with high PSI and PM2.5 pollutants especially during August this year.

We’ve stocked up on masks and air purifiers in our home. But I’m thankful we didn’t need to use them much.

Still, although the index has kept within bearable limits, I sometimes feel the haze effects even before I realize that it’s around us. I guess I’m more sensitive by nature – even when I was packing my house for the move, my body reacted with sneezing, sniffing and cough. For weeks I woke up with a congested nose and throat, and with itchiness around the palate area.

The kids get affected at times, especially Josh, the youngest of the lot. Allergens in the air tend to irritate his airways and cause cough and runny nose. I know some friends whose kids’ ezcema gets triggered too.

Do you know the best way to protect your family against the allergens present in haze?

Here are 5 tips:
1) Increase intake of water and fresh fruits and vegetables to help the body flush out toxins and boost immunity
2) Wear a good grade mask and avoid strenuous outdoor activities
3) Purify the air in your home with an air purifier (preferably fitted with Hepa-filter) to remove dust, smoke and allergens when indoors
4) Shower and change clothes to remove allergens from skin and hair
5) Rinse eyes and keep skin moisturised
6) Do our part by buying eco-friendly home and food products

Here are more helpful and informative links to help us combat against the harmful effects of haze:

12 immunity-boosting foods to eat during haze
Hope this clears the air – navigating the confusing world of air purifiers

To help you be prepared for the haze, Xepa-Soul Pattinson, a leading pharmaceutical firm in SE Asia, has designed and assembled an Allergy & Haze Kit. We have 1 Allergy & Haze Kit to give away to one of our readers!

adezio-haze-and-allergy-kit

Each kit comes with:
1) an Allergy & Haze handbook
2) 10 Disposable face masks
3) Euderm cream to replenish the skin’s moisture and provide relief to infantile and allergic eczema
4) Rinz eye drops to soothe tired and irritated eyes
5) Tissue pack

The Allergy & Haze handbook provides succinct information on the effects of haze, and I found that it’s quite child-friendly too, with lots of images and colourful illustrations. So you can even use it to explain to your kids to help them understand why the haze is bad for our health, and what we can do to protect ourselves.

Haze and allergy handbook

~~~ GIVEAWAY CLOSED ~~~

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This giveaway ends on 22 Oct 2016, 11.59pm and is open to readers in Singapore. The winner will be contacted using the email provided when entering the draw and will have 48 hours to respond, failing which a new winner will be drawn. Good luck!

This post / giveaway is sponsored by Xepa-Soul Pattinson. 

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5 Values From Wicked The Musical To Teach Your Child

Watching Wicked The Musical is like entering a colourful fantasy world of wizards, witches, enchantment and magic.

It tells the tale of two unlikely friends – the blonde and popular Glinda and the green-skinned outcast, Elphaba.

wicked-uk-international-tour_carly-anderson-and-jacqueline-hughes

While you can watch Wicked and be absolutely blown by the cast, the singing, the beautiful live music, and theatrical effects, there are also several meaningful lessons that we can teach our children through the tale.

In the enchanted land of Oz, things are not always what they seem. This brings us to the first value that we can teach our children…

1. Never judge from face value.

The green-faced “Wicked Witch of the West” actually has a heart of gold, while the more popular Glinda the Good Witch tends to go with the flow and pander to the people’s wishes. The Wizard of Oz is supposed to be all-powerful and all-wise, but he turns out to be a fake.

So while it’s ever tempting and easy to judge people and situations from the way they look on the surface, let’s teach our kids to always dig and examine a little deeper.

wicked-uk-international-tour_carly-anderson

2. Friendship stands the test of time, and change.

Though Glinda and Elphaba may have started off on the wrong foot, though their personalities are at the opposite extremes, and though they are rivals in love, they build a firm and loyal friendship.

Also when Fiyero, Elphaba’s love interest, gets turned into a scarecrow towards the end of the musical, she continues to stay true to him.

wicked-uk-international-tour_carly-anderson-and-jacqueline-hughes2

3. Always help the lowly and outcast feel included
The “Dancing Through Life” party scene is perfect for discussion here. When Elphaba shows up to the party in the weird ol’ witch’s hat (gifted by Glinda) and tries to join the dance, she makes a fool of herself. The dancing stops…until conscience-pricked Glinda decides to be kind to her and adopt her awkward dance moves. The result is the beginning of a beautiful friendship between the two. Sometimes you never know what you do for another person when you help them feel part of a group.

4. Good deeds may not always be rewarded, but do them anyway.
As the song goes, “no good deed goes unpunished.” However hard Elphaba tried to save the animals from losing their speech and status in society, she kept getting wronged and blamed. So let’s remind our kids that doing the right thing doesn’t necessarily lead to rewards. A lot of the things that we do out of conviction of our hearts will go unseen. But keep doing what is right and honorable anyway.

5. Keep getting up even if you fall, and you might just defy gravity.

Elphaba may have been heartbroken and disappointed by the ones she held dear many times, but she kept going and was relentless in her pursuit of what is good and noble. At the end, her ingenuity rescued her as she managed to fool all Ozzians into thinking that she was already dead, when it fact she had only disappeared through a trapdoor.

What a story to encourage our young ones to keep pressing on inspite of challenges and difficulties. A worthy and beautifully-moving musical spectacular through and through.

Wicked The Musical is running till 20 November at the Grand Theatre, MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands. Tickets, ranging from $55 to $230, can be purchased from Sistic.

Images from Base Entertainment Asia. All opinions and stories are my own.

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