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Let the Children Play

Let the Children Play
Let the Children Play

Let the Children Play

FINALLY... The Prime Minister listened to me!

Actually, he doesn't even know me, but never mind. You can be sure that if a topic gets mentioned in the National Day Rally speech, it is causing real concern amongst the nation's leading thinkers. I'm actually a bit surprised that they have turned their attention to the pre-school environment. We've slipped a bit in some of our PISA rankings (Programme for International Student Assessment), dropping from our previous top position in maths and losing out to Korea and Shanghai.

But what the heck. Pre-schoolers are so young. They are still learning to socialise. They need to learn to play together, make compromises with each other and explore their creativity. Who cares what number they can count up to, it doesn't matter. Pushing phonics and early learn to read classes are also, in my opinion, not only unnecessary, but potentially too stressful for them.

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Kids Who Turn Into Happy Adults

Why are we here? What is our purpose on this lonely planet? Whilst there are always a few people who profess to know the answer, most of us will agree that we haven't a clue.

So how should we respond to this human condition? Study hard, get a good job, earn lots of money to buy nice things? Or live a selfless life devoted to improving the well-being of others, while minimising one's own wants and needs?

And how should we guide our children? Push them into the best schools, make them swat endlessly for exams and hope they end up in a "dream job" in a law firm?

More than one professional educator has told me that the most important thing a child can learn, is how to socialise effectively. To learn how to pass an exam is an extremely narrow focus that doesn't necessarily prepare one for the real world. If you think about it, being successful is more about how well you interact with others and your ability to get them to be a part of your plan, than it is about knowing the necessary facts.

So it didn't really surprise me to read the results of a study which started about 35 years ago in New Zealand. 1,037 children were studied and followed from the age of three until thirty eight. The study found that disadvantages such as being born into a low income family or of not having a high IQ had little impact on the sense of well-being after reaching adulthood.

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Our Myopic Children – a Product of Our Lifestyle

Preventing Myopia in Singapore's Children

While driving back home after dropping my daughter off at school I was, as usual, listening to the BBC.

The announcer said they were about to air a story about myopia in Asian children and so I immediately pulled over and turned on my flashing "Park Anywhere"  lights which - as all good citizens understand - give us the inalienable right to, well, stop anywhere. Just drive your child to school one day and you will see what I mean.

Anyway the story began, and I whipped out my trusty iPhone (thanks Steve), pressed the Voice Memo icon and started recording.

Interesting indeed.

I am a bit of a sun worshipper myself. I believe sunlight cures everything. Kills germs, burns off the fog of depression, energizes the mind, produces vitamin D, gives the skin a nice tone... and other stuff like that.

So when the announcer said that the cause for high rates of myopia in children from Japan, China and Singapore was that our kids did not get enough exposure to sunlight, I was riveted. Even the honking of the drivers behind me couldn't distract me. I don't what was wrong with them, I had my "Park Anywhere" lights on.

So when the first rays of that beautiful sunlight streamed through my window this morning to wake me up, I knew that I had to get that Voice Memo file off my iPhone and into this blog so that I could share it with my readers.

Here it is, but it seems the audio won't work in Windows Media Player (thanks Steve).
(EDIT: I got it fixed, please see below)
As it happens, it doesn't matter all that much because this morning The Straights Times carried the same story. It is reproduced here. You will just miss out on that crisp BBC accent.

I did a little more Google-ing and found that there is quite a lot of evidence from experimental research which supports the study. One of them was interesting because it involved newly hatched chickens. Some were exposed to sunlight for a number of hours per day and others were kept inside with varying amounts of carefully measured light levels.

My favourite part was that one of the controls involved fitting the chicks with sunglasses. Cool chicks in sunglasses eh?

Interestingly, the sunglasses (I don't think they were REAL sunglasses), did not affect the amount of myopia the chicks suffered later on in life, but the ones exposed to sunlight avoided myopia.

How do you measure myopia in a chicken?


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Bringing Out the Best in Your Child

29/02/2012 child care, Opinion

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List for Help in Raising a Child
List for Help in Raising a Child

List for Help in Raising a Child

  • To help in bringing out the best in your child, allowing her to discover her own interests observing what kind of activity that she chooses during free-time play, will give you lots of information about where her gifts lie.
  • Expose her to many different activities and experiences. They may trigger an interest which hasn't manifested itself yet. Don't assume that your child is not gifted in a particular area just because he or she has not shown an interest.
  • Allow your child to make mistakes and don't criticise her when mistakes do happen. If she is expected to do everything perfectly,  she be too frightened to take risks which are necessary to discover and develop her talent.
  • Ask questions a lot, and if your child asks you a question answer it with another. Encourage your child to learn about the wonders of nature and the way things work by asking intriguing question. Why do we need to breathe air? Why is the water in the reservoir blue (or green, or gray) then find out the answers together.

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Some Quick Tips on How to Hire a Maid, Nanny or Babysitter.

Happy Kids

Happy Kids

It's best to get organised before launching into the process of selecting a maid, nanny or babysitter. Here are some tips to think about.

Identifying Your Needs.

Firstly you should spend some time identifying your needs, and get them clear in your own mind. It's easy to come to the conclusion that you need help around the home, and then advertise for a maid, nanny or babysitter, with only a hazy idea of what that person would do for you.

Write down in a list what you need help with. Do you want a nanny to live-in, or live-out? What tasks will your nanny have to do? What hours will you want her to work? How many days off? Full time or part time? Who will she report to? You exclusively or you, your spouse and your mother-in-law?

Will there be travelling involved? What will be her roles and responsibilities? Baby care, toddler care and or childcare? What activities? House keeping? laundry, cooking, serving meals, driving, swimming, badninton, walking, shopping, gardening, time at the playground?

What kind of financial arrangement? Salary, hourly rate or daily rate? Can you offer you maid, nanny or babysitter any other benefits such as performance bonuses?

Interviewing Candidate Nannies

This process is crucial to obtaining the best maid or nanny. It is a bit different from interviewing candidates in the corporate world, for in addition to ensuring that the nanny's skill sets satisfy your needs, it is also very important that you feel comfortable with your new nanny, maid or babysitter, because they will be spending a great deal of time in your home.

Please do a face-to-face interview to try to learn as much as you can about her. Review her work experience, and responsibilites at their previous position. What did this nanny like and dislike about the families she work with before? What was their previous salary, and very importantly, what were her reasons for leaving.

Try also to find out her long-term goals and time commitments. If you think that a particular nanny might satisfy your needs, it is at that point in the interview that you can explain the roles and responsibilities of the position you are offering, and explain what your your expectations are as an employer.

If you feel that you have made a connextion with a particular candidate, and she might be the nanny or maid for you, it is important that you ask her for her references and telephone them. Once you have verified that the references are valid, the next step would be to do a second interview and then introduce the nanny to the other family members.

Making an offer

After you have interviewed, selected and screened the candidates for employment the next step to securing this person is making an offer. Most household employers prefer a Terms of Employment letter, or a guide as opposed to a contract. A guide is helpful in several ways.

There often are so many responsibilities for the typical nanny's job, it may be difficult to list them all. So a Terms of Employment letter creates a new way to communicate with your new employee. You can discuss this guide on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis, eliciting their thoughts and observations about their job. It also gives you an opportunity to constructively appraise your nanny in a non-threatening way. Remember communication is paramount.

Your guide should also include compensation or any additional salary for overtime or extra tasks not originally discussed. It is important to describe the compensation you are offering. Salry overtime, days off, vacation, sick days, public holidays, talk about everything including the start date.

So good luck when you conduct your first interview with your potential nannies and remember, if you fell you would like some advice from others, do make a post on the forum

Deciding Whether to be a Stay at Home Mum, or a Working Mum.

16/02/2012 child care, Opinion

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Stay at Home Mum
Stay at Home Mum

Stay at Home Mum

When I was expecting our first child, there seemed to be a million things we needed to get done before the Big Day. One of the most important  items on our list was to make the decision of whether I would give up my old career for a new one. Should I be a Stay At Home Mum (SAHM)? Actually, my career wasn't that old, I'd only been in the work force for about five years, and although I was enjoying both the work and the social aspects of office life, the gloss was already beginning to wear off just a little.

Anyhow, we decided I would stay at home for at least the the first few - or maybe five - years. There would be less money to spend, fewer shopping sprees, but hopefully happier kids and a more balanced family life. This decision won't be the same for everyone, each person will have a unique set of circumstances and priorities to consider. Here are some points to think about:

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More parents turning to nannies to care for kids

13/02/2012 child care, Nanny Jobs, Opinion

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It's a Nanny for the Ongs

MARRIED couple May Lee and Raymus Ong know they can rely on their nanny to take care of their two children while they are at work. More and more couples it seems, are relying on the services of nannies.

Madam Ng Ah Hoew has been caring for Cayenne, four, since she was 10 months old and for two-year-old Julian since he was a newborn.

The couple considered hiring a maid to look after the children and do the household chores. 'But with all the horrible maid stories we hear, and with no one to supervise the maid, we decided to stick with a nanny,' said Ms Lee, a 36-year-old assistant corporate communications manager.

Her husband, a senior engineer who is also 36, added that they could not rely on parental help as 'my parents live in Malaysia and my in-laws work'.

Madam Ng, 61, is the mother of Ms Lee's friend.

'She raised four children and has taken care of her three grandchildren, so we trust that she is experienced,' said Ms Lee.

Madam Ng is paid $750 a month and looks after the youngsters for two hours on weekdays at her flat in Sembawang.

'Helping take care of children allows me to work from home,' she said.

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Encouraging Conscientiousness in Our Children

13/02/2012 child care, Opinion

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Instilling Conscientiousness in kids

Instilling Conscientiousness in kids We all want our children to grow up with strong views of what is right and what is wrong and to be guided by their consciences. As parents, grandparents, nannies and caregivers, how do we go about encouraging conscientiousness in our children?

Firstly and most importantly, set a good example. Children absorb everything that their parents do. They way you relate to other people and conduct yourself is being keenly observed by your children, even when you think they are not watching. A child's behaviour is likely to mimic that of their parent's and caregiver's behaviour. To ensure that they are interpreting your actions as you would wish, speak with them often, in language that is appropriate for their age, and explain why you acted in the way that you did. For example: "I took the purse that I fount to the Police Station, because somebody is going to feel really bad about loosing that money. It just doesn't seem right to benefit from somebody else's misfortune. Hopefully they will go to the Police Station and be able to get it back and can you imagine how relieved they will feel?"

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Mothers and Nannies

07/02/2012 child care, Nanny Jobs

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Mothers and Nannies

Any mother who has just made the decision to return to her previous job and leave her child - or baby - in the care of a nanny, is going to go through a lot of inner turmoil. Allowing a stranger to bring up your kids would be a big issue with any mother, and the decision is usually arrived at only after many days or weeks of agonising analysis.

The first piece of advice I would offer is that once you have made the decision, you must learn to accept it and concentrate on making your new arrangement work. Ignore the nagging voices in your head, forget the inner conflict, and get on with the business of ensuring your baby is well looked after by your surrogate.

What about the very natural doubts you may have of what could be going on in the house when you are not there? One way to help calm yourself is to spend a few days together with the nanny going over the routine of food preparation, play-time, afternoon-sleep time and any chores which maybe required. Knowing the timetable and having seen the nanny in action will be comforting, as will a few phone calls during the day.

Ask for, and always check referrals. Most nannies will have them. Preferably they will be previous clients, but if not, they could be her neighbours, friends or relatives. Ten minutes of chatting with all of the people in her contact list will give you a quite a bit of information, and probably a degree of "feel" for the person you are considering hiring.

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Keeping Singaporean Kids Fit. Ideas for Parents & Nannies.

Keeping Singaporean Kids Fit. Ideas for Parents Nannies
Keeping Singaporean Kids Fit. Ideas for Parents Nannies

Keeping Singaporean Kids Fit. Ideas for Parents Nannies

As Singapore appears to be following western countries with growing obesity rates and more and more parents are asking how to get their kids fit. Although we have a long way to go to before we can match the west, we as parents we need watch out for the early signs of our children putting on extra weight.

Our Education Department has the right idea when they put the weight-gainers on a special exercise program. But there is only so much that can be done at school. As parents and nannies, we have the major influence in our children's lifestyle. Here are some quick tips:

Exercise: How many adults get enough? I mean really? It always seems as if there is no time. And kids are great imitators, they will happily mimic their parents sedentary evenings in front of the television. So try to exercise for at least half an hour 3 times a week. It's still not really enough, but it is a start.

When exercising you will need to do it vigorously enough to perspire and increase your heart rate. You can start by throwing a Frisbee in the park, or just playing badminton downstairs. Any exercise is good, just keep reminding yourself to keep the pace up so that it really has some effect.

If you are able to set a routine and follow it strictly for at least a few weeks, you will find that your kids will eventually start to look forward to it (expect some resistance at first).

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