Why world affairs should matter to our kids

My love for politics started back in 1996 when I visited Myanmar and found myself at the cusp of a student riot and political change. To cut the long story short, it made me deeply interested in politics- the art and the science of things, and I ended up double majoring in psychology and political science with special interest in political campaigns, elections and how all of that impacts world politics.

Needless to say, US elections hold particular fascination for me since the impact of the person sitting in the Oval Office holds sway for the world, world politics and world policies. Wun and I took leave in 2008 to watch America elect their first black president (I would have preferred Hillary personally) and when Q was born, our good friend and fellow Politiko Aunty Karyn made Q his very one ABC onesie: A is for Arendt… N is for Nasser…T is for Thatcher… Y is for Yoda.

When our local elections took place (GE2011), we let Q stay up with us to wait for the results, explaining to my not yet 2yo who Lee Hsien Loong was, who the men in blue were and he clapped and cheered along with us at the various speeches and all. Somedays, instead of our usual ABC 123 lessons, we teach him about the great people in the world; a modge-podge of world leaders and other notable characters that have shaped our world.

When Neil Armstrong died, we learnt about the moon, talked about the Mars Explorer, looked at photos, built mock Apollo 11z, re-created walking on the moon (not the moon walk; we walked on sponges) and pretended to be aliens.

Yes, its important our kids learn their ABCs, 123s and all the other classroom stuff… but we also think its darn important they learn about the world.

 

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Lessons from Tap the Frog

I have a confession to make, I am a real Tap the frog fan. I never started off that way cos it was Wun how first got into it and got Q hooked on it. Evan, who is far from playing with the iPad, is also an avid spectator. Because Q kept getting me to play along with him, I also got into it.

The gameplay is simple enough, you  and your frog are faced with a series of simple time sensitive tasks: it could be as simple as getting your frog to jump five times up and down to something more complex like getting your frog to slide down a snow hill. Some tasks are beyond Q at this point; there are math based questions that he can’t answer knowingly. Though, its hilarious that he has the highscore on one such task purely by accident and clicking randomly. Or maybe I have a math genus… nah…

So, generally speaking, the game is simple enough for my 2.5yo to play; even if he doesn’t always gets maximum points. In fact, he almost never and has to play many many rounds to accumulate the in game coins. You get a coin for each star you earn and over the many times you play, the coins add up.

Q discovered the other day that there was an in game store where you can change the color of your frog, give it clothes and a background. And each add on costs frog bucks (the coins you accumulate) they take out of your bank. And while you have the cheater bug option of buying more frog bucks, we think its an utter waste of money, so we make Q earn his frog bucks the old fashion way. Mind you, since we each have the game on our iPad, we each keep our own frog bank.

Over the course of two weeks (seeing as he only gets to play tap the frog for about 5-10 minutes in the evening) our littler fella has earned enough points to dress his frog. Unsurprisingly, he kinda went a little crazy at the store and bought many things for his now police siren toting, cowboy hat wearing, farm living purple frog.

He discovered soon enough that he ran out of money and lamented when I told him he had to earn more frog bucks to redesign his frog and in his 2.5yo wisdom, he lamented: Earning frog money is so hard! It takes so long!

Such is life my son, such is life.

the man without a hand

We were at the grocery store the other day and met a man with no arms. He was wearing long sleeves shirt and one arm was distinctively emptier than the other. When Q walked past him, he waved and said hi and my 2.5yo could only muster a whisper of a “Hello Uncle” in return. He continued staring at the armless man for a while more and said nothing for a while.

Several minutes later, he came up to me and said: “That uncle had one arm only, Mummy. Oh no!” And since he had clearly been thinking about it a lot, we spent some time talking about what it means to have only one arm, what it means to have a handicap. We talked about people in wheelchairs and people who couldn’t walk or talk. It seemed a little much to be having this conversation with a 2.5yo but, ah well, i figured, why not.

Now, Q has a swim noodle with a connector making it into a hoop and today he took it apart, I think to play horsey with the noodle with the connector as a sword. Anyway, he stuck the connector onto his arm and tired- valiantly, to hold stuff. When he got quite quiet and I asked him what he was thinking and he said wearing the swim connector kinda made him “armless”, like the uncle he saw the other day. And after a pause, he said: “Its very hard to hold things with only one arm you know.”

So, after talking about it some, I asked him then what now? And he said that maybe “we could help the uncles with only one arm cos its hard that they cannot hold things.”

As parents, sometimes life finds us opportunities to teach our kids life lessons. And sometimes, God uses these little ones to remind us of our humanity and the task we have as parents to nurture a generation better than our own.

 

Meet Robug and DoodleBug

Now that I think about it, we must have been quite nuts to decide that we should introduce Q to the world of robots. We don’t mean to show him what robots are (he already knows that), but rather, take him behind the scenes to see how robots are made.

We originally spoke to a robotics specialist friend of ours that runs Ministry of Robotics and he said that his robots can take skilled engineers up to half a day to assemble a simple version. So we canned that plan and went with our next best plan of buying a little robot kit. We found some at Toys R Us and settled on a fly-robot and a doodling robot that draws from the spectacular 4M range of science toys.

As it turns out, the bots were too hard for Q to fix though the fella had a field day playing with the bit parts, handing stuff to us and being able to handle real tools. We let him take the lead with decorating Ro-Bug and in sharing in the soda in the can we were fervently trying to empty. The kits were fairly straight forward though I would most certainly recommend reading ALL the instructions and accounting for ALL the bit parts BEFORE embarking on building either of these robots.

Come check our robots in action in these videos: our robug and doodle bug

Mushroom Magic

After what felt like a mammoth undertaking with our ABC series, I decided to take it a little easier and start exploring other less structured (read: more world life fun) stuff like Solar System, life cycles, things in our past… etc. Basically, random stuff; still educational but less formal than learning about ABCs and 123s.

We recently took Q to Bollywood Veggies for lunch with some friends and I decided that it would be fun to try growing our own edible stuff. I don’t have a green thumb at all so I had to go find other ways to make this work. I came across a nice mummy (Hello Poppletots!) with an online blogshop selling these cute and fun mushroom growing kits and I bought one to show Q how sporing plants reproduced/grew. He already kinda understands how seeds work.

The mushrooms come in a stump of sawdust with online instructions that they need a warm, darkish, humid place to thrive. You are to spray water it several times a day and let nature takes its course. Q’s job was to spray the stump several times a day and the truth is, he got kinda bored of the work cos things appeared to be moving really slowly. Then, suddenly, overnight maybe about four days in, little white stuff started to sprout and we had to ban the kid from going near the stump because he kept trying to peel them out. He actually succeeded and luckily we caught the little fella quietly ensconced in the storeroom (where the mushrooms were) doing peeling work. We lost one side of our budding mushrooms actually. That is why, if you look at the photo, there’re only mushrooms on one side.

From the little white bits on, things progressed quite rapidly. We’re talking about whole mushrooms growing from 1 cm things to what appeared to be full sized in under 48 hours. We gave it another day or so and decided it was time to harvest our first batch of homegrown oyster mushrooms which we fried with garlic and japanese rice wine. The adults in the house only ended up eating a piece or two, the kid ate the rest.

Digging for Dinosaurs

We took the kids to Universal Studio Singapore for my birthday and one of the highlights of the trip there was taking Q to the Lost World where dinosaurs roamed.

Sidebar: Wun and I enjoyed some adult time with harrowing jurassic park ride where we miraculously got away dry while our fellow ride goers ended up utterly and completely wet.  It was kinda like taking a trip into Stephen Spielberg’s iconic movie franchise Jurassic Park. We only wished we knew more dinosaur names.

Anyway, we took Q on the Dino-soaring ride (again after dying from heat in the long queue) and he utterly loved the ride. We missed out on meeting Diane the animatronic dinosaur so we decided we’d have our own little dinosaur adventure right at home.

I found us a dinosaur excavation kit, complete with a little excavation chisel and brush. The whole kit cost me about S$12 and we settled to a happy afternoon of chipping (very slowly) at the block of earth hoping to unearth the first of six promised dinosaurs. After an hour (read: eternity to a kid), we finally saw the tip of what would be later revealed to be the top of a T-Rex’s head.

We did the whole process properly for about two dinosaurs before Q figured out that by smacking the block on the floor hard, more earth would fall out. So that’s what he did and lo and behold, less than fifteen minutes later- and mummy having given up trying to convince him that we had to unearth the dinosaurs slowly; the rest of our dinosaur brood emerged.

As we were washing the earth off the dinosaur figurines, I explained that paleontologists and other excavation crew would spend months and years digging up dinosaur bones and then, like a really difficult jigsaw, piece them together. And my little Q in this 2,5year old wisdom said: They should just bang on the ground, then they would find the dinosaurs before they died and became bones.

Ah. The wisdom of babes.

Alphabet Paper Crafts

Now that we have finished our ABC learning crafts, I went round digging for stuff we could do ABC wise to revise. I came across this wonderful collection of Alphabet paper crafts at Digitprop.com and thought I’d share with all of you. Its lovely ain’t it? And its just a mouse click and print away!