Time to Play 

Nothing trumps nature as the best setting for free play, also known as unstructured play. Several years back my kids went to Disney Land and Universal Studios in California but their favorite vacation memories revolved around visits to the park and Lake Tahoe, where they enjoyed hours of romping around the snow. 

Recently, we traveled to Dubai, and as much as they enjoyed all the amusement parks and touristy locations, the desert proved to be top on their list of places we visited. What did they do in the desert? They scaled the dunes and rolled down them! 

In the Philippines, their destination of choice is the beach. But of course! We have the best beaches in the world! 

For my kids, there is never enough time spent on the sand and swimming in the sea. 


Over the weekend, we went to Acea in Subic Bay. It’s a newly opened resort and still working through its birthing pains in the area of customer service. Yet, the place is beautiful, the ala carte meals delicious, and the staff are helpful and friendly. Besides the swimming amenities, there’s a gym and an indoor play place for the kids. Kids will not be bored. 


Furthermore, one of the owners is from the same church we go to so yes, I am biased. We like this place a lot! 


The kids hit the water as soon as we arrived and they were happy as can be, building their sand structures, throwing sand bombs at one another, and paddling in the sea. Acea also had a large pool and outdoor kiddie splash area which my youngest, Catalina, kept returning to. 

Had it not been for the severity of the sun at certain hours and the need to eat meals, I would have let the kids stay out all day. Even Eljah, as a fourteen year old, relapsed into early childhood with a shovel in hand, digging into the sand. The boys pounded one another and their friends with sand balls. There was no point to the game except to revel in the satisfaction of hitting their targets. A few adults chided them when their bombs accidentally hit innocent bystanders and swimmers. Yet, all in all, it was good and clean childhood fun. No adults dictated their activities or rules of play, but watchful moms kept a lookout for everyone’s safety. (And some of us played ourselves…beach volleyball versus men and well, we won! He he…When Edric joined our team.) 





Why is free play so beneficial to kids? 

First, it contributes to their healthy social development. They have to cooperate with one another, practice communication skills, deal fairly, and manage their emotions when they win, lose, or encounter difficult personalities. 

They also implore creative problem solving. How do you create a sand castle that will withstand the rising tide (if that is even possible)? How deep a hole do you need to dig to create a protective moat around your castle? What makes a sand bomb effective? Kids think through questions like these as they play.  So their brains, along with their bodies, must commit to resolving the challenges they face. 

Kids discover their unique bents and talents when they play, too. I know Titus is a tinkerer because he gravitates towards activities that involve building, dismantling, and figuring out how things work. As for Edan, he is a natural-born leader. When he plays, he gives other kids roles and responsibilities, and he comes up with rules and mechanics to create order. He likes being in charge. Tiana enjoys cleaning up. She feels a deep sense of gratitude when mess is managed. Elijah is a problem-solver. When a challenge presents itself during play, he thinks of mathematical or scientific solutions. Catalina can be very helpful when she is assigned a task by her siblings that makes her feel included in their play.  

I believe play makes kids smarter, too, and it allows children to discover who they are and whom God made them to be. Play gives children the opportunity to apply what they learn. It’s experience-based learning which is far more effective than filling in worksheets and answering test questions. Furthermore, when kids realize their limitations and capacities through play, they grow to understand themselves better. What are they good at? What can they improve on? 

The act of playing, which usually means they are having loads of fun, motivates them to see how far they can go in order to accomplish their goals. Whether it’s exerting themselves physically or mentally, kids are inclined to persevere because play is delightful. Titus figured out how to bike without training wheels, snowboard, roller blade, and use the scooter in a span of two weeks when we were in the U.S. for Christmas. He fell down and injured himself but he got right back up to pursue his goal, learning how to balance.

It is during play that children form cherished memories of their childhood as well. Whenever I reminisce about my younger years, it is the hours of play that I remember best. I developed a deep attachment to my home and my family because of our play times together. 

How sad to hear of children who have nothing left of the weekday to enjoy playing because of the time spent going to and from school, in school, and attending afte-school tutoring sessions. That’s not the kind of childhood our children ought to have. And it’s no wonder why they can’t wait for summer! 

I am not saying that kids shouldn’t work hard to get a good education. Yet, I wonder if we have tilted the balance too far in the direction of classroom-based academic rigor, where learning goals and parameters are dictated upon kids rather than allowing children to be in environments where they learn through play. Personally, I feel that there is something disturbingly unnatural about a childhood without the joys of unstructured play. 

What do you think? 

Get Kids Outdoors

I recently got the kids’ eyes checked. Thankfully, only Elijah needs to continue wearing glasses. Another blessing is that his eye grade hasn’t changed. Usually, each eye check-up can be traumatic for him since his grade jumps significantly higher. 


The only difference in his lifestyle before the last couple of checkups has been spending more time outdoors. 

After we moved into our home from condo living three years ago, one of the things that we agreed to do as a family was to go outside for good sunlight, especially after we learned about how beneficial it is for the development of the eyes. 

Whether it’s playing with pets, running around the yard, or exercising, Edric and I ask our children to be under the sun for part of the day. The best times are, of course, before 10 am and after 3 or 4 pm in the afternoon when the sun isn’t so dreadfully hot.

Growing up, I played outdoors every day. Being indoors seemed so boring to me. Everything fun to do happened in our backyard — tree climbing, sports, playing with pets (I even had a pet monkey named Chi-chi) or building forts. Since my parents didn’t encourage us to watch a lot of television we channeled our creative energies toward outdoor play. 

I know it’s not entirely fair to compare the kind of lifestyle I had with the circumstances my children are exposed do. I didn’t have much technology growing up apart from computers. So I get it. It’s not the same. Kids want to stay indoors to be on their gadgets. However, I don’t think it’s impossible to instill a love for the outdoors in my kids. 

We can implore the power of modeling. When I run around our village, I invite my kids to run with me. They aren’t always up for it but when I include a stopover at our community park to get some snacks, they are more convinced to join me because a reward is involved. As for Elijah, who is more mature, he is my prayer partner when I run and he willingly accompanies me. 

I also REQUIRE my kids to engage in outdoor play. It helps that my kids are homeschooled, so I can insist on outdoor play as part of their daily schedule. Their studies generally end by 1 or 2 PM (at the latest), which means they have ample time to spend outside. 


Studies show that anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes of good sunlight makes a significant difference in a person’s health. I find it interesting that sunlight is also necessary for the regulation of our mood. 

Kids who stay indoors everyday don’t produce enough serotonin which can lead to depression. Healthline published an article which included a section about the sunlight’s effect on our mood. “The light-induced effects of serotonin are triggered by sunlight that goes through the eye. Sunlight cues special areas in the retina, which triggers the release of serotonin.” Serotonin, as we know, boosts mood and helps a person to feel relaxed and focused. Beyond strong bones and good eyesight, the sun is an important factor in our children’s emotional health. 


Even though kids may gravitate towards their devices, I also believe that giving them productive things to do outdoors will make them look forward to playing outside. Since my daughters and I are endorsers for Friso, a milk brand which believes in promoting natural health and wellness in children, the Friso creative team helped me think through some ideas to try with my kids, one of which was backyard “farming.” 

Truthfully, I have a black thumb. But, together with my girls, we learned how to plant lettuce and pechay. It wasn’t rocket science. Furthermore, the girls enjoyed feeling the soil with their hands, dropping each seed into the earth, playing with their shovels, and using their watering cans. 

Another idea is to take care of the garden together. At present, our yard badly needs tending. This really falls under Edric’s scope of responsibility since he volunteered to be in charge of our landscaping. We are waiting until rainy season to add more plants, but in the meantime, he tries to get the boys to help him mow the lawn and trim our bamboos. Since the boys like working with tools, gardening is actually fun for them. 


Edric also prefers to buy toys and games for our kids that will lure them outside. One of the reasons why Edric and I invested in an outdoor playground from HMR was to make the backyard a hang out place for our kids. (I am praying that we can also get an outdoor trampoline for them.)

Our older boys have also been challenged to successfully shoot x number of basketballs into the hoop in our culdesac. This keeps them outside for at least 45 minutes. Sometimes Edric also plays competitively with them and forces me to join so that the match ups are fairer. (I don’t like running into sweaty bodies but I do it because it’s family bonding time.) 

Yet another idea is having a picnic together in the afternoon. Every now and then I tell the kids, “Let’s bring out the mat and take some snacks outside!” They love doing this. 

About a month ago when the weather was better, we also brought kites to a spot where the kids could fly them. Titus especially appreciated this. He ably flew his kite while the other struggled. But everyone had a great time.

Making kids responsible for pets also works. Whether it’s a dog, cat, or bird, kids tend to be motivated to play with their animals. When I had a pet monkey named Chi-chi, I spent hours holding her and bringing her around the yard. She didn’t have a leash. She roamed freely (which eventually became an issue since she was very mischievous!) Yet, having her as a pet definitely got me outdoors.

The point is, there are many ways to encourage our kids to play and be outside instead of cooped up in the house for hours and hours hovering over gadgets. It’s our responsibility to educate our kids about the benefits of sunlight and inspire them to enjoy the outdoors. Eventually, we won’t have to force them to go outside because they will realize how fun it can be! 

It’s Time to Play!

“Many of our greatest thinkers locate their capacity for original and profound thought in their imaginative abilities, first developed through creative play in early childhood.” (Pittsburg Post Gazette, August 2004)

Interestingly, “Kids and animals that do not play when they are young may grow into anxious, socially maladjusted adults.” (Scientific American)

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A lot of times we rob our children of the opportunity to play when we overschedule their lives or cram it full with academics and enrichment activities. A poll by HealthAmerica from 2006 revealed that out of 882 children, 41 percent between the ages of 9 and 13 felt stressed all of the time or most of the time, because they have too much to do. Of those same children surveyed, 78 percent wished they had more free time. (Ahchealthnews )

Although we may mean well as parents, we need to consider whether our children are getting sufficient time to enjoy the wonders of childhood. Do they get to play?

Play can be structured and unstructured. Structured play is defined by set goals and objectives determined by an adult. It is adult-directed. (For example, when I teach my child how to build a tower with blocks and instruct them which piece to put where.) In contrast, unstructured play has no specific goal or objective determined by an adult. It is child-directed. Give your child blocks and see what he or she does with them.

Both types of play are important. Structured play is beneficial when your aim is to teach your child new concepts, skills, and reinforce them (colors, shapes, numbers, letters, phonetic sounds, reading, etc.) But unstructured play is beneficial for the application and manipulation of those concepts and skills – to demonstrate and practice creativity…and, well, just enjoy being a kid!

Another area where we may short-change our children is when we buy them the wrong kinds of toys. Since our children were very little, my husband and I agreed that we would buy our kids “good toys,” and avoid battery-operated toys as much as possible. Some people still gift our kids with these sort of toys but we try not to purchase them ourselves.

“A good toy is 10 percent toy and 90 percent child,” says Joan Almon, director of the U.S. Alliance for Childhood. “Beware of killjoy toys. Give children simple play materials such as logs and stones, cloths and ropes, and they will create worlds.”

“Play starts with a box, with the discovery of pots and pans. If everything has bells and whitles and does everything for them from the time a child is very young (his) own imagination is not going to be very stimulated,” says Stevanne Auerbach, a.k.a Dr. Toy and author of Smart Play, Smart Toys: How to raise a child with high PQ.

Some of examples of good toys include:

  • Empty boxes (shoe boxes, big boxes, etc.)
  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Tissue paper
  • Fabric
  • Rocks
  • Sticks
  • Sand or mud
  • Trees
  • Leaves
  • Puddles or water
  • Bugs
  • Rope or string
  • Dolls for girls
  • Dishes and tea sets
  • Blocks
  • Legos
  • Playdough or clay
  • Marbles
  • Magnets
  • Old clothes for dressing up
  • Paper, drawing materials, paint, etc.

My kids go crazy over things like empty boxes and string! This afternoon my girls were running around with sticks, and my older daughter said, “Look, it’s an airplane!”, as she made the stick fly through the air.

So much learning happens through play. It may not be as quantifiable as results on a test paper, but rest assured, children are picking up something valuable.

“Play is how children begin to understand and process their world. Children’s play unlocks their creativity and imagination and develops reading, thinking, and problem solving skills as well as further develops motor skills. It provides the base foundation for learning.” Angie Rupan, Program Coordinator for Child Development Center in South San Francisco, CA and early childhood educator for over 20 years.

When we play with our kids, or when children play with one another, their language skills are developed. They pick up vocabulary, learn how to express themselves in ways that others can understand, and decode the grammatical structure of the English language without even realizing it!

When children are given unstructured play-time, their creativity sores. They learn how to be imaginative, invent, solve problems, build, and entertain themselves without being dependent on others to tell them what to do or how to think. Even simple toys like building blocks enhances mathematical ability in children.

My kids were trying to figure out how to build a suspension bridge the other day. They had to think through the physics involved to make this bridge.

Activities like drawing, painting, stringing, folding, cutting, squeezing dough or clay and molding it are all beneficial for fine motor skills. And activities that involve running, jumping, climbing, kicking, and the like will build muscular strength and endurance which are necessary for more difficult tasks that require body coordination.

What’s our part in all of this as parents? How do we ensure that learning happens when our children play? The following elements must be present:

  • Children feel free to express themselves
  • Children’s opinions are valued
  • Children believe they are unconditionally loved and accepted
  • Children are allowed to fail and learn from their failures
  • Children are allowed to experiment and try new ideas
  • Children are encouraged to consider more than one solution to a problem
  • Discipline is firm but not punitive
  • Parents accept some mess
  • Parents appreciate what their children accomplish and achieve
  • Parents communicate confidence in their children’s abilities
  • Parents demonstrate their own creativity and flexibility
  • Children are exposed to storybooks and storytelling
  • Make-believe is encouraged
  • Children have regular contact with parents and other children (siblings and cousins count, too!)

I don’t know what your family culture is like, but I hope you will prioritize playtime. It’s a necessary and fundamental part of childhood, and it’s our responsibility as parents, to provide a home environment where play is valued and encouraged. It’s time for our kids to play!

Future Park

We just visited Future Park, an interactive technology-based play center for kids.The kids had a blast! There aren’t too many stations yet but the concepts were really cool!  They gave us a glimpse of what future play will be like. 

 
   

 

  


   

     

Sketch City was my personal favorite and it was designed by the Philippines! You add your own details and color to sketches of different forms of transportation and your final drawing is scanned and uploaded into a program that animates and displays your work.    

 

This board of lights sense your heat and changes color accordingly.
 The best days to visit are weekdays. It’s 200 pesos cheaper!  

“Future Park is the Philippines’ first digital interactive play space – a dazzling exhibit of games and installations powered by cutting-edge tech and your imagination!” (Source: Century City Mall)
 
   

When Bullies Become Friends

IMG_2752It’s always interesting to see how my kids will respond to children who pick on them. Although it doesn’t happen often because it isn’t easy to gang up on five children (okay Catalina doesn’t quite count yet since she is still a baby), the younger ones do get their share of unpleasant encounters with the bullying kind. When this happens Edric and I find ourselves having to weigh the appropriate response. Should we intervene? Should we tell them to fight back? To extend grace, to turn the other cheek and be Christ-like?

The other day Tiana came running out of Playdium in Fun Ranch sobbing. “I want to stay with you, mom. I don’t want to play anymore.”

This was uncharacteristic of her. At the time I didn’t know what was going on so I encouraged her to go back in. She obeyed but thirty minutes later, she was crying again.

Upon investigating the matter, it was brought to my attention and the other moms who were with me (my sister and two sisters in law), that there was a boy who was yelling at my children and their cousins. He was also throwing objects at them.

Tiana, my sweet 3 year old, was especially affected. Had her father been around he may have handled the situation differently. He is especially protective of our daughters!

I asked the kids to point out who the boy was, and I saw this cute five year old who was complaining to the attendant on duty that he was the one being victimized. As I watched him gesticulate and make all kinds of dramatic statements about the kids who were bothering him, I found it hard to believe that this same little boy could harass a group of 8 children, half of whom were larger than he was. But my kids confirmed that he was indeed the culprit who was being nasty to them.

From the outside of the play area I called to him, “Come here, what is your name?” He answered without hesitation. I asked him, “What happened?” He explained that he had built something that some kids had knocked down. It hadn’t been my kids or their cousins but he had blamed them. That’s why he yelled and threw objects at them. My children looked on as this boy gave his defense. They must have realized what I had, that he wasn’t really an unkind boy, that he was merely acting on an assumption.

Author and speaker, Craig Groeschel said, “hurt people hurt others.” Sometimes it’s worth it to find out where a “bully” is coming from. That afternoon I wanted to teach my children how to reach out to this boy who was in need of some friends to play with.

“Would you like to play with these kids?” I asked him. His furrowed eyebrows relaxed and his expression softened. “Yes.”

“If you want other kids to play with you, then don’t shout at them, okay?

He nodded his head.

I was still leaning over the rail as I introduced him to my kids and their cousins. Elijah immediately invited him to build a tower. And they all ran off to enjoy the rest of their time at Playdium.

My job is done here, I thought to myself. The kids got my cue.

I watched them run around the different obstacles together with this “bully” turned friend as part of their troop. At the end of the hour, he told them they were his best friends.

He was a very nice boy who had been misunderstood. I am not saying that all children who bully others are this sweet under their rough and tough exteriors. But I think it pays to try and understand what the root cause of their behavior is and what they are really after.

My nephew was in a big school and a boy drew on his shirt during class. But this same boy ended up wanting to be his friend. My nephew was kind to him and they became good friends during the course of the year.

Kindness may not always win against bullies but it’s worth trying as a first response. If it doesn’t work and a child keeps harassing your children, then do what we do…our kids have Muai Thai classes to defend themselves and those they love if necessary!

In the car, I told the kids that I was proud of them for playing with the boy.

“If someone isn’t nice to you then reach out to them, if they still are unkind, it’s not your problem anymore. At least you tried. We represent Christ so in our responses to people, we must treat others in such a way that they will be attracted to Christ. Now, if they fight you and try to physically hurt you, you guys do Muai Thai! You can defend yourselves!” 😉

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Home-made Birthday Parties Are the Best!

My niece celebrated her 4th birthday the other day. And my sister in law’s love for color was everywhere! What fun…homemade parties are so much more creative. I don’t know why people spend so much money for birthday parties when you can do it yourself for a fraction of the cost and kids will still have fun.

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Montemar Beach Club

Our kids can never get enough of the water, especially if we are talking sea and sand. Two weekends ago, a friend invited us to celebrate his birthday at the Montemar Beach Club. We got two deluxe rooms with an ocean view and since it was considered their “lean season,” we paid about 4,700 per room. While the rooms are simple and straightforward, it’s the place that is worth going to. (There are member and non-member rates.)

Besides the beach, which is a long and wide stretch of fine sand, there are two very nice pools (a huge one for laps and the other for lounging around). Plus there are a ton of beach-related and water-related activities to do. The water stays shallow for about 50 or so meters which is great when you have little kids.

For our children, their highlight was getting to play for hours and hours in the sand. They were pretty toasty looking when we got home!

This is a great place to spend a family vacation. Not too pricey if you go during non-peak seasons and so accessible from Manila (about 3 hours). We stayed one night and it was just right for us.

Watching the sunset, reveling in God’s creation, being with the loves of my life, enjoying the company of friends…What a sweet time away from the harried pace of city-living.

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Mystery of History Volume I (Quarter 1)

Every time I tackle the book Mystery of History (MOH) with my kids I need ideas for crafts and projects to put in their portfolio. Sometimes, I use the suggested activities in the books. But other times, I think of an activity my kids can do using things I already have around the house. Or, I do my own research and find free stuff online. I love free stuff!

Right now, I have two kids going through MOH. My eldest son is doing Volume III and my second son is doing Volume I. Next year, I intend to do just one volume for the entire family. It was crazy covering two separate volumes this year. Learn from my mistake. It’s called a multi-level curriculum for good reason!

Here is what I have so far for Volume I – Creation to Christ (Quarter 1). I will add to this list whenever I can and if you have your own ideas, please let me know so I can include them here, too. Hope these help to make your homeschooling a little easier! (Some of these are home-made, some are ideas I picked up on-line, and others are free resources). With internet resources, please be present to monitor your child:

QUARTER 1

Lesson 1: Creation (c. 4004 b.c.)

Creation Mini-book

Lesson 2: Adam and Eve (c. 4004 b.c.)

Adam and Eve in the Garden (You Tube Cartoon Video)

Paper Chain Snake

Lesson 3: Jubal and Tubal-Cain (10 Generations After Adam)

Easy Instruments to Make at Home

Lesson 4: Noah and the Flood (2349 b.c.)

Streamer Rainbow

Noah’s Ark Paper Plate Craft

Lesson 5: The Ice Age (c. 2300–1600 b.c.)

Ice Cube Painting

Lesson 6: Dinosaurs (Created on the 5th and 6th Days)

Dinosaur Fossil Cookies Option 1

Dinosaur Fossil Cookies Option 2

Lesson 7: The Sumerians (c. 2300 b.c.)

Your Name In Cuneiform Writing

More About Ancient Sumer

Images of Ziggurats

Lesson 8: The Tower of Babel (2242 b.c.)

Tower of Babel Craft Page 1

Tower of Babel Craft Page 2

Lesson 9: The Epic of Gilgamesh (c. 2000 b.c.)

Epic of Gilgamesh for Kids (Powerpoint)

Lesson 10: Stonehenge (c. 2000 b.c.)

Miniature Stonehenge

Lesson 11: Early Egypt (3rd and 4th Centuries b.c.)

Guide to Hieroglyphics (Interactive)

Write and Print Your Name in Hieroglyphics

Explore Ancient Egypt

The Two Lands and King Menes

Lesson 12: The Minoan Civilization (c. 2000 b.c.)

Minoan History for Kids

Printable Maze (Challenging)

Lesson 13: ABRAHAM (1922 b.c.)*

God’s Friend Abraham Game

A Promise for Abraham Bible Mini Book

Lesson 14: Jacob and Esau (1836 b.c.)

Lesson 15: Joseph (1728 b.c.)

Coat of Many Colors Pattern

Lesson 16: Hammurabi (1792 b.c.)

Hammurabi’s Code

Hammurabi Strategy Game

Lesson 17: The Israelites in Slavery (Date Unknown)

Make Mud Bricks

Brick making in Egypt (Video)

Lesson 18: China and the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600–1046 b.c.)

How Silk is Made Video

About the Silkworm

The Shang and Chou Dynasties

Lesson 19: Moses and the Exodus (1491 b.c.)

The 10 Plagues Page 1

The 10 Plagues Page 2

Ten Commandments Craft

Lesson 20: The Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle (1491 b.c.)

Make the Tabernacle Craft (3-D Model)

Tabernacle Diagrams

Lesson 21: Joshua, Jericho, and Rahab (1451 b.c.)

Joshua and Israel Destroy Jericho

Lesson 22: Amenhotep IV and Nefertiti (1353 b.c.)

How to Make a Queen Nefertiti Crown (Tutorial)

Lesson 23: TUTANKHAMEN (KING TUT) (1333 b.c.)*

Printable King Tut Mask

Paper Pyramid Craft

Lesson 24: Ramses II (the Great) (1304–1237 b.c.)

About Ramses II

Lesson 25: Legend of the Trojan Horse (c. 1200–1184 b.c.)

Make a Trojan Horse

Lesson 26: Ruth and Naomi (c. 1200 b.c.)

Ruth Gathering Grain Craft

Family Tree for Boaz and Ruth

Lesson 27: Gideon (1199 b.c.)

Gideon Torch

Gideon Trumpet

 

Other Resources: Downloadable Bible Story Books

 

 

 

 

Kindermusik Certificates Promo

I am giving away 20 Kindermusik Classes (2 sessions worth per certificate) to the first 20 respondents to this post. Send in a comment about your favorite bonding activity with your child and I will email you back and let you know where you can claim certificate! Get it, get it!:)

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My daughter, Tiana, took these classes and loved them.

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Kids Mandarin Club Program

Our Friday playgroup joined a trial mandarin class at Kids Mandarin Club. Their classes are play-based and incorporate singing, games, story-telling into their language instruction. They opened just this past June and their teachers are a good mix of personable, patient, and authoritative.

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20130705-193705.jpg According to Dr. Gao Lan who facilitated the older kids’ class, “children learn best when they are having fun and they learn effectively from each other, too.” She is from Beijing and has taught at International School Manila and European Campus, and she is also a journalist.

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If the kids’ faces were a positive indicator of whether the classes were indeed fun, I saw most of them smiling! Kind of hard to believe when you think of how difficult learning Mandarin can be. But since it was just a trial class, some of the content was breezed through a little too fast. And the younger class seemed to be more effective at engaging the kids. However, I like the club’s philosophy which is to make the learning experience more interactive and less lecture and drills-based. They don’t call themselves a school but a club because the emphasis is more on conversing in Mandarin, getting the kids to practice speaking with one another.

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Having an option like this gives parents the flexibility to enroll their kids in a school of their liking and not necessarily a Chinese school. Or, they can homeschool and still get the benefit of learning Mandarin, which is very important to Filipino-Chinese families.

Mandarin Kids Club
Unit 301 McKinley Park Residences
3rd Avenue cor 31st Street
Bonifacio Global City

Telephone no: 519-9148
Email: kidsmandarinclub@gmail.com
Facebook: KMC kidsmandarinclub

My Out-of-the-Box Child

I’ve said it before that Titus often fascinates me because he is such an out-of-the-box thinker and he has learned many things on his own.

One afternoon he was counting aloud by 10s (something I had not taught him). He counted all the way up to 100. I turned over to him and said, “Where did you learn that? Who taught you that?” His Jedi-like reply was, “I know many things, mom.”

At this statement I started laughing really hard. He meant it with all sincerity. I followed up with, “Yes, but HOW did you learn to count by 10s?” Once again, I found it comedic when he said, “I think, mom! I just think!” It was almost like he was insulted that I questioned his ability to understand concepts on his own.

Recently, when my nieces, nephews and kids were doing a puppet show with my sister-in-law she asked everyone to make their puppets stand on their heads. Titus was the only one that thought of bending his puppet in half so that its feet touched its head…literally, standing on its head!

Because I haven’t spent too much time “teaching” him formally, I will have to give credit to John Holt’s idea that children are learning all the time. When they are not forced to learn too early, but provided with a stimulating, enriching environment in which to explore, create, build, invent, and discover, they educate themselves. Learning happens naturally and very often in the context of play. Titus certainly needs character training like my other children, but he has caught on just fine with the academics even without too much one-on-one instruction from me.

At four years old, he can read, comprehend, he is beginning to write better, he understands fundamental math concepts, and he is developing normally. He may not be as articulate as his older brothers were at his age, but he is a loving, happy, curious, and determined child…with a very positive opinion about himself. When I am teaching him, he will say, “This is sooo easy, mom!” And then he will start working and be like, “How do you do this again?”

I laugh alot with Titus. He has a unique perspective that I treasure as a mom. I appreciate that he doesn’t think linearly and that he pays attention to things that others might take forgranted.

One time he picked up a flattened fruit loop that was left on the floor of our condominium lobby. Everyone else thought it was dirty. But he picked it up and put it in his pocket. I didn’t realize this until we were in the car and he was cradling it in his hand. I told him he should throw it. After all, who knows where that fruit loop came from or who stepped on it? But he begged me to keep it.

Heck. Why not, I thought. If it matters that much to him and it isn’t a life and death issue, why can’t he be himself and keep it? He’s the only one who thought of doing so anyway and it’s important to him. So I told him he could and that made his day. A little fruit loop. I made him promise not to eat it and he didn’t.Whew!

Titus has stretched my parenting muscles a lot. I used to get really frustrated with him because he would take things apart, break his toys, color and draw in his books, tear out pages, peel the labels off things like crayons (he still does), hide objects under his bed like marbles and cereal, get himself into precarious predicaments, and bullheadedly insist on his way.

For example, when he was 8 months old, he weaned himself from breastfeeding. I was so upset and sad about it. None of my other children did this. I really wanted him to breastfeed for longer to keep bonding with him. But he insisted that he was ready to move on to the bottle. My fear was he would be deprived of affection because he was my third child. Without those bonding sessions, I didn’t get to hold him as often.

This was my first experience with Titus’ different way of doing things. Initially, I wanted to control him. I wanted to force him to breastfeed. But he ended up biting me! So that was it, I surrendered that stage over to the Lord. Crying and depressed, I accepted his decision to wean.

Such was the beginning of my parenting adventures with Titus. It took me a while to recognize that God designed Titus with a personality that was hand-picked by Him for a reason and purpose.

Titus turned out to be one my most affectionate children, my big hugger. In fact, he is such a touch person, he will randomly head butt people to get their attention! On certain mornings, he will crawl into bed beside me after he wakes up and let me drape my whole self around him like a pillow. He is the only one who will lie there contentedly and still. He won’t squirm away or complain that I am too heavy. And he will come up to me and randomly hug and kiss me during the day without being asked to. Who would ever have thought my earliest weaned baby would have become like this?

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I love all my children equally but God taught me how to love my Titus. Through Titus, God has helped me to grow in character, especially in the area of patience!

His birthday is coming up in two days and I wanted to write this to celebrate the joy and color that he has brought into our lives. I could’ve missed out on appreciating him had I placed him in a mold of my own liking…to make my parenting “convenient.” But God made certain children out-of-the-box — children who make us see the world differently, who challenge the norm (in a good way), who keep us from getting complacent about our parenting, and who make us dependent upon the Lord for the creativity and wisdom we need to instruct them. Titus is special just the way he is and I hope that Edric and I can keep encouraging him to grow in the Lord and become the man that God wants him to be.



 

 

Dirty, Sweaty, Stinky

I was at the park with my kids one afternoon, when I heard a mom freaking out about her son’s dirty shoes. In the background, I caught sight of my own kids looking like a bunch of scalawags compared to the neat little boy who was being protected from mud at all costs. They were making soupy sand with a water hose and tossing sand bombs. Disheveled hair, sweaty bodies, and muddy feet and legs made for quite a sight as they and their cousins took over the sandbox.

I don’t mind dirt. Kids need dirt once in a while. As long as they don’t eat it and as long as they take baths after they are done rolling around in it, then that’s quite alright with me.

My parents were the same way with my siblings and I growing up. They let us run around barefoot in the yard, climb trees, dig traps, slip and slid down the grass, play house and make actual fires for cooking our “food.” We could explore any part of the house, even the roof, and we spent a whole lot of time with our stinky pets (I had a native monkey). My siblings displayed mud balls on the bathroom counter like little trophies and we almost always had black feet when we came back into the house. I don’t remember wearing much either. We were always half-naked or so it seemed (until we hit puberty, of course).

Those were fun years.

It’s harder to replicate that kind of childhood for our kids because we are urbanites. Living in the heart of the city doesn’t give them much opportunity for mud adventures. I miss that kind of outdoorsy lifestyle which has been replaced by computer games, tv, Internet, IPods, IPads, etc.

I did some research on outdoor play and discovered that playing outside has many benefits that we don’t always think about. It helps improve eyesight, it encourages an appreciation for God’s creation, it exposes children to many opportunities to enhance their gross motor skills. They also invent games when they are outdoors. Running around, leaping, jumping, swinging, climbing are all great for burning calories, and these activities keep kids less susceptible to developing obesity and heart disease. Exposure to vitamin D from the sun (during less intense times of the day) also keeps them healthier. Furthermore, being surrounded by nature engages all of their senses. The National Wildlife Federation even claims that kids who get outside “need less medication and are less prone to depression.”

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Edric and I have to be creative as city people homeschooling our kids. The fact that our kids’ default mode is to play inside is not their fault, but ours. Edric and I may go running on some mornings but the kids don’t join us because it is way too early. And we spend most of our day inside. So our kids do the same and will continue to do so unless we are more purposeful about their daily activities.

I remember how intentional my parents were with us. They had daily morning walks with us. We would swim in the nearby club together. They built a simple, outdoor playground, and a mini basketball court in the backyard. We had a rope that hung from a tree so we could swing on it. And they got us all kinds of pets.

Edric and I may not be able to do exactly the same for our kids because of space constraints, but recently, we have been trying harder to instill a love for the outdoors in them. Even if we live in the city, there are many things that we can do for free or inexpensively. A condo lifestyle shouldn’t be a hindrance or an excuse.

One of the things we have done is enroll our older boys in a Football (soccer) club – Azkals Global Football. We pay 300 pesos/child for every 2.5 hours of soccer training. The group we joined is an all homeschoolers group of kids, which is great. The coaches are more exacting of the kids, too (which we prefer.) They toughen up the boys. Our little kids accompany them and play beside the field. During the rest of the week, we try to take the kids to a nearby park or go to High Street. Sometimes, we take walks with the kids, too.

The good news is our kids are starting to really like playing outside, but it is still a pitiful amount of time compared to what we had growing up. We really hope to condition them to prefer the outdoors as their play area of choice. But Edric and I can’t just hope that our children will prefer to play outside, we have to go outside with them. So we are doing that whenever we can.

Today, our playgroup was at a park. The kids ran around with their friends and they invented all sorts of games. I loved hearing them laugh and shout out game rules. They would come panting back to where the moms were gathered to ask for a drink or a snack every now and then. I looked at all their sweaty faces and dirtied clothes and I thought, this is what kids should be doing in the afternoons…getting sweaty, dirty, and stinky while playing outside. That’s the stuff that childhood memories are made of!

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