Going to the River Safari!

On the last Sunday of 2013 we went down to the River Safari!

We decided to go down early (the park opens at 9am) but there were already lots of people outside when we arrived at 8.45am.

river safari crowd
The crowd at 8.45am!!

We quickly bought our tickets ($25 per adult) and got the last 11am seats for the complimentary river boat ride. There was a long queue (at least 50 meters) outside the river safari customer service booth and we almost mistook it for the queue to get in.

The first part of the river safari housed animals from the rivers – categorised into the major rivers of the world: Mississippi, Congo, Nile, Ganges, Murray, Mekong and Yangtze. They are mostly crocodiles, fishes and turtles, with the occasional monkey, beaver and stork.

snapping turtle
Riding on an alligator snapping turtle

fishes
Fishes!

We were lucky to run into an animal petting session, and Samantha got to pet a prairie dog.

The next part of the river safari was the main attraction – the two Giant Pandas! They were housed in a giant air conditioned enclosure that was also home to red pandas and golden pheasants. The red pandas were quite active when we arrived, climbing up trees to welcome us. When we got to the giant panda’s enclosure, only Kai Kai (the male panda) could be seen taking a nap on a giant rock. Jia Jia (the female panda) was hiding in her den (we could still see her through a CCTV).

panda
Kai Kai sleeping

panda sleeping
Shh..don’t wake the sleeping panda!

Samantha fell asleep after looking at the pandas (it was already 10.30am, time for her usual morning nap), so the adults went to take the Amazon River Quest boat ride. They said it was complimentary now so I think they will probably start charging for it in the future.

boat ride
River boat ride entrance

We had a slight hiccup at the entrance of the boat ride – they asked for a thermal printed ticket to prove that we were on the 11am ride, but we were not given any by the ticketing booth (they must have forgot). Luckily they were nice enough to radio the entrance to ask and check against our receipt number, otherwise we would have missed our opportunity to ride on the boat. There was a long queue to get onto the boat (each boat can hold about 10 people only), and we waited for a good 30 minutes before we finally got on.

The ride was pretty uneventful, most animals had gone into hiding (it was almost noon) and all we got to see were some monkeys, flamingos, ibis and the jaguars.

scarlet ibis
Scarlet ibis lined up

flamingos
Pink flamingos

jaguar
Jaguar taking a snooze

The ride was over in about 15 minutes. If you go there with a child there is a ‘child-swap’ area where one adult can stay behind to look after the children (children under 1.06meters are not allowed on the ride) while the rest take the ride. After these adults return from their ride, the supervising adult can go for the ride too while the rest of the adults wait with the children. The waiting room is a small room with a TV playing cartoons to keep the children entertained, and got quite crowded when we were there.

Because the wait was too long, my Dad (who stayed behind to look after Samantha) decided not to queue up for another 30 minutes to take the boat ride. Maybe the river safari people can consider letting these adults get priority on the boat ride in the future. Take note that if you do not take the boat ride, you will not be able to see the animals on that trail (tapirs, anteaters, jaguars, sloths, flamingos, etc) except the monkeys, which can be viewed later on in the money enclosure that is also seen in the boat ride.

monkey
Monkey in the monkey enclosure

The last part of the river safari was the Amazon flooded forest, which is a giant aquarium with fishes, rays and manatees. I’m not a fish kind of person so by the time I got here I was bored to see fishes again. This area is quite similar to the aquarium in Sentosa.

We were done with the park at 12.30pm, and as we walked out I noticed signs saying that all the river boat ride slots for the day were already full. This means, all the visitors to the park from that point on will be missing a third to half of the animals!

Overall, we felt that Samantha had a fun day out to the river safari today! It is a nice place to go, despite being a bit costly. Also, if you don’t want to miss out on the boat ride, go early!

Take note that the boat ride is not open everyday. Check out this link for more details.

Making Photo Memory Materials

One of the Shichida Home Practice components is this thing called ‘Photo/Picture Memory’. In this exercise you show your child a picture for 8-10 seconds and then ask him/her to pick out the correct picture from a set of two pictures. As the child grows older you can use other ways to train the photo memory (like memorise the order of certain pictures), but for a one year old, they do much better with the former approach.

I discovered that I needed a large collection of Photo Memory Materials (I couldn’t keep showing the same pictures), and the internet was insufficient for me to keep up with my daily Shichida Home Practice sessions..so I turned to making my own materials (which I found out, wasn’t too hard after all).

I bought  a book to teach children how to draw, and copied the pictures, making the second picture just slightly different from the first-

picture memory 1

Then I coloured the pictures..and laminated them (Samantha will mouth or tear the pictures if I don’t). Time for home practice!

picture memory 2

picture memory 3

Shichida Home Practice

I have previously described the Shichida lesson in great detail.

For home practice, here’s what the school recommends (most of it are similar to what is done in class, so you may want to read the post about classroom activities first)-

  • Begin with relaxation exercises: Deep breathing/blowing
  • Image training: In my opinion this is just pretend play, but try to invoke the use of all 5 senses
  • Clairvoyance/Telepathy games: Similar to what is done in class
  • Flashcards: They recommend 200-250 cards to be flashed per day
  • 63 Day dots program: I have already covered this in a previous post about a set of these cards from China
  • Eye training: Similar to what is done in class (image below)
  • Photo memory: Similar to what is done in class
  • Linking memory: Similar to what is done in class
  • Reading a book

eye training1

eye training2

Nurturing a Reader

This Christmas, give your child the best gift you could ever give – the habit of reading!

sams library

Reading is undoubtedly the best habit any child could have. You can pick up desirable values, learn new facts, and venture into a world limited only by your imagination..from just a humble book. It is also a very cheap hobby (the libraries are free, as long as you return the books on time!).

I recently attended two reading workshops at a public library (‘Ready….Get Set….Read’ and ‘Readers for Life’). These two workshops are targeted at parents of young children. They are free and you can sign up here. You may even bring your child along!

The first workshop is more practical-based, they give you suggestions on how you can engage your child and help your child to develop early literacy skills, while the second workshop is a little more theoretical. I signed up for both workshops because they were back-to-back, and each only took a hour. At the end of these sessions, you may even borrow the story books that have been taken out for demonstration.

According to research (link below), what you do with you child at home and your own attitudes, beliefs and expectations help to shape your child’s reading habits.

Here’s a brief summary of the workshops – 5 best ways to help child get ready to read!

  • Playing: Play with your child! Use things, actions and language to represent real and imaginary experiences. Children will learn to express themselves and understand the meaning of words through play.
  • Talking: Talk to you child and you will allow the child to mirror you and develop their own language skills.
  • Singing: Music and singing help the child to develop awareness of sounds that are used in pronouncing words. By singing to your child, you can also grow your child’s musical interests. One good way is to sing nursery rhymes. Repetition is boring to you, but good for your child.
  • Reading: Read books together with your child. Again, don’t be afraid to read the same book over and over again. You can start asking higher-order questions as your child gets older and more familiar with the book (for example, Why did the character in the story do this?)
  • Writing: Writing will help your child recognise letters. You can do things like writing a mini book together, or writing postcards, letters to members of the family.

For a more suggestions, and recommended books for your child, you may pick up a copy of ‘A Guide for Reading to Little Ones’ from your nearest library.

reading booklet

Here’s an open access journal article about the benefits of joint book reading (in case you really want to get technical and see some research papers). [Last assessed Dec 17 2013]

littleBits Review

I recently stumbled upon littleBits, ‘an opensource library of electronic modules that snap together with tiny magnets for prototyping, learning, and fun’.

In simpler terms, it is a collection of tiny circuit-board pieces (‘modules”) that you can mix around depending on what you want to create. Each module has a specific function. There are modules that allow for an input, such as a motion trigger, a slide dimmer, a button, etc, and others that produce a certain output, such as light, sound or vibration. One of the modules is a DC motor so you can even make things such as toy cars! Here’s a whole list of modules.

These modules only snap together if the circuit is correct so it is perfect for tech-illiterate geek wannabes like me. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that this product was available online in Singapore, at a much cheaper price than on the US website. (I later found out that my secondary school classmate is an investor into littleBits. What a coincidence!)

I ordered both the starter and extended kits (they had different modules inside) and I received the kits two days later via courier.

littleBits box

Here’s what I found in the kits-

starter

Starter kit-

  • 9V battery, battery cable and power module
  • wire (to lengthen the circuit if necessary)
  • pulse (sends out current at regular intervals – the frequency can be adjusted by a tiny screwdriver in the box)
  • dimmer (turning the knob increases/decreases the current flowing through)
  • button (pressing it allows current through)
  • vibration motor
  • rgb led (an led light where you can adjust the contribution of red, green and blue, to give you the exact colour you want)
  • led
  • pressure sensor (current flows through when the pressure pad picks up pressure)
  • bargraph (shows you how much current is flowing thought by means of a series of led lights)

extended 1
extended 2

Extended kit-

  • 9V battery, battery cable and power module
  • USB power module (allows you to use a usb port to power up the circuit)
  • slide dimmer (sliding the knob up and down changes the amount of current)
  • buzzer
  • toggle switch (an on/off switch)
  • wire x 2
  • light trigger (sends current through when there is light or when it is dark, adjustable using the screwdriver provided)
  • long led x 2 (not that ‘long’, in my opinion)
  • branch (allows you to branch into three outputs)
  • roller switch (a switch that stays open unless you press it)
  • dc motor
  • motion trigger (allows current through when motion is sensed)
I quickly pieced together a simple contraption for Samantha’s Makedo playhouse..within seconds, it was good to go!
littleBits trial circuitI think littleBits is a brilliant idea and just like Makedo, it promotes creative thinking in kids. By combining littleBits with art and craft ideas, endless fun toys/inventions can be made, limited only by imagination..and perhaps the parent’s wallet! (Each module can be bought individually and they range from $10 to $40!) However, I feel that the potential fun and cerebral stimulation the child will have during these tech-and-craft sessions far outweigh the costs.You might realise that the set that you can buy locally is a ‘retired’ set according to the US online store. I asked my friend (the boss) about it and he said it’s essentially the same modules, only in different boxes. Comparing both my boxes together with the ‘base’ and ‘premium’ kits available at the US online store, only the servo and sound trigger are missing, and in their place I get the toggle switch, USB power and motion trigger. Not too bad, I think. He also added that we can expect to order loose bits from him soon! Yay!

Where to buy:

  • The starter kit (of 10 modules) is going for $115 + $8 shipping
  • The extended kit (of 14 modules) is going for $180 + $8 shipping
Overseas: http://littlebits.com/Have fun!!

Disclosure: While I am friends with the investor of littleBits, I purchased the littleBits sets and decided to write this review because I think this product is amazing. I did not receive remuneration for writing this review.

Update (16 Dec 2013):
Now all the kits are available in the Singapore shop! New links updated.