4 Ideas To Engage Your Child During Holidays

The December holiday period is here, and I have two boys who are having their school holidays. What can I do to engage the two boys, aged three and six, so that they will not drive each other crazy (usually it’s the younger one that drives the elder one crazy)? I only have two or three weeks of break before I start working again.

Make and play homemade games
I was at my parents’ place when my mother was throwing out some things. I happened to spot a few laminated A3 paper, and realised that they were some snake and ladders games created for my history students in the past when I was a beginning teacher.

I took them home, and played with my children. It was about a time travelling piece where they get to learn about the trading and travelling history of ancient China and India.
india travels and trade

I had included information about how difficult it was for traders to travel in the jungles in ancient India as there were fierce tribes, and when they reached such boxes, the players would miss a turn or go down a snake. If there were new trade markets opening, the players would get to go again or go up a ladder.
china travels and trade

My children had a lot of fun playing, especially El. He was so excited about the games he asked to play both ancient India and China games a couple of time. He even said he wanted to create his own game. He wanted to do Malaysia at first. Then I suggested Southeast Asia, as that was also part of the former history syllabus. In the end, he wanted to do Thailand.

I discussed some quick facts with him, and then he decided he needed more information. I said I would take him to the library and he wanted to go there the next day.

playing board game

This would be a great way to make use of the holidays as it is the time I really have time with my children, and they would have other things to do in the school term. Making such historical games requires research, and there is the fun element.

Go on a holiday
We were planning a holiday to Australia, and El was really keen to visit the Australia Zoo, managed by the Irwin family. It would be our first overseas holiday ever since he was born, so we felt that going to Brisbane would be a pretty long flight (at least 7 hours) and the air fare was way more expensive than going to Perth. After attending a financial literacy course, El agreed to go to Perth instead since we would save more money.

Since both children like animals and El especially likes nature, we would be going to places such as farm, nature park and zoo. It would be great to expose them to Australian wildlife and other farm animals. I just hope the weather would be fine and not too hot.

They like dinosaurs too, and I googled Dinosaur Perth, and found a great website that collates all the sightings of dinosaurs in Perth. The Perth Museum looks like a great place to start looking! Unfortunately, we have missed a November exhibition, and going to miss something dino-related in January. There is also a theme park, which we may explore if we have the time, although our schedule looks pretty packed.

Looks like we can try the Kings Park. There are some dinosaurs there.

I am also going to pack lots of paper so that they can do some drawing if they are bored. El also asked me to bring along the snake and ladders game, which is very light.

It would be fun to plan holidays together with your children if they are old enough. Read up websites to find out how to save money, and where the best places to go to. As we only made our decision to go there really late, and I was too busy to book accommodation, they were nearly full. I decided to try my luck with airbnb, and it mentioned that only 6% of all the listings were available for my date. It is a house in a suburb, so I hope it will not be too inconvenient for us.

Take up holiday classes
The boys had just taken up taekwondo classes (to protect himself from Gar, who is quite aggressive at times, though both boys are learning it together).

They seem to have so much fun from the class, and they get to expend their energy. They have not received their white belts yet, so they even went to do their own by cutting a piece of paper!

He likes drawing and going for short term art lessons would be more interesting to him. Gar wants to go for art classes too, but he is too young to complete all the drawing and painting. However, he gets so upset that he would even lie when he sees all the paintings belonged to his brother, so going for holiday lessons would be great for him too, just so that he would have his own artwork.

The paintings might have required a lot of guidance from the teachers, but their satisfaction at the end of it is great. They make great décor too.

El requested to go for a science cookery class at the local Community Club, so I signed up a class for him. This will allow him to have fun, and at the same time, hopefully learn something new.

Since he is going to primary school next year, and is pretty weak in the Chinese language, he will go for something more academic in focus. He has a few lessons to attend. I had signed him up for some fun day trips, with immersion in Chinese, but he told me he was still conversing with the other kids in English, so that was not too useful. He had lots of fun though, but I think it may be too tiring to go out the whole day. I am glad he still comes out of the class smiling.

I guess it depends on what your child’s strengths and interests are. Find holiday classes that are suitable for them, and that keeps them occupied. If they have weaknesses in any academic area, it may also be a time to help them catch up. It’s your call (and your children’s).

Make videos
El took his brother’s rabbit project and used it as a prop. He wanted to stage a puppet show or something, then decided he wanted to record it. He then started doing his own videos and called it the Rabbit Show. He had his own commentary, and he also recorded his brother singing about a rabbit. I think the quality is really bad, but hey, even Steven Spielberg has to start somewhere. My secret wish is he can do something like the Hobby Kids, where Gar loves to watch. For now, I just let him use my iPhone to record.

rabbit show
He had been thinking about this a long time. He wants to make his Minecraft commentary videos, but after I read up on how to record iPad games, I think it is far easier to hook up the iPad to the TV via HDMI cable, and then use a video cam to video the TV. The other option is to buy a newer version of the iPad, but I do not see the need to spend that money when the current one is in good condition.

The rest of the time during the holidays, we will probably go to various places of local attractions that are free. If possible, I may just bring the older one to watch a movie. We usually watch at home, because you never know when the younger one gets really scared. I’ve also brought them to a playground recently.

Only less than a month left before I have to go back to work!

This post is part of a blog hop by Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page in December on Surviving the holidays. Check out other blogs too.
surviving the holidays

Financial Literacy Course At Planet J Learning Centre

Moments after attending a financial literacy course conducted at Planet J Learning Centre, I managed to save nearly $5000 by geting El to change his decision of going to Brisbane to Perth for a holiday. Previously, he had refused to consider any alternatives.

Both places are in Australia, but the cost difference is huge. He wanted to go to the Australia Zoo, operated by the Irwin family, but air tickets to Brisbane were twice that of Perth. Since the whole family and my parents would be going together, the cost would be astronomical.

There are also similar animals in Perth, so it should still be a similar experience. This would be our first trip overseas, and the children need to get used to travelling first.

We were invited to Planet J Learning Centre located at Soo Chow Walk, which was right beside Thomson Plaza. It was located on the second floor of a row of shophouses. It is nestled in a quiet private estate, yet close to amenities.

It is a new student care centre, and they offer programmes during the holidays. The place was very pleasant and was renovated. There were a few rooms for classes and students.
planet j room
planet j classroom

While waiting for the class to start, the children were playing a soccer game where they have to move around and kick imaginary balls. El was very excited by that. It is good that it was an active game.

planet j wii

After attending a preview of Raising A Financially Savvy Kid conducted by Ernest Tan, an experienced Certified Financial Planner, Master Money Coach, and Wealth Trainer, El has learnt a few money managing tips. I have also learnt a few tips to help El learn how to manage his money, which would be very important as he is going to Primary One next year.
money jar and raising financially savvy kids book

Ernest asked both the parents and children questions about money first. That allowed us to find out the attitudes children have towards money. When asked what he would do if he did not have money, I was surprised that El said he would work to earn money. I did not talk much about money to him, but I think he knows that both my husband and I work hard to earn money.

Ernest mentioned that some children actually said if they had no money, they would get the money from their fathers. Others said they would get money from the wall. The latter tickled me because my brother used to tell my mother that when she said she had no money to buy new toys for him. These answers worried the trainer as they did not see the value of money.

The children played a few rounds of a board game. It was modelled after Rich Dad Poor Dad’s Cashflow game. They had to make choices, such as to decide whether to save money, spend money or earn money. Sometimes, expenses were not compulsory.
money junior board game

To my surprise, El would spend money to buy sweets and ice cream if there were huge discounts offered. He was modelling my behaviour. I would keep saying no to buying new packages at the beauty salon, but when they start piling me with freebies and discounts, I would cave in.
spending money

There were also certain rules, such as shouting ‘Allowance Day’ in order to get an allowance. I thought it was interesting as children needed to learn rules and at the same time, not get distracted easily. If not, money would be gone.
spinning a die

Up till now, El has not seen his bank book. His father gives him $1 coins so that he could save the money in a piggy bank. However, we did not bring him to deposit this money. Hence, he did not have much of a concept of putting money into the bank to earn interest. When Ernest offered the children $5 interest if they saved $50 with the bank, all of them grabbed the opportunity except for El. He was used to seeing money physically, and thought the money would be gone if he put everything in.
saving two dollars

He also handed his ang pows to us, and my husband and I would be so busy we did not even open them until end of the year, before we put the money into the bank on our own. I think I would make a more conscious effort to take him to the bank.

At the end of the class, we were introduced the money jar system. Instead of giving them the exact amount needed for recess, and then hope that they have some money left over to save, we should pay ourselves first. This is a concept that I do, after reading countless wealth management books. Every month, I would transfer money to my other saving accounts before spending the rest.

For this to take place, parents could give children loose change, so that they can save a portion of it. I had read somewhere before that we should not give daily pocket money, but instead, give weekly pocket money for younger children, and then give monthly pocket money for older children, so that they can learn to manage money.
money jar

This is certainly something I will implement for pocket money when El goes to Primary One next year.

I am extremely pleased with the various strategies both of us had picked up, and I think that children should have financial literacy classes.

After the lesson, the children had some delicious snacks. The children attending student care here would definitely be well taken care of. The cosy centre is well maintained and clean.
planet j kitchen (2)

Serene, one of the owners, explained that the students would have supervision as they did their homework. They would also be given opportunities to go to the nearby park for some outdoor activities. They have weekly discussions on handling various situations the children may encounter in school. If they require private tuition, there would be smaller rooms for them to have their own tutors over. They could even go for their piano lessons as the staff would drive them to their destination, with additional arrangements between parents and the centre.
planet j kitchen
Since more parents work late nowadays, the centre has an Extended Hour Service where they would provide dinner and even drive the students home at 8pm if they live within 5km. Of course, additional services would require additional charges, but I believe for busy parents, the time saved in fetching their children and the knowledge that their children would be in good hands would outweigh this.

There are many other vacation programmes that the centre is holding. They look pretty interesting, such as CSI, Lego robotics, creative writing with lego (which I had seen before), on top of the financial literacy course that we have just attended.

Planet J Holiday Workshops

For more information, visit Planet J Learning Centre website. They are located at 99A Soo Chow Walk Singapore 573784 . You may park at the private estate or at the nearby Thomson Plaza. Call them at Tel: 6451 0080 on weekdays.

Note: El and I were invited to a preview of the financial literacy course for review.

Different Stages of Giftedness In Young Children

Does your baby stare at everything intensely? Does your toddler complete jigsaw puzzles meant for older children? Does your preschooler read every sign and ask ‘why’ all the time? Does your kindergartner multiply in his head? Check out some of the characteristics of giftedness in young children at different stages.


Many gifted babies seem to have intense focus and take in everything they see. They seem to be able to recognise faces at an earlier stage. Some may crawl earlier. They start cruising when others are still crawling. Some of them might have already started babbling. I have heard of babies who start talking young. They can pay attention to books, and they play with building blocks.

My children showed great interest in the iPad and iPhone. They knew when I gave them fake phones. They even tried to swipe magazines, thinking they were non-static. They enjoyed peekaboos tremendously.


Now that they can walk, they are able to explore many places. The fences and gates you have put up to keep them out of danger are danger themselves. They try all sorts of ways to get out of them. Some have already started running.

While it differs from toddlers to toddlers, many of them show they are good at puzzles and memory work. They know which card stands for what word, they know what the animals are called, and they can point or find them easily. Depending on the level of giftedness, some of them are already talking.

They can say simple words, and some could even put two to three words together. Some may even start stringing sentences together.They can also understand complex situations. They may enjoy the company of older children or adults than their age peers, because their peers still unable to communicate much.

For numbers, many can count beyond ten, sometimes to hundred or more. They understand different shapes and sizes. They like to identify colours.

Some toddlers may start to have meltdowns, because their language abilities have not caught up with their thoughts, and they get extremely frustrated with their inability to express themselves, or that their caregivers are not able to decode their signals. It might be useful to teach them sign language or have some common gestures to signal what they want.

When my children were at the toddler stage, they enjoyed jigsaw puzzles meant for 3 years and above. My younger one could put 30 pieces together on his own. The older one could spell and type on the computer and iPad, so he searched for cartoons and songs on his own. He learnt to read on his own and was devouring books soon.


This is probably the time when they are the cutest. They can finally talk and communicate properly with adults and it is interesting to see their ideas. They say the funniest things and sometimes create their own phrases. They also start asking tonnes of questions, so Google is your best friend.

Many start developing their passions for various topics. They memorise everything about dinosaurs, animals, capital cities and countries, cartoons, and any other topics that catch their fancies. As many can read already, just provide them the various books and other resources (such as youtube videos and the internet), and they will just learn on their own. This is the time when they expect you to know everything too. They may test you, or just want to unload all the information they have learnt on you.

This is also a time when teachers tell you your child is different. Some children may survive well, while others get bored out of their minds. They are so advanced in arithmetic and literacy skills that teachers find it difficult to match their needs and the rest of the class. Behavioural issues may crop up, and if you do not already suspect your child is gifted, you may actually think that your child has ADHD or some other learning issues.

Many enjoy singing and other musical instruments. They may love drawing or painting. Some may have asynchronous development, and may not have well developed fine motor skills, so frustration may set in too.

My elder son started scribbling when he entered preschool. He was always writing something, but because his fine motor skills were not that well developed, it was difficult to see what he had written. He was reading all the charts in the classroom, and it was fortunate that his teachers were able to recognise he was ahead. They said he could get all the puns and jokes. I also had to read up on dinosaurs and even Ben 10 just to have something in common to talk about.

My younger one is asking all sorts of questions and is able to ask and answer ‘why’ questions. He has a wide range of vocabulary. He has memorised simple books with the aid of pictures. However, he is not reading well. He is able to read Chinese characters, but when it comes to English, he cannot differentiate between ‘car’ and ‘cat’. He can count big numbers, and tell me he takes bus service number ‘54’, but puts ‘45’ together. There are some number reversals as well. There is asynchronous development here, so I am suspecting he might be twice exceptional, but it is still early to tell.


At this stage, many have started reading chapter books and they enjoy intellectual challenges. They start to use vocabulary that is beyond usual conversations. They are also able to explain meanings. They understand abstract concepts, and can do additions, multiplications and other types of mathematics. Some can calculate in their heads.

Since kindergarten is too easy for them, it is important for parents to challenge them at home. There are online materials available.

Many of them have empathy for people and world affairs. They are sensitive to people’s feelings, and may cry during a touching scene. They are also creative and they like to create their own stories, characters, drawings and models. They may try their hands at creating jokes.

While they prefer the company of adults and older children, they should be able to interact better with some of the peers who have matured more. If they have common topics, it would be better.

Many have favourite computer games, and some have tried their hands at coding.

comic characters
My elder son has been creating his own comic characters based on objects at home, and is coming up with his own story of survival and elimination rounds based on some online shows he is watching. He just told me that he did not know a lot of words when I was saying that he did, and he requested for an advanced learner’s dictionary from Longman. He just had to choose the most expensive one and did not want a small one.

While he has finished reading Danger Dan in one day, a book about a boy who time travels to Singapore’s history to ensure history is not changed, coincidentally written by a gifted teenager with her mother, he does not read other books that often. He requests for Minecraft books and manuals. He has improved in his social skills and has more friends now, perhaps with some common topics such as Minecraft.


Now that my elder son is going to primary (elementary) school next year, he will be going to a new stage. It will be interesting to discover the new stages.

More resources
Early stages of giftedness
Giftedness in chool going children
Childhood milestones based on IQ

This is part of a blog hop by Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page on Ages and Stages of Giftedness. Check out other blogs!

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