31 of the best (FREE) online learning resources for preschoolers

Over here in Singapore, there is tremendous pressure on children to excel academically, and many of Little E and J’s preschool classmates are enrolled in various expensive enrichment classes.

Although I am trying my best to avoid hot-housing my children, both J and Little E have a innate love of learning and I like to find ways to nurture and encourage them in their educational journey. Now with the June school holidays on the horizon, I find myself actively looking for meaningful home activities to keep them gainfully occupied during the day!

Here is a list of 30 of my favourite (free!) online learning resources that I find myself returning to again and again!

Phonics and Early Reading

With most schools returning to phonics to help children to learn how to read, these are some brilliant websites which will help you to reinforce what your preschooler is learning!

  1. Reading Bear – there are some very lovely videos to help capture your kid’s interest
  2. Progressive Phonics – this has some great e-books and worksheets too
  3. Starfall Phonics – the animations may be rather crude, but the songs are pretty catchy!
  4. Phonics4free – this is a series of videos and guides for empowering parents to teach phonics
  5. ABC Fast Phonics – A very simple no-frills guide to the basics which is good for parents who want to help their kids at home

Mandarin

Bilingualism is very important in Singapore with Mandarin chinese offered as a second language in most preschools. We speak very little Mandarin at home, so I have to find creative ways to expose my children to the nuances in both the spoken and written word. These websites have really helped me to keep my kids interested and engaged!

  1. Chineasy – This is a beautiful website which focusses on the pictorial nature of the chinese written script and helps kids (and adults) to remember chinese characters using gorgeous illustrations and beautifully animated teaching videos.
  2. CCTV Learn Chinese – This is an extensive library of videos aimed at teaching conversational chinese and touches on aspects of chinese culture and daily living as well.
  3. Fun Fun Elmo – Sesame Street has most recently developed a preschool mandarin programme featuring the ever-popular Elmo in a series of 10 minute vignettes! This first season is available on Youtube – and hopefully Sesame Street will release their subsequent episodes online too.
  4. Semanda  – These are some free printable flashcards which cover some basic concepts (such as colours, fruits, animals, vehicles etc) as well as some multiple choice style quizzes
  5. Hanlexon Chinese – This is a useful website for printing out writing practice worksheets. You can alter the worksheet to show the stroke order or allow tracing of the characters

Math

  1. Khan Academy – This site is brilliant for kids who already know how to count. J loves this because he can unlock achievement badges and trophies when he has achieved mastery of a new concept!
  2. Math Worksheet Wizard – Here is a simple worksheet generator to help reinforce simple counting, addition as well as subtraction.
  3. ScootPad – This has a basic free system for individuals as well as a subscription service for classrooms. The basic free system has both Math as well as Reading practice pages (but the Math pages are prettier), as well as some really fun math games!
  4. Math Game Time – this is self explanatory, but helps kids to reinforce their rote counting and number recognition skills
  5. Soft Schools – Here you can find some great free printable worksheets and online games to help grow little mathletes.

Art

These art sites are more for parents who are looking for simple, foolproof art projects for preschoolers as well as lesson plans to introduce kids to art history!

  1. Mrs Brown’s Art Class
  2. Teach Kids Art
  3. Art Projects for Kids
  4. KinderArt
  5. Museum of Modern Art NY

Science

These are a collection of brilliant websites that include some very impressive science demonstration videos as well as projects and simple experiments that you can set up at home!

  1. Science For Preschoolers
  2. Ellen McHenry’s Basement Workshop
  3. The Kid Should See This
  4. BrainPOP
  5. SESL Writing Wizard

Other Useful Resources

There are plenty of awesome sites out there that will inspire your kids to learn more about the world around them! Here are our current favourites that include everything from World History to Astrophysics :

  1. Typing Club
  2. Learning with Fun
  3. Crash Course World History
  4. NASA Kids Club
  5. The Good Stuff
  6. Smarter Every Day

Playing With Food: It’s Cupcake Time! (Part 2)

In which J and Little E decorate cupcakes using colourful (and tasty) fondant icing!

P.S. This was filmed during a parent-child cupcake making and decorating class at Artzbake. They have loads of awesome holiday classes coming up this June for both adults and kids, which will definitely be both fun and delicious!

P.P.S. Check out It’s Cupcake Time! (Part 1) here.

 

Writing Process Blog Tour: Debs G

owls well blog _logo_2

Hello there Blog Tourists! Thanks for stopping by Owls Well Blogs this week on the Writing Process Blog Tour, where writers answer four questions about themselves, their writing process and their motivations and their current work.

Mel looking awesome (Picture credit: Darren Soh)

Mel looking awesome
(Picture credit: Darren Soh)

My old friend, Melanie Lee, invited me to take part in this blog hop (thanks, Mel!). I’ve written about Mel before on Owls Well when I reviewed her e-book, Imaginary Friends, which has since been published in a handheld paper format (P.S. I’ll be hosting a giveaway of her awesome book soon, so watch this space)!

Mel and I have known each other since Primary School, where she and I were always grouped together on account of being next to each other on the class register. Click through to Mel’s blog at Mental Indigestion.

So, onto the Writing Process Blog Tour!

What am I working on?

Apart from working on Owls Well and my travel blog at Owl Fly Away, I am currently working on a collection of stories for my children. These are stories about my grandparents and my uncles and aunties that have been told to me over the years by my own mother, and I’ve been telling them to my children. It’s a very personal project, and I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do with it once it is competed, but right now, I just feel compelled to write the stories down.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Hm, I guess I am supposed to be classed as a ‘Mummy Blogger’ but I don’t think that being a mother is my defining characteristic as a writer. I think that I am a letter writer. And letters need to be read. I have been told by my friends that the way that I write is the same as the way that I talk, which is exactly what my blogging is all about. On Owls Well, I’m writing letters to my sister in Australia. On Owl Fly Away, I’m writing letters about my travelling experiences.

Why do I write what I do? 

This is a tough one. I have thoughts in my head that I need to get out and I think best when I’m talking things through with another person. Writing helps me organise my thoughts.

How does my writing process work?

Well, I always have a vague outline of each article that I’m intending to write all mapped out, and this is acts as a blueprint around which I construct my articles. For now, I keep all these outlines in my head. I do most of my editing in my head too, and I spend several days thinking of what I want to say and how I want to say it, which words and phrases I will be using, before I actually sit down to type it out. This means that before I even start typing, I have already written and revised my articles several times in my head.

I do realise that this is not an efficient or sustainable way of doing things, as I rely very heavily on my memory actually being in working order, but it does mean that I can write without having to take the time to physically sit down in front of my computer, which is a luxury that I currently cannot afford.

***

So, there are some other cool people on the writing process blog tour TODAY, so do take some time do visit with Lyn Lee, Dorothea Chow and Grace Ma!

Next week, the tour continues on MondayJune 2, 2014, right here on Owls Well, where my little sister, The Becky Lee (aka the Burrowing Owl), will be sharing a little bit more about herself and her writing process! You can also hop over to visit my pal, Pamela Tan, who is a lovely and thoughtful writer over at the Tan Family Chronicles!

If you’ve just started the blog tour, head backwards starting with Melanie’s post and encounter some really awesome book authors!

The Daily Playlist (Debs Edition)

Hey Meimei,

So, I too rely on music to get me through the day.

However, my playlist of songs exists only in my head, as the sound system in my house (and the one in the car) is generally used to play music for the children. The kids are currently listening to a mix of Psalty, DisneyColin Buchanan and the Star Wars Episode IV Soundtrack, but my mental radio is playing rather a different mix of tunes altogether.

The endless internal soundtrack is not anything new, by the way. My housemates at University have all observed at one point or another that I will sing or hum tunes to myself as I go through my day, and that the songs are usually related to what I’m doing at the time. I have thousands of songs on my playlist, but most of them have lyrics, and I do realise that I return to some songs more than others. By the way, although I enjoy listening to classical and jazz, I don’t seem to have purely instrumental music in my head when I go through the day.

(Here’s a link to my complete playlist so you can follow along if you like. or scroll down to the bottom for the embedded playlist)

Getting up in the morning: To the Sky by Owl City

This is a lovely, upbeat song which never fails to get me going in the morning. Each day is an adventure, and it doesn’t matter where you are or what circumstances you are in, it’s time to wake up and BE AWESOME!

Getting up in the morning (grumpy version): This Year by The Mountain Goats

I do have days where I just feel tired and uninspired, and I need an extra boost to get me going. I don’t have the luxury of calling in sick from work – so I just have to push through my own natural desire to hide in a dark place and just get on with it.

Getting the kids ready for school: In Your Arms by Kina Grannis or Everywhere by Fleetwood Mac

I like happy, hopeful songs for the morning which keep my mood and energy up. These songs have a great positive vibe and make me feel happy about being with my family.

Getting the kids ready for school (and we’re late)The History of Everything by Barenaked Ladies or Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen

These are pretty self-explanatory but really, when we’re late, we need to keep going at the speed of light and I find myself in conveyor belt mode, pushing the kids along and out of the door.

Running the morning household errands:

– On a Rainy Day: Carolina on my Mind by James Taylor or Fields Of Gold by Sting or Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell

I often feel more dreamy and thoughtful on rainy days. This is the time where I am the most introspective. These are sedate and quiet songs which tend to fill my mind when I’m busy with housework and general errands.

– On a Sunny Day: Peaches by The Presidents of the United States of America or Fast Car by Tracy Chapman

Sunny days are good days for planning ahead with positivity and getting things organised!

– When I’m Stuck in Traffic: Going Down To Liverpool by The Bangles or Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash

This is one of the worst things that can happen to me during the day, because it seriously screws up my momentum. In this situation, I tend towards songs with a steady rhythm which takes me away from the monotony of crawling along the motorway. (Small digression: The Bangles music video is hilarious and you may recognise a Significant Actor who exactly mirrors my feelings of being in a traffic jam, with a small arch of his eyebrow.)

Wrangling the kidsI Know (A Song in Ten Words) by Hank Green or Closer To Fine by Indigo Girls or True Colours by Cyndi Lauper

These songs kinda summarise what goes through my head when I’m talking to J and Little E and handling their various moods. I am a rather quick-tempered person and keeping these songs running in my head helps me to remember the bigger picture, so that I can deal with my children with wisdom, good humour and sensitivity.

Winding down at the end of the day: Vanilla Twilight by Owl City

Well, it only stands to reason that Owl City both starts and ends my day. I always find his music makes me feel hopeful about things to come. This song is one of my favourites.

P.S. Have embedded the whole playlist below the cut!
Continue reading

The Playlist

This, this right here is exactly how I get out of bed and get to work every morning.

Admittedly, I’m not really into heavy dance music like Vinyl Scratch is, but I do try to ensure that I have music playing throughout the day, particularly when I’m alone in the filing room, which has great soundproofing and wonderful internal acoustics.  I’ve often found that having music playing helps the work day go faster and keeps a sort of tempo to which the rest of my tasks sort of flow easier.

So, here are the songs I tend to listen to and the actions that they’re mapped to (you can also access this entire playlist of songs here.:

Waking up:  Digital Love by Daft Punk (from the Discovery Album)

This song automatically cues up on my phone at bout 6.30 in the morning.  It’s great to wake up to and the lyrics are kind of sweet.  Plus, I like the way it starts with that soft buzzing – much less jarring than an alarm clock.

Getting ready for work:  Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger by Daft Punk (from the Discovery Album again)

This song is another of those daily automatic cues, which starts up at about 7.45.  Why?  Because the length of the song is exactly how long I need to style and brush my hair, pick up my work pass, get dressed in a full business suit, check my phone, wallet and keys and head out the door if I’m in a hurry.  As an added bonus, having it play at 7.45 means that I’m out the door in time for a leisurely stroll to the bus stop to catch my bus.  It never fails to get me there on time.  As an added bonus, the song comes straight after Digital Love on the Discovery album AND the lyrics remind me to do my best at work.

Getting to the Bus Stop:

(Gettin’ my strut on) Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics  or Battle without Honor or Humanity by Tomoyasu Hotei

There’s nothing like these classic songs to get my strut on, so to speak.  If I’m needing that little bit of a confidence booster or just want to feel like I look good and am going to kick butt in general at work, these are the songs to get me there.

(Dance to work) Tank! by The Seatbelts or In the Mood by Glenn Miller

If it’s a nice morning and the street is relatively clear to the bus stop and I don’t have any pressing urge to get there in a hurry, then I cue these on my soundtrack and boogie down to the bus stop.  Mind you, I only do this if the street is empty of pedestrians and if I’m particularly early to the stop so that nobody can see my awful dancing and so I don’t put anyone’s eye out with my randomised flailing.

(It’s a beautiful morning!) For the First time in Forever from Frozen, Haven’t Met You Yet by Michael Buble or Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World by Iz Kamakawiwo`Ole

Now, if it’s a particularly nice morning and I just want to enjoy it, I listen to these three songs, or something similar.  Michael Buble’s song is pretty cheery sounding if I ignore the words.  The frantic pace of For the First Time in Forever really helps me to get excited about being outdoors, but the mix of Over the Rainbow and What a Wonderful World by the late Mr Kamakawiwo`Ole is just the most relaxing, a love letter to good mornings everywhere.

You’ll note that I’ve not listed anything if I’m actually late for the bus.  This is because I don’t usually have time to change the music on my iPhone when I’m sprint-chasing down a bus.  However, I imagine that if I was running for the bus, I’d like to have the Gunsmith Cats OP playing.

Filing:  Rescue Me by Fontella Bass, King of Anything by Sara Barellies, 16 Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford or any song by Tom Lehrer (but particularly The Masochism Tango)

Anyone reading this list probably has a good idea of how I feel about filing.  Still, the filing room at the office has fantastic sound proofing and really great acoustics, so they lend themselves really well to soul music and allow me to sing along to all my favourite soul songs, of which Rescue Me is my absolute favourite.  King of Anything is a good one to sing and file to and is often particularly relevant on some days.  For bonus points, open and close the clips on the lever hinge binder to the time of the beats in the music.  On particularly bad days, however, Tom Lehrer music never fails to cheer me up.

End of Day, Close of Business: King of Spain by Moxy Fruvous or Another Irish Drinking Song by Da Vinci’s Notebook

Well, at the end of the day, I love listening to happy, cheerful and completely pointless music.  It’s a great way to end the day.

What’s your playlist like, Debs?

Playing With Food: It’s Cupcake Time! (Part 1)

Classtime at Artzbake

Classtime at Artzbake

A few weeks back, I brought J and Little E to Artzbake at 500 Guillemard Road for a cupcake making class.

The folk behind Artzbake used to run a cafe and bakery, but they have decided to share their craft through baking workshops and cake decoration classes for both children and adults, and it is clear from their enthusiasm that they have a real love for baking and making it fun for everyone!

I have to say that the staff at Artzbake were great with the kids, finding ways to keep each one engaged and involved during the cupcake-making process and maintained a fun, yet orderly (and hygienic) environment. I learned so much by watching the baking instructors at work and was inspired to make another episode of Playing With Food!

So…here’s a new episode called ‘It’s Cupcake Time! (Part 1)’, in which J and Little E make (and eat) deliciously  fluffy chocolate cupcakes, using SCIENCE.

Tune in next week for ‘It’s Cupcake Time! (Part 2)’ in which there will be some cupcake decorating shenanigans!

P.S. Check out our eggless, dairy free (and possibly gluten free) cupcakes!

P.P.S. Watch our other episodes of Playing With Food here.

Sunday Special: The MINDS-craft Project Conclusion

MINDS Special Eduation Schools (SPED schools)

MINDS Special Eduation Schools (SPED schools)

So the MINDS-craft Project concluded last Sunday, on Mother’s Day 2014, and I’ve been working hard this week making sure all the accounts were in order before submitting the money to the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS)!

We raised a grand total of SGD$1385 across all the blogs involved in this fundraising project, of which SGD$490 was from Owls Well alone!

I met with Jeannie (the Director of Corporate Development & Outreach at MINDS) this week to pass her the cheque and she said that the money would go directly towards covering the transport fees for particularly needy students who attend MINDS Special Education Schools (who otherwise would not go to school as their families cannot afford to pay for public transport).

Little E, J and I also had a brief tour of the Lee Kong Chian Gardens School at Margaret Drive this week, and I gotta say that I am really impressed with their facilities and their curriculum, which aims to empower and train intellectually disabled pupils to have a productive and purposeful life.

Apart from the usual curriculum (English, Math, Science, Art, Music, Sports and 2nd Language) that you would normally find in a regular school, each child has the opportunity to take part in co-curricular activities like Scouts, Performing Arts and Gardening Club as well as sports teams that have represented Singapore in the Special Olympics! Additionally, there is not only an emphasis on equipping students with necessary skills for daily living but also roleplaying using technical equipment that will help them to be more confident and independent in the future.

I’m so glad that we are helping kids go to school!

Thank you to all the RAWKmums who took part – Mama JSusanPamelaCorsageJuneMummy Wee and V – all of you worked so hard and made some beautiful things. It was wonderful working with such a fun bunch of people! We had so much fun chatting and laughing during our cardmaking meetings – I am so glad for the opportunity to get to know you all, and I have learned so much about the tricks and tools of the scrapbooking trend!

I am also so impressed by the generosity of scrappers who heard about our project and lovingly donated scrapbooking materials or volunteered their own services in cardmaking! The MINDS-craft Project would like to thank Claudia, Dorcas, Huayi, JoannaLyn LeeMichelle, Rosalind and Yenni for contributing, as well as Xavvy, Dotz and Felicia for donating handmade cards!

A very, very special Owls Well Readers for your support of the MINDS-craft Project, and also for all your encouragement, especially those of you who ordered cards and shared this project with your friends on social media! You guys are awesome!