Expanding a child’s worldview: Part 3 (Reaching out to our local community)

So, yeah, I promised to tell you about J and Little E’s ‘Tomorrowland’ party. Well, after watching the movie, we had several discussions about how we can reduce World Suck and make an impact (no matter how small) on our society.

J and Little E were most concerned about world hunger and food wastage, and they asked if there were ways to move excess food away from landfills and give it to people who need it.

Well, I had a look around and found out that there are charities in the world that support the redistribution of food, and we have one such charity right here on our little island! Yay!

I was very pleased about finding The Food Bank Singapore. Although donating to World Vision is one way to help combat world hunger by targeting at-risk populations around the globe, I felt that it would also be meaningful to get J and Little E involved in helping our local community as well.

The Food Bank Singapore accepts donations of unused or unwanted surplus food and allocates it to the needy via a network of over 130 member beneficiaries such as soup kitchens, family service centres and other voluntary welfare organisations. They also run a Food Pantry which is a shop stocking consumable food that cannot be passed onto their member beneficiaries (because they have less than 2 months of shelf life), where individuals can purchase a variety of food items for a donation of S$1.

J and Little E went into our pantry first and found a bag full of items that we were unlikely to use by their sell by date. This was a pretty good start, but they wanted to do much more than bring a bag of food to a Food Bank Box.

This is where the ‘Tomorrowland’ party comes in. J and Little E decided to turn their birthday party into a food drive, so we sent out the following invitation to all our party guests:


J and Little E’s birthday party invitation

This way, they were able to raise more support and awareness for the initiatives that they were most concerned about!

We tried our best to encourage our guests not to go out and buy more food, but to look through their pantries first. This way, J and Little E’s friends would also be involved in actively finding the food donations and reducing food waste within their households… and hopefully this would also open up the opportunity for conversations about world hunger and food wastage in other families besides our own.

All our party guests were really, really generous and the kids were so happy to see how much food they were able to collect! You can see in the picture below a snapshot of some of the food items that J and Little E collected during their birthday party food drive.


Collection and delivery!

The next day, we drove down to the headquarters of The Food Bank Singapore to deliver the collected foodstuffs.

J and Little E helped to unload the car and place their donation onto a large pallet manned by one of the The Food Bank Singapore staff members who helped us to get all the food into the warehouse.


It’s a full pallet of food

Inside the warehouse, there were boxes and pallets of donated food items waiting to be sorted by type and shelf life, then cleaned, neatly packed and stored away.

The Food Bank Singapore is only run by two full-time administrative staff, who are tiny young ladies who do everything from inventory taking to heavy lifting to managing deliveries, so they are highly dependant on volunteers to help them. They were very kind enough to take some time out of their busy schedule to bring us on a little tour of the warehouse and show us how things are run. Thanks, ladies!


Inside The Food Bank Singapore headquarters

As you might imagine, The Food Bank Singapore is desperately in need of volunteers, from drivers and delivery assistants, to chefs and food nutrition educators, to photographers and party planners! There’s all sorts of ways that a willing volunteer can help – and there is even a Junior Foodbankers Club for kids aged 5 years and up, to help encourage volunteerism.

As a Junior Foodbanker, kids will get a change to volunteer at the warehouse, participate in food drives and craft sessions, and have access to educational tours to farms, factories and wastage centres, as well as other volunteering opportunities at The Food Bank Singapore’s beneficiary centres or homes! Membership is completely free – just email enquiries@foodbank.sg to register.


Join the Junior Foodbankers Club!

I’m really proud of J and Little E for organising their very first food drive and for becoming Junior Foodbankers – and I hope they will continue to work at making the world more awesome!

Even the tiniest of actions can change the future. – Tomorrowland (2015)

For more information on The Food Bank Singapore, click here.

For more information on locations of The Food Bank Singapore Bank Boxes, click here.

For more information on volunteering opportunities with The Food Bank Singapore, click here.

For more information on the Junior Foodbankers Club, click here.

Water, water, everywhere (or Geography for Preschoolers)

You may have noticed that my posts have been quite sporadic over the last month, and the reason for this is because I have been working with Little E on her latest school holiday project on “Water”.

Little E really wanted to do an educational video series like J did, but she drew inspiration from BBC science and nature documentaries like Planet Earth.

This project was particularly difficult because the topic was just SO broad! I struggled to find an angle to approach this subject that was not already covered by Little E’s preschool teachers.

If I were to help Little E explore the various properties of water or find out about the water cycle or learn how to conserve water, that would be pretty straightforward for me – but it would also mean that Little E would not have anything new or different to share with her classmates when she presented her project…and she wouldn’t be learning anything new herself, so she would get bored.

So I decided to help Little E explore a field of study that is completely foreign to me, namely, geography.


We do study some basic geography in Singapore at the primary and secondary school level, but physical geography – specifically, geomorphology and hydrology – is only studied in depth at the upper secondary school level as an elective subject, not as part of the core curriculum.

This meant that I had to actually do some reading, instead of relying on my own store of knowledge. After all, if I’m going to help Little E learn about water in the world, I have to learn about it myself first! So, the reason why I wasn’t writing in this blog is because I was reading about water and trying to translate the language of geography into kid-speak so that Little E could make her documentary.

In this video, Little E learns about bodies of water and their differing aspects! Enjoy!

(Check out Part 2 of this project here)

If you are interested in some of the resources that I used for this video or if you are looking for resources to introduce your kid to the subject of Geography, here’s a list!

Water, Water Everywhere, What & Why? : Third Grade Science Books Series

The Drop in my Drink: The Story of Water on Our Planet

Water Dance

Water Can Be . . . (Millbrook Picture Books)

Hydrology: The Study of Water (True Books: Earth Science (Paperback))

Oh Joy, EOFY

It’s the End of Financial Year, which means that it’s tax time!

Now, I’ve always liked filing my tax return, not because I’m an accountant[1], but mostly because it means that I get some money from the government and it’s nice to have some bonus money.



However, this is my first year filing a joint tax return with the ATO, so my experience has not been great.  Normally, my taxes take maybe about 20 minutes to complete, give or take 10 minutes or so.  This is because I have a very organised tax system and I file all my payment slips neatly in a little box, which I only open to do taxes.  However, this year, I have had to sort through The Boobook’s tax receipts, and his filing system is like this:

For example, after I had submitted his tax return, he then gave me his health insurance information, so I had to amend his tax return.  Then, when I had submitted the amendment, he came back two days later with a few deductibles.  So, I had to file yet another amendment to the amendment in order to get his tax return.

Also, consider the following conversation that I had with the bank…

ABC:  So, how do I look up my taxable interest?

Bank Lady: Just log in and it should have a page that shows this year’s interest earned.

ABC:  Okay, but it doesn’t list how much tax was withheld on the interest.

Bank Lady: Oh, to do that, you just advise us of your tax file number.  Which you can do by doing <complicated instructions>.

ABC:  I just did that, and it says that I have already given you my tax file number.

Bank Lady: Oh, yes, if you gave us your tax file number, then we didn’t withhold any tax on your interest.

ABC:  WHAT?!  WHY?  Why don’t you do that?!  I mean tax withholding is what I gave you my tax file number for!

Bank Lady:  Oh, sometimes we don’t withhold tax from joint accounts.


Bank Lady:  Well, since I’ve answered your question, I’m sure you are satisfied byebye now!

So, it’s taken me 2 weeks to file the taxes this year, and I’m feeling quite a lot like this:

Sometimes, doing the taxes really sucks.

[1] Okay, so a little because I’m an accounting graduate, but not in a weird way, okay?!

Expanding a child’s worldview: Part 2 (Understanding the needs of others)

As J and Little E get older, I have been trying to find new ways for them to understand their role and place in the world, so that they can grow to be socially responsible people.

They of course understand by now that they are not the centre of the known universe, and that there are people all over the world who lead vastly different lives, people who have been born into hardship. They are aware that there are people in this world who are denied basics that we take for granted – things like clean water, food, healthcare and education. However these are all big and abstract concepts for a small child to grasp, and the challenge I face is finding concrete ways of helping them to understand that every person can do something, no matter how small, to make the world better.

After watching the movie, Tomorrowland, the kids were ready for action, so we sat down with them to talk about the various ways that they could help other people in the world.

One of the things that they decided to do was pledge a portion of their Chinese New Year angpow money to helping alleviate poverty.

The Barn Owl and I decided that the best way for them to do this is by sponsoring a child through the World Vision Child Sponsorship Programme. I like this programme because it deals with the root of poverty in a community and works towards empowering them towards self-sufficiency. That is, the goal of the programme is to eventually see that the community achieves stability and financial independence.

My dear friend, Lyn, was the first person I knew who had successfully sponsored a child via this programme. The community which she supported for 11 years had become financially stable and World Vision was able to complete their work and leave the community on its own. During this time, she was able to watch her sponsored child grow up and graduate from school.

I thought that it would be amazing for our kids to grow up alongside their sponsored child, so what I had J and Little E do was to each choose a child to sponsor who was the same age as themselves. So, J is now sponsoring an 8 year old girl from Nepal whilst Little E is sponsoring a 5 year old girl from Sri Lanka.

Once the kids chose a child to sponsor, they were each sent a picture folder of the child and a profile of the community where this child lives. I showed them where their sponsored child lives on a world map, and some videos depicting life in those communities. Then I encouraged them to write letters of introduction to their sponsored child.

I asked J and Little E if they would like to send any small gifts along with their letters and they had plenty of brilliant ideas. At first, they wanted to send things like food, baby panadol, soap, shoes and water filters. World Vision doesn’t allow any items that cannot be flat packed into a single A4-sized envelope, so we had to be more thoughtful.

We decided to send some paper dolls for the girls to play with. There are tons of printable paper dolls on the internet, but I didn’t want to send them any light-haired and light-eyed princess dolls (for obvious reasons).

I was over the moon when I stumbled across these gorgeous Princess Tiana “The Princess and the Frog” paper dolls by artist Cory Jensen which come with a large array of gorgeous dresses and accessories! Hooray!


Yes, I painstakingly cut them out too

We also included a set of ‘plain’ paper dolls for the girls to colour in and cut out themselves, a set of colour pencils with a pencil sharpener, stickers and pretty hairclips, and wrapped all of these up inside a clear plastic A4 envelope to protect them in case the parcel gets wet during delivery!

I hope the little girls like their gifts – and I hope J and Little E will become more socially aware through interacting with their new penpals!


A special parcel for some special little girls

If you’d like to sponsor a child or make a donation to World Vision, click here.

Download the Princess Tiana Paper dolls by Cory Jensen here

Download the “I am a Princess” Paper Doll colouring page by Cory Jensen here

Expanding a child’s worldview : Part 1 Inspire Them (or Tomorrowland 2015 – A Spoiler Free movie review)

There are so many movies around now that revolve around a dystopian future or cynical view of the ugliness that surrounds us in the world.

While I think it’s necessary to jolt people out of their comfort zone by exposing the problems in our society, most of these movies hardly ever show us a solution, and I quite often leave the cinema feeling disillusioned, thinking that all efforts to reduce worldsuck are pathetic and completely futile. All the complaining and finger-pointing about how terrible things are and who is responsible for it, well, I think that it accomplishes nothing except to add to the hate and negativity that is already out there.

If we want our society to improve, we have to act in whatever way we can, not just stand on a soapbox and scold.

It’s very rare to come across a movie that focusses on the possibility of making an effective, positive change to our world. Which is why Tomorrowland has got to be the best film that I watched last year. The movie brings a very important message: that it is possible to make a real and lasting difference to our society by finding out how things work and then persistently making efforts to improve humanity.

Everyday is the opportunity for a better tomorrow – Tomorrowland (2015)

Seriously, if you haven’t watched this movie yet, you really should, because it is awesome. After watching it, you should show it to your kids, because if there is any movie that galvanises a child to action, this is it. After watching this movie, J and Little E were ready to go out and change the world.

During this beautiful movie, a teenaged optimist and a mysterious young girl work together to drag a jaded, world-weary grownup out of his rut in order to save the world. The movie is chock-a-block full of thrilling action sequences, some of which involve instant disintegration so if you have a particularly sensitive child, it can be a little scary.

I felt a personal emotional connection to the characters in the film and their journey, and I am not ashamed to say that our entire family (the Barn Owl included) were in tears before the end!

The kids loved this movie so much that they even insisted on making it into the theme for their birthday party this year! More about this in another post, I promise.


The front of their birthday invitation card

For now, just enjoy the trailer – and watch the movie! You won’t regret it, honest.

P.S. Buyer’s note: We bought our copy of Tomorrowland from Amazon here.

Is there a movie, book or TV show that inspired you or your children to act positively to change society? Share it with me in the comments!

Soundscapes and school projects

One of the things that I like best about J and Little E’s kindergarten is that the school encourages the kids to do some independent project work during the school holidays. The topic for the project is usually something very broad and very simple, which allows a lot of scope for learning and discovery.

I usually like to ask the kids what they would like to do for their school project and see what sort of ideas they will come up with. Sometimes, I get the Outlaws to help out because both my mother-in-law and sister-in-law are involved in early childhood education, so they have loads of ideas for helping preschoolers to learn through play and hands on activities.

You may remember J’s school holiday projects that I have shared on this blog before. He did one on climbing plants and one on movie-making.

Last year, Little E’s school holiday project was on the topic of ‘Sound’.

There are a ton of really cool crafts where one can make musical instruments using recycled materials found around the house, as well as simple science experiments to demonstrate the properties of sound and I was sure that we’d be bringing a rubber band ukulele to her classroom at the end of the holiday.

As always, I underestimate my kids.

Little E wanted to do something a little different, and was inspired by a short film that we had watched together during a visit to the Ghibli Museum in Japan. That film was called ‘House Hunting’ and it was a cartoon where all the sound effects were voiced by two actors using Japanese onomatopoeic sounds. She also took inspiration from the popular American Public Radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, during which there is a popular ‘SFX’ segment which has to be heard to be believed!

In a nutshell, Little E wanted to produce her own little show where she was the foley artist and sound designer!

We decided to do something simple and take our audience on a sound journey to the park.

To start off, we took what Little E called a ‘sound walk’ which is basically a walk where everybody is silent, the better to hear the world around them.

As you may imagine, this was quite a challenge for my normally talkative little 4 year old! Surprisingly, she was very attentive, and at the end she sat down with the Outlaws and together, they wrote down a list various noises that they heard on their walk.

Little E then tried her best to reproduce each of those noises for the video and I have to say that the result is pretty good!

I was very impressed with the layers of sounds that she insisted on making for each frame of the video, from the soft padding of footsteps to the whirring of the cicadas in the trees. It just goes to show how much a small child notices about the world around her, given the chance!

P.S. Little E did an even more ambitious holiday project this year, so watch this space!

Debs G Baking Challenge: Mr Fox’s Foolproof Blueberry Cobbler

HA HA! I have successfully completed one of the Challenges that A Becky C gave me earlier this year! And it is delicious. And everybody loved it!

Blueberry Cobbler is what I would consider an idiot proof dessert.

Why do I consider this idiot proof?

Because it was the dessert that my good friend Mr Fox1 made when he visited me during his Tour of Europe.

At the time, I was a medical student living in a rented ramshackle hut. The kitchen had a linoleum floor from the 1950s that was only partially in our plane of existence. We had no baking equipment except a malfunctioning oven which you had to light by turning on the gas and then sticking your head into the oven with a burning taper.

Dangerous? Yes!

Did that deter Mr Fox? No!

Mr Fox coolly bought some blueberries from the market, and then magically produced this amazing dessert which my starving housemates and I demolished in a matter of seconds. That guy is Fantastic.

I’ve tweaked his recipe a little bit to make it more child-friendly (and by that, I mean, it is a low sugar version), and I think it turned out pretty well! I’ve also added additional Thermomix instructions at the end of the recipe for those of you who own magic self-stirring pots.

Mr Fox’s Foolproof Blueberry Cobbler Recipe


  1. 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  2. ½ cup sugar
  3. 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  4. ¾ cup whole milk
  5. ⅓ cup softened butter
  6. 2 cups blueberries
  7. 1 tsp vanilla extract

(note: You can increase the amount of blueberries if you like!)



  1. Preheat oven to 170°C
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar to the vanilla extract and set aside.
  3. Add the rest of the sugar, floor, baking powder, milk and butter together and mix until smooth
  4. Pour batter into an ovenproof dish. I used an 8″ square casserole dish.
  5. Sprinkle the blueberries over the top
  6. Sprinkle the sugar and vanilla extract mixture over the top
  7. Bake at 170°C for 45minutes
  8. Enjoy on it’s own or with vanilla icecream (or custard!)


Extra Thermomix instructions for the batter:

  1. Soften butter at 50°C at Speed 2 for 3 minutes
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients as detailed in the method above and blend for 10 seconds on Speed 6

1. Mr Fox is so named because of his true name, his ruddy red locks and his ‘Auntie Killer’ personality. He is a multilingual lawyer who runs marathons, helps inner city youth on his days off and bakes delicious blueberry cobbler, so yeah, he is Fantastic. I’d introduce him to all you single ladies out there, but unfortunately, he has only recently married a very handsome veterinary doctor.