AJ's Music Journey

On 20th July, we received the results of AJ’s ABRSM Grade 8 piano exam, which he took on 3rd July, from his teacher. It was indeed a result worth celebrating. I did not dare pin too much hope in this exam, because he is only 8 years old, I know I needed to be practical. I was also afraid to set too high a hope lest I get disappointed, so I had only hope for a Merit. The father was more concerned about the adverse impact to AJ's motivation, should his efforts fail in meeting the high expectations. Thankfully he did better. Our family was very happy to receive the news, but I wouldn’t say we were overjoyed beyond words.
It is just that we have to keep our feet on the ground. Over the years, we have seen so many outstanding talents in this field, and in comparison, his achievement is really not that extraordinary. Besides, as our faith grows, over time, we learn that all good things come from God. Whether it is a Merit or a Distinction, as long as AJ has done his part to put in his best for the glory of God, we accept whatever outcome God chooses to bestow.

We are thankful to the Almighty for seeing AJ through. This year has been a very busy and hectic year for him and will continue to be until the end of the year. Beside the additional load from his school since he has transited from honeymoon years to Primary 3, he has this graded piano exam, Sing50 mega concert and a year end piano competition to cope with.

When friends got to know that AJ has completed his Grade 8 piano exam, they asked how we/he did it and what is the next step. What’s the next step?  He is most likely to continue this music journey and do his diploma in 2-3 years’ time.

As to how we/he did it, well, I think it is good for me to share it here, not to boast about his achievement, but more so as an encouragement to those who are learning music.  It will also serve as a good reflection in the future when we look back.

AJ started group music appreciation with Seimpi School of Music when he was about 2.5 years old. I signed him up for this lesson because I noticed that the little boy seemed to have a sense of rhythm even at a tender age of 1. See one of the videos I have taken here

We played music pieces often at home (mainly classical music or spiritual music), and by the time when he was able to stand and walk, I noticed that he was able to move his bum to the beat of the music. So we decided to send him for music classes. True enough, he was able to pick up really fast. Within 6 months, the teacher in the class told us that he was ready for one-to-one piano lessons.

We continued with Seimpi, under the protege of teacher Hara Hernado, with one-to-one weekly piano lessons. Each lesson was 30mins, and I got to sit in in every lesson to observe what was taught so that I could follow up with him at home. It continued for about half a year and teacher Hara told us that we could consider their fast track programme SMART for AJ. SMART is an alternative route for Seimpi’s students who are more advanced. We sent him for this audition and he passed it. The next step was for us to consider whether to ‘fast track’ him, and whether to continue in Seimpi.

After much consideration, we decided not to take the SMART route. We left Seimpi and engaged another private teacher for AJ. Through that teacher, we got to know of Adrian Tan, the music director of the Singapore Wind Symphony, Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra and the Saigon Philharmonic, and he introduced us to AJ’s current teacher.

AJ has been with this current teacher for 4 years and we have seen him grow musically. Under her tutelage, AJ took his piano Grade 2 at aged 4, Grade 5 at 5 and Grade 8 at 8, all with distinctions. We are grateful to have met her. Indeed a good teacher who can strike a chord with her/his students is very important in grooming them.

Some friends also asked if we would consider sending him overseas to pursue Music. I think it is still too early to decide as he is still very young. He also hasn’t expressed a burning desire to become a musician. To us, he must first have a strong interest and the passion, otherwise it would be really pointless to plan for any specialisation.

Of course, this journey wasn't exactly smooth sailing. Please don't think that he was so discipline in practising his pieces that he would do so automatically. But we did incorporate a daily routine, so it has formed an expectation and that he knows he has to do a 45-60mins practice daily. I shared some tips on how we get it going here and how we get him to persevere on here.

For now, he will focus on his year end competition, build up on his repetitore and play piano leisurely. He is interested in pop and jazz music (not the types from Jay Chou or Taylor Swift, more like those from Richard Clayderman or Kenny G), so spending time to widen his appreciation of the various genres may be useful, but we have to be vigilant that AJ keeps a distance so as not to be influenced by any negative or worldly elements. Next year will definitely be a more relaxed year for him.

Here are some past posts I have written which you might like to read: 

We also have a youtube channel which you could subscribe to.

If you have any questions that you would like to ask, please feel free.  I am not an expert and will definitely share with you what we have been through, and hopefully shed some lights.

Before I end, I'll share a contemporary piece that AJ has picked up from hearing (no music scores).  Yes, it's the NDP 2015 Theme Song. It's not perfect, but it showed his eagerness to learn. We didn't even have to push him, he automatically went to the piano and practised it.  This is what I meant, if the child is interested, we don't have to push. The youtube link is here.

Wall's Paddle Pop Re-launch

[Media Invite]

2 weeks ago we received Singapore’s favourite childhood rainbow ice cream brand, Paddle Pop, from Wall's. Yes, it is re-launched, and now with new addition. I remember my childhood treat of Paddle Pop Rainbow, a toffee and caramel flavoured popsicle, I devoured that milky texture, yums!  Best of all, with this re-launch, it is now recognised by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) as a healthier snack. It has only 80kcal! If you or your children need any occasional sweet treats, this is far better than a bar of chocolate!

AJ was enjoying his treats: Paddle Pop Rainbow (L) & Paddle Pop Dragon Pop (R)

The newest Paddle Pop variant is Dragon Pop, which is a popping candy coated popsicle with three fruity flavours all in one.  It is only 75 kcal.

Paddle Pop also commissioned Nielsen Singapore to conduct a study to better understand the snacking habits of kids aged 8-12 and parents' perception of their kids' snacking habits. Here's a summary of the studies:

"We believe that within a healthy and balanced diet, there is a place for occasional treats and snacks.
Our Paddle Pop ice creams range is responsibly formulated, so that children can enjoy fun treats occasionally," said Susanne Arfelt, Country Director, Unilever Singapore.

Indeed, Paddle Pop has reformulated its product range since 2014 by setting nutritional limits to its ice creams whilst combining fun tastes, textures and shapes.  Here's the Fun Food Meter, a fun and visually representative snacking chart for easy comparison and illustration:

In conjunction with the release of survey results and to educate and engage the public on nutritionally responsible snacking, Paddle Pop has created a family-run play area at VivoCity Plaza 1, featuring a 130 square metre, life-sized 3D snake and ladder board. 

The play area theme is based on Paddle Pop's latest cartoon series, Maglika, a magical fantasy land where Paddle Pop Lion and friends fight to defeat the evil Shadow Master. Maglika cartoon series is currently screening on Cartoon Network Asia, every weekend at 9am.

The Paddle Pop play area will be open for public display from 24 July to 2 August 2015, every weekend. Do come down and have some fun activities while enjoying Paddle Pop ice cream!

Letting Kids be Kids!

NTU Early Cognitive Lab in KidsSTOP Science Centre Singapore

[Media Invite & Programme Highlight]

Have you ever wonder how your babies and/or toddlers make sense of the world around them? Do they see animals like we do, and see objects like we do?

These are some of the questions that a new research programme on early childhood learning by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) are trying to answer. The studies will provide insights into whether children are born with early abstract expectations or whether they learn through socialization. An on-site research facility, Early Cognitive Lab, will be set up at KidsSTOPTM, conducting a series of experiments over five years starting on 11 August.

Different experiments will be created for different age groups. The first two experiments which start this August and last for a year tests children between two to four years old on their notion of fairness.  The child, accompanied by his/her parent, will interact with two puppets by distributing items between them.  The process will be video-recorded and analysed afterwards on how the child distributes the items, whether equally or unequally. It will help to shed light on early reasoning about fairness and group loyalty.

The other experiment targets children one to three years of age. The child will watch videos on social acting. For example, a person disguises her true feelings by saying that she likes the cookie given to her by her friend, even though she dislikes it. The child’s reaction is monitored, and compared with the reactions of another group of children who will see social acting towards an outgroup member as a stranger.

By tracking the child’s eye movement as he/she watches these videos, the researchers can tell which part of the scene they are paying attention to and their expectations about various social scenarios.

The research programme is led by NTU psychology Assistant Professor Setoh Pei Pei who heads the university’s Early Cognitive Lab.

“This research aims to improve our understanding of moral and prosocial behaviour in infants and toddlers. While such studies are common in the United States, studies in the Asian context are relatively fewer. To fill this gap, the NTU team will carry out a series of research projects targeted at children from 3months to six years old

I hope to share with parents what their babies are thinking about, as well as knowledge about the cognitive, social and moral development of their children. The results will also allow early childhood educators to develop better learning programmes for children.”

The NTU’s Early Cognitive Lab located at KidsSTOPTM will be open from 2 to 6pm daily, and on weekends, additional hours from 9.30am to 1.30pm.  If you are interested to participate, please contact babylab@ntu.edu.sg before visiting the Lab.  All participants will enjoy free admission to KidsSTOPTM and KidsSTOPTM members will receive a token of appreciation for their participation.  All participants’ responses will be kept confidential. At the end of a study, participants will receive the research findings through email.  

Science Centre Interplay - The Future Playground of Our Children

[Media Invite]

*Video content. Best read on desktop.

Brought to you by Science Centre Singapore and ARS Electronica, Interplay is the local edition of Game Play.  It is a unique experiential exhibition where visitors will encounter installations by international and local artists that blend art, science and technology.

We had the opportunity to go to the exhibition yesterday and I agree with AJ that it was one of the best exhibitions we have gone to in Science Centre Singapore. We spent almost four hours there and he was still reluctant to leave. There are over 20 installations in Interplay, I will just highlight some notable ones. Do prepare to stay at least two hours to fully enjoy the exhibition.

1. Deep Space

Deep Space has two 2D and three 3D video presentations to keep the audience very entertained.  The three video presentations transit you from swimming with the fishes in the deep sea, to walking in outer space then to skiing on the snow mountain. All packed in into 30mins, both adults and children are sure to be glued to the screen.

Do take note of the screening time and work your visit around this, because this is a show you should not miss. And don’t forget to create your deep sea creature at the entrance first before show starts. You will get to see your very own creation swimming in the Deep Sea 3D video!


“It is very cool to see the fish that I have created at the entrance of the room swimming in the 3D aquarium! And we got to walk on Saturn’s rings, what an experience!” - AJ 

2. Digital Puppetry

Digital Puppetry is an interactive installation where visitors can alter their appearances in many playful ways. Standing in front of a screen, you will see yourself reflected as you are looking at a mirror. Then you use the luminous pink sticky notes available there to grab the various accessories floating on the screen and attach them anywhere on your bodies.  The floating accessories are attracted by bright colours like red or pink, so if you want to be a magnet, wear red or pink or have some patches of these colours on your clothes and these accessories will stick to you like glue!


3. Game Border

From Game & Watch of my time, to Xbox of AJ’s time, Game Border moves the game character from one game machine to another. 

If you are good at gaming, you will probably enjoy this game as it allows you to connect the borders of various machines and you get to play the game almost seamlessly from one machine to another.  If there is no casualty in the game, your game character will ‘walk out’ from Xbox and your scores, together with the highest score achieved will be displayed. 

AJ was extremely intrigued by the fact that the character of the game can transit from one machine to another.

4. Shadowgram

Your shadow stays with you, we all know.  This is probably the first time I have seen my shadow left behind. Standing in front of an illuminated background, your silhouette will be captured and printed out as stickers which you could paste onto the installation. How cool is that?

5. o.lhar

Looking into the holes set at various heights in this installation, your look will be captured as a sequence of photos and will be projected in the form of short videos.

6. Ideogenetic Machine

Ideogenetic Machine fulfills the desire of participants to become the heroes of their own comic book. Custom-made software captures the portraits of the participants and transforms them into “hand-drawn” comic book characters. These characters are then integrated into backgrounds drawn by the artist. At the end of each session, you can email a PDF version of your comics to yourself!


7. Recollection Six

Recollection Six is an interactive installation that invites you to move in front of a large video screen.  As you move, your image will be recorded by a video camera and passed on to a computer with special image processing capabilities. It is a hit among the kids because it gives an unforgettable experience that teaches them about colour, form, movement, and computer graphics.


8. Temporal Distortion

Temporal Distortion is a five-screen video installation that captures and warps, in real time, the movements you make. You are encouraged to move from one screen to the next, and enjoy the changing distortion of your images.

This installation uses modern computers and high definition cameras to attain a new level of quality and control over the “speed of light” of the individual reflected pixels making up the captured video image.


9. Sandbox Ocean

This is an excellent sensory activity. Instead of digging sand in the beach, the children (adults can too) dig into the sand here in Interplay, shift it around and pile it up into new mounds. The lights above the installation senses the distance between the lights and the terrain and determine the colours to be displayed onto the sand. So the peaks will be yellow or green while the trough will be dark blue, resembling mountains and ocean.  Wave your hands vigorously above the ‘ocean’ and you will see a variety of sea creatures being formed.

10. Earth Patrol

Earth Patrol is a multiplayer shooting game in a full-dome format. This is any time better than playing an arcade game in Time Zone, especially when you lie down on the floor, you’ll experience a very real 3D effect.  You basically use the laser blasters provided to shoot hostile creatures which seek to destroy the Earth.


11. AR-Muse

AR-muse is an Augmented Realty (AR) application to augment learning in museums. By using natural feature tracking techniques, AR-muse enables artists and curators to digitally enhance their artworks with AR technology in order to bring them to life. Through the use of the AR-muse magic-lens app on smartphones and tablets, you will be able to see these AR enhancements.

You can also download this app first before you visit interplay exhibition so that you can use your smartphones to view the artworks. Just go to playstore and key in ‘AR-muse: Project Dandelion’.

12. Kinetic Light Sculpture

In this installation, a visual medley of light and motion is presented by shining light onto a rapidly rotating piece of rope that is attached to two fixed points.

Once set in motion, the vibrating rope becomes invisible to the human eye, while the colours from the chromastrobe are revealed in rapid succession as it reflects off the rope in a range of colours.


13. Frozen Shadow

Leave your shadow behind! Unlike Shadowgram, Frozen Shadow does not allow you to print your shadow sticker, however, in this installation, you will leave your shadow(s) behind (temporarily) on the wall you lean against.

14. Graffiti Wall

This is probably the only legal way to express your creativity on public walls! You can go as crazy or creative, as you want!

15. Whippy-Wavy

The principle of how this interactive installation works is pretty much the same as Kinetic Light Sculpture. The multi-coloured strobes flash at high frequencies, creating a kaleidoscopic effect when the light bounces off objects in motion.


In my opinion, the Interplay is one exhibition that is really worth going to.  In this digital era, this is likely how our children's playground will evolve to be. Here are the exhibition details: 

Date: 30 May to 16 Aug 2015
Venue: Science Centre Singapore, Annexe Hall
Time: 10am to 6pm
Ticket: Adult $13; Child (3-12YO) $9; Student $9; Family Package (2 adults 2 children) $36

POSB Smiley Child Development Account

[Media Invite]

No thanks to USA’s Quantitative Easing (QE) policies, and a few countries who joined in subsequently, the interest rates are in their all-time low.  The money you put into the bank to save could not keep up with the rising inflation rate.

But thanks to POSB, which is launching *Child Development Accounts (CDAs) with an interest of 2% p.a. for the entire duration.  It is, thus far, the highest interest rate on CDAs offered. This interest rate will be available to all new CDAs opened with POSB, including CDAs that parents choose to switch from other banks. You simply have to apply or switch to “POSB Smiley CDA” at the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) Baby Bonus Portal at:

*Child Development Account (CDA) is a special savings account for your newborn with dollar-for-dollar matching from the government.

Photo Source: www.posb.com.sg/cda

If you are delivering your babies at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital or Thomson Medical Centre, you will be glad to know that POSB will be setting up designated booths to assist you with your CDA applications from Monday, 13 July onwards.

Here are some of the privileges your family will enjoy when you open a CDA with POSB:

  • 2% p.a. interest for the entire duration
  • S$10 rebate into DBS PayLah! for online purchases on Qoo10 (till Sep’15)
  • POSB Baby Bonus NETS Card which you could use at various online, retail and dining merchants partners like Mothercare, My Gym, VitaKids to enjoy discounts and privileges. You could also use the card to pay for childcare and medical expenses at Approved Institutions (AIs) registered with MSF.

POSB Baby Bonus NETS Card

Then, there are these additional freebies and benefits you will enjoy too:

Smiley Play Tent 

Smiley Gold Bar (Photo Credit: POSB)

ALL babies born in 2015 will receive a limited edition “POSB Smiley Gift Bag” from the bank as one of the ways to celebrate SG50.

Photo Credit: POSB

For more information on POSB Smiley CDA, please visit: www.posb.com.sg/cda

Primary 1 Math Readiness

[Programme Highlight + Giveaway]

If I say, high ability (HA) children are special needs children, the whole world will probably disagree with me. 

“Are you crazy? They are intelligent kids, how could you label them as ‘children with special needs’?”

The general public understands children with special needs as children who are slower than their peers in terms of cognitive development. They are children who are autistic, hyperactive, dyslexic, etc.

HA children sometimes do have special needs mentioned above even though they are highly intelligent. But it is not what I am going to discuss here. What I mean by ‘special needs’ for HA children is that they do need special attention and they do need tailor-made educational programme. There isn't many such offering in the market though.

Our mainstream education system does not allow kids to grow up at their own pace. It is a mass education system, where much slower learners struggle to catch up, much faster learners are made to slow down.

Because of that, the much faster ones are not stimulated effectively, they are not challenged healthily, and eventually, they will go ‘unnoticed’, slip into complacency and mediocrity, and see no purpose to ‘multiply their talents’.

I’m glad that NeuroScholars recognizes the difficulties that HA children may face, especially those who are about to enter mainstream formal education. The first two years in primary school are honeymoon years, the curriculum is simple, most of the time, too easy for the HA children.  In these two years of conditioning, they might develop the mindset I mentioned above.  It is not going to be healthy for them.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not encouraging parents to drill or to 'hot-house' your children. As parents, you should know better if your child is of higher ability or not. If he/she is not a fast learner, loading him/her too much can backfire. But if you are sure that he/she is of higher ability, then you might want to consider ways to develop your child further, so that he/she:

1. could progress according to his/her potential;
2. will not downplay his/her potential in front of his/her peers and teachers for fear of being outcast;
3. is encouraged to pursue his/her interests to reach his/her potential

The hardworking team in NeuroScholars has recently developed a short course for HA children who are currently in Kindergarten 2, going Primary 1 next year.  They are giving my readers 5 tickets to this course held over 2 consecutive Fridays/Saturdays 3.30-5pm at their Parkway Parade outlet. The dates are: 18 & 25 July; 1 & 8 Aug; 14 & 21 Aug and 15 & 22 Aug. If you are keen to participate in the draw, please enter your entry in Rafflecopter tool below:

Still unsure if your child is of higher ability?  Here are some links to articles published by Rise & Shine for reading:

1. Gifted Children – Earlier, Faster, Different! – Is that Your Child?
2. Parenting – Are Tiger Moms for Real?

Our education system doesn’t allow kids to grow up at their own pace.  Nowadays, the pathways are defined earlier & earlier.  If they don’t do well in the PSLE, it means they can’t get into a top secondary school, & with the introduction of Integrated Programme, not getting into a top secondary school means their chances of getting into a top junior colleague & university later on have drastically shrunk.  Everything our kids do now has implications later on.  That’s why it’s better to be kiasu now than to regret later.
- Monica Lim, author of The Good, The Bad and The PSLE

How Clean Is Your Car?


Question: “How Clean Is Your Car?”

“I wash it every week.”
“My maid washes it every weekend.”
“I send it for car wash every Friday.”
“I don’t just wash the exterior, I personally vacuum the interior as well.”

They say, “Inner beauty is more important than outer beauty.”  I can’t agree more.  Outer beauty is good to have, but inner beauty is the one that outshines, giving others a more lasting impression.

The same goes for a car.  Most proud car owners not only wash their cars regularly, they polish their cars to give them the utmost shine too. They take so much care of the outer body of their cars, but what about the inner body? Oh, they vacuum.  But is it enough?

Car fumigation and ozone sanitization was introduced to me by EuroAuto Lounge.  My first thought would probably be the same as yours. Do we need to fumigate the car? I have heard of fumigation of rubbish chutes, residential/industrial estates and homes to kill those unwanted pests, but cars?

Nonetheless, it appeals to me to want to learn more, so I took up this service offered to me.

As in any standard procedure when you send your car for service and/or polishing, before any work can be done by the company, the car needs to be inspected and any visible dents, knocks and peeled paint will be recorded to avoid unnecessary disputes later.

Then this encik working in EuroAuto Lounge shampooed and washed the exterior of the car. After that, fumigation starts. *Fumigation is a method of pest control that completely fills an area with gaseous pesticides to suffocate or poison the pests within. Fumigant is released into the space to be fumigated; then, the space is held for a set period while the fumigant gas percolates through the space and acts on and kills any infestation in the product. The space is ventilated so that the poisonous gases are allowed to escape from the space, and render it safe for humans to enter. The fumigated area is now safe and pest free.
*extracted from wikipedia

Oh wait! Why is fumigation necessary? Can’t we just vacuum our car more regularly? Or so I thought, until I was educated by EuroAuto.

You see, there are always possibilities of pest infestation in the car especially when you ferry young children in it. They eat in the car, the crumbs of biscuits/crackers may drop everywhere. You think you have cleaned them up, in actual fact, some can be so small that they are hardly visible. The children drink milk or other kind of beverages, they spill them, the odour lingers and attracts the pests. You buy groceries, you put them in your boot, and that is another potential breeding ground. 

Fumigation is thus effective and a better option than any other methods of pest control because in the fumigation process the fumigant circulates and spreads to all areas of infestation.

After the encik fumigated the car, I saw 2-3 cockroaches crawling out (escaping).  He tried to take proper photos of them, but they were too fast for him, so pardon the blur images.

About half an hour later, he opened the car doors to ventilate the car and checked for any carcasses.

But that’s not the end of the service yet. The car was given full sanitization with ProMed ozonic generator which is certified by SGH to kill 99.99% bacteria. It is also an ISO-certified device. ProMed ozonic treatment serves to sterilize the cabin and to flush the air-conditioning system. *An air sanitizer acts on airborne microbiological organisms. It is intended to disinfect, reduce or mitigate growth or development of microorganisms including bacteria, fungi or viruses.
*extracted from wikipedia

SGH's Certification (Photo source: EuroAuto Facebook)

As if that wasn’t enough, the range of products that EuroAuto uses (Koch-Chemie) is used by renowned brands like Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Oh, I am so blessed!

EuroAuto was kind enough to extend a car polishing service using Koch-Chemie 1k-Nano Paint Sealant to us.  Doubly blessed.


After 7 hours (fumigation + polishing), the car is now sparkling on the outside, spotless on the inside.

While the men will definitely rave about the polishing, as a mother, I place a higher emphasis on the cleanliness of the interior. In my opinion, these are the groups of people who probably need regular fumigation:

1. You have children
The younger they are, the higher the chance of them dropping crumbs, bits of food and spilling beverages. They may vomit in the car too.

2. You have pets
When your cats or dogs sit in your car, they shed their fur.  At times they may be sick and you need to ferry them to the vet, they may vomit in your car.

3. You ferry groceries
If you use your car to ferry groceries, chances are that odours will linger.  Sometimes, there are undesirable leakages. Or, did you buy any durians back for a feast recently?

4. Your profession requires you to transport goods
I am not referring to huge items. But if your job requires you to occasionally transport carton boxes, perishables, etc, there could be a chance that pests find their way to your car.

Even if you do not belong to any of the above groups, if you ever buy a second hand car, do send the car for fumigation. As it is said “Prevention is better than cure”.

Photo source: AutoEuro Facebook

Would you like to have a free trial Car Interior Fumigation (worth $228)? EuroAuto Lounge is very generous to give this away to 1 fortunate reader. Please follow the steps stated in the Rafflecopter to qualify for the draw.  1 lucky reader will be picked on 16 July (Thurs).