Small K learns to swim with The Swimming Room

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Swimming has always been a nemesis for me. Don't get me wrong. I love to swim. I love the waters. I even swam in competitions back when I was a student. However, the phobia came when I became Mom. Big K had always been afraid of the water getting into her eyes. She would scream bloody murder each time we washed her hair. This phobia extended to the pools. It was traumatic. As such, when Small K came along, I was afraid to start him off swimming. However, this boy displays more guts than his sister. He has his reservations but you can see the glitter in his eyes when it comes to water play. Perhaps due to his sister's reactions, the boy's fear built up over time. He would not jump into the water on his own unless you cajole him and hold his hands. It was tiring. I thought all children would yearn to jump into the water? Well, apparently not mine.

That said, after much thought, I felt that the procrastination wasn't going to do us good. Perhaps starting Small K off proper swimming lessons would motivate Big K to do better. With that, we started our journey with The Swimming Room. The Swimming Room is a premium swim school that provides holistic swim-learning journey to all ages. We chose to have our lessons at the NTU Alumni Club even though it is right over on the other end of where we are living! After hearing about my plight, our friend mmlittlee convinced us that the friendly coaches over at The Swimming Room would be able to help. To be frank, I was having my jitters, but the husband thought it was worth a try. Now, if even the husband was willing to drive from the East to the West on a weekly basis, it meant something. The husband is someone who loves living in his comfort zone. Even for our meals, he detests travelling for more than 10minutes drive away. He needs a lot of nudging. If I say I'd like to bring the kids to the Singapore Zoo, which once again, is on the other side of where we are reside, he would give me a NO without hesitation. Perhaps it was the mental drain he was feeling from teaching Small K how to swim and after seeing the battles we had with our older child, he knew, it's best to send them to the professionals.

So we started our lessons in end April. Small K was very excited that he was finally having lessons with the sister albeit in a different group. The amazing water play area was a big draw and made everything else easier. That was the biggest pull factor for us to travel as it plastered big smiles on their faces. It was such a draw for the kids that I find it difficult to get them to leave after our lessons. Often, we would hang around for a minimum of half an hour! 

Mummies/ daddies, I have another draw to share with you! There is a spa right next door! Some day, just some day, I will visit that place and leave the kids in good hands! Just you wait, Gold Wellness.

Upon registration, we were given a wetsuit and a cap. Something which amused the kids. They aren't used to wearing caps and I think putting this uniform on gave them a sense of belonging. Small K didn't quite understand that his sister wasn't going to be swimming with him in the same group and that did make him a little anxious. Coach Eugene and Coach Joann were however, able to make him feel at ease. It was really great that there is an extra pair of eyes watching these little nemos. Puts me to ease as I stare blank for a moment. 

Coach Eugene has several tricks up his sleeves. He made used of a watering can to shower the kids' heads, to give them a feel of water going down their faces. Good idea as some kids really hate having the idea of water trickling down their faces. Then came the challenge. He wanted Small K to jump into the pool without assistance. As usual, Small K wasn't comfortable, but with persuasion, he was jumping with ease by the end of the lesson and couldn't stop. In fact, this gan jiong spider jumped into the pool before being asked and accidentally cut his chin! The team was quick to follow up with first aid as the boy tried to hold back his tears. I guess he didn't want to mah-lu (meaning: embarrass) himself too much. 

At the back of my mind I thought, "Great, he wouldn't want to attend lessons now and could have phobia!" But I was wrong. He did cry, but stopped after a while when Coach Eugene tried to make him smile and I told him he could hang out at the slide with his sister. That made him smile again and the following week, he was asking if we could go in earlier in order to have more time in the waters!


New friends: While he doesn't quite talk to his swim buddies, you can tell that he is completely at ease. It helps a lot that Coach Eugene dives into the lesson by chit chatting with them and incorporating certain activities which make them feel less stressed, if any at all. He makes things fun, before all the serious stuff comes along. 

Confidence: Small K is now displaying great confidence in the pool. He is able to do his kicks with his kick board independently and insists that he needs to practise swimming on his own. There was once I caught him going into the 1.2m deep pool with his sister and there were no adults with him! *HORRORS. He is that gung-ho now. He is able to swim the entire length of the pool and back with the kick board. Coach Eugene terms it as going overseas and the kids have to pass him their passport. That delighted them. 

Initially, Small K doesn't really quite like putting his head in the waters as the water probably stings his eyes. He dislikes the goggles too you see. Now, he is constantly bobbing his head up and down, in and out of the water and is able to hold his breath for 10seconds. Being a father himself, I appreciate the way Coach Eugene interacts and talks to the children. Punctuating his conversations with funny antics and engaging in silly conversations, sometimes is just the way to make little children comfortable. I, for one, am always acting like a clown when with kids. But this ability doesn't come naturally for all people. The children can sense your sincerity. Coach Eugene's enthusiasm rubs off Small K. He is now asking us to bring him for swims every other day! I'm glad that we have found the right coach.  

Diving like a champ! That's what he is able to do now! It seems so natural for him to dive down to grab the colourful hoops which Coach Eugene has placed down on the floor even on the first lesson! I really like it that The Swimming Room is equipped with so many tools. I have always wondered with our previous coaches, why do they not have stuff to engage the kids? All they have, mostly, are a kickboard and hoops. More need not be good, but with kids this age, it will certainly help. Coach Eugene has a variety of tools for this purpose. He even has a big hoola hoop which he uses to train the children. It tickled me as it looked like he was training dolphins. But you know what? Small K loved it! 

Swimming WITHOUT the kickboard. YES! The boy is able to do short distances without the kickboard! He still can't quite control himself and would swim out of line, but it was a #proudmamamoment when I saw him swim on his own just after 2 MONTHS!

Laying on his back. He doesn't quite like the act of being a pancake but he is getting there. He would talk fondly about being a chocolate pancake or a pizza. I'm glad that he isn't resistant and is trying his best to overcome his insecurities. 

He idolises his coach. The boy is very proud of his coach I'm sure. For starters, he is constantly talking about Coach Eugene each time we went swimming. He would linger at the lift lobby where there was a The Swimming Room poster, and would shout out in pride "That's Coach Eugene! He's my coach!"

With their team of 15 fun -oving and professional coaches, it is really a school you'd want to enrol your child in. Everything is so systematic! They've even got an admin to handle your enquiries so you don't need to wait till the coach is out of the pool! In addition, when the weather is bad and lessons have to be cancelled, you'd receive an sms as well as email! How professional is that? Previously, I was the one who had to text the coach to ask if there was going to be lessons at all. I could sometimes be giving a chaser for up to a week and frankly, that made me tired not to mention several plans were thwarted. The Swimming Room has a proprietary online progression system that allows their coaches to update the skill set taught to your child. Their classes are structured into different levels (from starfish to sharks) to help with learners of all ages. It is vital that they recognise that students may progress at different speeds but most importantly, these children should achieve learning objectives whilst having fun! 

I'm really glad that we started our journey with The Swimming Room. The drive down is totally worth it! Afterall, Singapore is just so small! There is a referral programme promo, so do let them know I'm your friend will you? :P

If you are not ready to travel, they can also come to you! Find out more from them:

TSR Pool @ NTU Alumni Club Level 4
11 Slim Barracks Rise
Singapore 138664
Tel: +65 6908 50069644 3077
Links: Facebook | Instagram | Web

Disclaimer: We are invited for classes for the purpose of this review. No additional monetary compensation was received. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written to my experience in using the services.


Monday, May 28, 2018

Play is a very integral part of a child's development. In particular during their foundational years. As much as possible, I will go for quality and not quantity. Ok, who am I kidding. Anyone who has seen the mess in my house knows i go for both! haha. The husband can attest to that. Essentially, because there are so many quality toys to choose from! I have a soft spot for anything educational and was very excited to be introduced to ToyTag. A leading online toy vendor housing several of my favourite brands like Hape, Lego, Mattel, Osmo and many more. It even houses books from Epigram! TOYTAG started out with the simple aim of bringing the best toys from all over the world onto one platform for game lovers in Singapore to get their hands on their favourite games easily. They are one of the largest educational toy stores in Singapore and carries a wide selection of educational toys and games that are extremely popular overseas but slightly harder to find in Singapore. To add on, they also have their very own house brand toys, including the Brain Series Classic Chess SetHydraulic Robotic Arm Building Kit and Otis board game. These best sellers hope to inspire the creativity and encourage players to spend some time off your busy schedule to reconnect with your loved ones. 

It was easy to navigate as the toys are all categorized according to brands or ages. Saves you the trouble to think if it is suitable for a certain age. Makes it easy to buy a gift for friends should you not have a kid or have long forgotten which toy is age appropriate. I was drawn to the selection of Hape toys which were housed under TOYTAG. Since the beginning, we had favoured this brand of toys and was delighted to see the array on this site.

The Whirlpool we chose for Small K was extremely apt. We love wooden toys and the material of Hape toys are excellent. It trains not only his motor skills but also his creativity. Initially, I got him to follow the instructions. This boy isn't quite used to following instructions so it kind of frustrated him. After a while, he understood the mechanics and was engineering amazing structures.

 In fact, shortly after, he allowed his creativity to take charge and was soon building structures of his own. Even though this toy is more suitable for his age group, Big K was enticed too and played with it for a long while. Ahhhh respite! There were a number of permutations and this stretches their imagination which I like. When children grow up, their imagination is key to an untold world. Imaginations forges stronger neuronal connections in the brain and promotes social interaction. It is, in fact, proven by scientific studies to reduce risks of dementia. Children with more active imaginations may have better brain health and strive for more amazing things. Unfortunately, education these days are rather stifling.

Big K has always been inclined towards art and craft. I recalled about a year or so ago, we attended a Children's carnival at Garden's by the Bay and were rejected at a station which featured creations using a 3D pen. Big K wanted to do it so badly, but was deemed too young. When I saw the 3D Architecture pen set on TOYTAG, I knew I had to get it for her! She was delirious when she received it.

As it involved heat, we had to lend her a hand. We tested it out before guiding her. Sadly, the glue stuck too well onto the plastic sheet and could not be pulled out. We ended up doing it on paper which peeled off better. Eventually we figured that the mould worked better and it did! Big K couldn't quite control her strokes and I had to hold her hand for a bit. However, after a while, she got the hang of it and we made a few simple creations. Such things require patience and hence, apart from gross motor skills, this type is awesome at training a child patience! The refill packs are also sold on TOYTAG so I guess we don't have to worry when the colours run out!

There are several awesome online toy stores in Singapore and TOYTAG ranks second! Find out who are the rest over here. They have good deals every now and then as well, so do keep a lookup!! Apart from its online presence, TOYTAG also retails at Harbour Front Centre and APEX @ Henderson. Do check them out if you are looking for quality toys!

Why did i enrol my 7 year old in Preschool Heguru?

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Big K turns 7 this year! Gulp! Did i say 7? Yes, another milestone has been achieved as she blazed into primary school. Currently, she is coping pretty fine at this level but i know that she has much more potential and that she is always taking her own sweet time when it comes to completing a task. No more spoonfeeding and nurturing like in a preschool. She has to face reality where things are fast paced, like it or not.

Since she was about 20 months old, she had been enrolled in an established right brain school. She was there for probably 2 terms but i got pregnant again and had to stop. It was way too tiring for me to carry her for lessons with a big tummy of mine. It was parent accompanied and sitting in class with her, trying to pin her down onto a chair, behind a small table, was quite a feat. My extremely patient dad tried once and he came out telling me never to ask him do such a thing again! It was not that she is a terribly active child. In fact, under normal circumstances, she isn’t. She is reserved. But somehow, during lessons, she would wander from one end of the classroom to the other, distracting other kids. There wasn’t any physical segment to expanse the kid’s energy hence making sitting down throughout a little challenging. As such, she holds the title of an Indian chief and all other toddlers would follow suit. If i could, i would dig a hole and bury myself there and then. The teacher assured me that it wasn’t that she wasn’t paying attention but she was and that probably already knows her stuff! Wow! Are you serious? Do you mean I’ve got a genius here?

Fast forward several years later, after seeing how right brain training at Heguru is doing Small K good, I decided to let Big K have a go. Due to her long hiatus from such training, i decided to start slow and after speaking to Principal J, we decided that Big K should start at a Preschool 2 level. According to her academic age, she should be at the Primary level, but at Heguru, it really is about the process which they are trying to mould.

Details on Preschool 2 program

Duration: 90 minutes
Child's age: 5 to 6 years old
Number of classes: 42 per year

Highlights of this programme:
  • Enlarging the brain capacity and achieving connection between the left brain and the right brain.
  • Nurturing high-speed processing skills.
  • Nurturing the power of expression and ability of comprehension.
  • Promoting cooperation through group interaction activities.
  • Further development of the left brain and enhancement of right brain power through the use of prepared worksheets
This programme is designed to effect a superb balance between the right brain and the left brain. With lesson lasting 90minutes, it helps their concentration powers to flourish. Moreover, cultivation of the left brain will be at a higher level than in previous classes, so a foundation is built for the children to utilise when they become primary school pupils. This foundation is absolutely necessary to let their right brain bloom at primary school. 

Big K’s thoughts
The initial start was tough. It wasn't about the brain training but she hated the idea that she had to wake up early for a weekend class while her little brother got to spend time with me. Small K still had the luxury of going for a weekday class back then you see. In addition, she wasn’t used to the fast pace and the due to the small enclosure, she was a little disturbed by the voice of the trainer reverberating. It was thunderous as she put it. Coming from a very nurturing preschool, she was always pampered and wasn’t used to such settings. Welcome to the real world, baby! It is cruel and education in Singapore is rigorous.

A month into the lesson, she wasn’t complaining as much and would hurry me for class as the early birds got to sit on chairs and according to her, that cushioned the voice a little. I’m glad she figured a way out. Today, 4 months into the programme, she is looking forward to her lessons every week and would in fact ask incessantly if there was going to be lessons that week. It does help that now the little brother is also going for a weekend class at approximately the same time.

Right from Preschool 1, the children will be assigned homework. Yes, you heard me right. Homework! Students are given three booklets during lessons. One (Booklet C) to be used during class, another Booklet R, where the questions are more or less similar to those done in class to be used as revision, and lastly Booklet H which is the homework booklet to be handed in during the next lesson. At the beginning, Big K needed quite a bit of handholding. It wasn’t that she didn’t enjoy doing it. On the contrary, she looks forward to it and would badger me to let her do them over my ‘activities’. Ok Heguru, you win! However, there were a few visualising questions which were rather challenging and I had to make use of manipulatives to assist her.

Due to her prior training plus the games we play at home, she caught on rather quickly and right now, i simply assign her a few pages and she will do them all after school each day. Most of the time, she goes beyond and attempts more than required! This is such a motivation as it clearly shows that the child is enjoying every bit of it. It is with much regret that every week, we are only able to complete booklet H and not able to attempt booklet R which we should, for reinforcement. Should we still be in Preschool where time wasn’t so tight and there were minimal homework, we would probably do them all. 

Mummy’s thoughts
I love it! Anything right brain is fascinating for me right from the start! We all know that the brain is divided into the left and the right. The right brain is able to absorb, at high speed, large amount of information. At a Primary level, students will master Hado reading which works on instantaneous memorising. Sounds unbelievable i know! When I saw the promotional video, my mouth was agaped the whole time. I was in disbelief but it has been tested and proven! In Japan, where their headquarters are, if you read 10000 books a month, you will be able to join their Ichimankai club. With consistent training, students are able to draw out their inner genius and be in special education, top their class and pass entrance exams for Tokyo university which we know is quite a feat.

See below video and be enthralled:

I shan’t deny, I do harbour thoughts that one day, my children will reach this stage. Who doesn't want a bright child right? But i know it takes a lot of consistency and discipline to achieve. And sadly, given the current situation, my hands are pretty full. 

When i first saw the programme outline, i was ecstatic.

There were a lot of visualizing involved which is extremely apparent in today’s test papers. Here are some examples taken off 2017 Primary 6 Singapore Chinese Girls' School Math paper:

Education has evolved in such a way that questions are no longer expressed in a straightforward manner like in 1+1. Rather, it now involves a lot of higher order thinking from the child. Not easy. Not easy at all. Even for an adult, it isn’t easy. Students cannot learn such things through rote learning. You either ‘see’ it or you do not. With such exposure, I believe it will value add when the child is faced with, for example, Math questions on the topic of Circles where students have to use the cut and paste or overlapping method. Something which requires visualisation. Let’s not even go so far. At Primary one level, the Math syllabus includes shapes and patterns. The exposure from the various Heguru puzzles like the pelican puzzle, magic cubes, tangram and plate puzzles would definitely aid visualisation. 

An example of one of the puzzles used during lesson -- Magic Cubes

Another puzzle -- IORITA

The part which i particularly like is the energy in class. Students will participate enthusiastically, shouting out the answers the moment they have completed. The time limit for each activity is typically 60seconds. This is an excellent way to push my little one who, since young, has no sense of urgency and is way too meticulous for my liking. In other words, Slow. Why rush the child you ask? Well, if she keeps up with this nonchalant attitude thinking that she has all the time in the world and that the world will stop just for her, sorry baby, but you wouldn’t survive the vigorous system. This is especially apparent where students need to complete 30 question Math questions in 50 minutes in Paper 1 and 18 gruelling Math problem sums in 1h 40mins for Paper 2 during the Primary 6 examination. It not only tests on speed, but understanding and stamina. Society is cruel.

On average, each Heguru activity has to be completed within 60 seconds while in class. This trains the child on speed. It is not about getting the right answer but rather the process and the willingness to try. Big K has an avoidance issue. Whenever she isn’t confident of something, she will not attempt in front of you. Typical of most kids I think. That said, when you are not looking, she can be often seen practising hard, trying to perfect things. A perfectionist, this little one. Wonder where she gets this trait from. 😅🤔

On stamina. Children in general lose focus easily. I mean an exam paper is on average 2.5hours. Expecting them to sit down throughout and focus is really intense at a young age. They do not have stamina and some may be deemed as being ADHD etc. Society has coined so many new terms that for everything a child can or can’t do, there is a psychological explanation which i am honestly skeptical of. 

Kids are like animals and they can be trained. Likewise, for stamina, at Heguru, they train it through various activities. One of which are featured above.

I have recently attended their parent preview for the Primary Programme and am tremendously inspired and motivated that this is the right course for my children. However, the jump is rather huge for Primary as the class can hold up to 40 students. Imagine a huge class with everyone shouting the answer out in less than 60secs. Big K isn’t ready for that transition so her trainers and I have decided to go at her pace and for her to get accustomed to the preschool system first. To build her confidence and allow her to grow. Child-led — in line with my motto. 

In my next installment, i will share with you in more details, what are the various activities done at a Preschool 2 level. 
So stay tuned!

Do also follow Heguru Citysquare mall on Facebook or check out their website for more details. Do give them a buzz to book your slots or speak to their friendly trainers for further insights!

Disclosure: We were invited by Heguru CitySquare mall to review their courses and attended complimentary lessons in return. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/ services.