Wednesday, 4 December 2013


Precious memories that clearly come to mind AGAIN, are those of the exciting times we shared as family-playing snakes&ladders, monopoly or scrabble! The heightened emotions! The competitive atmosphere! The sweet taste of victory! It's amazing how 'effectively' those games could divide us into alliances and rivals in just a matter of seconds! Some real life lessons on handling success and defeat were definitely learnt during the process!Oh my, WHAT FUN TIMES WE HAD!

Board games are a great way of bonding and spending quality time together as a family or among friends! Besides being so much fun, a lot is also learnt during the process. For instance, Monopoly gets you clued up in the world of property and trading, chess teaches you 'strategy' and scrabble builds your 'word knowledge'. 

Playing a board game is a very interactive, captivating and hands on activity that can replace hours spent in front of the TV or playing with video games. Amidst all the hoo-haa and fun, board games play a significant role in your child's cognitive development! 

Nowadays there is such a wide variety of board games available on the market and all age appropriate too! Create unforgettable childhood memories for your kids of quality times spent together as a family playing games!!

What games do you play in your home? What's your child's favourite board game? What was your favourite board game, growing up? What benefits have board games bought about in your home?

Thursday, 21 November 2013


Round about the time that my son turned one, I realized that he had would often place the cap on his drinking bottle after he had finished drinking. Then I noticed it was happening with other things too-like he would try to screw back the vaseline cap onto its container, or to fit his sister's Lego blocks together and pretty much try to 'fit in' anything that could be 'fitted onto' something else!
This got me excited and I thought he was ready for one-peice puzzles. So, without wasting time, I got him a puzzle with  about 6 different animals, where he could fit each animal into its appropriate space! Well...I realized I was probably a little too ambitious. He did have the general concept of putting each piece into a particular space(probably from seeing his sister do her puzzles), but he wasn't able to fit the right animal into it's correct space...(nonetheless, I took heart)

What I then did was to get him toys that he could start stacking together or that fit into each other. These, he has taken to beautifully! Obviously fumbled here and there a bit (often preferring to "demolish" than to stack!) but he got acquainted with them easier. He still needs to learn that a star shape goes into the star groove only and not the circular or triangular groove...but hey...we"ll get there.

I'm pretty sure these toys are developing in him the foundational skills necessary for taking on the board puzzles! I will be sure to let you know when he conquers the one-piece animal puzzle which is patiently waiting for him!

For those of you with babies&toddlers, what toys are you investing in them with the aim of developing them cognitively? What's your baby's favourite toy? How does your baby/toddler occupy herself?

Thursday, 14 November 2013


My twin sister was quite the wiz-kid (now, wiz-mom!) during our high school years. She completed her O-level maths (passing with a smacking A!) a year earlier than the two year standard period which most of us do. So when we were doing our final year, she was already doing a higher level of mathematics called ADmaths. I vividly remember her working on these problems late into the night or in the wee hours of the morning and whenever she managed to solve a problem...THE JOY AND ELATION of accomplishment was astounding! She would scream, do a dance...anything to express the joy of 'I've done it again!' And somehow, her joy had a ripple effect on whoever was around when she had 'solved the problem' and we couldn't help but feel the same joy for her!

I see a similar 'sense of accomplishment' expressed in my daughter when she has 'conquered' another puzzle. (Okay, maybe not as dramatically expressed as my twin sister would but nonetheless- a definite expression of pride and joy!) She will parade the puzzle around for all to see! And often, she'll put the finished puzzle in a convenient place for her dad to also see and applaud when he comes home from work in the evening!I'd like to think that this activity has had a part in building her self-confidence because she has become more eager to take on new tasks(both familiar and unfamiliar). 

We all know that an applauded and celebrated child is a CONFIDENT child! So, the next time your child comes to you with a 'conquered puzzle!' (beside themselves with pride and joy at what they've done), know that another building block in their self confidence has just gone up! 

What activities have contributed in building your child's confidence? Any memorable episodes you can share with us?

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


Puzzle-making is an activity that demands quite a lot from a concentrating and problem solving.  To a small child, such disciplines are WORK! If your children are anything like mine, they thrive on 'having fun whilst learning' and puzzles are no exception to this rule. So, here are some tips on funning-it all up from time to time!

1) Include puzzlemaking as one of your family quality times. One of our Twinkldonians, Constance Soutter, shared with us the other day on how the whole family had so much fun doing puzzles together! You could even throw in some popcorn& fancy delights to snack on during the process. (Puzzlemaking is a great way of committing about 20-30mins of your undivided attention to your child when you've come home from work and are too tired to jump around and pillow fight!)

2) Once your child has got a hang of the puzzle, you can start timing him on how long he takes to complete the puzzle. Each time he does it, he should aim to beat his previous time record

3) You can also compete with your child on completing puzzles or she can compete with her siblings

4) Another Twinkldonian, Tavonga C Goto, shared with us the other day on a certain puzzle book her daughters have that combines storytelling with puzzlemaking. I think that's pretty neat! I  know my daughter would certainly love that approach to Puzzlemaking!

What other ways do YOU think can be helpful in making puzzle building a more enjoyable experience for your child? What comes easier to you as a parent-playing rough and tumble with your kids or doing quieter activities such as puzzles or storytelling? Both are important for your child's development and for your own bonding with them 

Sunday, 10 November 2013


It's amazing how we often approach the same matter differently because of the way we are all wired differently! This goes the same for our children!

Give a puzzle to one child and they'll approach it's construction by starting with the four outer corners, then filling in the borders and finally fitting in everything else in the middle! (Structured)
Another child will just start randomly, by picking any peice and then fitting in consequent ones according to their shapes and grooves! (Talk about trial and error!)
Another child, will use the full picture as a guideline for bringing the whole story together! (Working with the end result in mind)
And, I've realized that my own daughter uses the colours and details on the puzzle pieces to bring about her story together! 

The natural approach to solving a puzzle will be different for each child and there really is no wrong or right way. But there are certain guidelines you can follow to get your child started or to improve their approach...

1) Firstly you need to get the right puzzle! If it's either too easy or too hard for your child, your child will lose interest very quickly and not benefit from the activity. 
From about toddler age (1 year and older) you can start your child on toys that they can start stacking or that fit into each other. From there you can then move on to 1-piece puzzles, then 2-piece, 4-piece, 8-piece, 12piece and so forth. Go at the pace of your child but be consistent so that their progress is not slowed down by your inconsistency. You will know when they are ready to upgrade to the next level because of the speed and ease at which they carry out the activity!

2) Choose the right time and space for puzzle making! You aren't gonna get much done if the TV is blaring out loud, the baby is crying, your child is too tired, etc. The environment needs to be conducive for concentration

2) It helps to start with the end picture in mind when constructing a puzzle...or any goal in life really! So, have your child look at the full picture at beginning, especially if the puzzle is new. It's no harm for them to even refer to the picture from time to time as they are building the puzzle, in the initial stages of getting acquainted with the puzzle. But you want them to eventually move on to building the puzzle from memory and not by always referring to the picture

3) As mentioned earlier, you can help your child to identify the four outer corners of the puzzle, then all the border ones, so they can have the basic outline in place before filling in the rest of the detail. This should just be a guideline though because as they become more confident at the activity, they will probably discover their own unique approach.

These are a few practical tips that may be helpful in getting your child developed in the habit of puzzle making! Initially your involvement will be necessary but once they have mastered the art, yours will be just to purchase the appropriate puzzle  and ensure it's getting done. Im sure there are other helpful nuggets that you know about or have experienced with your own kids- DO SHARE!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Can puzzles teach a child to 'THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX'?

The other day, my daughter was doing a number puzzle as shown on the image above. She completed everything well and that was commendable. But what caught my attention was the (7-2=5) problem which I've outlined in red. The instructions given were to solve these problems either 'across' or 'downwards'. So, in my view the (7-2=5) outlined in green should have come easier than the one outlined in red, right? Well, she surprised me big time because she found the one outlined in red before the green one. That was an 'aha' moment for me! Something is definitely happening in her 'reasoning and problem solving world' and it's not limited to the conventional methods! Now imagine, what a mind (conditioned and developed from a tender age to be innovative), can contribute to society and technological advancement?? 

What changes have you noticed in your own child, from engaging in puzzles and other problem solving activities? Please share!!

Thursday, 24 October 2013


If you have a child in nursery school or early primary, you have probably had their teacher advise that you encourage them to do more puzzles at home?! This activity comes easier and is more enjoyable for some kids than others, but it's necessary to get every child proficient in this activity( whether they like it or not) because puzzles are so important for developing many skills! 

I started doing puzzles with my daughter when she was three. She is six now, and she can comfortably build a 100-120peice puzzle.  Puzzles were never her favourite thing (and still aren't) but the skills she has developed through this exercise are benefiting her immensely in this foundational stage of building her numeracy and literacy skills. 

The following are some of the benefits brought about by puzzle making:

1) Concentration
2) Problem solving
3) Reasoning
4) Pre-reading skills
5)Matching and colour recognition
6) Fine motor control 
7)  Hand/eye coordination
8) Background/Foreground discrimination

All these skills are so vital for a child to grasp in their early stages in order for them to competently engage and excel at the higher levels of intellectual development. If you want your child to be confident and competent in school and beyond, invest well in these foundational disciplines! 

What other benefits of puzzle making can you share with us? What puzzle making benefits have you noticed in your own kids? Does your child enjoy puzzles? What challenges have you faced in this area of puzzle making? 


One thing engrained in my sisters and I(from an early age) was the discipline of taking proper care of our books. We were made to believe that books ARE valuable and should therefore be handled likewise. It's sounds like a very simple principle to pass on to a child but the results are far reaching and actually translate onto other areas of one's life. Today, I still value books, handle them well and have naturally passed that down to my own kids, who (I KNOW), will effortlessly pass it down to their own kids! 

Here are a couple of things I was taught and have passed on to my children on the matter of being 'A Good Steward of Books'...

1) Have a designated area where you keep all your books (it's easier for children to develop the habit of packing away when they know WHERE to pack away)
2) Discourage eating and drinking whilst reading a book as this easily soils books
3) Instill the discipline of keeping reading books as READING books. Not to be scribbled, written or drawn on!
4) Encourage the use of a bookmarker. The habit of leaving a book opened(faced upside down) or folding the corner of a page(dog ears) will ensure that the book dilapidates very quickly!
5) If a book tears, be quick to mend it and teach your child to do the same. 

These are a few tips and I'm sure there are plenty more! Please do share with us your own helpful nuggets on this one! 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013


There is a 'special-somethingness' to story time that I've never been able to shake off (from my early childhood years right up until now-in my early thirties). The memories of my sisters and I huddled together on our parents' bed...completely enraptured in the gentle drone of mom's voice as we journeyed through various kingdoms, set in different eras, meeting all sorts of amazing characters...are still as vivid today as the whole story time experience was -a good 25t years ago!

I'm 33years old now and story time is still one of my favourite things! Nevermind my children...'I' LOOOVE  STORYTIME! This love for story time (nurtured from a tender age) undoubtedly oozed into a love for books and quite effortlessly and delightfully, 'the love' is now oozing onto my own kids! So, I really couldn't wait to share the next couple of nuggets that have helped to make story time an unforgettable experience for me and my children. I hope you'll find them helpful...

1) Choose a time when household activity is minimal. This is why bedtime is a great time to have STORYTIME as everybody is now in a 'winding down' mode. I have also found Saturday mornings to be really good for us too. Everybody usually lies in, no pressure to get going with day, everybody is relaxed...a perfect time to wrap into STORY TIME with the kids!

2) Choose a convenient place where there's minimal distraction. The bedroom(either your kids or yours) is usually a good choice as there is no distraction from TV, radio and other activities going on in the house. The kids bedroom is best for story time at night as you can conveniently tuck them into bed after. And for us, the Saturday morning story times usually happen on mom n dad's bed. The bedroom vibe is very relaxing and such an atmosphere is important for an enjoyable story time experience 

3) Have some physical contact going on during STORYTIME. You could have your child nestled in the crooks of your arms, or if they are many, huddled up closely around you, sitting on your laps...any form of some physical contact is a winner! It just makes the reading experience so much more intimate and special

4) Position the book in such a way as to ensure that your child has full view of how the story is progressing and can maybe even turn the pages themselves

5) Figure out the appropriate time span for your child. The younger they are, the shorter story time should be. If the book cannot be finished in one session, read it in stages.  You want story time to be short enough to still have your kids 'enraptured' at the end but long enough to have  a 'satisfying' feel, rather than a 'short lived' feel.

5) Always read the title of the book or story before you start-it builds anticipation! Read through the story at a pace that everyone can grasp. Read with expression and creativity, giving different voices to different characters in the book. Allow room for questions and comments as you go along. You could even pause for a demonstration or two, just to 'fun' it all up. If there are sentences that have an obvious finish line, start the sentence and let your child finish (i.e. and they lived...HAPPILY EVER AFTER!). At the end of the story, ask a couple of age appropriate questions. Nothing hectic-just more of a recap of the story. You could also ask them to sum up the story for you. My six year old daughter loves being given 'a turn' during and after story time thus our story times tend to be quite interactive. Make your kids participants of story time and not just spectators(leave spectating to the classroom environment!)

6) If expression doesn't come easily for you, then put some preparation into story time. Find a window during the day to browse through the book, cultivating ideas of how you can make the experience interactive and enjoyable. It will pay off...I PROMISE!

Story time is really more than just a time of 'growing an appetite for books' in your kids. It's also a great time to bond and have quality time with the kids. The warm fuzzy feel my children and I share during story time is quite like none other activity we do together. It's just a 'notch' more special!

So, to all the other lovers of story time, do share your own story time experience with your kids! If you had a great childhood experience in this area, we'd love to hear your account! If you have had to learn the art of story telling, without having previously experienced it in your childhood, we'd really appreciate hearing how you went about it! When is a good time and where is a good place, for story time in your household? 

Sunday, 29 September 2013


Developing 'book interest' in a reluctant reader, is probably not as easy as developing the habit from the onset of a child's development but the good news is that-IT CAN BE DONE!Some of the tips mentioned in the previous article(PRACTICAL TIPS ON HOW TO GET YOUR CHILD INTERESTED IN BOOKS) would also be helpful in this situation. Undoubtedly, your involvement and consistence on this matter is vital.

Reluctance to read often comes when a child:

1)Has difficulty reading and therefore finds the process quite challenging 

2)Simply has no interest and therefore finds reading/storytelling quite boring

If your child's situation is case 1, then you will need to engage their teacher on guidelines on how to help your child address the areas that he/she is finding difficulty in. It could be they did not master some skills necessary for reading, earlier on in their development. It would then just be a matter of revisiting these areas, under the guidance of a professional.

If your child's situation is case 1, the following suggestions might be helpful:

1) Find out what interests your child (i.e. favourite toys/TV characters/sport or activity). Look for books along these areas of interest and be involved in the reading experience. As the interest kicks in, you can move on to other topics. Let these books be readily accessible to them (i.e.
 on the bedside table, in the car, in their school bag...somewhere where they can easily see them and leisurely page through them)

2) Involve them in the selection process whenever you shop for books or borrow books from the library. You may not be keen on the subjects that attract them, or you may think the book is below or above their level...but if they are really keen on it...then indulge them-and help them where necessary, in the reading of the book. What you want, primarily, is to build interest.

3) Make the reading experience enjoyable and fun! If they can read for themselves, give them sizable targets to reach(ie 10 pages a day) after which they can give you feedback on what they have read, either in writing or verbally. What did they enjoy in the story? Who's their favourite character? What didn't they like?
Likewise, if your child isn't reading for themselves yet, YOU make the story time interesting, fun and interactive. If you need to prepare or practice a bit before story time, do so! It will help to build your child's enthusiasm for story time and consequently- books!

4) LISTEN to your child's stories, whenever they are in a storytelling mood. Storytelling goes hand in hand with reading. As they develop the art of storytelling, they are developing their imagination and creativity. Probe deeper, ask questions, give suggestions to help build the story. You will find that as they become more enthusiastic about telling stories, their enthusiasm for reading or listening to stories will also increase

5) Reward, celebrate and applaud PROGRESS(minor and major)! It could be just a thoughtful observation made or question asked during story time OR remembering the name of  a character during question time OR managing to read the stipulated number pages for the day OR even just flipping through a book on the ride back home from school! An encouraged child is a motivated child. The more motivated they are, the more likely they'll want to keep impressing you...THE BIGGER THEIR APPETITE FOR BOOKS WILL GROW!

If you are facing challenges in this area with your child, what do you think you could apply from what we have discussed that might help your child? If you have found a way around this issue, what methods have you employed to grow your child's appetite for books? What do YOU think might be the reason for your child's lack of interest in books? 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013


Getting our kids to develop an 'interest' and eventually 'a love' for books is really not a mammoth task. Human beings are creatures of habit and this is even more so true for kids because they are still at a very adaptable and pliable age. The biggest thing required on our part is CONSISTENCY! If we can get that one right...then 75% of the job is done.

The following are a number of practical tips on how to go about this:

1) Have books in the home and let them be visible. Building a library simply entails buying one or two books regularly (ie.every 1-2months). They don't always have to be brand new too- there are secondhand bookshops and websites where one can get good books at a lovely price!

2) Develop a habit of having your children see YOU read. It doesn't have to be hectic reading. Could be  a magazine, your daily devotional, a newspaper, an ebook...any form of reading really. Our 15month old son often gets books from his sisters collection and likes to page through them. We don't even worry about him tearing the pages anymore because he just doesn't. He's growing up in a household where reading is common place and he also often sits in(for a few minutes at least) on the bedtime stories I share with his sister. So, without even being intentional about building his love for books, his interest is already growing through simple exposure

3)Regularly  make time to read to/with your child. Let it be fun, engaging and even interactive! Kids love it when you actively involve them in the story time

4) Invest in books that 'liven up' the reading experience. There are plenty of amazing books nowadays-books with sounds, flap books, pop-up books, books with magnetic pieces or figurines that can be stuck on and off, books with 3D features...plenty of interesting stuff. These, however, would probably be more suitable for a younger age group(ie1-4 years) or an older child who is still new to the world of they stimulate a lot of interest! But, as the kids get older and the 'love' has set in, there is really no longer a need for books with 'added features'

These are just a handful of tips that you may find useful if you are still new to this game of getting your child to love books. It's also good to know that it is really never too late to develop a love for books in your child. Consistency is undoubtedly a critical factor in this case, too but it CAN be achieved. We will discuss more on this matter later on this week!

So, Twinkldonians! What other ways can we engage in to stimulate and grow our kids' appetite for books? Does your child have a favourite book and why is it their favourite? Where are the books in your household kept? If you are in the habit of reading to your child, when is it most convenient for you to do so and how often do you do so?

Wednesday, 18 September 2013


 If anyone has ever watched a movie based on a novel-and read the novel itself, nine times out of ten, they will always say the story was told SO much better in the novel. The journey through a novel is always more elaborate and intricate-you glean more, learn more and grow more!

Whether it’s reading to learn more or just for enjoyment, if you can develop a reading culture in your child…”THE WORLD” can really become “THEIR OYSTER”

The benefits of developing an appetite for reading in your kids are priceless and include the following:

  • Reading stimulates and grows a person’s creativity and imagination because you are continually exposed to new worlds and concepts that expand your mental horizons
  • The ability to read with speed and a good grasp of content is an essential skill that can really be advantageous for your child’s academic development(primary through to tertiary- and beyond)
  • Reading ‘opens up’ a person’s mind, similarly to the way ‘travelling’ exposes a person. You learn to see life from different angles and have a more open-minded and less stereotyped approach to life
  • Books enable you to explain difficult subject matters to your child. My six year old daughter has books with titles like ‘where did grandpa go’ and ‘where do babies come from’. These books have helped me to explain death and the coming of a new family member- in  a way she understands and that is relevant for her age
  • Reading provides a great and productive option of utilizing one’s time! A great way to cut down on time spent glued in front of a TV or playing video games.

Ever heard it said, ‘If you want to hide something from an African, put it in a book?’ Whilst that may no longer be quite-the-case nowadays, there is still a lot of room for improvement! People who have who achieved significance and success in life like Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates, Strive Masiyiwa, Ben Carson and Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi-all seem to share a common thread. They are either avid readers, or allude their success and growth to stuff they have learnt through reading!

So, granted, your child may not become the next Obama or Mary Robinson, but if you can cultivate within them the habit of reading and a love for books…you are undoubtedly setting them up for success and significance along their path of life!

What others benefits of reading can you share with us? If you are a reader, what do you enjoy about reading? If you have watched a movie based on a novel recently and also read the novel, what differences have you noticed? If you have already developed a love for books in your child, what benefits have you noticed? TALK TO US!