BWL : Mrs Piggle-Wiggle


Are you interested in “The Won’t-Pick-Up-Toys Cure” or “The Slow-Eater-Tiny-Bite-Taker Cure”?  Do you know what is Fighter-Quarreleritis?  Mrs Piggle-Wiggle is the Aunt Agony of all parents but she is different from a normal Aunt Agony in that she actually has a cure for every possible ailment plaguing children.  Her cures can be comical, yet commonsensical too.  It is really a very funny book.  The boys identify with the ailments that at times also plague them *wink* and laugh when they read about the cures for these ailments.

There are many different versions of Mrs Piggle-Wiggle books and several titles in the series. 










BWL : Mouse Mess


This book is special to us so I will start off with this book.  When #1 was little, we borrowed this book from the library and we loved the book.  So much so that we kept borrowing this book again and again.  By the time #2 was a toddler, I finally decided to buy a copy to keep.  Now all 3 boys have enjoyed this book.

The story is about a little mouse that came out to feast when the humans in the house went to bed.  He created such a great mess and yet at the end, wondered who created the mess and complained that the humans need to clean their house.  The language is simple and written in the style of a rhyme.  The author uses collage, bold colours and interesting perspective effect – mouse view –  to create a great illustration for the story.  There are a lot to talk about. To name a few :
1. Language art – rhymes
2. Science – habits of a mouse
3. Science – different types of food
4. Social Study – Hygiene
5. Art – Use of collage and perspective

Although this book is not on any of the common To-Read list, I really think it is a great children book.  You can buy this book from here.







Books We Love


When I was writing about reading, I realised that perhaps there are some of you out there who may need a bit more help in deciding what books to read or buy for your children.  Hence, the idea of sharing the books that we have read and love with you came to me.  I am going to start doing it here.  Both English and Chinese books will be featured.   It will be a bit different from the Reviews in a sense that I am just going to feature a book every now and then without doing a big write-up of the book.  I will put a link toBook Depository where you can find the books and it is easy enough for you to find out synopsis from there.  Basically, it will just be a short and sweet, bite size kind of thing, just to share about the books that we have read and love.  I can put a link to the English books but it will be hard for me to do so for Chinese books, so I will just put a pic.  The links to the English books to Book Depository will be affiliated links so if you do decide to buy, please click on those links so that you can contribute to the upkeep of this site as well. : )
Over here on Parenting Joy, I will probably just start a new page with simply a booklist of children’s books that I have featured so that if you run out of ideas, you can have this list as a reference.  I was thinking that the main sharing place will be on Facebook, which is the fastest and easiest way to do this bite size thing.  So if you have not already ‘LIKE’Parentingjoy’s Facebook page, head over now to ‘LIKE’ it.  I typically share lots of bite size information on parenting and what-not there, as well as share some photos of what we are doing at home in terms of homeschooling and learning, art projects, snack boxes, etc.  I also periodically give out links of downloadable stuff that are not yet available here.  It is also a place to connect with me, if you are interested.  You can leave comments, send message to me, ask me questions, etc.  If you do not subscribe to the feed for this site, you will also be able to get notified of updates on this site if you are on Parentingjoy’s Facebook page.

Ok, I am going to start by the end of the week with the 1st book so look out for it.

Books and Youtube

Since I started teaching #3 at home, i have grown to love Youtube.  Youtube was great but now it is even better.  I used to think I can find practically everything I want to find on Youtube, including forgotten songs , movie clips and video instructions for doing practically everything from fixing the sink to doing up the perfect eye makeup.  What I didn’t know was that I really can find practically everything on Youtube!  I can even find valuable resources to go with my home teaching!

Are you unfamiliar with Hanyu Pinyin, for instance?  Fret not because you just need to do a search on Youtube and you can find numerous video lessons teaching you Hanyu Pinyin pronunciations.  No need to spend money buying some teaching aid when you can have it for free!

Instead of buying CDs or videos of children songs and nursery rhymes, I just go to Youtube for it.

If I need to learn a particular song, again, Youtube comes to the rescue.

My favourite has to be finding book-related Youtube videos!  I found out that I can find videos clips of popular children books on Youtube.  Whenever I do a certain book with #3 – studying more in-depth, not just casual reading – Youtube makes the lesson more interesting. I saved so much money by going to Youtube instead of buying videos, which may not even be available locally.

E.g. When we do Madeline, I showed him the cartoon for Madeline on Youtube.

He learned the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom song from here :

And the song from the book ABC Bunny, which I really love myself :

Pat Hutchin’s Rosie’s Walk is great for teaching prepositions. But the book may look too simple and boring if the person reading isn’t good at drawing out the interesting points.  However, the video will make the book come alive :

I even found an old Disney video of Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House!

Michael Rosen, the author himself, performing his well-loved children book, “We Are Going on a Bear Hunt”.

Enjoy the videos above. You can find more yourself.  It is easy.  Most of all, I hope you will also enjoy the books!


I have already introduced this programme in Chinese for a Preschooler.

I have been using the 1st book for almost 1 year now and I am pleased to tell you that it has worked very well for us. It took me so long before I write a proper review because I want to really make sure that the programme works.  I am also keen to share the materials that I have created to use in conjunction with this programme, and I wanted to only share them when I have them all done so that you won’t get them in bits and pieces.

To recap, this programme is a literacy programme from China whose focus is to teach the child to start recognising words at a very young age.  The programme is designed in such a way that the child can start reading simple sentences after learning about 40-50 characters.  The name of the programme sums it all up – 四五 (four, five) 快 (fast) 读(read).  Hence, the child does not necessarily start from very simple characters and progress to very complicated ones.  The progression is based on how the characters can be put together to form vocabularies, phrases and sentences.
Why this works is because children are very visual people.  They are very fast at recognising pictures and patterns.  Since Chinese characters are essentially very pictorial, even a very young child can learn to recognise and remember very complicated looking characters.

Because the programme is designed such that the very first few words the child learns in Lesson 1 can already form meaningful vocabulary, it puts characters into context and makes them meaningful to the child.  This, I feel, is very important because if the child does not get the meaning and context of what he is learning, he quickly loses interest and will forget them very quickly.  I once read a book on how our brain works and this resonates with the brain research results that show that our brains connect information to help retention.

This programme is not just one book but a series of 7 volumes.  I tested my P1 boy and based on what he learned from preschool in the conventional manner, he could recognise most of the words in the first 2 volumes. He is sufficiently prepared for P1 level of work (not Higher Chinese).  Each volume covers 88 characters, so by Volume 2, the child would have learned over 160 characters and many more vocabulary.  He definitely will be able to read simple sentences.  (Note : In case you are unaware, even though each and every Chinese character has its own meaning, they are seldom used singly, but usually in pairs or 3-4 to form meaningful vocabulary.  Hence, 176 characters put together in various combinations will form a lot of phrases and what we call in English, ‘words’.)

At the time of writing this article, we have completed Volume 1 of the series. Volumes 2 to 6 are similar, introducing 88 characters in each volume and in each lesson, new vocabulary and sentences are introduced.  Every volume, except for Volume 7, comes with attached character cards for you to cut out and use.  I especially love this because unlike other programmes or cards set, this one gives you more than one of each character so that you can actually form vocabulary and sentences that have more than one of a particular character, e.g. mama (mother), using the cards.  Actually, I prefer to refer to them as ’tiles’ due to their size.  I use them to play games with my child and get him to form words and sentences with them.  This is very good because you don’t have to wait until the child can write before doing this exercise.  A young child may be able to learn the characters but in terms of motor skill, still not ready to write yet. The actual application of the characters learned can be done immediately with these tiles.  Once again, for any learning, to be able to apply what you learn is a great reinforcement.


Volume 7 is a different thing altogether, and I feel that it is not absolutely necessary to buy it, especially if Chinese is not your forte.  It involves classification of all the characters learned in Volume 1 to 6 based on sound and radicals and learning of various idioms. It is probably useful for learning Chinese spelling (tingxie).

This programme is sold in Maha Yuyi at Level 3, Bras Basah Complex.  They sell the volumes separately.  However, if you have a friend or relative working or living in China, try getting them to purchase directly from China for you.  The prices are much cheaper and if you don’t mind buying Volume 7 as well, buying in a set is even cheaper.  You can also try to order directly from http://www.dangdang.com but their shipping is quite hefty.  Incidentally, Dangdang and Maha Yuyi are excellent places to buy good quality Chinese children picture books.

How I use this programme

I don’t think I did justice to this programme because I am not very consistent with the teaching.  Nevertheless, if you take into consideration that in a period of about 10 months of very inconsistent work, we managed to cover so many characters to the extent that my son can read simple sentences from real storybooks already, this must mean something.

Before I go on to tell you how I use this programme, I must emphasize here the importance of constant reading to the child.  If you don’t speak the language at home, reading books is the least you can do to provide the exposure.  Through listening and looking at the printed words, the grammatical structure of the language is imprinted into the brain of the child unconsciously, just like how we learn our mother tongue from the moment we were born.  This is what I recommend my own friends to do : if they are unable to speak the language themselves, and hence unable to read to their children, then spend some money to engage a tutor to read to the kids.  If their children already have tutors at home, then out of, say, a one-hour lesson, take 15 minutes to read a good book.  For young children, especially, reading storybooks is definitely more fun than doing boring worksheets.

If you are thinking of getting this programme, I assume that you at least have a basic competency in the language, or have in mind someone else who can use this programme for you on your child (e.g. a tutor).  This will be my assumption for the rest of the article.

Ok, back to how I use this programme.  The following are just some of the things I do and you don’t have to do the same to use the programme.

1. When I first started using this programme, my son was only 3.5 yrs old.  Thinking that teaching one whole lesson in one go would be too much for his “English” little brain, I only taught him 4 characters at one go.  Usually, 4 characters in one week, but of course, as I have already said earlier, I wasn’t even consistent in the teaching.  Lesson 1 of each Volume consists of 16 characters, and for the rest of the book, each lesson consists of 8 characters.  Therefore, with the exception of Lesson 1, each lesson takes about 2 weeks to complete based on a very inconsistent, snail-pace kind of teaching.

As we progressed, I realised that his speed of learning became faster and faster and I could teach him all 8 characters at one go.  My recommendation for anyone who wants to try this programme is : go at a pace suitable for your child.  If your child can only manage 2 characters at one go, don’t try to teach him more.  It will only frustrate the both of you.  This is not a race. On the other hand, if your child can learn very quickly, then by all means teach more!

2. I try to use a multi-sensory approach to learning.  The main feature is the tactile cards I made.  If you know Montessori’s sandpaper letters, then you can understand what I mean by tactile characters.  Basically, I made flash cards of every character using other materials to form the characters instead of just relying on print.  This is so that my son can use his finger to trace the letters, feel what the characters feel like, and at the same time, learn the correct writing strokes!  I have created templates for making these tactile cards and you can get them here.  If you don’t know how to make them, refer to the instructions.


3. I also created Playdoh Mat for each characters.  This is another aspect of multisensory learning.  The child creates the character using Playdoh.  The Playdoh Mats are really versatile and not confined to Playdoh.  I sometimes let him use little pom poms instead of Playdoh.  Finally, they also double up as writing templates.  My son trace the characters using dry-erase markers and it can be erased and re-use over and over again.  Great for writing practices!


4. I use the Montessori method to teach the characters.  The same step as what you would do for sandpaper letters. First, you present each character and say what it is to your child.  Let your child feel the tactile characters.  Ok, against the grain of Montessori philosophy, I do guide my son in the tracing of the strokes because for Chinese writing, correct stroke sequence is very important so I figure we might as well start right from the very beginning.  After teaching him how to pronounce the character, I will also explain to him what it means.  To help him remember, I sometimes draw pictures that looks like the characters, or use visual image, e.g. telling him that the character “yu” (rain) looks like a window and you see drops of rain outside.

Secondly, you place all the cards on the table (or tray if you are die-hard Montessori purist) and ask the child “where is XXX” and get the child to point to the correct card.  Third step, you place the cards on the table/tray, point to each one and ask “what is this?”  Your child should be able to tell you what each character is.  These 3 steps may not be done all in one go.  It all depends on the progress you can make with your child.

5. Whenever I read storybooks to my son, which is everyday, I will ask him to find the characters that he has learned.  If I know he can read a particular phrase or sentence, I will ask him to try reading.

6. The tactile cards are stuck on a cabinet door for frequent, easy revision.  This is important because, you know for young children, out of sight is out of mind.

I target to finish Volume 2 by end of next year.  We can, in fact, starting Volume 2 now, so finishing the whole volume by the end of next year is a very liberal target.  If I am more consistent and hardworking, finishing Volume 2 by the end of THIS year and doing Volume 3, even 4, next year is highly possible.  Next year, technically, he will be K1.  If I can teach him minimally 176 characters (2 volumes) by the end of K1, I think that is not bad really. : )

I hope you will find the templates useful.  Do let me know how this programme works for you if you decide to give it a go.


I shared in my Review for the 四五快读 series that I made tactile Chinese Character Cards to use in conjunction with the book.  This is a step-by-step instruction of how you can make tactile cards using sandpaper or felt.  I use felt because it is cheaper and easily available from Daiso (Japanese $2 store selling practically everything under the sun and more).  You can actually use the same method for making tactile cards for anything, including alphabets and numbers.

What You Will Need

1. A pair of small, sharp, pointed-tip scissors for cutting intricate details.  I use embroidery scissors.
2. A pair of normal scissors for cutting other things.
3. White craft glue
4. Felt, preferably the kind that is not too thin and easily torn, or gets wooly easily.
5. Normal printing paper
6. Stock card paper
7. Laminating equipment – or you can send out to photocopy shops to laminate

Step 1

Print out one set of the words on normal printing paper.  Print a second set on stock card paper – I use 160gsm paper.

Step 2

Laminate the 2nd set that is printed on the stock card.  Cut out the individual square cards.  Snip off the corners to prevent injury to little hands.  Set aside.
Step 3


Take the 1st printout that is on normal printing paper.  Cut out a character.  You will end up with pieces of the different strokes, or a whole piece of a few strokes joined together, depending on the character.  Take care not to mix up the strokes with strokes from other characters.  The easiest way is to do one character at a time.

Step 4


With the cut-out facing the right way up, apply white craft glue on the “Right” side of the paper.

Step 5


Paste the cut-out on your felt, “Right” side attached to the felt.  Now you should see the “Reverse” side of the character facing you.  The craft glue will become transparent when dried.

Step 6


When the cut-out is securely attached to the felt, i.e. when the glue is dried, using the paper cut-out as a guide, cut the felt piece out with your small, pointed-tip scissors.  You don’t have to remove the paper backing.

Step 7


Now, take out the corresponding laminated card of the character.  Apply white craft glue on the strokes.

Step 8


Finally, stick the felt pieces you have cut out in Step 6 onto the laminated card.  Leave to dry completely.

Felt vs Sandpaper

I prefer to use felt instead of sandpaper because felt is kinder on the scissors than sandpaper.  I used sandpaper to make tactile cards once and at the end of the exercise, I had to throw away my scissors.  Felt is definitely gentler on the hand also as it is easier to cut.  Felt is also cheap and easily available from Daiso.  On top of that, felt allows me to colour-code my cards.  I use different colours for the different lessons.  That’s why felt remains my favourite material.  Besides sandpaper and felt, you can also explore using foam sheets, if cost is not a concern.

Other Ways of Making Tactile Cards

If you find that it is just too much work to do tactile card this way, there are other alternatives you can consider :

1. Using craft sand/glitter
– Apply glue on the laminated card and pour craft sand/glitter over it.

2. Use  Faber Castle Fabric Paint

3. I have seen people using textured wallpaper.

4.  Use those polyfoam clay sold in the craft section to form the characters, then stick the foam onto the laminated card.

5. If you don’t mind NOT having tactile cards, you can print out the template on stock cards, let your child colour the characters, then laminate.

Other Uses for the Template

The template that I have made for the tactile cards can also be used for practising writing.  Print them out on stock card and laminate.  Cut out the individual cards and let your child write over the hollow characters with a dry-erase marker (i.e. whiteboard marker).  You can erase and write again and again.

The templates for the Chinese Characters can be downloaded here.

Baby Sleep Issues

This is probably rather late considering the article was dated a few years back.  The background is this : for years, there have been two main camps on how to handle baby’s sleep issues.  The first being the ‘Feber-isers’.  They are the parents who are ardent follower of Dr Richard Ferber’s “Controlled Crying” method to train a baby to fall asleep on his own.  The other group follow Dr William Sear’s Attachment Parenting approach, which basically advocates meeting the baby’s needs/demands even if it means staying up all night with a baby who refuses to go to sleep.   Both camps are at each other’s throat all these years and the amount of quarrels in the cyberspace over this is incredible.

Studies after studies, research after research, all have been done and said to prove or disprove that one is better than the other and I think the Ferber camp got the most flake, partly due to the great popularity of Attachment Parenting in recent years and because it does go against the grain of being a parent to ignore a crying child.

I have read Dr Ferber’s book and I think he was not clear on how his method might work.  For instance, it was not clear whether there should be certain age restriction for using his method.  Clearly, his method is not likely to work on a young infant because object permanence is not developed yet.  This means that these young ones are not capable of understanding ‘I am still around although you can’t see me’ and likely to get really distressed.  Yet, this is not clearly explained in his book.  If you read the case studies given, if my memory does not fail me (I can’t verify for I have already given away my copy of the book), they dealt with kids at least 16 months old. A desperate parent reading his book may not think clearly enough to realise this and the result could be indiscriminate implementation of the controlled crying method on a very young baby.
Years after publishing their first books, the ‘experts’ concerned had apparently changed their tune a bit.  Please read this article for more information.

Both of them softened their tone and moved towards a more balanced approach.  I think most discerning parents will be thinking ‘I knew it all along after all’.  This is a classic case of ‘listening to the so-called experts, or not’.  I wonder what other people in the camps must feel, especially the die-hard fans who went through the whole nine yards implementing the experts’ advice.  There probably would be some really panda-eyed moms out there now asking ‘you mean I didn’t have to put up with all those years of sleepless night after all???”  There probably would be some who wondered why they put their babies and themselves through the heart wrenching process of ‘Crying It Out’ (CIO for short).

My point is this : While it is not wrong to read up, follow some experts’ advice, ultimately, we have to use our discernment and judgement and well, follow our instinct.  Experts make mistake too.  Experts are also prone to change their minds.  What they say are not necessarily true or best all the time.

I have 3 sleepless babies.  Correction : #2 slept through the night at 3 months+ all on his own without us following any special method but was terrible at day time naps.  Anyway, I know what the desperation feels like.  #1 was ‘Ezzo’ baby but he did not sleep through for the 1st year.  #2 was not ‘Ezzo’ but he slept through all on his own.   I can’t say I have a solution. In fact, I do not think there is a solution.  I have read all sorts of baby sleep book.  in the end, my conclusion is : it really depends on the baby.  At some point in time, parental intervention would be helpful, of course.  Otherwise, during the first year especially, one basically can do nothing more than ‘going with the flow’.  If one implement a method and it actually works, chances are, it is not so much the method but the child.
**Ezzo advocates scheduled feeding and gets a lot of flake for causing baby dehydration. He claims that by 10 weeks, the baby should be able to sleep through the night if the parents follow the scheduled feeding method.  Frankly, I think some parts of his method are useful.  As for the scheduled feeding, exercise some common sense and one should be fine.  I, for one, would not have succeeded at breastfeeding #1 if I did not implement his method.  Subsequent kids were all fed on demand because I was too tired to bother with methods anymore.