My Gym @ Buona Vista (Review)

Recently, I had been carting Eizac to gym classes at My Gym (Buona Vista). My youngest had yet to start preschool as I felt that we can afford to “play” a little longer; “roam” a while more.

At 3 years old, he is engaging in longer sentences and gaining independence wherever his legs allow him to roam! But no doubt, he is still building on his fine and gross motor skills daily and gaining confidence as he discover new ideas on how to complete tasks.

And so it was just appropriate when My Gym invited us to join them for a term of lessons. Eizac isn’t quite ready for independent lessons due to separation anxiety. So we joined the “Gymster” gym class which is tailored for 18 months to 3 years old. This is a parent-accompanied class. Age-wise I think he would be more suitable in the “Terrific Tots” class (3 to 5 years old), but he is too clingy to be on his own just yet.

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The entrance area of My Gym @ Buona Vista. Ample of space with small toys to entertain the little ones. Drinks and coffee available for sale while parents wait.

Here are some brief sharing of how a typical class goes:

We attended the first lesson during the Chinese New Year season and the theme for that day was centric on CNY.

It started with what I call a “Circle Time” where the main teacher for the day will lead a “Hi Hi Hi How do you do” welcome song. It is a catchy tune which the children can hum to it by the 2nd or 3rd lesson.

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Teacher leading the gym class for the first lesson we attended

Thereafter is a round of self-introduction of each child by their names. Eizac, being the oldest in the group, can whisper his own name when being called upon. Smile  All the other kids in the same class are much younger than Eizac, but you can see that most of the children do enjoy the attention being on them for the brief moment of introduction. This self awareness introduction is very healthy in my opinion. There are always at least 3 teachers in the class of 10 children + adults that we attended. The teachers also introduced themselves with much enthusiasm and bright smiles.

I enjoyed that next sit-down segment which involved imaginary fruits! The teacher would be “hungry” and ask one of the children what fruits would they like. Eizac always liked watermelon or bananas! Followed which, the teachers will lead us in action songs such as “peel banana, peel, peel,” “smash banana, smash, smash” and then we “eat them up! Open-mouthed smile Once again, the tunes are really catchy and the actions fun! Eizac re-enacted it at home several times!

After all the “high” songs, we will proceed to a floor or gym exercise with floor mats, loops or the likes.

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Eizac working on his back muscles and balancing while being pulled via a hula-hoop

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Teacher guiding Eizac on a tippy toes walk while he held on to just 1 finger. This is for balancing as well.

For each lesson, there will be some floor exercises, object learning, exercises on balancing beams and one of the children’s favourite – swings!

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Eizac loved the little swings which were hung from the ceiling structures.

Some of the balancing and core muscles exercises we did:

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Building on arm and core muscles while swinging from “monkey bars”.

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Teacher widened the mats’ gap for Eizac as he is much older than his course mates. He jumped over with 2 legs successfully and ended with a gymnast poise!

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Walking up a plank within a busy “airport”

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Teachers helping Eizac with hanging onto a rope. He went home telling him Daddy he was a monkey that day. Smile with tongue out

After all that gym works and etc, there will normally be an object learning session and/or a “quiet” time of colouring or “separation” time where we were not supposed to be near the children so that they can work on separation anxiety. This was kind of new to me! I have never experienced such a segment in other parents-accompanied classes. For a moment, I didn’t quite understand why all the parents/helpers sat far away while the children played with toys on a mat!  >_<

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Colouring to the Chinese New Year theme

Each lesson will normally end with a dressed-up teacher in a mascot or a short skit. During the first week, we had a monkey mascot which gave out red packets filled with chocolates! Eizac was a little upset that there weren’t anymore Mr Monkey giving out chocolates on subsequent weeks! hahaa! We met Ladybug and Henry the Octopus on other weeks. Smile

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Ms ladybug looking for a little child to land on & tickle his tummy! Open-mouthed smile

And the Top 5 things we liked about My Gym

1) The Teachers

The lively and engaging teachers are key to enjoying the lessons at My Gym. I was really impressed the teachers at the Buona Vista branch. Not only that they have to keep up with their energy level, they interact with the children very well. The teachers are encouraging and always cheered each child along the learning journey. For the “astray” ones who might not want to follow the lesson plans, some of the teachers will persuade them to participate or give them a little space when needed. For instance, Eizac wasn’t very keen in a rolling forward with a big hoop activity. Somehow he has a small fear of not being able to grasp anything when he rolled forward. The teachers encouraged him gently and assured that they will hold on to him. He tried once and wasn’t too keen for a second round. The teachers didn’t force nor condemn the reluctance; the whole “encouraging” culture was overall positive. It is also a plus that the teachers made the effort to remember each child’s name!

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Very lively teachers acting out 5 chick-a-dees song

2) The layout

We are greeted with different layout of the gym equipment every session. Though the materials are the same, the gym is set up differently each week. This creates a sense of “newness” for the children and parents alike. There is always that ball pit which every child loves to jump into and the trampoline which never fail to excite! The slides and balancing beams/mats which are positioned differently to create different angles and levels of difficulties. During the change of activities, we are free to explore the structures set up nearby. While waiting for your turn for certain exercises, the children can wander around the gym “purposefully”.

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One of the many different set ups for each week

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Trampoline! Sure to please!
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Eizac having fun in a make-shift “house” during the changing of activities

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Everything to like about a ball pit!

3) Songs and object learning

Though it is “My Gym”, they incorporated sing-a-longs, action songs, objects learning and quiet activities such as colouring. So, besides their core gymnastic strength, the children are also given time in arts and creativity, music and movement. It is not all brawns and no brains. Open-mouthed smile Eizac enjoyed the songs very much. He is always repeating the week’s songs or telling me about that ice-cream cone (object learning) that didn’t come with ice-cream! haha!

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The many dimensions of a cone! You can find a square, triangle and cone shapes. You can use it as a binoculars, a microphone or as an ice-cream cone! Smile

4) Gymnastics skills

Of course, it cannot be “My Gym” for no reason. Through FUN, My Gym provided the platform for developing those fine and gross motor skills so critical for growing up. Various gymnastic skills are emphasized such as hanging, tumbling, balancing and agility. Gymnastics had also been used as an avenue for children to instil self confidence and esteem besides building focus, strength and flexibility. I can testify to that! Every time Eizac complete a particular activity, you can see on his face that he is thrilled that he has DONE IT! He desires to be approved and encouraged that he had done well regardless whenever he succeeded in a complete tumble or he took a tumble! Open-mouthed smile Parents and care-givers’ affirmations are really important in their growing stage. And My Gym provided that platform for little ones to gain confidence as they execute gymnastics moves in a safe environment.

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5) Good timing

Lasting 1 hr session, I thought it is just about the right time span for a young child. Kudos to the teachers for changing each activity swiftly and seamlessly. I liked it that no one is kept waiting for an activity. For example, while there aren’t enough swings for all 10 children, some will be riding on Little Tikes cars and motorbikes while a teacher blew bubbles for fun! Smile

Eizac can’t wait for a ride every week!

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Eizac with one of his favourite “motor vehicle” while waiting for his turn in the swing

We are currently almost mid way through a term and Eizac is definitely enjoying himself during each lesson. It is evident in the songs he re-sung a few times at home and the recollection of the activities he did at My Gym. He will exclaim to us: “It is MY GYM; not YOUR GYM!” 0_0! We are looking forward to the rest of the term. Smile

My Gym is founded in Los Angeles, USA and works in a franchise form in Singapore. It has many accolades such as the Best of the Best Gym Singapore by ParentsWorld ( consecutive 5 years), best development play development by USA parent magazine and Parents’ Choice Award by the Parents’ Choice Foundation. It has presence in 36 countries worldwide and 6 outlets in Singapore.

As a parent, I will recommend this place for the younger ones to bond with their parents while having fun with fitness at My Gym. It is a good choice if you are looking for a fitness-centric program with snippets of cognitive and emotional development all-in!

My Gym @ Buona Vista is located at Rochester Mall which is a short walk from Buona Vista MRT Station. More information on their locations can be found here.

My Gym Singapore offers programs for children from Playgroup (18 months) through to 8 years old. School-based program with longer hours are also available at the Buona Vista branch for 18 months to 3.5 years old.

More details can be found on My Gym website and updates on their Facebook page. Check it out for promotions happening from time to time.

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N.B: This blog post is written as part of a review of lessons for My Gym @ Buona Vista. Photos and opinion remain writer’s own.

三只山羊 The Three Billy Goats Gruff

We caught the mandarin adaption of The Three Billy Goats Gruff over the weekend and here’s top 3 reasons why I liked it.

Why “I” and not “We”?

Simply because I think I enjoyed the mandarin version more than my companions. Open-mouthed smile

SRT’s The Little Company’s The Three Billy Goats Gruff 2016 - Oliver Pan...

The storyline and set is exactly the same as the English production we saw last year.

3 key points I felt made the Mandarin version outstanding:

1) Pun on Mandarin words

With English, you addressed relatives as Aunties or Uncles. Or if you are more “English/westernised”, you address them by first names.

With Mandarin, we can address relatives as 三婶 or 二舅 or the likes. During the recent Chinese New Year, I tried to make an effort to teach my boys to address our relatives either with the correct Mandarin or dialect words. It is easy peasy if I go with English, but the effort of using Mandarin made them think a little and hopefully not forget their roots.

And so with 三只山羊, I enjoyed the twist on Chinese words. For example, the Troll (怪兽) said that he likes to eat goats and not 狐狸 (wolves) because after eating 狐狸, he might just slip (on his legs) (“脚滑”). A deliberate pun on the Mandarin words that wolves are crafty animals (狐狸狡猾). Such clever use of Mandarin spiced up the drama!

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2) The music

Though the tunes are exactly the same as the English version, the lyrics creatively rhymed well and interweaved with the drama as though it was first written in Mandarin. 张乐声 (Zhang Lesheng), the Chinese Adaptor for the songs did a great job! He is a Singaporean Lyricist – famously known for the popular MediaCorp’s TV drama theme songs in The Journey: A Voyage, The Journey: Tumultuous Times and The Little Nyonya. All these are my favourite MediaCorp’s TV drama serials which also broke viewership records. Of course, he is not the only one on the music team, but his name is better known. Smile

Personally, I have a bias towards Mandarin songs to begin with. With the recent revival in Xinyao 新姚 songs in Singapore, I hope my children can grow up appreciating the deeper meanings in Mandarin lyrics.

3) Local content/context

Another well known name on the team is Danny Yeo 杨君伟. He is the Chinese Adaptor for 三只山羊 as well as The Goldilocks and The Three Bear (Mandarin) which we also watched last year.

All of us (even Xi En) can strike a chord with local content such as “ERP” and etc (I can’t remember everything!). We saw a few foreigners with their children and it is amazing that they too understand the show and laughed at the “local jokes”.

This helped the younger audience last the entire 50 mins production (without interlude). Xi En was quite captivated throughout the duration.

And of course the ending and moral of the whole story has to be educational.

To be contented with what you have in life rather than looking for that green which looks greener on the other side. 知足常乐.

Children shows have to end on a good, positive note yeah? Smile

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Don’t be mistaken that I am saying Mandarin is anything more superior than English or vice versa. But with the recent discussions on how to get our children to learn and appreciate Mandarin, it is apt to promote good quality Chinese productions at a young age. Xi En started from enjoying a Mandarin chat with his grandmother; but once he entered kindergarten, speaking in Mandarin seemed to be such a chore. It is quite alarming to me that he had enjoyed the language very much before preschool and it took at 180 degree change thereafter.

For now that he isn’t adverse to Mandarin, I hope to cultivate the enjoyment of the language through good productions such as 三只山羊. We only had good old SBC and TCS (Channel 8!) back then!

For more details and synopsis of the The Three Billy Goats Gruff (Mandarin) musical, check out my previous blog entry here: https://evespiration.com/2016/02/11/the-three-billy-goats-gruff-mandarin-version-by-srts-the-little-company/

You can still catch the show with your children before it ends on 26th March 2016.

Details:

Dates: 18th Feb to 26th Mar 2016

Mon to Fri: 10am

Sat: 11am, 2pm

Fri (25 Mar): 11am

Recommended for 5 years old and above

Venue: KC Arts Centre – Home of SRT , 20 Merbau Rd Singapore 239035.

SRT’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/singaporerepertorytheatre

You can purchase tickets to this show through SISTIC at http://www.sistic.com.sg/events/billy0416

Tickets are actually quite affordable for the weekday tickets (Prices start from S$25 per ticket). We sat in Cat 2 and Cat 3 last year and still have decent views as the theatre isn’t that big.

Special family package tickets of 4 in Cat 1 include a photo opportunity with the cast too. Grab that if your children must have a photo as photo taking are prohibited during the show.

Don’t worry, the Troll doesn’t appear during the photo taking. Smile

And your child might even get to taste a little slice of that edible paper which the goats ate during the show!

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N.B: We were kindly invited for a media review. No further compensation were received. All opinions remained writer’s own. All photos except those with the family are copyrights of the musical’s PR company.

KidStartNow Holiday Camp

Whenever the school holiday looms draws nearer, I am always on the look out for places, programmes and activities to occupy the boys – especially Xi En.

Full of energy and no afternoon naps needed, Xi En needs some structured activities to occupy his mind and time. In June this year, I decided to pick 1 holiday camp for him to attend. My criteria is simple:

1) Location is not too far to commute and preferably near public transport

2) At least 4 to 5 days of programme so that he is occupied for almost a week

3) Something educational (physically or mentally)

4) Affordable in price

Since I felt that he is still lacking in his Mandarin language, I decided to scout for a Mandarin-focused holiday camp. In the end, I decided on KidStartNow as it met most of my checklist. Some of my blogger friends have reviewed it positively as well. From their website I learn that KidStartNow uses animated stories as the main medium for engaging children to learn Chinese. Initially I was skeptical if children should be further exposed to animation since my kids are already “over-exposed” to television programs at home!

But as I read through some of the FREE learning resources on KidStartNow website, I realised with the changing of times, digital resources are inevitable and in fact very useful to draw the attention of young children and indirectly create a love for a language they might otherwise dislike.

The June camp turned out very well.

By the end of the 4 days camp, Xi En asked for more lessons! He wanted to watch more “episodes” of the story of on The Panda Superheros. Previously he used English or refused to complete sentences in Mandarin.  But after the camp, he was more enthusiastic in trying to complete a sentence in Mandarin or at least asked for the Mandarin vocabulary if he doesn’t know the words. Although I didn’t sit in the lessons, I could hear the teacher’s lively voice encouraging class participation and the children warming up to each other and the language each day.  It was a fruitful 4 day camp!

We are excited that KidStartNow’s December camp is back and they have kindly invited Xi En to be part of it as well! As we are planning a trip to Taiwan (more Mandarin exposure!) before this, it is timely that we come back to a Mandarin camp.  Certainly hope that he will be inspired and not shun away from learning Mandarin.

Here, Dan Tang, one of the directors at KidStartNow had also answered some of my questions and provided tips which might be useful to many parents. I found his practical tips useful!

Who is the team behind KidStartNow and what is the motivation behind setting up KidStartNow?

“KidStartNow is founded by a team of educators, designers, and engineers that aim to help English-speaking kids love to learn and excel in Chinese. I created KidStartNow because I was raised in an English-speaking family and found learning Chinese a big struggle growing up until I lived and worked in Taiwan. I decided to give up a high-flying finance career in Taiwan to start KidStartNow because I wanted to help the next generation love and excel in Chinese.”

What qualification/experience do the teachers at KidStartNow come with? Do they come up with the programmes?

“We only hire A+ teachers who genuinely care about and love teaching kids and are extremely patient. This is because kids raised in English-speaking families typically find Chinese more foreign and it is easy for them to feel demoralised initially if they fall behind. All our teachers also have teaching diplomas, are native speakers and have several years of teaching experience. Our curriculum is created by our teachers in accordance with the latest MOE syllabus.”

Why do parents need to consider sending their children to a Chinese enrichment class and in particular what does KidStartNow have to offer which makes it a unique choice?

“Many parents lack the confidence or time to teach their kids Chinese, and thus send their kids to enrichment centres to build their kids’ interest in Chinese and prepare them for primary school. Unlike other centres, we are solely focused on English-speaking kids.

KidStartNow is different from other centres in three ways:

  • We hire only A+ teachers that genuinely love teaching kids and are incredibly patient
  • We focus on encouragement and growth mindset – kids are told they are good at Chinese and are rewarded with digital coins and stickers for trying
  • We are the only Chinese centre to create our own animated storybooks, which are incredibly effective at helping kids build interest and vocabulary (www.boshipanda.com)”

What advice do you have to offer to parents regarding encouraging their children to learn and enjoy Mandarin?

  • Be patient as getting comfortable with Chinese takes time. When your child refuses to speak or read Chinese, do not worry or express displeasure and instead praise your child for baby steps and encourage your child to keep on trying.
  • Reading is critical as it helps children develop a love for languages. If your child does not want to read Chinese books or if you are less confident in reading Chinese, consider using either KidStartNow’s animated storybooks or other apps that have audio read-aloud.
  • Start weaving Chinese into daily life – such as a set hour or day where the family communicates only in Chinese. Or when out, consciously point out street names and places of interest, etc in Chinese.

What can we expect from the upcoming school holidays camp program?

Our upcoming holiday camp aims to help kids develop interest in Chinese and build up their oral confidence through storytelling and role-playing (older kids will also have a chance to do a show and tell presentation). The camp will be a modern retelling of the Boy Who Cried Wolf story, except with a cast of superhero pandas, and teach the importance of honesty!

We have helped hundreds of children with our previous camps, many of whom attend multiple times. We are also highly recommended by 17 parent bloggers and have also been featured by Young Parents’ as “Enrichment class that best nurtures your child’s interest in Chinese” (Jan 2014).

Cheers,

Dan

I do find KidStartNow especially useful to those who come from English-speaking family background or non-Chinese ethnic groups and those who dislike or is “scared” of Mandarin. If you might be interested to know more about the Superhero Camp or weekly lessons, do check out their website for more details: http://www.kidstartnow.com/

See you there! 🙂

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Details of KidStartNow

  • Address: 209 New Upper Changi Road, #03-649, S(460209)
  • Phone: (+65) 6481-1932 / 9820-7272
  • Email: enquiry@kidstartnow.com

Credit: All photos and pictures are courtesy of KidStartNow.