POSB Smart Buddy Watch

Media Invite

Nowadays, I felt that I need to catch up with technology. Everyday there is a new app, a new smart watch, a new PayLah, PayNow, InstantPay?!

These days, children have a head start being born in the Internet Age. It is a walk-in-the-park to play games on the Ipad, watch a video on Youtube or even use a smart watch for payment.

Riding on the smart cashless payment trend, POSB launched the POSB Smart Buddy Watch targeted at the primary school levels. I attended the media invite recently to understand more about this initiative and how the watch works.

With this watch, our primary school kids are able to make payment for their recess food and also “steal” a buy at their favourite school bookshops. This wearable also double up as a watch (of course) and a fitness tracker.

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Paying for food at the school canteen. Photo source: POSB

Paired with a mobile app, parents can allocate allowances directly from their personal accounts, track their children’s expenditure and savings. We understood there are also plans in future versions to add additional features such as a location tracker (within the school), biometric feature and a school bus locator where parents can track the real-time location of the bus and be notified when their child boards or alights from the school bus.

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Paired with an app on the parents’ phone. Photo source: POSB

Besides using the watch in schools, students can also use it at participating merchants such as Comfort (taxi), KFC, Pizza Hut, POPULAR, Sheng Siong. There are definitely plans to bring more merchants on-board.

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Xi En paying for items at POPULAR book store.

As Xi En’s school has yet to sign on to the program, we tested the watch at POPULAR and here are what we (or rather I) felt after the trial.

Our take on this program and the POSB SMART BUDDY WATCH:

The size is just nice with sufficient strap holes for small wrists. The strap is of a durable dark plastic material, thus it is dirt and water resistant. It is simple to navigate and comes with clear digital numbers.

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I like the clean-cut and simple design.

The app on my phone shows me exactly how much money I can allocate to him daily and I can also allow him (or not) to sign on using his own ID and password to check his own savings. There are “ savings goals” that he can set and work towards. The fitness tracker is Xi En’s favourite feature as  he was intrigued by the steps and distance covered. If the watch is lost, parents can quickly disable the functions remotely as well.

POSB Smart Buddy

Currently more than 24 schools are on-board and the general feedback had been positive. Parents with kids on the program liked how they can increase (or decrease) allowances with just an app, monitor what their kids purchase in school and encourage them to save. I can imagine that it would have been useful if my son suddenly need a dollar to buy a marker refill. he can just ring me from the general office and I can “send” the money to him almost immediately. It would be interesting to know his food selection in the school canteen as well and if he is telling me the truth! Smile with tongue out

Going digital also means that the school canteen vendors do not need to touch coins/bills while preparing food for the students – now that is a big plus.

On the flip side:

The first thought which came to my mind when the watch was introduced in the news: Hey! Will this prevent my child from learning how to count money? Not being able to touch and feel the coins/bills, will he understand the true value of money or will he think that money grows from watches?! *gasp*!

But one incident changed my viewpoint. I was having coffee with some clients from Beijing. They wanted to foot the bill but dug so deeply into their wallets for some loose change that I was almost embarrassed. They explained that they seldom need to bring their wallets out in China as almost all payments are done via the phone (QR codes mainly). And this was after our PM Lee’s National Day message on wanting Singapore to be a “Smart Nation”. My clients felt that Singapore is backwards in this aspect!

The folks at POSB emphasized that this initiative isn’t meant to be the ONLY mode of payment, but to be one of the available resources for payment. Indeed so. Though there isn’t an absolute need to digitalise everything, we cannot stand sit forever. Teaching the concept of counting money, instilling the value of hard-earned money, educating the younger generation on money sense – all these are still very important morals and lessons. I don’t think the schools intend to fully digitalised teachers! And we parents continue to play a big part of teaching our children about the dollars and coins. Having said that, when it’s Eizac’s turn to enter Primary One, I will still prefer him to learn how to carry a wallet with his pocket money and to be able to count the right change after buying a bowl of noodles during recess. The basics should still precede while the digital enhances the learning in my opinion.

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When it’s your turn, baby. Smile

As for my 8 years old, Xi En continues to track his savings in an exercise book and at the same time, enjoys tapping the POSB Smart Buddy Watch when we do visit one of the participating merchants. A marry of old-and-new I call it. We embrace technology as it comes along, but not forgetting to stay rooted with the basics. Smile

As POSB Smart Buddy Watch is still in the introductory stage, we hope to see more enhanced features such as the GPS tracking locator function which will help busy parents. Schools or parents who wish to find out more about the POSB Smart Buddy programme can visit www.posb.com.sg/smartbuddy or email posbsmartbuddy@dbs.com.

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.