Friday, October 31, 2014

Samsung Kidstime - Educational Apps for Kids

Being a full-time working mother, I am not always around to monitor Aiden when I am away at work. He is left to his own devices (pun intended), and I cannot depend on the maid to do more than just the daily supervision. So I constantly worry that he is spending his afternoons either playing on his tablet, or watching television.

Kids should not be glued to technology devices such as the tablet or the TV. They need physical outdoor play and unstructured playtime to promote intelligence and cognitive growth. However, since technology is integral to the education and subsequent careers of our children, denying a child the opportunity to experience technology is perhaps robbing them of the ability to refine their understanding of evolving technology around us.

So what should a mother do then? Since I cannot physically remove the TV every day before I leave for work (Hubby screwed the TV to the TV panel), the best alternative was to hide the tablet and establish a snooze timer on the TV. However, this wasn't effective enough to stop Aiden from finding the tablet (under the couch!) or switching the TV on again to override the timer.

All that changed when Samsung contacted me to review their latest educational app for kids called Samsung KidsTime.

Samsung KidsTime

Samsung KidsTime was created to provide safe and meaningful playtime for kids. Big words aside, it means providing educational child-curated apps and eBooks for kids, in a safe and age appropriate digital environment.

I admit I was a tad cynical about the whole concept. However, the kind folks at Samsung gave Aiden and me a couple of hours with the device to explore the application. Afterwards, they even asked for my opinion about it.

Aiden being fitted up with the microphone. Check out his excited grin.

The crew filming Aiden using Samsung KidsTime.

I was interviewed by Samsung for my opinion on KidsTime.

When Aiden was handed the tablet, he was overjoyed. As soon as we launched KidsTime on the device, Aiden got slightly overwhelmed; he didn’t know which app to try out first as there were over 80 games and eBooks to choose from. Not only that - new apps are updated every month, and best of all, kids get access to all content for a minimal monthly fixed price.

So what was my first impression of the application?

Time Limit

Apart from the colourful, vibrant graphics and foot-tapping music, the first feature that struck me about Samsung KidsTime was the Time Limit feature. Parents now have the ability to set the duration of playtime; up to a maximum of 60 minutes. Aiden of course wanted to set it to the full monty, but at least I am assured that he is only exposed to the tablet for a maximum of one hour per day. This effectively instills a mentality for time management and responsible game play.

Parents can set the duration of playtime.

Aiden gleefully wanted to set it to the maximum 60 minutes.

Safe Environment

The next thing that I appreciated about it was the safe environment. As soon as Samsung KidsTime is launched on the device, there is no way for the child to exit the application hence the tablet can solely be used to play Samsung KidsTime child appropriate apps only. To exit Samsung KidsTime, parents will have to enter a pin code at the App Lock feature to use the tablet as normal. (I hereby vow to not be swayed by Aiden’s puppy eyes when he asks for the pin code… *prays*) Apart from that, Samsung KidsTime also provides a safe environment by carefully combing their apps to ensure that they do not have any ads or any in-app purchases. Yes, you read that right. Zero ads, zero in-app purchases – it is every parent’s dream. Now I do not have to worry about receiving messages from my credit card for an in-app purchase, or worse; Aiden clicking on inappropriate banners, viewing online violence or even adult content! I do not even have to filter his apps as I know his online sessions are safe and secure with Samsung KidsTime.

Parent PIN ensures that kids cannot exit KidsTime without parents' permission.

What every parent wants - a safe online environment for their children.

Educational and Interactive Content

During my time exploring the app content with Aiden, I noticed that all of the games revolved around educational premises such as Math, Reading, Science, Social Studies, Creativity and Language Arts. Since Aiden has a love and flair for numbers, he naturally gravitated towards apps related to Math. All of the apps are fun and interactive, hence kids need to think and interact with the device as it responds to user input. This is quality screen time, as indirectly, they are learning while playing. This is a far cry and way much better than sitting in front of a television receiving passive information. It also gives me peace of mind that every time Aiden is holding on to the electronic device, he is being educated and entertained at the same time.

There are over 80 games and eBooks for your child to choose from.

Child Progress Dashboard

Last but certainly not least, the Child Progress Dashboard. The best feature of them all and certainly the first of its kind; Samsung KidsTime tracks your child’s usage duration, monitors their time spent on particular apps and even suggests other educational apps to complement their holistic learning. And this is all accessible via a dashboard, where all information is consolidated into a colour coded pie-chart to provide parents a comprehensive report of their child’s interest. Using this, parents can steer their children towards apps that would improve areas they are weak in, or further expose them to subjects they are passionate about.

The dashboard gives a comprehensive report for parents. This one is Lizzie's profile *grin*, and I am obviously passionate about Language Arts!

Here are a couple of behind-the-scene photos from that afternoon. They were a great crew - super efficient and very patient with Aiden's antics. Thank you for having us, Samsung KidsTime. We certainly had fun!

The action that happened behind the scenes.

The beautiful crew that made it all happen.

For further information on Samsung KidsTime, visit their official website HERE (click the link)!

The Samsung KidsTime app can be downloaded HERE (click this link too!) via the Google Play Store. (Ooppss I forgot to tell you that if you download the app now, you get a one month trial access to the best educational apps for kids – all for free!) Try it out and share with me your kids’ favourite apps. Aiden’s favourite for now is the Big Kid Firefighter app, erm even I am addicted to it myself.

Samsung KidsTime via Google Play.

Samsung KidsTime is available on most Samsung devices.

In line with Samsung’s efforts to advocate knowledge and enrichment skills in kids, Samsung KidsTime is sponsoring the Children’s Literature Fest (Festival Sastera Kanak-Kanak), happening from 30th October till 2nd November 2014 between 10am-6pm daily at the KL Tower/Menara Kuala Lumpur. Do check out the Samsung KidsTime Booths 10 & 11 at the Gallery Hall. The fest will also feature internationally acclaimed writers, professional workshops, book exhibitions and book sales. For more information, visit the FSK Children’s Literature Fest Facebook page.

Since Hubby and I are cultivating the reading habit in Aiden and Ian, I am definitely going with my family. So keep a look out for me and don’t forget to say Hello! *smile*

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Before Kids and After Kids

Before Kids and After Kids. Image courtesy of Google.

I howled with laughter when I found this!

Don't you think this is so true? Before I had Aiden, I always made sure I had the latest make up range, the best perfume, regular facial appointments and most importantly, threaded eye brows! I would carry small stylish handbags and walk gracefully around in stilettos.

After Aiden... it all went downhill! I couldn't go for my regular facials, spas and manicures because I would rush home to cuddle Aiden (and Ian). *rindu* Small handbags weren't practical anymore as I had to make sure I had sufficient space to stuff in spare diapers, milk bottles, snacks and of course, napkins. I don't even bother using my designer handbags as I couldn't bear the thought of drool, spit or spills on them. (I don't know which is worse - a stained handbag, or staring at those handbags looking unused and lonely in the cupboard.)

Before kids, I used to apply my makeup meticulously at home. Nowadays, I am an expert in putting on makeup while driving the car; I can even apply mascara with one hand. Shopping for new clothes? Don't bother! I shop for the kids more than I do for myself. God forbid that breast milk would spill on you, because talking from experience - no matter how much perfume you spray on yourself, it would never mask the smell. Scrunchies are my best friend so I can never cut my hair short because I need them long enough to pull into a ponytail. Well, it's either that or I don't even have time to go to the hair salon. Hmmm... I don't wear necklaces or dangly earrings as Ian loves to pull them into his mouth. And, don't even get me started on the saggy boobs and the post pregnancy pouch!

BUT! The kids make it all worth it. When I say "Aiden, I love you." and he answers "I love you more, Mummy", sape tak cair?? Who cares about how good I look, what matters most is that I am happy and the kids are happy!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ian at Ten Months Old!

I am at a two-digit month age! Ten months old!

Major milestone; Ian sprouted his first tooth this month! This is one month ahead than Aiden, who sprouted five teeth simultaneously at eleven months old.

Anyway, read about Aiden's 10 month development here. Aiden and Ian may be brothers, but they are very different - like night and day!

Introducing Ian's tooth chart. Like finally!
Can you see the single tooth??

Other than that, on 10th Oct, Ian stood up unassisted on his own. However, this was reported by Aiden and the maid, and sometimes you just have to take what they both say with a pinch of salt. *smile* Well according to them, Ian was holding a balloon with one hand and suddenly he stood up solo for a few seconds (from sitting to standing), grinned, then plopped down on the carpet again. To date, Ian hasn't repeated this, but I am still hopeful!

Awww... that piercing stare!
His signature scrunched up nose.

If Aiden liked to growl and shriek at this age *drama king*, Ian on the other hand is a much calmer baby. He greets people by pointing to them with his index finger - it's his favourite way of saying hello to the person. Ian also definitely recognizes all his family members. Nowadays, he is much more generous with his smiles and would break into a big huge grin, without fail, every time he sees any one of us come through the door.

That index finger!

Great news, he can hold his own bottle! Well except when he's really sleepy or he's sleep-drinking. But other than that, all we need to do is to give the bottle to him and he would put it into his mouth and drink quietly. And when he's done with it, he'll just toss it to the side. We had several wet bedsheets because of this! His milk consumption has also increased, he's drinking between 5-6 oz per feeding. If last month was the month to lose weight, this month his chubby cheeks are returning slowly but surely. Still a picky eater, the maid has to include fruits in his porridge to coax him to eat (weird combo; rice, chicken and pear - oh well, as long as you eat, baby)!

Ian now knows his own name. If we hide and call his name out loud, he would stop whatever he was doing and find the person calling out to him. Hubby likes playing this game with him, and Ian would reward him with the earlier mentioned big huge smile when he finally spots him. Adorable!

Ian is also a very resilient baby. Unlike Aiden who cried and whimpered at every slight bump *manja boy*, this one barely notices even if he bumps his head on the glass coffee table - well, unless it is a hard bump of course. Ian is very independent - if he bumps his head, he'll just look around; and if no one makes eye contact, he will simply continue what he was previously doing. Well, even if he cries, it only takes a hug, a kiss and probably a quick dukung for him to calm down. He is a really easy no-fuss baby! #secondchildsyndrome

Similar to Aiden, Ian is tall for his age. Last month he was still able to stand up under the dining table. This month, every time he stands, he ends up knocking his head on the marble table.

Anyone fancies a toddler and an infant in a box?

If he discovers that something he is holding can make a loud sound when banged on the floor, he would crawl with it and bang it repeatedly on the floor (while crawling). Such a racket!

Speaking of crawling, he is starting to crawl less, but starting to cruise more. It is so cute watching him cruise from one end of the sofa to another, then drop down to crawl to the patio wall, then cruise again to the dining area, then drop down to crawl to the dining table... you get the gist.

That pout!

Ian now knows how to play with us. When we dukung him, he would bend backwards, give a big laugh and pull himself up again. He would repeat this again and again, laughing all the while. He also enjoys parallel play with other babies although he doesn't know how to play with them yet. Dafiya was at our house for the whole day when her mother was busy helping me with Hubby's birthday preparation, and it was so cute watching Ian looking adoringly at Dafiya, even laughing at her antics sometimes. Although they didn't play together, he was quite content playing beside her.

Dafiya and Ian, tousled hair and all!

Ian and Umar playing together... or rather sitting together.

We have also started transitioning Ian into Aiden's old car seat. Since it is forward facing, at least he gets to see a wider view of the road we're travelling on. But that doesn't stop him from crying out when he's bored! He really really hates the car seat nowadays. *sigh*

Sleeping soundly in another hand-me-down from Abang Aiden.

Gadget-smart, Ian now understand that the tablet is an entertainment center. He is starting to show signs of fighting for his share of table time with his brother. He also remembers where the electrical switches are - his favourite being the one at the corner of the dining table. Loves chewing on the plug sockets too! Time to do more baby proofing. *sigh* He also recently discovered that the fridge doors can be open and closed. He actually pulled the doors with both hands and placed his body weight backwards to pull it open. I quickly took him away and distracted him with something else, hoping that he would forget about it. Thankfully, it worked. I'm just waiting for the day when he'll discover that the kitchen cabinet doors can be opened and closed too!

Giving a nervous smile on the swing.

If we leave the stairs gate unlatched, he now knows how to climb up and over the gate lower structure to climb up the stairs. If we leave the toilet door open, he would crawl into the toilet and try to close the door. Also, if we leave him unattended, he would open the shoe rack door and start munching on my heels! Erk, Jimmy Choos or not - they are still not for eating, baby! Yes, he still hasn't graduated from the putting-everything-in-mouth phase! He is intrigued by anything and everything, and insists on taste-testing them with his mouth. It's funny because sometimes he's still picking up that object, but his mouth is already open in anticipation!

He started gnawing on the marble dining table recently, using his one single tooth. Oh my, it was like listening to fingernails on a chalkboard. Excruciating! *shudders*

Yes, even munching the wall!

And.... just three days shy of turning 11 months, he finally mustered the courage to take steps when held in a walking position with only one hand! He can also stand steadily on his own for about 5-10 seconds. One step closer to walking (and lots more exercise for Mummy)... hopefully more development on this next month!

Sleeping soundly beside the swimming pool.

Happy 11 months birthday, Ian! We all love you!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hubby's 33rd Surprise Golf Birthday Party

The birthday boy!

Hubby turned 33 last Wednesday.

Coincidentally, Deepavali fell on the same date, hence he kept telling everyone that the Malaysian government granted everyone a holiday in conjunction with his 33rd birthday *ppfftt*

If last year we had a quiet celebration at The Majestic, this year it was the complete opposite!

I had always wanted to plan a golf party for Hubby. This year, I was determined to make it happen. I told Hubby of my intention to invite a few close friends, neighbours and family to celebrate his birthday, and he agreed. Little did he know that I was hatching a plan behind his back. During one of my business trips away from home, I contacted one of his colleagues and requested for his help to secretly invite 50 of hubby's best buddies to the party.

Back home, I made sure that my phone was with me at all times. I didn't want Hubby snooping through my phone and discovering my secret messages with his friend. Knowing that we wouldn't have have enough space to fit all his friends in our humble home, I secretly arranged for a khemah to be erected the day before the party. I also ordered his favourite kuih melayu from our favourite Akak Kotak; she makes the best Bingka Ubi and Pulut Panggang! Close neighbours who were helping me bake/cook were given strict instructions to not tell Hubby that we were baking and cooking for 50 pax.

Tuesday came and the khemah was installed in our garden that afternoon. Meanwhile, occupants of the house (read: moi and maid) plus my super duper friendly and pandai masak neighbours, were running around like headless chickens; cooking! Okay fine, they were cooking, I was busy icing the cake, covering the cake with fondant, putting buttercream on the cupcakes. Thankfully I had prepared the Macarons, Red Velvet Cake, Congo Bars and Tiramisu well ahead. The house was filled with multiple aromas; vanilla cupcakes from the oven, and kari tumis from the kitchen. That night, the talented neighbours also made Singgang Daging for dinner (meat from the recent Kurban) whilst I ordered Dominos Pizza for the kids. Hubby returned home that night all confused - there was so much action going on in the house, not to mention a khemah in the garden! (I had to tell a white lie; that I was worried it would rain the next day hence the khemah. And phewwww he bought it!)


Finally, Wednesday arrived and I woke up bright and early to prepare breakfast in bed for Hubby (separate post coming up on this). Then I immediately got to work, putting the final touches on the dessert table and plating dishes on the buffet table.

Printables from yours truly. Each table was decorated with two frames which showcased golf themed posters.

Golf flags in a vase full of golf tees.

So before we get to the food and the party, let's have a look at the dessert table. I decided on a green and blue theme for the party. I tried to incorporate as much golf elements as I could; green grass, golf balls, golf tees, grass cupcakes...

The dessert table.

Wooden letters from Typo.

The birthday cake! We stayed up till close to 3am putting the finishing touches on the golf bag. Did you notice that it is the exact replica of Hubby's actual golf bag?

Here's a close up of the fondant golf bag; front, side and back view. The golf bag even incorporated the flap at the back of the bag. Also a Scotty Cameron putter with the famous three red dots.

My version of the golf range. Green buttercream "grass", green crystal sugar "turf" and biscuit "sand".

A fondant golf ball for each terrain, and of course, the 19th hole!

Personalized chocolate. Since this was an adult party, I didn't bother including Hubby's name. I simply used his age as the signature for his party.

Green grass cupcakes and buttercream swirl cupcakes adorned with matching golf flags.

Water hazard! Tied a striped paper straw and a golf tee together with a piece of string to decorate the cute water bottles.

Hole-In One mini doughnuts! Turf grass from Daiso.

Tee-ramisu! Look at those layers... *drool* Golf paper plates from Oriental Trading.

I didn't have time to dip the pretzels into chocolate. But they were good nevertheless. The Garrett popcorn was a hit too!

I also made matching green and macarons. They looked really good in my brand new apothecary jars!

And the final touch to the golf decorations - golf sticks filled with candy as door gifts for the kids to bring home. Each came with a favour tag with Hubby's age, of course!

Okay, let's get back to the party. Party was due to start at 3pm so Hubby and I started getting ready half an hour before. After performing Zuhur prayers, Hubby was hanging out near our bedroom window whilst waiting for me to dress up. Suddenly he saw a car drive up to our house, and he became intrigued because he didn't recognize the vehicle. Meanwhile, I was coaxing him to go downstairs because I didn't want him to see his friends from, of all places, our bedroom window! But he insisted on looking outside the window, and the minute he saw his friends piling out of the car, his jaw dropped. "Yang, you jemput my friends??!!" Hmm... to be honest I wasn't sure whether he was angry or excited! He ran downstairs to greet his friends, and on his way down, I yelled "Surprise!!!" from the top of the staircase, silently hoping that he wasn't pissed that I invited his friends behind his back.

So here's what my neighbours and I cooked for the day: Mee Kari, Nasi Goreng, Roti Jala and Kari Ayam, Pulut Kuning and Rendang Ayam. I also ordered Satay and Kuah Kacang from our local Bukit Jelutong satay shop. Oh and you know, those fabulous catering equipment below? My neighbours and I collectively purchased those. So anytime any one of us wants to have a party, we'll just pool the sets together to make up a buffet line. Brilliant idea, right?

The scrumptious food. Ooppss, the condiments for the mee kari were missing.

Much better picture; cling wraps removed, condiments included.

My favourite corner, the dessert corner! Bingka Ubi, Pulut Panggang, Akok, Karipap and Temosa for the Malay palate. Red Velvet cake, Tiramisu and Congo Bars for your sweet tooth.

Look at that deep red colour... *swoon*

We used Aiden's junior golf bag as a prop at the buffet line. Hubby generously contributed effort for cementing the pole.

Cheeky Aiden posing with the door gift.

That adorable grin!

Hubby hanging out with some of his friends.

Alhamdulillah it didn't rain. Nice weather too, not sunny but cool.

Oh this boy cannot be left unattended! He actually tried stuffing a golf ball into his mouth!

Aiden's afternoon playmate. Testing his swing skills.

Hubby posing with some of his colleagues .

Right after his friends left, his sisters got into action. They initially wanted to surprise Hubby with the birthday cake when his friends and colleagues were still around, but I declined. Save face lah!

Posing with the birthday cake.

Hubby surrounded by the neighbourhood kids who sang "Happy Birthday Uncle Siddiq" numerous times, as requested by the birthday boy.

See how short the candles were? That was how long the kids had to sing before the birthday boy finally agreed to blow the candles and cut the cake.

Family photo, without Ian yet again.

Aiden and his Uncle Darwish. Aiden is certainly taller than his uncle!

Last picture for the party. Aiden walked in, saw the balloons and said "Eh, Darwish forgot his balloons" and actually ran out barefooted to deliver the balloons. Unfortunately Darwish declined the balloons so Aiden walked dejectedly back home. So cute!

Finally, we waved goodbye to our last guests and started packing up for the night. And also pose for pictures with the dessert table. Check out our tired faces below.


So happy that the kids wiped the dessert table clean.

Identical, no?

Happy 33rd Birthday Hubby. I hope you had a great surprise party. Now let's see how you're going to top this for my birthday in exactly one month, one week and one day!
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