5 Innovative Sports Equipment for Kids

Here are some really cool finds at French sporting goods retailer Decathlon.

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When I take the kids to EJ’s football matches, Ethan loves to kick the ball around too, and pretend he’s a goalkeeper like his dad. I find myself running all over the place, trying to make sure the ball doesn’t go onto the pitch (Elijah is strapped into the carrier all this time too. Can’t wait for him to be able to kick the ball around with his brother!). So, I’ve been looking for a pop up football goal, which is portable enough to bring to the games, but also compact enough to use at home too.

I’ve been looking for it at stores and online, but they were either very flimsy, or very expensive, or rather difficult to put up and take down. The Kage Light Football Pop Up Goal by Kipsta seemed perfect. And it’s sold at Decathlon!

Have you been to Decathlon? It’s a sporting goods store that, despite many other retailers struggling to stay afloat in these tough times, has opened 2 megastores here in Singapore within the past year alone. In fact, The Straits Times reported that Decathlon plans to open another 20 outlets in Singapore within the next 10 years!

So we headed to the newest Decathlon store at City Square Mall. And it is HUGE for a sporting goods shop.

Here are a few really cool finds. (All pictures from www.decathlon.sg)

1. The Kage Light Football Pop Up Goal

the-kage-light-football-pop-up-goalLooks just like the video. It’s a good size, lightweight, and it also comes with pegs for windy days outside. We tried it today during EJ’s football game, and it works really well! Ethan had fun because he could really “score” now. I also realised that it can be used as a protective shield for the children as well, so they don’t get hit by stray balls during the match.

2. Easy Net 

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There are 3m and 5m versions of this Easy Net by Artengo. Badminton is one of those sports that is not expensive to get started on, and we all played in the void deck as kids. Having an actual net gives it a more “real” feel, and you can set this net up anywhere.

3. ARTENGO Rollnet 600 Adjustable Table Tennis Net 

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It attaches to any table and converts it into a table-tennis table!

4. TRIBORD Easy breath snorkelling mask

easybreath-snorkelling-mask-pink.jpgA mask that allows you to breathe through your mouth AND/OR nose when snorkelling. It makes you look a little like Iron Man, and you can’t use it for free diving, but it’s an interesting design, and something worth trying out on your next water adventure.

5. Tidipool

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It’s a collapsable pool that is useful for babies and toddlers who aren’t comfortable in the large swimming pool, or playing by the sea. My kids would like this when they are at the beach, so they can still play in the water, but without the waves crashing onto them (I think the noise and the height of the waves scares them!) The bag that it comes in is also waterproof, and is used to fill the pool with water. Brilliant 🙂

EJ and I hope our kids gain a lifelong love for sports and the outdoors, because that has been a passion for both of us. There’s no rush to put them into any specific sports at the moment. An article by the Mayo Clinic says that toddlers who participate in organized sports typically don’t gain any long-term advantage in terms of future sports performance.   (although EJ can’t wait to get them really started on football!).

For now, unstructured free play is best. So here’s to lots of running, throwing, catching… which makes a great workout for mummy and daddy too!

The Endangered Singapore Smile

I brought the kids to East Coast Park to try out the Family Bike It’s $30 per hour, and we rented it from the shop at carpark E2. For the novelty, fun-factor for 6 people (including kids), and for the awesome steering wheels at the front, it was $30 well spent!

It was really fun for the kids, and really tiring for the adults who had to pedal! I was surprised that Ethan and his cousin, Gabriel, could last for an entire hour without asking to get out of their seats.

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Family Bike at East Coast Park, Singapore

 

Along the way, we cycled past many other cyclists – children, families, adults, older people. And we thought, maybe it would be nice to wave and say hello as we passed by!

 

In our brief and unscientific, highly biased social experiment, here are my observations on the Friendliest Strangers at East Coast Park

1. The Malay Family

They were always ready to give a wave and a surprised smile back to our little guys.

2. The Ang Mo (Singapore slang for a Caucasian)

Family, couples or children gave warm smiles and greetings. It felt like it was just an every day thing to them!

3. The Local Pre-teen Child

They gave shy smiles, but at least there was some response!

What about the others?

Those friendly park users were actually quite few and far between. Most people that we passed gave blank stares, or stared kept looking ahead, their eyes shielded behind reflective sunglasses.

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For decades we’ve had campaigns aimed at helping our stressed little nation find a little more joy and happiness. There was the 1996 “Smile Singapore” Campaign that gained international news coverage. The Four Million Smiles campaign in 2006, and more recently, the various initiatives by the Singapore Kindness Movement. It seems we still have some way to go if a gleeful child’s greeting is met with cold stares.

But there is hope. Just today, a few strangers made some friendly conversation with Ethan while he was out with me running some errands at the nearby supermarket and 7-eleven. They were genuine. They were kind. They spoke to him like they valued the opinion of a 2 year old.

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Stay calm and Be Kind! A poster by the Singapore Kindness Movement

So, if you were one of those strangers that smiled at my child that day at the park, if you are the man that helped him pick up his shoe instead of glaring at my barefooted toddler at the supermarket, if you are the uncle that took a moment to show him the interesting plant outside your store… thank you.  You made the world a little brighter.

Have you smiled at someone today?

Don’t let the Monday blues dampen your smile! 🙂

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Did you smile today?

 

Stress-less Sleep Training

Have you tried sleep training?

It’s meant to be a short term measure for long term happiness – for parents and babies!

I used a modified cry-it-out method with Ethan, which worked after about a week. But I was pleased when Elijah seemed like he was able to self soothe and sleep for hours and hours, all by himself!

That changed a few months ago, when Elijah had a bad bout of flu. His nose was stuffy, and his chesty cough was pretty bad. But since he was only 4 months old at the time, there were few medications that he could take to relieve the symptoms.

During those weeks, he started waking up a few times each night.

And the night wakings continued. Even when he got better.

Here we are at 8 months, and at a time when sleep should be getting better, it’s actually getting worse!

So, 2 nights ago, when he woke up at 2.26am, I let him cry. And cry. And cry. For almost half an hour, EJ and I listened to the wails of our little angel baby who hardly cries- ever. And when Elijah finally went to sleep, so did we, with heavy, guilt-ridden hearts.

But guess what? Last night, Elijah slept all the way from about 10pm until 7am this morning! I know it’s getting my hopes up a little early, but for the first time in months, I could sleep for more than 3 hours at one go. And it feels GREAT.

Have you felt guilty about letting your child cry it out? (Or other sleep training methods) A recent study showed that, perhaps, our guilt has been unfounded!

Both graduated extinction and bedtime fading provide significant sleep benefits above control, yet convey no adverse stress responses or long-term effects on parent-child attachment or child emotions and behavior.

 

As a psychologist friend of mine said, as long as the sleep training intervention is BRIEF, it is unlikely to cause long-term psychological damage to the child. Children who have attachment issues usually have had long term and consistent experiences of neglect.

So, my fellow imperfect parents, may you persevere through the sleep debt, and emerge from these years with your sanity intact!

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pintrest

Blog till it Hurts (Others)

There were over 152 million blogs in 2013. A blog is created every half a second. Today, according to Worldometers, over 4 million blog posts have already been written.

Being fairly introverted with a barely-breathing Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account, I’m gaining a very great appreciation for those who put in a lot of thought (and even research) into their online content.

But recently, I’ve also spoken to some who have a very bad impression of bloggers. Those who were in the service sector, or those that wanted to do business collaborations with bloggers, felt that some bloggers came across as arrogant, with a sense of entitlement (wanting freebies or getting special service), and there was an underlying threat of online bullying if their whims and fancies were not satisfied.

As John C. Maxwell says, “there’s no such thing as business ethics. There’s only ethics.”

One of our problems is that ethics is never a business issue or a social issue or a political issue. It is always a personal issue. 

John C. Maxwell

Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

There’s a great series about blogging by Focus on the Family, which talks about some basic disciplines when blogging – maturity, self-control (amen to that!), accountability and humility. You can find it here. In the article, it writes “the Lord Jesus Christ is looking over our shoulders as we type, and we are one day going to be accountable to Him for every word.” 

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Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 

Ephesians 4:29

 

 

How to Lose Weight after Having a Baby

You’re trying to cope with a newborn, lack of sleep, sore boobs, inflamed wrists and stretch marks. And on top of that, there’s all that extra weight to lose! Who’s going to find the time to exercise? There’s barely enough time to take a shower!

I’ve been there. And for some things on that list, I’m STILL there!!

For both pregnancies, I gained about 15 kg. Although I knew that I would put on weight, seeing the number on the scale was always a shocker and I wondered if I would ever be able fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes again, or if I was doomed to a life of yoga pants and baggy tops.

 

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EJ and I at a friend’s birthday party – the night before Ethan was born

After both pregnancies, it took me about 7-8 months to get back to pre-pregnancy weight. And after the first pregnancy, I actually continued to lose a bit more weight before I got pregnant with Elijah.

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Celebrating EJ’s birthday, 7 months post pregnancy #2

Since hitting my pre-pregnancy weight a few weeks ago, and being able to pack away some of the very unflattering maternity clothes, I’ve had a couple of people ask me about how to lose the baby weight, and especially the extra folds around the tummy.

So here are my slow-and-steady tips for getting back into pre-baby shape:

Be patient and ignore negative comments

It took 9 months to put on the weight. It will take a little while to get it off! Ignore people who may mistake you for still being pregnant, or who make rude remarks. You are on your own timeline, so don’t get discouraged.

Use a corset/abdominal binder

This is a tip from my mum, who had 3 kids and is now 61 years old and just as slim as she was when she got married at 23!

I used the belly bandit bamboo for about a 3+ weeks postpartum. I was aiming for a month, but I didn’t have enough perseverance! It can get hot and uncomfortable after many hours of wearing it. And the velcro section does bulge out and can be seen through clothes.

If you have the will-power, you can be like actress Jessica Alba, who wore a double corset 24/7, for three months!!!

Use a measuring tape, not the weighing scale

woman-crossing-measuring-tape-at-waist

I used a measuring tape to measure my waist circumference. Numbers on a measuring tape just don’t affect me as much, emotionally. So it didn’t send me on a this-is-never-going-to-work-I’ll-just-give-up-and-eat-a-jar-of-peanut-butter binge. With time, you could probably guestimate your weight based on your waistline measurement. But a 0.1 inch increase on a measuring tape somehow doesn’t feel as bad as a 0.1 kg increase on the weighing scale!

Breastfeed

Yes, you use a few hundred calories to produce breastmilk. But the reason I think this helped me was because I was often directly latching my baby. It was just really troublesome trying to eat with one hand (especially when it’s the left hand), and manage a fidgety baby underneath a stuffy nursing cover.

On those occasions when the baby was sleeping during a mealtime, I would still try to rush through the meal, in case he woke up. There was no time to hang around the table and take seconds… or even dessert!

Eat protein in the morning, and throughout the day

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I didn’t follow a particular diet plan, but eating protein (a lot more than you think you need – about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight) helped to reduce the bloated post-carb feeling. Eggs, chicken, beef, pork, even protein shakes and protein bars when I had to grab a quick bite.

Because I didn’t do any structured kind of exercise (like going to the gym or doing some sport), having enough protein was even more critical, to make sure I minimised the loss of muscle mass.

Eat minimal processed carbs

These were easy to grab, and I love my carbs! Cutting down on rice, bread and pasta was actually not as difficult as resisting the cakes and snacks that well-meaning visitors would bring! But they do make me retain water, so I tried to keep these to a minimum.

Don’t use a stroller

Carrying the baby in a carrier or in your arms not only promotes bonding and other emotional benefits for the baby, but it is also tiring. Strapping a 15-20 pound weight to your body is like wearing a weighted vest all day!

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With Ethan at Kranji Farm

Play a lot of physically demanding games with your child

Piggyback rides, lifting them high above your head, swinging them… they’ll love it, and you get a workout!

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Work with a personal trainer

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Ideally, you also fit in some time to do a proper workout. You would want someone experienced to help you, especially if you’ve had a C-section, or a condition like diastasis recti. You should look for a customised a program, which includes advice on what to eat so that you can breastfeed without worrying about whether this supplement or that food is going to affect your milk.

Genesis Gym has a team of professional coaches, led by Master Coach Jon (aka my brother!) who have helped many women from pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy, and post-pregnancy, to be in the best of health. A lot of what I know and tried, is based on what I’ve learned from them.

But do remember that being healthy is more than just a number, so start with the right habits, and the weight loss will follow!

Do you have any tips for losing weight after giving birth?

What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to losing weight, and keeping it off?

21 Acts of Kindness for Toddlers

No hitting. No biting. No snatching. No pushing. No pinching. No kicking. Share. Be polite. Wait your turn.

Have you had to repeat those words hundreds of times to your egocentric toddler? I have! And so, to challenge him to develop more kindness and compassion to others, here is a list of 21 things we will be doing this week, as a self-declared Kindness Week for the Lims.

  1. Give drinks to the construction workers outside our home
  2. Prepare a bag of snacks to give the other children in his playgroup
  3. Make a thank you note for his teachers
  4. Make breakfast for grandparents
  5. Choose a toy from his collection to give to baby Elijah
  6. Give daddy a massage
  7. Give mummy a massage
  8. Read the newspaper and pray for someone who was affected by a tragic event
  9. Pick up litter and put it into the rubbish bin
  10. Bring a welcome gift to any new neighbours
  11. Make a thank you note for the local fire station
  12. Make a thank you note for the local police station
  13. Make a thank you note for our helper
  14. Bring flowers to a nursing home and distribute it to the residents
  15. Bring snacks to the playground for other children
  16. Help to give baby Elijah a bath
  17. Bring some snacks and visit great grandma
  18. Wash daddy’s car
  19. Record a video note and send it his Godparents
  20. Make a drawing for his aunt who is not feeling well
  21. Bake cookies for his cousins

Do you have other ideas for Acts of Kindness that a toddler can do?

Volunteering with a Two Year Old

“The reason a compassionate lifestyle leads to greater psychological well-being may be explained by the fact that the act of giving appears to be as pleasurable, if not more so, as the act of receiving.”  

~ The Compassionate Mind (ScienceDaily, July 2002)

Since I was very young, perhaps about 5 years old, I remember my parents helping the poor and needy. My first memories were when we were living in Hong Kong, and they were involved in St Stephen’s Society – an outreach to drug addicts and homeless people. My mum would cook meals for them, and we would go to the halfway houses to visit them. My dad spent time with them, and counselled them.

As I grew older, I began volunteering at children’s camps, overseas mission trips and local youth work. But in the last few years, with the arrival of the children and the resulting lack of time and sleep, I’ve stopped volunteering. And, sadly but not surprisingly, my worldview has become more myopic. I find myself so caught up in the little things, that I’m grumpier and less grateful than before.

Ethan, being all of 2 years old, is showing a mixture of the typical, developmentally accepted norm of being selfish and concerned only about his own needs. Yet, he is also compassionate. When Elijah cries, Ethan gives him a hug. When his cousin Gabriel vomited the other day, Ethan’s bedtime prayer was that “Gabriel, no vomit. Isaac (another cousin), no vomit. Mummy, no vomit. Daddy, no vomit. Everybody, no vomit”

A study by Lara Aknin and colleagues at the University of British Columbia shows that even in children as young as two, giving treats to others increases the givers’ happiness more than receiving treats themselves. 

So, like a muscle that needs to be built up and used, I want to provide the opportunities for the boys to nurture their compassionate “instinct”.

Finding volunteer opportunities with young children isn’t as easy as I thought. Many organisations have a minimum age of at least 4 or 6 years old. I also wanted to do something that Ethan shows a bit of interest in already.

I’ve found a few that may fit what I’m looking for.

  1. Therapy Dogs Singapore

Ethan likes dogs, and I’m a therapist by training. So this seems like a pretty good place to start. The only problem is… we don’t own a dog! And their website says that they have enough ‘humans-without-dogs’ volunteers, and they need more volunteers with dogs.

2. Meals-on-Wheels or Soup Kitchens

Ethan also really loves food. So he might be excited to provide food to people who have none. TOUCH Community Services, YWCA (which also has a Meals-On-Wheels service for Children), Willing Hearts and ACMI Bread Basket are some options.

3. Befrienders

There are quite a few organisations that need befrienders. But one stood out. The Tan Tock Seng Hospital Mobile Library brings books, magazines and DVDs to patients to relieve them of boredom, and at the same time, break the ice and make some friendly conversation with them. Ethan likes to read, and TTSH of course has a special place in my heart because I worked there for a number of years.

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Ethan reading at the National Library

I’ll start making some phone calls and enquiries tomorrow. Really excited to see how EJ, the boys and I can get involved in serving our community!

What are some ways that you teach your children compassion?

Any tips and advice about volunteering with young ones?