20 May 2020, by Joel Chng

#HBL Can Be Fun With COOK·PLAY·JAM (Repeat)

Last year, my mother-in-law bought a book for Ezra titled ‘Amanda the Panda: Outdoor Play Keeps Myopia Away’. A book for preschoolers by the Singapore National Eye Centre about preventing myopia. The colourful book with rhyming words effectively taught Ezra the dangers of spending too much time on near-vision activities like reading books (the irony!) and watching videos on mobile phones.

Fast-forward to 21 April 2020. When Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced, “We will, therefore, extend the circuit breaker for four more weeks […] until 1 June”, I found myself thinking, “what would Amanda say?”

Eight weeks is a long time to keep preschoolers indoors; growing eyes need exposure to outdoor lighting and opportunities to look out into the distance. It did not help that we were flooded with links to watch free musicals, safari game drives, and other quality kids’ programs.

But we know that moderation is key; the last thing we want to do is limit a budding imagination (TV shows and movies do all the visualising for kids).

So, how has Ezra been kept occupied in the last six weeks?

Imaginative Play Time

On the topic of imagination: while it is amusing and fun to watch Ezra in his element, the fun is doubled when I join him. When Ezra works on Lego structures, scenes turn out exactly the way that he wants. Listening to Ezra’s commentary and being a part of his construction helps me to keep up with my 4-year old’s active imagination.

Most of the time, the adults at home and in school make the decisions. But when it comes to playing, Ezra gets to decide what to do and how to do it.

Imaginative Story Time

During the day, my wife Petrina and Ezra both enjoy coming up with their own stories or changing the ending of familiar books – just for fun.

I get to do the bedtime stories. While reading the story, I would often ask Ezra questions like what he thinks is happening in the story or how he feels about the characters.

Exercise Time

Another daily activity that Ezra looks forward to is PE! Every morning, Ezra and I exercise together before breakfast. Some evenings, we put on our masks and head out for a stroll or visit the Rooftop Garden of our carpark. (Disclaimer: we live right beside the expressway, and do not come into contact with anyone.) And it is always exciting when we come across huge wild mushrooms – mostly the puffball species.

Creative Art Time (includes edible artworks)

Ezra enjoys art. Our art sessions usually last an hour or more, because we take time to ask Ezra questions about his thought process and he is always more than happy to interpret his artwork.

The other day, we microwaved candy melts (five colours in five flavours!) and painted them on edible rice paper. Upon completion, the ‘canvas’ was refrigerated before consumption.

Never too young to start (grooming him to be a good future husband)

Since we are talking about food, I have to say that Ezra has been a great help in the kitchen. It is not an exaggeration when I say that Ezra has a hand in every meal that I cook – from wrapping and marinating enoki beef rolls, to stir-frying meals and portioning food for weekday meals.

Cooking together provides wonderful bonding moments. Ezra has been my little kitchen helper ever since he could walk, and now he is very familiar with the various cooking methods. One morning, he single-handedly processed oranges to make juice for brunch. On Mother’s Day, Ezra made cookies – patiently rolling dozens of little chocolatey balls containing chocolate chips. “I want to make noodles!” he declared one day. That weekend, it was exactly what we did. What a proud moment for Ezra, to witness the result of his efforts from start to finish.

Fun Jamming Sessions

Every morning after breakfast, Ezra gets to sing six or seven songs of his choice. Besides the daily 30-minute singing session, Ezra requests for specific songs throughout the day on our Amazon Alexa device. He will then dance along or play accompanying instruments. Ezra has a natural talent for music and often makes up his own songs – something he picked up from his grandfather, with whom Ezra has jamming sessions. (Disclaimer: Ezra was just being cheeky in the photo; he does know how to hold a violin.)

It has been a meaningful, fun-filled time at home (the weeks have just gone by in a flash!). But you know what I realised? Kids are simple – they really just want to spend time with their parents. Even in the mundane stuff like folding the laundry, mopping the house, and washing his own dishes, Ezra always has a smile on his face. With two weeks to go before school reopens, I look forward to making more wonderful memories with my little family.

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