Saturday, 27 October 2012

The best dress-up play ever - holiday memories redux 2

When we were in Malaysia, Dinoboy and Missy Moo accompanied their cousins to a place called Kidzania. Kidzania is a children's entertainment center providing a safe and fun environment which allows children to "work" in adult jobs and "earn" currency. The Kidzania we went to was a child-sized replica of a city with buildings, shops, restaurants, radio and tv stations and a theater, as well as vehicles and pedestrians moving along its streets. In this city, children can play at pretend work in branded activities from working at a MacDonalds restaurant, to manufacturing Oreo cookies, bottling water in a Seamaster plant, being newspaper reporters for Berita Harian (local Malaysian daily newspaper) or an anchor-person for a tv show or radio show, or a courier for PosLaju (Malaysian post office).

The children earn KidZos currency while performing the tasks, and the money is kept in the KidZania bank for children to spend at the gift shop and on non-free KidZania activities. My kids had a total blast. My cousin's twins who are 11 go there a lot and have heaps of fun every time. I was impressed by the educational benefits. At all times the Kidzania supervisors (each activity is the same - you meet an adult supervisor, they give you instructions, you dress up appropriately and follow the instructions to complete a given task) guide the kids and the parents have no input whatsoever. As a matter of fact, parents have to stay outside the zone of each activity. There are signs which say "No queuing on behalf of your child please as queuing is part of the learning experience". However the cynic in me grimaced at the re-staging of corporate consumerism targeted directly at kids - but then again, that's life, right?

When we got there, the kids had to go through 'Immigration control'. They were after all entering a very special nation. They got special passports, a 50 KidZo cheque to cash in at the bank to kick-start their earnings and a special magnetic wrist-tag which identified them. 

Dinoboy wanted a drivers license so he could drive the electric cars in the Honda car dealership. However, in order to get one, he first had to go get an eye-test, then he had to go buy some insurance from the Alliance insurance company. Once he had these two things, he could go take his driving test to get his license. Here he is buying his insurance.

Success! Insurance and his new drivers license.

Missy Moo wanted to be a firefighter. So off she went. She queued patiently for 40 minutes to take part in this activity. Can you spot her? Do you see that photographer to the right of the photo? OK - here's one of the ways Kidzania makes its money. Since parents cannot enter the activity zones, they can only take pretty rubbish photos. There is a whole platoon of official photographers who go around taking official shots of the kids doing their 'jobs' and then scanning their wrist tags to match the photos to the kids. On your way out at the end of the day, you have to walk past the official Kodak photo center and there you can scan your child's tag and up pop these awesome photos for you to purchase at extortionate prices. (No I am not bitter - honest!)

Once they got their video briefing from the Chief Fire Officer, the firefighters all got into this cool fire engine. Sirens blasting, they cruise around the city streets towards the 'fire'. Spot all the parents standing around waiting for their kids.

At the Hotel Flamingo, the firefighters must put out the faux fire with their real water cannons. Seriously - how much fun is this?!!

Missy Moo got paid for her service at the fire station and hopped off to her next 'job' as a CSI! They queued again, then got a briefing about a crime. Then they got kitted out in their outfits, got their evidence cases and set off with instructions to go collect some evidence. The evidence was collected and returned to CSI command and analyzed using the computers there. Once the crime was solved, the task was complete and the kids got paid.

Some of the brands provided miniature versions of their processing plants - for example, the Seamaster water bottling room had a complete working processing plant which allowed the kids to extrude a plastic bottle from a form, sterilize it, fill it with water, run a check for purity, then have the bottle sealed and a heat-shrink wrapper put on. Each kid had a bottle to take away as a momento.

Dinoboy wanted to work in the Dell laptop manufacturing room. He completed a task on a laptop and then 'assembled' a laptop.

There was also a hospital. Spot Dinoboy as a surgeon, operating on some poor crash-test dummy who needed a tumour removing. He was supported by anesthetists, surgical nurses and a Kidzania supervisor.

The kids spent a bit of time at a building site learning about construction. This is an official photo (I caved in and bought one photo at the end of our day) of the kids taken by one of the official photographers.

One of Dinoboy's first jobs in Kidzania was as a courier. It was in his words "quick and easy money" as you only had to deliver a few packages to get paid for the task and they always had packages needing delivery.

Missy Moo spent some time in the Nursery playing with the 'babies'. She was very keen to do this job because it involved the wearing of pink lab coats. Typical Missy Moo that is. That's her with the bow in her hair.

The kids took part in many more jobs but I couldn't get close enough to take photos. Missy Moo had fun being a flight attendant on an AirAsia flight, serving up dinner and coffee from a proper trolley. Dinoboy got to drive a Honda car and train as a secret agent. There were over 55 activities that the kids could choose from to do. We got there when it opened for the day (10 am) and we left when they closed at nearly 5 pm. The kids had only managed to do about 10 or 12 jobs in that time. I can see how my cousin's kids love making repeated trips there during the school holidays. Before we left, we stopped by the gift store so they could 'purchase' items with their earnings. Parents again were not allowed in. The kids had to work out how much they had earned and what was affordable.

As it was Missy Moo's first experience, I felt the need to hover close by to provide guidance whilst she was queuing. However, should we return there in a couple of years' time, the kids will be more familiar with the process and will require little or no supervision from me at all. It is at that point I think I might just take myself off to the 'Parents' lounge' and perhaps bury my nose in a book whilst sipping my latte ... or maybe have a manicure - or even watch TV to while away the hours my kids will spend having fun in what they reckon must be the best dress-up playground ever.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Holiday memories redux 1

You may recall that a couple of months ago, the kids and I took off to the Far East to visit my family in Malaysia. The trip was a lot of fun but the flights were not so fun for poor Dinoboy who suffered from earache, airsickness and at one point, a nosebleed too. Missy Moo was fine but insisted on spending some time holding a sickbag up to her face in sympathy. Whilst we were there, my brothers had made arrangements for a family weekend to Singapore and another weekend trip to the seaside. The kids very much enjoyed spending time with their cousins and meeting aunts, uncles, grand-aunts, grand-uncles etc. They also got to wear all those nice clothes I made for them! I don't think I got around to sharing the tank top Dinoboy is wearing. He loves this top as much as he loved the elephant one.

Whilst in Singapore, we visited the Gardens by the Bay which is an amazing park newly opened earlier on in the year. In the photo above, you can see the two conservatories and the 'supertrees' in the background behind the kids. Here's another shot of the awesome supertrees. These are tree-like structures which dominate the park's landscape. There's also an amazing elevated walkway between the structures. 

Inside one of the the cooled conservatories, we walked through permanent displays of plants from all over the world. The kids ran about ooh-ing and ahh-ing over unusual plants and incredible flowers.

In the other conservatory, the kids and I were amazed by a 100-foot waterfall and wonderful displays of plant species found normally in tropical mountain regions. We took an elevator right up to the top of the dome where the waterfall began it's vertical drop down and walked along a circular suspended walkway all the way back down.

Dinoboy, with his great love of all things animal related, had always wanted to visit Singapore Zoo. The kids spent a delightful day madly dashing about the zoo taking in all the sights. (Note the mummy-made clothing!)

My poor kids being all pale in comparison to their cousins, got very pink in the heat. Look at how pink little Missy Moo got. It was a right job getting her to keep a sunhat on her head.

The kids had a blast in Singapore. And they didn't mind when I told them to go pose for silly pictures like this one.

Missy Moo never did need any encouragement to strike a funny pose for photos. She's such a clown.

The weekend after we got back from Singapore, the whole family visited a local seaside resort called Port Dickson. The kids played on the beach and enjoyed their cousins' company in the hotel pool. Here's Missy Moo trying to bury her feet in the sand.


The three weeks flew by so quickly.  Dinoboy and Missy Moo want me to share some other photos of a very special place for them. I'll do it in my next holiday memories post.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

French barrette ribbon bows for the little Miss

Missy Moo’s hair flies about and gets in everything. When the new school term started, I thought a nice way for her to get her hair looking tidy for school was to make her some nice hair clips. I found some plain French barrettes in a local bead shop and bought a few. I also bought ribbon of varying widths. Other useful supplies are some glue (or a hot-glue gun if you have one – which I do), needle and thread, scissors and something to seal the ends of the cut ribbon (such as Fray-Stop). Here’s how I made these bow barrettes.

The dark green ribbon is a 1-inch wide grosgrain ribbon. The gingham ones came in different widths and I bought one slightly narrower than the plain grosgrain, another one the same width as the barrette and finally, another gingham ribbon in a much narrower width. I refered to this great tutorial here to make these pinwheel bows. (The needle and thread is for sewing and securing the middle of the bows.) There are heaps of amazing bow tutorials on that site too. Anyway – here are the assembled bits.

Taking one of the gingham ribbons which was the same width as the bar at the top of the barrette, I glued a piece onto the top of the barrette.

Here’s the largest pinwheel bow.

I placed a dollop of glue in the middle of the bow and stuck it to the barrette.

Notice that little bar to the right? That’s the tension bar in the French barrette. You can remove it before you start working on your bow. I found it easier to work on sticking all the bits down without the tension bar in the way. Next I glued the gingham pinwheel bow to the plain bow. (excuse the photo – I missed taking one of the photos in the making sequence but realised later that I’d taken this one which shows how the bows stack up)

You’ll have to excuse the next two photos too as I completely missed taking photos of this step when I was making the green ribbons bow barrette. (*slaps head*) Using the thinnest of the ribbons, tie it around the bows and the barrette.

Wrap the ends around the middle and secure with a small blob of glue to the back of the barrette.

From the front, they’ll look like this –

Replace the tension bars and the back will look like this –

These satisfy Missy Moo’s desire for pretty hair clips whilst meeting school regulations in terms of colour and print.

The same process was used to make pink ‘princess bows like this one –

The bow barrettes make Missy Moo very happy. They make her want to do this –

It’s our half term break this week. The kids and I are going to the movies with some friends tomorrow. Should be fun. What are you up to this week, friends?

Friday, 19 October 2012

I'm baaackkk!!!

Hello Friends. I’ve been away from blogosphere for some time. Sorry!

We had a lovely time in Malaysia with the family and then we got home and things went crazy with work for many weeks. The kids went back to school and my work was still crazy busy. It’s now starting to calm down and I can breathe again. Although I’ve not been blogging, I have not been idle. I have soooo much to share with you! I think I will start with this –

Missy Moo’s hair is starting to get long. Keeping it off her face at mealtimes and just generally making sure it’s tidy for school are important issues for us (well, for me and Missy Moo. The men in our family do not crowd their brain space with such clutter). So since Missy Moo likes pretty things, I found some nice inspiration off the web and now we go to school like this –

(please excuse slight mess above bow .... this was done quickly sans a comb!) She is pleased.

Since then, I have made 2 more bow barrette clips for her for school (in school sanctioned colours) and 2 pink ones for home. Every time we go to the craft store, she asks for more ribbon to make more bow barrettes! I’ve taken photos so there’ll be a tutorial up shortly on how to make one of these bow barrettes.

Wishing you all a very Happy Friday. It’s good to be back.