Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Octoburst 2014 - A Children's Festival at The Esplanade!

Octoburst - a fun and exciting 3-day festival for all children is back for the 3rd year at The Esplanade!  We can expect free and ticketed performances showcasing young talents, enriching parent-child workshops and fun activities for the whole family.  This year's offerings look bigger and better so have your smart phones (or calendars) ready to mark these dates and timings down!

Octoburst: 3 to 6 October 2014 at The Esplanade



Something Very Far Away by Unicorn Theatre (UK)


An award-winning UK production that uses puppetry, music, sound and live animation to explore the themes of love, loss, space and time. It tells of the story of Kepler, an ordinary man who loves two things beyond all others: the cosmos and his wife Tomasina. After a sudden and tragic loss, he looks to the stars for answers and journeys deep into space to keep the thing most precious to him alive. 

For a sneak-peek of the show, do follow this link:

*Recommended for 6 years and up. Tickets from Esplanade Box Office and SISTIC.

Introduction to Ballet Classics by Singapore Dance Theatre



An hour-long performance specially created to introduce young audiences to the world’s most famous classical ballets including Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and Nutcracker.


Fun activities for parents and children to learn something together, from learning how to make pinhole cameras to pop-up cards. Tickets at SGD28 per Adult-Child Pair. Available on Sistic.

Pinhole Monster by Wang Ruobing.  Recommended for children aged 6 – 12
4 Oct, Sat, 2.30pm

Get ready to find out what you and the kids can make with cardboard pieces and a monster-sized imagination. Tap into the creative minds of your little Da Vincis and Einsteins in this workshop that blends science and art by creating a “Pinhole Monster”, a pinhole camera that projects the view from the outside into a black box.

Kamishibai Storycrafting by Kamini Ramachandran.
5 Oct, Sun, 2.30pm

Gather around and listen closely as master storyteller Kamini Ramachandran weaves tales of wonder and magic through the Japanese art of kamishibai, a visual form of storytelling. After the storytelling session, take on the role of a storyteller for the day. Children and their adults will get a chance to illustrate their own story by making kamishibai story cards and also spin their own fantastical tale.

Kirigami Pop-Up Card Making by Chiho Tamura and Maya Takahashi
6 Oct, Mon, 2.30pm

Learn kirigami, the Japanese art of paper cutting and folding by magically transforming a plain piece of paper into a 3D pop-up card filled with intricate shapes, unique designs and vibrant colours. After creating a one-of-a-kind masterpiece, write a message and send the card to a loved one for a surprise that leaps out from your handmade card.

3) ON THE SPOT DRAWING COMPETITION (for 5 to 12 years old)

Click here to find out more


Join in this Live and Interactive Game Show!
A group of talent young musicians performing Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf .

Frozen in Singapore? Gotta check this out.
 A giant maze right outside The Esplanade!
This should be fun - a Book Swop! 

Thanks to Octoburst, we have a pair of "Something Very Far Away" Tickets for Friday, 3 October 2014, 2pm show to be won by one lucky PrincessDanaDiaries reader! To qualify, simply do the following:

 a Rafflecopter giveaway
This giveaway is open to all readers residing in Singapore and ends midnight of 26 September 2014. An advanced Happy Children's Day!

For more information, visit Octoburst's Website!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Great Learning Carnival by Eye Level (Jurong West)

A man was appreciating the art at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. As he approached each painting, he would kneel down and look up at it. A curious visitor asked him why he was looking at the paintings from his knees. He replied, “I am an elementary school teacher and I will bring my students here tomorrow. I was wondering how my students would enjoy the paintings from a student’s eye level.”

What a powerful true story of a teacher who's willing to go the distance for his students and the world of difference it makes.  My life was changed by one such teacher who met me at 'eye-level'.  I was lousy in Math since primary school. I hated Math and barely scrapped passed PSLE with a C6  grade which I was never proud of.  Thankfully, things turned around when I was assigned a really dedicated Mathematics Teacher in Sec. One who customised lessons according to our abilities and made Math come alive.

For the 1st time ever, Math lessons were fun and I actually enjoying doing Math homework! That year, I passed Math for the first time in my life with flying colours and later went on to score a B3 for GCE 'O' Level Math thereafter (not bad at all for someone with such a weak foundation in Pri. Sch!).  I can't help but wonder if I had received earlier interventions, maybe I might still have a chance at becoming a Math whiz. Which is why for our daughter, we are open to sending her for critical thinking Math classes at an early age, not because we are 'kiasu' parents but we want to stimulate her interest in this very important subject and stretch her capacity for creative problem-solving in Math.

Over the weekend, we were invited to tour the brand new Eye Level Learning Centre (Jurong West) tucked in the heart of bustling Jurong West extension (St. 92). Formally known as 'Enopi', Eye Level is a leading provider in supplementary education from Korea based on an educational principle that students would bloom if they learn at their own pace.  Established 30 years ago, Eye Level now has 2.5million children enrolled in 22 countries worldwide.

They meet you at 'Eye' Level...

Prior to enrollment, all students will sit for a diagnostic test which will provide the instructors with insights into the student's ability and learning needs. The results from the test will be used to place the student at the appropriate initial starting point to build the child's confidence and enable her to take small achievable steps towards mastery.

How Eye Level works...

Eye Level (Jurong West) is the 14th branch to be opened in Singapore. Occupying the upper level on a row of shop houses, the centre is cosy, cheery and newly-renovated.  They offer 4 programmes for children 3 to 14: English, Math, Play Math and Chinese.

Bright and Welcoming Entrance...
Kids get to play, learn, achieve and be nurtured at Eye Level...
Self-directed Learning Cubicles...

During our visit, Dana sat for written diagnostic tests in English and Math. The instructors were able to give us accurate feedback on areas which she was good in and areas which needed improvements. We like the fact that the instructors customize the curriculum by first seeking to understand each child’s abilities from their 'eye-level'.

Diagnostic Testing and Evaluation...
Having a trial at the Critical Thinking Math activity...

The instructional materials used in the lessons are proprietary of Eye Level, developed in a way that allows children to make progress and proceed through the levels. They are also one of the few enrichment centers worldwide which offer a Critical Thinking Component in their Math Programme (which lays the important headstart for preparing students for those infamously tough heuristics questions in PSLE). 

The instructional materials are developed to cater to different stages of a student's learning needs...
Eye Level is one of the few enrichment providers with a well-developed Critical Thinking Math Syllabus...

In celebration of its grand opening,  Eye Level (Jurong West) will be hosting a Great Learning Carnival at the open area in front of its center at Block 960 Jurong West St 92.

If you're are interested to find out Eye Level's Programmes, don't miss this carnival. It promises to be a weekend of fun, learning and fabulous prizes (with goody bags and fantastic sure-win lucky dips like Boogie Boards, Samsung Galaxy Tabs etc.).  Kids can also take part in an Art Competition!

Click to enlarge Poster


  • Sign up for the The Great Learning Carnival online at from now till 21 September 2014 to receive a Free Diagnostic Test and 1 FREE Trial Lesson (worth SGD68, limited to the first 100 registrations).  
  • In addition, the First 10 Readers to quote 'Princess Dana Diaries' for course sign-ups will receive a bonus SGD20 Popular Voucher.

Check out Eye Level (Jurong West)'s social media pages for updates:


Facade and Reception Area

Eye Level Learning Center (Jurong West)

Address: Blk 960, Jurong West St 92, #01-182 (Level 2), Singapore 640960.
Phone: 6686 2328

By MRT: Alight at Boon Lay MRT then take a Feeder Bus No. 241 from Boon Lay Interchange. Alight 6 stops later in front of Blk 962, Jurong West St.92.
By Car: Park at Multi-Storey Carpark next to Nanyang CC or at the URA Outdoor Carpark behind Blk 962.

Disclaimer: This sponsored post is brought to you by Eye Level (Jurong West).

Monday, September 15, 2014

Life is Beautiful, or is it? Raising Super Hero Kids for the Real World

I don’t know about you but I’ve not been watching the news lately. Just for the sake of keeping myself current, I listen only to the news headlines over radio and would skim across the headlines of our daily Straits Times subscription (I actually have half a mind to stop newspaper subscription too.) Why?

The world these days is a sad and messed up place. Every piece of news in the media is about atrocities, tragedies, disasters, epidemics, corrupt governments, pet cruelties, infidelities, alternative lifestyles…my goodness! Simple virtues such as ‘Do not lie’, ‘Be kind to others’, ‘Study hard’ seem insufficient to prepare our kids for their future...without us.

With our daughter entering Primary One next year, we feel it even more acutely that we'll not be around her 24/7 to shelter her from real-world elements. Yes come January, she has to learn to fend for herself - school bullies, peer pressure, moral dilemmas and all.

Granted, all parents set out to raise happy, healthy kids with positive values and sound character traits. But what are some "superhero qualities" we can imbue in our kids to help them navigate this super-complex world awaiting them? Here's our take:

1. Resourcefulness: Saving the day is all about problem solving and Superheroes are very resourceful at that. At any one time, there’s always a solution and, better still, alternative solutions! Our kids need to be agile and adept. Not giving up easily but having the creative ability to think of viable solutions when they encounter problems or setbacks instead of focusing on the impossible.

2. Selflessness: This is essential for Superheroes – to have a sense of compassion and empathy, the ability to feel for the 'common' man.  Being willing to give of their time, effort and for some, risk  their lives, for the betterment of mankind. Our kids need to know that the world doesn't consist of and revolve around them alone. They need to be able to see the needs of others, put themselves in others' shoes and desire to want to make a positive difference to others.

3. Strive and give of their best: Superheroes never settle for mediocrity, simply because mediocrity requires no effort and derails their mission to save the world. Our children should be focused and give of their best in whatever they set out to do, not just choosing the path of least resistance. Closely related to perseverance, they should leverage on opportunities and give their best to make the best.

4. Gratitude: Superheroes are indebted to their mentors and other significant people who have impacted their lives. They never forget how and where they started. Our children should be loyal and filial to the people (and places) which gave them the grounding to make that head start. This sense of reference is an anchor to their thoughts and values which they can always refer to when making critical life-changing decisions.

5. Humility: We all know the cliche that pride comes before a fall. Superheroes know that too yet some suffered consequences of not heeding good advice and being too full of themselves. All humans have ego and pride, including children. If that is left unchecked, they will not be able to work well with others, will not learn from past mistakes and eventually be too conceited and be alienated from society.

6. Resilience: This, to us, is the 2nd most important Super Power – the ability to fall and pick oneself up; to persevere against all odds in adversity. In Singapore, most kids have a comfortable start to life: with our modern facilities, infrastructure, amenities and rising affluence. While they are good, too much mollycoddling may rob kids from developing resilience. We want our kids to face challenges with a sense of resolve and have the grit and gumption to rise to to their feet again, and again when they fall.

7. Moral Courage: This to us, is the strongest of all the super powers. Superheroes keep a clear head, stick to their convictions and stay true to what they believe in. No point in having all the super strengths above but lacking in the moral courage to exercise all of them. Without moral courage, one cannot establish credibility and no positive change will result.

One of the movies that has impacted my life is the award-winning film, ‘Life is Beautiful', directed and starred by Roberto Benigni. It tells the poignant tale of how an Italian Jewish Father tried to mask the horrors of World War 2 by telling his young son that it’s all a game and that the world is better than what he sees, right till his own untimely end under the Nazi regime. I bought a copy of the DVD as a reminder of how important it is for parents to set the right perspectives for our children, right from a young age.

As much as we love our kids and wish to shield them forever, masking real world issues from them is unrealistic. Their perception of the world as a fun and happy place will eventually ebb. In the eyes of children, we (their parents) will always be seen as their "Chief Superhero".  You will be surprised to find that the 7 "Superhero qualities" mentioned above really aren’t that spectacular or superhuman at all. If we are more intentional in our parenting, we are all capable of raising little Superheroes in our midst.

Raising little "Superheroes" is not an easy task but we can all start by being more intentional in our parenting...

Our kids are lovingly clothed by Pumpkin Patch Singapore.  Do visit their Facebook page to check out the "I'm a Superhero" and "Streets of Gotham City" range for little boys and new Autumn/Winter collections for little girls. 

Linking up with A Juggling Mom's

Thursday, September 11, 2014

NYC for Kids: Visiting Ground Zero and Remembering 9/11

The good, the bad and the unforgettable – Celebrating the Human Spirit in the 911 aftermath, 13 years on.

One of the reasons we travel is to learn the culture and history of a country and her people. Most often, on the itineraries would be attractions that depict the positive aspects of the country. Occasionally, there would be historical accounts of wars and natural disasters but most would be far too removed in time or remote geographically for us to really feel the impact. Not so, with the 9/11 Memorial Museum, built on Ground Zero, the very site of the unimaginable 911 terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

A new addition to the NYC skyline that is a symbol of the indomitable human spirit  - One World Trade Center.

9/11 was a most horrific event in modern history that changed the world forever. The incident was so sadly surreal that most of us thought, as we saw the event unfold on the TV, that we were watching either a scene out of the movies or a very bad accident gone wrong. It was not. The moment was so defining; most of us would still vaguely remember what and where we were when the news broke.

True to our mission for travelling, when we knew that our trip to New York would coincide with the opening of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, we immediately penned it into our itinerary. We were, however, not planning to stay long as we were travelling with our 6 year-old and were hesitant how much of the tragedy we should explain to her. In fact, we were unsure if we were prepared for the waft of emotions that would flood us (having visited the infamous Auschwitz Concentration Camp many years ago and quite shaken by the exhibits we saw.)

In retrospect, we are glad we did. In fact, what was planned as a 2-hour stop turned out to be an full afternoon’s visit.

'Dedicated to those who fell and to those who carry on'...
Memorials line the streets leading to Ground Zero.

As we approached the Memorial Plaza, we saw two huge reflection pools where the foundations of the twin tower once stood. I found myself gritting my teeth as I cannot even begin to fathom the magnitude of the tragedy that took place right here. The endless row of victims' names - entire families who were on the flights, ordinary folks going about their morning routines in their respective offices, NYPDs and Firefighters who perished in their line of duty - were neatly inscribed across the perimeters of the pools. It’s one thing to read about it in the media, it’s another to be here, at Ground Zero ourselves.

The very tranquil memorial pools contrasting the horrors that took place right here this day 13 years ago...
These are someone's father, mother, brother, sister, husband, wife, aunty, uncle, cousin and children - 2983 of them in total.
These two commemorative reflection pools are built on the actual sites of the twin towers.
A new symbol of hope arises from the ruins...

The destruction to buildings and loss of lives were massive. We saw columns of steel that were bent like butter by the intense heat and pressure. These huge steel columns eventually gave way leading to the collapse of the towers. We saw the remains of the Fire Truck from Ladder Co. 3. What I thought was the back was actually the badly mangled front of the fire truck, crushed by the debris, with the entire company of firemen either trapped IN the collapsing building or IN the fire truck. We saw the remains of the huge telecommunication antenna (which used to define the WTC from afar) and read of how the radio engineers on duty called frantically for help as the intense fires raged towards them.  Their desperate plea, “Don't forget, we have people at the top...".

Base of the huge antenna which use to be the apex of the twin towers.
Note the actual position (circled) where this antenna once stood.
The badly mangled front of the fire truck from Ladder Co 3.
Men from this fire truck were one of the first to respond to the 911 calls at Ground Zero...
'The Survivors' Stairs'  (Left) - one of the few staircases which survivors scurried down to safety. One of the last pieces of the facade (Right) left standing.

Aside from the obvious solemnity which the memory of the event brings, more importantly, we caught a glimpse of the indefatigable courage of the human spirit. I’m glad we brought Dana with us as we told these tales of bravery to her. Yes, that afternoon, she learnt how these bad men (a.k.a 'terrorists') killed so many innocent people as they crashed the planes into the twin towers but we took efforts to emphasize on the bravery and heroism of the firefighters, the policemen, the Chaplain and scores of other first responders and volunteers.  While others fled, they rushed in - against all odds, against all hope, the primordial human spirit to do good, to make a positive change, to leave a legacy, shone the brightest during that darkest moments of history.

She saw the Last Column – the final column left standing where names and photos of the Fire Engine Company, Police Squadrons of those who perished, were written, pasted and sprayed on. This was the very column that was the final piece to be ceremonially removed from Ground Zero.

The Last Column - the last structure left standing at Ground Zero (Left).  A tribute to Father Mychal - the chaplain who perished with the firefighters he served (Right).
Inside the main hall, underneath the actual 9/11 site.
The Last Column with countless loving dedications on it...
The Last Column was ceremoniously transported out of Ground Zero, draped in the American Flag.

She saw the personal items left by these brave souls – crushed helmets, burnt uniforms, damaged fire trucks, bent fire extinguishers…all real artifacts that pieced together many stories of the valour and sacrifice shown by these men, in the face of evil and danger. Before we left, we penned our thoughts on the electronic visitors’ log (a cool touch sensitive screen), which would then broadcast our messages to a large atlas. We left Dana to pen her own message, and this is what she wrote:

Our 6 year old daughter penning her thoughts at the 911 Memorial Museum...
'No more war and suffering or pain and bad things to happen to USA' - Dana Joy Sim, Singapore
The electronic Memorial Wall where your messages will appear on the atlas according to your country of origins...

The Ground Zero and 9/11 Memorial Museum are two must-visit places when you are in New York City. It’s not the place to take the usual chirpy, happy selfies but one where the human spirit shines bright and strong; and one where our children can see abstract attributes like bravery, heroism, sacrifice, courage, national pride translated into real-life conrete examples and be inspired. That’s why we travel. May God bless America.

One of the main steel columns which supported the main structure of the doomed towers...
Bent back like butter from the intense heat and pressure of the inferno...
'May we never forget'...

9/11 Memorial Museum
Website | Facebook

1, Albany Street 
New York, NY 10006
Tel: (212) 312-8800

Admission Fees to the Museum applies.  Visits to the exterior Memorial Plaza is Free.  It is highly advisable to book your tickets online as purchasing tickets in advance allows you to visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum at your preferred date and time (instead of waiting in line). Tickets can be purchased three months in advance.  You should devote at least 4 hours to tour the museum.