Little Bow Girl

Wife, Mama to Sophie Rose, Full Time Day Dreamer

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Our Starter Home: Taking the Resale Route

While today K, Sophie Rose and I have moved into our new, dream, second home, the truth is you never quite forget the first home you make together – your “Starter Home”. And we bought our Starter Home in 2011 – this is our story (photos may be a bit outdated, its been half a decade, after all!).

*This post is written in conjunction with Smart Parents.*

When K and I decided to get married five years ago, we knew from the onset that we would want to move out of our parents’ place and stay on our own. We firmly believed that in order to build our own family unit and set the right tone to married life, we needed to stay together – alone, to make our memories, have our fights with the privacy we need, and learn how to live with another person (by choice, lol).

In many countries where property prices are sky high and inaccessible, this would be something that was impossible for two fresh graduates with very humble savings. Which is why I truly feel that in Singapore we’re blessed to have such a great public housing scheme and system which allows for young couples to have their own home very early on – or even before their marriage so that they have a space to call their own.

Back in 2011 when K and I were searching for our Starter Home, we had two options:

  1. Apply for a Build-to-Order (BTO flat)
  2. Buy a Resale flat

And our preferences were:

  1. Being close to our parents. Family support is so important especially since we intended to start a family not too long after tying the knot
  2. Being close to public transport, as we hadn’t bought a car yet at that point
  3. Being near a town centre, so we would have easy access to food, amenities, etc.

Since our parents both stayed in landed properties in mature estates, and there were no BTOs nearby available, we decided to take the resale route. To mollify K, who felt that we would not be getting a good deal by buying resale straight off the bat, we did attempt to apply for two developments in Punggol and Sengkang but there was a HUGE backlog in the BTO units available at that point (a problem that has since been rectified, lucky new house owners!) so after getting two “your number exceeded 300% of a the supply” responses, we gave up and decided to go resale flat hunting.

Of course, deciding to purchase resale would mean forking out a substantial amount of Cash Over Valuation (COV – a concept which has since been scrapped) and we had our own share of friends trying to persuade us from taking the resale route.

“You’re not maximizing your grant”, “What’s wrong with Punggol and Sengkang, not bad what, you are paying so little, I’m sure you can make some money when you sell in five years” – were common refrains.

But we stood our ground because to us, our first home had to be a home that we fell in love with, rather than a money-making scheme. We also had suggestions from friends who, after knowing that we wanted to buy resale, said we should buy a tiny flat in a really good area – near the CBD, for example, so that we could, again “flip” the property.

At this point, with so much advice, both solicited and unsolicited, K and I decided to re-examine our priorities. It’s easy to get carried away by all these ideas of “flipping” or “easy money” as young, naïve and quite gullible first-time buyers, so I would suggest taking a step back and asking yourself and your partner what you really want from your Starter Home before you decided what you’re looking for

And here were our takeaways after having a long heart to heart:

  1. Our Starter Home should be a home we can see ourselves living in for a long time (even if we do decide to move) and one that we can picture as a HOME, not just a flat, or a house. Stuffing all our belongings and ourselves into a tiny flat for its resale value was just not something we could picture ourselves doing  – at the cost of our quality of life.
  2. Stick by your guns – don’t let other people tell you where you should stay. Go with yours and your partner’s gut instinct. After all, you two will be the ones staying there, not your friends and their advice.
  3. Do your research – buying a Resale Flat does not mean you will be entitled to significantly less grants than your BTO-buying counterparts. In fact, I would say that all in all, we got amazing value for our first home along with government support.

And so, we sallied forth, armed with a map, a new account on Property Guru and the contacts of a few agents who specialized in flats in the East, and a lot of hope and excitement.

First, we tried Marine Parade. We set our budget for our Starter Home at around $550,000, with about $50,000 of that going to Cash Over Valuation (no longer applicable today).

Back then when property prices were an all time high, it was almost impossible to find a home of a good size within our budget, in Marine Parade. On average, a 4-5 room flat (low level) was around $600,000 including a COV which could be almost $100,000. Clearly, we were not prepared to fork out that much cash and start our married life either broke or in debt, so it was out of the question.

We ended up looking at several beautiful 3 room flats with sea views in the Marine Parade area. But the size of the flats put a dampener on our spirits – how would we fit a family into these very stylish flats with almost no storage space?

If you’re getting confused at this point, rest assured, so were we. So here are some tips that can help you assess the value of the house (to you).

  • If the flat comes “fully furnished” – ask yourself – is the design to your liking? There’s no point moving into a well-appointed and well-furnished apartment when it doesn’t suit your taste. You should be able to customize your first home to your liking, not settle because you think you’re getting good value. Remember to ask when the home was last renovated, too – things like floor laminate don’t usually last well past 6-7 years with wear and tear, and that’s additional $$ you’ll have to pay when the time comes sooner than later to get it changed. Ask about plumbing, things like how many times the house has changed hands, or if the flooring is overlay and conceals a previous layer of tiles (this is a problem if you want to renovate).
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Our place came fully renovated in great condition, and we loved how the narrow hall was lined with top to bottom mirrors to make our dining “nook” look bigger

  • Don’t forgo the space – especially if you intend to have children soon after marriage. For us, a 4-room flat was the smallest we could imagine ourselves going, with a master bedroom, a walk-in wardrobe (the second room) and finally a study/nursery.

Having an extra room (4 rather 3) meant that when Sophie Rose came along we had space to create a playroom/nursery for her

  • How many minutes to the nearest MRT or well-connected bus stop? Consider your work commute – it may look easy on paper taking a bus, then a train, then a walk – but doing this everyday can be exhausting.
  • Which parts of the home get morning or  afternoon light? You don’t want to get stuck with a home where your clothes never dry.
  • Picture yourself living in the home – do you like the configuration of the rooms and kitchen? Ask yourself what you would change about the home if you should buy it and move in.
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Start dreaming up how you’d like to put your personal touch to the home and if the space suits what you want. For me, the hall needed to be large enough to accommodate a sofa bed rather than a regular couch

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Pay attention to the little details – for example, our starter home opened into a pretty feature wall instead of directly into our living room and we loved the privacy of a corner unit

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Look at the configuration of the rooms. Where do you want your master bedroom to be? Do you intend to get a King or Queen sized bed? With our without side tables? Try to imagine yourself living in the home.

  • Who are your neighbours? Have a look around you and get to know who they are before buying the home.
  • Do you see yourself staying here for the very long term (>10 years) or moving somewhere else?

With this in mind, we decided to search another part of the East again. And we were lucky – after seeing less than 10 homes, we’d found the one we were looking for. A five year old 4-room flat which came with stylish built in storage, furniture in the style we liked, and right smack in between the Tanah Merah within our budget and with a COV of $50,000 – exactly what we planned. We were close to losing hope at that point as our wedding was just around the corner and we still hadn’t found a place to stay.

Then came the grant applications. As I had just started work then, our combined income was well within the limits of the CPF Housing Grant. We benefited from that, as well as the Proximity Housing Grant ($20,000). All in, I would say we were granted almost $50,000 in subsidies and support from the government, which was extremely helpful and encouraging. Now, the amounts have been increased even more, making it even more accessible for young couples to buy their first home, and we think that’s absolutely great!

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That’s us, on handover day, 5 years ago! 🙂 What a throwback!

We spent five wonderful years in that 4-room flat, which we improved, changed, re-configured and made our own over the years. We became firm friends with our neighbours, and really loved the quiet, serene and yet accessible atmosphere of the development (it was a  very small development of only 5 blocks). It was also the home in which we brought our furkid, Benjy, home, and eventually welcomed our first child, Sophie Rose, three years in, and where she spent her first two years of life.

The memories and the attachment to that flat are indescribable – and a large part of how great those years were came from making informed and educated choices about buying our Starter Home. I hope our little guide has helped you in your journey towards buying your first house and making it a home!

Check us out in our Smart Parents sharing segment by clicking the photo below!

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Good Luck!

Libby, Alex and Sophie Rose

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While I would be hesitant to say that K and I have become total slobs since becoming parents, I would definitely venture to describe us as .. well .. a lot more sedate.

It could be because even going out on a simple dinner date involves sticky logistics and a lot of begging for babysitting, as our parents are all not based in the same country as us. Or it could be because we’re just so darn tired everyday from just surviving – even having me-time at home is a luxury.

So even when I was previously offered sponsorships by local spas (I know right, you’re probably thinking, free also don’t want?!) – I had to regretfully turn them down because there’s no way I have enough time on a weekday, during working hours, to turn up for a massage and soak, and weekends are for Sophie-doll.

Then E approached me with a request from The Outcall Spa – where therapists COME TO YOUR HOME.

No biggie – you might be saying – plenty of therapists do home sessions.

Well yes, but do they bring their own full sized, super comfy professional massage beds, play soothing mood music, provide heated towels (oh heated towels!), and even little cups of warm, comforting ginger tea?

I bet they don’t. And the best part? They do couple massages, so your partner can enjoy it too. All without leaving your home, dealing with the hassle of driving to the spa, parking your car, etc. And you can just head to your bedroom for a few blissed out hours of sleep after that without worrying about how to get home.

So let me share with you our wonderful experience with their Valentine’s Day special. Husbands, I hope you’re paying attention, because your wife will be so happy with you if you arrange this Valentine’s Day session – and there’s no effort involved on your part except footing the bill – plus, you get to enjoy a divine massage too!

The Outcall Spa: Setting Up

So what happened was that about 15 minutes before the session started, our two friendly, professional therapists arrived with full sized massaged beds, towels, etc.

They were so polite, completely non-intrusive, and these super women took about 5-10 minutes max to set everything up and pack everything back! Check out the video of them clearing up!

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I’m talking about prepping the towels, the beds, the selection of aromatherapy oils, heating the towels, etc. Everything was done so seamlessly and professionally for not one moment did K and I, standing and watching in our dressing gowns, feel a little awkward. 🙂

The Outcall Spa: The Massage

Then before we began, just like in a luxury spa, the therapists provided us with shower-caps and disposable underwear. We were also asked to fill in a questionnaire about any health issues, and selected our choice of aromatherapy oils (Lavender, Lemongrass and Jamu. I picked Lemon, K picked Lavender and both were excellent grade and so very soothing). We both chose the Deep Tissue Massages because God knows we both needed them after dealing with a minor flood situation the same morning.

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The massages started with us being swathed in divine heated towels while our therapists warmed the oils and played soothing instrumental music. Despite the session being in the afternoon, I was so relaxed I almost immediately fell asleep. K woke me up by commenting that he felt like we were in a resort spa and not at home.

As you can see, both massage beds came with the little space for you to put your face. This is very important for me because most home-therapists just give you a massage on your bed and you need to turn your face to the left or right, resulting in (for me) bad neck aches, which kind of defeats the purpose of having a massage, right?

This donut space was lined with a very comfortable cushion so my face and cheeks were well protected and padded. A lot of thought went into the comfort of the customer, and this made a big impression on me. Before the massage, my therapist even cleaned my feet and toes gently with a soft, cooling cloth.

Hygiene and professionalism wise, this got top points. I have been to four or five star hotel spas where the therapist didn’t even bother to wipe my feet. I have clean feet, but I still want them SUPER clean before my therapist massages my feet and then my face, right?

The massage experience – the most important part – was really good. I’ve been for hundreds of massages all over the world, having suffered from chronic back and shoulder pain for quite a few years now – my tolerance for pain is high, but I know very quickly off the bat whether the masseuse is able to “grasp” the tense points and provide relief. A testament to how good my therapist was is that she was able to knead out all the kinks without me even feeling any pain. And I woke up to soft, relaxed shoulders and a comfortable lower back – the only thing that could have been better is if the massage had lasted longer (one can hope!).

My therapist also regularly (but not too regularly) asked me about whether I was comfortable with the pressure. This was very important to me, too, because I think feedback can turn a good massage into a great one. Thank you for your thoughtfulness!

The Outcall Spa: Post-Massage

Post massage, after K and I sighed sadly that our amazingly relaxing 1.5 hours had ended, we were greeted with cups of warm, sweet and comforting ginger tea to complete the experience, along with a thank you card! So many little thoughtful gestures!

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And since that was part of The Outcall Spa’s Valentine’s Day package, I even got a bouquet of beautiful beautiful roses and a bottle of wine along with wine glasses, even!

So very impressed. At this point, K is griping about how he wished he had surprised me with this experience instead of us getting sponsored (because now he still has to do something else for Vday).

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“Wow, the guy doesn’t even have to go and buy an overpriced bouquet and find wine,” were his exact words. And I agree – I mean, Valentine’s Day should be enjoyed by both of us, not just me, right? This way, everyone wins.

Our Valentine’s Day x The Outcall Spa Package was $588 for a 90 minute couple massage. Considering that a 90 minute deep tissue spa massage would cost you about $200 per person outside ($400 for two), a dozen roses another $100 (or more for Valentine’s Day) plus the wine and transport, I think its a pretty fantastic deal.

The $588 includes:

  1. A dozen beautiful red roses in a lovely bouquet
  2. A bottle of French Bordeaux red wine and glasses

Of course, you can also sign up for non Valentine’s day sessions, by booking your appointment at 8782 0561 or finding out more at www.theoutcallspa.com

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For a 10% discount on all services besides post-natal and spa packages, quote TOSXLITTLEBOW – valid for 3 months!

However, please note that the Valentine’s Day package is the only one available between 11-14 Feb 🙂

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What I also really like about The Outcall Spa is also how they are open late on Friday, Saturday and Sundays, up to as late as 2 AM! So you can schedule your couple massages after your kids’ bedtime, then enjoy your massage before having some amazing quality sleep. I know the next time I want to do something special for K, what it’s going to be 🙂

Also, I’m looking forward to trying out their post-natal home therapy sessions (if and when) I have my next kid – their flexible hours and all the little extra touches will definitely make any confinement a whole lot more enjoyable!

Thank you to the folks at The Outcall Spa for such an amazing experience we would have happily paid out of our own pockets for – and a wonderful memory to keep for our new place!

Happy Valentine’s Day planning!

A Very Well Rested Libby

 I’m back with another super Aunty-fied post about household cleaners! And before you groan and say not again, trust me, this will come in super handy when you have your own place and a toddler, dog, and 1,600 sq ft of space to clean up. Our Lifestyle Shop always comes to the rescue with new and innovative cleaning and disinfecting products for us.

Maybe I’m just prone to mess – while I do have (I think) slight OCD and a need to have everything in order, I also end up in huge end of the week messes because I just don’t have time to tackle them. Granted, Sophie Rose is generally quite a tidy toddler who will clear messes (somewhat haphazardly), but the thought of spending my weekends scrubbing and disinfecting her toys in a giant pail in her utility cupboard is horrifying, to say the least.

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That’s where multi-functional products like their Hospital Surface Disinfectant Spray (HSD) comes in. Trust me, I baulked when I first heard the not-very-sexy name of the product. I was all “But I don’t live in a hospital?” (and, I have to admit, I was thinking, gosh, I need to get my house clean but not THAT clean) but I decided to try it out and I was very, very pleasantly surprised.

So I’ve introduced you guys before to my other holy-grail cleaning product – Be Sanitized, which I used to clean Sophie’s toys and also to disinfect entire rooms (especially when we first moved in) as it has a strong fogging spray function.

The Hospital Surface Disinfectant Spray (HSD) does a greater and faster job with toys – within 10 minutes the surfaces it is sprayed on will be effectively disinfected – and – DEODERIZED – which basically means, bad or stale smells begone!

In a nut-shell, it is a broad-spectrum disinfectant (which also means bao ka liao if you know what I mean) that eliminates bacteria, viruses, mold, and mildew and is administered in a dry spray that vaporizes immediately upon contact, removing odors and unpleasant smells in the process. It’s been an absolute lifesaver to our Toilet Training progress with Sophie.

Here’s what I now use it for on a daily basis

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Benjy’s Tee Pee is inhabited by both human and dog (although I have upon occasioned questioned if she is indeed human)

 

Cleaning up Benjy’s Pee Tray and Food Area – this spray is safe and non toxic for babies, toddlers and small animals. Benjy is already 6 years old and he’s not always a marksman when it comes to doing his business. Previously I would be on my knees with wipes, paper towels and Dettol but now I simply spray the HSD and wipe the tray with a cloth. It saves me time, and wipes, and paper towels plus any bad smells are instantly removed. Win!

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As you can see, she’s made herself very comfortable in Benjy’s home!

 

 

We also spray Benjy’s TeePee with the spray to make sure that he doesn’t bring back germs from his walk. Although we wipe him down we have to be extra careful as Sophie Rose and Benjy often sleep together. I’m all for a little exposure to germs but these two practically sleep hugging sometimes and my OCD soul cannot take it.

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She really does know how to enjoy life. Even her feet have to be cushioned on our super comy Angel Mats when she does her Number 1s and 2s!

 

For Toilet Training: Since we are on the topic of fluids and discharges (sorry, I hope you aren’t having lunch) I now keep the HSD on standby next to Sophie’s two potties. She’s fully off diapers now so we have had quite a few moments when she has rushed to the potty to make it in time (after getting carried away by playtime) and will sometimes “leak” on the way or when she stands up too suddenly and makes a little mess. A quick spray and wipe immediately disinfects the potty and cleans up the mess.

I wish the HSD came in a travel size – it would be perfect for when we have to use those gross public toilets – I’ve heard horror stories of kids getting rashes on the backs of their thighs from dirty toilet seats! As it is I bring my entire can of spray out sometimes if we’re going out in a group with other kids.

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Too.Many.Toys.To.Clean

 

For Cleaning Toys: Just like the Be Sanitized, HSD can be sprayed directly to the toys and will disinfect them within 10 minutes. As the size of Sophie’s playroom grows, I find it more and more necessary to clean up as efficiently as possible. We spray and wipe her bed slats, her ride on toys, and her car after each use to make sure to keep germs at bay.

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Her car goes in and out of the house a lot so a quick spray of the wheels makes sure they are kept clean and don’t bring the nasties in!

 

Now that she has even more toys with smaller and hard to wipe parts, the HSD is super handy in making sure ever nook and crevice of her figurines and food  toys are kept germ free!

For our Shoe Cupboard: Our new place is just next to the sea, and salt spray and humidity levels are very high. I’ve noticed our towels and even my shoes turning mouldy after 3 successive days of rain. After some panic, I used the HSD on the towels (non toxic) and on the shoes, and hey presto, the mouldy smell actually disappeared! I’m super impressed. Of course I also have a dehumidifier on standby but HSD is really useful in keeping shoes smelling fresh, clean and germ free. A pro-tip is to spray your sports shoes with it after a work out – it makes a big difference to keeping them bacteria free. Since I don’t know where Sophie runs around in the day or if she has stepped in mud or dirt, I spray her shoes too. As you can imagine, my can has run out and I will have to repurchase!

Each can, with heavy use, still lasts me about 2-3 months on average, so I would say its really value for money for the convenience, peace of mind, and not to mention squeaky clean, germ free existence it will bring to your home!

Enjoy a 5% discount on Hospital Surface Disinfectant Spray (Usual Price: $43.90) when you use the promo code: iwantthisnow to place your order on Our Lifestyle Shop .  (Valid till 2 March!)

Like Our Lifestyle Shop’s Facebook page, or follow them on their Instagram or Twitter to find out more about their products and special offers.

Speaking of toilet training, I thought that since some of you guys were asking for tips on how to toilet train successfully on Instagram (I’ve said this a thousand times, but we post much more often on IG @littlebowgirl) I thought to just spell out how we managed to get Sophie Rose off the diapers and on the potty within about 5-6 days.

They will be ready when they are ready.  I tried toilet training at 18 months, and then 24 months, but was met with high resistance. Sophie Rose simply wasn’t ready. This time around, we sat down with her and told her about how all Princesses had to stop using diapers at one point and learn how to use the big girl potty. What I prepared before we started:

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Our Toilet Training Essentials!

 

  • We let her pick out and purchase a potty of her choice, making her take some ownership for her new potty training adventure. She picked out a pink and purple Disney Princess “throne” monstrosity with tinkling flushing noises which I hated. But her poop, her potty. So I held back.
  • Stock up on the stickers: I bought maybe like a hundred Princess stickers for a reward chart. Also stamps, if your kid is into that kinda thing. A reward really makes the whole experience more fun! I tried to stay away from snacks cos there’s no turning back there.
  • Thinner training diapers which feel more like underwear than diapers. We switched from Merries to the new Huggies Platinum Training Pants range which are a lot less cushy and don’t encourage kids to pee as much into them, they mimic the feel of panties much better.
  • Disinfecting spray (HSD!!!) on standby in the toilet for quick clean ups.
  • New big girl panties. Again, Disney Princess. H&M has pretty comfortable panties and shorts-style underwear in popular prints!

We focused on the positives, saying, for example:

  1. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you didn’t have to wear your pampers? You could wear pretty princess panties! And they won’t get soggy and fall off when you’re running!
  2. I love your potty. Is it comfortable? How do you flush when you’re done?
  3. We try not to make comments about smell and or dirt. Although she is perversely happy when she does a really stinky and big one – she can also feel embarrassed some days – so we just keep it light.

The starting is tough. But we were lucky – the first day Sophie Rose decided she wanted to go off her diapers was when we were out with her best school friend, Kaley. Kaley’s already toilet trained, and so when they went to the toilet, Sophie’s FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) kicked in and she insisted on going with. That was the start of our wonderful poop and pee laden journey.

We called up her school to let her know we’d started and they were really supportive in making sure she stayed off her pampers. Her teacher, Kim, called me daily to give me updates on how well she was doing in school. The trick, she said, was to keep asking every 15 minutes if they needed to go to the loo. We also rewarded her and gave her stickers even if nothing “came out”, just to reinforce how proud of her we were for remembering and trying.

Within 2 days of every 15 minute false alarms and real successes, Sophie Rose was fully pee-trained. The poop was tougher. She seemed to have an adversion to straining away at the potty. We soon realized it was our domineering and stressful presence and excused ourselves. Another 3 days, and she was a pro at pooping in the potty, with the unfortunate consequence that she has on occasion presented me with a potty full of poop as a good morning surprise.

Basically, keep it fun, light hearted and positive – those are the tips I have. It would be great to be on the same page as your toddler’s caregivers and your partner to make the transition as smooth as possible, of course. It helps if his or her friends are also toilet trained and they can encourage each other (what am I saying, clearly its competition at work). I would also recommend doing it over holidays at home or long weekends to make it as quick and painless as possible – there’s nothing like routine in helping kids pick up good habits!

Good luck with your toilet training and if you need any tips or help, feel free to drop me a mail or comment!

Love,

Libby and Sophie Rose

 

 

 

 

 

 

This post is so scarily overdue that I feel bad just writing it! So to all our followers @littlebowgirl and here on the blog, I’m finally sharing how I hacked our IKEA Duktig Kid’s Play Kitchen and re-invented Chez Sophie Rose!

So it started with this Mama having itchy fingers. We love our Kidkraft 3-in-1 kitchen, but I felt like it was getting a little small for Sophie-doll, who is pushing 93 cm. Also, to be honest, I was feeling frustrated and helpless at how slowly our home move was going (right about then, we were dealing with troublesome tenants who didn’t want to move out) and I just wanted to DO something and get off my backside. I’m a creator, and I can’t stop dreaming of new things or making things with my hands, and thus, I decided to get her a new, customized kitchen.

I absolutely loved the Farmhouse Kitchen set on Pottery Barn Kids but it would have cost me a whopping total of $1,500 just to buy and ship from the U.S. and I just wasn’t okay with spending that kind of princely sum, what with my own, real life kitchen renovations on the way!

So, I got crafty. The IKEA Duktig Kitchen is a perfect blank canvas for some crazy Pinterest Mom-esque behavior! Within two days, we were at IKEA (our favourite weekend hangout) and my hapless husband was lugging the kitchen back home.

Here’s the “Before” Picture:

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If you’re looking for inspiration, Pinterest is the place to go! For me, the style I wanted was inspired by my own 3D kitchen sketch from my ID for our new place:

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We went for a gorgeous duck’s egg blue that is just between pale blue and pale grey, a kind of stormy pale blue? And copper touches everywhere.

Basically something homey, rustic and cozy – something that would be uniquely #littlebowfamily. 🙂

And here’s what you need if you want to do a kitchen like ours!

  1. Spray Paint of your choice – you can get brush paint too, but its more time-consuming and I don’t have the time to do that because its usually dark by the time I’m home. I chose Red Blue from Nippon spray to match my own kitchen (above) from Home Fix.
  2. Fixture Spray Paint – This will be for your fixtures, the handles, tap, etc. You can go for anything from metallic to chrome and copper. I chose a burnished copper spray from Rust-Oleum for a vintage look. Please note that the paint WILL fade with time to give a slightly worn, tarnished look. If you want the color to be permanent, opt for water based copper paints instead 🙂 (From Self-Fix DIY)
  3. Contact Paper – I chose Marble Contact Paper (from Carousell) for my countertop because I love the textured and luxe look against my copper fixtures. I also really liked the wooden-style contact paper for a more country feel (you can get wood-style contact paper at Home Fix) . The possibilities are endless!
  4. Lots of old newspapers to place your items for spraying
  5. Your husband to help you out

 

 

You’ll need to set aside about a day or two to get everything done. Wait at least an hour between each coat of paint, and my personal opinion is that the white parts need 2-3 good even coats, while the colors need 1-2 good even coats.

So first you spray your fixtures and set aside. Then, decide which parts of your kitchen you want in whichever permutation of color, and spray accordingly 🙂 This will take all afternoon.

Assemble all except your counter top, which you will need to apply contact paper of your choice to. Use a scraper or a card to smooth the contact paper, and if you’re clumsy (like me, cut it up in big pieces before affixing. Its okay if it isn’t perfect, as long as it isn’t lumpy from air bubbles trapped underneath!

This is the semi complete look:

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And then its all ready for you to personalize it to a T!

For me, I immediately headed out to get flowers for the kitchen. I upcycled an old glass bottle which previously contained cold brew coffee from The Stamping Grounds, and filled it with pretty dried lavender, baby’s breath and cotton blossoms for a rustic look!

Welcome to Chez Sophie Rose! Grandma’s Babysitting Service Provided 🙂

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I also sprayed Sophie-doll’s pans to complete the Provence style feel, and tied a little bunch of lavender (real lavender, which smelled sooo gorgeous) above the sink!

A close up:

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Sophie’s already whipping up a casserole in her mini Le-Creuset Dutch Oven!

See what I mean about the marble? It will still look good even if you can’t keep the entire piece intact, and you don’t have to worry about messing up or getting all sticky! I love things that are slightly imperfect – they remind me of the person I’d like to be – a little kitsch, a little rough around the edges, but unique 🙂

Look how happy Sophie-doll is with her new kitchen!

I have always loved Rose Quartz/Blush paired with copper, so her little tea set (eco-friendly recycled plastic from Green Toys, but so pretty you can’t tell!) went perfectly and added that little feminine touch!

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Croissants and Coffee, anyone?

If you’re feeling like it won’t be worth the expense, take it from me, a kitchen is one of the best toys you can give your child – it just allows for endless hours of imaginative pretend play, sensory play, and even role-play. We buy very realistic food for her to work with, felt food, plastic food, wooden food so she can enjoy a variety of textures. It never ceases to amaze me the kind of weird dishes and settings she can come up with as she sings at her kitchen sink, chattering away excitedly and dreaming up new dishes!

And our kitchen is never complete – I’m always finding little things to add to make it extra special.

My latest (and greatest) find were these tiny mini Moscow Mule cups, with their shiny copper finish. Aren’t they just darling?

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Her kettle was a chrome one, which I also painted over with copper. Bright Copper Kettles – don’t they sound like something out of a dream? I’ve always wondered what a real copper kettle will look and feel like since I first heard “Favourite Things” from The Sound of Music as a child. And soon, I’ll have my own!

Are you ready to head to market on your beautiful Harper Happy Bike, Sophie Rose?

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What has been the most incredible about us trying to personalize our own kitchen is how we’ve helped to inspire other Mamas and Papas on IG to try it out for their own! I felt so moved when they shared their stories with us and how much fun they had being involved in the creation process. I really do feel that with globalization and modernization, we’ve forgotten how to use our hands and our minds together to really make and create something and feel that satisfaction that comes out of it 🙂

And that is why I love crafting so!

Mama J, who we worked together with on the project, has her own post up here if you want to have a look, too! But here are some projects from our friends who have been inspired to do the same –

Mama Jessica Koh @jesskoh3 on IG:

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Little @sophieleeze on IG:

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We’re so blessed to be part of a wonderful online and blogging community and I hope this continues for a long long time! If you’ve been waiting to take the plunge and start a DIY kitchen that is so much more meaningful than buying one off the rack, what are you waiting for? 🙂 Please share with me if you make your own, I can’t wait to see your creations!

Love,

Libby and Sophie Rose

I first wanted to get on this fun blog train back when I was a SAHM (Stay-at-Home-Mother), but by the time I got around to really signing up, I’d become a FTWM (Full-Time-Working-Mother) so the days I were planning to blog about back then are completely different right now!

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Because I don’t spend most of my weekdays at home and mostly am busy being chained to my desk from Monday to Friday, I decided to share a typical “Day in the Life” from our weekends, instead!

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This is practically all I get to see of Sophie-doll from Monday to Friday (in that mad rush early in the morning to get her bag packed, teeth brushed, bottom cleaned, and proper clothes on before we bundle out of the door in an unruly mess). It does make me sad that we have so little time together compared to when I was with her practically 24/7, but its the best we can do right now, given our economic considerations.

Weekends are super precious to me now that I’m back at work. Most weekdays, by the time I pick Sophie Rose up, she’s either sleepy or already passed out from running around at school and generally being a happy toddler. And since our lives basically revolve around Sophie-doll,  we don’t sleep in on Saturdays or Sundays (unless its rainy – no one can resist getting a few extra snoozes on weekend mornings, right?)

Most Saturday mornings, K and I make it a point to either prepare our own leisurely brunch or take Sophie out somewhere nice where we can just enjoy food and relax. Because we are still living a nomadic (read: refugee-esque) life while waiting for our new home to be ready, we don’t get many chances to cook for her – but I’ve been trying to do so at my brothers’ place, with my new super convenient and portable Bruno Hotplate!

 If breakfast is cooked by me, it’s almost inevitably pancakes – man does Sophie Rose love pancakes! Her favourites are hot fluffy matcha hotcakes which I top with whipped cream and rainbow jimmies/sprinkles. And since I got a Mickey Mouse pancake mold, that’s all she ever wants for breakfast on weekends. Here she is, grinning ear-to-ear after getting her Mickey Pancakes and even a little babyccino with marshmallows foamed up by her Papa!

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Once, my mother in law told her she wanted to bring her out on Saturday, and was met with resounding rejection – “No, Saturdays are Pancake Days with Mama and Papa!”.

For the adults, we’ll have normal round fluffy hotcakes, sausages, eggs and endless cups of our favourite muscat tea. And to me, it’s a lovely routine. After a whole week spent rushing around and exhausted, its great to just sit back and relax on Saturday mornings while catching up with my two favourite people in the world!

If we’re feeling a little more indulgent than usual, which is rare since our home renovations have ripped gigantic holes in our already tiny pockets, we head out for brunch. Brunch places we frequent include our neighborhood Cedele, where the staff all know Sophie by name and her favourite breakfast item (Double Berry Muffin, please, Auntie Doris, and can you make it warm?), if we’re feeling adventurous, House @ Dempsey, but very often you’ll find us at Stamping Grounds which is also a stone’s throw away with her BFF Sophie L and her Mama J!

With her BFF Sophie clinking Babyccinos at Stamping Grounds! We love their airy, bright space and super friendly and accommodating staff (fine, I’m biased, my sister did a stint there) and the best part is that Mamas can get a really good caffeine fix too! Highly recommend their cold brew with full fat, cold milk – its strong and punchy but also creamy and very smooth and gives you just the boost you need to take on the day ahead.

Their food (savoury and sweet) is also really decent. Our go-tos are the smashed avocado toast with a lovely wobbly sous vide egg, and their perfect waffles with ice cream and malty kinako powder + gula Melaka syrup. We’re often so full we skip lunch anyway!

If we’re feeling super lazy (and its often), there’s always the ever-reliable Maccers breakfast that never fails to be gobbled down by my greedy little munchkin ( now why she doesn’t show the same appreciation for spinach, I’ll never know!)

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On days with nice weather, the Maccers at Marine Cove is really lovely – especially if its not crowded. A nice cool sea breeze, hotcakes you don’t have to cook yourself, and a compliant child feeding herself – what’s not to like? We usually bring her for a quick walk or a spot of scooting just to walk off breakfast.

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Post brunch is, of course, a lovely nap (haha) before we head out to either go grocery shopping for the week or some social activity – there’s almost always a party, or an invite to an event we get every Saturday.

Two weeks ago, for instance, we headed out for a Halloween Party at Guthrie House after the lovely people at Cold Storage invited us for a fun-filled morning painting pumpkins!

Just look at our little Minions splattering paint all over their overalls! Mama J and were laughing non stop while freaking out and attacking them with wet wipes in the background!

If there’s nothing on, or the party/event ends early,  we try to head out to the beach in the evenings or even just to a park to relax and get back in touch with nature. It’s also the only day of the week we can really bring Benjy, our schnauzer, out for a good long walk and stretch 🙂 Now that we are practically next door to East Coast Park, we are much more motivated to head out.

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Sundays are more chilled out, with us usually too lazy to really do anything more than cereal and milk for breakfast. Its become something of a tradition – my husband and his plain, boring cornflakes (Special K, or really whatever is leftover), Sophie-Rose and her maple crunch or fav bitter chocolate Japanese cornflakes with creamy Hokkaido milk, and for me, my matcha granola (it’s fantastic) topped with the same icy milk.

It’s mostly free and easy after that – we just spent time around my in-laws’ house or inside our room reading or playing with Sophie. She’s pretty good at having her own fun, and we just love to watch how she uses her imagination to create scenarios and stories (fairytales) in her case, chattering away under her breath in her cute little high-pitched voice.

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“What are you up to, Soph?”
“I’m throwing a birthday tea party!”
“And what are you serving?”
“Macarons and matcha cake. I’m cutting up the matcha cake now!”

The highlight of ours and Sophie’s Sunday is her swim classes at Little Splashes Swim School.

Sophie-doll has been attending swim class at Little Splashes for almost a month now.
I think most of you may know that Sophie spent almost half a year in 2016 fighting bronchitis and lung infections. We were told to stay away from swimming pools and even cold or air-conditioned places because one quick breath of too-cold air could shock her lungs and cause an asthma attack.

We were so sad because she loves swimming and being in the water, but every time we brought her to the pool, she would be coughing by night time and back on the neb within a week. However since starting at little splashes, she’s been having such a wonderful and cough free time!

The pool is indoor, heated and mineral water, so the water temp is perfect for her, and the games and lessons are so fun and she’s getting very confident in the water – you can see from her wide smiles. Her Papa was very against me sending her in the beginning but now he is as excited as she is every week!

After her swimming lessons is downtime again for us (yes, we are low energy parents who need constant breaks) – we’ll head for church, have a leisurely dinner with my in laws, and then its early bedtime because the bub will be completely knackered. If K and I have the energy, we *might* pop open a bottle of moscato and a bag of gourmet chips and catch a movie … on his laptop. >.<

Yup, that’s my boring DIAL for you 🙂 We’ve been swamped with renovations so its going to be a while before we can really spend time at home or in my case, pursuing my crafting and other hobbies because everything is in storage. Its frustrating looking forward so much to our new home but knowing that everything needs more time – but patience is a virtue I am still learning to master!

I’ve been loving all the DIAL blog entries so far – thank you all for allowing me a peek into your wonderful lives and Mama J of “Mum in the Making” for organizing this 🙂

You can find us posting more frequently (and coherently) on Instagram @littlebowgirl and follow our home renovation journey using the hashtag #homewiththeteos – see you there too!

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Have a wonderful week ahead!

xx

Libby

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After becoming a Mama, I’ve discovered the existence of a language I never knew I could speak but apparently has been lying dormant at the tip of my tongue all these years.

Mamas, I bet you know what I’m talking about – how we instinctively say “Cover your Mouth and say Excuse Me!” when our bubbas cough or sneeze, or “Elbows off the table!” when they are being sloppy. The hundreds of times a day we remind them to eat their veggies or not put their fingers into their mouths.

Unfortunately, nagging is the reluctant “weapon” of choice for most Mamas, including myself. There’s nothing like repetition to get things to stick in the fickle minds of our toddlers. We’re living proof – just look at all of us parroting the exact same phrases our Moms used on us.

My point is – practice makes perfect, whether it’s minding your Ps and Qs, having good table manners, or practicing good hygiene.

So instead of always helping Sophie-doll clean up her toys and her play areas, I’ve recently started making her take a more pro-active role in keeping her toys and kitchens clean. I figure that she should take responsibility for the messes she makes as soon as she understands – and at 2.5 she most definitely understands what I mean when I tell her to pack her toys.

We’ve recently moved on to doing some simple cleaning – like when she spills her drink on the table or drops food on the floor. I started looking for a cleaning solution and cloth/cleaning pad for her to clear up her messes. Here, she’s seen clearing up peanut butter and jelly smeared on the marble countertops of her play-kitchen:

Unfortunately, most of the cleaning liquids available online and in-stores had harsh chemicals or cleaning agents which I felt were not gentle enough for her toddler skin and hands (she scrubs like a fiend). I needed something that was

  1. Foamy – because she LOVES foam and has no problems cleaning anything or washing her hands as long as there’s tons of frothy, creamy foam
  2. Gentle on hands – she’s just a toddler and some of the chemical ingredients on the cleaning liquids I found really horrified me.
  3. Effective – I tried to make my own cleaning liquid. It was runny and smelled awful. Enough said.
  4. Smelled good – because that’s just more fun, right?
  5. Kills germs – I mean, what’s the point in getting your toddler to clean up and then doing another round of disinfecting (don’t call Child Services, please!)
  1. And then again Our Lifestyle Shop had a solution for us. I tell you, since I saw it on Joanne’s blog I had been eagerly awaiting the day the Foaming Lemon Scented Cleanser & Disinfectant would be offered to us to try. And it’s been our go-to disinfecting and cleaning foam ever since Su placed the bottle in my trembling hands. I can’t even start to talk about how OLS has fed every single hygiene obsessed and OCD bone in my body and kept me sane.

I would literally drive my husband crazy in the supermarket staring at labels and getting frustrated about the lack of eco-friendly and baby safe household products in my life. I have exploded in anger when he came home with a horrible bottle of CIF that is so toxic it can burn through the first layer of my skin. People who don’t have sensitive skin and a nose which is allergic to basically everything will never understand my life.

But I digress.

This Foaming Lemon Scented Cleaner & Disinfectant is my desperate housewife dream come true. I use it together with Be Sanitized and its cut my work down by 80% at least but achieved a much cleaner effect, with minimal carbon footprint to boot. Here’s Cinderella at work, already displaying the same OCD genes as her mother:

Basically, as I shared in this post, when I’m in a rush, I disinfect her toys using Be Sanitized and give it a quick wipe. But for bigger and grosser messes, the Foaming Lemon Scented Cleaner & Disinfectant is much better – you get the feeling that you are REALLY cleaning and disinfecting and the fresh lemon smell that’s left is divine (I am part of the generation conditioned and raised to believe something is only clean if it smells like a citrus fruit).

Yes, I am raising a Stepford Wife but hey, no one forced her to pick up the cleaning pad and start wiping. She absolutely did that automatically. I’m rearing a responsible child who knows that the first and possibly best gift you can give society and parents is to learn to clean up after yourself (this is completely tongue in cheek).

Here’s what else it’s great for:

  1. Wiping funky toilet seats. Yes, the can is large but I will gladly tote it around. Especially since I’m toilet training Sophie Rose, I need to make sure the seat is clean enough for her tender bottom.
  2. Vomit. I basically spray the foam on top of the vomit to mask the smell and because it actually makes it easier to wipe up. After that, another spray and wipe completely eradicates the foul smell and gives your floor a good disinfecting.
  3. Wiping toys which have physical dirt – the dirt comes right off and the foam, unlike gel or cream, really gets into the nooks and crannies and then because it’s so light, its super easy to wipe of – you don’t have to get cotton buds or little tools to make sure you’ve wiped everything off. The residue will just evaporate by itself and its absolutely safe for your bub even if you don’t manage to get every single bit of foam off.

But really, if you’re wondering how to even get your toddler started, here are some of my tips which worked great for us.

  1. Start ’em young – Teaching responsibility has been something I’ve enforced since she was a much smaller baby. It starts as simply as guiding her to put her toys back into her storage bins, and slowly moves into allowing her to do it herself.
  2. Praise: I can’t emphasize on this enough. Toddlers need that recognition and that warm glow of approval from their parents. It adds positivity and prevents cleaning or washing up from turning into a boring old chore. Showing them some appreciation for helping out and being part of a team sets the right tone and a great, positive association to the activity.
  3. Make it fun. I don’t just watch and let her do it on her own. We started off wiping up together, while singing a “clean up” song (Barney has a good one) or even getting a little competitive to see who can get the stain off first. Making it fun for Sophie means she’s glad to do it over and over again.
  4. Showing her that if she doesn’t do the cleaning up, someone else has to do it and that’s not nice at all. I’m a firm believer in consequences. When we go out, I show her how if she makes a mess someone else has to clear up or that she’s troubling another person, and that’s selfish and inconsiderate.
  5. And, of course, by buying the right equipment and tools to get her started  in the first place!

Our Lifestyle Shop’s products have found a Permanent Home in our place and will continue to do so when I move into our new home and have to do all the cleaning by myself again (I’ve been growing fat at my in-laws’ just lying around and not needing to do any cleaning. Oh the joys of being a (semi) dependent!

What I really like about all the products I have endorsed are that they are so well chosen and made with a modern Mama in mind.

  • They are intuitive – from being able to be sprayed upside down to having just enough air pressure to ensure an even (and efficient) distribution of product, the attention to detail and to being user-friendly makes me happy the way Japanese products do. You feel like the people who created the product really kept the end-user (myself) in mind and it just makes life so much easier.
  • The eco-friendliness and also baby-safe quality of the product – Trust is everything. And their products have never let me down. Since starting to use KONK at home my daughter has never had another terrible bout with mozzie bites that she’s allergic to. I have peace of mind knowing that they are safe for her to use and that we are a socially responsible household.
  • The people behind the company are sincere – they are engaging, understand our needs and curate the products carefully so by the time it reaches you that you basically don’t have to worry about anything.

There you have it. I never endorse products I don’t believe in 100% myself – and that I haven’t already tried in my own home. To be completely frank, I’ve been approached by several other brands offering similar products and monetary compensation to boot but I’ve not compromised because there were issues about their products which I would not feel comfortable to use in my own home and therefore would never recommend to my readers in turn.

The Foaming Lemon Scented Cleaner & Disinfectant is available now for $45.90 at Our Lifestyle Shop and you can quote “FANOFLBG” for a 5% discount!

🙂 I was given a can to try in return for an honest and unbiased review. No monetary compensation was received.

Tell me how it works for you!

xx

Libby

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About two weeks back, we were invited for Pororo Park’s Bloggers Family Day! 🙂

(Thank you Liang May for linking us up!)

Although Sophie’s exposure to Pororo is limited to the half hour episodes I let her watch maybe twice a week, we had no problems pysching her up for a day full of fun the night before – and she was especially excited to go because we were going together with her BFF Sophie L, Auntie Jo and Uncle J !

Pororo Park is an indoor, airconditioned theme park at Marina Square that’s been hugely popular since its opening earlier this year. I’ve always wanted to bring Sophie-doll but never got around to doing it, so the invite came at a great time.

And then we realized we should have brought the girls earlier, because they absolutely had a smashing time at the park thanks to the very fun and action packed day the Pororo Park people had planned out for us.

The moment we were sanitized and allowed in (please bring a pair of clean socks, for both parents and kids) the girls were running off to get on the Pororo Express!

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These two rascals went on the ride not once but THREE TIMES and Mama J and I had to practically drag them off the train. Luckily we were quite early and there wasn’t a queue!

The Pororo Express runs on a simple track and makes a round around the famous snowy scenes from the cartoon and even very small children can take it without adult supervision. Look at how happy they were to see their Papa’s waving to them from outside!

For me, the ball pit was a highlight! Just look at that huge ball pit just waiting to be dived into! If I was a kid I would be jumping headfirst into that. Unfortunately, my little scaredy cat freaked out the moment she saw the shark and was only willing to stay in for a few minutes. I like that the ball pool is very well padded and safe for kids who like to tumble and lunge around the pool.

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And then there’s Poby’s Play Gym, a vibrantly rainbow colored padded play gym with all kinds of climbing slopes and slides perfect for the most active of children. Which is why, of course, my toddler spent the most time in there, with her Daddy chasing after her harriedly lest she take a tumble (don’t worry, its all very well padded and safe!)

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Sophie Rose’s favourite activity of the day was the live Pororo and Friends performance at Tong Tong’s Little Theatre.

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It was pretty dark inside and I didn’t want to use my flash so to see how much she enjoyed the performance and coming up close and personal to Pororo (she was stunned for a bit, then danced along excitedly) watch my video at the end of this post!

The songs they performed (especially about veggies and healthy food) were funny, easy to sing along to and very catchy! Sophie just loves live performances and dances so she was one of the few right up front shaking her bon bon much to her Papa’s amusement!

The second hands-on activity which she also enjoyed immensely was the Under the Sea activity, also in the theatre. The young crew was very enthusiastic, engaging and very good with the kids!

They were encourage to touch and feel the sea creatures on the mat, sing along, interact with the other children, and more! There’s a clip of her dancing along to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, also in our summary video at the end! It was so lovely to watch her in her element, socializing and learning without needing us to be right next to her.

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Food-wise, while Marina Square has a ton of food options, the little Pororo Cafe within the premises is pretty good, too! They have cute little kids meals both sweet and savoury done up cutely to entice picky eaters as well as Korean food for the grown ups. The eating area is large and airy and overlooks most of the park so parents can keep an eye on their children even when enjoying lunch!

Look how excited she was to tuck into her Pororo and Loopy Chocolate Soymilk!

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 Here’s why you should check out Pororo Park, too!

  • There’s a little bit of everything for everyone. Its hard to find a theme park in Singapore that caters to toddlers and slightly older kids but Pororo Park has activities, classes and games which are suitable for kids aged 1 to about 6 in my opinion. You can easily have a day full of fun fly by on the weekends!
  • There’s a good mix of things to do, the train, the ball pit, Poby’s Play Gym, and theatre performances means your active toddler will be kept suitably occupied.
  • Staff are helpful and watchful
  • Premises are kept very clean and the full glass panel side windows means there’s quite a lot of sunlight coming in, instead of slightly claustrophic indoor playgrounds.
  • Air-conditioning means no sweaty meltdowns from overheated kids!
  • The space is very well utilized and the park looks spacious despite being located in a shopping mall
  • The cafe caters to adults too! I want to go back and try to fried Korean rice cakes and the japchae while K (hopefully) runs after Sophie !

 

K and I were absolutely knackered by mid afternoon when we left, but Sophie was still going on and on about Pororo and humming the theme song in the car! Looks like we have a new Pororo fan in this family!

Pororo Park Singapore
Address: 6 Raffles Boulevard, Marina Square, #02-29, Singapore 039594

You can also find out more about Pororo Park on Instagram @pororoparksg

Thanks for having us and organizing such a wonderful day, Team Pororo!

xx
Libby