Best educational DVDs

I’m generally not a big advocate of DVDs because, well its a bit of an unnatural way to learn. And, as the Daddy says, most are really boring. If we adults find it boring, what makes us think that the children will like it? But because I appreciate how hard it is for the grandpa to spend the whole day alone at home with a toddler and sometimes he just needs time to heat milk or heat porridge, I’ve bought some DVDs.

We have baby genius (really for babies, if at all), my baby can read (flashcard style video), brainy baby (more interesting than plain flashcard style videos but no storyline), baby mozart in the baby einstein series (really for babies but the more advanced ones could be better), Hi-Five (like normal adults I find them rather irritating. Sophia likes watching but I can’t say she’s learnt anything from it), Thomas (Sophia is not finding the story very engaging at the moment), but mummy and baby’s favourite of them all is….. LEAPFROG.

Yep, I really do love the leapfrog dvds. Sophia learnt all her alphabet and phonics from the DVDs and may even have learnt to count from it. She also recognizes concepts like school (she says “I go to school” when she sees Leap carrying a schoolbag). At the toddler stage I would say Leapfrog seems like the best among all the DVDs that I’ve tried.  Of course, the other DVDs could be more suitable / engaging at a different stage, e.g. my baby can read or the baby ones could be more stimulating for babies and the ones with more complex storylines may be more suitable for older children. I guess there’s no way of knowing which is the best till you try but my recommendation to parents who don’t mind a bit of tv for your toddlers is try leapfrog.

Balloonimals

Sophia’s favourite app at the moment. Which I’m a bit bummed about since I went to BUY Peekaboo Wild and the full version of Peekaboo Barn after she seemed to like it but she decided she’s not so keen on it after all. Thought the Peekaboo series was more educational as well, pfft.

Anyway, these days my phone’s camera roll is filled with pictures like these:

 

The beauty of the app is that its so simple a very young toddler can manage. It starts with an uninflated balloon which you inflate by blowing into the phone’s mic. Sophia makes her octopus lips and goes near the mic saying “fffff” but somehow it doesn’t work so I have to do the blowing for her. Afterwards, she shakes the phone and the balloon slowly folds into a dragon. Tap on the dragon and it roars (or as Sophia says “wor”) and stomps its foot. Tap the camera symbol and it takes a photo of the dragon against a backdrop and saves a copy on the phone’s camera roll (which I would prefer it didn’t but perhaps the app developers had the foresight to realise that it would enable bloggers like me to write a glowing review of the app.

My iPhone is definitely getting more and more attractive for Sophia. She doesn’t know my keylock password yet but once I unlock it she’s perfectly proficient in navigating. And she can differentiate between my iPhone (navigate left and right) and my aunt’s HTC Android (navigate up and down). The Android is clearly harder for her because she often grabs our fingers towards the phone, which is her way of saying help me. Except nobody knows that she wants us to help her with, which is a bit of a problem.

Anyway, the point is , balloonimals is free for trial and pretty good for car trips. Highly recommended.

The phone nanny

That’s not someone you call for childcare advice. That’s a mobile phone that doubles up as a nanny. Actually make that every phone. Toss a phone to a child and he/she will fiddle with it for seemingly forever. A toy one won’t do, forget about trying, I’ve already done that experiment for you. Only the real thing with the bright LCD screen and crisp ringtones will do. Even a land line phone is fine, just don’t fob the child off with fake stuff.

I know its bad. I know I should limit the time Sophia spends with my phone but seeing as how she always wants it once its in her sight, she would end up getting her way at least once a day and she inevitably plays with the peek-a-boo barn app, which is her current favourite. In a bid to make the experience at least vaguely educational for her, I’ve gone on to download peek-a-boo wild as well, at least she learns about animals and the sounds they make. The flashcards and phoenics ones unfortunately she’s not too keen on at the moment.

Next step is probably to rip the educational DVDs onto the phone. I hope I’m not going down the slippery slope of becoming the irresponsible mum who just tosses her phone to the child when the child is bored. But sometimes, just sometimes, the phone is a lifesaver, such as when we are stuck on a car, or when she is screaming in a restaurant. Unfortunately life is not a hollywood movie and sometimes, when its not going all that well, even mums must surely be allowed to cut some corners.

My rather special iPhone case

I often get questions about my iPhone case, even the owner of the restaurant I went to today (a guy) asked me whether that was a photo of my girl on the cover and where I got it. So thought I’ll spread the gospel. Here’s where I bought it from: http://list.gmarket.com.sg/gmkt.inc/Goods/Goods.aspx?goodscode=403924881 I received the item within a very short time, definitely less than a week from sending the jpec picture of my girl. The quality was rather good, it stood up to the rough handling of my girl (so far) and has a rather convenient magnetic snap closing. No problems with charging (though the flap needs to be open but still better than some other models where the cover has to be completely removed). No problems with taking photos with the cover on. I have no affiliations and have received no benefit whatsoever from the seller though given the number of recommendations I’ve given about them so far they really should compensate me!

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And which mum is not in need of more sleep?

More about my new toy today, sorry.

Like most mothers out there, I’m in a constant state of anything between mild to severe sleep deprivation, and it doesn’t help that, for some reason, 7am (which is the time Sophia wakes up in the morning) seems to be the time when I tend to be in my deepest sleep. Or so it seems because I always get up feeling like I really don’t have enough energy to get through the day. I remember the luxury of sleeping till I wake naturally from my pre-baby days and sleep cycle seems to promise a similar experience.

The idea is that the app makes use of apple’s accelerometer to detect movements in the mattress when one sleeps (hence it won’t work with tempur mattress, which is testiment to how great that mattress is as a shock absorber and if you are a light sleeper and have a partner who moves a lot, you know which mattress to get). The idea being that in deep sleep, motor signals are blocked and “sleep paralysis” occurs, whereas in lighter sleep more movement will be detected.

The user will have to set a 30 minute timeframe within which the app will pick the best time to sound the alarm. Upon hearing this the hubby said that this is ridiculous since if it sounded the alarm at the beginning of the 30 min period he would have been deprived of an extra 30 minutes of sleep and ended his appraisal of the app (without having tried it) with “this is the kind of app that venture capitalists will reject outright”. Clear sign that he has been studying too much and filling his brain with too much theory from his MBA course because I bought it and so did about 35,000 others. Its no secret that I’m a cheapskate, at least when it comes to myself. I’m generous enough to people around me (I hope) but always think twice before spending on myself. So when I search for apps to download on my phone, the search parameters tend to be things like “best free apps”. But as all mothers know, sleep is important so when I read the rave reviews about sleep cycle, and fantasized about being woken up in such a way that I feel as if I’m already awake, the app just reminded me of it, I was willing to shell out was willing to shell out a whopping $0.99 for it. Ok, not a big sum but remember, I’m a cheapskate and it is the only paid app on my phone other than watsapp.

There are rumours that the app is a fake but I doubt it judging by the tens of thousands of rave reviews and my one experience after just one night. The claims are that the app just generates fake graphs even if it is placed on a flat surface like a table and sounds the alarm at roughly the 25 minute mark. Any experience of waking up more refreshed is merely placebo effect. However, looking at the graph generated last night, it accurately pinpointed a point when I was fully awake, woken up by an unexplained stomach cramp. The timing was spot on – 4am. Other reviewers also said the app helped them identify patterns such as habits that enable them to have better sleep quality.

However, my big gripe is, the app woke me up from deep sleep??! It admitted so in the graph of my sleep pattern last night. I read some reviews that say it takes the app a few nights to analyse the user’s sleep pattern and hence be better able to pick the best time. I hope that is true!

Will update whether this is truly a lifesaver or just another interesting gimmick.