Indoor Play & Activities: Recap of September 2018

September has brought about a stretch of dry weather in Hong Kong, so the Dumpling and I have been spending most of our afternoons outdoor. For the days that we stayed in, our activities have centered around reviewing the Chinese words that she’s been learning at school, celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, and discussing the aftermath of the typhoon that hit our city midway through the month.

Learning Chinese 

Ever since the Dumpling started kindergarten, I wanted to increase her exposure to Mandarin at home to reinforce what she’s learning at school. I tried reading Chinese children’s stories with her, but the words sounded so foreign that she exasperatingly asked, “Mommy, what are you saying?!” When I switched the language of her Netflix shows from English to Chinese, it solicited such a visceral reaction that I quickly reverted everything to its original state.

Eventually I backed off…until one day, out of nowhere, she muttered her first Mandarin words at home. At first it was counting to five, then to ten, and now a few words and broken phrases. She was so proud of herself at times that she wouldn’t shut up! I quickly capitalized on her newfound interest by creating several puzzles to further engage her through play.

Chinese and Arabic Number Puzzle Match

Click here to download.

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I created this puzzle to help the Dumpling recognize Chinese numbers and associate them with their Arabic counterparts.
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Directions: Glue each printout to a piece of cardboard. Carefully cut out the puzzle pieces with an X-Acto knife. Finally (and optionally) cut a semi-circle at the bottom of each piece so that it’s easier to pull off from the puzzle board.

Self-Correcting Chinese Vocabulary Puzzle

(Sorry, folks—because I used stock illustrations* to make this puzzle, I do not have the license to re-distribute this as a printable.)

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The Chinese characters used in the puzzle correlate with the vocabulary words the Dumpling is learning at school. I don’t expect her to read yet, so I just sound out each character as we match the pieces.

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* Some illustrations used in this puzzle were stock illustrations downloaded from Feepik.

Chinese Color Match Memory Game

Click here to download.

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To play, lay the pieces with their backsides facing up. Flip over two pieces on each turn with the goal of finding two matching colors in as few moves as possible. Again, I don’t expect the Dumpling to read just yet; I just say the colors aloud as we play. We initially started playing with only two colors and have currently built up to six.
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Directions: Make two copies of the printable, glue the sheets onto pieces of cardboard, and cut out each color circle.

Celebrating Mid-Autumn Moon Festival

The Dumpling and I experimented with different methods of making lanterns throughout September. Details can be found here.

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Dealing with the Aftermath of Typhoon Mangkhut

Typhoon Mangkut was supposedly the fiercest storm to hit Hong Kong in the last 30 years. For a few hours, our windows and door shook violently and rainwater leaked in non-stop.

The next morning, the Dumpling and I ventured outside to assess the damages. There were lots of downed trees and foliage as expected, but to our surprise there were also shattered seashells outside our flat! We live less than a quarter of a mile away from the beach, but we are also situated on a hill approximately 80 feet above sea level so these seashells were a long way from home. The Dumpling and I managed to find several intact ones which we brought home and painted.

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Our souvenirs from the typhoon.

Mid-Autumn Moon Festival Lanterns

One of the biggest holidays in Hong Kong (and many Asian countries) is the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival—the night where the moon supposedly is at its fullest and brightest. Although I didn’t bring the Dumpling to the beach for the local lantern lighting event, we did make our own lanterns throughout the month leading up to the festival. The best part was lighting them up at night with my phone’s flashlight!

“Stained Glass” Lantern

Out of all the lanterns, this was our favorite because of the colorful light shadows it casted.

IMG_8334.jpgTo create the translucent paint, we mixed one drop of gel food coloring with four tablespoons of Elmer’s glue for each desired color. The Dumpling painted the mixture onto four square transparency sheets.

Once the sheets dried, I taped them together to form the sides of a cube. I also added a cardboard base to the bottom so it could hold my phone. We experimented with shining the light from different angles and were rewarded with so many colors!

City Skyline Lantern

Using a stock image of the Hong Kong skyline, I laid the printout on top of a cardboard box and traced the outline by puncturing it with a pin. The Dumpling and I then applied a nice coat of watercolor onto the boxl. The lantern actually looked like a miniature version of the city’s skyline once lit!

Paper Mache Rabbit Lantern

The Dumpling had been practicing cutting with scissors, so we had a huge pile of paper strips that was perfect for making paper mache. We used a plastic bowl as the mold and glued on cut-outs of a rabbit’s eyes, nose, ears, and whiskers once the paper mache dried.

Why a rabbit? Because according to Chinese folklore, the shadows on the moon actually belongs to that of a bunny pharmacist living up there!

Mooncake Lanterns

The Dumpling and I colored in these mooncake templates I found online—we ended up with so many that I glued together a few cutouts to make lanterns.

Happy Mid-Autumn Moon!

This was the only picture I snapped of the full moon. I was in such a rush that I didn’t realize half the moon was covered by clouds until I got home!

DIY Party Doesn’t Mean Doing EVERYTHING Yourself

A nice thing about throwing a party for my two year old is that the Dumpling is still too young to realize that the festivities are for her. That meant I had 100% say in the theme and got to live vicariously through my daughter. The result was a mint green, pink, and gold celebration that I would have liked if I were two going on 32.

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The Dumpling’s mint green, pink, and gold party!

I love making my own party decorations because I can customize every detail on a budget. But I sometimes take the DIY aspect a bit too far—to a point where I thought “doing it yourself” meant doing everything yourself. For example, I was so stressed planning the Dumpling’s first birthday party last year that I had anxiety attacks (and poor jigg was on the receiving end of most of them) because I was pressed for time.

To ensure that I enjoyed every moment of my party crafting this year, I made a list of everything that needed to be done, took on only the projects that I wanted, and sought help for everything else—tasks that I didn’t want to do, am not good at, or were time-consuming and didn’t provide value. While I gained convenience and time at the expense of higher costs, the trade off made sense given my hectic schedule.

Have Someone Else Do the Set Up and Clean Up

On the top of my list was renting a venue because after hours of prepping followed by several more of hosting, the last thing I wanted to do was cleaning. We rented out Good Day Play Cafe, an indoor playroom that was perfect entertainment for our little guests and parents. Their tiered party packages and a la carte options offer a variety of services across different price ranges. The staff was phenomenal and helped with the set up, provided food for the kiddos, and of course, the clean up.

Playroom at Good Day Play Cafe.
The staff helped set up and provided fun table cloths and utensils to match my theme.

Budget friendly thought: Host the party at home and hire cleaners to come afterwards.

Delegate Your Weakness

My strength is in design, not baking. When it came you dessert, I was more than happy to seek professional help rather than spend time learning to bake and sculpt gum paste (and worry whether my creations would be edible).

By chance, I was browsing through Instagram three days before the party when I saw my  my friend’s gorgeous dessert creations and immediately fell in love. I gave her free reign on the design and was ecstatic with the results! One of the beauty of hiring a professional is that she knows what she’s doing and didn’t need much guidance from me.

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Custom handcrafted green, pink and gold cupcakes to match my party decorations
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Add personalized banners and flags to cupcakes for a custom look.

Budget friendly thought: Decorate plain cakes or cupcakes with personalized banners and flags.

Use Pre-Made Decorations

How housewives felt about instant cake mixes back when the product first came to market was how I initially felt about pre-made party decorations: it’s cheating. Then I realized that I didn’t want to spend hours cutting up tissue paper, so I bought a pre-made (but unassembled) party kit from Amazon that came with tassels, decorative straws, and pom pom.

Budget friendly thought: Amazon offers a variation of what is included in their party kits, so explore their sets rather than buying pieces individually.

Focus on the Fun Part!

Delegating out certain tasks freed up more time for me to focus on designing.

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Invitation to the Dumpling’s Birthday and Halloween play date. 
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I realized after the party that I forgot to make a banner with her name. Oops.
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Flags and pom pom wands.
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Favor bags for the little guests.

Remember that Time is Valuable!

People often asked me where I found the time to throw a DIY party as a full time working mom. If there’s one thing motherhood has taught me, it’s time management. When “free time” is scarce, I made sure the it was used efficiently by focusing on my strengths and what made me happy; everything else was a distraction. Crafting is supposed to be fun and therapeutic and I intend to keep it that way!

My Halloween Mommy Fails

Halloween was never a big deal in my family while I was growing up, so I’m having a tough time being a spook-tacular mommy. My attempts in doing a few Halloween activities with the Dumpling didn’t end quite well, but that’s parenthood! You win some and lose some.

I thought the costume just ran small
I bought a Tigger costume for the Dumpling back in September and never took it out of the bag until this weekend. When jigg was trying to put the outfit on our daughter, he called me over because he was unable to button the bottom of her one-sie. I looked at the size on the hanger again, which read 12-18 months. Odd…it should have fit the Dumpling perfectly since she’s on the tiny side.

It was too late to pick up another costume, so we improvised by leaving the bottom flaps unbuttoned and tucking them into a pair of brown tights we found in the Dumpling’s closet. Other than the sleeves looking a bit short, we couldn’t tell that anything was off.

Fast forward to later that night when I was taking off the Dumpling’s clothes for her bath…and saw the tag label that was sewn onto her costume; it read 3-6 months.

I made pumpkin decoration boring
Three days before Halloween, I realized that I needed to put up a pumpkin. I had zero intentions of carving it because de-seeding is too much work. My plan was to stick pom poms on as a mess-free activity.

The problem was that I didn’t have pom poms. After a bit of improvising I made a few dozen by breaking apart a cotton ball and reassembling them into smaller ones. I wrote”BOO” on the pumpkin with a glue stick and asked the Dumpling to help me stick the “pom poms” on. It was a fail-proof in my mind because it really didn’t matter where she aimed; the cotton would only stick to where the glue was applied.

The Dumpling was not impressed; she did one and wanted nothing to do with the pumpkin decoration afterwards.

The Dumpling can’t have her cookie and eat it too
My local bakery sold un-decorated Halloween cookies that came with a “paint palette” the kids can color in themselves. This activity, I assumed, would be a guaranteed hit with the Dumpling because she loves to paint and eat!

Unfortunately the Dumpling thought she was going to paint and eat the cookie at the same time. Waterworks ensued when I explained the sequence of events again, but she assumed I was being the evilest mom in the world: dangle a treat and won’t let her have it.

I had to bribe her with animal crackers before she willingly picked up the paint brush. I guess she got her cookie and ate it too.

My decoration looks almost Christmas-y
I dug out two old “ghost” night lights from Ikea to set the spooky mood. The lights were green and red and way too cute.

Finally a win with the “Cheerios Halloween Play Book”

Grandma saved the day by bringing over a fun Halloween-themed Cheerios Play Book. The premise was to fill any missing graphics with Cheerios. We had a lot of fun finding the missing “O”s, counting, and building up the Dumpling’s Halloween vocabulary words.

Finally there was an activity with instant gratification where the Dumpling can eat and do at the same time.