## Odd and Even Numbers Magnetic Game

WARNING: This activity uses small magnets, which can pose a serious choking hazard. If swallowed, they can cause serious injuries and even death. Adult supervision is required.

I made a self correcting game to help the Dumpling identify odd and even numbers using upcycled bottle caps and magnets.

While the game was designed to help her memorize odd and even numbers, it was also important that we discussed what the concept means. I explained that an even number is like when everyone buddies up and has another person to play with. When there is an odd number, however, there will always be someone who is by himself — the odd person out. We were eating breakfast during this math lesson, so I visually demonstrated with a handful of Cheerios on the table and grouped them in pairs to determine whether there was an even/odd number. Once she understood that, I told her the shortcut was just to memorize which numbers are odd and even…and mommy made a game for it!

Materials

• Flat magnets (12x): Need to be small enough to fit in the inside of the bottle caps. I purchased mine at a local craft shop; similar ones can be found on Amazon.
• Bottle caps (12x)
• Strong tape
• Sharpie

Label the bottle caps “0”, “1”, “2”, “3”, “4”, “5”, “6”, “7”, “8”, “9”, “odd” and “even” with a sharpie.

Arrange six magnets with the positive side facing up and six with the negative side facing up. To do so, first stack all 12 magnets together. Next, pull apart six so that you have two stacks. Then, flip one of the stacks over. Now you have one stack that is positive and one that is negative.

Take one of the stacks and separate each magnet about an inch apart — let’s call this Group A.

Do the same thing with the second stack — this is Group B.

Secure magnets onto the insides of the caps with strong tape. Bottle caps labeled “1”, “3”, “5”, “7”, “9” and “even” (yes, “even”) get Group A magnets. Bottle caps labeled “0”, “2”, “4”, “6”, “8”, and “odd” get Group B magnets. Make sure the magnets are securely attached though, because the attraction can be strong enough to pull the magnets and tape off!

Hover the caps labeled with “odd” and “even” over the numbers and watch as they either attract or repel each other. Please note that the “odd” and “even” caps need to be held with the text facing down — meaning the inside of the cap faces up.

## Learning Chinese Alongside My Toddler

I did not think it would happen so soon — the Dumpling is now learning Chinese words in school that is beyond my elementary knowledge of the language. Frankly my exact reaction when I saw her second semester vocabulary list was “WTF?!”

Semester 1 vocabulary list: 大, 小, 人, 口, 月, 手, 貓, 狗, 魚, 車, 門, 山, 男, 女

Semester 2 vocabulary list: 花朵, 青草, 杯子, 新年, 米飯, 牛奶, 兔子, 樹木, 刷牙, 洗手, 雨天, 跑步, 打球, 游泳, 爸爸, 媽媽

While she is not expected to write at three years old, her current curriculum requires her to recognize characters. Feedback from the school’s initial progress report stated that she “needs more practice”.

I dislike the competitiveness, methods, and intensity of the Hong Kong school education system (her current kindergarten is actually considered lax by local standards), so I am unwilling to deploy any tiger parenting tactics that would add additional pressure. That means I do not intend to enroll her in after-school tutoring or various extra-curricular courses so she can “get ahead.” I believe that learning at her age should be done seamlessly through play; anything extra should be purely based on her interest level. For example, I will only sign the Dumpling up for additional classes because it is an activity she loves to do—not something I want her to learn.

My challenge, therefore, is integrating Mandarin into our daily routine without making the process feel like a “lesson.” Despite living in Hong Kong, English is the primary and dominant language in both our household and expat community, so Mandarin is actually a very foreign sound. In order to do that, however, I first have to learn the words myself. Google Translate has been my BFF, and I have been practicing the activities below alongside the Dumpling (and pretending like I know what I am talking about).

Flash Cards

I made flash cards and taped them on relevant or highly visible places around the house. For example, 花朵 (flower) was taped right next to my vase of flowers and 牛奶 (milk) was taped on the fridge. Sometime we would play a “scavenger hunt” for the words or we just pointed to them as we went about our day. Those few seconds of daily exposure added up — by mid-semester, the Dumpling’s progress report improved to a “well done!”

Coloring Sheets

I made coloring pages of her vocabulary words in PowerPoint, which can be done with just a few clicks!

Instead of using just markers and crayons, below are few ideas to keep the activity fresh by “coloring” with different materials.

• 花朵, 青草, 樹木: Scavenge for small flowers, grass, and branches to glue onto the characters
• 米飯: Glue rice (I dyed mine with food coloring)
• 兔子: Glue cotton balls or white pom poms
• 刷牙: Paint with toothpaste (preferable a colored one) on with an old toothbrush
• 洗手: Paint with colored foam soap/shaving cream
• 雨天: Draw raindrops with white crayon and paint over with blue watercolor (wax resist)

Below are a few other learn-through-play activities I have done with the Dumpling in the past:

Self Correcting Puzzle with Vocabulary Words

The Chinese characters used in the puzzle correlate with the vocabulary words from her Semester 1 vocabulary list.

I created this puzzle to help the Dumpling recognize Chinese numbers and associate them with their Arabic counterparts.

This was another puzzle to help the Dumpling get familiarize with Chinese numbers. When we first started the activity, the Dumpling actually lacked the coordination and strength to pinch the clothing pins open, so clipping them on became an exercise in itself.

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 do not expect the Dumpling to read just yet; I just say the colors aloud as we play. We initially started with only two colors and have currently built up to six.

## 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

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.)

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

Chinese Color Match Memory Game

Celebrating Mid-Autumn Moon Festival

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

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.

## Make a Doggy Layer Puzzle

These were the instructions that someone once used to teach me how to draw a dog:

My ten year old self thought it was the most awesome drawing tutorial ever! Actually, it’s still awesome because it’s the same set of instructions I give myself whenever I draw a dog today…which is often since it’s a regular request from the Dumpling.

I wanted to share the story with my toddler because this wisdom must be passed on to future generations! Having been tinkering with layer art recently, I thought making a layer puzzle would be a fun way to get her involved.

Materials

• Printable template
• X-Acto knife
• Scissors
• Seven sheets of cardstocks (Color choices are based on preference; I used black, beige, blue, white (2), light brown, brown)

Instructions:

Step 1: Print the template onto the cardstocks.

• Black: Layer 1 (Please note that I just hand wrote the title in with a marker.)
• Beige: Layer 2
• Blue: Layer 3
• White: Layer 4
• Brown: Layer 5
• Light brown: Layer 6
• White: Layer 7

Step 2: Use an X-Acto knife to cut out the shaded areas. I’m not that dexterous so I used scissors to clean up the frays and trimmed off any borders peeping from the previous layer(s).

Step 3: Layer the cutouts in numerical order and share the story! I also numbered the sheets so that the Dumpling can solve the puzzle on her own by applying her number sequence knowledge.

## The Dumpling’s First School Interview

“Thank you for your enrollment application for our Kindergarten. We would like to invite you and Remy to school to meet with one of our teachers. It will be a good opportunity for parents to have a further understanding of the school and a chance for us to get to know your child.”

The Dumpling got invited for a school interview, but my initial excitement upon receiving this email was quickly replaced by bewilderment—mostly wondering what on earth would they ask a two year old?!

Friends and family have warned me before my relocation to Hong Kong that its education system is extremely competitive, but I shrugged it off. While enrolling her into a decent school is a priority, enrolling her into the best school isn’t. It was never my intention to leave the education, discipline, and upbringing of my child solely in the hands of teachers; being a supportive and involved parent is just as important. This may also be an unpopular opinion in Hong Kong, but I don’t believe that academics is the golden ticket to success…good grades can only get you so far in life.

The primary reason why I want to get her in ASAP is so she can develop social skills with other kids, a lesson that I will never be able to provide.

(And so I can catch a break everyday.)

I received the invitation last Thursday. The meeting was scheduled for this past Monday. Prepping the Dumpling did cross my mind, but I decided against it. I didn’t even bother Googling what these interviews are like… it’s not like we can cram or pull all-nighters together. If there was something she couldn’t learn in the last 26 months of her life, I doubt four days would be a game changer.

On the morning of the big day, I dressed her in a cute pink floral outfit, gave her a cookie (as a bribe to be a good girl), and off we went.

Upon arrival, the school receptionist asked what the Dumpling’s primary language is. When I replied that she understands both Cantonese and English, a Cantonese teacher greeted us and started conversing with my daughter.

We had a lackluster start because the Dumpling wasn’t very responsive. When she did speak, it was in English. The teacher then suggested meeting with the English teacher instead. At that moment, I realized how important answering the language preference question was on the application. Maybe it was because I was there instead of jigg since the Dumpling prefers to speak English with me and Cantonese with her dad.

The English teacher then brought us to an office, a type of room where I imagined a kid would go to when he/she gets in trouble. She had a box of materials such as color pencils, books, toys, stickers, paper, etc. The set up looked serious.

Object Recognition

The teacher first took out an ABCs book and asked the Dumpling to name the fruits, objects, and animals on each page. The Dumpling flew through each one since the pictures were typical ones found in most children’s books.

Color Recognition

Next the teacher gave the Dumpling a piece of paper, took out a set of color pencils, and handed them to the Dumpling one by one. As the Dumpling scribbled, the teacher asked her to name the colors: red, orange, yellow, blue, green, purple, pink, brown, purple, and black.

We had one hiccup; there wasn’t a white pencil so the teacher pointed to the paper and asked what the color of the paper is. The Dumpling misinterpreted and started doodling on the spot that the teacher pointed to. After two more attempts, the teacher moved on. I understood why the Dumpling was confused, but held my tongue since I didn’t want to come off as a helicopter mom.

Number Recognition

For the following exercise, the teacher shuffled a set of flashcards with 1 through 10 and asked the Dumpling to read the numbers. She breezed through them since we just finished number recognition recently.

Shape Recognition

Flashcards of various shapes were presented for identification. The Dumpling got every one: triangle, rectangle, circle, square, diamond, star, heart, and hexagon. Yes, there was a hexagon in the deck. I was patting myself in the back for that one because jigg thought it was a useless shape to teach a toddler. HA, proved him wrong!

Counting

The teacher then took out a basket of chips and asked the Dumpling to count with her. I immediately knew my daughter wouldn’t be able to do this yet; but I nonetheless let the teacher lead. After a few attempts, I stepped in and explained that we were still working on this concept.

Miscellaneous Questions

Various one-off questions were also scattered throughout the interview, such as:

• Is the elephant big or small?
• What is your favorite color?
• How old are you?

In the end, I asked the teacher how the interview will be evaluated. She replied that it’s not really what the child knows but how he/she communicates and interacts. Her answer sounded suspiciously incomplete but I didn’t press. If the assessment were purely subjective, what was the point of all those tests?!! Regardless of the results, I was so proud of my daughter and gave her three cookies on our way home.

I already knew ahead of time that the kindergarten was completely full. The interview was just something to cross off the application process in the event that a spot opened up. In the meantime, I intend to join a parent-accompanied play group that meets three days a week. I really do miss the U.S. where I can just drop the Dumpling off at daycare for 10 hours everyday. If one can be found here, please take my money!

(I finally did Google what the nursery school application process is like in Hong Kong…this shit is insane!)