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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Discovering what works best for Parents at Work

Working parents are like jugglers in a circus: They juggle their children’s school schedules and activities while balancing their own work deadlines, attending meetings, and sneaking in the occasional toilet break.

Given this, it is great to know that some companies in Singapore are going the extra mile to make parents who work for them feel just a bit more comfortable and appreciated.

Awarding the Best Companies for Mums Awards

Last month, a total of 69 companies and individuals were acknowledged at the Best Companies for Mums Awards in various categories - Best Companies for Mums, Most Enabling Companies for Dads, Most Supportive Colleagues and Most Supportive Supervisors. Organised by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Women's Development Secretariat (WDS) and Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP), the awards recognise companies and individuals for their exceptional efforts in making flexible work arrangements (FWAs) work for the company and the employees, as well as highlight the different ways that companies can help their employees achieve better work-life harmony.


One recipient of the Best Companies for Mums Award is KPMG Singapore, whose flexible work schemes apply equally to all professional staff. These include compressed work schedules, flexi-time, job sharing, part-time arrangements, telecommuting and flexible work contracts to meet with each individual employee’s needs.

In addition, they offer initiatives such as a focus group called Mums & Pops @KPMG. Focused on understanding the needs of working parents in the firm, its objective is to champion suitable ideas to promote work-life balance by organising various family-based activities and events for parents and children in the firm such as family day outings, Christmas parties, Motivational talks for parents, and newborn packages for new parents.

Most Enabling Companies for Dads Awards

I am also heartened by the introduction of the Most Enabling Companies for Dads Awards this year as more than ever, many Dads are increasingly becoming more involved in their kids' everyday lives. Absolute Kinetics Consultancy Pte Ltd is one such awardee and here is what one of its employees, Mike Tan has to say:

I have two lovely daughters with me. My elder daughter is 2 years old and younger daughter is just 2 months old. My employer, Absolute Kinetics Consultancy Pte Ltd has been very supportive to working parents with kids. Parents like me have 3 days of Enhanced Paternity Leave (extra 1 day on top of statutory requirements), which I have benefited on 23 January 2014 (Thursday) when my wife delivered our second daughter-newborn at KK Women Hospital. It gave me precious moments to take good care of my wife and our newborn as the due date of delivery should be one week later. My employer allow me to take that urgent leave as paternity leave even with my busy work schedule as planned. Furthermore, my employer also allowed me to enjoy half day leave of First Day of School Children Leave for my daughter's First Day at childcare centre.

I am glad that my employer has been very supportive to working parents with children and allow employee like me to manage my works and family. By gaining insight into a perception that workplace culture supported with flexible work arrangements would allow employees to further enhance their ability to balance career and family.

Creating the Right Culture

At the end of the day, it is one thing to put flexible work policies in place, but a company also has to create a culture that values a healthy work-life balance and makes working moms and dads feel comfortable taking time to care for their kids.

  • Focus on the family: Encourage flexible work arrangements, and offer compassionate leave for those urgent times in need.
  • Free the stigma: As long as employees are producing results, they should be trusted to manage their time. Encourage employees to use their flextime so working parents do not feel guilty taking the afternoon off to volunteer at school or take their children to doctors’ appointments.
  • Provide employee assistance programs: Include in-house childcare services, and personal finance resources.
  • Keep it inclusive: Make an effort to create perks and resources for employees who are not eligible to use maternity leave or other parental benefits so as not to breed resentment.

Offering parent-friendly perks does not just benefit employees and their families. There is a slew of evidence to suggest that the support and flexibility given by employers can play an important part in helping to attract and retain talent.


NTUC Rolls Out $500,000 U Flex Family-Friendly Grant 

And it is with this in mind that NTUC had rolled out the U Flex Family-Friendly Grant worth a total of S$500,000, with funding support from the Government. This grant would see 50 companies given S$10,000 each to encourage them to put in place a more family-friendly workplace environment by offering other forms of support, such as Family Care Leave (FCL) for family members who are dependents, or Family Support Schemes (FSS) such as childcare or elderly care subsidies, or the provision of breastfeeding spaces. Firms can apply for the grant from Aug 1.

For companies, cultivating a family-friendly culture can be extremely rewarding and can go a long way in retaining employees. When companies acknowledge the importance of their employees’ personal lives, they feel valued and understood. And knowing that the company supports their family keeps them productive and focused on giving their best effort while they are at work.


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At a Glance: NTUC's $500,000 U Flex Family-Friendly Grant
The Labour Movement has introduced the U Flex Family-Friendly Grant to encourage more employers to implement family-friendly workplace practices. Companies can apply for the grant to defray the cost of implementing initiatives to help working parents and caregivers manage responsibilities both at work  and at home.

This is part of NTUC's commitment to work-life harmony. The four compnents of such family-friendly initiatives would include: (1) flexible work arrangements, (2) family-care leave schemes, (3) family support schemes and facilities, and (4) career progression pathways for workers on flexible work arrangements.

The grant will be managed by NTUC's U Family and NTUC Women's Development Secretariat (WDS).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Kids' Activities for 23/24 August Weekend

I do not usually do this but this coming weekend is jam-packed with so many family-friendly activities that for a moment, I thought that the school holidays have arrived early. And since there is always a first time for all things, I have compiled a list of activities happening just this weekend that you can bring your children to. So here goes!

Rise and Shine Expo 2014
22 -24 Aug 2014; 11am - 8pm
Suntec Convention Halls 401 - 404
FREE Admission


The largest parenting event in Singapore is back with fun-filled and enriching activities for the whole family. This is the only event that truly dedicates to children’s holistic development in all areas: Intellectual, Physical, Social, Mental and Medical. More importantly for the children though, will be the Meet & Greet sessions with Disney Junior’s Princess-in-training, Sofia the First, and leader of the Never Land Pirates, Jake!

Meet & Greet Timings (22 - 24 Aug 2014)
Sofia the First: 11.30am, 2.30pm & 5.30pm
Jake, leader of the Never Land Pirates: 1.00pm, 4.00pm & 7.00pm
*Meet & Greet sessions are free to public. Passes are given to the first 80 families 30 mins before each session at the Disney Entertainment Area, Booth D07 only.
For more information, visit 2014.riseandshine-expo.com/

Singapore Night Festival 2014
22 & 23, 29 & 30 Aug 2014; 7pm - 2am
Bras Basah Bugis Precinct
FREE Admission


Children can't sleep? Then head down to the annual nocturnal art festival this and next weekend as the museums in the heritage district throw open their doors late into the night, hosting a dazzling variety of special events and shows including music, dance, installation art and breathtaking aerial performances. We were down for the Festival last year, and the monkies enjoyed it!

Download the complete Festival Guide (and map) HERE. For more information, visit www.brasbasahbugis.sg/SNFPortal/index.jsp.

NTUC Income Kite Festival Singapore 2014
23 & 24 Aug 2014; 4pm - 8pm
The Promontory @ Marina Bay
FREE Admission


The 7th edition of the NTUC Income Kite Festival Singapore is back with plenty of kite action and family activities. Not only will there be thrilling performances by professional kiters and kite-making workshops, there will be circus and magic acts, 'living statues' and Parkour performances too! For the full programme line-up, visit act3international.com.sg/kitefest2014/programme.html.

Singapore Garden Festival 2014
16 - 24 Aug 2014; 10am - 10pm 
Gardens by the Bay
Refer below for Admission rates


The first garden show to showcase creations from the world's top award-winning garden and floral designs under one roof, is back in full bloom once again! Expect to be treated to a visual fiesta of exquisite garden and floral displays, created by more than 30 internationally acclaimed garden and floral designers. The monkies checked out the Festival last weekend, and they have listed some of the must-see attractions for children here: www.cheekiemonkie.net/2014/08/singapore-garden-festival-2014-must-see.html

Oh, and don't forget to visit the Orchid Extravaganza display at Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay too. The 10-metre tall Orchid Kaleidoscope will captivate everyone!

Admission Rates
Local Residents: Weekday - Adult $10 | Child (3-12) & Senior Citizens (>60) $5
Weekend - Adult $14 | Child (3-12) & Senior Citizens (>60) $8
(All Singaporean Seniors (≥60yrs with pink ICs) will enjoy a 20% discount off Weekday Local Residents Rate, i.e. $4 per ticket after discount. Valid from 18 – 22 Aug only.)
Standard Rate: All Days - Adult & Child (3-12) $18 | Senior Citizens (>60) $12
*All tickets include a complimentary entry to Flower Dome
**All Gardens by the Bay Conservatory tickets dated between 16-24 August will be allowed entry into Singapore Garden Festival 2014
Website: www.singaporegardenfestival.com

Mid Autumn Festival 2014
23 Aug - 28 Sep 2014
Chinatown


Mid-Autumn Festival 2014 promises vibrant lantern displays, captivating performances and great food. During this period, Chinatown and its nearby precincts will be spectacularly adorned with a myriad of colourful lanterns and dazzling decorations. The theme of this year’s Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival is a “A Blooming Mid Autumn” 《百花盛开牛车水, 月满中秋庆团圆》 where the streets of Chinatown will be lit up by a spectacular display of colourful lanterns of varying shapes and sizes. For more information, visit chinatownfestivals.sg.

Lantern Making Competition 
16 Aug - 8 Sep 2014; All-day
Chinatown Point

Festive Bazaar & Carnival
23 Aug - 8 Sep 2014; 11am -10.30pm
Pagoda Street, Trengganu Street, Sago Street, Smith Street and open space in front of People’s Park Complex

Official Opening and Light Up Ceremony
24 Aug 2014; 7pm - 10pm
Along New Bridge Road & Eu Tong Sen Street

Street Light-Up
24 Aug - 28 Sep 2014; 7pm - 12mn (Sun-Thurs) & 7pm - 2am (Fri&Sat)
Along New Bridge Road, Eu Tong Sen Street , South Bridge Road and inner streets of Chinatown

Nightly Stage Shows
24 Aug - 8 Sep 2014; 8pm - 10.30pm
Kreta Ayer Square

Chinatown Mid Autumn Festival Walking Trail
30 & 31 Aug 2014, 6 & 7 September 2014; 2pm - 3.30pm & 5pm - 6.30pm
Information Booth in front of the stage at Kreta Ayer Square. The walking trail is free but registration is on first-come-first-serve basis. Each trail is conducted in English and limited to 10 participants.


And of course, there are still the following ongoing activities for families should none of the above appeal:

Cavalia
Now until 14 Sep 2014
Tue - Fri: 7.30pm | Sat: 2pm & 7.30pm | Sun: 12pm & 5.30pm
Bayfront Avenue beside Marina Bay Sands
Various ticket prices


Cavalia is an innovative multi-media and multi-disciplinary theatrical production that boldly explores the boundaries of equestrian arts and acrobatic feats. It deftly combines 50 magnificent real horses, 43 riders, aerialists, acrobats, dancers and musicians from all over the world - all of these coming together for a show fit for families and friends, young and old alike. Simply put, it is a show like no other and the monkies will attest to that who remained spellbound throughout the show. Check out our review HERE. For more information, visit cavalia.sg.

An Exhibition Exploring Nature's Design
Now until 24 Aug 2014
The Annexe, Science Centre Singapore
Adult $13 | Child $9

It has been said that Nature is the greatest of all inventors; as such many inventors and scientists actually study nature for inspiration to solving their various problems. Explore an exhibition that highlights nature's design, where you will learn to appreciate, be inspired and bring out the craftsmanship in you.

The exhibition features a Robot Zoo with robot animals, a Tinkering Space, stocked with electronics, papercrafts, robotics and other crafts; and seed carving.. For more information on the exhibits, visit www.science.edu.sg/exhibitions/Pages/naturesdesign.aspx

OR why not end the day with a visit to the Human Body Experience (HBX) or KidsSTOP? Your kids will defnitely LOVE you for it! Click on the links for our experiences.

The Nightingale (Play)
Now till 14 Sep 2014
Tue - Fri: 10am & 2pm | Sat & Sun: 11am, 2pm
DBS Arts Centre - Home of SRT
Weekdays: $22, $25 | Weekends: $32, $35

SRT's The Little Company brings you a refreshing new take on Hans Christian Andersen's well-loved fairy tale. The Nightingale is a joyful burst of song that reminds us all to appreciate and value the world around us. Enchanted by the lilting birdsong of the plain-looking, brown Nightingale, the little Emperor of China captures and keeps her in a gilded cage for his daily entertainment. But soon, along with her freedom, the beautiful voice of the Nightingale is lost and a singing mechanical bird replaces her. Join the Nightingale and friends in their quest for her freedom. For tickets, click HERE.

Enjoy 49% off admission to Jurong Bird Park in August

Print out the e-coupon below to enjoy a 49% discount for admission to Jurong Bird Park - $12.75 for Adults and $8.16 for children (3-12) after discount!


Terms and conditions:
- Valid from 1 July - 31 Aug 2014.
- Flash printed coupon and proof of identity at Jurong Bird Park ticketing counters to enjoy offer.
- Valid for all Singaporeans, PRs and employment pass holders.
- Each redemption is limited to a maximum of 5 tickets.
- Child is defined as 3 - 12 years old.
- Excludes tram ride.
- Not valid with other discounts, promotions or rebates.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What it Feels like to be a Parent of 3 Kids

Having a baby can be a wonderful thing. Having more than one... well, it is like juggling hot potatoes. Some siblings love each other. Some share stuff with one another. Some bicker. Some fight. Some do all of them. And at the same time too. Which frankly, is highly perplexing.

With three kids, the madness just amplifies. So after sharing on how we cope with three kids, here is how I feel when people ask me what it is really like to have three monkies in the household:

When I'm seated beside them while they are doing their homework.


When a nasty bug strikes them one at a time, and one after the other.


What the other monkies do when one is asleep.


When they play at home.


When I see the mess created at home.


When packing for a vacation.


When all three want my attention at the same time.


When all of them have gone to bed.


When the monkies demand to play with the same toy.


When they kiss and make up.


When I realise that everything is well worth the trouble.


 At the end of the day, a sense of humor is the only thing that will get us parents though this massive journey called parenting. Oh, and huge doses of caffeine.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Singapore Garden Festival 2014: Must-see Attractions

Media Invite

Singapore Garden Festival, the first garden show to showcase creations from the world's top award-winning garden and floral designs under one roof, is back in full bloom once again! The bi-annual event was last held at the Suntec Convention Centre exhibition halls. This year's edition though, will see it return to a place where everything is closer to nature - The Meadow at Gardens by the Bay.


Just like previous editions, expect to be treated to a visual fiesta of exquisite garden and floral displays, created by more than 30 internationally acclaimed garden and floral designers. I brought the monkies down on opening day, and we were all taken in by the riot of colours that accompanied the horticulture displays.


Ayd quipped that even some of the trees got 'rainbow-loomed'! Lol.


Compared to previous editions, this year's Landscape Gardens category saw the competing gardens showcase their spectacular creations outdoors. And if you only have time to view one Landscape Garden, then Sacred Garden would be it.


This Landscape Garden won the Gold and Best of Show awards this year! Making use of light, shadow and the basic elements of water and air to explore the relationship between the artificial and natural environment, the designers created a water-absorbent green roof where a grove of trees is planted. Steel poles support the planted canopy, allowing the space below the trees to be explored.

Yes, gardens are always meant to be explored so the great thing about the Landscape Gardens is they allow visitors to enter for an immersive experience... something which delighted the monkies of course.


If the heat gets too unbearable, then seek refuge in the air-conditioned tents where a different world of plant displays exist.


The Fantasy Gardens are just what the name implies - gardens that offer that whimsical feeling and fairytale-like atmosphere.


As with the Landscape Gardens, some of the Fantasy Gardens provided visitors the opportunity to step inside as well.


Complete with the occasional mist ambush!


If you are looking for something more intimate, head to the 14 Floral Windows to the World showcase in the neighbouring air-conditioned tent, where enchanting displays of beautiful flowers, creatively and delicately designed by celebrated local and international floral designers await.


Oh, be sure not to miss the Miniature Garden Displays too, which is a NEW feature in this year's Garden Festival line-up. Everything in the displays is shrunk, but all of the plants used are definitely alive and real. Nothing like the magical details of a miniature garden to bring out the child in all of us, no? Especially if Greenhouse #3 as seen in Harry Potter is one of them!


Admittedly in the eyes of children, all gardens look similar after a while. So head back outdoors to the big field (beside Ticketing Booth B), where loads of eye-catching and interactive garden-themed displays are on show!


Always a hit with the wifey, the Balcony Gardens are also on display here which may just inspire visitors to transform their home balcony into a soothing retreat.


And while the wifey was busy absorbing ideas from the Balcony Gardens, the monkies were having fun exploring the various Community in Bloom displays.


I think this was their fave part of the Garden Festival, as the displays were not only colourful in appearance but also highly interactive as well. Much like this Sound of the Forest Garden Display.


The monkies had a field day conjuring up noise, erm I mean music from the various instruments planted within the garden.


In other gardens, the monkies got to learn more about various spices and herbs through free smells!


But nothing, absolutely nothing could have ever prepared us for what turned out to be the biggest hit with the Diva.


A Frozen-themed Garden Display! How to beat that?

Personally though, there was one area that stood out and I strongly recommend all parents to make this a compulsory stop if you are heading down to the Garden Festival with your kids.


The Learning Garden showcases plants that Mankind has been using them for various purposes - for food, medicine, building materials and much more. So everyday food like pineapple, guava, sweet potato, ginger and even leaves that we use to wrap rice dumplings from the Tiger Plant are in the Learning Garden.


I loved the nice touch of placing the end products next to the actual plants, which allowed the monkies to make the connection. The end products, like a packet of passionfruit juice or sack of rice, are what kids of today are used to seeing in the supermarkets. So I felt that it was highly educational that they got the opportunity to see the exact plants that those products were derived from.


That pretty much sums up the area at The Meadow at Gardens by the Bay has to offer. But wait, there is more!


The Singapore Garden Festival ticket also allows complimentary entry to the Flower Dome! And it is one visit you should not pass up on, thanks to this 10-metre column in the middle of the Flower Field.


Designed by award-winning landscape architect Jun-ichi Inada, Orchid Extravaganza at Gardens by  the Bay presents the rich and diverse heritage of the world’s most diverse botanical family - Orchids.


In terms of an Orchid showcase, Orchid Extravaganza is one mind-blowing journey as it features some 18,000 orchid plants!


But the real highlight has got to be the 10-metre column, where visitors can actually wander inside and be rewarded with a spectrum of colours.


Do not forget to look up too, and immerse in the feeling of being in a huge kaleidoscope of orchids.


The monkies absolutely loved it inside... make that everyone in the family actually.


Whether you are a serious gardener, hobbyist or just looking for a fun day out with the family, there is something for everyone at the Singapore Garden Festival 2014. But hurry, the festival draws to a close this weekend on 24 August 2014.


And since you will definitely be bringing your camera to the Festival, why not join in the COLOURS Photography Contest too? Submit your photos taken with the theme “Colours” by 7 September and you could win Canon cameras! For more details and to submit, visit HERE.



Useful Information

Singapore Garden Festival 2014
16 to 24 Aug 2014; Gardens by the Bay
Show Opening Hours: 10am to 10pm daily
Conservatories Opening Hours: 9am - 10pm daily
Ticket Prices:
Local Residents: Weekday - Adult $10 | Child (3-12) & Senior Citizens (>60) $5
Weekend - Adult $14 | Child (3-12) & Senior Citizens (>60) $8
(All Singaporean Seniors (≥60yrs with pink ICs) will enjoy a 20% discount off Weekday Local Residents Rate, i.e. $4 per ticket after discount. Valid from 18 – 22 Aug only.)
Standard Rate: All Days - Adult & Child (3-12) $18 | Senior Citizens (>60) $12
*Includes complimentary entry to Flower Dome
**All Gardens by the Bay Conservatory tickets dated between 16-24 August will be allowed entry into Singapore Garden Festival 2014
Website: www.singaporegardenfestival.com

Orchid Extravaganza Floral Display
Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay
16 Aug to 21 Sep 2014
Time: 9am - 10pm (16 Aug - 24 Aug) | 9am - 9pm (25 Aug - 21 Sep)
*Admission charges to the Cooled Conservatories apply

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