For parents always on the lookout for new ideas via social media, you might be familiar with “Happy Tot Shelf”. Little Day Out speaks to Fynn, mummy of three, who uses a shelf to facilitate her children’s learning, play and exploration about the world. Who knew that a humble shelf could be such a powerful tool!
Little Day Out: Please tell us more about yourself and why you started Happy Tot Shelf.
Fynn: Hello there, I am Fynn, mother of 3 adorable children, Zachary (6 years old), Riley (4 years old) and Abby (9 months old). Life’s never dull since I married my best friend. I followed him around the world to Sweden, then to California. After nearly 7 years abroad and with 3 children in tow, we moved back home to Singapore last year.
My career change was equally action-packed. I was a Chemical Engineer and became a secondary school Science teacher. After doing hard Sciences all my life, I leapt into the arts and became a make-up artist. When we moved to California, I took on my ‘new career’ as a stay at home mum and that’s when I started Happy Tot Shelf.
Watching my children grow up, I am amazed how they are excited to explore and learn about their world from the time they are born. Their innate desire to learn is astonishing. Over the next 5 years, I tried activity after activity, made shelf after shelf and researched about ways to nurture this love of learning in my children. Happy Tot Shelf became a platform for me to share my best ideas and tips to like-minded parents who are passionate about raising kids who love to learn.
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How have your shelves evolved through the years?
Through the years, I have adapted the shelves largely based on my children’s learning and development needs. When Zachary and Riley were toddlers, the nature of the activities was largely sensorial, motor skills and play-based. As they grew older, they were eager to explore more complex topics. We dug deeper into each theme, while keeping learning fun and hands-on.
To be perfectly honest, time is a huge factor as well. With Abby joining our family last year, free time became scarcer than ever and I did more low-prep activities and simpler shelves.
Where do you get your inspiration?
From my children! It’s never difficult to come up ideas for my monthly themes. I simply follow my children’s interests.
When it comes to designing learning activities and shelves, the theme itself is my biggest inspiration. I examine each theme closely and brainstorm all the concepts, skills and academic subjects related to the theme. I ask myself next: what activities can best engage my children while teaching these important concepts and skills? This will kickstart my creative brain and get ideas flowing.
What are some of your personal favourites for shelf projects?
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Shelf is my most popular shelf to date and also my favorite one! The Ice Cream theme shelf is another of my favorite learning shelf. This ice cream theme activity – Pompom Icecream Sensory Bag was a big hit with my children.
My followers love my Moon Phases Learning Toy – the video tutorial gathered more than 6 million views on Facebook!
What kind of materials did your children enjoy most?
My children definitely caught on my love for trash, I mean recyclable materials. They love rummaging through the recycling bins for materials for their creations. TP rolls, egg cartons, cardboard boxes are free and open-ended and make the best tinkering materials. Start hoarding some trash at home!
What would you like to say to time-poor parents who experience inertia in looking for home learning resources?
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel! There are many amazing learning ideas and resources already created for parents. Search for easy low prep activities. Dedicating 10 to 15 minutes a day to learn with your children will go a long way in fostering a love of learning.
What’s your favourite CNY dish?
Definitely the Pen Cai (盆菜)! I love its rich flavor and eating my way through layers and layers of goodies in this dish.
How do you celebrate Chinese New Year in Singapore?
My family loves eating together, so the reunion dinner naturally, is the most important part of our Chinese New Year celebration. Prior to CNY, I love reading stories about the 12 Zodiac Signs and the mythological beast Nian to my children. Stories are amazing to help children understand the CNY traditions. Now, my children are excited about decking our home with lots of red banners and lanterns to scare off Nian! On the first and second day of Chinese New Year, we’ll go around Singapore visiting our relatives and exchanging mandarin oranges and red packets.
We understand you were living in California for five years, how did you celebrate Chinese New Year when you were away from home?
I usually open up my place and invite my Singaporean friends over for a Chinese New Year playdate and feast! I’ll prepare some fun CNY crafts and read a CNY story to the children. Every family will bring along a dish and we’ll have a potluck style reunion dinner. Friends are like our families when we are living abroad and I’ll make it a point to celebrate CNY with them.
One year, I made a Chinese New Year learning shelf and that was such a fun way for my children to learn more about CNY.
What tips would you give families overseas who would like to celebrate Chinese New Year?
Get together with your friends and celebrate CNY together. Keep the CNY traditions going wherever you are. CNY stuff like decorations, red packets, storybooks may not be readily available at where you are. So plan ahead for what you need. You may need to get them sent to you by your families in Singapore or visit some Asian grocery stores. During my first CNY in California, I could not find any CNY storybooks in town and shipping from Singapore would be too late. For the next year, I got the books ready and prepped for the festival weeks ahead.
We love your shelves, can you give us a little peek into what your 2020 shelves would look like?
We are moving this month and I’m thrilled about setting up new shelves at our new home! This year, Zachary and Riley are both in schools in the morning. Our learning shelves are playing a more significant role in bringing the family together to learn and play. My older kids have sent in their themed shelf requests. I’m also looking at setting up some baby/ toddler shelves for Abby. Lastly, I’m working on resources for parents to help them get started with creating Happy Tot Shelf for their children. Follow along on my Instagram (@happytotshelf) or HTS blog for updates!
You can find out more about Fynn and Happy Tot Shelf blog here and on her Instagram page @happytotshelf