SINGAPORE: What started as a hunger pang for parent Andre Lim ended with him creating a building made of "Lego sushi" with his two sons.
The 33-year-old said that he wanted to make sushi, but without an oshibako – a wooden mould for pressing rice and sushi toppings – he had to improvise.
“I’m stuck at home so there’s no way we can get the wooden box, so I thought, ‘What’s the next special thing we can do?’” he told CNA.
While Mr Lim prepared the saba fish and sushi rice for the dish, his children, aged five and three, started making the oshibako with Lego blocks – complete with a lid.
After lining the improvised box with cling wrap, Mr Lim taught his two boys how to make sushi, the way he saw it done in Japan on his travels there.
READ: COVID-19: Singapore makes 'decisive move' to close most workplaces and impose full home-based learning for schools, says PM Lee
“Kids already love playing with food so they really enjoyed it,” he said.
Mr Lim, a consultant, said that the circuit breaker is a chance to start on “grand ideas” with his family he never had the time to do before.
“I work very, very long hours, my wife is a stay-at-home mum so she spends more time with the kids. But there are certain things the kids want to do with their dad, so this is the opportunity.”
He started working from home before the circuit breaker measures were implemented on Apr 7, as Singapore embarked on an attempt to halt the spread of COVID-19 infections by getting non-essential workplaces to close and implementing strict safe-distancing measures.
However, in the initial stages Mr Lim's family didn't see much difference in him working from home, as he was not spending much time with his children. He was working 16 hours a day as a consultant to a client who provides an essential service and therefore is operating during this period.
“My wife and I decided we had to find a way to balance ourselves and get the kids involved. It's about setting boundaries – I'm not perfect at it but we try."
Next on the list of activities for him and his children to embark on together are hydroponics and herbal teas.
“It’s quite fun, the circuit breaker is giving us to do crazy things as a family. We tend to do crazy things together but being stuck together all the time now, you have to get more creative,” he said.
Ms Teena See, a former early childhood educator who is currently a stay-at-home mother, is also using the time to bond with her three-year-old son through fun activities.
“I’ve been trying out different activities with him. Previously I was working as a pre-school educator so didn’t have much time for him, but I'm kind of making up for the ‘lost time’ now,” she said.
Among their activities – creating artificial snow and building a petrol kiosk.
All it took to make the snow were baking soda and white hair conditioner, and her son Kyler was one happy child.
“At this age, children love things which are sensorial. And the artificial snow is very soft and is quite cooling when he touches it,” she said.
The snow also brought Kyler fond memories of Olaf, the snowman character from the Disney movie Frozen, who he loves.
Kyler’s other love is cars, and he has a mini electric car, Ms See said. Now, he has a petrol kiosk to drive it into.
Ms See and her husband built the kiosk out of recycled cardboard boxes and construction paper after drawing inspiration from online.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN
Others are building different environments at home so their children can get moving without going out.
Ms Ng Pei Ru created an obstacle course for her three-and-a-half-year-old daughter which involves climbing over chairs and swinging. Her one-and-half-year-old son has tried to follow the action.
Her children have always been physically active, spending weekday evenings at the playground and weekends at parks, she said. Her daughter Enya is also learning karate at Ms Ng’s father’s academy. Ms Ng herself, a karate black belt herself, is practising with Enya at home, now that the academy is closed during the circuit breaker period.
“It is to entertain them. They have so much energy, it’s to exhaust them so they can sleep,” said the account director at a public relations agency, laughing.
The activities have brought about a bonus, time for her and her husband to bond with their children, as they are now both working from home.
“Spending more time with them has made us realise that they are growing up so fast, and it’s good to make use of this time with them,” she said.
Ms Lin Jieying used to take her children to the playground every day, but now that it is out of bounds, she decided to get creative at home.
With her four-and-a-half-year-old son, she stuck rope onto the walls in her hallway. Her son named it an “indoor playground”.
“He was so involved in creating it. He wanted to paste the rope in a certain way so he could have more fun,” she said. She also created tunnels with paper through which her children could roll balls.
Her son and his two-year-old younger sister are also getting to spend more time together, she said.
“He took his own initiative to read stories to her before nap time and styled her hair for her. It’s a good time for them to bond,” said the small business owner.
She also came up with a routine with her son so that he could have ownership over what he does in a day, and said that it has helped him stop doing things he usually likes, like watching television, without getting upset.
DIY KITS FOR FAMILY FUN
Companies are also helping parents come up with activities, with DIY kits that involve children.
Butter Studio, a bakery, has made available DIY kits for unicorn and mermaid cupcakes.
“As Butter Studio is known for our Instagrammable cakes and cupcakes, we wanted to bring that fun, celebratory Butter Studio experience to the homes of our customers,” a spokesperson for the bakery said.
Lele Bakery has come up with DIY cake kits, which includes a four-inch cake, three types of decorations, three different-coloured piping in bags and two bags of sprinkles.
Ms Ruby Liang, who bought the set, said that it was a good way for her to spend time with her two sons aged three and five. They both love cake, and because it was hands-on, they enjoyed the whole process, she said.
Ms Nur Hasanna Kamsan, founder of LittleArtducated, said that before the COVID-19 pandemic situation, her firm ran art workshops and events outdoors for children and adults.
“However, since the Covid-19 restrictions, we’ve been trying our best to reach out to children and parents to continue and encourage creative learning at home.” The solution? A superhero art starter kit.
“We wanted to keep the spirits up and we believe being a superhero means we will go through any obstacles that come to us - even if it's from home,” she said.
The superhero kits come with a satin cape, glue, a mask, glitter, foam paper of different colours, stickers, adhesive foam shapes and colour pages.
One child-turned-superhero is five-year-old Muhammad Aufa. His mother, childcare teacher Nur Aien, said she used to send him to the firm’s art activities and classes.
“He’s into superheroes so I decided to purchase it. He was so excited to wear the cape after putting it together. His favourite superhero changes from day to day and this is his first time transforming into a superhero,” she said.
Sociologist Professor Paulin Straughan from Singapore Management University said that it is important to have family bonding time so that children can think back on this period and have pleasant memories.
She also said that it is an important time for mums and dads to take stock of their parenting outcome, given that many children go to childcare while their parents are at work.
She said that while they spend time together as a family, parents should also remember to take care of themselves.
“It is a good time for parents to put in place meaningful discipline. It is important to help children understand that they don’t have to be entertained all the time,” she said.
For Mr Lim, he sees the circuit breaker as an opportunity even in this testing time.
"Time with kids is how you build families and families can become much stronger through this circuit breaker,” he said.