5 ways to manage toddler tantrums

My toddler twins began their terrible twos long before their 2nd birthday. Even though they can speak relatively well, sometimes their emotions overcome them. Here are some ways my husband and I have managed their tantrums.

1. Ignore 

How often we do this: Rarely

When we do this: In the beginning, my husband I used to ignore tantrums but found this ineffective. Toddlers often throw tantrums because their “upstairs brain” (responsible for reasoning, thought) is not as developed as their “downstairs brain” (controls emotion, basic instincts), according to Dr Daniel Siegel and Dr Tina Bryson. Their book No Drama Discipline emphasizes that parents and caregivers should aim to nurture the development of both parts of the brain when managing tantrums.

2. Talk at eye level

How often we do this: Most of the time

When we do this: In most situations, this method is effective. Lately, the most common reason for tantrums is when twin A snatches a toy or book from twin B. Sometimes we leave our twins to settle the argument between themselves, but this often leads to hitting. So we mediate by saying, “Let B finish his turn. Then you can have your turn.” Speaking to them at eye level is often most effective rather than shouting from a distance.

3. Distract

How often we do this: Sometimes

When we do this: In the toy stealing situation described above, sometimes A is inconsolable when we insist that B finishes his time with the book or toy. A rarely finds solace on her own so we try to distract her with another item. We also praise A when she settles down from her tantrum and thank B when he finishes his turn with the item.

4. Naughty corner

How often we do this: Sometimes

When we do this: Currently, our kids’ worst habits are intentionally throwing food on the ground and hitting each other. When these situations occur, I often tell them in a stern voice, “Please do not hit” or, “Please do not throw food on the ground.” Sometimes they repeat the offending behavior, so I repeat my warning. On rare occasions, the bad behavior is continuously repeated, so we will send the naughty child to a designated corner to cool off.

5. Cuddle

How often we do this: Sometimes

When we do this: Toddlers are almost biologically incapable of managing their emotions at a young age. When hunger or tiredness overcomes our kids, we just hold them for a nice cuddle to help them settle down.

 

Toddler tantrums were extremely difficult to manage in the beginning. I remember spending several gloomy nights unwinding with wine and mindless television. It took me 4-5 months to learn how to manage endless crying and whining effectively (most of the time). I often cool down (if I’m feeling agitated–which was frequent in the beginning), assess the situation, and moderate to the best of my ability.

7 lessons I learned from my second year with twins

second birthday cake

My precious twins turned two last week. I reflected on my first year in a previous post, and this year presented a whole new set of challenges. Here’s what I learned:

1. Be prepared to handle countless tantrums. The terrible twos actually started before our kids turned two! Like most toddlers, our kids have little self control and are quite emotional. Handling outbursts has been extremely taxing and tested my patience every day, several times a day.

2. When things get bad, take the twins outside. If you watch the TV program “Dog Whisperer,” you’ll often see Cesar take dogs out for a walk when they are naughty. My husband and I soon discovered the same trick works with our twins. Even if you are dead tired, taking the family out for a few hours can make the day more manageable.

3. Facebook groups have been my new best friends. To all the mums and dads in SG Parents of Twins and Triplets and Stork’s Nest Singapore: your support and late night posts have kept me sane and grateful during this second year.

4. Spanking is not a good form of discipline. During a few bad moments, I lost my temper and spanked my children. I’ll admit it. But my heavy handedness did not help, and I felt horrible afterwards. After the last episode, I resolved to show more empathy instead. But it is really, REALLY hard.

5. Don’t buy too many toys. My toddlers have been fascinated with random household objects. Some of their favorites: empty water bottles, straws, shoeboxes, painting with water, combs, brushes…

6. Give your spouse a break. My dear husband works long hours, and handling twin meltdowns can be overwhelming. When I see my husband’s fuse dwindling, I often send him to the bedroom to chill out with Reddit or Hearthstone.

7. Take a break. I had my first getaway from the twins recently–just two nights in Bangkok, but it was so refreshing to be apart for a short while.

To my dear little sheep: our first two years have been full of ups and downs, but I can’t wait to see what our third year will bring! Mommy loves you. XOXO

8 free places for your active toddler twins in Singapore

Recently I have been scouring the island for free activities. My toddler twins have become increasingly active and adventurous. Here are some of my favorite places in Singapore:

1. Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden – Open 8am to 7pm but closed on Mondays (except when a public holiday is on a Monday). One of our go-to places. There is a water play area, two sand playgrounds, and a fun suspension bridge.

2. Botanic Gardens – Open 5am to midnight. There are plenty of places to roam around, collect sticks (my twins’ favorite new hobby these days), blow bubbles, etc. There is also a cafe called Food for Thought at the Tanglin Gate. The food is mediocre, but it is a good place to cool down for drinks. There is  also a small playground outside. Check out the new Learning Forest at the Tyersall Gate…amazing!

3. Central Public Library – Open 10am to 9pm; closed on public holidays. Has a spacious kids’ area with plenty of books and exhibits to entertain.

4. Pip’s Playbox – Open 11am to 6pm (closed 2-3pm for cleaning). Beautiful, well lit play area located at Level 4 of Esplanade. There is a large craft table, playhouse with stairs, blocks, crawl spaces, etc. Great for babies, toddlers, and older kids.

5. Art Playscape – Open 10am to 7pm, Sundays to Thursdays & public holidays; 10am to 10pm Fridays, Saturdays, and eve of public holidays. Beautifully painted murals and play area at the National Gallery.

6. West Coast Park – Amazingly spacious park with 8 separate play areas and obstacle courses. Highly recommended. There is also a McDonald’s nearby.

7. Palawan Pirate Ship – Open 10am to 6pm. At the former Port of Lost Wonder at Sentosa; park at Beach carpark. Meant for older kids but toddlers accompanied by adults should be fine. Lots of water spouts, slides, etc.

8. Water play area at Singapore Sports Hub – Open 8am to 10pm. Great for toddlers and older children. Has shorter and longer slides, swings, and a small pool.

If you have any other suggestions, please let me know!

My twin birth experience at Gleneagles Hospital, Singapore

Twin births are fragile and require special attention. Luckily, I received the right care at Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore.

My pregnancy

I was extremely fortunate to have a smooth pregnancy. I had 2-3 days of mild morning sickness during my first trimester, traveled to the US during my 17th week, and experienced the predictable backaches and mild heartburn during my final few months. At 37 weeks–full term for twins, I delivered my babies via elective C section.

Before the birth

My obstetrician / gynecologist (‘gynae’ in Singapore) has a private practice, and at the time, delivered at three hospitals in Singapore: Gleneagles, Mount Alvernia, and Thomson Medical Centre.

My husband and I went on tours of all three hospitals (tip: tour your prospective hospitals around month 4-5 of your pregnancy). The care at Mount Alvernia was supposed to be excellent, but we found the environment to be quite dreary. Thomson also has a good reputation, but the hospital was often crowded and a bit chaotic. We found Gleneagles to be the most mellow hospital of the three, and the staff were very friendly during our visit.

A few weeks before my expected due date (EDD, as they call it here), we pre-registered at Gleneagles. We brought a letter from my doctor and paid a sizeable deposit for our elective C section package (tip: ask for package price sheets for twins during your hospital tour; they vary greatly among hospitals).

Continue reading “My twin birth experience at Gleneagles Hospital, Singapore”

Traveling on a long haul flight with twin toddlers

….was so traumatising! My first piece of advice–if you don’t have to, don’t!

I read all the blog posts on long haul travel beforehand, packed lots of toys and snacks, put my kids to bed as usual (we had a midnight flight), but our flight was simply awful.

My 19 month old twins’ bedtime is 7pm. We left Singapore at 12am, and they had 3 hours of sleep before our departure. They only slept a bit during hour 4 of our 6 hour flight to Incheon, South Korea. At Incheon Airport, we tried to tire them out by letting them run around and play in the children’s area, but they hardly slept during the 11 hour flight to Los Angeles.

By the time we landed at LAX, our kids were screaming, and we were a huge mess. Luckily, US customs felt sorry for us and expedited our family to the front of the long, winding customs line (we arrived at 6am and the wait seemed to be at least an hour).

Our flight back to Singapore was equally bad. Coupled by the fact that our return flight was 1-1.5 hours longer, we were exhausted by the time we got home.

Although we had a bad travel experience, we learned some valuable lessons:

1. If you can upgrade to business class or premium economy, do it! All those credit card / frequent flyer points will come in handy.

2. We sleep trained our twins a bit too well. They are firmly accustomed to sleeping in their own cribs that they have serious issues sleeping elsewhere. We brought all of their loveys, sleep sacks, and blankets, but they still refused to sleep on the plane.

3. Don’t overpack your carry on. There are plenty of “toys” on the plane to keep your kids occupied (entertainment remotes, flight catalogs). Ask the flight attendants for snacks. Family friendly airlines like Singapore Air provide activity packs for kids.

We probably won’t fly with our kids for another year or two, but if you have to do it, prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.

 

7 lessons I learned from my first year with twins

1. Take one day at a time. Even during the worst days, your twins will do something amazing or adorable to remind you why you love them so much.

2. Get as much help as you can. Don’t try to be super mom. Your sanity is more important than your ego!

3. Facebook groups, Google, friends, and family can be helpful when you need advice, but in the end, use your mommy instincts when making decisions about your baby.

4. Create an email account for your kids and email them with updates on major milestones, funny stories, etc. This digital diary of their upbringing will be a great keepsake when they’re older.

5. Get a phone with the maximum amount of storage because you’ll need it! Also, Google Photos is awesome for storing (and sharing) the thousands of photos you’ll accumulate in the years to come.

6. Sleep train your baby as soon as you feel ready. I sleep trained my little monsters at 4 months, and with a few hiccups here and there, it has been wonderful ever since.

7. Breast milk is great, and so is formula. If you can’t breast feed or want to stop, your baby will be fine. After two episodes of mastitis and countless night wakings to pump for two, I quit making milk for my twins at 10 months, and I don’t regret it at all. A well rested mom is a happy mom.

Obtaining our twins’ birth certificates, US passports, and Singapore visit passes

My husband and I were quite lost when we began this process. Birth registration was simple, but obtaining our twins’ US passports and Singapore visit passes was rather tedious. This post will outline each step in detail.

Steps involved

1. Register for birth certificates (same day collection)

2. Take your child’s passport photos (different dimensions for US and SG photos)

3. Apply for passport at local embassy (for US citizens, you will apply for passports and social security cards together)*

4. Collect passport

5. Actualise your child’s “stay” at ICA (stamp passport) and apply for visit pass*

6. Collect visit pass*

* Must bring child for these visits

Continue reading “Obtaining our twins’ birth certificates, US passports, and Singapore visit passes”

Going out with twins in Singapore, from birth to year 1

Despite the mountainous struggles you’ll face the first 3-4 months, this period is the best time to go out with twins out and even travel on long haul flights. Most young infants will sleep through loud noise and movement.

Our stroller setup (Chicco Keyfit 30 car seats + Baby Jogger City Select stroller) made it easy to tandem bottle feed our twins when they were hungry.

Local outings

We frequented shopping malls with wide spaces such as:

  • City Square Mall (arrive before 11am on weekends, as it usually gets crowded mid-day)
  • Square 2 / Velocity (also best to arrive before peak hours)
  • Ngee Ann City
  • Paragon
  • Zhongshan Mall (which has an amazing FairPrice Finest!)
  • Suntec City (enormous space but the lifts are spread out, so you’ll get lots of exercise)

We ate at these baby friendly restaurants quite often:

  • Paradise Inn
  • Jamie’s Italian
  • Food for Thought
  • Omakase Burger
  • Kith Café (the Robertson Quay branch opens at 7am)

Indoor playgrounds are extremely popular in Singapore, and most offer free admission before age 1. We started taking our twins to play parks around 8 months. Our favorites:

  • Pororo Park at Marina Square (admission is quite expensive for kids age >1)
  • Cool De Sac at Suntec City
  • Fidgets World at The Grandstand (weekends and public holidays are often crowded, so the toddler play area can become too rough for small children)

Continue reading “Going out with twins in Singapore, from birth to year 1”

Sleep training twins

During our first two months with twins, we had a wonderful confinement nanny who single handedly managed night feedings. Night times were peaceful, as my husband had uninterrupted sleep and I woke up twice to pump milk (no, I didn’t breast feed my twins at night—bad mommy).

Unfortunately, our next two months were a nightmare. Each baby woke up 3-6 times at night, crying or wanting to drink milk. Even worse, our babies woke up at different times, at varying intervals, so their patterns weren’t consistent. We maintained our baby log at night, but any attempt to decipher a sleep-wake pattern was impossible.

Hire a sleep trainer

After 4 months, my husband was non-functional at work, and I had just returned to work part time. In desperate need of sleep, we decided to sleep train our twins. I read tons of books and blogs but couldn’t decide on a plan. I did some more Googling and found a local sleep trainer, Zoe Chu.

Zoe was very responsive to email and came to our house for a consultation. She presented some background on sleep training along with her personal experience (she has twins of her own) and provided us with two plans we could try. We opted for the controlled cry-it-out method. My husband and I wrote down a few goals for the first week, and shared them with our helper.

Set actionable goals

Our first few goals were:

  • Implement the EASY schedule. EASY = eat, activity (playtime, outing), sleep, you (so you can nap, watch Netflix, catch up on Facebook). The number of EASY cycles per day depends on your children’s age. At 18 weeks, our twins were supposed to take 3 naps a day, but their schedules were all over the place. We were only putting them down for naps when they appeared sleepy, but this made them overtired and cranky.
  • Remove the eat-sleep association. We used to feed our twins before putting them to sleep. Zoe recommended that we remove any sleep associations so that they could sleep on their own. To teach our twins to self soothe, we gave them little loveys to cuddle.
  • Wean night feedings (please check with your pediatrician before proceeding with this). Our twins were about 18 weeks old and >5 kg. When they cried for milk at night, we gave them small amounts of water instead, gradually reducing their intake per feeding.

Within a week, our twins had gotten into the groove of the EASY schedule and were finally able to sleep through the night!

Tips
  • Start with a few goals and communicate them clearly to all caretakers to ensure consistency.
  • Expect some crying and anxiety–be strong! We had to deal with 5-10 minute crying intervals but this stopped after a few days.
  • Remember that sleep training helps both parents and children. Our little boy was fussy and temperamental before sleep training, but after he settled into the EASY schedule, he was much happier. Many books and blogs reiterate that children love routine, and we found this to be absolutely true for our kids.

Where to buy twin baby products in Singapore

Before I gave birth, my husband and I prepared the basics at home. During the first few months with our twins, we quickly discovered that we needed all sorts of baby and nursing related items. Between juggling two babies and recovering from childbirth, I couldn’t go out often, so I spent a lot of time Googling what / where to buy what I needed. I often had to purchase from 5-6 different places, while in the US, I was used to buying everything in one store.

Here are some of my most frequently visited stores and websites for buying baby items in Singapore.

Online stores

Lazada – Online marketplace which I use to purchase Japanese GOO.N diapers. Use the app and purchase on Fridays, when you can use a code to get 10-12% off your order.

Pupsik – Pupsik is great during your first few months with twins. They carry a wide selection of items, most of which you can’t find at the brick and mortar stores here. I’ve bought discounted Mustela and California Baby goods, breast pump parts, Bravado nursing bras, my Beaba Babycook, and Parklon play mats for the twins.

Kulily – Similar to Pupsik but with some different inventory. We bought our Baby Jogger City Select stroller from Kulily.

Amazon – Free shipping on select items over $125 USD. Most baby items in Singapore are extremely overpriced, so I have purchased about half of the twins’ stuff from Amazon. My orders usually arrive within 1-2 weeks. I’ve bought board books, toys, Avent bottles, Lanisoh items (disposable breast pads, lanolin cream, breastmilk storage bags), baby feeding items (bibs, cutlery, bowls, food storage containers, sippy cups), sleep sacks, swaddle blankets…and the list goes on and on!

Redmart – Great for groceries and also for diapers, wipes, formula–all the heavy stuff you don’t want to lug around when you’re at the grocery store.

Carousell – Easy-to-use app for buying and selling new / preloved items. There’s a huge market for baby items on Carousell. I’ve purchased preloved clothes for my twins, new Avent baby bottles (at a very reasonable price–similar to what I paid on Amazon without the minimum purchase requirement), new breast pump accessories (those pesky little Medela membranes). I’ve been able to sell most of my twins’ old clothes as well.

Brick & mortar shops

FairPrice Finest – For most items, FairPrice is sufficient for diapers, formula, wipes, etc. But FairPrice Finest usually has a larger selection, especially for Pigeon items (they make great teething toys, straw cups, toothbrushes, and we use their disposable wipes for eating out). They also carry a decent selection of baby snacks for those 6 months old and above.

Guardian – Great for first aid items, especially sterile nasal solution for flushing out snotty noses, syringes for giving medicine, hand sanitizer to keep at the diaper changing table, and other health related sundries. Unity is a useful pharmacy chain as well.

1010 Mother & Child Essentials – Located at City Square Mall, Seletar Mall, and Waterway Point. Great little store that carries a wide selection of baby bathing and skin essentials, feeding accessories (e.g., bottle nipples and cutlery), baby snacks, toys, etc.

Clearly, online stores are a great help to frazzled moms in Singapore! Do you have any others to recommend?