Last week we had quite a busy week doing lots of fun stuff. On Wednesday we
went along to one of our local home ed meet ups so we could try out our (non-existing) skating skills with friends. We met some new people, fell on our bums, laughed, played in the ball pool, had an ice lolly and played on the bouncy castle. The kids had great fun! Bear even got the hang of skating a little! As we made our way home we thought the fun was all over. Little did we know there was something special waiting for us. Something we had been waiting for.
I’ve written this post to inspire you to start your own little collection to create your own unique cultural or continent box. Maybe you could even arrange an exchange for a more authentic collection . Whether you Montessori or not, there is no denying that the Montessori approach to culture and geography is not only unique and exciting but also a viable way to introduce young children to the diversity of the world. Its a very hands-on way to explore other parts of the world. Those of you asking yourself “What is Montessori approach?” might want to check out these links:
I will also be updating this post with cool Montessori-inspired activities which I put together from the items in this parcel . Please note there are some affiliate links to make it easier for you to locate items and to hopefully save you time.
So… lets get started with this little video of what was inside 😉
The kids love each and every item and could not wait to find Singapore in the Maps book to discover how far they had travelled. Zip soon realised that many of these items are also used in Chinese culture, so we took a quick look at China too.
We spent a good 45 minutes looking at these pages and discussing the illustrations. Bear would point to something and Zip would tell her what it was.
Anyhow, here is a closer look at the contents and what they are used for:
Five spice – This traditional spice is used in many Chinese dishes and recipes. It is not named after the number of spices used in the mixture but rather the 5 elements of taste; bitter, pungent, sour, salty and sweet. In fact many five spice powders contain around 7 ingredients. Five spice has a very powerful scent in which cinnamon and star annise dominate. Other common spices used are cloves, ginger, fennel and sichuan pepper.
Saffron – This is one of the most expensive spices in the world. Each thread of Saffron is actually a stigma from the Crocus Sativus flower. Each flower only has three stigmas and it takes around 150 flowers just for a mere 1g of saffron. To add to all of this, each stigma must be picked by hand. That is a lot of work!
Ikan Bilis – These crispy salt-cured anchovies can be cooked with garlic, chillies and other flavourings and eaten as a snack or added to dishes as a flavouring. In Malay or Bahsa Ikan Bilis roughly translates to ‘little fish’.
Bunga Telang – The Butterfly-pea flower, also known as Bunga Telag, is commonly used to make Nonya Kueh which is a kind of layered, wobbly cake made in Singapore. After boiling, the flowers release their blue dye which can be used to colour rice and other foods. It also also can be used to make a tea.
Stickers of rare animals from the Singapore festival of biodiversity.
Tikam Tikam is a kind of lucky dip in fact, in Malay it translates to ‘random pick’. You will usually find these games in stores. The idea is to pick a number from a board covered with lots of pieces of folded paper. Each slip was numbered and matched with a small prize such as marbles, soft drinks or these cute little plastic animals. The Tikam Tikam game kind of reminds me of a cross between the lucky dip machines in which you would place a 10 pence piece in the slot, twist the handle and a small toy would drop down and a game of tombola.
Small notebook – This beautiful little notebook is covered in traditional Chinese silk. Did you know that silk fabric was invented in China thousands of years ago. There is a legend which says that Leizu, the wife of the Yellow Emperor, had the idea for silk fabric when a cocoon from a silkworm fell into her tea.
Pen – This floral enammeled pen goes beautifully with the little notebook. Great to try out some Chinese characters.
Skewers – I was told these skewers are used for a local BBQ satay dish amongst other foods such as kebabs and fruits.
Chinese lanterns – There were actually three lovely paper lanterns included in the bundle. They originally were made for lighting but soon became a status and celebration symbol.
Red packets in packet holder – Also known as ‘angpow’ these beautiful red envelopes are usually given with money inside for a special occasion such as holidays, weddings, graduations or the birth of a baby. The red symbolises good luck and is thought to ward off evil spirits.
Small red packets – There were eight mini red packets because in Chinese culture 8 is an auspicious number which rhymes with “prosperity”.
Invitation – How amazing and unique is this? I feel very privileged to have this in our collection. It is is a genuine invitation to a Chinese wedding banquet, with a classical knot closure on the front of the card. When opened the left side is written in Mandarin and the right side in very formal English. The envelope was sealed with ‘shuangxi’ character which means double happiness. Its absolutely stunning.
Capteh – This is traditional Malay game which is very much still alive in Singapore. It is a bit like a shuttlecock. The idea is to keep the capteh in the air using only your feet to kick or balance it around. Have a look at this video for a better idea.
Fabric runner – This is made from the iconic Singapore airlines batik fabric and worn in flight by an SQ attendant.
Small Singapore flag
Local Mandarin magazine – This is yet another amazing item. Each page contains lots of different Mandarin characters and cartoon illustrations which the kids have loved looking at. It is amazing.
So there we have it, our super-cool special delivery! I have some awesome activities and a little celebration planned to explore the culture further. Many of these items could also be used for a China study so I’m going to be basing most of our activities on Chinese culture and discussing how it applies to Singapore. I can’t wait!
Learning can be fun!
Also see: Great Britain box