FREE Things to Do at Singapore’s Changi Airport for Kids + Adults

Ever since my daughter turned 1, we’ve taken an annual trip to Indonesia to visit my family. Next week, she’ll be going on her 7th transatlantic flight (our 4th one with just the two of us) and her 7th transit in Singapore’s Changi Airport, arguably the most complete and entertaining airport in the world.

The time we spend inside Changi Airport is always a lot of fun as there are things to do, eat, and see that could keep you busy for days.

ACRONYM KEY
TA = TripAdvisor Rating
SGD = Singapore Dollar

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GET CONNECTED, FOOD, SLEEP, ENTERTAINMENT,
PLAYGROUNDS, SPAS, FREE SINGAPORE TOURS, SHOPPING

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GET CONNECTED

The first thing I always do when I arrive at Changi is get access to the FREE WI-FI. There are four ways to set this up:

1. Text Message via Mobile Phone
This is not ideal for international passengers due to roaming charges. If you’d like to go this route, enter your mobile number on the WiFi login page to receive a One-Time-Password via SMS/text message.

2. WiFi Password Kiosk
Simply scan your passport at these WiFi Kiosks to obtain a password for 3 hours of free WiFi access. Renew at any similar kiosk once the 3 hour period ends. They are located strategically across terminals and inside some gates.

3. Information Counters
Simply approach the counter and present your passport to the customer service agent to obtain a password for 3 hours of free internet access.

4. Computer/Internet Stations
If you don’t have a Wi-Fi enabled device, there are internet stations with computers throughout the airport.

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FOOD

At Changi Airport, you will find a huge variety of food from all over the world, from your typical American fast food joints to sushi, ramen, donuts, and pastas. One of my favorite things about Singapore, however, is the “Singaporean” food. With it’s Chinese roots and it being a central hub to many Asian countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, the food options at food courts and hawker centers can seem ENDLESS, and possibly, a little overwhelming for a first timer.

YOU WILL HAVE TO GET RID OF ANY BEVERAGES AND NON-TSA APPROVED LIQUIDS BEFORE YOUR FLIGHT.

At Changi Airport, you go through the typical TSA airport screening as you enter your gate just before departure.

FOOD TO CONSIDER TRYING

Of course, the following is a very short list compared to the long list of actual options you’d have eating in Singapore. Here are just a few ideas of things you might consider ordering if you come across it while at Changi Airport instead of … yet another burger, sandwich, or spaghetti.

I haven’t even scratched the surface with the following examples of food you can eat at Changi. A *** indicates a popular dish in Singapore and a must try.

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Laksa***,
Airport Staff Canteen
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Nasi Lemak***,
PappaMia T1

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Singapore Chili Crab***,
Seafood Paradise T2

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Carrot Cake*** (w/ white radish NOT carrot),
Airport Staff Canteen


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Curry Puff***,
Tip Top T1, T2, T3

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Rendang***,
Curry Time T3

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Hainanese
Chicken Rice***
,
Airport Staff Canteen

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Kaya Toast,
Ya Kun Kaya Toast

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Char Kway Teow***,
Kopitiam T3


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Kway Chap,
Airport Staff Canteen 

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Fried Hokkien Mee, Ngee Kee
Airport Staff Canteen

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Duck Porridge,
Airport Staff Canteen

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Yong To Fu w/Tom Yum Broth,
Kopitiam T3

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Bak Kut Teh,
Rong Chen T2

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Cendol,
PappaMia T1
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Roti Prata,
Kopitiam T3  

 

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Nasi Padang,
Airport Staff Canteen

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Mee Rebus,
Airport Staff Canteen

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Mee Siam,
Airport Staff Canteen

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Mixed Rice,
Airport Staff Canteen

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Mala Fragrant Pot
Airport Staff Canteen

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Ban Mian,
Airport Staff Canteen

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Mee Sotong,
Airport Staff Canteen

PLACES TO EAT

 
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1. Food Courts for Local/Asian Food

Kopitiam
Hours: 24 Hours

Terminal 3, Public Area, Basement 2

Straits Food Village
Hours: 24 Hours
Terminal 2, Transit Area, Departure Transit Lounge Central, Level 3

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 2. Airport Staff Canteen

Find some of the best and cheapest hawker fare for as low as 3 SGD (that’s under US$3 a plate.)

Terminal 1
Hours: 7AM-8PM

This is the biggest canteen with more than 25 stalls. Follow signs to the restrooms with red doors and take the elevator down to Basement 1.

Terminal 2
Level 3 Mezzanine, near parking area. Locate the Starbucks on Level 2, take the nearest elevator to the car park at Level 3, walk up the staircase, turn left, and look for the unlabeled iron door.

Note: CNN featured an article about the airport staff canteens HERE.

 3. American Fast Food Chains

Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts, KFC, Krispy Kreme, McDonald’s, Subway

 4. Restaurants

There are too many restaurants to list here. Find the complete list at the official website of Changi Airport.

 Image Source  5. Convenience Stores & Pharmacies

Find toiletries, unique regional snacks, and other basic needs at one of the available 24 hour convenience stores.

7-Eleven (Convenience Store)
Open 24 Hours
Terminal 1, Departure Transit Lounge West, Level 2
Terminal 2, Departure Transit Lounge South, Level 3

Cheers (Convenience Store)
Open 24 Hours
Terminal 2, Departure Check-in Hall, Level 2
Terminal 3, Arrivals Hall, Level 1
Terminal 3, Departure Transit Lounge North, Level 3

Watsons (Pharmacy)
Limited Hours

Terminal 2, Outside Transit Area, Level 2
Terminal 3, Level 2, Departure Lounge, Near B Gates
Terminal 3, Outside Transit Area, Basement 2

 
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 6. Recommended Specialty Food

Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao
Decent dim sum.
Terminal 1

Hong Kong Sheng Kee Dessert
Delicious custard egg tarts.
Terminal 2 & 3

Ippudo Express
A branch of the popular ramen shop in NYC.
Terminal 2 & 3

Thai Express
I loved the branch in Jakarta which closed down, so while the Changi location hasn’t been as great, I tend to go back just to order my favorite mango salad (but only when the mango is still green). 
Terminal 3, outside of Transit Area

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SLEEP + NAPPING

If you have a long layover, you’ll probably want to get a little sleep.

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1. Snooze Lounges (Free)
Terminal 1: Transit East, Level 3, Transit Area
Terminal 2: Sanctuary Lounge, Transit North Pier, opp E5
Terminal 2: Oasis Lounge, Transit North Pier, Opp E11
Terminal 3: Transit North Mezzanine, near to Singapore Food Street
 
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2. Pay-Per-Use Lounges

Terminal 1
Dnata LoungeTA 3.5* Airside
Plaza Premium Lounge: TA 4* Level 3. Departure West

Terminal 2
Ambassador: TA 3.5* next to the Sunflower Garden.

Terminal 3
Ambassador: TA 3.5* near Movie Theatre
Dnata Lounge: TA 3.5* Departure Transit Hall, Mezzanine
The Haven: TA 4* TA Outside transit area, Arrivals Hall

 


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3. Aerotel Singapore

TA 4* Terminal 1: Level 3, Departure/Transit Lounge, near Gate D41

 
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 4. Ambassador Transit Hotel & Lounge (50+ SGD)

TA 4* They have hotel rooms that you can rent for 6 hour blocks or a marginally less expensive lounge for you to nap, shower, and use the gym. The hotel has been fully booked twice on my visits, so I’d recommend booking in advance.

 5. Off-Site Hotel

This last option means leaving Changi Airport, but leaving/returning to the airport is pretty fast and seamless relative to other countries’ airports, and there are plenty of nearby choices for you to book a hotel room with free airport transfer.

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ENTERTAINMENT

1. Take a FREE Tour of Singapore

Assuming you have a transit of more than 5.5 hours, you can sign up for a FREE 2.5 TOUR of Singapore. All you have to do is register at least one hour before the start of the tour by visiting the Free Singapore Tour (FST) Registration Booth (near Transfer Lounge F in Terminal 2, or Transfer Lounge A in Terminal 3) upon arrival. Make sure that your passport is on the visa waiver list by checking HERE.


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Heritage Tour (FREE)

Duration: around 2.5 hours
Minimum Transit Time: 5.5 hours
Language: English only

– Financial & Commercial District
– Singapore River & the Merlion
– Chinatown
– Little India
– Kampong Glam

Find out Heritage Tour timings


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City Sights Tour (FREE)

Duration: around 2.5 hours
Minimum Transit Time: 6 hours
Language: English only

– Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade
– Singapore Flyer
– Marina Bay Sands
– Esplanade
– Gardens by the Bay
– Singapore River & the Merlion
– Art Science Museum Singapore

Find out City Sights Tour timings

2. Explore the Gardens


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Butterfly Garden (FREE)
Terminal 3, Departure Transit Lounge, Level 2/Level 3

The world’s first airport butterfly garden has flowering plants, lush greenery and a grotto-waterfall. It contains around 1,000 tropical butterflies from as many as 40 species during the different seasons of the year.  There are also areas where you can learn more about the breeding and feeding of the butterflies.


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Water Lily Garden (FREE)
Terminal 1, Departure Transit Lounge, Level 2, Transit Area

This may not be a large space, but as someone who grew up finding water lilies intriguing, this is one of my favorite spots to walk by at Changi. These plants include the Sacred Lotus and the Amazon Water Lily – one of the largest aquatic plant in the world.

 
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Cactus Garden (FREE)
Terminal 1, Departure Transit Lounge, Level 3, Transit Area

This garden features more than 100 species of cacti and arid plants from the deserts and dry areas of Asia, Africa and America. Part of its popularity may also be the bar within the garden, where travelers can enjoy a drink or two as they relax.

 
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Orchid Garden (FREE)
Terminal 2, Departure Transit Lounge, Level 2, Transit Area

The Orchid Garden features more than 700 orchids of 30 species grouped by their various colours and shapes.

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Terminal 2, Departure Transit Lounge, Level 3, Transit Area

The rooftop garden features several varieties of sunflowers grown in Changi Airport’s very own nursery. We haven’t been to this one but plan to check it out next week.


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Enchanted Garden (FREE)
Terminal 2, Departure Transit Lounge, Level 2, Transit Area

This is one of my daughter’s favorite areas of the airport. This is an interactive and decorative garden that “magically” comes to life with sight and sound by way of motion sensors and LED lighting while you weave through the garden. This “garden” includes a combination of freshly-cut flowers, soft ferns, and stained-glass.

3. Take the Kids to a Playground


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Canopy Playground by T1 Garden (FREE)
Departure Transit Lounge East, next to Outdoor Garden, Level 2, Transit Area

The sign at this playground says that the mostly padded play structure is for kids ages 18 months to 12 years, but it looks like it might be more appealing to younger kids below the age of 7. Vibrant colors, tunnels, a slide, and obstacles makes this a popular choice.

 

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Playground by T1 Level 3 (FREE)
Departure Transit Lounge West, Level 3

 
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Playground by T2 Family Zone (FREE)
Departure Transit Lounge North, next to the Family Zone, Level 2, Transit Area
Playground by T3 SATS Lounge (FREE)
Departure Transit Lounge Central, next to SATS Special Service Lounge, Level 2, Transit Area
Image Source Playground by T3 Basement (FREE)
Basement 2, Outside Arcade

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Playground by T3 A-Gates (FREE)
Departure Transit Lounge, outside gate holdroom A16 – A20, Level 2, Transit Area

This is the biggest free playground at Changi Airport.

 Image Source Image Source Mr. Bean-Themed SingKids Playground (18 SGD)
Terminal 3, Basement 2

This playground has a bouncy house, some slides, a small padded area for younger kids to use ride-on toys, and many other structures. What sets it apart from a regular playground is, aside from the size and sheer amount of equipment, the “Mr. Bean” theme.

4. Go to the Movie Theater

Terminal 2
Departure Transit Lounge, near the Sunflower Garden, Level 3, Transit Area

Hours: 24 hours, but closed for weekly maintenance between Thursday 10PM and Friday 4AM

Click HERE for the Screening Schedule

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Terminal 3
Departure Transit Lounge North, near Ambassador Transit Lounge, Level 3, Transit Area

Hours: 24 hours, but closed for weekly maintenance between 1PM-6PM on Thursdays

Click HERE for the Screening Schedule


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There are also plenty of other areas throughout the terminals where you could sit down and watch the news or sports.

Look at one of the many airport maps while you’re there, take a walk around, or approach an Information Desk to find out where these areas can be found throughout the airport.

5. Play Games for FREE

Changi Airport features an Entertainment Deck located in Terminal 2, at the Departure Transit Lounge next to the Sunflower Garden on Level 3.

 
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 Playstation 3 (FREE)

Games:  Coming Soon

 
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 XBox 360 (FREE)

Games: Coming Soon

 XBox Kinect Room (FREE)

Games: Coming Soon

 
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 LAN Gaming Room (FREE)

Games:  Coming Soon

 MTV Video/Music Booths

Listen to music and watch music videos.

6. Slide Down the Longest Slide in Singapore


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Terminal 3, Arrival Hall, Level 1, Public Area

Hours: 12PM – 10:30PM Daily
Requirements:
Must be 1.3m-2m or 51″-78″ to slide.

Cost: 
This slide is sometimes free to travelers boarding T3. In addition, for every $10 spent at T3 of Changi Airport in a single same day receipt*, visitors can redeem one ride at the Terminal 3 Level 1 Information Counter.

Cross off the world’s tallest indoor slide in an airport from your bucket list. At 4 stories tall and 12 metres high, you’ll get a thrilling experience and a chance to revisit the kid in you.

7. Ride the Skytrain

Image SourceImage Source Hours of Operation: 5:00AM – 2:30AM

This automated driverless people mover isn’t just a convenient way to move between Terminals 1, 2, and 3 at Singapore Changi Airport, but also a great way to entertain the kids! It takes approximately 4 minutes to get from one terminal to another. All stations are air conditioned and offer screens indicating the arrival time of the next train.

Neat fact: This was the first driverless and automated system in Asia when it opened in 1990.

8. Take a Dip in the Rooftop Swimming Pool or Jacuzzi


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Cost: SGD 17
Hours: 6am-12am daily

Terminal 1, Aerotal Airport Transit Hotel, Departure Transit Lounge, Level 3, Transit Area ( near D Gates)

This rooftop pool is located at the Aerotel Airport Transit Hotel at Terminal 1 and free for all guests of the hotel, but anyone willing to spend 17 SGD can use the pool, jacuzzi, poolside bar, and/or the shower facilities. Travellers are invited to relax and enjoy these facilities while waiting for their next flight.

9. Try Your Hand at Arts & Crafts

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Wood Block Rubbing Station

Create your own imprints from rubbing surfaces of icons inspired by local Singapore culture and Changi Airport. Take home a piece of personalised momento from Changi today!

Terminal 1
Viewing Mall, Level 3, Public Area

Terminal 2
Departure Transit Lounge South, next to the Orchid Garden, Level 2, Transit Area

Terminal 3
Next to the Fountain area, Level B2, Public Area
Departure Transit Lounge North, Outside gate holdroom B1-B4, Level 2, Transit Area

10. Visit an Exhibit

 
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Kinetic Rain

Terminal 1

Kinetic Rain is a moving sculpture that was installed in July 2012 after having been created over a period of two years by artists, animators and programmers from the German design firm Art+Com.

It is quite literally one of the most beautiful and mesmerizing examples of moving art that I have ever seen in person.

 
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 Changi Aviation Gallery

Terminal 3

This is an area for those interested in learning about the history of aviation in Singapore and Changi Airport’s ground operations. Kids who have an interest in airplanes might be delighted to see actual models of unusual aircrafts or learn about how inflight meals are prepared and how pets travel on aircrafts. They also provide fun kid friendly fact sheets.

 

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GET PAMPERED

If you aren’t traveling alone with kids like I am, why not take the opportunity to pamper yourself before your final destination?

Below is the shower at the pay-per-use Ambassador Transit Lounge.
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Take a Shower 

Visit one of the available pay-per-use lounges to take a shower or visit a gym. Scroll up and check the “Sleep” section of this post to find a list of lounges at Changi Airport.

 Image Source Feed Fish … your Dead Skin (SGD 22)

Fish treatments where garra rufa fish eat your dead skin was very popular when I lived in Jakarta. Do your research to see if it’s for you and try it here:

Airport Wellness Oasis
Open: 24 Hours

Terminal 1, Departure Transit Lounge, Near Gate D, Level 2


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Go for a Massage, Manicure, Facial, or Spa Treatment

There are plenty of FREE Osim massage chairs throughout the airport terminals for you to use … and even, for some, to nap on (see photo on the left).

If you aren’t interested in a free massage, you can also have your hair done, get a manicure and pedicure, have a full spa treatment done including a body scrub, or get a facial.

See a complete list of businesses inside Changi that offer Hair, Beauty, and Spa services HERE.


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FREE Makeover at Dior Beauty House

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DUTY FREE SHOPPING

The shopping options at Changi Airport are ENDLESS. From casual wear to high end designers like Hermes and Chanel, you can find a wide array of places to shop for goods while avoiding hefty taxes or the hassle of collecting your receipts to obtain a tax refund at the end of your trip.

Find a complete list of stores at the official website by clicking HERE.

 

Happy Earth Day: Activities, Projects, and Events

We only have one world. Sure, dinosaurs included, things have changed quite a bit since 65,000,000 years ago. The world, along with mankind, has evolved. Medicine, hygiene, and day to day conveniences has improved our general quality of life SO much, we now worry less about being eaten by a wild animal and more about whether or not our phones are able to take quality pictures in low light or if we have enough storage for 100,000 candid pictures of our kids and our Tsum Tsum collection.

We no longer have to hand wash every paint-stained article of clothing and furniture our children touched while working on their latest project and paper maps are practically obsolete. But while our overall quality of life and the time it takes to perform simple tasks have been diminished, we’ve been sucking up more resources and destroying natural habitats of other living beings in exchange for more … everything.

Here are some simple activities we could do with our kids to help reduce our carbon footprint and bring more awareness while celebrating Earth Day:

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1. ENJOY THE OUTDOORS: ATTEND A LOCAL CLEAN-UP EVENT

If there aren’t any clean-up events near you, start your own. Call some friends and head to a local park, beach, or kids’ play area with some speakers for music, gloves and a compostable trash bag.

East SF Bay Cleanups:

City of Oakland Earth Day 2017

City of Oakland Website
23rd Annual Oakland Earth Day
List of 2017 Project Locations

 

City of Alameda Website
Earth Day Festival
Earth Day Beach Cleanup at Crab Cove

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2. SORT AND SEPARATE RECYCLABLES

Make a fun game out of sorting and separating cans, bottles, paper, and boxes.

Sorting Recyclables - Free Printable from totschooling.com
Here is an example of one of the many free printables you can find online. Find the full size version of this specific one at totschooling.net.

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3. PLANT SOMETHING & LEARN ABOUT PLANT CARE

While I’ve never had a green thumb, my daughter LOVES gardening (*cough* playing with dirt) when she visits my Mom. This year, I decided we would start planting things over the summer in a planter that my father in law custom made for Zee’s birthday this year. It will be nice to give her something that she can feel a sense of responsibility over while building self-confidence and a love for nature. Plus, it might just make her eager to eat more veggies! If you don’t have a garden or yard, consider a vertical garden, using windowsills and ledges, hanging planters on balcony railings, or joining a community garden.

Here is a link that might help you decide which variety of veggies or fruits might grow better than others in the SF East Bay Area:
UC Master Gardener Program of Alameda County

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4. REUSE SIMPLE MATERIALS FOR ARTS & CRAFTS

There is a wide variety of fun things you can do with trash. I’ll be posting a longer list of ideas soon, but in the meantime.. here are two examples of arts & crafts ideas using a finished toilet paper roll and an old shoe box.

Toilet Paper Roll-Base Binoculars:

Shoe Box-Base Decorative Storage Box:

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5. DECORATE OR MAKE YOUR OWN TOTE BAGS FOR GROCERIES

There are many sites online that sell plain white or beige colored bags for under $3. It might be nice to buy one that your little one can decorate with hand prints or paint on. Most kids paint is waterproof and easily washed off, so try not to get the bag wet if you want to preserve their artwork. They also sell eco friendly protective coatings for printed products that you could use.

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6. GO FOR AN EARTH DAY SCAVENGER HUNT

While you’re outside enjoying the beautiful weather, you could also make it an opportunity to do a scavenger hunt. Don’t forget to bring snacks, water, sunscreen, and your toilet paper roll binoculars (or real ones). And of course, make or print a list of common objects like rocks, tree stumps, pine cones, insects, or animal tracks.

 

An illustrated checklist for kids to take on hikes.

 

Here is an example of one of the many free printables you can find online. Find the full size version of this specific one at makeandtakes.com

 

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Have some fun and enjoy the beautiful weather this weekend!

 

 

Indonesian Independence Day for Kids at Shangri-La Hotel Jakarta

Are you looking for a place to celebrate Indonesia’s Independence Day with your kids on the 17th of August? I took my daughter to Shangri-La’s annual celebration in Jakarta last year and we both had SO much fun! Considering all the food and activities it included, it was such a steal, too! We’ll probably head back to Shangri-La the next time we’re in Indonesia for “Agustusan.”

Cost: 100,000 IDR/child*
Date: August 17, 2016
Time: 11am-2pm
* around 7.50 USD as of this writing

 

ACTIVITIES

Pony Ride

The cost of admission included a pony ride.

          

Parade

The kids were given flags and paraded around the hotel lobby.

Arts & Crafts

Materials for the kids to make necklaces and bracelets were provided.

           

Bouncy House

Soft Play Area for Crawlers

Congkak

There was also an area for kids to play the traditional “congkak” – a game similar to Mancala, but typically with shells.

TRADITIONAL GAMES

Cracker Eating

The first person to finish the cracker without touching it wins. This cracker wasn’t quite the right height for Zee, but she made it nearly 5 minutes without touching!

Pencil in the Bottle

Usually, they tie a pencil to each child’s waist, and whomever gets the pencil in the bottle first wins. In this case, everyone who successfully got the pen in was a winner. And Zee “won!”

There were also a few other games that we did not participate in.

FOOD

Kue Cubit or “Pinched Cake,” a thick, round, pancake-like cake with chocolate sprinkles in the middle that I personally tend to prefer slightly undercooked.

Kue Ape, another pancake-like cake with a soft and fluffy center surrounded by a thin and crispy crepe-like ring, commonly found as a popular street food in Indonesia.

Martabak Mini Tipker [Tipis Kering], a thin, crunchy, and much lighter version of the possible causes of many cardiac arrests – martabak. The classic martabak a butter or margarine soaked pan-fried cake-like snack that is traditionally found stuffed with chocolate sprinkles, cheese, or a combination of both. These days you can find specialty martabak places that offer Toblerone, red velvet, Nutella, and other combinations.

Rambut Nenek or “Grandma’s Hair” is what happens when cotton candy and taffy mates.

This is what it looks like:

Below is a picture of a traditional cart that served Batagor, fried fish dumplings that can be found throughout Indonesia and is often enjoyed with “kecap manis,” a sweet soy sauce, and peanut sauce. Also, Kerak Telor, a Betawi traditional spicy omelette dish made from sticky rice cooked with egg and served with serundeng, fried shallots and dried shrimp.

Siomay, a steamed dumpling similar to the Chinese version of shumai you might find at a dim sum restaurant but with thicker shell and served with peanut sauce in Indonesia + Gorengan or “Fried Foods,” are both very popular. It’s rare to go through more than a week without seeing either of these on the dining table at home.

Obviously, there were a lot of food options. All for 100,000! That’s cheaper than you’d pay if you ACTUALLY bought all this food in the street.

We ended our day with … yep, you guessed it, more food. We had a fabulous and satisfying meal at one of my favorite Jakarta buffets; Satoo. MERDEKA!

For more information, contact:
Shangri-La Jakarta
Kota BNI
Jl. Jendral Sudirman Kav. 1
Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia
Phone: +62 21 29229999

 

Interview Questions for Parents to Ask Prospective Preschools

Last summer, we were considering moving to Jakarta, Indonesia. Part of the decision making process involved a hunt for preschools. Here is a self-created list of questions that personally helped me determine which schools were a better fit for us than others.

Please feel free to use this as a guide while touring prospective preschools and do let me know if there are any additional questions you think should be added to this list. If you’re wondering why I asked some of these, feel free to comment or shoot me an e-mail. Thanks for reading and please do take the time to subscribe if you’d like to see more posts like this.

Happy touring!

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PHILOSOPHY

What is the school’s teaching philosophy?

When was it established? Is it a franchise?

Who designs or determines their curriculum?

What is their teaching method? Is it mostly directed? Do the kids have any opportunity for free play?

Do they use worksheets? At what age do they give the kids homework?

How do they track the children’s progress? Will parents be able to see this?

How do they handle children who have a hard time following instructions or listening?

Do they have a transition plan for children who may have a rough time adjusting?

How do they handle children who might bite or hit another child? Are the parents notified? Do they have a logbook to keep track of this type of thing?

TEACHERS

What is the student to teacher ratio? How many students are in a classroom?

Are all the adults in the classroom typically teachers or do they have nannies/helpers?

How long have the teachers been there? Do they sign a contract to ensure that they don’t leave before the end of the school year?

Are there parent teacher conferences? Are the teachers available for discussions about the child’s individual progress or potential struggles?

What is the criteria to becoming a teacher at the school? Do they have to have a degree in early childhood development or education or are they trained in house?

Do they have specialist teachers or visiting teachers for subjects like Mandarin, Music, or Dance?

FACILITIES

Do they have a playground?

Do they have a library or any other special rooms or facilities that set them apart from other preschools?

How many restrooms are there? How far is the restroom from the classroom? Do they have large toilets or small toilets? Are the children accompanied to the restroom by an adult?

Is there a waiting area for parents or nannies?

What sort of learning materials do they use? Do they have a wide variety of play based learning tools for children in the classrooms?

Do they own the building or rent?

Do the children have access to screen time while at school?

FOOD, HEALTH, & EXTRAS

Do they provide snack and lunch or do the parents have to pack a daily lunch?

If it’s provided by the school, what does the menu look like? Is it nutritious? Do they accommodate dietary restrictions and/or allergies?

Do they teach a second language? Which? Are they taught by native speakers?

Do they offer extracurricular activities? Which? Are they included in the cost of tuition?

Are all the teachers certified in CPR and/or First Aid? Is there an in-house nurse?

What is their policy for sick kids? Do they check the children’s temperature prior to coming in?

Do the kids take field trips? Where to? Are they included in the price? What type of transportation do they use? Are parents or nannies expected to and/or allowed to join?

What is their protocol in case of a medical emergency? Do they always have a vehicle and driver ready to transport any children to the hospital? Who accompanies the child(ren)? Which hospital do they take the children to?

SECURITY

What is their sign in/sign out policy? Are parents and/or nannies given a badge and is there some method to ID the person who picks up the child?

What happens if nobody who is on the previously approved list is able to pick up the child?

Where do children wait when parents or nannies are late for pick up? Who stays with them?

Are drop offs and pick ups inside a secure and gated area?

Are there security guards? How/where were they trained?

Are there CCTVs inside and outside of the school? Are there CCTVs near/around restrooms?

Is the parking lot private or shared?

Do they have a plan set in place for bomb threats, abduction, intruders?

Do they hold fire and earthquake drills with the children? How frequently?

EXTRAS

Are children able to try out at the school? For how long? Will parents be allowed to observe?

Do they expect all children to be potty trained? If not, who changes diapers and where?

Are parents expected to sign a contract that commits their children to the school for a period of time? How much advance notice do they need prior to withdrawal?

Do they have a part time program or do all children have to attend 5 days a week? Do they provide any options for after care?

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COMING SOON

I will be posting a downloadable comparison table to show the key differences between the schools that my then 3-year-old daughter tried out at while in Jakarta. The list of these schools include Bambino Cipete, Discovery Menteng, EtonHouse, HighScope Simatupang, HighScope Kelapa Gading, Jakarta World Academy, Leap Schoolhouse, Mighty Minds Hang Tuah, and Royal Tots Academy. In the meantime, if you have any specific questions about any of the above preschools, feel free to contact me!

 

Easter Egg Hunt at Dunsmuir House

This year, we attended The Great Egg Hunt at the Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate in Oakland, California. When you block out all the event traffic, long lines, boisterous children, and the mild chaos from lack of proper signage, for a moment, the grand neoclassical mansion looming ahead of you almost makes you feel like a character in an F. Scott Fitzgerald book, walking the gardens as you fantasize about life with Jay Gatsby.

          

And then your kid interrupts the thought with a dramatic, “Oh nooooooooo.” The bow on her basket has come undone for the umpteenth time. And CLEARLY, she can’t possibly carry a basket without a bow. Smh.

The grounds were beautiful in springtime.

          

They also had two Easter bunnies – a white bunny with a long line by the entrance and his gray buddy across the mansion.

There were a variety of activities catered to younger children including face painting ($5), a photo op with a pony ($5), arts & crafts, a few performers, and a petting zoo. We didn’t find any food available for sale, but many families  brought picnic baskets or lunchboxes and a blanket to use on the lawn. We weren’t quite that prepared.

The actual Easter egg hunt was kind of a mess. They split up the hunts into different timeframes based on age range:

Ages 0–3: noon
Ages 4–6: 1pm
Ages 7–10: 2pm

This didn’t work out so well for families with more than one child, so we noticed that many parents insisted that their 2 and 3 year olds join their older siblings for the hunt with the 4-6 year old group.

We reached the second line – the one for the egg hunt – at 12:20pm, 40mins before the hunt was scheduled to start. This meant our kids had plenty of time to play!

There was some flower picking..

          

And though my daughter INSISTED on wearing this D&G-like dress she picked out and that Cartier-like love bracelet for her Easter egg hunt,

it didn’t stop her from climbing over trees..

and finding a way to enjoy the outdoors.

By 1pm, the line had reached all the way past the mansion, filled with hundreds of families.

The kids were told to sit and wait for 30 minutes so the staff could allow as many children in. This photo was taken at 1:05pm, 5mins after they started letting children inside. By 1:30pm, there were many crying children who couldn’t see their parents because there were many people sandwiched between them and the fence. And they kept being asked to sit down, so they couldn’t exactly play while they waited.

When the kids were finally allowed to start the egg hunt, many parents ran inside the hunt area to join their children.

I was disappointed to discover that there were hardly any eggs. They had basically just thrown a bunch of no-brand chocolates on the lawn.

          

By the end of the hunt, Zee had only found TWO eggs. The rest were chocolates, many of which were opened and or had been smushed under someone’s shoes. Fortunately, she didn’t want any of her chocolates and was willing to trade them in for a cup of ice cream after lunch.

In the end, what mattered most to my daughter was how much she enjoyed being outside with her best friend and the fun of the hunt.

If what you’re looking for is a place nearby and a chance to spend some time outdoors with family, Dunsmuir House is a pretty good pick. We both had fun that day, but next year we may research other venues for our Easter Egg Hunt.

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Photos taken by Asha with an iPhone 6 Plus.

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MORE INFORMATION

Ages 10 & under: $3.00
Ages 11 & older: $5.00

Face Painting: 11am–2pm
Arts & Crafts: 11am–2pm
Children’s Cafe: 11am–2pm
Petting Zoo: 11am–2pm

Ages 0–3: noon
Ages 4–6: 1pm
Ages 7–10: 2pm

Parking was $10 at a nearby parking lot, unless you plan to arrive before 10am to look for street parking.

Stop Paying Full Price: 5 Easy Steps to Saving Money

The San Francisco Bay Area is a ridiculously expensive place to live.

So how does my kid have all those Disney costumes and way more skinny jeans than I’ve probably ever owned in my adult life? And how do you think I managed to afford taking 12 trips last year? Sure, some of them were only for 2 nights, but they still add up pretty quickly if you’re paying full price for everything. I don’t ever pay full price. STOP PAYING FULL PRICE. Seriously, though. (Yeah, see how I busted out the caps and italics there. It’s that important.)

I just have one simple request in exchange for these AWESOME savings that I’m certain you’ll thank me for later if you are an avid online shopper; please use the links below so I can get a referral bonus. You also get $5-$15 when you sign up using my referral link(s)!

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There are 5 things I NEVER fail to do when I’m spending money online, whether it’s on diapers, clothes, laundry detergent, or hotel reservations:

STEP 1: USE A PRICE COMPARISON TOOL

Google Shopping (90% of the time) – This is my favorite tool, though it generally does not include Amazon.com so I tend to check Amazon.com manually on a separate tab.

Shopping.com (Under 10% of the time)

Price Grabber (Rarely)

… and exclusively for travel,

Kayak (60% of the time) – I only use this for price comparisons, but I never book through kayak because pro tip: hotels.com does price matches. AND you save more money when you book there through a combination of their Welcome Rewards program, MrRebates, and reseller gift cards.

Trivago (40% of the time)

Google Flights (90% of the time) – This is always great because their tool allows you to scan all available flights with flexible dates while selecting multiple departure and arrival airports. I’m a Delta Medallion member so I typically want to fly Delta on longer routes, but occasionally this tool helps me out when I’m flying shorter domestic routes or finding tickets for family members and friends.

STEP 2: SIGN UP FOR FREE CASHBACK AND GET $5 NOW

MrRebates (90% of the time) – Since 2011, I’ve collected $3,878.41 in cashback through MrRebates.com. Sometimes I choose to shop at sites that provide cashback through MrRebates instead of popular big box stores on Amazon simply because of the extra savings through cashback and to avoid added sales tax.

$4000 Cash Back from MrRebates

BeFrugal (Under 10% of the time) – Since 2015, I’ve collected $35.44 in cashback through BeFrugal.com. It’s rare that a site that’s also on MrRebates will offer less of a % cashback than BeFrugal, but it has happened.

$35.44 Earned at BeFrugal

No, it’s not a hoax. No, this is not a credit card offer. No, you don’t have to spend any money or even provide credit card information to sign up. You receive your payments by simply providing your Paypal e-mail address.

If any of you have ever built a website or worked on a blog, you’re probably familiar with ads that provide incentives for successful purchases made through successful clickthroughs. These days, sites like these are making a % of that revenue available to their users.

STEP 3: LOOK FOR A COUPON

MrRebates (+/- 50% of the time) – Yep, they not only offer cashback but also list the available/active coupons for the site you’re shopping from.

4% Cash Back at Hotels.com

RetailMeNot (+/- 50% of the time) – Occasionally, there will be coupons here that aren’t listed anywhere else.

Hotels.com Discount Codes

STEP 4: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF UNWANTED GIFT CARDS

GiftCardGranny (+/- 90% of the time) – This is absolutely my favorite tool for buying gift cards, because it also searches through Raise.com’s inventory. I buy gift cards for a variety of things that I buy online and in person, including Starbucks (18% off as of this moment, but note that this is ever changing based on supply/demand), Jamba Juice, Panera Bread, and other popular chain restaurants and fast food places.

Starbucks Gift Cards for 18% off

Raise (+/- 10% of the time) – Since GiftCardGranny also searches Raise’s inventory, the one real plus side to signing up at Raise is that you can also set alerts when certain gift cards are discounted at more than any specific %.

STEP 5: SIGN UP FOR REWARDS

There are so many rewards programs for travel, fast food, chain restaurants, and even things like Starbucks and Jamba Juice that it likely deserves it’s own post. The ones I find I’ve profited the most from are listed below:

Hotels.com – Their Welcome Rewards program is simple. For every 10 nights you book without a coupon, you get 1 free night at a rate based on the average price you paid for the 10 nights. I keep saving my rewards for a big Europe trip I’d like to take when Zee is old enough to appreciate it, so as of now I have collected 22 free nights since 2008. Their customer service is also unparalleled. I’ve had many positive experiences with them but one in particular sticks out. Once, they moved me from the Hampton Inn Times Square ($158/night) to a suite at the W hotel ($470/night) because the Hampton Inn had run out of the room type I had paid extra for.

22 Free Nights at Hotels.com Welcome Rewards

Delta – They’re not quite as profitable anymore since two years ago, they changed the way you earn miles and made it based on dollars spent as opposed to miles flown. A trip to Indonesia that would’ve earned me 18,000 miles now earns me only 7,500 or so miles. If you consider the fact that a domestic round trip flight costs only 25,000 miles, it’s still a good deal. Reaching Medallion Status (collecting a minimum of over 25,000 medallion-qualifying miles per year) also gives you a few extra perks.

STEP 6: GO SHOPPING, PLAN A TRIP, ENJOY!

Thanks for stopping by! Like I said, you’ll thank me later. (Or you could also buy me a coffee today in the form of a gift card…….)

Please kindly sign up using any of the above referral links.

 

This is a parenting and lifestyle blog that discusses a wide variety of topics from my personal perspective. This blog is for entertainment and/or informational purposes only. My posts contain my opinions and do not reflect the opinions of any organizations that I may have been or may become affiliated with. Any information I provide on my blog is true to the best of my knowledge but please recognize that there may be omissions, errors, or mistakes and that you assume all risk and responsibility from any decisions made based on what you read here. I also reserve the right to change how I manage or run this blog and may change the focus or content on this blog at any time.

Zee’s 3rd Birthday: Kids’ Frozen Birthday Party Ideas

When you move halfway across the world to a place where you don’t know any other parents with young children and your kid’s version of playtime is nursing and chewing on everything in sight, throwing a birthday party seems silly. So for my daughter’s 1st and 2nd birthdays, we were either with my Mom in Southern California or in Disneyland. By a few months prior to Zee’s 3rd birthday, however, we had made a number of good friends with whom we wanted to really celebrate her birthday for the first time with a themed Frozen birthday party with a visit from Arendelle’s royalty.

We had the party at our home, which unfortunately is on a steep hill and does not have a yard. Still, the kids had a lot to do.

You almost couldn’t tell that my daughter wasn’t feeling well that day and that nobody had much sleep at all the night before.

Entertainment

Though throughout my pregnancy, I repeated over and over again that I refuse to ever turn my home into a colorful mess of toys, in reality that is exactly what happened. The living room has officially been claimed by Zee as her space to play. We have a toy kitchen, a mini market, a few small ride-on toys, and a lot of random little toys all over the place.

            

The kids seemed pretty entertained, even though it was arguably a bit chaotic.

The trampoline we bought a week before the party was also a big hit.

Unfortunately, this specific trampoline was a bit too large for our living room and I didn’t like the insufficient padding along the poles.

The kids also danced with each other a little bit as songs from the Frozen soundtrack played in the background.

Anna and Elsa were a big hit with my daughter and the kids.

We go to Disneyland often and she’s always happy to meet the princesses, but they have so many royal visitors that they never have the time to stop and chat.

So we made time for Anna & Elsa to sit with her for 15-20mins while she chatted with them and showed them her toys.

Afterwards, they sat with the kids to tell an interactive story and sing songs.

They also made time to take a picture with each of the guests before the birthday song and cake.

Cake + Sweet Treats

The cake had three tiers in three different flavors.

We had each family bring home a large slice of cake from the bottom two tiers and froze the top tier to have at another date.

           

There were a pretty wide variety of sweet treats.

This was her first time she had ever had her own cake pop..

her own cupcake..

and tried vanilla frosted animal crackers.

Fortunately, she had a banana just before her party started. It may have been the healthiest thing she ate before dinner that day.

Food

We served a variety of savory foods ranging from sliders to pizza to Swedish meatballs along with cheese and crackers.

We also served “Melted Olaf” yogurt cups with candy corn noses and pretzel sticks for arms along with Olaf cheese sticks, drawn by my stepdad Robert.

Party Favors

I bought white paper bags in bulk mostly because I think they’re more versatile and extras can be used for Zee to color/draw on when we send gifts to grandparents. (Because let’s face it – the only people who would appreciate that would be her parents and grandparents.) I cut the snowflakes off of some decoration I had bought for the party and decided not to use.

The bags were filled with a variety of items: play-doh, bubbles, coloring books, crayons, stickers, Frozen-themed freeze dried fruit, and fruit snacks.

Decoration

So, putting aside all of the snowflakes on the windows and the draped teal colored sparkly fabric we used on the tables, this was absolutely my favorite bit of the decoration. It took me 3 hours to do this, which is admittedly a little bit.. sad.

We also had silver burlap, lots of balloons, crystals, teal fabric, and used A LOT of our Christmas ornaments to decorate the table.

Personal Thoughts

Overall, it was a great day. We were so grateful to have had so much help from my friend Rechel, my Mom, her husband Robert, and his best friend Ernie. We were also very grateful to have our friends and Zee’s friends over to celebrate that day.

Although Zee was feeling under the weather, she was pretty happy throughout the entire party and she continued to talk about it for an entire year until she had her Moana themed 4th birthday party a few days ago. Every time we went to Disneyland or met the princesses on our trip to Disney World, she would talk about how Anna & Elsa went to her birthday party.

Ahhh.. to believe in magic again.

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Photos taken by Ross Marlowe.

Zee is 4: Kids’ Moana Birthday Party Ideas

Zee is FOUR. I guess I should get some kind of prize for every single day that I managed not to totally screw up this whole parenting deal. It’s a good thing I don’t do to kids what I do to plants.

AND HEY, guess what? I did win! I won the love of my life.

This party had it’s bumps, honestly. We had to switch dates one day before the party, lost our original picnic spot, and half the guests were no longer able to make it because of the last minute change. Also, the cake fell apart and they completely forgot about the cupcakes. However, in the end, we made it all work and it came together pretty nicely. Just look at my kid’s face. I mean, that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

Entertainment

We made sure the kids and parents had enough to do to keep them entertained.

Aside from the leis that we handed to everyone that came, we provided the materials for anyone interested to make their own floral necklaces and bracelets.

We also filled a wooden planter with sand and seashells for kids to find their own “treasures” and take them home. The planter was a handmade gift from my father-in-law.

              

I found some Moana-themed temporary tattoos online and the ever prepared Moana brought her own blue colored water and a sponge to apply them onto the kids’ wrists.

           

Obviously, the star of the party was Moana herself.

              

Moana was able to do so much in 1.5 hours. She chatted with the kids, told a story, did some magic,

put the temporary tattoos on the kids, played some simple toddler games like “Maui Says,”

and then guided everyone (parents included) in a group hula dance. There was definitely a lot of giggling.

Party Favors

We found these great beach buckets with shovels at the Dollar Tree and decided they would make great party favors. We also bought bubbles and blow-outs then stuck homemade Moana stickers on them to have them match with our basic theme.

Food

My daughter’s birthday party is the one day per year that she gets to eat a bunch of sweet treats without some sort of compromise or extensive negotiation. And we had plenty of options for her.

             

For food, my visiting mother-in-law bought teriyaki chicken and Kalua pulled pork from Ono Hawaiian BBQ, cooked Jasmine rice at home, and bought 3 pizzas. I also made a pineapple cole slaw to go with the pulled pork and Hawaiian rolls. The chicken teriyaki was a favorite so we ran out of it quickly. There were also rainbow fruit skewers (not pictured).

We made jello “boats” with graham cracker sand (not pictured).

And upside-down pineapple cupcakes.

After a bit of a mix-up and a 40min delay at Safeway, lesson learned: pick up this kind of stuff the day before.

               

BUUUUUT, look at these awesome Kokomora cake pops!

Decoration

A lot of the themed decoration was printed at home on cardboard paper or on full sized label paper, including the banner. However, we also did the standard balloons, plastic table covers, raffia table skirts, and a tiki bar.

My personal favorite purchase was the teepee. It’s $95 on Amazon but I managed to get it in practically new condition from a Dad on Craigslist for $30. And yes, I am completely aware that teepees have nothing to do with Moana or Polynesia, but hey, they’re awesome.

Personal Thoughts

It’s been 5 days and she’s still talking about her party multiple times a day. I meaaaan, she was talking about her 3rd birthday party until the day of her 4th. Parties like these are a ton of work for everyone involved, but I was lucky to have had assistance with set-up from my Mom, her husband, their friends Ernie & Connie, and for the first birthday ever, my in laws. I wouldn’t have been able to pull it off without help. Zee’s genuine appreciation and joy makes it all worthwhile though. Plus, I’m going to be milking this period of her life where she’s still so enchanted by the sheer magic of themed birthday parties for as long as I possibly can.

You know, just in case she goes through that phase where she decides she’s too cool for everything in a few years.

Yep, bugs are pretty darn magical too.

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Photos taken by Ross Marlowe.