Let's Make: a Faux Wooden Table for a Preschooler's Montessori- and Reggio-inspired Play Space

Oh, Montessori moms, your lovely spaces fill me with such envy and sadness. I'd love to have the budget to have beautiful child-sized wooden furniture, with their softly rounded corners and natural wood grain, and the space to set up a peaceful, blissful (uncluttered) prepared environment. Every plastic bin and piece of plastic furniture I bring into our tiny space feels like settling. The perfectionist in me feels discouraged, but the life enthusiast must let go and move on. So, rather than whine and pine away, I decided it was time to make do and makeover an inexpensive plastic table that could be dismantled and stored when we needed to make space for other things. And because my Google searches for "Can I makeover a plastic table?" and "sticking wood to plastic" were of no help, I thought I'd share my mini makeover experience with you, in case you'd like some Montessori-inspired fakery for your kid's space, too.

A Reggio-inspired Afternoon with Glebe House

Happy colors for a happy girl

Your child loves, craves, needs messy, open-ended, sensory play, but you're a working mom with little tolerance for mess and not enough time for the prep work required. If only your child could enjoy the experience without you having to do all the work (which allows you to enjoy playtime more, too!). This was my dilemma, and the reason I'm glad to have discovered Glebe House.

I stumbled upon Glebe House during one of my many late-night, post-Christakis, preschool-searching Googling marathons. Unsatisfied with the options I was finding, I Googled "Reggio preschool Philippines" expecting to be disappointed. I was disappointed, initially; there are currently no true Reggio studios (or ateliers as they are so beautifully called) near where we live. But there was a Reggio-inspired play school whose lovely photos of their sessions piqued my interest. Unfortunately, it is based in Makati, a two-hour drive for us on a regular day. Fortunately, it offers home play groups.

*Happy dance!*

"But I Like the Lines" and Other Excuses of Creative Resistance

An invitation to play, for grown-ups

"You haven't even started and you're already overthinking it," I teased. My mom had just bought an adult coloring book and was consulting me on every decision: "Should I use pencils or washable markers?" "Do I just copy the sample parts that have already been colored in?" "Are these ones with all the space okay or am I supposed to draw in the empty spaces?" Conversations with my mom are always interesting because I can trace my perfectionist neuroses back to their origin. "Can I still do this? I've never been good at art." Sound familiar?

I like to tease her and give her advice in feigned frustration because it is like talking to myself. We are cut from the same cloth, the kind that is properly measured and doesn't do well when wrinkled. Even our handwriting is the same (but that might be from all the times I practiced forging her signature in grade school; it seemed like a useful skill to have). We always dot our i's and don't go past the lines.

And yet this blog is my attempt to grow past that and to nurture creativity in myself and in my kids. Writing about my artistic pursuits—which are just that: chasing after art rather than actually achieving it—is a way for me to stay mindful of my tendencies to control and correct rather than to observe and invite. It is still a struggle because, as I've mentioned, it's deeply ingrained in me to stay within the lines and to never settle for mediocrity. My mom and I, we usually don't attempt things we're not confident we can do well. But, for my daughter, as a three-year-old, there are few things she can do well the first time. What's lovely and inspiring is that she does not yet know that she can do things "badly." Is there a wrong way to splatter paint on paper? Or to use a leaf to paint? As a child, she just does it; as an adult, I judge my technique. In leaf painting, people.

A Morning with My Preschooler at La Mesa Eco Park

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
marcel proust
I still remember when I first visited La Mesa Eco Park in Quezon City for a fashion editorial shoot (one of my favorites!).  I was amazed that a park that large (33 hectares) could be hidden within this crowded city. That was in 2010 and I hadn't been back since, until a few weeks ago when E's nursery class visited the park for their end-of-year field trip and family day. I am glad to report that the park is still as green and well-kept as it was many years ago (which is not often the case for public areas in Manila, unfortunately).

One of the joys of having children is that I get to be a traveller in my hometown. I've lived in Metro Manila for most of my life and I've visited most of the kid-friendly places in the city, thanks to the 11 years I spent as a writer and then an editor for three kids' magazines (first, K-Zone; then, Monster Allergy; then, finally, my beloved Total Girl). But I was not yet a parent in those days.

Visiting with a preschooler on a mission to fully experience everything rather than with a fashion editorial team on a tight schedule allowed me to see the park with fresh, eager, and gracious eyes. I know some may dread taking their young kids out in public because of the potential for disaster—I know because, on some days, I am one of those people—but I urge you to bring a venti cup of coffee to rinse away the pessimism  and try to see all the potential for wonder, three feet from the ground, arms outstretched, head in constant motion. Up, down, back, around, then back up again. And if, on that morning, you are having trouble finding joy, bring a magnifying glass. No, really. Literally. Because if you do, I guarantee your preschooler will have no trouble pointing out to you that there is much to wonder about hiding in plain view.