Expat-Mama in Kuwait

Today, Sept. 12, the whole Muslim community around the world is celebrating one of the holy festival in Islam, known as ‘Eid al-Adha’( or the Feast of Sacrifice). Eid -al-Adha is a festival that marks the end of the Hajj -an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia that lasts three to four days. The Koran recommends all Muslims make the journey    (or Umrah)  at least once in their lifetime. Worshippers typically slaughter an animal like a goat or sheep. Imagine close to 10 million animals are slaughtered in Pakistan on Eid, how about on other countries?

So in time of Eid-al-Adha festivity, for our next Expat Mama around the World series, you will get to know more of surprising facts about motherhood in  Kuwait especially from a Muslim Expat-mama perspective.  Kuwait is a  Muslim country  where there are 2.4 Million Expats  despite that the summer heat could rise up to 50 degrees and where oil is cheaper than water.

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Rechiel’s Story : An Expat Mama  Raising  her third- Culture kids with core values of Islam. (Photo credit: Aysha Aldrini)

 

There are roughly 180,000 Filipinos living and working as an OFW ( Overseas Contract Worker) ,in Kuwait and Rechiel is one of them. She left the Philippines for work  since 2003, so basically, she lived more than a decade in the Middle East, imagine that!  Kuwait has been her 2nd home for a long time now. Surprisingly, she and I happen to go at same school in High School.  (which I only found out later when she told me) She is a dear friend of mine and here she shares her Expat Mama Story :  A Muslim Expat Mama journey to Motherhood in Kuwait.

Rechiel’s Background

Rechiel is a Filipino Expat Mama of 3, and working in Kuwait for almost 13 years now in a Shipping/Logistics Company. Unexpectedly, she found love and eventually got married to her Egyptian husband ,Wasim, who is also an Expat in Kuwait. They have 3 beautiful daughters namely  Cha, Salma & Maryam. She is an active member of the Anchors Toastmaster’s Club in Al Bader Company. She loves  swimming,photography , and Karaoke of course!

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Kuwait sunset from the Arabian Gulf 

On converting to Islam and raising her kids in Islamic faith

Rechiel converted to Muslim faith from the time that she married her Muslim husband. It was not a mandatory requirement, nor a legal prerequisite for marriage of Non-Muslim & Muslim but it is her personal decision to revert from Christianity to Islamic faith. By changing her views on spirituality and faith, she dressed up in modesty as  Muslim women should be, she changed her lifestyle and start to wear Hijab. For her, doing this  shows her total submission to her husband and abiding the teachings of Allah from Qúran.

Here’s my Interview-Story of her as an example of a down-to-earth  Expat-Mama who is raising her children with Filipino, Egyptian and Muslim values in Kuwait.

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Expat Kids  and Expat Mama

 

Tell us About your Background

My name is Rechiel, I’m the from Philippines and came to Kuwait as an OFW ( Overseas Contract Worker) . I got married, and gave birth of my 2 girls in Kuwait. I am literally living for more than a decade in the Middle East now. It’s been a challenge for me to work full-time at the same time being a mother to a teenager, and 2 more girls. It’s like working round-the clock. From the moment I got home, I spend productive time with my kids but cannot spare anything more than an hours’ time. My interest has always been photography but I do not have time on hand to pursue my interest owing to other responsibilities. I do not know when, but one day I definitely will find time to pursue my interest. It is hard being a mother ,that is a fact, but my life is totally rewarding raising them.

Share something about the current country you are living in and notable aspects of life from an Expat Mother point of view.

On Culture Shock and Arabic language

Kuwait is one of the most prominent countries of the GCC and like all other middle eastern countries has a lot of expats from all parts of the world working and living with their families. Culturally , I found Kuwait to have much Asian influences. There are lots of Filipino/Asian stores so when it comes to food, I felt like I am in the Philippines. In my work, there are also plenty of Filipino colleagues, so basically, I didn’t have much hard time adjusting. Believe it or not, I understand Arabic , but up to this time, I know I still need to make great effort to learn it. When you have kids and needs help with their Arabic homework, you just feel motivated to learn. My kids go to  International school where different nationalities so there is always a great culture mix-up. At home, we speak English  and Arabic so my children are all bilingual.

On the other hand, my husband being from the Mediterranean region (Egyptian) ,He, too feels very much comfortable to be living in Kuwait. But nowadays he too got confused with the living status here.We have plans to move to Alexandria but still the plans are not that concrete. Being an Islamic country Kuwait has a typical living conditions for women outside their homes. We are Muslims, so  socializing is restricted when it comes to interacting with other groups of men and women.

On leisure activities for family and Kids in Kuwait

Kuwait is a desert country, with a hot climate.There are not much greenery like in the Philippines or in Egypt. I got used to the living conditions here even when I was still single but as a family ,we make it a point to enjoy the outdoors when it is not too hot. I am thankful that at least we have the beach for us to have picnics & for the kids to play in the sand or swim. As parents, visiting the Aqua parks, amusement parks, public parks, cinemas, shopping malls, museums, science centers and all such institutions are my favorite spots in Kuwait  since both me & my kids can enjoy.

On Arab culture criticism for being Lax at Parenting

I grew up in the Philippines where courtesy & politeness is being taught at a young age. We say “Po & Opo”and respecting the elders is a vital trait. We even have GMRC ( Good Manners & Right Conduct ) subject included in the curriculum. Here in Kuwait,one unusual culture that I don’t like is when an Arab mother tolerate their kids to disrespect them in front of others. Kids are yelling at them if they don’t give something that they wanted. This is very prevalent in malls & restaurants. The teenagers are such a bully . It disturbs me at the same time challenging for me to see that my kids are exposed to multi cultural diversity and how to keep them on the right track.

How is it being pregnant, giving birth and raising your child away from your home country. Or relocating with your kids to another country? What are the adjustments, struggles & rewards you’ve made?

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Salma, her second daughter on her 1st Birthday -Little Filipino-Egyptian Princess

On Pregnancy, Child Birth and Post-Partum Care

For me, It was nothing unusual being pregnant and giving birth to kids in Kuwait as the country has a well-equipped hospitals and gives utmost importance to health care. It is much cheaper and affordable to gave birth here compared to the Philippines. The hospital that I went to was efficient and took care of me during my Caesarean operation up to my post- partum care. I could imagine that if I gave birth in Philippines then this type of service is very expensive. Pregnancy in Kuwait is also different since Kuwait has extensive Prenatal care and taking care of a newborn comes easy for me with the help of my husband and close friends. My work  even allowed me to have paid Maternity leave. Vaccination of newborns and toddlers are also within reach, very accessible.

On giving birth alone in the Public Hospital

If you gave birth in a public hospital in Kuwait, you can’t see your husband or others , not right before you gave birth. I feel very blessed to have a very supportive and able husband who arranged everything for me and make it easy for me during the time I was giving birth up to the time I am recovering. It is a normal convenience to have a “Kadama”( maid) in Kuwait so I felt lucky to have such extra help.Even without my immediate families from the Philippines, I did not have a hard time.

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Maryam, Rechiel’s youngest child (Raising a Third Culture Kid in Kuwait )

 

On expensive cost of Visa& Residency papers and Tuition fees

Although many things quite cheap in Kuwait, the high cost of living as an Expat family could make a toll on Expats here in Kuwait. The bureaucracy about paper works for a newborn to get residency and visa is quite complicated. It’s a good thing that my husband is well-versed on Arabic and  in the in& outs  being a  Mandoup , ( A liason officer and official representative of a company to transact business & paperworks in the ministries in Kuwait ) so it goes quite easy. For a non-arabic speaker & Expats, this is a big problem and takes time. Aside from the visa fee 100kd ( approx. 300 Euros/ 330 $USD) for 1 year residency  plus another 50kd ( 170 $ USD/ 150 Euros ) for Health Insurance, it is costly for an average family with 3 kids that you need to renew every year. Adding up the expenditures are the visa fees for parents, expensive tuition fees, flat rental and utilities. I knew many Expat families chose to let their kids study in Philippines or in their home country instead of expensive schools in Kuwait. Yes, gas is cheap & affordable in Kuwait but maintenance of a car is also costly.This is the reality of the cost of living as an Expat.

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Joining Walk for a cause and Socio-activities in Kuwait with friends .

On having Fewer friends and Mommy-practicality

When you’re an Expat,  got married and have kids– your lifestyle turns 360 degrees change. You have fewer friends, and limited time to socialize because your priorities changed. I knew many friends in Kuwait but being an Expat Mama, my days are filled with family, work & little time for myself. I guess, this is the consequence. I can’t even have the latest fashion & cosmetics out in the market, not because I can’t afford it, but I become practical and go beyond the material value.

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An Expat mama journey to Motherhood, from Philippines, to Kuwait to Egypt to United Arab Emirates.

What is your say about raising your kid as a third culture kid?

I am raising Filipino-Egyptian kids in a Kuwaiti environment. My kids love Adobo at the same time eat Kubz everyday, adores Kebab,Biryani, and mostly Egyptian dishes. They can speak both Tagalog, English and Arabic. Raising a Third-Culture Kid is both challenging and fascinating because for example, in school they are exposed to different cultures and social media is a big influence too. At their young age, I try my best to teach them important core values we have at home so they remain open-minded & flexible.

How do you make an impact as an Expat Mama in your country of residence?

I’m thankful that my work have given me the chance & exposure to contribute my views. I feel honored when I got the chance to have a Speech about the role of Women as mothers in the society. It is a great privilege that a Filipino like me could have a chance to make an impact in my work, and being a  Muslim now gives me the respect from the community we belong to.When an Arab person approaches me and makes comment about how I am raising such adorable kids, it is more than money can buy. A true happiness any mother wants to have.

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Being an Expat-Mama is a privilege. It gives me the chance to raise my child in a competitive world to prepare them in their  future. It’s not always a glamorous life, but it sure does the best life I want. Wherever we are, either in Kuwait, Philippines or in Alexandria, home is where me & my family stands close to each other, and that’s what matters most.

 

Thank you Rechiel for this wonderful story of your life as an Expat Mama. It is a pleasure being your friend and this post is for you and your family and  Eid Mubarak !

 

 

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Are you an Expat Mama? Do you want to be featured in this series? Feel free to send me an email at justbluedutch@gmail.com .

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Expat-Mama in The Netherlands

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The Dutch Life : Where canals are never-ending and Amsterdam is a city that never sleeps. 

For our first feature on my new Blog section —Expat Mama around the World, Get to know one amazing Expat Mama from The Netherlands, Ann, the Blogger behind the Grubbs ‘n Critters  who shares her Expat Mama story about living in the land of beautiful canals, Van Gogh, delicious cheese, wind mills & clogs.

Ann currently lives in The Netherlands with his Dutch husband 2 kids and 2 cats. She’s a Baker, Innovator,  Homemade cooking enthusiast, a Globetrotter, and a serious coffee addict.

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The Grubbsncritters Family (Photo credit -Grubbsncritters)

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How does she manage to raise her kids in the cycling capital of the world?  Here’s my Interview- story  with her – “An Expat Mama journey to Motherhood in a foreign country.”

Tell us about your background .

I hail from a tiny island, with no capital city attached to its name as the entire city is actually a country called Singapore.  My parents are both Singaporean and still living in Singapore; my father of Javanese descent and my mother of Japanese –somewhat Portuguese lineage. Technically, that makes me a (Singaporean) mutt.

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The Big Move of the Grubbsncritters Family 

My career has been pretty much rooted in the advertising industry for 18 years now and after all these years, I still find it hard to explain what I really do! As a context, the industry I’m in deals with planning, negotiating and buying advertising space across all media. That was how I started out at the very bottom in the agency world. And there are so, so, so much more!

All these years, I have been lucky enough to not only work with global advertisers and partners across markets in my course of work, but also getting the opportunity to be transferred to another office in a different country with more than the occasional travels for business.11 years ago, that opportunity brought me to Bangkok, Thailand.

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The Land of water mills or also known as Windmills

On Juggling work and Family times

I have since been a part-time SAHM after our move here. I still work supporting my Thai office as a consultant and I work remotely from home on a 3-day week schedule on Central European Time. That also means I have to do the occasional con-calls at 3 a.m or 5 a.m on my local time! For now, that’s only temporary and I’m excited on what lies ahead.

What are your Biggest Passions?

My biggest passions are cooking and baking. I just love being in the kitchen experimenting with ingredients and whipping up magic.  I find them to be therapeutic as no matter how tired I am especially when I am stressed out, my whole family would end up having a feast!

About a year ago, I collaborated with a blogger, Gen author of Eat, Play, Clove on a Monthly Mystery Munchies Project from South Africa.  It features every first Friday of the month where we both take turns to challenge each other on agreed theme or ingredients and then post up our creation for the month. We have now featured over 25 different recipes between the both of us and I must say that it has been one of the most amazing project with a fellow blogger ever!Check out one of my heavenly recipe for Fabulous Friday Flavour Here.

I also love to read, travel and watching movies but sadly, those were b.c (before kids) indulgence and I have yet to find time for them.These days, you’ll find me blogging away and I do get annoyed if I couldn’t find the time to blog!

How is it to live in the The Netherlands?

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Typically Dutch Kids-Spud & Squirt enjoying the Tulips season  in the Netherlands

We’ve only been living in the Netherlands for 3+ months but really, the Netherlands is not a stranger to me at all.In the last 8 years, going back to the Netherlands for a vacation is an annual pilgrimage for at least 3 weeks at any one time. Our visit will always include family time with my husband’s side of the family and his bunch of childhood friends, who are by now, also my friends.

On Dutch Culture 

Family time and doing things together as a family comes first above anything else. A big part of my culture revolves around food – that’s huge from where I came from and we always make an occasion with food out of nothing! It’s also a blessing that my husband, his family and most of his friends are also enthusiastic foodies so we have a good blend of food culture going on whenever we get together.

On Dutch Bureaucracy and Formalities

In the last 3 months, I have been exposed to the complicated Dutch system of trying to get registered as a resident, getting insured, getting a mobile phone number in which I needed to produce a local bank statement for, trying to get a subsidy for getting the kids into the childcare to which we are entitled to, and recently the complex tax system – each of those probably need a post on its own!

On Dutch Early Education and Childcare

I have to say though that we have been lucky with school and childcare. Because we live in a little hole in the suburb, there has not been any waiting required. The situation would probably be different had we live in Amsterdam. The Dutch also has one of the highest quality education in the world that does not cost too much money and very much catered to the pace of the children.

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Essentially, that been our primary reason for leaving Thailand where education system is crappy and was becoming expensive. In Singapore’s rat-race, education while affordable is extremely competitive and academic. Much of the education is rote learning and something that I am not too fond of.

On Dutch brutality for being straightforward & Directness

The concept of “losing face” that is prevalent in the Asian society and a culture I’m very familiar with is pretty much non-existent here. The Dutch is known for their straight in your face blunt honesty. What you see is what you get. No one cares about “face”. It is what it is and that works for me just fine.

On First Name Basis

If there’s one thing I find a little strange with the culture is that everyone calls everyone by name. A 4-year-old child would be calling the mother of the next door neighbor by the first name. Nephew and nieces would also address their uncles and aunties by name. It was something I had to get used to as back in Singapore, we would always address those who are older with “Uncle” or “Auntie” or Sister/Brother. Calling anyone by their first name especially when you are much, much younger is considered rude!

On learning the Dutch Language

I’m still struggling with the Dutch language and I must say that given the area where we live where Dutch is the language the community is most comfortable with, not being able to speak it fluently has been quite debilitating. It’s definitely something I have to work on; along with getting a bloody damn driving license!

On scenic landscapes and beauty of nature 

I absolutely love the greenery, peace and quiet here.And do you know what else is great? The tulip season of course! It’s really the best time of the year to be visiting the Netherlands. Also, don’t forget to look up at the sky! You’ll be amazed with what you can see!

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Orange skies–as Holland’s national color is Orange.

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How is it being pregnant, giving birth and raising your child away from your home country. Or relocating with your kids to another country? What are the adjustments you’ve made?

 Pregnancy & Postpartum Care

Both my kids were born in Bangkok. From pregnancy to the birth itself and postpartum, we were pretty much on our own. My parents had to work and could only visit a few weeks after the birth of both of our kids and my in-laws visited us much later. In a way, we did not mind it very much as we wanted our space to figure things out on our own for the first few weeks after the birth.Fortunately, getting help in Thailand was relatively easy and we got ourselves a nanny in no time. Plus, the hospital services for birthing was nothing but excellent. I wrote a piece about my experience at The Bum.

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Being a parent definitely required us to make some adjustments to our lifestyles. For the first few years, we no longer slept beyond 9 p.m. and we could no longer sleep in till late afternoon.  And once I started going back to work after my maternity, I found it hard to juggle and get the work-life balance I needed. Harder for me as I was a workaholic and I was travelling lots for work!

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But somehow, we managed to work things out in the end. With the move from Bangkok to the Netherlands. I guess I just went with the flow and tweak things as they go along. I’ve learnt that not having any expectations is the best solution to keep your sanity.

What is your say about raising your kid as a third culture kid?

Now that we are settling in my husband’s birth country, I’m not sure the term third culture kids would apply to them!Still, having spent the earlier part of their formative years outside of their parents’ culture, I guess by birth they’ve got third culture ingrained in their DNA. Besides, I reckon it would only be a matter of time before we get itchy butt again to move to another country – perhaps in another 10 years.

Much can be said on the benefits of raising a third culture kid. I see it as raising not only a child, but a citizen of the world who fully embraces cultural diversity and respecting the differences across cultures. The exposure and experiences they have had would help them to not only expand, but open up their minds, learn the art of adaptability as they intuitively learn to be more sensitive to their surroundings.

They are already brought up in a multi-cultural family and we have tons of fun creating our very own family culture, traditions and customs altogether and then mix them up as they deem fit without even thinking about it. Not many (non-third culture) kids would have that kind of exposure!

Wherever they are in the world and whichever part of the world they may end up in, they would be rooted to the family values instilled in them and they’ll take it with them wherever they go.

How do you make an impact as an Expat Mama in The Netherlands?

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I used to join mommy clubs and playgroups when I was living in Bangkok. It really helps to get to know other expat moms in the community. One of my favorite meet-ups was the Baby Wearing Club. That was pretty awesome!I have yet to start on anything Mommy-based in the Netherlands! It’s something I need to work on.

Thank you so much Ann for sharing your wonderful share about being an Expat Mama. If you want to know more about Ann and her passionate cooking, check her sumptous Grubbecipes and her fabulous  Critterstories.

Photos used in this post is courtesy of Ann of Grubbsncritters and is of personal property and may subject to copyright. Should you wish to use it, please mention her.

Are you an Expat Mama? Your story can be featured here too. Just drop me an email @ justbluedutch@gmail.com and follow our Expat Mama around the world stories in my Twitter Page Here .

 

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5 Words to say to your Toddler everyday

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I am here.

That’s wonderful!

You are doing a great job.

You are so beautiful.

I love You.

It is easier to build strong children, than to repair broken Adults. ~ F.Douglass

Raising a Book-Lover in your child

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My Third Culture Kid, A book lover, a wide reader at age 3

“Children are made readers on the lap of their parents “-Emily Buchwald

Do you read books to your child?

Being a first time mother, I am ever-curious, almost for everything. From baby care to fun activities with children up to how to raise your child to read and love books! Thanks to the internet that information is just a finger’s tap away. This is the reality of an Expat life without the luxury of having your immediate relatives living nearby. You learned how to deal with almost everything by yourself.  Even when I was still pregnant, I read that reading is one thing that you could do with your child as a special bonding time. I hope for the best in raising my child , which I understand  is a universal wish of every parent. Early habits are formed during the growing years of childhood and this includes the ways we teach them every single day. What happens every single day inside your home is the fundamentals of her early development years. There’s no greater peace you can find from having your child on your lap and exploring the wonderful world of reading.

I set up a goal for myself and my daughter : I want her to love reading. I don’t know how is it going to be in the future but I ma living each day materializing this goal. Books should be an integral part of her childhood and it is my responsibility as a parent to guide her in this.

I’m a firm believer that inside our home is where the first learning starts. Reading to infants and babies at an early stage has a great impact on the receptive and expressive language development, whether it’s for learning, character building or literacy purposes. Be it plain reading ,story-reading, reading -out-Loud, Picture Book Reading, Joint-Reading, Shared Reading, playing while reading ,really , it doesn’t matter. As long as you incorporate books into your child’s  daily routines . Trust me ,it’s proven to have long term results.

There’s no greater joy for me than to see my daughter flipping the pages of her books everyday at the same time eating them! The moment she woke up , she ran up to her basket of books and start “making  messy-reading “.  I dunno why she do it, but she just loves to throw, snuggle, crash, and throw all her books all around her. We started to read to her as soon as she was born. Every single day, every single morning. Does this sound boring to you? Trust me, it will soon pay-off!

Every single moment of her playtime, or anytime we feel like grabbing her books. When we go out, we always stash a book or two for her to read and play. She’s just 17 months old ,and I know that she still cannot read, but the fact that she’s so engrossed with books and shows signs of loving it more than she loved her toys really made me smile.She knows the character of the stories, the sounds, and the pictures. She even have her all time favorites!

I was lucky that my daughter was gifted with a bunch of books. Since then, I tried to make time for her &  set a goal to read aloud to her,  reading the picture-books to her everyday, flipping the pages for her dreamy eyes to enjoy the colorful images and gobble on it eventually. I even put a book on her bath time. With the presence of iPads, iphones & TV nowadays,it’s easy to give in to this threats. The flashy screens are so tempting and attractive for your toddlers, But I tell you, there is no greater gift to your child than to read a book to her while in your lap.

This really made a daily bonding time between us.

So how to raise a book-lover in your child? Here’s how I’m doing it and loving it so far;

  • First, Start early. -There’s never too-early to read to your child.If you let her be exposed to books and the habit of reading at an early stage, the better. Soon she will catch it all by herself. She will have a body clock calling for reading!
  • Make your own Baby-Library. -I put out all her books in one basket that is accessible to her on her tummy time and during the time that she can actually grab it and flip through the pages. Investing on great, classic pieces is always a good idea. I’ve never been so aware about children’s books & stories since I began reading to her. It has been a learning phase for me as well. I had to memorize the characters of the story so I can read a loud better.
  • Make it a habit.- Stick to your routine. Babies picked up fast when you do it in repetition. They will eventually memorize the rhymes, the covers, the texture,the sound, and your voice while you read it with them. Do it before going to bed,after napping, or even while you snuggle with your child.
  • Create a Reading Haven.- In your Home or in a tiny quiet corner in your house.Yes ,create a cozy reading area  or a little corner/nook for you and your Little One.Put on some throws pillows and spread a mat and get those books for you to enjoy and linger on each moment.Soon, she will learn that special  place is place for her to be absorbed with books. This place should be free from distraction.You can even do this while having finger snacks for her too. Sounds absolutely fun!
  • Visit a Library and Bookshop together.- Let your child explore and choose the books she like.In this stage she will for sure play, scatter and bite on those,Just let her let go of her steam. We brought our daughter to a bookstore in Amsterdam once she was just 9 months old and we were quite astonished to see  her delight when she saw the bookshelves filled with books. Of course she plays, throws, rambled on the books but there’s no price in the  gleam in her eyes.
  • Be an Example. -There’s no better way to teach your child good habits than from the way you yourself show. Maybe you’re not a book lover, or you find books boring. But doing this with her won’t let you become a bad parent either. Based on my experience, Whatever works best for you, investing on reading is never wasted.

 

Hope you have wonderful time spent reading  with your kids. Looking forward to hear your own success stories!

Note to myself: I will do a follow-up post on this matter to share with you how is it with my daughter and her road to loving books? Will she love it? or will she hate it? So for those of you whose following my Blog, and the stories I am writing about “Raising Natalie”, stay tuned for the upcoming updates!

Thank you  all for reading!