Nuts & Bolts is a curation of open ended toys which can be used in a variety of ways, depending on the child’s creativity and imagination. For example, a curved wooden board can be a rocker or flipped over to become a tunnel. It can be propped up against a sofa and used as a slide. Open ended toys are kept simple and as natural looking as possible.
The owner of Nuts & Bolts is Wei Xuan, a lovely homeschooling mama of two. Her children are her main priority and the opening hours of the store actually revolves around their schedule. As such, the store is not open daily but about twice a week. To maintain a comfortable experience for visitors, the store runs on an appointment-only basis.
Her children came up with the name Nuts and Bolts, as they used this term instead of “pins and needles”. Both children helped to set up the store by painting signs, fixing shelves, cleaning up… the entire store is a product of love by their family.
We had the pleasure of visiting the store twice and it was such fun for the children! The store has large glass windows to let natural sunlight shine through. The store itself is not large by any account, but it is well-designed and doesn’t feel claustrophobic. There are various corners where children can play at indoors. Behind the store is a grassy slope where children can run up and down and outside the store are climbing frames, large hollow blocks and a sand corner. These activities will be changed from time to time.
The first time we went there, the kids got to paint on seashells and spray coloured water on a piece of paper using a spray bottle while they painted on a mirror the next visit.
Most of the products which are on sale are available for children to test out. Although there is no obligation to purchase, it is close to impossible to leave empty handed. The products are decently priced, taking into consideration the overheads required to maintain such a place. Play objects which promote gross motor skills such as the Wobbel board, Confidence Triangle, Large Hollow Blocks and the Step-up-step-down Rocking Boat can be placed in the home in place of electronic toys.
A multitude of smaller toys promoting sensory development and creativity line the walls of the store. There are treasure blocks, which are wooden hollow blocks with acrylic centres that can be filled with anything from beads to feathers and buttons. Baby percussion instruments, mirrors, light pads with colourful acrylic paddles and geometric shapes… there are simply too many to list.
Mirrors are an integral part of the Reggio Emilia approach because it adds depth and structure to a child’s learning when he is able to see the object from all angles. The mirrors sold are child safe and do not contain glass.
Wei Xuan mentioned that she likes observing how each child uses the play objects and behaves. Some are confident, some are shy, some need help while others don’t.
The children couldn’t keep themselves away from the sand area. Didi loved it so much, he put it in his mouth. Pro-tip: bring a bottle of powder if you’re intending to let your children play with sand so you can dust the sand off easily. There are no washrooms in the store so it may be wise to bring some water for washing hands too.
It is a unique concept where children are allowed and encouraged to do what they want with the toys. There is no stress unlike in some stores where you feel like the salesperson is trailing you and guilt-tripping you into buying the products.
Over at Nuts & Bolts, it feels more like a playdate at a friend’s house. That said, it is still a store so please don’t bring your children there to play for hours without at least making a purchase to show your support!
SG Homemade stands for Stephanie Goh Homemade. Homemade food powders provide an alternative to processed stock cubes and liquids sold in supermarkets. These are definitely not meant as meal replacements or even ingredient replacements, but serve as natural flavour enhancers for children (and adults) with fussy tastebuds. Stephanie is a working mother to a toddler and she started her line of powders after seeing how her daughter finished an entire bowl of bee hoon soup which was made with chicken powder.
To ensure hygiene standards, she sterilises her equipment, utensils and packaging before use. Currently, she has 3 flavours in store – sakura chicken, oyster mushroom and ikan bilis.
SYSTEM Stephanie has invested in a proper ordering system for her site so customers can pay securely via PayPal/Card instead of iBanking. There are order numbers and each order is updated with its own SmartPac tracking number when it has been sent out.
SG Homemade food powders are packed in food grade glass jars with personalised labels and have quality seals along the black covers to ensure that the containers are not tampered with during the delivery process. Although the glass bottles cost more than regular ziplock bags and are heavier to ship, Stephanie prefers this option as glass is the safest medium to store food in, regardless of whether the plastic is BPA-free or not.
I’ve used processed chicken and ikan bilis stock cubes from the supermarket before, but found them too salty. Portion control was also an issue, as I didn’t need to use one entire cube for seasoning Elise’s food, yet the remainder could not be kept for long after opening. Previously before I was introduced to food powders, I felt it was a waste of money because I could just use the actual ingredients.
What I didn’t know then, was that there would be days where I would be sooooooooo exhausted and had zero idea what to prepare for Elise’s dinner, yet there aren’t any healthy choices for toddlers in the eating places near my place. These powders are made from actual handpicked ingredients which are baked over a controlled temperature for many hours before being ground into powder.
The powders are fine and there are no lumps. It resembles loose powder or baby powder with a light fragrance. I’ve been using them to create bases for pasta and stir-fries. Since it’s already cooked fully, they can be sprinkled onto cooked food or just mixed into hot water. Elise is not a picky eater so she doesn’t have problems eating. She has, however, been exposed to outside food which are laden with preservatives and seasoning, which is why I try as much as possible to cook with natural flavours as much as possible.
COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS
According to Stephanie, here are a few questions which she gets asked a lot:
Q: Do you add anything else to your powders? A: Only 100% of the ingredient is used, no salt no oil.
Q: Is your ikan bilis salty?
A: I soak till it’s no longer salty but the fish itself originally does come with salt content.
Q: The homemade powder I made at home can only be kept up to 1 week maximum. Why can yours be kept up to 12 months? Do you add preservatives? A: There are methods which utilise high heat to bake the ingredients for a short period of time which kills nutrients. The outside will appear brown but it will not be dry on the inside. Hence, there is moisture retained and the resulting powder can only be kept for a short period of time before it goes stale.
SG Homemade powders can be kept up to 12 months in fridge due to zero moisture content. Ingredients are also cooked below 120 degrees to ensure that nutrients are retained.
Q: Why buy when there are so many recipes online? A: You can create powders yourself, but the process to ensure nutrient preservation as well as zero moisture is a tedious one. This is the amount of raw product needed to create 20g of powder!
200g Mushroom -> 10x
80g Chicken -> 4x 50g Ikan Bilis -> 2.5x
Q: How long does it take to receive my product? A: As all items are created upon order, the current lead time is about 2 weeks.
Beef & Carrot Pasta
Ingredients: Baby pasta, beef, carrot bits Method: 1) Pan-fry beef and carrots with a bit of butter. Boil baby shapes pasta in another pot.
2) Add cooked pasta to pan.
3) Sprinkle mushroom powder for added flavour.
Salmon & Corn Spaghetti
Ingredients:Corn kernels, salmon, pasta, chicken powder Method: 1) Boil water in frying pan with a bit of chicken powder.
2) Place spaghetti into pan on medium fire until it turns soft and stock is reduced.
3) Add in corn kernels and salmon.
GIVEAWAY – 20g x 3 Soup Bundle (Worth $30)
Congratulations to Isabelle Liu for winning the soup bundle! The discount code SGNEWBIE for $10 off $50 is available for all to use!
** I received a soup bundle (20g x 3 jars) to review and purchased a 50g Sakura Chicken powder jar to test out the ordering system. No monetary compensation was received in exchange for the review.
We revisited Sandy Dandy yesterday with a new Korean friend I made. It has changed significantly since our last visit. The wooden caravan is the newest addition and some toys have been shifted in. The entrance is a bit too high for younger toddlers like Elise and she had to plonk the top half of her body on the floor before wriggling up. A step would help smaller kids get up and down easier.
The shelves have been decorated with items from All Things Felt (which are also for sale). The colourful felt ornaments add more vibrancy to the place. Handcrafted by underprivileged Nepalese women, every product you buy empowers them to continue creating crafts to support their families. There’re name banners (pre-order only), pen toppers, cot mobiles, bags and even rugs.
Elise with her oppa. He’s a well-mannered and slightly shy boy who took good care of Elise when they were playing together even though Elise couldn’t really reply to his questions. The see-saw is a new addition as well as it wasn’t there when we last visited.
In the sandpit. It was a Friday and the area was packed. Jennie says that it’s best to come on Wednesdays and Thursdays to avoid the crowd. In spite of the limited space, the kids found their own corner and did their own things. Other than another Korean boy who tried to snatch a toy from Elise, we didn’t notice any kid fighting or bad behaviour like pushing or taunting.
We spent about 3 hours there from 3pm to 6pm. The menu has been updated to include main dishes like chicken lasagne in addition to hot snacks (chicken nuggets, fries, wings, chicken sausages) which are all air-fried or microwaved.
Most parents left around 5pm, leaving the sandpit empty for us to enjoy. I’m glad they liked the place. You know how it’s like when you feel responsible for suggesting a venue to ensure a fun date? I had nothing to worry about because when we were walking out of the place, YJ (the little boy) kept telling his mother over and over that he wanted to go back to play. Overall, it’s a great place for some peace and quiet as you can sip on coffee or do your work whilst keeping an eye on your kid in the sandpit through the full length glass windows.
*ORIGINAL POST 7/4/2017*
Elise finally met up with her buddies Matty and Hana after a very long while. This time, they explored a newly opened indoor sand playground! 🙂 After a challenging lunch with the toddlers, we walked over to the Forum. Like most indoor playgrounds, there are temperature checks conducted upon arrival. We each received a guest card which was meant to record our purchases at the cafe so we only needed to pay all charges upon exit.
A mini play area with various toys for the kids to entertain themselves with. The toddlers spent a lot of time here before even venturing into the sandpit! I spoke with Jennie, the owner of Sand Dandy about how the idea was formed. She wanted a safe space with actual sand for children to play in. As a mother of two young children herself, she put extra thought into the design of the area, ensuring that it was safe enough. Most of the items are customised as she wanted the edges to be rounder to protect the children.
The empty shelves on the side will eventually be stocked with handmade felt toys crafted by disadvantaged women. Jennie was approached by various baby product distributors but chose to showcase something less generic yet suitable for children instead.
Ample seating space with benches and tables. The space is open for event bookings as well, so you can consider holding your kid’s birthday or full month over here.
Spot the bouncy castle at the back of the cafe? Elise wailed the moment she saw it so no go. We did spot a few other children using it though! The cafe stocks a wide variety of desserts like cake pops, push pop cakes, jelly cakes and pies in addition to hot snacks which are only either air-fried or microwaved. They order their supplies from a local baker and currently do not make desserts in store.
A jelly cake, icing cookie and Pokemon chocolate cupcake. The cupcake was a bit too dry and crumbly for my liking but the jelly cup suited my tastebuds.
There’s no attached bathroom, but there’s a baby room for diaper changes with an armchair for nursing in privacy. I felt this was quite a thoughtful idea because not all indoor playgrounds have such a facility. It’s still quite bare and work-in-progress at the moment, but Jennie is doing most of the work herself! It’s a commendable effort.
Our kids, still stuck at the kiddy play area.
This Grow’n’up slide is about the same height as the one we have at home but is steeper so the kids swoosh down fast! I wish I got this instead of my boring slow slide. Thankfully, the kids mostly played by themselves and we only had to break up one fight between Matty and Elise at the end.
The highlight of Sandy Dandy – the sand pit! The wooden boat and lifeguard post with slide is also custom-made so you won’t find it elsewhere. Occupying an entire shop unit of space, the sand pit contains play sand from Mothercare and near the front, kinetic sand. The sand is sooooooooooooooooooooo soft, it’s like being at the beach except you’re likelier to touch a sand toy instead of a used cigarette butt or plastic bag. No bugs over here too!
It was a therapeutic experience for me. We’ve been to playgrounds which use cassia seeds in place of sand and while those weren’t too bad as well, nothing beats an actual sandpit. I used to make sand cakes at the playground with sticks for candles as a kid. Except now with kinetic sand, you can make your cake and CUT IT! The front part near the entrance is packed with kinetic sand and the play sand fills the rest of the pit, so it’s not exactly a mixture.
Sand is flipped every 3 days and 100kg of new sand is added monthly as part of maintenance. If your kid soils the sand, take note that you’ll have to pay for sand replacement! The sand toys are santised daily too.
Her thoughtfulness extends to the quality of sand toys used in the play area. Most of the toys are made in Germany at a higher cost than usual and while she did buy some from Taobao, she refused to use those which did not pass her mom-standards. No flimsy plasticky toys over here!
Sandy Dandy provides little jumpsuits to prevent sand from getting into clothes and diapers. There is no extra cost to use the jumpsuits and it is not compulsory to wear them either; it’s up to you! We put the jumpsuits on for them and led them in. The jumpsuits did keep a lot of sand out from their clothes! There are also brushes at the entrance to brush your feet with.
Our little minions treading the sand.
Matty, having had his confidence boosted by all his MyGym lessons, clambered up the steps all by himself! On a big-kid slide!
I’ve brought Elise to the beach a few times, but haven’t sat her down on the sand proper so this was her first time. She seemed to like it and used the tiniest shovel ever to fill up her mold. Yes, she ate sand as well. *shrugs* It’ll all come out I guess. 肮脏吃，肮脏大. The last I read, sand has anti-bacterial qualities… Sand play is a great sensory experience for young children. Instead of hard ground, they get to feel the softness of sand beneath their feet.
It was a great play date and new experience for the kids. There is unlimited playtime on weekdays and it only costs $15.50 (kids below 24m) to let the kids use the facilities for the entire day. :O On weekends, playtime is limited to 2 hours. I see myself bringing Elise back again. I loved sitting in the sand and it was total heaven when the kids were captivated enough to play by themselves without bugging us. Best.
* GIVEAWAY * Sandy Dandy is giving away prizes of 5 play passes and 5 1-free-hour passes for weekend play to a total of 10 readers!