Sunday, 16 December 2012

Christmas:Hidden Gifts of Learning For Children!

The cheery festival of Christmas holds universal appeal. We can almost sense the love, joy and good will permeating the world. It gives us an opportunity to spend time with near and dear ones, cook and eat together, decorate our homes, exchange presents and revel in the spirit of the season.

Does it also have something in store for children? (Apart from the presents!)

Yes it does!

It  presents a wonderful opportunity for children to experience all that the season has to offer. However, this is possible only if we, as adults, can create an environment that would inspire them to participate and thereby experience all the good things the season has to offer. And it is only when they experience for themselves the joys of the season, that they would feel the desire to share the same with others, probably once they are a little older.

Image Courtesy of  Theeradech Sanin/

Listed below are some ways that would make this possible.
  • Be open about your enthusiasm for the festival and tell your child how excited you are about the upcoming celebrations. 
  • Make a list of all that you wish to do for the festival and let your child know about the same. 
  • Ask your child if he or she would like to do something to celebrate Christmas. 
  • Be prepared beforehand about the options you would like to give her to contribute to the celebrations.  
  • Decide if you both would like to work together or if you would like her to plan her own Christmas celebration. 
  • Some options for the child would include- decorating a Christmas tree, making greetings for friends and family, calling her friends over to see her tree, planning a menu for the day when her friends visit, and hosting her friends when they visit. 
  • You can give her some exclusive space in your home. The child can decorate that space with her Christmas tree, art work or anything else that she has made for the celebration. 
  • Last but not the least, remember to involve her in anything that she shows interest in. For example, if you are cooking a special meal and she shows interest in the same, encourage her participation to whatever extent possible. The best way for children to experience the spirit of festivals is by being an integral part of them, rather than just watching all that is being performed by the adults around them. 
Involve your child, encourage her participation and allow her to experience the flavour of this merry season! For it is only when we experience the joy of something ourselves that we feel inspired to share the same with the world!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Comparing Children: Does It Help Them Become Better?

Your neighbour's child can count to 100 effortlessly. Your child is struggling to count even up to 50. No matter how many times you get him to practise, he always ends up forgetting the sequence. How do you feel?

Your sister's child has started reading. Your child is still confused with some of the letters and will take some more time to begin reading. What would you do?

On Sports Day at school, your child's best friend wins several prizes while your child gets none. What will you say to him?

Have you ever found yourself trapped in such situations? How do you feel when you think that your child is lagging behind when compared to other children his age?

Worried about his future?
Anxious that he might never improve?
Guilty that you might not be paying enough attention to his growth and development? 

What do you do when you feel any of these emotions?

Do you let your child know about how disappointed you feel?
Do you tell him that he needs to work harder?
Do you in any way, directly or indirectly, convey to him that his worth is dependent on him winning all those prizes or rattling off those numbers?

And to top it all, do you also feel guilty at a later point that you probably hurt your child's feelings by telling him all that you did?

If that is the case, fret not. There is a better way to handle these issues.

Just do the following exercise.
  • Make a list of your child's strengths. The list should include all the things that he is already good at, not  just related to academics but also to other areas such as emotional development, mental makeup and social behaviour. Also include any other innate traits of the child that you think are contributing to the development of his personality. You are likely to find many. 
  • Make another list that includes all the areas that you think your child needs to work on, that is, areas of improvement. You are again likely to find many. 

Now use a bit of logic and you will realise that no matter which child on earth you take, it will be possible to make the same two lists with respect to him or her. That is, every child is good at some things and not so good at other things. Some children learn a few things faster, while others take time.The same is true for adults too. Not everyone is good at everything but there is always scope for improvement. Also, some people are naturally gifted in some areas and others are naturally gifted in other areas.

When this is the case, is it really necessary to compare children with one another?

Being able to count fluently does not make a child any more intelligent than others.
Winning the first prize in a race does not make a child any smarter than others.

This is not to say that those are not achievements. They most certainly are. However, they are not the appropriate parameters to be used to make comparisons or draw conclusions about a child's intelligence or worth.

Human beings are unlike machines. Each person is a mix of talents, traits, abilities and intelligences, mixed and mashed in varied proportions. Hence, it is almost impossible and also unfair to compare two children or even adults for that matter.

Whenever you feel disappointed or anxious that your child is not doing as well as you think  he should, go through the paper on which you listed out his strengths and work on-

  • Making the child aware of his strengths.
  • Encouraging him to develop his strengths.
  • Letting him know that you are proud of his strengths.
  • Getting him to feel good about his strengths. 
  • Making him aware that his worth is dependent neither on his strengths nor on his weakness. He is a worthy child, in the exact package that he is. 

Do you know what happens when you do this? 

One thing is the child begins to work on his strengths and gets better and better at what he is already good at. For example, if he has a flair for writing and becomes aware of the same, he will feel encouraged to work on that and eventually excel in the same. 

The second point is that the child develops a healthy self esteem and self image, that is independent of what he thinks he can accomplish. The benefit of this is that it results in the child also being willing to work on areas that he needs to improve in. And  the best part is he works on improving without the extra baggage of feeling bad, unworthy, jealous or resentful. 

Don't you think that's a healthier way to live, grow and develop?
Comparing children makes them lose focus on their personality and strengths. As a result, many of them spend their energy feeling resentful, jealous and unworthy. They think they are not good enough until they can be like some other child. If they could spend the same energy feeling good about themselves, they would  soar to greater heights.

Image Courtesy of  Idea go/

If we can open our minds, we would see that every child is a bundle of talent seeds, that are waiting to sprout. However, those seeds will sprout only when they are planted in a garden that nurtures them with the essentials of encouragement, self worth and respectful love. 

It is in our hands to create that garden for our children. 

Monday, 26 November 2012

The Quiet Child: Does He Need to Talk?

Quiet children face problems wherever they go.- at school, in the family, at social gatherings and everywhere else in the world. While many children are reprimanded for being very talkative, another group of children is constantly labelled 'quiet'. Often, being quiet is equated with being shy. And being shy is considered an undesirable trait by many adults. It is not uncommon to find an adult, usually a parent, pushing a quiet child to open up and talk more, often much against the child's wish.

Have you ever wondered why someone who is quiet must be forced to open his mouth? Especially when he is happy staying quiet?

Before we can answer that, we must first consider the fact that everybody is UNIQUE.
Some people talk more, some people talk less. Some people socialise more, some socialise less.
Some people are extroverts, some others are introverts. Some love the company of people, some others are happy in their own little world.

In short, the world has a mix of people who are as varied as the variety in the world itself.

Consider this-An apple has to look and taste like an apple. Only then would it do justice to the fact that it is an apple.
A deer has to be elegant and timid. Only then would it make sense for it be a deer.

Imagine a deer trying to acquire the traits of a lion or behaving like one. Would it succeed? Or in the unlikely event that it did, would it do justice to its own unique personality and purpose?

Imagine doing something to make an apple taste like a water melon? Would it serve any purpose?

An apple is meant to be an apple.
A deer is meant to be a deer.

Similarly, a human being is meant be a human being, with his or her own unique personality.

Now from this perspective, think if there is anything wrong with being quiet or even shy?
Considering the variety that exists in the world, can we allow people the freedom to be as they are?

Now, one might argue that a quiet or shy person cannot be as successful as a talkative or an outgoing one. But I am sure all of us have met enough and more quiet people who are as successful as anyone else and also quite a number of people who talk a lot but have not been successful.

Well, what does a quiet person do when talking becomes a necessity in life? One may argue that if someone is quiet by nature, they will not have the courage to speak when the need arises.

To this, we might say that an apple is an apple, but when the need arises, it can also be converted into an apple cake or apple juice. But its essential nature of being an apple remains the same.

Similarly, a quiet person will also talk when life demands it. Everyone is capable and will do what is necessary when the need arises. However, their essential nature is to stay quiet and that is perfectly fine.

When we respect quiet children for what they are, they grow in confidence and learn to love themselves. This causes them to build a positive self image. A person with a positive self image stands a greater chance of succeeding in life., irrespective of whether he is quiet or talkative.

So, the next time you feel like telling a quiet child to open up, stop yourself. Take a moment to appreciate the unique nature of this child and respect him for what he or she is. Trust that the child has the capability to talk and open up, when the need arises. Build a rapport and strengthen your relationship.

A quiet child is also a CAPABLE CHILD!

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Saturday, 10 November 2012

Ocean Creatures: Poem for Children

This is a poem for young children. It is about the various aquatic beings. Feel free to add your own tune to it!

Look at the ocean,
It’s so blue and deep,
It is full of water,
And many creatures it keeps.

Fish of all colours,
Swim freely everywhere,
Golden, blue, orange and green,
And other colours rare.

There are elegant dolphins,
That pop out and show their fins,
And giant blue whales,
That leave watery trails.

Deep in the ocean dark,
There are sharks-big and small,
The whale shark and the dwarf shark,
Are but two of all.

The good old octopus,
With its four pairs of arms,
The very bony seahorse,
That swims with lots of charm.

Look at the ocean,
It’s so blue and deep,
It is full of water,
And many creatures it keeps.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Water Cycle

This is a short and simple write up on the water cycle which can be read out to children just like you would read out a story. Make you sure you modulate your voice and make it interesting for the child as you read.

Have you ever wondered how it rains?

How does water come down from the sky?

Do you know that the water that comes down from the sky was once here on earth?

In fact, it stays on earth for a while and then goes back to the sky. It comes down again when it rains and goes back up again. This goes on and on as a cycle. It is called the water cycle.

This is the story of the water cycle.

The sun shines and gives out heat.

The heat from the sun reaches the water that is present in all the ponds, lakes, rivers and oceans.

This heat causes the water to turn into water vapour or steam.

We cannot see this water vapour. It has no form or colour or smell.

The water vapour then rises up into the air

Once up there, it becomes cool and turns into droplets of water.

These droplets of water gather together and from the clouds that we see in the sky.

When a lot of water droplets are held together, the clouds become heavy. So, the air cannot hold them up in the sky any longer.

When this happens, it starts raining and the water in the clouds comes back to earth.

The rain water falls back into the ponds, lakes, rivers and oceans.

A pat of it also seeps into the earth and becomes ‘ground water’. This ground water is  used up by plants and animals.

The water that comes back to the ponds, lakes, rivers and oceans goes back to the sky again as water vapour and comes down in the form of rain.

This cycle goes on and on. The same water goes up and comes down all the time.

This is the water cycle. 

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The D-word and the Child

One of the words adults use most often with children is “Don’t”.

The D word
Don’t, don’t, don’t
Used with children often,
Help us it won’t.

Don’t sleep now.
Don’t eat that.

Don’t play now.
Don’t touch that.

Don’t bathe now.
Don’t take that.

The more we say “Don’t”,
The more the child won’t.

Won’t listen.
Won’t bother.
Won’t care.
And will dare,
To do the same,
Which you don’t
Want him to do.

Try and remember instances in your own life when someone kept telling you not to do something that you wanted to do. It must have been frustrating for sure. No doubt, there are circumstances when the D word must be used for valid reasons. But if it rolls off the tongue every few minutes, even when absolutely unnecessary, it can be quite exhausting for the person at the receiving end, who in this context is the child.

After a while, we realise that the more we say ‘Don’t’, the more the child ends up doing whatever it is we do not want him to do. Sometimes, saying ‘Don’t’ becomes a deeply ingrained habit in the adult that is difficult to shake off.

The next time you feel tempted to say ‘Don’t’ to a child, think about whether it is really necessary to say it or whether it is being said as a matter of habit. For instance, if you are at a restaurant and the child is meddling with the spoon that is kept on the table, is it really necessary to say, ‘Don’t’ touch that,”? He is probably just fascinated by the spoon and is exploring its features. Or when you are walking and the child stops to pick up a leaf that is on the ground, is it really necessary to take the leaf away and say, “Don’t touch. Put that down,”?

This practice may seem tiresome initially but the results that it will fetch would be well worth the effort. Sometimes, all it requires is a little patience to understand the child and why he does the things he does.

So, when you cut down on your usage of ‘Don’t’ and especially when unnecessary, it will have a greater impact when a situation demands that you say ‘Don’t’.

Then it is very likely that the child would listen too!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Children and Colours: Match & Learn Fun

This is a wonderful activity to teach children about matching colours and to simultaneously reinforce the names of colours.

You can use old visiting cards for this activity. Alternately, you can use small pieces of cardboard that have been cut. 

  1. Paint the plain sides of the visiting cards with different colours. 
  2. Arrange the cards in one line on a table or a mat.
  3. Place a few plain visiting cards, paint and paint brushes on the table.
  4. Let your child paint one card at a time and match it with the ones arranged in a line. For instance, if she spots a red card first, let her independently pick up the red paint and paint a card red. If she spots a blue card next, let her paint a plain card blue and match it with the existing blue card. You can certainly help if the child is lost or requires your initial guidance, but allow her to do it independently after a while.
  5. Ask her to name the colours as she paints and matches.
  6. If the child is older and can write, let her also write the names of the colours on a sheet of paper as she paints and matches. If you want to experiment more, you can even encourage her to do something different like writing with the paint brush. For example, if the colour she has just matched is red, she can dip her brush in red paint and use the same to write “red” on the sheet. Many children would love doing that. Using fingers dipped in paint to write is another exciting option! Let the child choose.
  7.  For a younger child, painting, matching and naming would be sufficient.

Tip for the Adult: You can expect some mess at the end of this activity. So, make sure the child as well as you have an apron on. Spread lots of newspapers and then commence the activity. Do not inhibit the child for fear that the child may get herself messy. Messes can always be cleared but the phase in which children would enjoy and learn from such activities will not last forever! So, make the most of it!

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Sunday, 9 September 2012

Raising a Child:Food for Thought

Raising children or working with children on a regular basis can be a challenging task. Sometimes, one just feels lost and does not know what to do, what to say, what not to do or what not to say! Of course, all of us are human and have the right to make our share of mistakes. However, it helps to be aware of our thoughts, beliefs and behaviour with respect to children so we don't end up making mistakes all the time. This would help us lead a more peaceful life with them, bring happiness into the relationship and most importantly win their trust. Read on for a few thoughts we can keep in mind.

  • Look for the good in the child. 
  • Slow down. 
  • Do not give constant instructions. 
  • Do not panic or assume that the child is not intelligent. Every child is intelligent in his own way. 
  • Take one step at a time. 
  • Help him build on his strengths.
  • Help him work on his weaknesses without being critical.
  • Be firm yet kind. 
  • Do not put unnecessary pressure on him. 
  • Help him move towards independence in every respect.
  • Appreciate every milestone he crosses. 
  • Do not judge his capabilities based on his performance in exams. 
  • NEVER insult him in front of others or even while alone. 
  • Expose him to a variety of learning experiences during his growing years.
  • Do not restrict his learning to academics alone.  
  • Encourage his interests and talents. 
  • Be consistent in your behaviour towards him. 
  • Do not tell him things that are not true. 
  • Do not instill unnecessary fears or "your personal fears" in him. 
  • Say "sorry" when you have been wrong. 
  • Be a friend.
  • Smile more often. 
  • Respect him and his views even if you do not agree with them. 

Relax and enjoy the phase of his childhood. It will be gone even before you know it!

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Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Being a “Montessori Inspired Parent”

If you wish to be a “Montessori Parent” you-

  • Respect the child and view him as an equal citizen in an adult dominated world.
  • Understand the child and the different stages of development that he passes through.
  • Create an environment that gives him plenty of scope to build his personality by doing constructive work appropriate to his stage of development.
  • Acknowledge his inner urge to do certain kinds of work and let him participate in day to day activities around your home such as cleaning, gardening, cooking and everything else that he is drawn to.
  • Let him explore the environment and make meaningful discoveries.
  • Let him make choices, thereby strengthening his will and moving him towards independence.
  • Let him work uninterrupted for as long as he wishes to and do not stop him unless really called for.
  • Give him freedom to be.
  • Develop the ability to be firm as well as kind.
  • Enjoy each stage of your child’s growth, complain less and observe more.

Dr Maria Montessori, who was the mind and soul behind the popular Montessori method of education followed world over today, spent a lifetime observing and working with children. Her work, research and conclusions have simplified life for us today.

The principles of child development laid down by Dr Montessori are not restricted to education alone. They can be applied successfully in our day to day interactions with children.

If you are inspired by these principles, you would have the benefit of raising your child the Montessori way and thereby get to witness some astounding miracles of child development. For a greater understanding and awareness of Dr Montessori's work, do read her books "The Secret of Childhood", "The Absorbent Mind" and many more too. 

Saturday, 4 August 2012

From the heart, to the child..

If you are expecting a child to be in your life soon, it helps to prepare yourself emotionally- to open your heart and to love. To start loving even before the child is physically present with you. This kick starts the bonding process and helps you look forward to the arrival of the child.

One of the ways to do so is by writing down whatever you feel about the child being a part of your life. Writing helps you express your deepest feelings and get into the groove of sharing your love and time with a new member. It could also help you address and release any fears you have about the changes in your life once the child is a part of it.

Words from the heart dedicated to a child

My child,
I know you are out there,
It’s just a matter of time before we meet.

I have not seen you yet,
Yet the love I feel for you is immense.

Pure and peaceful,
That is who you are.

You are coming into this world,
With trust and with love.

I promise I will do my best,
Especially during your early years,
And thereafter too.

Until you grow your wings,
And get ready to fly.

My child,
I know you are out there,
And also right here in my heart.

I can’t wait to meet you.
I love you from the depths of my soul. 
And respect your life, that is about to unfold. 

Love always...

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Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Loving an Adopted Child: Is it Possible?

Is it possible to love a child not born to you?

Is it possible to feel a sense of connection to a child who is not your own blood and who does not resemble you?

Is it possible to accept as your own a child who was born to someone else?

If you are considering adopting a child, you may be plagued by such doubts. Additionally, you might not have the whole hearted support of family and friends, who with their best intentions, tell you that bonding with an adopted child is not the same as bonding with a biological child.

Now if you are in the process of deciding to adopt a child or have already decided to adopt one, but feel apprehensive about the process, read on! You are probably not sure if your kin would welcome your child and accept her. You could also have a small nagging doubt about whether they are right in their apprehensions of adoption and wondering if you are heading for disaster.

Read on to know about some positive aspects of adopting a child and realise that you indeed could have taken the best decision of your life, even if things don’t appear that way at this moment.

  • The first thing to remember is that any decision taken in life would have pros as well as cons. No decision in life comes with a tag saying your life will be awesome once you implement it. So, is the case with adopting a child. It would have its positives as well as challenges. But once a decision is taken, it is up to us to choose what we wish to focus on and build on the same. So, you either worry about all the things that could go wrong once you adopt a child or you focus on all the things that could go right. And when you focus more on the things that could go right, you end up doing the right things and things begin to work out for you!
  • A child is a child is a child. Period. And when you become a parent, an adopted child is as much your child as one you would give birth to. It may be normal to wonder if that is really possible. But the fact is that bonding, with any living being- humans and even pet animals- happens over time. Having an open mind would allow you and the child to bond with ease.
  • Adopting a child gives you an opportunity to be more than who you are. It gives you an opportunity to love without boundaries and distinctions. It helps you realise that love is not always about blood and more about bonding. If you have a biological child already, it helps you see how capable you are of loving two children, who have come to you in different ways, but are nevertheless yours. It gives you a whole new perspective to love and children and enriches your life.
  • Imagine you were adopted as a child and you had a loving family. Would you feel good about being a part of your family and feeling loved? Or would you feel miserable that you have a loving family? Most people would obviously be happy to have loving families. Human beings naturally tend to gravitate towards love. Your child, when cared for with love, would grow up to enjoy having you as family and will become very much a part of it. So, any worries about the child losing his love for you once he finds out he was not born to you may be unwarranted. Yes, he might be curious about his history but that does not mean he would stop loving you. Remember, love grows and remains where it is nurtured.

Adopting a child is a huge decision. However, it does not have to be a painful decision taken in desperation.

When confused about whether it is a good decision or not, remember that it is certainly a good decision. You are adopting a child and becoming a parent. It is something to be proud of and celebrate!

All that is needed is a shift in thinking, preparedness to parent, openness to experience and willingness to love.

Look at the positive aspects of adoption and celebrate the process, with the confidence that you are equipped to handle any challenges you meet along the way!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Being a Parent...

Being a parent, whether you are planning to become one or whether you already are one, is a challenging job. It is bound to have several ups and downs on the way. It helps to be aware of your role when it comes to parenting a child and especially a young child, who is dependent on you for most things.

  • The adult chooses to bring a child into this world- A child does not pop into the world on her own. It is the adult who is responsible for bringing one into the world. Often, adults have children and  love them no doubt. However, at times they feel the child is a hindrance to their lives. Being a parent means being aware at all times that bringing a child into this world is a choice that is made. And when the adult happens to make that choice, he (or/and she) becomes a parent.
  • The child is precious and entrusted in the adult's care- A child is a new life and is precious. A child is also dependent on the adults for her needs. Being a parent means the adult being aware that he would be responsible for the care, safety and comfort of a new life and taking as many positive steps as  he can towards the same.
  • The adult's life will change completely once there is a child in it- The adult may have got used to a routine in the absence of a child. But having a child in her life would certainly change that predictable routine. She would have to set plenty of time aside for the child. It helps to be aware that this is also a phase that can be enjoyed as much as the phase when she had all the time in the world for herself. It needs a slight shift in perspective to look at this phase as an enjoyable one. It is after all going to last just a few years and after that the child will be an independent entity. So, one might as well enjoy this phase while it lasts.
  • The child is entitled to a life all her own and the adult is responsible for giving her a solid foundation in the early years-  It helps to be aware that being a parent does not make the child a shadow of the parent. In other words, the child is a new being and will lead a life of her own one day. Keeping this in mind, giving the child a good foundation in her early years becomes the adult’s responsibility; a foundation that would help the child develop confidence in herself and a positive outlook towards life.
  • The adult would have to spend a lot of physical as well as intellectual energies in order to aid the physical and intellectual development of the child- Being a parent means the adult being aware that he would have to use a lot of his physical energy in order to physically care for the child and intellectual energy to provide meaningful learning opportunities for the mental growth of the child (apart from what is learnt at school). A lot of learning and assimilation happen during the early years and it is the perfect time to sow the seeds of mental, intellectual and emotional development. This would require constant planning and preparation on the adult’s part to ensure that the child is exposed to the best that can be offered. 

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Saturday, 7 July 2012

The Child and Walking

Has your child just taken his first step?

Are you all excited about his first step?

When young children start walking, it is a huge milestone for them.

They seem to feel as thrilled (or probably more) as adults feel when they learn new skills such as swimming, driving or dancing.

How is their thrill evident?

Just by this fact- once having learnt how to walk, they want to walk over and over again.

They fall down.
They get up.
They start walking again.

Many children also love walking up and down the stairs. Not once but countless times!

These activities related to walking can go on for hours on end and can cause the adult in whose care the child is to feel absolutely exhausted.

The adult does not have either the time or the patience to wait on a child who wants to walk without a break. The adult is usually focused on the next task at hand.

Often, the adult would rather just pick the child up and move on to the next task that he needs to do. But the child seems determined to walk. This in turn causes the adult to pick the child up forcefully and the child throws a tantrum.

Have you ever wondered why this is so? Or what you can do if you ever find yourself in this situation?

The first thing to understand is no one teaches the child to walk. So, the child is not walking to make life difficult for the adults or to show that he has learnt something. Rather, it is nature that drives the child towards walking. And the child walks and walks and walks. He never seems tired of it.

As adults, we would be able to appreciate this better when we understand that the child is doing exactly what he needs to do to develop himself at that stage of his life. Then we would sit back, relax and enjoy every step he takes, rather that fret about when he would stop walking so much and so often.

No doubt it requires patience and energy to keep pace with a child who wants to walk continuously. But think about it. It is after all once in a lifetime that you would witness this amazing phenomenon of a child learning to walk. Time will fly and after some years you just might be complaining that your grown up child refuses to walk even a couple of steps. So, why not enjoy this phase while it lasts?

Take time to witness every milestone of your child’s growth and cherish the early years for the wonders that they unfold.

Let us not carry the child who has just learnt to walk.
Let him walk.
Let us not complain about the child who goes up the stairway fifty times or more.
Let him climb up.
It is nature at play.
The child has the right to master his gift.
He says, “I can walk. Please do not lift.”

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Children and Making Choices

How often do you find yourself struggling to make a choice?

From simple everyday matters, like not knowing which dress to buy or which restaurant to eat at to more complex decisions related to your personal and professional lives.

How often do you rely on others to make choices for you or to approve of your choices, before you go ahead and implement them?

How often do you doubt your own choices and feel that you are not capable of making the right choices?

Well, no one makes right choices all the time. But the fear of not making the right choice must not stop us from going ahead and making a choice that seems best under any given circumstance.

This is exactly what happened to many of us when we were children. Often, the adults in our lives,well intentioned no doubt, did not trust us enough to let us make our own choices. We were thought of as young and inexperienced and thereby incapable of making choices. And many of us continue to feel the same way well into adulthood.

What if we were given the opportunity to make choices from a very young age? Right from what we liked to eat at a restaurant, to which dress we would want to wear to a party, to how much we would like to eat for lunch and what hobbies we would like to pursue. We would probably be better equipped to make bigger choices today.

Encourage children, yes even the very young ones, to make several choices that they are capable of making. Whenever there is scope for the child to make a choice, allow her to make it. This habit ingrained in the child from a young age, will build confidence in the self and the child would carry the same in her consciousness as she grows into an adult.

Trust the child.

Sounds difficult?

Start practising.

Remember how you felt as a child when you were not trusted by the adults around you? When you knew something was right for you at that moment but no one seemed to understand. That is exactly how the children in our lives feel right now when we make all their choices for them.

Trusting the child does not mean that she will make perfect choices all the time. It means giving her the freedom to choose, while ensuring her safety and well being at the same time. It also means being willing to accept the fact that some choices could be wrong. But then making wrong choices is also part of learning in life!

So, go ahead. Do not be afraid. Encourage children to make choices wherever possible and watch them blossom into confident young people, capable of making choices whenever life requires them to do so. 

Friday, 1 June 2012

Children and Exploratory Learning

Imagine you land on a distant planet, which is going to be your home for the rest of your life. The planet is very different from earth and nothing on that planet resembles anything that you’ve seen on earth. The air smells different, the water looks peculiar, the food tastes unique, everything you touch has a different feel to it and the land looks like nothing you’ve ever seen on earth.

How would you make sense of everything around you?
You would go around, explore the planet, touch things to see how they feel, taste some things to see if they are edible, stop to look at all that is around you, try to understand the sounds in the environment and take in the various smells that you may encounter. As you explore this planet, you begin to make lots of discoveries.

One day, you encounter a bunch of aliens. Now, would you like these aliens to stop you from exploring their planet? Or would you rather that they permit you to explore and probably even encourage you to explore?  Of course, you would also hope that they would stop you when you are about to enter unsafe territory.

Now, come back to planet earth.

The child is the new entrant to this planet, this world that is completely alien to him, HE is the explorer and WE are the aliens. So, would the child rather have us stopping him at every step or would he prefer having the freedom to explore?

When very young children touch a stone, smell a flower, stop to watch a dog, listen intently to the sound of an aeroplane or try to taste things that are not even edible, they are NOT doing it to be naughty or to trouble you. That is their way of exploring the world around them. They understand the world by exploring it through their all their senses. That is why they are always on the move and cannot sit still in one place as mere spectators.

The urge to explore seems particularly strong at a tender age. That is why when adults try to stop them, they get a negative response from them. That is because the child does not want anyone interfering in his exploration. They are also labelled as hyper or stubborn by the adult community when they refuse to stop doing the things they are asked to. Once again, young children are not on the move to be stubborn or hyper. When you understand that this need to explore is part of their nature at that stage of development, you step back and learn to relax. You embrace their learning and their journey.

As adults, while we certainly are responsible for their safety (just as the aliens would be while we explore unsafe territory), let us not become so protective as to stop them at every step. When a young child wants to explore something in this world, let him have the freedom to do it, while we keep a gentle watch.  Let him experience the beauty of this fabulous world through sensory exploration!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Children and Repetition of Activities

Have you ever seen little children sweeping the ground with tremendous interest and concentration?

Going up and down the stairs for no reason countless times?

Arranging blocks in a particular pattern over and over again?

Washing their hands twenty times or more, long after they are sparkling clean?

Repeating activities so many times that you end up wondering from where they draw their energy and what pleasure repetition of the same activity could give them?

This is a phenomenon that is observed universally among very young children and if you are associated with young children you will have witnessed this at some point.

What do we do when this happens? There are just two options.

Let the child do the activity for as long as he wants to and for as many times as he wants to.


Stop him from doing it repeatedly.

What would prompt an adult to stop a child from repeating an activity? Probably he feels the child is wasting his time doing something that neither makes sense nor achieves a meaningful end result.  

But think about it. Does everything we do in life need an end result? Sometimes don’t we all do things just because we like doing them? In very young children, there seems to be an even greater force driving them to do things repeatedly, for no apparent reason.

As per Dr Maria Montessori (an Italian educator and doctor who is the genius behind the popular Montessori system of education that is followed world over today), it is nature that drives children to perform tasks over and over again. No one knows why this is so but this repetition of the activity seems to fulfil an innate developmental need in the children.  This is evident by the satisfaction one sees on a child’s face at the end of an activity that he has performed to his heart’s content.  

So, the next time a child is found repeating an activity that does not make sense to you and you feel like stopping him, pause for a moment to observe the child. Is he interested in the activity? Is he concentrating on the activity with all his might? Is it giving him a sense of satisfaction? If yes, let him have the freedom to repeat the activity to his heart’s content. Interest, concentration and a sense of satisfaction felt over and over again would also result in the development of confidence in the child. And if it is nature that is driving children to do certain activities over and over again, why should anyone stop them from doing it? Let nature run its course and the little child have his share of joyous moments, while we sit back to observe him in peace and learn to find joy in his joy!

Just as we do not like to be disturbed while doing something we thoroughly enjoy, let us not disturb children when they do the things they enjoy.  

Friday, 11 May 2012

Bonding with Children

Bonding with children goes a long way in building a healthy and happy relationship with them. Here are some thoughts on the same- four simple ways to bond with children. 

  • Smile- A smile can do wonders to establish a rapport with children. A smile tells a child that you are happy to see her.  A smile also makes an adult friendly and approachable. And being friendly and approachable by nature is precisely what would help adults bond with children. 
  • Make time to listen - Many children love to talk and to share several stories from their lives with adults. While listening to them at all times may not be practically possible, it is nevertheless important to make some time to listen to them.  Setting time aside to listen to children can work wonders to establish a bond with them. 
  • Laugh together- There’s nothing to beat a good laugh shared with a child. If you like to have a good time with your own friends, you will agree that some of your best moments with friends are moments of shared laughter! Laughing together signals friendship and is a great way to lighten things up in the adult-child relationship. So, whenever opportunity strikes, feel free to loosen up and laugh with children!
  • Respect their feelings, thoughts and views- Often, adults are subconsciously conditioned to not take children very seriously. As a result, we can end up disrespecting their feelings, thoughts or views unintentionally. While we may not be able to relate to their feelings and experiences, it is important that we at least empathise with them and acknowledge their feelings. This helps build trust and subsequently friendship.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Stories for Children:Number Story-Activity

This is a short story-activity to give the child gentle exposure to addition and subtraction. It begins as a story which can later be executed as an activity. Before you read the story, here are a few instructions for the adult in charge.

  • Start by narrating the story to the child.
  • Draw pictures of the leaves or use actual leaves as you narrate the story, so the child understands the story better.
  • After narrating the story, do the same activity with your child.
  • In the story, the leaves are restricted to three. You can use as many leaves as you want depending on the age and interest level of the child.
  • If the child is not interested in doing this activity immediately after listening to the story, do not force the child to participate. Keep it for another day when the child is more receptive.
  • Do not use the terms addition or subtraction. The aim is just to give a gentle exposure to those concepts and not to teach them in detail as done in higher classes.


Once upon a time, there lived a girl named Kim.

One morning, Kim was wandering in her backyard when she saw some leaves on the ground.

“Oh these leaves are so pretty!” said Kim, as she picked up one and looked at it.

She placed the leaf aside and said, “This is one leaf.”

Next she picked up another leaf and placed it next to the first one.

She looked at the leaves and counted them.

 “ONE.TWO. Now I have two leaves,” she said.

Feeling excited, she picked up another leaf and placed it next to the two leaves.

After looking at the leaves in a row, she counted them again and said, “ONE. TWO. THREE. Now I have three leaves.”

Suddenly, the neighbour’s puppy appeared and ran away with one leaf in his mouth.

“No! Hey pup, come back. I want that leaf,” shouted Kim.

But the puppy vanished next door.

“Never mind, said Kim, looking at the two leaves on the ground, “I can get another one.”

She stared at the two leaves on the ground and discovered something exciting.

“Hey, wait a minute. One leaf is gone and I have two leaves again!” exclaimed Kim, thrilled at her discovery.

She looked at the two leaves on the ground.

“Let me do what the pup did. Let me pick up another leaf and put it away,” said Kim as she bent down to pick up one leaf.

She kept it aside and came back to look at what was remaining.

“Now I have just one leaf left! And that is what I started with,” said Kim, “I loved playing this game!”

And she did this activity over and over and over again!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Let Children Learn!

A child immersed in an activity,

Is like a person in meditation,

The child focuses on his activity,

With immense concentration,

All he needs is a calm space,

To discover new pathways,

And have happy learning days!

Children learn best when they have the freedom to discover and explore new pathways, rather than when forced to move on a path that adults think is the only right one for them. 

<p><a href="">Image: chrisroll /</a></p>

Friday, 20 April 2012

Summer Holiday Ideas: Water Activities

Water can be explored in many different ways. Here are a few ideas. As always, let the child go beyond these ideas and do encourage the child's own ideas of exploring water (if any), for that is when the child learns to think, analyse and learn independently. 

  • Pouring- This is most suitable for very young children (2 to 4 years). Fill a tub or a bucket with water. Place an empty bucket with a mug next to it. Show your child how to fill the mug with water from the bucket that is full and pour it into the bucket that is empty. After a quick demonstration, allow her to do it her way and assist only if absolutely necessary.
  • Boat Fun- Make paper boats together and let your child have fun sailing them in the water. 
  • Float and Sink-  Older children can be encouraged to look for objects that can float as well as sink in the water. Let the child look for the objects independently and discover what floats and what sinks. Do keep a gentle watch to ensure inappropriate objects are not used for this activity. You would not want your cell phone or wallet to land in the water! This activity is probably best done outdoors. 
  • Watering Plants- Do you have a garden at home? Or even just a few pots? Why not encourage your child to water the plants everyday? Many children would love doing this! And this is something even very young children can accomplish. This activity would require some adult guidance for young children to know when to stop watering. Explain to your child beforehand that plants need only a certain amount of water because of which she will have to stop watering after a while, unlike the first three activities that have no time limit. 

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Summer Holiday Ideas: Wheat Flour Fun

The simple wheat flour that is so popular among Indian households can be used to keep children busy and happy. Dough prepared with wheat flour acts as clay- it can be moulded and stretched and is perfectly safe as well! For younger children, all you need to do is knead the dough and leave the child alone to experiment with it. To get your child started on her experiments, you can show her how to make something (ball, shapes etc) with the dough. After this initial step. leave the child alone to explore the dough.

Older children may even be able to knead the dough on their own and would also enjoy rolling out rotis (thin wheat flour bread).

Let the child decide how he wants to experiment with the dough. All he needs is uninterrupted time and the freedom to be creative!

 <p><a href="">Image: digitalart /</a></p>

Monday, 16 April 2012

Learning About Shapes : Shapes Activity

Now that your child is familiar with circles, triangles, squares and rectangles, you can encourage her to create something using all these shapes. A simple one would be a house. You can modify the activity as per different age groups.

3 to 4 Years- Keep a picture of a house ready and highlight the different shapes in the picture. To make it appropriate for young children of this age, make sure it is a big picture with fewer shapes. Point out the squares, rectangles, triangles and circles to your child. Then ask your child to spot and name the shapes independently. Subsequently leave her alone to explore the picture. You can also give her paper, pencil and colours and encourage her to draw a similar house. 

4 to 5 Years- Many children this age can draw a house independently. Tell the child to draw a house that has squares, rectangles, triangles and circles. Ask her to highlight each shape with similar colours. For example, all squares can be coloured red, all rectangles blue etc. 

5 Years & Above- Older children can be given a lot more independence to do this activity. Tell the child that the drawing must include all four shapes but do not tell her what must be drawn. Let her draw whatever she likes, as long as the basic criterion of including all shapes in the drawing is met. You can also give clay to the child and ask her to create something based on shapes with it.

Encourage the child to seek and go beyond this activity. Children have their own ways of exploring different concepts and that is best encouraged.

In case you missed the last three posts on shapes, here are the links.

<p><a href="">Image: m_bartosch /</a></p>

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Learning About Shapes : Rectangles

Here comes the next post on learning about shapes! This one is about rectangles.

  1. Show your child a picture of a rectangle and teach her to name it.
  2. Spot a Rectangle Game- Rectangles are commonly found at home- tables, beds, doormats, windows, doors etc. Play a fun game wherein both you and the child look around and spot everything at home that is rectangular in shape. Make a note of your findings and finally count the number of rectangles that you have at home.
  3. Make Rectangles- Give your child paper that has rectangles of different sizes drawn on it. Let het cut them out with child scissors. Also, give her two paper squares and ask het to place them one next to the other. Notice what happens.
In case you missed the first two posts in this series, here are the links. You can mix and match the ideas described in the three posts on shapes in a way that would suit your child's learning best. 

Friday, 6 April 2012

Summer Holiday Ideas: Garden Craft

This is a simple yet delightful piece of craft that can be accomplished in your garden or backyard. Tell your child to pick up pieces of twigs, leaves and flowers that are lying on the ground. Give your child paper and glue. Let her experiment with sticking them on the paper in her own unique manner. In the picture, twigs have been used to make a tree and house. Flowers have been used to create a garden. After giving your child a brief idea about the activity, leave him alone to do it. Let him decide what he wants to paste and how he wants to paste it.

Have fun filled creative moments in the midst of nature!

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Summer Holiday Ideas: Paper Cutting

Children love to experiment with cutting. Give your child lots of  papers/newspapers that you don't need and a pair of child scissors. She will be able to spend a good amount of time cutting the paper and thereby working on her motor skills as well.

This activity is enjoyed by most children between three and six years of age, though each age group would execute it as per its abilities. The younger ones will face a bigger challenge cutting the paper. While you can certainly assist them initially and show them how to cut, it would be best to leave them alone to execute it further. Struggling to cut the paper and subsequently mastering the skill is part of the fun as well. So let’s not spoil it for them by interfering too often!

The older children should not have too much difficulty cutting and may add their own elements of creativity to this activity. This is best encouraged, even if the end result does not make sense to us.

Have fun cutting!

<p><a href="">Image: Grant Cochrane /</a></p>

Monday, 26 March 2012

Summer Holiday Ideas: Drawing

If you live in India, it’s almost time for the academic year to draw to an end and for the much awaited summer holidays to begin. Worried about how to keep your little one engaged for the next couple of months? In this series "Summer Holiday Ideas", I present various ideas that would help little children stay busy, have fun as well as learn during the summer. The prescribed activities are simple, fun, easy to execute and often cost effective. And even if you live in a different part of the globe where schools continue to work, you can always use these ideas over the weekend and on other holidays!

Here comes the first one that is highly popular among children who like to draw!

Free hand drawing-

It is a cost effective option. All you need is paper, pencil and colours (optional). Many children love to draw free hand. Have a drawing hour every day and leave your child alone with paper, pencils and colours. Let it be his or her “Me Time”. Let the child draw, colour and experiment as he or she wishes to. This is most suitable for children two years and up, though each age group would execute it differently. The very young ones would be happy just scribbling while the older ones may produce unique pieces of art. Let the effort be the child’s and not the adult’s, irrespective of the end result and its visual appeal.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Learning About Shapes : Squares and Triangles

Here comes the next post on learning about shapes! This one is about squares and triangles.

Squares and Triangles

  1. Show your child pictures of squares and triangles and teach her to name them.
  2. If you have square shaped tiles at home, show them to your child.
  3. Cut out slices of bread in triangular shapes and make triangular sandwiches with them! Allow her to experiment on similar lines with the bread. 
  4. Give her clay and show her how to make squares and triangles with it.
  5. Show your child a square shaped tissue. Fold and cut it out to get triangles! Let your child experiment with the same(with child scissors). 
  6. Go around your house and ask your child to spot all the objects that resemble squares and triangles. 
For those of you who missed the previous post in this series on circles, here is the link