Jul 23, 2008

Blabbering to Glory (Click to see the Video)

Watch our Ruhani returning daddy's blackberry in return for all the lovely things Dad can get for her from the mall. Click the title to watch the video.

Jul 21, 2008

Tips for Buying Toys

It's another outing to the nearest shopping mall on a weekend. And after lots of shopping for yourselves, you wish to buy something for your little one too. But shopping is no fun with a toddler around. You walk into your child's favourite toy store...and voila, you are surrounded by an ocean of toys. While your child squeals with excitement, and rushes in, touching, tugging and pulling anything and everything he finds interesting, you somehow get hold of a toy and also your toddler and walk out before things become unmanageable. Does this happen to your family too?

Take a deep breath. Here are a few essential tips to choose the right toys at a toy store.

While a whole range of toys are available, it is important for parents to choose the right toys for their children. Toys can help educate as well as stimulate your child's play and imagination.

-Age specific-
Many parents think that their child is much more advanced than others and go in for toys that are not age appropriate, and hence do not interest or intrigue the child. Age specific toys can not only be relevant to your child but also help build many core skills like fine or gross motor skills of a child.

Many toys have small detachable parts which may not be suitable for young children. A pointed edge in a toy can accidentally hurt the eye or an eyeball of a soft toy could be swallowed. So, always make sure that the toy you are buying is safe for your child.

-Appealing to your child's senses-
Toys can be appealing if the child can exercise his senses through it. See if your child loves holding the toy, (say a soft toy for cuddling) or seeing it (if it is colourful) or if it can lead to some games.

Stories can be built around a toy. Teddies can be bought and named as Papa Teddy, Mumma Teddy and Baby teddy and they can be made to do various activities round the house to help your child bring them alive.

- Simple yet F-U-N-
It is important for toddlers to be exposed to letters, letter sounds, and numbers. Look for brightly colored blocks, oversized flashcards, or puzzles with letters and numbers that may also have a tactile component like a fuzzy duck or shiny moon. Some phonological based toys also talk or sing to children. Parents always enjoy helping their child explore and create with oversized paper and crayons, or clay.

Having said that, you need not buy costly toys for your children always however tempting it may be.

Creativity can be enhanced from simple things too. A chair can become a bridge if your child crawls below it. A plastic plate can be a steering wheel. A rope can become a snake, a pencil for writing or it can take shape of letters and numbers.

Help your child play with his toys in various creative ways as possible.

Cardboard boxes interest all children. A throw-away cardboard box can become a doll's house, a cupboard for doll's shoes or clothes.

- Interactive -
A toy that aids your child's imaginative power is always a better choice.

Books with pop-up characters, board books for young children, touch and feel books that babies can scratch and feel or cloth books with mirrors for newborns are wonderful variations to the ordinary books available otherwise.

Below is a cloth book from Lamaze with legs that your baby can touch and play with.

This is a pop-up book that adds a lot of interaction and imagination as opposed to normal storyreading books.

This is a board book with touch and feel areas that are specially made for curious fingers.

Even a variation to the regular cushion can become an interesting gift for your child.

Here is a toy that helps build imagination too.

It is a cushion with a cow tied with a small piece of rope. This builds interactivity with the toy. Your child can hold the cow and place it inside its house and take it out to graze in the field when he is hungry.

To summarize it all, the few pointers to be noted while purchasing a toy to enhance creative skills are:

It should be
1) age specific (relevant to your child's actual or mental age)
2) safe
3) appealing to your child's senses (sight, sound, touch, etc) so that he/she can exercise her eyes, ears or hands.
4) F-U-N
5) interactive where your child can participate (stories can be built around it)
Happy shopping for the right toys for your child.

Have you bought any toy for your child that you think enhanced his/her creative or imagination skills? Share it here at the 'comments' section.

Jul 17, 2008

Creativity and Art

Title: Glass Painting
Shared by Neelanjana.

GLASS PAINTING: Do-it-yourself

Requirements:Glass / Thick transparent plastic / PVC
Glass colors (preferably oil-based to get a beautiful sheen)
Glass outliner
Drawing paper
Tracing paper (if u intend to make a symmetrical figure)

1. Think of a design that you think would look good on glass and sketch it on paper.
2. If it is a symmetrical design, draw only the part of it from which the other parts can be copied.
3. Then trace that part on a tracing paper so that when you turn it around, you get the mirror image ready.
4. Next, take the sketched design (on paper if it is asymmetrical, on tracing paper otherwise) and place it on the glass so that you can see it from the other side.
5. Stick it with a tape so that it doesn’t move while you are working on it.
6. Take the glass outliner and trace the design on the glass while taking care that no bubbles are formed on the outline. If you see any bubbles, break them with a safety pin or something like that.
7. In case of a symmetrical design, turn the tracing paper around, place it accordingly on the glass and trace the remaining bit.
8. When you are done with outlining, let it dry.
9. Fill the design with the colors while making sure that part you want to fill is completely enclosed with the outliner. Else the color in the adjacent part will seep in and make it messy (since the colors are liquid).
10. While filling the colors also you have to avoid bubble formation
11. Now you can either leave the painting as it is or adorn it with beads or crystals or glitter powders.

To share your comments or learn more about the work, jump to comments.

Jul 12, 2008

Creativity and Art

Creativity Unleashed 
Title: Adoring the Western Sky!
Shared by Swati.

Tap into your own creative self!

Today I’m asking a question. Please, please chime in if you know the answer because it’s something I’ve wondered about for a while.

Is it right to forget ourselves while we live for our own loved ones?

Our tiny tots can take up most of our time and soon leave us in a maze of frustrations and responsibilities.

What better way to refresh our mind & spirit than stealing a quiet hour indulging in our creative minds. Remember, you can be the best role-model for your child. Give some time to yourself, and let your creative self shine.

While we dwell on the creative pursuit of our little ones, wouldn't it be fun to take some time off to let loose our own creative selves.

Whether it is expressing through poems, articles, drawings, paintings, photography, or any handmade work like glass painting or candle making or any other creative work, here's an opportunity you shouldn't miss.

Once you are done, share your beautiful and unique creations. And, if you already have a treasure trove of masterpieces, just scrawl them out, and send it to me. Also, you can get unbiased opinions from others (if you are daring enough) and learn tips from others at the same time. You may get in touch with like-minded friends too.

Send your work (in the form of pics/video links) to yaggyaseni@gmail.com

Add in the following details:
1. Title (in 10 words or less):
2. A Background of the work would be appreciated (with/without pics) so others can learn too:
3. Your Name (optional):
4. Your E-mail id:

Cheers to life! And living it creatively. With & For our children.

Jul 7, 2008

Poverty in India

A Mouthful of Miseries or a Streak of Hope? YOU DECIDE! We are so lucky to be able to think about other things like creativity for our little ones, besides the bare necessities of life. There are parents and children out there who are putting their wits together each day to feed their hungry stomachs.

How about sacrificing an evening with friends or budgeting a lavish birthday party to help the needy children instead. Donate some money, play with them, chat, teach them ways of earning a living or simply share a laugh with them. Add some colour into their lives. They dont need your sympathy. They need your love and concern.

Read the heart wrenching article that follows...

The secret to our future - Joyshri Lobo (The Tribune, Chandigarh)

THE view from the large, French windows at the gym in Sector 9 is interesting. Half a dozen children gambol around green spaces. They wear handouts, chase each other, rile the puppies that arrived a few months ago and smile a lot. Their distinguishing, common feature is that they are very thin and dirty. The moment the traffic lights change colour, they rush to the waiting cars and whine, asking for alms. Some succeed, others do not, but in the end the same young woman who is standing under the trees, darts out to collect the loot and the children start playing their games again. A visit to some of the slums around the city reveals that the kids are trained to beg. Their mentors feed and guide them in the profession. It is just another job in a country that cannot fill a billion bellies. Shades of Oliver Twist and Fagin?

Some huts in the slums have TVs, fans and fridges. These minimal amenities are there because of the shared earnings. As I sweat it out on the treadmill, I become more and more aware of the great divide between those working out on the road and I at the gym. They invent games and laugh like demons. They eat whatever they get while I cannot find a table at a popular restaurant on a Sunday evening because my food tastes are very discerning and any type of food will not do. I am shedding the extra kilos gained but the kids have no such worries. If they can sleep on a full stomach, it is a blessing.

The above mentioned is a material and monetary divide. There is hope on other fronts. We watched two street-plays created by college students and performed by the children of Hamari Kaksha. They put forward depressing social issues humorously, riveting our attention. Each actor was unselfconscious and hugely enjoying him/herself. This total abandon and freedom comes from having very little. Just being recognised and doing things that do not form the daily drudge to keep alive, are worthwhile and fun. If learning is added to this, it is a bonus. AIDS, blood donation, female foeticide and dowry are serious social issues that are dragging the country down. If the poorest of poor can be made aware of them through NGOs, government institutions and us — the future citizens of India — have a better chance of survival.

At DIR India, I told the open-mouthed children a story about a tiger and a sour, miserly man who was eaten by the hungry beast. The story was illustrated with hand puppets made from cut off sleeves. Our awareness about the less fortunate is limited. We do not introspect, look around or empathise. We relegate them into a corner of the mind that does not want to know. Two young girls and a little boy from Welham’s Dehradun, came to help. They sat on the floor amongst the aanganwadi children and made newspaper planes, boats and hats for every one. It was a joyous day for all the children. Baljit Dhatt and her college-going daughter Simran tend to a refugee camp. They care like a lot of us should.

Old newspapers, cut off sleeves, children from all stratas, gifted college and school students and a few people who want to help those who have nothing — the potpourri is heady and fragrant. It is a recipe for progress and the uplift of India.
Have you ever done anything worthwhile for a child besides your own? Do you want to help add a smile to a needy child's life? How?

Activities for your 13-24 month old

Here are some activities that your toddler will enjoy to his heart's content:
Flashcards for visual stimulation & word recognition
Make flashcards on various categories like fruits, vegetables, animals, colours, shapes, things you see in the bedroom, cartoon characters, phonics, A-Z (in small letters), adjectives, opposites, insects, professions etc. You could find pictures through charts for children or also download them online.

Make the flashcards with pictures on one side and the words on the other side, so that your child is able to see just the pictures while you read out the words distinctly at super lightening speed, moving the card near you to the card infront, till the set is over. Don't get tempted to make him understand each picture one by one.

For example: This flashcard shows a carrot. You can write 'Carrot' at the back of the flashcard for you to read it aloud while flashing to baby.

The right brain meant for creativity is said to get activated with fast visual stimulation. Do not repeat flashcards in one session. Make your flashcard sessions short and enjoyable.

I started my child on flashcards when she was 7 months old. Some parents even start at 3 months or so. This technique is said to have worked.

Language skills
Expose your child to languages from all over the world. It could be a French song, an Arabic verse, a Bharatnatyam dance, a poem written by Rabindranath Tagore in Bengali, a speech in English, or any other medium of expression. The more she listens, the more her language abilities will develop.

Watch our daughter sitting straight to catch a better view of the dance performance on the occasion of Rabindra Jayanti celebration in KL.

Walking the walk
This is the time when your child will start getting restless. Now, his/her eager eyes are set to explore the wonderful things in his/her surroundings that had always been beyond his/her reach.

Dont keep him confined to his space. Set him free on the ground. Let him explore, touch objects, pull up to stand/walk, push, pull, roll and see how things work. Always keep him/her under proper supervision.

Its a good idea to show your enthusiasm and reciprocate the wonder that he finds in things while telling him/her what it is.

However, its also a time to teach your child a bit of discipline. So, a proper balance needs to be maintained, by giving him his space where he can do anything without hearing a 'No'. A child friendly environment can help you and save your child from hearing too many 'No's'.

Linking Memory
Show your child a series of flashcards which have no connection but are joined by a sentence. There should be no logic in the sentence. You could start with 6 cards and go on increasing the number.

Colour her Life
Its never too early to try giving your toddler a crayon and see how she reacts. Make sure its a non-toxic one and never leave her alone during the exercise. Most children start usually by biting on to the crayon. Slowly they will understand that funny lines can be drawn when the crayon is used on paper. Draw infront of her to create interest and give her a crayon and paper too to try on her own.
Never over-pressurize her during any activity. The key to creativity is having fun. A happy heart flutters with creativity. As soon as you see the slightest frustration, or tiredness, stop the activity and continue at a later time.

Jul 1, 2008

Dreams and their meaning

Is your 'Alice' in Wonderland? One dreams. But, when one dreams, one is asked to 'wake up'. One is shaken back to the hard realities of life. "Eat your food. Stop dreaming."

Alice too had popped into an imaginary world of her own with characters of her own fancy, stuck with real life-problems looking for answers.

It brings us to the question: Is dreaming a way of escaping from life? Or is dreaming a wonderful thing to do? You can simply transcend into your own make-belief world.

In many of the ancient societies, including Egypt and Greece, dreaming was considered a supernatural communication or a means of divine intervention, whose message could be unravelled by those with certain powers.

One of the seminal works on the subject is 'The interpretation of dreams' by Sigmund Freud.
The Interpretation of Dreams contains Freud's first and most complete articulation of the primary and secondary mental processes that serve as a framework for the workings of the mind, conscious and unconscious.

Freud first argued that the foundation of all dream content is wish-fulfilment, and that the instigation of a dream is always to be found in the events of the day preceding the dream. In the case of very young children, Freud claimed, this can be easily seen, as small children dream quite straightforwardly of the fulfilment of wishes that were aroused in them the previous day (the 'dream day').

In adults, however, the situation is more complicated -- since in Freud's submission, the dreams of adults have been subjected to distortion, with the dream's so-called 'manifest content' being a heavily disguised derivative of the 'latent' dream-thoughts present in the unconscious.

Occasionally, adults too doodle their way back to the dreamy world though they would rather come back to reality at the first stroke of consciousness. Stuck with day-to-day problems, trying to find real solutions, running after worldly desires and their fulfillment has made them think of dream as a waste of time. Dreams may help ordinary people find creative solutions to everyday problems. Recent research shows that fantasy-prone people may have higher dream recall than others.

To paraphrase Robert Frost, "the brain takes the path less travelled by, and that makes all the difference."

Here are a few famous people who have inspired their creations out of dreams. Billy Joel reports dreaming the music to his pop tunes in orchestral form, novelist Stephen King turned a recurring childhood nightmare into the book "Salem's Lot," and Salvador Dali was so obsessed with the creative potential of dreams that he deliberately fell asleep with a spoon in his hand. When he nodded off, the spoon would clatter to the ground and wake him up, providing fresh dream images for his surrealistic paintings.

"To be creative, you need a way to let those circuits float free and really be open to alternatives that you would normally overlook," explains Robert Stickgold, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard University.
So, let your child wander into his own world of fancy and imagination...till reality strikes. It is okay to dream or to daydream. It's ok to pretend. Its ok to have imaginary friends, think things other people don't think, and not be interested in everything that interests other children.

What does your child dream about? Get your child to share her dreams. Use drawings and stories to help her to elaborate on them. Do you find some meaning in the dreams? Are there any new ideas? Jot them down, discuss them. There may be some hidden gems there. make this a regular practice. Happy Dreaming together. Share an interesting dream of your child. Let's see if we can spot some ideas.