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How I learnt to Empathize from my grand father

Times have evolved and so have we. All of us have goals in our lives. Little things we have learnt as a child have shaped us into being wonderful humans today. The wonderful celebrations of life have made very mesmerizing memories to muse for us.

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A wise adage says: It takes a village to raise a child. And weren’t we practically raised playing on the streets or at our neighbor’s, only returning home to sleep. It always used to be an extended family setup with prying aunties and some moody or strict uncles. We humans are social animals. Our lives depend on other humans. We develop and learn about the world around us a lot viewing through the glasses of other people. Our connections to others are key to not only our survival, but also to our happiness. My grandpa lived through his 93 years and he was slightly hard of hearing post his octogenarian age. But he never missed taking his evening walks till he was about 90 years. And that was possible thanks to the support of our community as a whole. Every person, a vendor, a friend, the auto rickshaw drivers – child and grown up alike, knew my grandpa. And there had been days when a complete stranger had dropped him back home asking us to take care of him well due to his advanced age. I had chaperoned him a lot of times. He used to fondly wish almost every second person we passed and knew their names, inquired about their latest life happenings etc. A lot of times, It used to be a list of their current problems. It really used to be the most annoying thing for me then. On reflection, I can imagine the patience and empathy he had. He knew the local ticket guy at the cinemas to the Chief Minister of my place whom he used to call by name. And everyone has had some story to share with him. He was extremely resourceful in helping them touch base with the right person in case of any issues: Be it a govt. official or a temple priest or a particular doctor at the hospital. And the help was always collective. One must be cognizant that there was no Facebook or pictures to record those “timeline events”, “suggested connections”. He remembered every detail and was really happy and proud of being a part of community as an important person. It was in my relationship with my grandfather that I think I first internalized the full meaning of empathy.

It is the same world now, we are connected to people physically and virtually as well. What has actually changed is the way we deal with our life and people around us. But we barely know the very people who live around us or work with. We are racing against time to acquire knowledge about the world we live in through people via various medium. Despite all this assistance, there is barely any time to connect: be it within or with people we intend to really connect with. We live in a bubble of unreciprocated emotions.

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In our ever-changing world, every new generation is precious. We have a moral obligation of passing good values to them. One such value I want to elucidate is Empathy. Our capacity to empathize starts very early in life. A toddler has his capacity to sense others’ emotions.  The child knows if we are happy or sad and one can even get an unexpected gesture of a warm hug or a kiss from the child (a gesture we had displayed earlier to her). And it’s not just toddlers: Infants as young as eight to 14 months old can show precursors to empathy, signs like displaying concern for a parent if they’re hurt or upset. The older we get, the more we can empathize.

The youth today are exhibiting a lot of deficiency in empathy which is evident through bullying, less tolerance towards differently abled, specially gifted and aged. I personally urge parents to help build a young society with more love and understanding. This can be done by fostering positive emotions towards a person in distress. This emotion is well encouraged in a more a family centered environment. Attention is focused on family as a whole, family’s choice and decision making are honored, strengths and capabilities of family members are highlighted, families are treated with respect. All I leave to ponder with the quote below.

A simple relevant video to watch.

The Empathic Civilisation

 If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. 

Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird

 

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Let us EAT….together!c4f262b9a7c92ff3faf5d43c09b48fce

Family that eats together lives together. I shall try to point out some of the goodness around family dinners. The key factor necessary to achieve this is a great amount of patience and time from us elders. As parents of young children, we need to have a cool head about the mess and wait for them patiently to do the task assigned to them. This shall nurture independence, responsibility, sense of belonging and the feeling of being respected in children which is intrinsic to the development of their character

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Language development

It is found that conversation over dinner time has a profound influence on having a great acumen of vocabulary for young children and  a great ground for honing the intellect for older children. Make it fun and have conversation about their day and yours. For toddlers, talk to them about a bird, animal, a car or someone or any incident. The vocabulary should be a melange of known and some unknown words.

Great social skills

Make them invite people to the table for dinner time. Give your child the opportunity to eat with people who love them. They learn to share the food that is there on the table. They learn to listen to experiences from everyone, this develops bonding and fosters intellectual development. The real power of dinners brings out the interpersonal quality of everyone. Having dinners together as a child evolves the relationship between parents and children, this transforms to great partnership between the two during the tough teenage years.

Practical life skills

Give the child the opportunity to lay the plates, cutlery, and napkins. Fill the glasses with water. This requires skill and they shall become adept with habit. Prepping the table  by bringing the dishes prepared for dinner. And allow them to clean up the table after dinner time. This makes them feel wanted and important. They love helping mothers at the kitchen which is a key habit that needs to be fostered amongst children these days.

Health benefits

Children learn by example so if they see you eating a variety of foods, they are more likely to do so as well. On the table do not offer them a wide variety to suit their taste. It’s proven that children who eat with their families are likely to try and eventually consume a wider range of foods that are high on nutrient value too. They learnt to relish what is served along with others. They would learn the value of food.  Value for the person’s effort and time  who prepares the food and how not to waste food.

NO SCREEN while eating

Studies have well elucidated over and again that the association between TV-watching during meal times and being overweight as children.

I’ve just penned a few points to ponder upon this habit at home. Having your child engaged in preparing the meal, procuring items from the market, cleaning etc., will open a wide range of conversation and knowledge about things around them.

Nostalgia

It had been an early tradition in India where we ate together as family sitting down while the mother of the family served food to all of us. And during the summer vacation, the house used to be filled with cousins. The grandma of the house sits with a big vessel of mixed sambar rice and the children of the house sit in a semi circle formation around her. She makes small balls of rice and puts it in the hand of each child. And every child must have eaten the ball by the time her turn comes. And the spirit of playful competition to eat was super fun.

Times have changed. We are running all the time as a family. We barely know what we ate for last meal. As adults, most of the morning meals are something that we gobble up on the go, while we are multi tasking on cooking and having the child to eat something. Afternoon meals with colleagues or are in front of the TV. Most of our evening mealtime is shared with some screen – T.V, Tablet/ Mobile device. There is always something important than the stomach. So let us pledge to give our children the same simple pleasure we experienced as a child.

Enjoy your meal.

Bon Appétit

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Your child can read.

Mental growth of a child is directly related to the physical growth of a child. The proof of physical growth is seen through creeping, crawling, sitting, standing, walking and then walking sans help.  Each of these milestones is external and it implies in turn the neurological  growth of the brain. The development of senses – good sense of smell, taste, sight, touch and breathing  facilitate the child’s learning experience of the world. The knowledge is first perceived through the sense organs then translated by the brain.  If we stimulate the child’s visual and auditory pathways simultaneously, the child could read well and early. The two essential sense organs for reading are ears and eyes.  The eyes see and the ears hear, yet it is the brain that translates the data. I.e; it is the brain that assimilates what is seen and heard to culminate a single idea.

So what is reading?

The perfect sync of the eyes, ears and the brain is called reading.

How can I teach my baby to read?

Dr. Glenn Doman developed and systematized the use of flash cards where the baby is flashed cards containing words of huge fonts that the baby can see clearly. Each word is called out loudly . Thus, the visual & auditory stimulation is achieved. This is a very simple and effective method.

When Can I Start?

Anytime after birth once the mother and the child is settled after the childbirth.

How is this done?

The video below is an expert explaining how to flash cards.

How to Flash cards for babies

This method is simple to start with a baby. Take 10 cards and pen down/ take a print out of words that use regularly with your child. .  Example : Eat, Bath, Bubbles, water, Milk, mom, dad, toy, bear, massage, brush, comb, pillow etc. Take 5 such cards and flash them for just 3 times a day. Use these 5 cards for 5 days shuffling them each time you show them. After 5 days, change the set retaining 2 old cards. Thus the baby is exposed to new words regularly. This keeps it interesting for her. Make more such words from the books you read to them. (Children need to be talked to continuously . I shall discuss on the same on another post)

We are pressed for time ….so how long does this take…. 5 cards x 1 second per card x 3 times = 15 seconds each day. is all that takes. To effectively deliver this, all you need to be is organized and have a plan in hand.

What kind of books can I read to my child?

Babies love watching known objects and people. It would be great to make your own personalized books made using pictures of her day to day activities, family relationships. (A sample is in this link below)

14 month Baby reads

Books that contain big & clear illustration with just a small sentence would keep their experience lively. (Sample of how babies enjoy reading are in the links below).

15 month Baby reading with mom

18 month Baby Reading -Quantum Physics for Babies with Dad

You can read about anything as long as you enjoy reading it, the baby shall enjoy the experience too. Once you are done, hug, appreciate your child as much as you can. You are transferring this love for knowledge to you child. It his this joy that that child wants to make it her own. So relax and enjoy your amazing journey. This journey that you undertake with your child shall astound you continuously.

Happy reading to you all.

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Early Education…how early ?

All of us have often wondered what is all this gyan about early education. There is a lot of theory on What early education is and how it impacts the learning curve of children.As a mother and as a preschool educator, I’ve tried to keep myself  informed of some latest trends on early education.What I am about to share is a gist of what I comprehend and what I’ve experienced as a parent on the lines of early education.  To put it in simple words, early learning is what a child learns during the early years of his life. Children have a natural thirst for  knowledge.

Children have the capacity to learn anything that is presented to them in the right and factual way. This defies the concept of “Age Befitting knowledge”. For example, common “wisdom” says that phonics is too abstract for a 1-year-old. Multiplication is much too complicated for a 2-year-old. Algebra is much too difficult for a 5-year-old. But Early educators believe it has more to do with how it is taught than what is being taught.  Practically arguing on this point, we can see that our child’s source of knowledge about the world is no more controlled by these age appropriate rules. We have barely begun to comprehend technology that they are so proficient in handling. Let us consider their scope of knowledge they amass through programmes on T.Vs, games on  Ipads & Phones, Advertising Media – we can see that their capacity to comprehend a conversation/ concept is way ahead when compared to us as child about their age .

We are the generation who need to prepare our children for a different kind of future that projects unfathomable growth.  The way our parents’ imparted knowledge may not work with our children, we need to be adroit in how to keep up with the growing world for our growing up children. It is now an established scientific fact that the sooner the baby receives sensory stimulation and opportunity for mobility and language expression, the more likely that brain growth, development, and skills will be optimized. When we as parents understand how our child develops, we become the best teachers  our children will ever have. Best of all, this journey of knowledge brings parents and their children closer together, establishing a life-long bond of learning and love.

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I dedicate this post to mothers around the globe. Mothers are the most creative people in the world. Our most prized possession is our child and what we make of them is the most beautiful exquisite piece of art. Mothers, YOU are creating something immensely valuable–you are carving a life, you are protecting a life.  A mother is the child’s first teacher. Sincerity, honesty, straightforwardness, courage, unselfishness, patience, endurance, perseverance, peace, calm, self-control are things that are taught infinitely better by example than by beautiful speeches. So the first thing one has to do, in order to be able to educate a child, is to educate oneself, to become conscious and master of oneself so that one never sets a bad example to one’s child. This step is initiated by the parents. When this is achieved, naturally the child has respect and admiration for his parents.

One common question

My child is very  playful while I read to him or try to teach a concept, is he really going to grasp so much?  Is he not really small ? And do they really know anything?

Scientific studies and our personal experiences have proved that little babies are extremely observant and adaptable. Haven’t we seen them use an object differently in a way we haven’t demonstrated to them? They are very adept in problem solving as they are not conditioned by the limitations as we know it. And their capacity to learn languages is very unperceivable. We have seen this in their capacity to reproduce words in languages  with the perfect tone and intonation in more than one language.

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So to sum up,  a child can be exposed to early learning by:

  • Presenting your child to lots of interesting  and a variety of subjects in a gentle, playful way
  • Believing that the child is capable of learning and he wants to learn
  • Creating an environment that naturally helps your child learn, develop, and build foundational skills

I can say this with conviction that early education gives great joy, pleasure, pride and adventure in learning and discovering the varied beautiful, interesting and  engaging things together.

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When will my child begin to write?

This is a very common question that has haunted many a parents’ mind. Let me take you through what is done in Montessori schools to answer this question.

Montessori curriculum requires teachers to observe the child and present lessons to them when the child is ready. This means teachers know well about each child. Each lesson is tailor made to the child and specially monitored by the teacher. I also think it takes a special person to become a Montessori teacher.  Having said this, let me walk through the process of how a child learns to write at our school

When the child enters a Montessori house of children, she is made comfortable to settle down and start her exploration. There are various materials that kindle her sense of exploration and imagination. One cannot achieve the skill to write unless she has a specific set of gross motor skill, fine motor skills that are adequately developed. Such development cannot be thrust on a child. So the Montessori environment provides opportunities (materials to work with) to promote development of muscles in the hands. Each material opens itself to a wide spectrum of knowledge.  For example:  These are called the Cylinder blocks.

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  • It helps to develop pincer grip (Fine motor Skill)
  • Develops skill of carrying it from the shelf (Gross motor  skill)
  • Concept of cylinder, round
  • Big to small/ thick to thin/ Varying Depth etc.

Here are a few more examples of such activities that are  presented to the child to first develop her physical abilities.

  • Ability to transfer grains – collecting  small grains like rajma provides opportunity for our child to develop her grip
  • Transferring  liquids gives them control over the motion of their hands. Ability to pick items with fingers/ tongs achieves the same.
  • Playing with dough, play dough to hone their muscles in their hands .
  • Peck board puzzles with animals, fruits, parts of the body etc.

Once we are on the road to fine motor skill development, we move on simultaneously to other activities like sand paper letters/ numbers which helps the child to identify the sounds instead of the alphabet names. This material is both sensorial and tactile, which encourages learning through touch. These letters/numbers are traced with 2 fingers to promote muscle memory of the letter written and later this same concept is extended to paper and pencil.

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Why sounds ..and why not the names of the letter ?

This prepares them for reading. Simultaneously, there are story reading sessions to promote the habit to reading & listening.

We do a great deal of art with paint and coloring work with that makes them glide their fingers through paint and make patterns. And activities

  • Pattern painting using brush, sponge, vegetables prints , fruits prints , etc .
  • They also do a great deal of colouring and drawing that trains their hands and fingers to hold and make controlled movements of writing.
  • Sticking a variety of things with glue gives them great hand eye co-ordination 7 improves their concentration.
  • Activities like tearing, rolling the paper into tubes/ balls are all part of the opportunities provided to develop their skills

Then children are presented with a tray of sand to trace letters too. Once they are ready, they are made to write letters/ alphabets on a board/ slate. Later a paper and pencil is presented to them to write.

Writing without writing –  This is a unique method in Montessori schooling .

It starts with Naming of objects using The Three part matching card system.

Here children begin by starting to identify & match words to their images. They start with smaller 3 letter words and move ahead. The Three part matching card system is very effective for children to learn. The child traces these words arranging the letters or copies the names of the objects using the letters.Worksheets of drawing / colouring are also done on the same topic to

Then they start with Writing with the Moveable Alphabet.

When a child is spelling out words with letters, she can write them. A box of letters are provided to them and they assemble to form words and eventually simple sentences.

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This method of learning a language can be extended to any language

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I’ve just given a small view of what goes on in our school and how opportunities are provided to develop writing skill. We have adapted our ways to suit the need of children who pass out of our Montessori school to continue further education in a regular schools where they are expected to write. To answer the question “When will my child begin to write?”  .  When he/she is ready the magic just happens. Until then just provide the necessary opportunity to develop their skills.

 

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Summer time…Vacation!!! or Stress !!! Age 3-6 years

We had a bird’s eye view of how to engage children aged 0 to 3 in the previous post.

Summer time…Vacation!!! or Stress !!!

Now let us have a look into the age group of 3- 6 year olds. Let us start with understanding this age group. This is a little broader spectrum of age I’ve chosen to address. So the initial points mentioned below are for 3 yr olds and the ones that follow are for the older children. I emphasize that each child is different and show these signs of development at their own pace. So this is not a mile marker that your child needs to cross. They are just the general milestones.

Children of this age group 

  • Have a good sense of physical balance -They can climb stair, window grill with ease. They can even cycle.
  • Have a developed hand eye co-ordination -Eating is a lot less messier, their skill for coloring is within the borders, these children can open and close the containers.
  • Have clarity in communicating .They can speak simple sentences, understand simple reasoning, can retell a story that is narrated often.
  • Can play in a group. They are responsive to conversations and also try to please people
  • Knows to make choices and to set favourites – in toys, friends.
  • Have the capacity to pick up a lot of vocabulary and new concepts.
  • Love to imitate their loved ones
  • Can use scissors/knife, can knead, pound, stir, wash, strain, mash, pour from one container to another in a well-coordinated fashion.
  • Can sometimes write using a pencil.
  • Can & expresses a desire to dress up independently

Now we have some idea of what we this age of group of children do. Let’ s see what we can do to have them bubbling up with joy this vacation.

Note: Kindly use your judgement to supervise the children where you deem them fit. Consistency in doing anything or enforcing a habit is the key to learning. Plan your days ahead to minimize stress.

I am going to just explain how the concept of cooking elucidates a world of knowledge for a child.

LET US COOK

All hands in the Kitchen – It’s impossible to separate hands-on cooking activities from physical development for young children. I’ve attempted an explanation of a nearly complete end to end process and their the scope of learning at every step.

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  1. Pot plants that grows fast – coriander, mint, Curry leaves, mustard seeds, greens etc. Also some flowering plants. Start from scratch of procuring the mud, fertilizer, (composter can be got as well t teach about recycling for the fertiliser), seeds, pots.  This helps them see the process of growth, their effort to water them consistently (teaches commitment).
  2. Go shopping with your child. Then take them shopping mostly during the mid-day as shops are relatively less populated this gives more time to spend with your child sans the rush. Select his/ her favourite menu.
    • Sit and list down the ingredients in paper at home with their help. Your child will be more than happy to pick the items for you at the shop.
    • It is a great time to teach them about the day-to-day vegetables and fruits and condiments. A great way to smell them, in some cases taste them. Tell them that all these can be seen but you get only what is needed. This trains their brain to not throw tantrums asking you to buy something  for them.
    • You can explain how the weighing machine works.
    • Also about how things get packed & why you should Bring Your Own Bag  (BYOB)
  3. Cook with them to help them have the authentic opportunity to understand and apply their knowledge of measuring, counting and also to brush up the numbers.
    • When you follow a recipe, keep talking to them about how you organize the ingredients, follow a sequence, and carry out multiple instructions. Try to use the right vocabulary for utensils and the tools used. ( Can do it bilingualy too)
    • Give them some vegetables to wash, flour to knead, vegetables/ cheese to grate, cut, even a chance to roll a chapatti, to stir, drain, strain, may be even items that need to be poured into containers, spices to be pounded /minced etc
  4. Invite friends for a meal. Then set the table and clean the house with your child’s help.(Sweep, mop, dust, polish, etc) This gives them a sense of responsibility & cleanliness. When you play host with, they learn how to socialize. Talk them through the procedure.                     Eg: inviting guests inside the house, offering a welcome drink, engaging the guests in a conversation about what is the menu, how they helped in the cooking and cleaning. These develop their language skills and give them immense happiness that you are so proud of him/ her.
  5. Take their help to rinse vessels, wipe them dry and shelve them as well.

Cooking is a huge activity in itself that can be repeated once a week. Apart from this, I’ve few more suggestions.

  1. Take your child to the nearest aquarium/ planetarium/ zoo. Try naming what they see. They would surprise you with their ability to acquire new names they learnt during the trip.
  2. Play games matching pictures to words and articulate questions inspired by their new experiences. Make vegetable/ fruit print art.
  3. Lay back and watch a movie related to cooking (any activity you have done together). Ratatouille (my personal favourite) and later talk about very little things that come in the movie.
  4. Building blocks – gives enormous amount of possibilities to create.
  5. Beading activities to make jewellery.
  6. Cleaning their wardrobe/ Shoe rack/ utensil rack. Playing Dress  up.
  7. Give them pulses/cheerios/buttons to play the counting game. The traditional mancala game (Pallanguzhi in tamil) improves their finer muscles in the hand, capacity to  count, plan etcpallanguzhi
  8. Basic crafts out of waste materials always fascinate and engage them.
  9. Some basic concepts can be taught too: Floating & sinking, wet & dry, empty & full, clean & dirty.
  10. Use the Globe to learn geography together.
  11. Read small books in a variety of topic. If feasible make books. (We shall certainly discuss this topic in detail later)

Well, these are just a few possibilities that I’ve penned. The sky being the limit, enjoy your vacation with your young ones exploiting every opportunity that come your way.

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Summer time…Vacation!!! or Stress !!!

Vacation time…We check off a lot of things – Holiday visits, vacation plans, clean up and many more. There is this one question that is always behind our head and end up googling too – “How am I going to engage my children productively ?”

I mused through my childhood vacation days, and I discovered that very tiny things enticed me as a child. I was so happy to get  hold of some clay from the next door construction site, team up with cousins at granny’s house to experiment with it.

The mango season where one gets to try their Hawkeye moment of hitting just the mango leaving the window pane unharmed. Learning how to ride a bicycle was the greatest achievement during my pre-teens. And of course, the back to school talk about the warrior scars one gain while learning to ride a bicycle.

The source of knowledge then, was limited to print media and people around us. But nowadays, we have everything at the tip of our fingers. Here we have our young ones whom I would like to address as iGen or Generation Z  or the Digitarians  who are always hooked onto the internet and are practically born with touch devices.  This generation relies heavily on technology to acquire knowledge. They are independent at a very early age, very adept at decoding any unknown terrain first hand and seek help only at challenging situation.   Thanks to our children here, a revolution is happening in the way one acquires knowledge. Now comes the big question: “What can I do in order to provide an enriched environment for my child? “

Things to have in mind

Children are hungry for knowledge and they rather learn than eat. So provide them the best environment to acquire that knowledge. Environment implies opportunities where they can learn grow and develop different skills and in turn learn skills necessary for their life ahead. A summer camp that aims at providing a variety of activities for children is a good start for summer. But then, how can I engage them a home?

We shall first have a look on children aged 0 to 3 yrs

From the moment the child is born, the mother does her best to get to know more about her child. And Mothers have known more about babies than anyone else since the world began. Am sure you all would agree with me that your instincts about your child have mostly been right. So 1st, trust your instinct on what you can teach your child.

The Human brain grows explosively until 6 years of age and this rate of growth is not even. If we observe closely, we can see that the baby is actually born with a large head in comparison to the body. How and what do you feed this growing brain?

These activities have been tried with toddlers at our school. They are cost effective and very engaging.

Key skills developed at this age

  • Gross motor skills
  • Fine motor skills
  • Hand Eye co-ordination
  • Creativity
  • Attention to detail
  • Organizing skills
  • Imitating
  • Reading

These activity modules need to be stashed and given one by one so that they do not lose interest. All these activities need to be demonstrated to the children. Allocating a play area would allow them to follow a protocol as well.

  1. Threading activity – Using Rigatoni pasta, stacking rings (fruit loops, bangles). A plastic thread/ straw mounted on a chapatti dough can be used as a pole to do this threading. Flowers, beads, even “thorans” can be made. Sort them color wise to add a level of fun and detail.
  2. Pounding Activity – a sturdy unbreakable mortar and pestle to pound roasted Channa dal.
  3. Sponging activity – a sponge and 2 wide mouthed containers with water to transfer and play
  4. Sorting activity – have a couple of bowls and the following combinations can be given to sort rajama & chole, roasted Channa dal & puffed rice, different coloured objects like buttons, cloth clips, pencils:  Shape sorting.
  5. Transferring activity – using spoons/ tongs. Have a dozen of small balls that can be used.
  6. Rolling and making balls out of paper.
  7. Rolling and rolling a mat.
  8. Making balls/ shapes using play dough/ chapatis dough.
  9. Coloring with crayons/ chalk.
  10. Reading simple books to them.
  11. Naming every object possible in order to develop their vocabulary.
  12. Giving them a simple Lock & a Key would have them busy for at least 15 mins

Apart from these, you may take the child’s help in arranging vessels, putting the clothes in the washing machine, sweeping using a broom, wiping utensils, placing plates & cutlery on the table, enlist them in folding little clothes and even simple chores like opening doors and arranging footwear.

All we need a tiny bit more patience to wait for them to do their work, they would amaze us with their new found skills and their joy in doing them would astound us. I have just given a bird’s eye view what can be done. Always remember children possess immense potential to learn effortlessly. So utilize every prop as a learning tool. Unwind your creative spirits and view the world through your child’s eye for a very fascinating journey ahead.