It’s a New Year – let’s talk calendars!

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From: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/04/Hindu_calendar_1871-72.jpg

It’s the start of a new year and we got talking about calendars and I had to blog about it!

What does the start of New Year signify? The one thing we tend to overlook because it’s so automatic and therefore mundane, is the start of a new calendar. That’s right, a calendar. With calendars on our phones, computers and digital devices, a paper calendar is a rarity. Some of us still have table top calendars of many varieties.

Calendars have existed for thousands of years. Various civilizations developed their calendars and even morphed them on the basis of new learning. Many of these calendars were based on the cycles of the Moon or the Sun, making them lunar and solar calendar respectively.

The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, and it is tied tight to the phases of the moon.

The Persian calendar is a solar calendar based on the seasonal changes of a year through a year based on the apparent motion of the Sun.

The Hindu calendar is an example of a luni-solar calendar which is based on a combination of both solar and lunar changes.

Interestingly, some of the ancient Egyptian calendars were based on the movement of Venus.

All this goes to show that human have been grappling with measuring and keeping track of time via a variety of calendars which use other planetary bodies.

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Around the World with Penguins

I recently discovered that teaching kids about countries and cultures can be made fun with the help of movies and games. I did a test drive of sorts with the recently released Penguins of Madagascar. Maybe it was beginner’s luck but I got the kids talking about four countries across four continents, plus one! I am sharing some of the interesting conversations we had about cultures and animals.

Antarctica – This gave me the opportunity to talk to them about the animals that are found there, including the penguins, and how they adapt to their environment. Seals, glaciers, ice bergs are a few of the subjects we touched upon.

Madagascar – We only got a brief glimpse of the Madagascar island, but the kids had already watched the Madagascar series and my elder one was quick to quip (and mighty pleased about it) that lemurs were mostly found here. I was pleased too that he remembered that little fact!

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Lemur” by @Doug88888 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

New York – The kids were pretty excited about the Big Apple because it is closer home and their Aunt Janie lives there. So we know where we will be going when we visit her.

  • Central Park – This one started a debate about keeping animals in zoos or if they should be left in the wild and if, perhaps, a wildlife sanctuary is a more humane way to keep animals in captivity.
  • Coney Island – I explained to the kids about various land-sea formations like isthmus, island, gulf, etc. They eagerly poured over a few family photographs of the theme park that I pulled out.
  • Times Square – I must be honest, Times Square excited me more than it excited the kids. I managed to get some videos of the New Year’s Eve celebrations at Times Square and that piqued their interest!

Venice – This caught my little one’s attention and imagination with its canals and gondolas. We talked about how Venice is in danger of sinking because of the rising sea levels. This led to other places that are at risk like the Maldives and Amsterdam, and how the latter also boasts of canals and how its bicycles outnumber its population!

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Red boat – Venice” by MorBCN is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Shanghai – The kids wanted to know about the food one gets in Shanghai and this needed some research. We looked at photographs of all the water parks around Shanghai. We may even visit the nearby Chinatown to taste some authentic Chinese food!

Seeing how this really got my kids to ask questions and talk, I think I will be taking this route more often when I need to get them to learn and, more importantly, when I want them to interact with a subject the way they did with this movie. Next up on our list by popular demand is Rio, so I need to brush up my Brazil know-how!

Good resolutions and the New Year

Long resolution lists don’t work for me. I inevitably get lost thinking about the list and all the things I have not done – leaves me stressed and unhappy. Instead in the last two years, I take up a simple thing that I can change in my life.

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Young men playing in the Park by alobos Life

Over the years the time I spend on play has decreased. Last year I made two resolutions – to play more and to start a blog. Both were open ended resolutions, which I could achieve. This year I am going to extend my resolution – play more with my kids and spend more time on the blog.

The resolution translates to playing more games appealing to kids. Kids play fewer organized sports and more of free play which is great for their development. Via games they learn sharing, integrity and a good sportsmanlike spirit. These things are great to build a good attitude which help kids through their lives.

5 great things kids learn from play:

  1. Everybody has strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Different players bring in different strengths into a team which all together help a team to win.
  3. A hard fought game, even if the team loses gives the players a great sense of achievement.
  4. Practice does make perfect – repeated play improves skill.
  5. It teaches kids that some can be better than others at certain skills.

Play has a very important role in the lives of kids. Let’s see if I can stay true to my resolution and play with my kids!