I forgot to put up my wife’s post!

Slap forehead!

My wife wrote this and asked me to post it. Before Valentine’s Day. The only Valentine’s Day I have left is next year’s. Yeah, yeah I messed up. In a major fashion. How do I fix this? By posting something a little too early for Next Year!

Maya’s second post:

Happy Valentine’s Day! As your kids are busy creating Valentine’s Day special crafts or doodling with Valentine’s Day special coloring worksheets in the class, they may have asked you several questions at home about the day and how exactly it is celebrated. It is important to explain the day to the kids so that they grow up to celebrate it in its true spirit. Here are a few ways in which you can explain Valentine’s Day to kids.

Break the Story

There are two popular stories that trace back the origin of the day. First, there was a priest named St. Valentine who would secretly marry soldiers as their marriages were banned by the government. The government presumed that a soldier with no familial ties would serve the nation better than a married soldier. The second story is about a man in jail who fell in love with the daughter of his prisoner. Before he was executed, he sent her a letter and signed it “Your Valentine” and that has perhaps become a legend now. Children love stories, so these are two great legends that can help them understand the origin of the day.

Crafts and coloring pages

There are plenty of Valentine’s Day crafts and coloring pages online which may be a good way to introduce kids to the day. Each type of coloring page can be a clue to teach an important part of Valentine’s Day – Cupid, a way to introduce kids to the God of Love, roses – a way to explain how Valentine’s Day is symbolized by the flowers, hearts – a way to explain the representation of love, etc. Social media websites like Pinterest are replete with kid-friendly Valentine’s Day crafts that will not only help the kids understand the day better, but sharpen their hand-eye coordination just as any craft does and develop their aesthetic senses. Encourage them to doodle with Valentine’s Day coloring pages and crafts to learn more about the day.

The spirit of giving


Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kkoshy/4352827375

Explain that the true spirit of Valentine’s Day lies in giving because love in other words is giving. Encourage your child to give their old clothes and books to the needy, make greeting cards for their loved ones, or weave friendship bands for their best friends. Let your kids know that Valentine’s Day is about expressing love through giving and kindness. Most children will know what you are talking about. Bring about examples like that of your relationship with the kids, their relationship with their favorite aunt, etc., and explain the spirit of giving.

Avoid treating kids like they don’t know any more than what you tell them. Answer their questions patiently and be as honest as possible with them.


Teach Kids about Animals

This is my wife Maya’s first post. I hope we see more of her writing here. Read on….

The animal world is fascinating. It is amazing – the variety of animals that walk, swim, fly on earth and how different each one is, from their appearance to habitat, from what they eat to how they move!

My kids tune into Discovery and National Geographic and that gives them more than a cursory peek into the wilderness. Recently, we had an impromptu lesson in animals after watching the Penguins of Madagascar and playing Madagascar games, which featured animals the kids loved learning about. Here’s what we learnt!


Emperor Penguins” by Christopher Michel is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Penguin – The movie’s stars are the penguins. These birds are found mostly in the Southern Hemisphere. They can’t fly but can swim. They do use the flappers while diving in and leaping out. While the movie shows the penguins in China and Italy, the kids learnt that this was not the penguins’ natural habitat, while Antarctica is. There are many species of penguins and emperor penguins are just one of them.

Seal – In the movie, we see the seals trying to get the penguins as they fall into a shipwreck. Seals are their predators as are sea lions and whales. The seals as we learn are carnivores and live mostly in water. They are hunted by whales and polar bears. They are found in many parts of the world.

A harp seal makes an appearance later as the demolitions expert from North Wind called Short Fuse. They are usually found in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, and live on smaller fish. Unlike the seals we first see in Penguins of Madagascar, these seals have a snowy white coat.


Octopus dance” by Morten Brekkevold is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Octopus – The octopus Dave disguises himself as a cunning scientist and the kids were surprised to learn that the octopus is an intelligent creature though Aristotle thought them to be stupid. We also see the octopus blending in the background before launching an attack. They are similar to chameleons. That is, they are masters of disguise and can take on the form of an underwater rock or plant. Of all the animals we learnt about, the octopus was the one with the most surprises!

Gray Wolf – The gray wolf is a secret agent who heads North Wind in the movie. Gray wolves are known for their howl, though Classified does not let out any of those infamous howls. Found mostly in North America, Asia and Europe, these wolves are usually found in packs. Wolves have a reputation for being crafty and dangerous but in reality they are not so. They can be secretive – a preference we see Classified exhibiting in the movie.


Snowy Owl” by Brad Smith is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Snowy Owl – The only female character in the Penguins of Madagascar is Eva, a snowy owl. It is understandable why an owl can make the cut as a spy because they do have a great sense of hearing and excellent eyesight. They are usually found in the Arctic tundra. A distinguishing trait from other owls is that snowy owls can hunt during day and night. The females are darker than the males.

Polar Bear – Corporal is the polar bear who is super strong but has a weakness for cute things. They are found in the Arctic and there is no doubt about their strength. Known to be the largest carnivores on land, these bears are fast on land and water, and love to feast on beluga whales and seals. Something surprising we learnt was that these bears actually have black skin and the transparent fur appears white because of light!

We had to save Alex, Melman, Marty, Gloria and King Julien for another day as we covered a lot of ground in one day.

Movies also offer the opportunity to bust the very stories they create. For instance, pandas prefer bamboos over noodles. And boy, were my kids astonished!

Croquet – what’s that?

We recently watched the movie ‘The Theory of Everything’. The movie was a great way to understand how one man’s life had played out against all odds. My parents had come along and on the way back we could not stop my father from talking about croquet, a game he had played while in England.


Croquet shots: “Wired.” A palpable “catch.” by UBC Library Digitization C

A lot of people might ask ‘what’s that’? It’s a game, albeit an old one. It was super popular in England around the 1860s and then spread, so far in fact, that we have it even in America. It’s origins are obscure – maybe from an old ball and mallet game from France called pall-mall  or from Ireland’s crookey.

Wherever the game came from it was so popular that it spread to many of the Anglophone countries, with slight variations in rules.

The American version

The game is governed by the United States Croquet Association. Two sides play this game. One side plays the blue and black balls while the other side plays red and yellow. One can play a singles or a doubles game. The lawn (dimensions as well as the grass length is fixed) has six wickets and a stake. The teams compete to move the heavy plastic balls through the wickets in a particular order and into the stake at the center. A 3 foot tall mallet is used to strike the ball. The entire set of rules can be looked up here.

Increasing popularity

To increase the popularity of this game which has no gender and age bias, new rules have been introduced. It is also being promoted as a game which helps people stay fit in a gentle way.