Category Archives: Family

3 Simple Halloween Science Activities

A post written by Maya.

Halloween’s a time of dressing up, scaring people and eating candy. Simple and straightforward. Most kids would have decided what they want to dress up as by now. If they haven’t parents must be getting nervous about last minute requests and running around. The candy must be ready and the decorations might be in place in many homes.

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Scary House by Randy Robertson

Halloween is a good time to try some science activities. Most celebrations are a good way to learn new things. Celebrations matter, for it’s a good opportunity to learn of new things. Something fun and simple for younger kids. Science Games listed on popular sites are useful for busy parents, but this year we wanted the kids to try some Halloween science activities. Here are three that we liked:

  1. Glow-in-the-dark Skeletons

What you need are ice cream sticks, card paper, some glow-in-the-dark paint, double sided tape and a pair of scissors.

Pull out some pictures of skeletons. Get the kids to assemble the ice cream sticks to resemble a skeleton. Use the double sided tape to stick them together. Find ways give them some movement. For the skull, use some card paper to cut it out.  Use the glow-in-the-dark paint to personalize the skeleton. Once your skeletons are ready have fun playing with them.

2. The Apple Experiment

What you need is an apple, some lemon juice, a plastic bag, water and salt.

Make a mild water and salt solution. Squeeze out some lemon juice into a bowl. Make thin slices of the apple. Leave some as it is in a bowl. Take a few slices And soak them in the salt water. Dab some lemon juice on a few other slices. Leave it for an hour or so. Now check the slices. Talk about why some slices are browner than the others. Explain oxidation. Speak of other food items which turn brown on keeping in the open.

3. Make Some Oobleck

Gather some water, corn starch, bowl and a spatula.

Pour some corn starch into a bowl. Let the kids feel it, the fineness of the powder. Then slowly pour in some water to make it a firm mass. Let the kids play around with it – dip their hands in it, squeeze it between their fingers, spread it thin etc. Get them to make it watery. Does it thicken with time? Is t solid? Or is it a liquid? Does it stay the same? Get the kids to drop small things into it. Ask them to observe if they sink or stay on top.

The idea of encouraging kids to enjoy such experiments is for them to get curious. To look at things with eyes which look beyond the obvious. To wonder. To think about such things. To talk things out. We might be parenting in the digital age, but the physical world is a wonderfully interesting place to live in. Such activities makes kids more observant about things around them and build a foundation for future interests.

 

 

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Kids and their Grandparents

It was National Grandparents Day on Sep 10th. The kids discovered there was a song for grandma and grandpa. Immediately they downloaded it. When they spoke to the grandparents to wish them, they played it and had them listen to it. Needless to say the grandparents loved the fuss, and thoroughly enjoyed speaking to the grandchildren.

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Sea World by ian munroe

Grandparents have an unbreakable bond with their kids. Many spoil them rotten perhaps, but they also love them unconditionally. There’s something fun going on all the time with younger kids and their grandparents. As more and more households go back to being multigenerational like it was decades ago, before nuclear families living in suburbs became the norm, the interaction between alternate generations is increasing. It’s a good thing as grandparents generally have the time and inclination to tell stories of earlier times . Such interactions give kids a feeling of belonging.

Dealing with kids also helps the grandparents. It keeps them young and energetic. There is a feeling of fun and frolic around kids. They feel useful when they help manage grandkids. While bringing up their kids, parents are busy with making a living, but with the grandkids, there is no sense of urgency.

With the changing roles of grandparents in society, it’s no wonder that kids and grandparents really enjoy each other’s company.

 

 

Teaching Kids Frugality

My parents routinely use both sides of a sheet of paper. Many of the kids in the family rarely think of turning the sheet over and using it. This kind of contradiction is seen in many multi-generational gatherings, and we have quite a few!

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Creative Art; Recycled Sculptures by San Jose Public Library

My parents keep coaxing the kids to do things a little bit different. I sometimes think it’s a problem of plenty. We were brought up with many things being a wee bit short. Ice cream or generally eating out was a treat. Now both are routine and the ice creams themselves are getting more complex. As kids, we always used both sides of a page. Our kids, who are used to printouts, are less frugal. We have put up a S-shaped simple hook for single sided sheets to be hung on. We just pull one off when we have to explain math or play a game or make lists. Sometimes they forget and keep using new sheets.

Every generation changes, and sharing stories is a great way for generations to understand times which have gone by. It’s also a great way for kids to understand frugal ways and why it was that way. Now when we live in a world full of consumerism, we need to teach kids frugality, because it helps keep lives simple and more sustainable. In fact reading this about Gen Z on Forbes was extremely heartening.

5 Activities For This Summer

Summers are a good time for kids to put away their devices and homework. Kids need to switch off from online games and explore non digital activities. After all human beings are a part of nature and it’s important to stay plugged into a system that we are part of. Being in touch with nature regulates well-being, keeps the senses sharp and gives kids a sense of cyclical continuity.

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Sprinkler Fun by Donnie Ray Jones

Many of the modern day lifestyle problems that kids have developed can easily be sorted out with a massive dose of Vit-N. Here are 5 summer activities for you to explore:

  1. Get the kids to explore the geography around where they live. Take the kids out to parks and open spaces close to home. Let them feel the soil and grass under their feet. Open up a map and talk about the contiguity of land. Spot rivers and other water bodies close by. Wade through the water and throw pebbles in. Talk of the source of drinking water. Get them to wonder where all our dirty water goes. Help them wonder about where our trash goes.
  2. Spot our fellow creatures in the world. If you live in an urban jungle watch out for birds which have found new nesting places. Help kids understand the importance of our little insect friends. Teach them to observe plants and insects. Spot the caterpillars, butterflies, wasps, bee hives or the many other signs of nature in our concrete hubs. In case you need to learn more to get your kids interested, many universities put out a lot of information about our fellow creatures on their departmental sites. There are a lot of dedicated scientists/commoners who love sharing their information on virtual and real world spaces.
  3. Get kids to photograph the same things through various parts of the day. When they see the same scene/thing photographed under various conditions of light, they understand the impact of the Sun, and how we fit into the astronomical world.
  4. Try Hapa Zome, a craft activity. Get the kids to collect leaves and flowers in various colors and shapes. Lay them out on a piece of clean white cotton cloth with no starch. Spread a piece of tissue on the plant matter and hammer gently on it. This will help release the pigments onto the cloth. Peel the plant matter off to see the prettiest of designs. Kids can hang their piece of art on the wall or on the refrigerator at home.
  5. Run a scavenger hunt in a park. This can be an intensely fun activity in a small neighborhood park. Make lists of things to be found. Distribute it among the groups. Help the kids find them. This will help them explore the park in ways you had never imagined. Give clues which will make them look for things from different perspectives. E.g. Spotting an owl home or a type of ant nest in the ground.

These are just sample activities. Parents and kids can get more inventive. Use the parks and public spaces. Frequently our memories define us. Summers are a great time to make some great memories. Spot your fellow beings on the planet. Help your kids understand how everything in nature is woven tightly together. Enjoy the summer!

 

Do Our Memories Define Us?

Posted by my wife Maya.

While I was reading this post I kept thinking of the many things I cannot recall – my college application, sitting through classes in high school, my fave dress from college etc. The list is long and I feel bad about not having those memories. Perhaps that missing memory might have added a new dimension to my personality. I don’t know. I have no reason to be this forgetful. All is well with my brain. But I have a tendency to forget things and can’t seem to recall things which others can. It’s not brain fog, because I have been this way for a long time.

Photo Album Images Old Album Photos Memories

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After we married, I wanted my husband to talk about memories which mattered to us as a family. I wanted to remember everything It was only when friends continued to feel terrible about things which people had said decades ago, that I realized I was blessed in some ways. My poor memory helped me hold no grudges or bitterness!

Recently I came across a video which talks of how memories which are often visited change over time. A sort of update happens to our old memories and the original memory is no longer pristine. Now, I wonder how changing memories define us!

 

Parenting in the Digital Age

I recently went on a train. I have always liked them, but haven’t made many trips. In fact my dream is to make a train trip across the Rockies in Canada. There is something hypnotic about sitting by a window and watching the changing scenery with the rhythmic sounds of the train in the background. In the newer trains designed with tourists in mind, even the roof is transparent! In my head the train is a whole city moving through the landscape and as a child, I had loved the feeling of going forward as the landscape moved back!

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By Intel Free Press – http://www.flickr.com/photos/intelfreepress/9527140076/sizes/o/in/photostream/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27914424

Train journeys are a great time to reflect. These last few months my wife and I have been talking a lot about parenting in the digital age. It’s hard to bring up kids without the influence of digital devices.

The Pros

A digital education has many pros. Educational kids games help with learning. Schools use them extensively. Kids can find information easily. They can watch videos of things they want to know more about. Boring subjects can be made interactive and interesting. Textbooks can be done away with and teachers can compile their own material. Children can explore what they want. It improves their problem solving strategy. The list can go on and this is a good list. There’s no denying it.

The Cons

Human beings are social creatures and we live such that there is give and take. Isolation’s definitely not good for kids. Our biggest grouse against digital device is the fact that it isolates kids with their device. They might chat with others or they might have virtual friends, but physically it’s lonely.

Outdoor play reduces. For kids in their growing years, its very important to be physically active. They need a good dose of Vitamin N, especially in the growing years. They understand their surroundings when they tramp through the countryside. Snow, slush, rain, heat etc., kids must have exposure to all of it. Their senses are sharpened by spending time in nature.

With more time spent on digital devices, the ability to make by hand is reducing. In a time when devices were not available, kids commonly had hobbies which involved collecting, building or some other activity by hand. Building something not only helps kids pick up a skill, it also helps them understand how things work and the properties of materials.

Staring at devices for a long time causes eye problems in some people. There has been a noticeable increase in the number of eye problems in young people. When kids get involved in what they watch, they actually forget to blink!

The Middle Path

Completely cutting off kids from devices or not stopping them in any way are two extremes we need to avoid. We have given this a lot of thought. We can’t ban devices, because we continue to use them. What we can do is set a good example, by not using them while we eat or spend time with the kids. We must get more serious about the time we spend outdoors with the kids. Summer really helps as the time we spend outdoors naturally increases. If kids have something more interesting than the game they have on their device, they will be naturally be weaned off digital content. We should increase the activities we do together and kids might be encouraged to put away their games to explore this beautiful world!

 

Put Away Those Reading Games

Yes, get the kids to put away those reading games and pull out their walking shoes. Spring is officially here 20th March on. As new life blooms in nature, it’s time to get out and enjoy the outdoors.

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Sakura tunnel by akaitori

Spring’s in the Air

After the miserable cold, spring is welcomed with open arms. This is celebrated across the world in many different ways. Some are new age celebrations, while others have a history of thousands of years. Vitamin-Nature is something which kids need massive doses off. As our lifestyle changes, lives are getting busy and kids as well as adults spend very little time outdoors. This is not a good sign for younger kids. Hit the park or the playground. Younger kids need to spend a lot of time in nature. This is crucial for their sensory development.

Getting a big dose of Vitamin-N

Kids need to run about with shoes and without. They need to jump, tumble, hop, skip and spin with abandon. This helps in their health and development.Movement is crucial in the developing years. Many of the problems associated with kids’ development and health, like childhood obesity and sensory processing disorders, can really be helped with large doses of nature. Interestingly in Washington DC, children are prescribed doses of spending time at the park! Yes, it’s called Park Rx and it’s a communtiy initiative.

Swinging by themselves – basic playground stuff

Many kids much beyond preschool do not know how to swing by themselves. Parents rarely give pumping on a swing any thought. It’s complicated and crucial to developing musculature and coordination. Once the child is confident to sit in a regular swing and they are ready to follow your direction to hold the chains tight, start them slow. Coach them to stretch their legs and fold it as the swing starts up. Before you know it, they’ll get into the rhythm of swinging, and you’ll see the kids jumping off in mid-air and 2-3 of them swing all at once on swing! Make sure they are careful around others swinging high.

Enormous benefits

The benefits from nature are enormous for the development of kids. This does not mean going and living in a forest with your family. It just means increasing association with natural environments. Apart from parks, families can start small gardens. Watching something grow can fascinate kids. Get a pet. Buy fresh ingredients to make a meal and involve the kids. Soon they might be involved in cooking a Thanksgiving meal!

Encourage them to enjoy the rain, wind, sun and the snow. Do some activities which involve nature – hapa zome, flower drying, planting seeds, vegetable printing or anything that interests the kids.

Winding Up

My parents have always told us stories about the simple things they played with – cartons, tins, pieces of wood, bottles, sticks, newspaper etc. With massive doses of imagination, they got really inventive with their playtime. From such open ended play to the high levels of structured play that kids get, the move has been rapid and not fully beneficial. It’s time for a prescription of Park Rx!