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Summer Fun for The Family

It’s common for families to gather over the holidays. Younger relatives get to meet the oldest members of the family, hear old tales about family members, laugh over silly anecdotes and in general spend time bonding. These activities might sound trivial, but this is the foundation on which family memories and a sense of belonging are built. A sense of rootedness is built into the psyche of children as they grow and interact with family members. As children increase their interaction with the outside world, a sense of belongingness helps them feel cared for and safe, which in turn helps them understand the support systems they have. All this helps a child become more confident about coming into their own among their peers, which is crucial in their teenage years.

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Grandpa Fishing With Kids by StockyPics

Here are three activities which are good for both kids and grownups to establish relationships:

Nature Walks

Stepping out into the outdoors and enjoying all that nature has on offer is possibly the oldest ways to establish a relationship between the older and younger members of a family. It’s very common for kids to spend time with their grandparents from a young age. Walking around and teaching grandkids all that they know about the ecosystem they live in is very natural for grandparents. Nature offers rich sensory engagement and good physical activity for both the young and the old. Kids learn to identify flora and fauna from their surroundings, they learn to count while skipping rocks or collecting twigs, and most importantly they learn the interconnectedness of systems in nature. Without really knowing it, kids are influenced by the older members of the family in innumerable ways. Like Jeff Bezos the man behind Amazon says, he saw his grandfather be self-reliant on the farm and learnt the value of resourcefulness. He didn’t know he was learning this while he spent time on the farm; he understood and appreciated it many decades later.

Playing Games

Play is the most natural way for children to learn about the world around them. Kids learn a lot in the first few years of their life, and much of it is without us teaching them anything. They are learning all the time to negotiate their way around the world. When there is an emphasis on ‘getting kids to start learning’ really early, it does not make complete sense, because younger kids are always learning, it’s just that they don’t need any structured learning that early. The brain’s plasticity allows for abundant information from the outside world to enter a child’s conscious world.

As kids grow, parents can introduce board games, participate in their imaginary games, play active games with them, even play some online games on bad weather days, try out Mensa kids puzzle games, learn about animals and geographies through Nat Geo games etc.

Cooking

This is one life skill kids need to spend some time on. After all food is core to all human activity. By getting kids involved in all aspects of food, we help them get familiar with a variety of overlapping areas like the environment, production of food, the chemistry of cooking, transporting food, packaging etc. All this familiarization and exploration opens up many interesting avenues of thought, which helps kids understand their interests as they grow.

What starts small as a family activity for fun in childhood, opens up the mind and eventually gets kids interested in streams that they might like to explore. This upcoming summer, make sure you line up some interesting activities. Don’t forget to take pictures. Even sorting digital pictures is something many kids enjoy. Not only do they have fun, they can look at pictures to reemphasize memories. Enjoy the summer!

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Two Practical Ways to Teach Patience

Kids can get impatient. Sometimes they want things ‘now’. When that is said, decibel levels can rise and parents can lose their cool. Then decibel levels go up some more and very soon kids will be completely out of control throwing a tantrum.

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Baby girl works in the garden by simpleinsomnia

It’s always better not to reach that state of a melt down. Easier said than done for many but here’s the good thing; patience can be taught. Not overnight, but slowly over time. By getting them involved in activities which have delayed gratification.

Here are two activities:

1. Gardening: This is all about planting and waiting. You need to have patience and the nurturing habit. Sometimes, in spite of hard work the crop fails. This not only teaches kids patience and taking failure in your stride but it also gets them to nurture, observe and take pleasure in the result of hard work.

2. Baking: Get the kids involved in baking from a young age. The many step process before getting the baked goods definitely nurtures patience. They may not participate actively, but keep their interest by getting them involved in small things like measuring, checking on the rise etc. At the end when the freshly baked goods are brought out, there is an intense feeling of gratification – however delayed it might be.

These activities definitely get kids to be more patient. In fact they are great activities for kids and their grandparents. The results of both activities can be very sweet especially when some fresh fruit preserve is added to a slice of freshly baked bread!

Easter Craft Ideas

A post written by my wife Maya.

Easter’s right around the corner and it’s a good time to get the kids to try out new crafts. Kids are going to want to try something involving the big three – chicks, bunnies and eggs. Even school crafts around this time of the year are all about the big three. Until kids are about 9-10 years of age, they enjoy the pleasures of simple crafts. They also move on to new things at a good pace.

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minnesota spring bouquet by Martha W McQuade

We like getting the kids to try out interesting things like science experiments for Halloween. This year we decided to craft stuff with things lying about the house, sort of upcycle or reuse material. Most homes with kids have a supply of twine/rope, eggs, egg trays, crayons, used paper, cartons and old clothes. People could get inventive and make up their own crafts or they could look up simple crafts on the Net and try something.

Things to keep in mind

Most crafting requires kids to cut, stick, fold etc. If crafts are too complex, kids will lose interest and the adult ends up doing everything with the kids just wandering off. Here are things you should keep in mind:

  1. Pick an age appropriate craft
  2. Print out one you want to try from Easter crafts and print it out for convenience. No printer, then just write it out on the back of an envelope.
  3. Make sure you are stocked up on the supplies you require.
  4. Clear the space where you want to work on the craft.
  5. Clear up your calendar. Frequent disturbing calls mess up the flow when working with kids.
  6. Give the kids an idea of what everyone’s working towards.
  7. Make sure the kids are not hungry, thirsty or sleepy(crankiness and crafting DO NOT go hand in hand!)
  8. Remember, with kids and crafting, your end result may vary dramatically

Some good sites

If you are out of ideas, here are a few good sites with excellent craft ideas:

  1. One Little Project
  2. The best Ideas For Kids
  3. Red Ted Art
  4. Homesteading
  5. Upcycled Wonders

The goodness of crafting

Crafting is good for kids. Here’s why:

  1. It helps them plan what they want to do
  2. They learn to choose from what is available for use
  3. While cutting and handling tubes, muscles on little hands are trained through use
  4. They understand how space can be used
  5. They understand the complete arc of starting something which goes onto becoming something else
  6. Kids can use this for self-expression
  7. Art is a way to release pent up distress if the kids are under some kind of stress
  8. Kids learn to focus, helping their concentration skills
  9. It gives them a sense of self worth when they compete their craft
  10. Last but not the least it makes them happy!

This Easter get the kids to craft. Get more kids involved. Use things which no one is using. Get the kids to pull out ideas from their imagination. Talk about it. Plan it. Execute it. Enjoy it!

Happy Easter!

 

 

 

Kids and Summers

I haven’t written in a while for various reasons, but today summer popped into my mind and I had to write. It’s all about long and lazy days. It’s a time when both kids and parents de-structure and de-stress. Routines become a thing of the past, bedtimes roll by with no one giving it a second thought. Kids revel in lying about the house, sleeping in, exploring their interests, staring at the ceiling, reading, playing, spending time with grandparents and cousins, and in general floating around.

Babies and toddlers need routines. In facts kids do need routine, but not the ones where every minute is scheduled. Free unstructured time helps kids fill it with activities they like. They learn to entertain themselves, which leads to independence. Kids who grow up this way rarely complain of boredom and don’t need to be entertained. They are self-sufficient and even grow up to be people who are comfortable with their own selves. Most importantly, they explore a variety of interests. This helps them decide what they wish to do as they grow up.

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Kids Playing Ball by Tom Hilton

5 Summer Activities

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.

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 kids 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.
  2. Spot our fellow creature 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 and wean them away from pet games. 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.

Phew, writing this makes me impatient for summer. Well time and tide wait for none, and before we know it summer will be here.

 

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.

 

 

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.