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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

http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Photo-Album-Images-Old-Album-Photos-Memories-631084

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!

 

Stop Saying ‘No’

A post from my wife Maya. 

Parental discussions at parks tend to focus on how kids say ‘No’ for everything. Yes, some kids are more difficult than others. Yes, kids who say ‘No’ to most things that are suggested can be frustrating.

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Small child plays on the porch 2 by simpleinsomnia

The solution is not to shout back at such kids, because it might easily be reduced to a shouting match. The trick is to diffuse the situation using humor, or distract or use any other trick available in the parental arsenal to break the status quo.

Lead by example

As parents, it’s our job to lead by example, however trying it might be under certain circumstances. After a full day at work, it’s easy to let the kids to play online games to keep them occupied and say ‘No’ to most things a child suggests. When we are too tired to run behind or play with our child, there is a tendency in us to say ‘Don’t run, just sit and play here where I can keep an eye on you.’ Play is important for kids, and it’s one of the best ways to bond. This should involve activity, and running around which is good for both the physical and mental development of a child. So, however tired you are, pull out the energy from deep within to play with your child. By playing regularly, a child internalizes play and it becomes natural to want to play. Kids who play regularly, especially outdoors are generally less frustrated. There is a reason why forest bathing is being followed by so many.

Over using ‘No’ and ‘Don’t’

Parents need to stop over using these word while kids play or explore. They must be watchful and stop kids when they feel something’s risky, but they must not stop a child from trying things or regular play. Kids are meant to run around and be with other kids. By testing their boundaries, they learn to judge for themselves. This also help them go beyond what they are capable of. Such activity also helps them burn energy, leaving them calm and happy. If kids play with peers in wide open areas, they also learnt o help each other if they take a tumble. It’s also interesting to see kids team up naturally to so something which they might not be able to do on their own. It’s not uncommon to see kids push up one kid, who then bends over to pull up another.

Kids who grow up playing are generally well balanced and rarely lose their cool. As they haven’t heard people around them using ‘No’, they don’t use it extensively. Nurture curiosity in them. When the mind is alert, happy and occupied, there’s nothing they want to say ‘No’ to.

It’s our job

Parental responsibility is not just about stopping our kids from hurting themselves. It’s bigger. We have to nurture our young by equipping them with what they need to go out into the wide wide world and make it theirs. For, in a way they are not just ours. As Khalil Gibran wrote,

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

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!

 

Good Night, Sleep Tight!

Sleep is super important for kids. Yes, sleep. That state, where kids do nothing? At least it appears that way, but it’s that state where the mind builds memories and the body repairs itself. It’s so important that if kids don’t sleep in regular cycles parents should worry. Kids get cranky and their health deteriorates. Adults need 8 hours of sleep, but kids can easily sleep 10-12 hours a day depending on their age. Kids can practically sleep anywhere and anyhow!

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“L1009788 Kids, they can sleep anytime any place:)” by DaiLuo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A routine helps

Most kids who play and eat well, have no problems falling asleep. When kids do find it hard to fall asleep, a routine helps. The picture book Goodnight Moon, is a slow elaborate procedure of saying Goodnight, by the end of which a child could be asleep. Families can build their own routines. Darkening the sleeping area is a good idea. Sometimes a hot drink before going to bed helps. Other times a soft song does the trick. Watching a screen definitely does not help.

Frequently sleep disruptions could be temporary. Parents just need to talk to their kids to find out if something is preying on their minds. It could be a simple worry, which can be fixed easily. The importance of good quality sleep cannot be emphasized enough for kids – as parents we need to ensure that our kids get enough.

Valentine’s Day Craft Ideas

We decided to help the kids make Valentine’s Day gifts at home. Our extended family enjoys  giving gifts and this year we decided to make them ourselves. Not all, at least a few of them. We are not very craft oriented, but we frequently get ambitious!

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Crafting with Kids by Suzette – www.suzette.nu

Here are four crafts we tried:

  1. Making a Snowflake

We made this snow flake with ice cream sticks and stuck the ends together to make a snowflake which could be hung up. The kids loved this craft – simple and it involved glue!

2. Toss the Shell

We collected about a dozen eggshells before we got ready for this one. Trust me when I say, think it through before you attempt this – leaves quite a mess! Fill the empty shells with different colored paints. Now stand up your canvas at 4-5 ft distance. Throw your shells at the canvas. The patterns created by the breaking shells can be spectacular. Let the canvas dry. Trim the edges neatly and stick it onto a nice thick sheet of paper, and voila you have your art piece ready for gifting!

3. Googly Shades

This one now is a recycled craft. Maya donated an old pair of sunglasses, the kids got their glue and googly eyes out, and soon we had the googly shades ready. Now they are arguing about who gets to keep it!

4. I Spy Bottle

This was made with a recipient in mind – a young relative, who loved playing with little things. His parents were always hesitant about giving him small objects to play with, and this was a solution our kids found for him. They took many small objects and dropped it all into a transparent plastic bottle and added some free flowing uncooked rice, and sealed it tight. This could get thrown and tossed around safely.

Advantages of crafting with kids

The point about making crafts is the unadulterated fun kids have. We also like to think it gives kids a good opportunity to think independently, explore materials, combine odd materials, break open things and seal things in. They explore opposites even as they find things which go together. Kids learn how to make do with things they have – we ran out of glue and Maya’s mother rustled up this flour based glue in a jiffy.

Maya and I had some wonderful hours bonding with the kids as they spent time making these crafts. Our kids have gamed with their grandma and crafted with her. The silly laughter, chit chat, glue spills and messes are unforgettable. Even the cleaning up after helped our kids understand the importance of handling materials with care(who likes cleaning up anyway!). We make memories which come back to help us in difficult times.

Well, I’m not sure the googly shades will leave us, but the rest will be gifted away for sure. We are also very sure the young recipient of the I Spy Bottle will love it!

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day!