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The Gift of Festivals

The greatness of a culture can be found in its festivals.

In almost every part of the globe we know of, people definitely celebrate festivals round the year. If we take a closer look and spend a little time to indulge, these joyous festivals come with certain messages, messages about the change in seasons, variations in our planet, its connection to the Sun, The Moon and the other planets. These natural phenomena can be best termed and/or compared to a wonderful Rhythm.

Changes in weather, change of seasons or changing positions of the planets; marks as popular religious festivals regardless of the geographical or ethnic boundaries. A time when families and friends come together and celebrate in accordance to their rituals. While there are faith-based festivals celebrating the spiritual aspects, there are also festivals to commemorate a person or an event from the past. In our homes, we tend to find meaningful ways to honor such cosmic changes.

Celebrating these special rhythmically recurrent occasions with our children is essential and also very special for many reasons. Food, laughter, loved people, holidays for schools, colleges and workplaces are truly overwhelming for anyone. It is also important for the children to understand the essence of any celebration. It is extremely nurturing for them to know how and when seasons change, sow-reap cycles in their region and so on. Festivals are a medium we embrace to break the insulation we have built around us and develop more love and reverence towards ourselves, others and Mother nature.

Celebrations with children

When it comes to children, they need a little more time to embrace family traditions and rituals. Annual festivals carry aide to the overall development of a child. Walk in the nature to see the beauty of nature and how it changes every season is one of the few things parents/ adults can do along with the children. Little ones love to collect to tiny rocks, dried leaves and twigs. It is beautiful to see all the amazing things they can create using their collections. These little things from the nature and our celebrations are intertwined in a very special way.


Make up songs and sing them to your children, to gather those wandering minds. Simple words, small lines penetrate the children the most. For example: A song on all the colors expressing Spring can also make a song on Holi with a few words tweaked, song on a tiny little worm in its cocoon for a long long time finally breaking out into a beautiful and colorful butterfly and so on… This is a very subtle way to express gratitude towards everything and everyone around.

Storytelling is an art which most parents feel handy during a crisis situation. We all have grown up listening to stories from our parents on a wide variety of topics. Children would love to hear the history behind celebrating a festival. Minimal lines, lesser jargon, classic language are your key requirements while framing a story to narrate to them. Stories flaunting courage, virtue over vice, hope over despair when narrated to your little ones will go a long way. http://mylittlebookshop.in/product/full-amma-tell-series-10-book-set/ has some lovely books to start with.


There is one thing that children love to do and that’s to IMITATE. Right from the time they begin to look around in their environment. If there is someone cooking in the kitchen, they are there – pulling our entire kitchen out. If, there is someone folding clothes – one can find them woven in the pile of clothes reminding you of the game Chinese knot maybe… As they grow, it becomes our duty to transform such play into meaningful activitiesInvolving them in any festive preparation is helpful for both you and your child. It is one great way to make the child feel that he is an important part of the family and that he is needed at crucial times – builds a sense of belonging within the child. It’s unfair to be ambitious – they need to feel accomplished and at the same time being able to do that duty.


Repetitiveness is the key. Start a week or two before a festival begins and give it a nice closure. Year after year, these family traditions that we follow with our children will grow in them thus capturing the essence of such a celebration. Most of the festivals remind us about all the good qualities embedded in us – a quality of love, care, devotion, endurance, wisdom. This is the time we look within ourselves and allow these innate qualities to shine.

One thing that strikes me the most when it comes to celebrating festivals is that; irrespective of the region we live in or the religion we follow, the core values of such celebrations remain the same. There is a sense of ‘oneness’ that echoes across all boundaries and such enriching experiences are worth instilling in a young one’s mind. This for me; is an act of restoration of faith and trust in humanity.


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Rhythms- in our homes, environment and life

If there is one aspect that Waldorf based schools and homeschoolers specifically think and spend their time planning is RHYTHM. Rhythm for the day, week, month, year. It is beautiful to see how a well connected a day, month or year can be when craved rhythmically. Rhythm works on different levels for all of us. A child feels more secure when he knows what is coming next, while there is more discipline in the life of a homemaker. As a matter of fact, many families with both parents working might find setting a rhythm unrealistic or something that cannot be achieved. I’d like to look at it this way – Will our children connect to “Oh! It’s Monday morning, don’t forget, I have meetings all day” OR “Okay munchkin, your snack will be ready soon as you are back from school”?

Songs are a very fulfilling way to transition between activities. Make up a little song to wash hands before they come together for a meal … “this is the way we wash our hands..this is the way we scrub our hands…”

If one looks around to observe, one can see that rhythm is everywhere. From the sunrise to sunset, change in seasons, change in crops, our migrating friends to our breath, things we do during the day, night, a visit to your hometown each summer, festivals, the list never ends. The time is just right to mention an article penned by Nirupama Rao; https://niraamayaa.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/importance-of-rhythms/. I followed the liver rhythm she talks about for some time and I can vouch for it. There were so many things I could accomplish, higher energy levels and felt so good.

“We learn through all our experiences and they enrich our store of knowledge. But in order that man may learn on the Earth, he must be allured by, [or] involved in enjoyment.” — Rudolf Steiner

Why is there a need to set a Rhythm?

Rhythm and predictability go hand in hand. They are like two sisters. Children feel secure when they know what’s coming next. A healthy rhythm weaves each moment to a day and each day to a week, month, year.. and years go by, you will notice how strong you are growing as a family and how safe your children feel to spread their wings and fly about once they are all grown up. It takes many strong stitches to make a piece of cloth wearable. However busy or scheduled your life is, it is never too late nor it is very difficult to set a loving rhythm in your house. Did I miss mentioning a healthy rhythm strengthens your authority as a parent (of course a more gentle and understanding one)? You will also find your teen more cooperative thanks to all the channels of discipline it has carved over the years. Discipline that is more innate and natural.


Tackling counterwill of a child gets easier when we relax on our commanding tone and draw the children inwards with transitional songs or verses. It’s best to leave the child in his dreamy state rather than awakening him with unnecessary instructions.

Rhythm of the year for an example

Establishing a healthy and meaningful Rhythm

For those who are starting new towards setting up a rhythm in your home, consider taking baby steps instead of I’ll change everything in a day mode. These few pointers may help you kick-start. But they are really only cues. How each one of you take it forward or have been following it is something I’ll be curious to know.

Recognize the anchor points of a day in your home. For homes with younger children, it is probably the mealtimes and naptimes and for the older children, probably a few more additions like activities – artistic/ help with your household chore of the day. If these activities are set, allow the rest of the time to blend into your day and weave it in a ‘breathe in – breathe out‘ manner. You come together for a meal time and then the little one goes to some playtime, you come together again for another meal, maybe and off to your bed for a little nap. Over a period of time, the child will begin to know that after lunch, it is time to close his eyes and rest or he will even go to the sink to wash his hands and help you ready the dinner table when it is time. Of course, we do not have to be stringent with the time. “Come what may, we will sit down to eat at 6PM” is not pleasing at all. “We sit down to eat around 6” is a more consistent way towards establishing a healthy rhythm.


 

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“One of the tasks of the growing child and one of the functions of parenting is to bring the child into rhythm.” – Rahima Baldwin


It is important to tune your inner self towards being flexible. With the little ones, every day is a brand new day. They are so light hearted, bouncy and carefree that we need to think ahead of every situation to stay calm and continue the day in a disruptive manner. That way, you know how to turn the tide when an ugly situation arises. Sounds weird, but is completely sensible to know yourself well to understand your limitations. If you know how flexible you are and what your limitations are, isn’t it easier to plan a rhythm that is sustainable?

Repetition is the key. Develop a suitable pattern for the day and repeat the same pattern each day. Slowly, you will see how well your family traditions can also be instilled in your child. Keep in mind, activity that requires the child to concentrate- ‘be there’. There is no way your child is going to finish that piece of artwork or homework if the adult around is sitting with a phone/ planning a grocery run. His time to exhale or during breathe-out activity is the best time for you to finish up chores need not involve him. Such a pattern when practised every day, helps the child predict what comes next and reassures your child that you are there for your child when there the need arises instead of looking out for you each moment of the day.

Create. Sing. Meditate. Hug. Rever.

A good rhythm should leave you stress free end of day and makes sense for it to fit into your family naturally. Whether changes are big, or small; you surely are right person to know what best works for you and your family. Sometimes, the change you need to bring in can be drastic for your child definitely worth embracing in the long run. Create rituals, establish a suitable rhythm for repetitive activities and foster reverence.

Warmth,

Pavithra

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The Love language our children receive

I believe every family has its own ways and means to handle children. Parenting strategies on psychological level can be broadly classified on the basis of authority. Some parents lay rules in every aspect to gain control over the life of their child. Some parents expect little to nothing from their children and just let them be. Some parents strike a balance between rules, authority and freedom. Nonetheless, it all comes down to how the child is benefiting in the long term. While traveling the path of parenting, at some point, you are bound to quiz yourself – How connected is our family?, How joyful is the bonding with our children?, How far do we exercise freedom of expression? Clearly; connection or bonding between a parent and a child is ever-changing. A warm hug might go a long way for a little one. While; for an older child; the parent will have to connect in more than one way. Irrespective of the age factor, the idea of finding that connection with your child and nourishing it all the way is a learning experience for every family.

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There are plenty of ways to reach to your child, to build a connection; a bond based on unconditional love. Goes without saying, our human race is very well equipped to give or to receive love. But our lives have gotten so busy and mundane that we constantly need someone to remind us that we have some really special tools of parenting within us already.

Image result for quality time with childrenTime out VS Quality time

Your toddler tries to test your limits almost every day and drives you up the wall in a snap of your fingers. While it’s their way to communicate, the responsibility is on us to assure the child that he is in safe hands. So the next time you think of a time-out, dark room, Jack the monster n blah blah blah…, try matching these tricks with quality time. Perhaps, the little one only wanted you to take a break, slow down and fix him a good meal. Perhaps, he was too sleepy. Perhaps, all he wanted was your undivided attention. Instead of nailing him down, try uplift him when his emotions are at its peak.                                                                                         Our heartfelt commitment of time is what they need.

Hugs and kisses and more

Right from their birth, there are many situations each single day to communicate with your child in this language called ‘touch’. Gentle massages, cuddles and kisses, dressing them up, walking a child who has just taken his first few steps, greeting the child with a hug after a hard day, tossing a child in the air to have him in your arms eventually, having your child on your lap while reading to him, introducing more natural toys are some of those many ways to fill up their love tanks and to imbibe healthy emotions.                                                                                                                       No words, and yet, the loudest voice of physical touch.

 

Affirmative expressions

Image result for affirmative expressions towards childrenPositive loving guidance goes a long way with children. Often, our anger over-shadows this language of love, although we do not intend to do any damage. The words spoken are so potent, we often do not see the thin line between usual words of praises and words of endearment. I know how knee-jerking it is when your little one has done something which is appreciable for you in your mind. Tossing off a “Good job” to a child who’s put on his shoes all by himself – well, in all honesty, he has done this to please you and an affirmative like that means that you are forcing him to feel good about it. The “I did it” feeling is replaced with “Do you like it that I wore my shoes all by myself?” Likewise, “Very bad, you aren’t sharing…” for a two-year-old for not sharing a toy is definitely unsuitable. It is unfair to manipulate the child and tell him how to feel rather than allowing the child to experience and create his own memory. One should make a very conscious effort to think before speaking to children for we are responsible to lay a strong foundation for them.                                                                   Try make statements that are non-judgmental to restore their enthusiasm. Your wholesome presence without saying a word is much more rewarding.

Gifts

Who wouldn’t mind a surprise gift right? Ironically, the idea of gifts has changed leaps and bounds thanks to the booming industry. Gifts are measured in terms of numbers and monies rather than quality or even that being an act of love. This powerful way of expressing love is misunderstood by many. Showing appreciation to children need not necessarily mean you go to a store with your child and buy him anything he wants. Children need our unconditional love and we often manage to dilute it by catering to unrealistic demands and ‘bribe-driven jobs’.                                                                                                                                           A gift for the child can be anywhere from a garden flower to his favorite dessert you’ve cooked, from a small picture you’ve created on a sheet of paper to a visit to a place where he finds joy.

A helping hand

This language of love mostly goes unnoticed. Seldom do we realize our children are assimilating everything we say or do. Simplest of all examples – how we treat our domestic help? Okay, you pay a ransom to have them home for an hour or two every day. If the adult fails to express gratitude towards the domestic help; an unfair emotion is triggered in the child’s mind who is watching you constantly. Helping/ acts of serving are physically and emotionally demanding for everyone. But we can all agree that it is one of the best platforms for children to receive positive vibrations from the adults around.                                                                                                               Simple acts of kindness like caring for your neighbor’s garden while they are away, volunteering as a family in your community or even mending their damaged toys are communicates deeply.

Consistently working on creating a layer of love and affection enveloping your family like a sheath makes the home a better place to live in for all. Ultimately, such efforts need to insulate the child through all the good and hard times when they enter the adult world. This topic definitely leads us to boundaries for our children. Boundaries for the toddler who insists on wanting that doll your little girl saw at the local store or boundaries for the teen who is experimenting her boundaries as well as yours. Perhaps, in the future posts…

Warmth,

Pavithra Suresh

 

 

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Dealing with a three-five year old

For all those who have been wondering, “What is going on in that tiny head?”; some fresh breath here. I don’t want to say 0-3years of your child was all easy peasy, no way! But 3-5 year olds are really something. All the sweetness, cuteness is now turning out to look different. No more is your child only imitating, for they, have also started to try things they have learnt all this while. Hitting, biting, yelling is now the basis of play with their mates.

It is for us to understand that in terms of development of a child, reactions and emotions seen are mere manifestations of how the child is feeling inwards. For example, a child who is being really rigid about something and is on the demanding side just to get you on your nerves only needs to feel secure. Adverse reactions like punishments or ignoring him for his so called ‘bad behaviour’ creates different explosions in the mind of the child.

 A typical day

Remember; you give your child everything, the child will ask for everything and more. Contrary to that, you give your child little to nothing, the child learns to make the best out of it and ‘searches’ for more. A screen-less day with some rest and lots of self-guided play is more than enough for them. They do not need academic programs as yet. Should you ‘need’ to send the child to a daycare, choose a place which provides them with ample space and time to play at all times of the year. Children gain more by playing outside at this age.

Magic in songs and movement

Tantrums are a way children want to communicate when they do not like something they are asked to see, say or do. Indeed! We end up overworked almost every day. When a child makes the most of that very moment you want to park yourself on a couch to rest your back or close your eyes, a tantrum coming your way is the last thing you expect. The need to fume or ignore is a common reaction as a parent/caretaker. While I don’t see anything wrong in getting angry; dealing with your anger first, calming down and then responding to your child is half battle. For all you know, the common response of shouting at the child or making a scary face and looking right into his eyes might just result in more mockery. Singing to your child during such times is rewarding. So is humming. These game changer tactics comforts the child and facilitates in evolving a sense of protection. He needs to feel safe to show such emotions with shades of gray. Remember, he is only imitating all that he has seen in those previous years.

Once upon a time…

With books or with puppets. With hand gestures or a musical. Now is the perfect time to start with stories (if you still haven’t) which takes them to an imaginary world where all the characters come alive. Simple nature tales, stories your parents told you when you were young, fairy tales, folk tales, etc… picking up a story is that simple. My 4-year-old is all ears when I start saying, “When I was a little girl, my mother used to tell me about a giant tree near her house…” and so on. I’d repeat the words and stories the same way my mother did for me. Books are a great medium too, if chosen according to the needs of your child. There is more to storytelling and here is where you want to read. Bear in mind; stories that are small with simpler words yet classic language has more benefits to look out for compared to the long and over-informative.

While many children want to run around, climb on everything they can or stay out in the sun as much as they can, you may also see children who want to sit down and do something quieter. Bring out safer, blunt knives, crinkle cutters from your kitchen, have them help you with chopping. Keep some blank papers handy for them to color or let them help you prep for the next day/festival/family event, so on… Yes! there are many such ways to keep such children interested too. Be creative.

All said and done, some of you readers have different views(Respect!) on parenting. There is no right or wrong. Feel free to take what resonates with you. Regardless of our ways and means, they all want the same – ‘your warm physical presence when in need’.

Warmth,

Pavithra

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Mama, I’m BORED!

“Enforced solitude along with a blank paper is a wonderful spur”

These words were cited by a comedienne turned writer. A beautiful quote rarely heard. Many creative heads from yester years believe stillness and being bored in their childhood years is healthy and has helped them enhance their creative thinking. As a caregiver, we often think our primary motive is to keep the child occupied and mechanize his life.

 

A piece of my everyday life

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I will start with my own 4year old this time. Almost every morning, he comes to me around 9:30 in the morning, hoping I am done with lunch prep. Typically, we go out and play in the mornings. I sit down and play for a wee bit after explaining him about how I will need his help in finishing up my tasks. Once done, we can go and spend as much time we want biking/playing (well, to be honest, in our case, staring at trains, construction trucks and other vehicles on the street). But, when it’s mostly my part of work pending, he is either playing by himself or sitting on our sofa bed; BORED. So, he starts to look outside the window and is pretty much occupied for some more time. I get to wind up with my work. While I have trained myself to let him deal with his boredom, sometimes I manage to steal those precious moments from him. I am sure a lot many of you out there sail on the same boat. If I may ask, why is it so difficult to accept a child sitting idle? It is for him to figure out what he can do with that little time he has for himself. Be it, small holiday breaks, little spaces of time during a day or summer and winter breaks.

 She is just staring, is she BORED?


Call him a child who is too shy to respond, a day dreamer or a child who is disinterested in the world around him, the truth is children love to stand, stare and they don’t like to be interrupted. Let them be and they will be present to you once they are done. This process is a great deal of inner work happening. That of observing his environment, developing his thought process around it and assimilating his experience through indoor or outdoor play.

… Some random rants

“My little one gets bored easily”, “He does not do anything for too long”, “I don’t know what to do with my child when he is home”, “I am too bored looking at him do silly little things” . These are some of the complaints from the adults regardless of what the child feels. Screen time deflates that ballooning cloud of creativity and imagination in a child’s mind. Let’s not tag “boredom” to be an uncomfortable feeling because children do not need to be occupied day- in and day-out and constant stimulation is way too overwhelming. Having said that, I have met many children (older ones) who say “I don’t know what to do”. The moment he says those golden words, he is bombarded with a list of ideas, classes and camps… the list goes on. But ever wondered what the child wants to do? Give him a chance while you are there to guide when needed. Of course, for those who are glued to their iPad’s and earplugs, there is good news! Create a loving boundary for the child about using those gadgets instead of restricting them or banning and then begin to work around things.

There are many examples of people who are thankful for having been given a slow childhood. They all claim that such solitude (aka boredom) fostered creativity in them and these are the people we see as artists/ writers and other creative professions. A renowned philosopher, Bertrand Russell wrote something very immense and meaningful in his book, ‘The Conquest of Happiness’ –

“A child develops best when, like a young plant, he is left undisturbed in the same soil. Too much travel, too much variety of impressions, are not good for the young, and cause them as they grow up to become incapable of enduring fruitful monotony.”

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Encouraging Unstructured Freeplay

“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.”– O. Fred Donaldson

O. Fred Donaldson, renowned play specialist is one of those many who vouch for the importance of free play in children. A typical toddler is often found in mama’s kitchen, digging into the cabinets, trying to fold (I know a lot of you out there wish to read it as unfold) those perfectly folded clothes in the wardrobe or having a porridge party all over his face and the table while eating. A typical homemaker is seen snapping with a ‘Nooo…. Don’t touch it, Don’t do this or don’t spill, etc… These rather mundane reactions are never easily acceptable for these tiny humans often resulting to tantrums.

Many modern homes are more adult-driven leaving behind the child and his needs. Organized sports, physically demanding evening and weekend classes, adult-driven structured activities take away trivial free time of the children. A research report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) highlights how pivotal free and unstructured play is for the healthy development of a child and that such playtime should not be sacrificed for supervised activities.

So what really is ‘unstructured play‘? How does one create an environment in the house which helps the child ‘play in freedom‘? These jargons are rather simple to decode. After all, when did children become so complicated? Read on further to see how best you can simplify the environment for your child lives in.

Outdoor games

I do understand a parent’s need to send their child to a badminton class or a cricket class to learn a new sport. But, do not forget to give them ample time to go out with their friends and play, making their own rules. As a matter of fact, they love to run around kicking a stone, rolling cycle tires, racing to reach the farthest tree and climb it. The much younger ones feel secure in their own world when you give them sand, a bowl, and a scooper. They will build, demolish, pave, dig and what not. Such ‘play in freedom‘ benefits in many ways.

           

 

Indoor fun

To watch little ones create with open ended toys is a beauty. From wooden blocks to kitchen utensils. You can watch their play evolve every single time they play. Your everyday household items can make the best of toys for the developing child. They find infinite ways to play with pans, spoons, little rags of cloth, package boxes, blankets. Oh yes, make it all available for them. Of course, keep the sharp and breakable things away or beyond their reach. Create a child friendly environment, if a child can reach it, he can and will take it. Cleaning up can always happen end of their playtime along with them (Psst!! They love to do that too!!)

 

           

 

There are innumerable benefits of letting the children play by themselves with fewer restrictions. Physical development, social skills, hand-to-eye co-ordination, motor skills, dexterity, decision making, creativity, mindfulness and so on.. Open ended toys like building blocks, peg dolls, animal figures, cloth dolls, empty cardboard boxes, real/ pretend kitchen utensils, wooden arches (Rainbow stacker), bean bags, pebbles, sea shells, dried pods from trees and so on are better preferred by many educationists rather than coloring books, board games, noisy remote control cars, puzzles, Barbie dolls, etc which are structured end to end. A child can create nothing from them while with building blocks, for example, one can create towers, bridges, buildings, furniture and so much more.

   

 

Let your child be a child! He has all his life to finish off all the zillion hobby classes and he is in no rush at all.