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Lockdown 2020: How our 6-year old dealt with all the indoor time!

The year that went by has been quite overwhelming for everyone across the globe! The pandemic disrupted life at all levels, quite literally! The abnormals of staying indoors all the time, working from home all the time, ‘no school’ routine at all, suddenly and without warning became the new normal! Having said that 2020 has also been a great eye-opener. A live-it-through textbook that has helped those who survived the year learn a few (and more) lessons for life!

Anxious Times

We anticipated that the months of total lockdown would be impossible to deal with. My husband and me were working from home. We were really concerned about how our 6-year old would sail through each day all by herself. Like everyone else, we missed our support system – our maid and our daughter’s nanny! 

Pleasant Surprises

They say children are super resilient and awesome adopters of change. We saw this with our daughter, NiVi, during those months of zero contact with the outside world. She was able to keep herself creatively engaged for most parts of the day. Barring some random family cuddle huddles, that we totally enjoyed and looked forward to as well!. We had made a conscious choice of moving her into a Waldorf kindergarten in 2019. The one year NiVi spent there helped to a very large extent with living through the lockdown. We tried to recreate the school-time rhythm at home. Waking up early, cooking and cleaning together, having our meals together on the floor and sleeping early too! (Read more about Rhythms in our homes, environment and life)

What Kept Us Busy

There were fixed chores at home that were shared between us. NiVi would end up helping with most of them in some way or form. She would join us in our morning exercise routine – a small way to ensure physical activity indoors. Waldorf kindergartens encourage a lot of outdoor play. This was one thing we thoroughly missed while being indoors during the lockdown. We tried to encourage as much of running and jumping around indoors to allow for physical exertion by making the home a safe space for NiVi. 

Throwback pic of a trip we made right before the lockdown

Kitchen Fun

Kitchen chores turned out to be one of her favourites including sorting, cleaning, peeling, grating and slicing fruits and vegetables. Like many others we took to gardening too during the lockdown. NiVi would help us with prepping the pots with mud, sowing the seeds, watering the plants and then waiting as eagerly as us for the shoots to pop out and grow into tiny plants. We have always been into healthy baking and the lockdown gave us more opportunities to bake our own cookies, cakes and breads. NiVi would help with the measuring and mixing, pouring and patting. Not to mention the joy of experiencing awesome aromas that fill up the air and the impatient waiting for the cookies and cakes to cool down 🙂

Peeling carrots for some yummy gajar ka halwa 🙂
Shelling peas was a favourite kitchen chore!

Open Ended Play

Waldorf kindergartens also encourage a lot of open ended play. Wooden blocks, ice-cream sticks, pieces of cloth, sea shells, stones etc are some of NiVi’s favourites. When left to her own, she would use these in the most creative ways. On some days she would be a shop seller selling her wares, on another the blocks and sticks would be used to create some patterns on the floor. At times we would find her busy with pretend play – with the blocks doubling up as cookies that would be baked in an old shoe box perhaps that takes the form of a pretend oven! Cloth would be used for dress-up games or even for draping around furniture to create mini castles or tents. (Read more on the Importance of Playing with Cloth Dolls)

Imagination let loose with some rangoli powder, a cardboard sheet and those nimble fingers!

Handwork

NiVi also spent her afternoons exploring some hand work projects. She practiced sewing, weaving and finger knitting based on what she had learnt at kindergarten. The joy of creating something by herself and using it was immense. I read somewhere that introducing hand work to children in their early years helps them believe that they can be self-reliant creators themselves. This self-reliance is a gift they will cherishh right through into their adult lives. Would strongly urge all parents to provide your little ones with this early opportunity at the right time. Their tiny nimble fingers are capable of wonders beyond our imagination.

Weaving away on the loom on most afternoons

To sum it all up, our lockdown days would begin with some physical activities followed by all the household chores like cleaning and cooking and some open-ended play. Some hand work after a wholesome family lunch was part of our everyday routine too. Fruits for evening snack, some story time and a light dinner would mark the end of the day for NiVi. We would have a couple of hours to catch up on some reading, pending work or even watch some Netflix :).

All Geared and Hopeful

Like everyone else we are eagerly waiting to brush aside and leave behind the pandemic and its impact on our lives. That said we will be ever so grateful for all that we learnt during the last year. We hope our little experiences above help spark some ideas in your minds. Do share what worked for you in the comments below, for us to learn from.

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Homeschooling, Waldorf way

Welcome to the World of Waldorf! Through this article and subsequent pieces, I will attempt to explain the Waldorf philosophy and what it stands for. Waldorf was started by Dr Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). After the First World War in Germany, Steiner initiated a school for children of people working at Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory, thus the name Waldorf. He gave his first lectures there to the teachers of the first Waldorf school and it was documented into a book called “Practical Advice to Teachers.”

The focus in Waldorf methodology is on the development of the whole human being which consists of Body, Mind and Soul, also known as Willing-Feeling-Thinking.


Waldorf begins at home with a simple lifestyle and day-to day-routines.
There are no academic goals to be achieved until your child is 6-7 years old. Yes, you heard it, No activities, no worksheets!

What does the Waldorf philosophy say?

According to Dr. Rudolf Steiner, human development can be classified into 7-year cycles – 0-7, 7-14, 14-21 and so on. One of the basic concepts of Waldorf Education is the threefold human being – Willing, Feeling and Thinking. For the first 7 years, we focus only on the ‘will’ of the child. Will is in the Body, Feelings in the Soul and Thinking in The Spirit or Mind or Ego (not the negative ego, here it means the higher self).

As we focus only on the Will of the child it means we work only on the development of the child’s body, not touch the feeling and thinking aspects yet, as those are yet to be developed in the later stages of the child’s life. In the early years, Eat-Play-Sleep-Repeat is the only mantra.

What does the Waldorf philosophy recommend in the first cycle?

So what is needed to foster the healthy development of the child’s body? Rhythm, Sleep, Nutrition, Movement, and Warmth- these are the FIVE golden keys of parenting, as suggested by Helle Heckmann who has been running an early child care center in Denmark for the last 30 years.
Let us look at these 5 things which are all a child requires until the age 7:

Rhythm

What is rhythm? Why do we need rhythm? How can we build a rhythm?

  • We find rhythms in nature – daily, weekly, monthly and yearly
  • Setting up a Rhythm is essential in daily life- it establishes security in children- life must be predictable rather than full of surprises for children. Repeating your daily routines at the same of the day is known as a day rhythm.

Examples to include in your daily rhythm Wake up, Bath time, Meal time, Indoor Play with Open-Ended Playthings, Washing vessels, Cleaning the house, Putting things away, Peeling fruits, Eating them, Gardening and so on.

  • Modern life causes hindrance to build rhythms- automatic washers, dryers- we can stock up loads of clothes and wash any time, without regard to weekly rhythms. Children no longer see the tasks of daily life in a process.
  • Irregularities in rhythms create illness.
  • Rhythms are a gift from nature. We will talk about monthly and yearly rhythms in a different blog.


Sleep

Modern day throws up the challenge of not enough sleep, a worldwide issue.

  • Set up a regular sleep time-children begin to feel drowsy, saying a prayer, story, lighting candle-switch off lights and gadgets.
  • Every child needs 12 hrs of continuous sleep to rejuvenate- children’s rhythm should be such that they should wake up on their own and don’t need an external alarm.
  • A lot of physical and mental development happens during sleep.
  • Sufficient physical movement helps children fall asleep.

Nutrition

What is the right nutrition??

  • We eat to live! Lack of proper fuel can cause hyperactivity, poor mental ability, obesity, malnutrition & so on.
  • Food habits are determined by yearly seasonal cycles & how climate influences crops. We must eat what is grown locally (where we live) at that time of the year. Nature provides what is needed for us from the natural vegetation in any given place.
  • Include wholesome ingredients for breakfast, lunch & dinner. Reduce spices, salts & sugar. Avoid refined, processed, fried food.
  • Make it a habit to eat together vs eating in front of a TV.


Movement/ Play

What are the games you played as a child? Today’s children sit far too much!

  • Movement and Speech development are so interrelated- Movement in early years lays the foundation for walking, speaking, thinking
  • Free movement: WALKING- cross coordination helps build a connection between the left & right brain/ cerebral hemispheres. Running, climbing trees, falling are very important.
  • Indoor play should allow children to explore and play with natural open-ended playthings like wooden blocks, pebbles, peg dolls, pods from the tree, cotton fabrics and so on. We will talk about the finer motor skill development in a later blog.


Warmth/ Love/ Care

  • Essential clothing- comfortable for child to move about freely, loose fitting-not tight, Child should be able to become dirty without thinking about fashion accessories. Avoid poor quality clothes, invest in good cotton clothes. Cotton is child friendly and appropriate for our climate. You should be worried if you get a clean child home, end of day.
  • Hat during sunny days and proper footwear!
  • Children play best when they don’t worry about their bodies.
  • Play helps in healthy development of inner organs, social skills, creativity and imagination.


Waldorf parenting or slow parenting for me, is a lifestyle! If you were born in the 80’s or before, go back to your childhood and recollect your earliest memories. All you did was eat-play-sleep-repeat, compared to a child today, who is bombarded with an overload of information through books, activities, some 100 toy options, packaged food, screen time, worksheets, tests in the early years. Today’s children sit more than move around to play. If you ask a speech therapist, he would also say speech is related to movement and today’s children don’t move as much as we did!

Homeschooling is an overhyped term in recent times, thanks to social media! Not sending a 2 year to school is now called homeschooling. Homeschooling is not bringing school work to home. I would say be a mother, slow down, be with your child, give time, give warmth, cook fresh food, eat at the right time and play with your child. Your child needs you, not a teacher! Early childhood happens only once, it is precious!

Originally written by Divya B A for Babychakra: the-world-of-waldorf-homeschooling

 

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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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Our Parenthood Journey…

2 yrs ago, I was in the hospital waiting for Sinchana to be born.. We waited for 41 weeks, yet she did not choose to come out and we had to force her! I knew then, that in life, she will always be pushed to do things she not ready for! They say each pregnancy is different and each child is different, yet people expect everyone to behave in a normal way! Everyone think it is funny to advice young couples to plan for kids, in reality no one prepares you for what actually happens when you are pregnant and when the child is born, all you see is a glossy image.. You are made to believe that everyone goes through this and it is acceptable and normal! I did not have it easy, nor did my husband.. It was a very emotional bumpy journey for both of us.
Our education system and society focuses on all the useless things except educating us on raising children in a developmentally appreciate way. We had ‘aunties’ advising us on which oil we should use for massaging the baby, what I should eat, how I must remove drishti(bad eye) each time I admire my own child, how my child should sleep and so on. But no one cares if the mother was happy, empowered and content within. I believe our ancestors knew the art of raising children and we have a lot to learn from them, but sorry, the knowledge is now a mere orthodox belief and is forced on us with a fear.
The first year after Sinchana was born was the toughest year in my life! We chose an alternative route to raise our child and we had an objection from every person around us, we only survived because of Abhay’s positive beliefs that we are doing the right thing. Second year was more comfortable, as I experimented all the theory I learnt when I was working in waldorf kindergarten, it gave a good parents perspective and we really enjoyed the independence of raising Sinchana without much interference from the society. Abhay and I are always willing to learn and change to give a better life for Sinchana. We discuss, we laugh, we argue, we disagree and agree… There is great need for both parents to be on same page while raising a child. I am very proud of Abhay, he does everything a father should do and doesn’t believe that some work are to be done by mothers/women only. He also gives me examples of how his mother managed to be strong and raised her children as a single parent.
Tomorrow(9th march) Sinchana turns 2, the actual adventure begins Now as she steps into toddlerhood, ‘terrible twos’ as some people call it.. But we are willing to learn more and do the best in the coming year. End of the day, a child learns by watching, both parents need to set an example which is worthy of imitation.

Thanks to all the people who supported us in our journey and listened to our thoughts(lecture) over the last few years 🙂

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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.