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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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Indian Story Books Recommended for 0-2 Years

I am often asked, what story books do I recommend for infants and toddlers. So here is my story… My toddler wakes up very early in the morning, this allows her to watch all the morning activities at home. Brushing, preparing coffee, cutting vegetables, preparing breakfast and so on. She then eats her breakfast (typical south Indian breakfast) and sets off to play in the balcony, there she watches the birds chirping, dogs barking and if she is lucky, she will sight a cat too. The days when my mom or mother in law visit us, they would prepare the breakfast and she loves both of them pampering her! In my mother in law’s house, she loves to walk in the garden and look at the flowers, bees and butterflies. After her lunch and nap in the noon, we usually try our best to walk down in our society and also play in the park. My daughter loves to explore sand rather than swing or slide and I just let her be. We would return home and have a quick wash followed by an early dinner and then we have our storytime with her favorite stash of books before she is off to bed.

Considering this being a typical day in an infant or toddler’s life, I would pick books that have well-thought illustrations of stories that speak about the child’s immediate surroundings and rhythms. Like preparing dosa, beautiful red flower, chirping birds, warmth of family, lush green garden, pets following you and so on. These are more appropriate content for 0-2 years as children are still exploring their environment and they can relate well when the stories speak about things they can physically see, feel and hear.

Children pick up language so quickly when you say stories regularly to them. Do refer to my earlier post on how you could start reading to children. It’s best to begin saying stories in your mother tongue or translate the English stories in your own words. Indian books from Tulika and Pratham have a large variety of books in regional languages.

I have shortlisted the best books available for 0-2 years. I hope your child enjoys them as much as mine did 🙂

 

Akkad Bakkad: Adorable book for toddlers! It is themed after the Indian rhymes/songs like Akkad bakkad bumbai bo- A wacky lot of numbers have the time of their life in this all-time favourite Punjabi rhyme! A must have!

Gajapati Kulapati: This is one of the most popular book, so popular that they have part 1, 2 and 3 🙂 This book has a mention of all the people we see on our street regularly.. banana seller, flower seller paati, akka, anna, postman. All children and adults love Gajapati, kudos to Ashok Rajagopalan to come up with this lovely series.

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Goodnight: Baby Elephant has decided to sleep in his parents’ bed tonight. But, despite his inventive arguments, Papa Elephant is categorical, our young hero must sleep in his own room. But when it’s time to sleep, the little fellow decides to sneak in…a whimsical and charming tale!

Mala’s silver anklets: You can find Mala in every house literally, adorning the jingle-ful silver anklets! It is one of our favorites… we love the common man’s scooter that appa has, simple everyday clothes that Mala dresses up with, Mala’s two plaits with ribbons and Ajji’s traditional tawa and dosa! Imagine how a child will feel to hear a story about little pleasures of life 🙂

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Where is Amma: Oh the beautiful watercolour illustrations! Little Kiran looks for his mother all through the house… room, balcony, kitchen… just take a look at the kitchen, richness of an Indian home can be seen here…. my little one recognises the grrrr…(mixer), kauck(coconut), kakari(tharkari) and all the little things this book offers.

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Pooni Pooni: A charming find-it book for toddlers, from the creator of the other bestselling Pooni books, ‘Where’s That Cat?’ and ‘Pooni at the Taj Mahal’.

Let’s Go: Perfect book for children who love vehicles, we see them around us and a child can associate so well, also has numbers if you want to introduce it to your toddlers.Remember not to expect a toddler to understand the value of numbers yet, he may only repeat the numbers just like another sound he learns.

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Juniour Kumbhakarna: Every night, Kukku wants his father to tell him his favourite story. It is about the giant Kumbhakarna who sleeps non-stop for six months — and Kukku falls asleep just as Kumbhakarna does. In Kukku’s dream, everyone is trying everything to wake up the giant. Nothing works . . . A lively retelling of an episode from the Ramayana with wildly funny pictures.

Little Fingers : When ten little fingers come together, they make many things happen. In playful verse, with bright uncluttered visuals, this story draws children into a game of all that their busy fingers can do.

You may buy these books from my eStore www.mylittlebookshop.in I will add more titles to this list as and when I find the books are available and have appropriate content.

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Introducing Books To Little Children

Frankly, there is no one formula to raise children. Each child is different and we all know that! Yet, we adults compare our children with others with regards to achieving milestones – eating, sleeping, reading, writing, and so on.

Here, I will talk about reading story books!  Yes, not all children have an interest in books and it should not be forced because we want them to read books. Having said that, books if introduced at an early stage is definitely an advantage in the long run!

My association as a teacher with a popular kindergarten in Bangalore helped me develop an interest in children’s storybooks and how it supports their development. I began to buy storybooks from the local stores in my city and gifted a stash of books to my 2.5 years old nephew back then. Every day, we sat down for our story time and read out the same 4-5 picture books. Translating the words in our mother tongue, simple and easy words to recollect and their repetition helped him connect to the books instantly. Eventually, he started to come to me with those books after his outdoor play. We had a fixed time and space for reading books.

Kannada Books from Tulika
This set of Tulika books is a good recommendation if you’re looking for stories in Kannada.

I gradually added a few more books and as he grew bigger and joined kindergarten, he was compelled to communicate in English and he did not like it a bit! I then started reading the same old stories in English and he would understand as he already knew the storyline and did not need an explanation.  He would often ask me to use our mother tongue and I would do so but continued English until he was comfortable. He then learned phonics and started recognizing words in the storybooks, he eventually read all the books on his own and that is when we got him a large collection of books! Today, he is 9 years old and loves sports more than books 🙂

With my daughter, we introduced picture books when she was 9 months old and she instantly loved the pictures and could associate words/sounds with pictures in the story book. She is 15 months now and continues to enjoy us reading books to her in our mother tongue. When we are not around, she flips through the pages herself during the day and tries to repeat certain sounds with the pictures she sees. Our usual story time would be just after her dinner time. Board books like Pooni, Pooni Where Are You? are also some favourite first reads with little ones.

Reading

There are numerous ways to introduce books to little children. Do try what worked for me and let me know if it helped. Tweak as you go along to suit what you and your baby are comfortable with.

You may introduce picture books, books with simple vocabulary, content which children can relate to their day to day surroundings, books which have rhythmic lines, and so on. I’ve included some favourites recommended by parents on the MLB Circle of Parents community:

Using props like the My Little Bookshop finger puppets, wooden animals or wooden peg dolls will help you enhance story times with your little ones in a really creative way. Also, our Story Kits are another fun option to try out with children. Bringing stories alive in your own way will create priceless one-of-a-kind experiences for your child. So do not hold yourself back, read aloud to your child, laugh together at the stories, and make memories for a lifetime.

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What Kind Of Stories To Tell Children (Part 3)

Seasonal Stories

We all live in a world full of rhythms. Rhythms are of different types – daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. My focus in the current post is on yearly rhythms. Festivals and Seasons and birthdays occur rhythmically, once every year. They can be great starting points for story narrations. Tell the child stories about these events that  occur every year during the seasons -summer, rain, fall, and winter; festivals -Pongal, Ganesha Chaturthi, Diwali, Christmas; Children cherish stories about their own birth and homecoming.

Children feel a sense of belonging in these stories as they can see the elements of the story right in front of them and relate to them. You may start narrating seasonal stories to babies, children 1-6 years. By repeating these topics every year during the season or festival, children understand deeply about their environment and culture. For example, you can speak to a  toddler about Rain in a simple way. Talk about how the raindrops falls down slowly and the ground gets wet. Observe how all the animals, birds and people who run to take shelter from the rain. This can be done by observing surrounding or supported by picture books. There are several beautiful books that discuss these everyday happenings.
Sunu Sunu Snail Storm in the GardenSunu-sunu the snail is playing in the garden with his friends, the ants. Suddenly there is a storm. He ‘hurries’ home to his mother and tells her all he saw and heard.
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The Red Umbrella It’s raining. What happens when seven animals have to share one small umbrella?
Red Umbrella
Little Frog is about a frog who asks his mother when it will rain. When the sky is dark with clouds, his mother replies. Every day of the week, Little Frog looks up at the sky and awaits the rain. It is also a story about days of the week, things you can see in the sky, and other creatures
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Raindrops: From her window, little Anju sees familiar scenes of a rainy day – cloudy skies, umbrellas, puddles… Raindrops
Let’s Catch the Rain: The author plays with big monsoon clouds and the message is simple: rainwater is free, pure and precious, Let us save it.
If you are narrating to a 4+, you may add new Vocabulary and further details about how the clouds are formed with water and once the two clouds bump into each other, it rains. You can also talk about the magical rainbows.
You can connect the season with the festivals celebrated in that season and their significance. In this way, we connect the season with the celebrations associated with it. We can build seasonal stories as they grow. I have some lovely storybooks on Festival- Amma Tell Me Books
Grandparents and parents have their own version of stories related to the birth of Krishna, how he ate the sand, how he lifted the Govardhan hill with his fingertip. Children love to see all the preparations that take place during festivals.  Children of the Christian faith and Muslim faith love to see the rituals and preparations that are marked by Christmas or Eid respectively.
I have had the pleasure of seeing children bring these stories alive into their pretend play. This indicates the child is absorbing the stories and need not be questioned. I advise parents to watch and enjoy, but not interrupt to correct them. Observe children deepen their understanding in their play, conversations, and gestures. We may only awaken the little souls from the dreamy state by questioning their intellect.
Rhythms are integral to life and by narrating stories of rhythm and helping children observe them in their daily lives, we are imparting an important lesson gently. Children respond to this soothing cycles of rhythm by seeking their own and building their center of calm and quietude.
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Best-selling Books at My Little Bookshop

In my journey of curating children’s story books from Indian publishers, I have come across several books (Mainly Tulika and Pratham) and it has been an immense learning experience for me. There is so much richness in Indian books which cannot be found in any other foreign publications. Our illustrators and writers have really done a great job and it’s definitely worth having a good number of Indian story books in your child’s library.

People often get overwhelmed when they look at my Stock list although I try to limit the collection, some look for options and variety and I try to satisfy my customers/buyers as much as possible. In terms of Storyline and Illustrations, I have tried my best to arrive at the best-selling books at My Little bookshop. Trust me it has been a hard selection and I hope you all appreciate them as much as I did.

Fifteen Best-selling Tulika Books

  1. Sunu sunu, snail in the garden (2-7 years)
  2. Where is Amma (1-6 years)
  3. Mala’s silver anklets (1-6 years)
  4. A Book is a Bee (2-7 years)
  5. A Home Of Our Own(2-7 years)
  6. Gajapati Kulapati (0-6 years)
  7. Why Why Girl (6-10 years)
  8. Let’s go (1-6 years)
  9. A Walk with Thambi (6-10 years)
  10. Raindrops (2-7 years)
  11. Kasturba (6-10 years)
  12. Junior Kumbhakarna (1-6 years)
  13. The Red Umbrella (1-6 years)
  14. Carry me mama (1-6 years)
  15. Tiji and Cheenu (1-6 years)
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What Kind of Stories to Tell Children (Part 1 & 2)

Well, there are many theories about reading stories, since I’m from Waldorf background and that I have worked with this Philosophy in the kindergarten, I believe storytelling can be studied and understood in depth.

Reading a book to a young child is a very different experience from telling a story. Sensing a child’s need to hear a story coming directly from them, it can be a great experience to break free of written words and speak a tale from memory.

Today I would like to suggest one of the topics which can be used for infants and toddlers (0-3 years)

Stories from Nature

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You may weave simple story about the Flower in your garden, the Butterfly which came to visit the Flowers, the Crow sitting on the Tree opposite to your house, the Sun, Moon and Rain… They do not require to understand the scientific explanations in these nature stories. Benefits of saying nature stories is that your child sees the same flowers, trees, birds, cats and dogs everyday in her immediate environment.. so she can relate to these stories better than stories about a snowman, penguin, crocodile, flamingo which your child might not see in his environment. It also brings a sense of security to the child when the story is repeated often.

These stories can be modified for 3+ children by adding more details to the story with rich vocabulary(verbs and adjectives).

Telling stories to children helps in language development, imagination, creativity and much more. Have you ever wondered how children learn language? Do they start with ABC, no! It is through everyday conversations and listening to stories. Grammar too is learnt by using the language in your everyday conversations, not through books or flash cards!

Stories from your personal life

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Here children love to relate to your childhood, Where did you live? Who did you play with? Who and what did you love? As you share your real life incidents with them, they especially study your feelings. They need to hear their whole family group spoken of with loving and positive interest. Children can learn from us to respect and empathise with other family members.

Choose one memory and prepare to tell this as a little story. Children can make impressions of the stories you say which may deeply influence their adult life.

Try to have one meal a day together as a family, share these little stories during meal -time or when you spend time together as a family. This will indeed bring about family bonding, a sense of warmth and love among children.

The stories told are an important legacy you will leave your child in terms of a world-view. Storytelling also helps children satisfy their curiosity or bring out latent feelings. The precious thread of storytelling strengthen the parent-child bond.

Also Read : What kind of stories to tell children (part-3) and Reading story books