Riding Transitions with Little Children


Some experiences are universally relatable. 

Your toddler is happily prancing in the living room when you enter the scene to tell her she has to wear pants to go to school right away. She runs away from you only to have you chase her around while she wails and screams in protest. 

Your baby is playing peek-a-boo with a friend in the park and you realise it’s time for lunch and pick him up to head back indoors. He kicks his legs, arches his back and defies you with all his might. 

Minute Changes

Transitions are a normal part of life. We make several transitions as we go through our day. We go from leaving a gripping story halfway to having dinner; we go from playing tennis with a friend to heading back home. We navigate such transitions effortlessly because we have an understanding of time and can reason through the changes. We know it is time to shift gears to something else and cannot keep reading the book, however gripping it maybe. But, say, you plan on painting for the next hour while you receive a call saying there’s an emergency. Now, you need to rush to the hospital. How do you go from being that calm person who thought she can happily paint to becoming this serious person who now has to rush to the hospital?

Typically, after the initial shock, we resort to reason and mental chatter. We talk to ourselves rationally, “Okay, take deep breaths! My friend has met with an accident! Let me pack up my easel and paint. Now, what do I need to do? I need to turn off the kettle which is boiling water for my tea. Next, let me call my friend’s family. I can then change my clothes and drive to the ER.”

Our mental chatter and our rational brain takes charge during transitions and help us ride these efficiently.

Why do children struggle? 

But, children cannot effortlessly glide through transitions like we do. They react to this change that forces them to break-free from their momentum and recenter in a different direction. Children have neither the words for mental chatter nor the complexity of thoughts for brooding that we resort to during transitions. What they have are feelings – big feelings – that protest against change: this fun book has ended and I feel sad. I don’t want it to end.

So, how can we help children navigate these transitions as smoothly as they possibly can? 

Plan A : Daily Rhythm & Preparing in Advance

There is something about the rhythm of daily life that acts as a balm during transitions. When we have a somewhat predictable rhythm to our child’s day, they know what is coming next. They know they usually head outdoors once they wake up from nap. So, they don’t have as much trouble in getting their footwear even if they are mildly groggy from having just woken up.

However, some transitions are more abrupt and less predictable. Such transitions require a little more preparation from our end. It is ideal if we can prepare them in advance, “ I know I usually drop you off at school but today I won’t be able to drop you. Appa will drop you instead. I will be there to pick you up.”  

Plan B : Transition Blocks

If we neither have the balm of daily rhythm nor the time to prepare children in advance, we need to resort to the second option. Let them feel what they need to as they navigate through this unprepared transition – “I understand you feel awful that we have to say bye-bye to your friend. But, we will see her again next week. Would you like to give her a hug now?” Letting children have their feelings expressed is so important for us and them to acknowledge the emotions triggered by the transition. As they have these big feelings, we can offer them the words to reassure them. Instead of stopping them from crying or wailing, “Stop. You are making a scene now,” we can soothe them through the transition.

Another essential ingredient during abrupt (sometimes all) transitions are blocks of time to help children ride the change. We often expect children to magically accept the change of momentum and move on. They simply cannot move on from the book to eating a snack the way we do. Instead, offering them transition blocks to simply ride that change, and get used to the change is incredibly useful. Time gifts them that space to feel what they are feeling and readies their mind for the change. 

Feelings are not a side component of a life well lived; they are the essential ways we live as a whole embodied being. 

Daniel Siegel, The Science and Practice of Presence. 

Change is one of those futile things about life that we simply cannot control. We learn to accept them and that’s what we want children to learn. But, children are not there yet. They live in the present moment which means they are not thinking of the million other things that need to be done after dinner. They are unable to rationalise through the transition as their brains are not ready for such tasks. They savor the now. So, we must give them the extra helping of time and our soothing words to ride that change as best as they can. And, if in the process, they wail and protest, then we need to give them a safe space to do so.

More than just Boxed Cereal – Why do Babies need Diverse Flavors?


The joy that every parent derives in offering their itty bitty babies first tastes of solid foods is hard to put into words. Every culture, every society celebrates this initiation with the choicest foods. For example, in Tamil culture this is called அன்னபிரசன்னம் (Annaprasana), which loosely translates to “offering rice” – one of the most treasured grains in Southern India. This is an intimate ceremony with loved ones present and amongst this group of family, the baby, decked in glorious clothes, is lovingly offered tastes of sweetened rice. This marks the baby’s first foray into the social and cultural experience of eating.

“Already, by thirteen weeks, the taste buds are mature. A thirteen-week-old foetus weighs maybe an ounce, with no fat under the skin, no air in the lungs. Yet already they can not only swallow but taste, and these sips of fluid leave memories. We are all born with echoes of our mother’s diet, which means that no one is a totally blank slate when it comes to flavour.”

Bee Wilson : First Bite – How we Learn to Eat

What are today’s First Foods?

Since food is deeply social, we expect that these first foods will represent the child’s culture. Yet, in the last 100 years, we have made a drastic shift in the kind of foods we offer our babies. Today, most babies the world over share the same first foods. Whereas, merely a few decades ago, pounding millet flour in South India was common, today, we buy Cerelac off the shelf. Somehow, companies have convinced us that it is better to leave baby food preparation to the experts – and have even convinced us that “banana powder” counts for fruit! 

Maybe as a consequence of being provided to babies across the world, boxed cereals are bland and use highly refined flour. To these, we are told to add pureed vegetables and fruit from bejewelled jars of varying colors. These jars contain blends – beets, bananas and blueberries form a sweet tasting purplish-blue mish-mash. Alternatively, you could get kale, spinach and avocado; apple, pumpkin and carrot; or peas, broccoli and pineapple. Not a single jar comes without the promise of something sweet. The aim is to provide a full nutrient profile, but by offering these blends, we end up with a single flavor profile – sweet. Apart from this, blends also combine flavors when young babies need individual experiences to appreciate what they are eating. What does beetroot taste like? Does it go well with cinnamon? Why does apple taste delicious with cinnamon? How does pumpkin go magically well with sage?

In the pursuit of conveniently providing nourishment for babies, we forget the deep social significance of food.

What could First Foods be?

Babies are incredibly curious and much more willing to try a wide variety of foods. So, first foods must be whole foods, spices and herbs. In babyhood, we want to introduce a wide range of grains starting with rice and oat cereal and gradually upgrading to whole wheat, whole oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa to millets. We must take care to offer fruits and vegetables in their whole form instead of mashing them all into pastes of exact consistencies. A few examples are broccoli broken into florets and steamed soft enough for a young baby to grasp while the same broccoli pan-seared with thyme and butter for an older baby. Corn kernels with butter for a young baby while corn on the cob buttered with paprika and lemon for an older baby.

Typically, babies accept sweet flavors because of their familiarity with breastmilk/formula, both of which are sweet tasting. So, when we offer a baby a wedge of lemon or some dandelion greens, they will be quick to grimace. This is a little like an Indian trying Peruvian food for the first time or an Ethiopian trying French food for the first time. There is no promise that any one person will immediately like the new flavors. It takes several attempts to even remember the names of some of these dishes. Bearing this in mind, our role is to repeatedly offer diverse flavors (merely offer, but never force) so babies’ palates begin to accept these tastes.

Why Diverse Flavors?

  • Babies have a sensitivity for foods

Here’s the thing. Babies experience what are called ‘sensitive periods’ for weaning. Think of these as an allure – babies experience an intense allurement for foods that they see their families eat. The entire experience of eating cultural foods – using hands, using utensils, having conversations and deriving joy over food is something babies observe from birth. So, typically, somewhere around 5-6 months, babies begin to show obvious signs of wanting to participate in this experience. This is an ideal time to effortlessly tap into their natural curiosity and offer them diverse flavours. When we miss the window of opportunity, it will be that much harder to invite them back to explore foods. 

I say harder and not impossible because, babies brains are immensely plastic and we CAN always cultivate interest in foods. But, the work is so much harder when this window crosses over. 

  • Babies are NOT neophobic

Once babies start to walk and move into toddlerhood, they begin to experience what is called neophobia – an aversion or rather, caution for new foods. Neophobia is an evolutionary trait that young toddlers (and several mammals including gorilla toddlers) use to protect themselves from potential toxins in the wild. As young toddlers can simply walk away from us, they are at a risk of taking anything to their mouths. So, this is like nature’s gift to protect them from possibly ingesting something harmful. So the wariness for ALL foods, while developmentally appropriate, is a hard obstacle to overcome for parents who are desperately trying to get their toddlers to try new foods. 

In other words, babies are more than happy to take most things (pretty much everything) to their mouths. 

  • Babies are the guardians of culture

The significance of diverse foods is supremely important because each baby is the torchbearer of grandma’s recipes, of every treasured ingredient and the safe-keeper of the intricate nuances that define their community. Our babies are the custodians of all that we hold dear. Our babies are the guardians of our identity. So, when we feed our babies, we are establishing a connection with food. We must take care to pass on not just the mechanics of eating food but also the nuances of preparing and cherishing it. 

All of babyhood is just about sowing seeds for flavors. There is really no pressure to get them to like or dislike anything. If we concluded just after 3-5 attempts what a baby prefers, we will end up with a sorry number of foods that they ‘like’. Diversifying their palates takes time and only by gradually introducing a wide range of herbs, lentils, spices and grains, can we layer their palate. It is just about investing time to get them to explore the idea of eating. Human attachment with food is far beyond nutrition and it is this whole idea that we want to present to the baby. And, as they begin to experience food in its entirety, there is a familiarity that dawns on them. They will begin to form connections in their brains for what food means in their culture and accept them gladly. 

“Like children, many of us eat what we like and we only like what we know. “It is possible to educate children in the pleasures of food; and that doing so will set the children up for a lifetime of healthy eating. Feeding is learning.”

Bee Wilson : First Bite – How we Learn to Eat

The Joy of Being Fed as a Child


More than nourishment

The memory of sitting on the terrace with your mother while she lovingly fed you and your sibling warm balls of rice with dollops of ghee from the same bowl is precious to say the least. An image of a time when you and your cousins huddled together as your grandmother fed each of you from one large plate, narrating a gripping story makes you yearn for those days. Being fed is one of the many joys of childhood because you receive love in every mouthful, in every morsel. It is an experience unlike any other. Those treasurable moments remain etched in our memories. That a simple rice and dal can be made extraordinarily tasty just by being offered by a loving adult is proof enough that  நிலா சோறு (to be fed in the moonlight) will remain a unique experience. 

We now realise that to be fed is all about experiencing love in every bite and has nothing to do with filling your stomach. 

When does feeding become a hindrance? 

Yet, somewhere, this joyful experience of being fed, of tasting love in every morsel, ends up becoming a battle. Somewhere, being fed goes from a relaxed experience to a dreaded chore. Somewhere, it goes from a luxury to a necessity. Somewhere, it goes from, “Come, let me tell you the story of Krishna and Sudama while feeding you this payasam”  to chasing our children around the house with a bowlful of dal rice, “Come here now and have one more spoon of rice or I will turn off the TV.”  Somewhere, being fed becomes a negotiation, a battle of wills, a bribe. Somewhere, we lose the plot. 

It is the same adults who have made this joyful experience into a battle. We have turned this cherishable connection into one filled with exhaustion and tears. Our reasons, as practical as they are- from lack of time to fatigue over cleaning up after a child or the disappearance of the family meal to disbelief that a child can feed themselves – have been enough to convert being fed into one of the most long-drawn out experiences of parenthood. 

Being fed is NOT the most natural way to eat

When we think of eating itself, the most natural way to eat is when we feed ourselves. As uncoordinated or more rightly, less-coordinated as young children are, it is incredibly important that they learn to feed themselves. The fact that a child learns they can satiate their hunger by taking a spoonful of food to their mouth cannot be dismissed as ordinary. Feeding oneself is about choice. We never give this idea much thought. We rarely think of feeding ourselves as having any significance. Yet, with each mouthful of food, we are making a choice to nourish ourselves. 

So, self-feeding needs to be woven into the rhythm of the child’s everyday life. Thankfully, life as it happens rhythmically weaves in plenty of repetition. We do the same things over and over each day and when we extend children the opportunity to feed themselves, they can start to gain more coordination. They can start to make sense of what it means to eat. Simply having a place at the table for them, giving them the opportunity to eat with a real plate like ours, using spoons, forks, serving ladles and all the nice touches of the adult world will give them a chance to practice and refine their coordination. 

Finding a Balance

Children need to see us eat. Social eating is a learned art. To take food to your mouth and chew, to learn how to tear a piece of dosa and dunk it in some sambar, to crack the boiled groundnut to get the seed from within, to twirl the long strands of spaghetti round your fork well enough to get it into your mouth is simply learned. No amount of watching or being fed is ever going to replace the simplicity of just becoming hands-on and trying these on their own. 

Where else can children learn how to eat than by watching the adults in their lives? Where else can children peacefully practice and hone these unique eating habits than by being seated with their family? 

“But we haven’t paid anything like enough attention to another consequence of being omnivores, which is that eating is not something we are born instinctively knowing how to do, like breathing. It is something we learn.”

Bee Wilson First Bite : How we learn to eat

As you can see, being fed does not offer any of these opportunities. Whereas eating together by feeding yourself lets you belong and blend into a culture, being fed is a culture by itself, a tradition of its own accord. That you know a dosa is respectfully eaten by hand while a crepe is tactfully eaten using a fork and knife is proof that you have watched others do this and have also  eaten in this same manner. It is a separate experience – a lot less to do with food and a lot more to do with bonding. And, it ought to remain so. We feed children not as a way to stop or distract children from learning to eat by themselves but always as a way to bond with them. There are also those days when children simply cannot meet expectations of sitting at the table long enough to feed themselves -you get delayed in traffic, they are incredibly irritable and need to eat before sleeping, they are unwell and need to eat. These are moments when we do choose to feed them. And, we need feel no guilt over this. The food that we lovingly feed them in those moments is deeply emotional. We feed the child every mouthful by wishing nothing but health and nourishment for them. There are layers of love to this feeding and we mustn’t deny children (or ourselves) this experience. 

While self-feeding is simply the real deal when it comes to eating as social beings, we mustn’t forget the simplistic joy of being fed. In our quest to honor independent feeding, in our quest to vocalise the importance of respecting the child’s boundaries, we have squashed the cultural warmth of feeding a child. These are indeed unique to childhood and we do not want to deny them for children. It is important that we understand self-feeding to be the most natural way for a child to eat, as it is for us to eat. But, feeding  a child is beyond eating. It is simply granting our children the joys of childhood. 

Food is also about pleasure, about community, about family and spirituality, about our relationship to the natural world and about expressing our identity. As long as humans have been taking meals together, eating has been as much about culture as it has been about biology. 

Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food

Simple Ways to Layer Experiences for Young Children


We talk plenty about offering children rich experiences. Experiences lay the foundation for millions of neuronal connections in children’s brains. Naturally, they are important. Yet, an experience alone simply cannot foster intricate connections unless we layer these experiences one atop another. It is layering of each experience, more importantly, how we layer them, that will help children weave a big web of connections. These connections will then give way to self-directed exploration and comprehension. 

The Experience Itself 

We begin with the experience itself. When we take a 13 month old into the woods and simply let the child lead us, we will know instantly what attracts their attention. They might run towards a fallen pinecone, they might walk up and down a pile of crunchy leaves or halt in their tracks with  wide-open eyes on hearing the raucous hammering of a woodpecker. 

This is the experience taking over the child’s whole being. And, our job is to let the child be drenched in that experience. Simply share that moment together. 


Yet, when we stop at experiencing that experience, the moment will be lost when the child moves onto something else. We need to seize that moment once the child has had the taste of it and relay it – “Wow, what was that loud noise? Did you hear it? I think I heard it in that direction. Come with me, let’s go have a look at what that was.” And, we now take the child along and feed that curiosity stemming from the experience. “Look at that, that is a woodpecker. Do you see it’s beak? Look how sharp it is. It is pecking away at the tree.” 

Relaying the experience expands on it almost instantly. We do not want to miss this opportunity because the experience is fresh and happening as we sportscast it. 

Young preschool children have a natural curiosity and the desire to make sense of their world. They don’t need learning that originates outside of themselves but are well-prepared to learn from everything around them—their environment is the curriculum. A good teacher creates a “responsive learning environment” that is full of opportunities to play and explore, while weaving instruction into activities in naturally occurring ways. But this requires teachers who are highly skilled—who understand development, can connect with children, and can create and feel into learning moments on the fly.

Erika Christakis, What Preschoolers Really Need From Grownups


Once the experience is complete and we are back from the woods, as adults, we typically tend to move on with our lives. But, what brings back those experiences? What could possibly take the child back to the woods? 

Our minds instantly go to the incredible power of imagination yet many young children may not be as adept or ready to travel too far in their minds. So, we want to make use of a few props from our experience to facilitate that recollection and connection – a pine cone from the woods or a large piece of bark would work just enough. We need just enough to bring back the memories, to trigger further conversations and rekindle the excitement. We could even rely on photographs, illustrations or paintings. Using one of these, we narrate again and again adding ever more details and expanding on the experience – “Remember, we went to the woods the other day? Do you remember what we saw? I still have the two pine cones we collected from there. Let’s have a look at them.” And, now we use this as an opportunity to layer the experience furthermore. “This is a closed pine cone. It has tiny sharp needles jutting out from it. Look at this other pine cone, it is open. These are the scales. Do you see how sharp they feel? We must be careful while handling them or the needles might poke us.” 

When we have memorabilia, we can always revisit them to recollect the experience. And we must revisit them several times to make sure the layer is sturdy. 

Songs & Stories

From this point on, we can expand using the expansive world of songs and stories. Is it possible to find a book on pine cones or a book on woodpeckers? Can you find a way for your child to browse through different woodpeckers by putting together a picture series? Can you find a way for your child listen to the sound of a woodpecker? Is it possible to make art using the pinecones? These are all ways to further the experience by adding multiple expansive layers. 

We can always revisit the place of the experience, in this case, the woods, but this time the child will not be a novice. They will be so much more aware. There will be so much more to look for, to pay attention to and learn from. 

A Walk through the Woods by Louis Greig

For young children, it is not just the experience but the layering that make it last. An experience is too fleeting unless we expand on it, recollect it, speak extensively about it and build stories around it. We simply cannot reap the most out of it unless we invest more in it. So, our role as adults is to be the bridge that will connect our children to the world. We must feed that curiosity, nurture that enthusiasm and show them ways to explore so they can take it further. 

Eliminating Clutter in Children’s Lives


How did I end up with so much?

In today’s world, the coming of a baby is a reminder for lists – we make long and winding lists with toys, books, mattresses, clothes, shoes and some more toys. This is our way of preparing for the sea of changes that are to overtake us; our way of welcoming the baby. The fact that we can simply stretch back on our couch and click ‘buy’ has completely changed the way we shop. There is no longer that extra effort of going into a store to buy the stacking cups or the exhaustion of waiting in line to hold us back. Shopping for something is tailored to be as comfortable as sitting on the couch.

But, soon, we are left with an overabundance of stuff – a by-product of an overabundance of choice – that has no specific place in our homes or our lives. Clutter creeps into our lives unawares – a result of the impulsive wants that we don’t need. It is also, sadly, the side effects of a materialistic society that equates ‘things’ with richness.

As we look at how best to organise all our stuff, we cannot help but wonder how we ended up with so much. 

Clutter & its many forms

On one hand, we have physical clutter. The stuff that we can actually see – the sea of books and toys that overtake our living rooms, bathrooms, beds and that forgotten spot under the staircase. Each year, in the United States alone, 600,000 children’s books are published. Could we possibly want them all? Or are we depriving our children of something if we don’t buy them all?

On the other hand, we have mental clutter. All that stuff we cannot see yet which occupy our thoughts, interfering with our ability to focus, to just be. Our minds are crowded by umpteen parenting styles – the latest research on child development, the newest article (this included!) on how to nurture children. While some of these ideas may be beneficial, how many do we really need? Often, too many ideas interfere with our natural parenting rhythms because all the outside voices make it difficult for us to hear our own voice. 

What does clutter do?

↑ cortisol

When there is too much stuff lying around the home, there is a continuous increase in cortisol – a stress hormone. Typically, cortisol rises in the morning to stimulate activity and gradually drops by mid-afternoon as children head towards the end of their day. But, when there is clutter, the brain continues to produce increasing amounts of cortisol which begin to over-stimulate children, contributing to high energy and affecting their emotional state. 

↓ exploration 

Naturally, when there is an overabundance of stuff, children struggle to explore because they cannot settle down on ‘what’ they want to explore. They go through fragmented exploration by jumping from one to another, unable to stay with any. This kind of play puts children in a loop of distracted exploration. It neither gives enough time with one object to send feedback to the brain nor gives a chance to concentrate.

↓ harmony

A home should ideally allow for engagement, bonding and the space to think and be ourselves. When there is an abundance of stuff, children want to give energy to everything in sight. This often triggers parents who are also navigating through all the stuff (both physical and mental). Parents, then, are less patient and more prone to reaction. Because of all this, a home, instead of being restorative, ends up creating disharmony. 

An overabundance of possessions that collectively create chaotic and disorderly living spaces can impact mental health. It is this danger of clutter, the totality of one’s possessions being so overwhelming that chips away at your well-being, relationships, and more, drowning in a sea of stuff. As clutter grows, and demands more attention, everything else that’s important gets forced out of your life! 

Joseph Ferrari, The Dark Side of Home: 

↓ rhythm

Young children thrive on some level of predictability to feel secure. Simple things like finding their plate in the second drawer of the cubby or finding their toothbrush on the left cabinet in the bathroom gives them a sense of calm because they feel secure in knowing. Clutter erases this kind of predictability because clutter sits anywhere. It has no home and belongs each day, each moment in some part of the house. Clutter for children is antithesis to clarity.

How can we manage clutter? 

Reduce – Rotate – Recycle 

The first (& honestly, the most difficult) step is to reduce buying. How many toys can a child play with? And more importantly, how many are we willing to buy in a year? What message are we communicating by constantly providing a range of stuff? There are so many books and toys available in the market for children that we will always feel like we are offering them less. But, less is good. Can they have that one book on leaves and instead explore the other parts of a plant by spending time outdoors? We feel a need to spell everything out for children,  robbing them of experiencing these through self-exploration. 

“Gather all their toys, half them, then half them again, then perhaps, once more.”

Kim John Payne, Simplicity Parenting, Sage Family Podcast

Rotate what is available instead of having everything  accessible all the time. Some young children need a maximum of 2-4 items and anything more will overwhelm them. Some other children can lend their attention to one item even if there are 5-6 available. So, watch for the ideal range of toys that your children are able to handle and keep only those many available. Swap them once you feel their interest waning with something else from storage. Leave room for boredom and refrain from keeping something always available. 

Before buying, ask around if friends and family have anything meaningful for your child to play with. Once your child is done exploring, save their toys to offer to other children that you know of. Saving one or two of their cherished toys for sentiment, recycling the rest is a helpful way to move on. It also models the practice of sharing to our children.

Access – Play – Cleanup 

We need to have some system of storing children’ items in cupboards with easy access and keeping a few out on a shelf or the bottom rack of the centre table or even a simple mat. Keeping a few out neatly shows respect for the toys and books. And when these items have a designated spot in the house, it is easier to model bringing the items out for play and putting them back once done. This helps children take ownership for their tasks and when they know where to put them back, they are much more likely to fall into the habit of cleaning up. 

From “My child really needs that!” to “Does my child really need that?

Every single thing out there for children carries a label that makes it impossible for us to walk away from. But, do we really need them all? The next time we feel our children need something, remember, the more we accumulate, the less space we keep for ourselves and our children. Afterall, when there is more, less can stand out and when there is less, more can stand out. 

Virtual Learning & Social Isolation : A Professional Perspective

professional perspectives

In the past few months, globally, we have had to make some drastic changes in the way we live our lives. Even the most routine things such as working, shopping for groceries, going to school and meeting family and friends have been severely impacted. This, amongst other worries, has also created an anxiety in parents ranging from how their children will learn virtually to how their babies might react to social contact without the experience of any. 

So, I reached out to Dr. Abhishek Bala, MD. to share with us his thoughts on some of these issues.

Hello Abhishek. Thank you for the taking time out to share some insight with all our readers. Please tell us a little about yourself.

Thank you so much. I have been reading Srishti and have found the blog to be insightful and supportive to caregivers. I truly appreciate the calming and mindful approach that you take to communicate such important topics. 

As for my background, I completed my MD and Masters of Public Health and am based in Michigan where I am doing my Psychiatry Residency and Fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. I have been part of some global mental health ventures while seeing kids and families everyday as part of my training and practice. Just trying to keep busy and stay balanced during the pandemic like we all are.

Parents and children are in uncharted territory during this pandemic. As someone who works with children everyday, what are some common concerns you are seeing?

Currently, the main theme of my conversations with patients are surrounding reopening of schools.  There are several discussions happening at the dinner table these days where plans from fulltime schooling, hybrid schooling, and home schooling are all being explored. Indeed, these are difficult conversations with various pros/cons and without a seemingly satisfactory solution. Over these past few months, kids and parents have also expressed their concerns about being cooped up at home all day. As a result, I have seen some worsening frustration tolerance in kids who have difficulties with inattention and hyperactivity. Kids who find social interactions protective in overcoming feelings of depression have also been particularly affected. We’ve had to explore other avenues for them to facilitate interpersonal communication that helps maintain a level of motivation and energy conducive to daily functioning. An interesting trend I have observed is that some children with social anxiety disorder perceived a sense of improvement early on during the isolation. However, these kids are currently finding the uncertainties of the approaching school year to be a little more stressful. These families will likely need some additional support over the upcoming weeks. 

How will social isolation impact children under 6?

Kids in this age group are at a key stage in development driven by social interactions. Attuned parents don’t just notice their child’s physical and cognitive changes, but also become aware of their child as a budding personality, who is intelligent, socially curious and even quirky. Many of us don’t notice, but an average play date or birthday party can play a major role in developing that personality. Moreover, they are such precious avenues for kids to practice their social skills, unlearn and relearn behaviors, defense mechanisms and foster a sense of independence. 

Can children ‘catch up’ if they do not experience social interactions now?

This is a novel situation and the long term impact of such social isolation in pandemics is not well studied. However, neuroscience has given us significant evidence for neuroplasticity and the high level of cognitive flexibility in this age group. 

How can children under 6 learn virtually when they need plenty of concrete experiences?

Firstly, we need to remember that these are not “normal” times. Nothing can replace the experiences kids would get from “life as usual”. This is an emergency that warrants innovative strategies to ensure continued education and learning. E- Learning exercises, interactive videos, virtual story times, online field trips are all resources that might have to be utilized. Kids can be included in a whole bunch of activities that can promote creativity and curiosity even at home. Anything from cooking, doing puzzles, arts and crafts projects, taking care of indoor plants, raising butterflies, collecting rocks at a backyard scavenger hunt can all be enriching, concrete experiences.  

How much screen time is too much? 

As with everything else, rules surrounding screen time have also changed. The idea of 2 hours a day seems far-fetched due to how vital screens have become over the past few months.  Screens are extremely useful in this day and age. On top of several resources being made available online to continue education, parents working from home have also been flexible with screen time to help balance their “work from home” routine with childcare.  However, it comes with its fair share of risk as well. In fact, of the several kids I see with sleep difficulties, the primary issue appears to be sleep hygiene secondary to excessive screen time at night. Behavioral issues are also common especially when boundaries surrounding screen time are not established. Therefore, it is important to lay out the rules and expectations before giving the child the device (Ex: “I am now giving you the phone for thirty minutes to watch cartoons” instead of “Here is the phone. Now, stop bothering me.”) Of course, we must also remind ourselves that screens do not replace human contact. 

What can parents/caregivers do to help children during these times?

It is essential for caregivers of a household to stay united in their efforts. Sharing tasks, establishing routines, expectations and boundaries are all essential. However, I think the most important things that families can do are to be mindful, play and have fun. 

That Empty Box is ALSO a Toy!


What is a toy?

To answer this question, we first need to look at how we (adults) define and view toys versus how children view toys. We have a very specific understanding of what a toy is. A toy is something that a child can play with. But, this ‘something’ comes with a disclaimer. We are comfortable when a child plays with a toy that is manufactured by the toy industry that has made sure it is age and developmentally appropriate. That, that piece of object carries the seal of the toy industry.  So, if a baby wants to play with a mesh sieve from the kitchen or a toddler wants to use the broom, we are not wholly comfortable. We don’t consider these as toys. We redirect them almost instantly and instinctively without much thought, “Why don’t you play with your toys?” 

But, what is a toy for a child? 

For a young child, anything and everything is a toy. If a toy is something to explore and play with, then yes, everything is a toy. We forget that babies come afresh into this world. They are free of our societal and cultural conditioning – they do not look at the hair brush and instantly associate it with combing. They will grow to create such associations. But, they are, in a sense, free of the restrictions that we hold. So, if a baby finds a hairbrush, they will mouth it, roll it, chase it, mouth it again and delight in the texture of the bristles and explore it with fervor. A toddler might not just brush their hair but their feet, their frilly frock, the couch pillow. An older child may run towards a heap of leaves, jump into it, climb out of it, stomp on it, jump into it again and giggle in the rustle and chaos of the scatter. This play, this exploration of the object is their way of understanding and engaging with the world. It is their way of asking “why not?”

But, do we look at these as toys? And, more importantly, do we look at this as play?

If the children are engaging in repeated exploration and manipulation of the objects and if the objects are giving them joy, can we not look at the hairbrush and the heap of leaves also as toys to play with? 

Specific Playthings

The toy industry is a multi-billion dollar establishment whose sole purpose is to design and manufacture toys for children. Think about it, there is an entire industry dedicated to selling playthings for children. This is no small thing! This is a huge deal in giving children the much needed place in society, in giving their developing intelligence and innate curiosity due recognition. With more and more research emerging in the field of early childhood, toys are becoming further refined. There are toys to help children count, learn letters, reason, code, hone their eye-hand coordination and challenge their gross motor skills. In a way, the industry has left no stone unturned.  

But, by purchasing these toys, there is a certain security we derive. Firstly, we believe that ALL the toys that come through the industry are developmentally appropriate – they serve a purpose, a goal. That the toys are essentially what children should be playing with. That the toys with the lofty labels are what shape children in their lives. As goal driven individuals who seek results, we are convinced to buy a toy only when we are assured of its outcomes.

A mock example of how we typically choose toys for play

We know that by purchasing that particular toy, we are offering, essentially, a lesson on logic or the letters. We bask in the safety of these toys because we simply know. We feel secure because we can, in a certain sense, control the kind of early childhood experiences we can give our children. A rich environment filled with age-appropriate toys, each of which promise a skill, a learning! 

The Child’s Play 

But then, this child enters the scene and runs toward the cardboard box in which the toy itself arrived and plays endlessly with it. This is unsettling because we question what skill the child is acquiring through such play. We want them to play with the toy and not the box.

So, we show them to place the ball in the hole and the baby chooses to roll the ball on the floor. We are tempted to redirect them. Because, we know that by dropping the ball in the hole, they are learning a very specific skill. But what if the baby wants to roll the ball elsewhere? Drop it down an inclined slope? Are we willing to let them? Are we willing to let go of knowing ‘what’ they are learning from each exploration, from each play? Can we be comfortable in that space of not knowing? 

We must remember that children do not differentiate between a didactic toy and a non-toy, nor are they result-oriented. In a sense, children make every object a didactic object. They are little scientists who engage through experiment. They also do things for the sake of it.

They jump in the puddle of water because that is calling to them. Just because. What could they be learning from that play? We don’t know. Maybe they are teaching us to be joyful in the moment.

Letting Go | Finding a Balance 

In some ways, we need to let go of this control. We need to let children decide what they want to play with and how. We are going to watch for disrespectful behaviour and redirect those energies but, even that, we need to watch. Remember, young children are free of the layers of conditioning that we have? So, are they intentionally disrespecting the object or just exploring it in yet another way? We need to observe before intervening. 

We also need to strike some balance. Children do need didactic toys, they do need play that meets specific developmental needs. But, they also need time to play without constraints. If they want to roll the ball downhill instead of putting it in the hole, let them. 

We need to take away the notion that children need to learn something from every toy. We need to let go of controlling what they are learning from every experience. We need to be okay with not being able to pin down on what developmental need is being met through each play. 

So, the next time they go for the empty box, refrain from redirecting them to play with their ‘toys’. Instead, mark the joy of sitting inside that empty box, diving into the heap of leaves and jumping on a puddle of water as the mystery of childhood, the child’s world, their own domain and sometimes, at least sometimes, let’s not meddle with it.

“Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and, when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath its shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning as it wakes every living creature that divides its day between walking and sleeping.”

Dr. Montessori, The Discovery of the Child

Nurturing a Holistic Relationship with Food : From One Mamma to Another

Hear it from the Mammas!

Hi Janani, thanks for being back to share another story on the blog. Last time was about baby swimming. This time let’s talk about food.

I am happy to be back on Srishti to share yet another story as a mother. Although food and food making are given a lot of importance in our (Indian) culture, I grew up eating food for the sake of it. It was an imposed activity which I never really enjoyed, until I met my husband, Abhinav. He is a food enthusiast and appreciates any food offered to him and this entirely changed my relationship with food. I realised that the food that we eat not only decides our physical health but also the very way we feel and experience life. Therefore, as a mother, it was vital for me to enable my daughter, Agni, to have a positive relationship with food right from the beginning.

When did you start introducing other foods to your daughter and how did you go about this?

When A was about 3-4 months old, just like every other baby, she used to put things in her mouth to explore the environment through her senses. I consider this ‘mouthing’ to also be a natural instinct for babies to explore foods. I initially introduced food by giving her whole carrots, lemons, apples, coriander etc., to play with. From 5 months onwards, she was let to feed herself when she was hungry. She was made to sit on a highchair and was offered finger foods that included a mix of soft-textured fruits, veggies, and some cooked grains. As she grew older, I introduced foods with harder textures, and mixed ingredients. By 8-10 months, her chewing skills, dexterity, hand-eye coordination and even sorting skills (she used to sort a mixed platter of fruits by colour, shape, type) had improved tremendously. This whole process allowed her to be ‘in-charge’ of when, what, and how much she wanted to eat.

Can you describe Agni’s eating area?

We are a small family of three – Agni, my husband and myself living in Germany. When we are at home, we prefer to eat together as a family sitting at the dining table. Agni used to sit on a highchair until 1.5 years, but then shifted to a normal chair with a booster seat that helps her to independently climb up and climb down from it. While we eat, we appreciate the different tastes, and discuss our day’s activities. It is important for us that there is no other parallel activity happening while we are eating. This focus helps Agni to appreciate, enjoy, and be grateful for the food she eats.

How open is she to trying different foods?

Right from the beginning, Agni loved to explore different tastes. I could say, mealtimes are the ‘high points’ in her day. She looks forward to eating every meal with so much joy and excitement. She is always curious and ready to try out new tastes.

How do you and your husband support your daughter’s approach to food?

We support Agni’s approach to food by enabling independence. We introduced her to a spoon by 15 months, and a fork and knife by 18 months. We keep some healthy snacks and fruits that are easily accessible to her throughout the day that allows her to eat something in case she gets hungry. Just like how she is in-charge of eating the food, we also encourage her to be part of the clean-up in whatever way she can. Overall, the whole process over the last 2 years has required tremendous patience from our side especially because – as a baby, it used to be extremely messy when she ate, involving an elaborate clean-up after every meal. But all this effort has been totally worth it.

Does your daughter participate in preparation of food?

We generally prepare two meals at home every day. I try to do most of my household chores along with Agni. So, she is continually involved in the preparation of food as well. She participates in washing, de-stemming, sorting, and clearing of the ingredients used to prepare the meal. She smells and tastes the different flavours while I cook. She understands that preparing a meal takes a long time and effort. She is also part of our visits to the farmers market or supermarket where she chooses the fruits and vegetables.

Is it important to give children the experience of seeing food grow? How do you think this impacts their attitude towards food?

In a world where we are so disconnected with our choices, it’s important that a child knows where the food comes from. In the last few months, we are actively involved in growing plants at home in our small garden. Agni tends to the soil, waters the plants, and experiences the process of growing them. We, in whatever way possible, explain and communicate to Agni the importance of actively contributing to a changing world – a kinder world. So as a family, we are trying to reduce the consumption of animal-based products (dairy, eggs etc.).

Can you share with other parents a few guidelines on approaching food holistically?

Every human baby has an in-built mechanism to feed themselves. As a caregiver, it is important to nurture and give space for this to develop well. Besides, exposure to food need not just be confined to the dining table but can be extended to the kitchen, gardens, or farms.

From No to Yes : How can we shift positively from a NO Environment to a YES Environment?


The Child in the Adult’s World  

The adult world is filled with objects that serve us a purpose. Our cords and wires, glassware and knives, screens and gadgets, scissors and car keys. These individual objects make up our homes, our lives. These are the objects that serve us a purpose, that bring us joy, that put us in touch with the world. Into this world, enters a baby afresh. This baby sets foot with no prior worldly experience and observes for months, us adults,  engage, manipulate and transform our environments using these objects. This creates in the baby a fascination, an allure, to get their hands on those keys that jingle, on the scissors that magically snip paper into confetti, that glassware which sparkles. This is what holds the baby’s attention for months – our manipulation of the world using the objects that surround us. 

So naturally, when they are finally able to move their tiny bodies, they gravitate towards these objects that they have silently observed from afar for several months – only for us to say the word NO. 

What is this No? 

The word NO is a fascinating one. It has no real existence in this world. An apple tree, my shoe, the neighbours cat, your book all have an existence in this world. Even if I describe my apple tree as large and bearing several green apples, you can visually see the apple tree match my description. But, this word NO fits nowhere in this realm. It really has no concrete existence. A baby who understands the world largely through concrete experiences therefore does not instantly comprehend the word NO. What does it even mean?! 

What actually catches their attention as they are reaching for our shoe and trying to mouth it is the tone which accompanies our NO. That urgent, high pitched, slightly-bordering on anger, NO is far from the tone that we typically use to speak with them. Our facial gestures and body language that accompany the word NO are vastly different from our typical behaviour around them. So, the difference in the way we say this particular word is what holds the baby back initially. 

This intrigues them, and curious as they are, they want to reach for the shoe again to see if we will give them the same response. When they hear the word NO a second time, they begin to see a pattern. “Ah-hah! So every time I touch the shoe, this person makes this peculiar sound.” Some reach for the same object again and again only to see our reaction remain consistent, possibly sterner and slightly impatient. When our tones and hand gestures become louder and firmer, some babies start crying while some others find the whole thing rather amusing and do it repeatedly much to the annoyance of many adults. But, soon enough, all babies begin to understand that more things in their world are NO than YES and begin to grapple with this reality. 

Our Usage of No 

The word NO holds a lot of power. It means “Stop!”  The person who utters the word NO wants what is happening to stop instantly. It implies a non-negotiation of the situation, a complete standstill of what is currently happening. Considering this, we adults use the word NO rather too freely and carelessly without much thought. We also use them very inconsistently. What is NO sometimes, suddenly turns into YES and what has been YES for a long time suddenly becomes a NO. “No, please don’t go and turn on the tap now.” “Fine, you can turn on the tap, just this once.”  “No jumping on the bed.” “Okay, fine jump. As long as you don’t trouble me.” “No chocolate on weeknights.” “Fine, you may have chocolate today.” We also use NO most generously, several times a day without any hesitation. It becomes a habit, a pattern after a while that we rarely ever pause and ask ourselves, Why am I saying NO? 

So, the real problem with our NO stems not from our usage of it to protect our children but from our careless over usage of it to suit our whim and fancy. 

“NO leaves you feeling reactive, making it impossible to listen, make good decisions or connect with and care for another person. A focus on survival and self-defence kicks into gear, leaving you feeling guarded and shut down when it comes to interacting with the world and learning new lessons. Your nervous system initiates its reactive fight – flight, freeze or faint response : fight means lashing out, flight means escape, freeze means temporarily immobilizing yourself and faint means feeling utterly helpless.”

Dan Siegel, Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine

So, what does NO do to the child?

  • NO curbs exploration

The first thing that the word NO does is that it stops exploration. Imagine a young child who is new to this world. How would this child know what is high from low, loud from soft, smooth from rough without concrete experiences? Exploration is the key that unlocks intelligence for this child. Only through  holding, manipulating, mouthing, banging, rolling, falling and engaging to see how the objects respond to their touch, do they learn. This is how they build concepts, judgement and perception. When we repeatedly use the word NO for situations that do not truly demand it, we are indirectly telling the child that the world out there is not for them to explore, effect or transform. 

  • NO interrupts independent thought & action

NO tells the child they are not capable of handling the world. “No, no don’t climb the stairs. You will fall.” “No, don’t touch the jackfruit, it is prickly.” Imagine if someone was following us around, tracking our every move and telling us what to do and what not to do, how would that feel? For starters, it would be a complete robbery of freedom. Secondly, it will be a reminder that we cannot manage on our own in this world.  This leads to self-doubt – “Can I actually climb the stairs? Am I even capable?” and also leads to reliance on others – an unnecessary dependence where independence can blossom – “I will just ask amma to peel the oranges. It is too hard.” Unnecessary use of the word NO leaves children uncertain about themselves, their abilities and potential. 

  • NO instils  a fear of what is out there

NO very clearly scares the child into believing that the world is an unsafe place with threats and dangers. Yes, there are threats, there are dangers and it is our job to protect our children until they are ready. However, most situations where we use NO do not require it. It is an overuse of the word that creates an environment of fear – of an anxiety that something negative will happen whenever they seek exploration and experience. 

How can we shift from NO to YES? 

  • Prepare a YES Environment

The first step is to create a YES environment and surround the child with YES objects and experiences. What I mean by this is that things must evolve to meet changing needs. The space must be flexible.  A baby of 4 months is not mobile and having  glass cutlery on the bottom shelf may not be a problem. But, a toddler of 14 months is mobile and going to want to reach for everything. So, we can either show them how to access and use these objects with care, (“Yes, let me show you how to carry the glass bowl”) or if they are not ready for that, keep them out of reach. We have to continually see how to make our homes a YES space bearing in mind the child’s need to explore, manipulate and belong. 

  • Choose your NO’s thoughtfully  

The key to having a YES environment is to first understand what aspects are YES and what aspects are a NO. Before deciding on what is NO, we must think about it and ask ourselves “Why am I saying NO?” This will vary largely based on individual families, the age and readiness of the child. One child might be ready to eat using glass utensils while another might still not be there. One 2 year old may be using a knife to slice vegetables while many others may not yet be ready. So, we need to first assess what works for our situation and decide as a family on what aspects are NO. Once we have decided, we must stick to it. There is no point in going back and forth – this will only confuse the child and make the NO meaningless.

  • A YES Mindset

Our homes can be thoughtfully prepared and still curb exploration if our  “Yes, you can!” attitudes do not permeate it. When we overuse the word NO, we not only take away its power but create a mindset that holds children back from the world. It creates a fixed mindset – one that limits the child’s growth because of a lack of belief, a lack of faith that comes from constantly hearing the word NO. “I am not capable of climbing.  I will only fall if I try.”

By consciously creating a YES home, we instil in children an attitude of openness that looks at learning as continuous. What’s better, in this home, they begin to trust that they are capable of tackling glitches and treat all experiences with josh, enthusiasm and joy!

“Anything we give attention to, anything we emphasize in our experiences and interactions, creates new linking connections in the brain. Where attention goes, neural firing flows, and neural connection grows. And where neurons fire, they wire or join together. If you’ve been focusing a lot of attention on No! No! No! this is where neural firing flows, a No Brain reactive state.”

Dan Siegel, The Yes Brain : How to Cultivate Courage, Curiosity, and Resilience in Your Child

Life by Cycle : From One Mamma to Another

Hear it from the Mammas!

Hi Aparna, tell us a little about yourself and your family.

I spent my formative years in Kuwait, then high school and college years in India and adult years in the US. I have moved a lot over the years and am always pining to grow roots and stay in a single place. For now, I have lived the longest in the Bay Area as an adult and I would like to think that is where my community is. My husband, Jayaram was born and raised in Mumbai, where he lived until he was 21. Out of curiosity to learn more, he moved to the United States to pursue scientific research in computer designs. From an early age until today, he stayed outdoors for most part of the day playing some sport (in a cramped corner space in Mumbai and now in heavenly, vast and diverse outdoor areas in the US).  

Jayaram and I met in 2012 while we both were in university pursuing graduate studies in different cities. We got married in 2013 and started living together in the San Francisco area since 2014.  Dharma came into this world in Oct 2018.  Dharma’s interest and curiosity to explore the world through mud, rocks and shells of different texture, size, color and shape, people and language continues to grow.

To learn more about our journey, feel free to visit www.lifebycycle.info

What prompted you to embark on this journey by cycle with a toddler?

The idea of going on a bicycle-touring journey evolved over various experiences coupled with our own fundamental fascination for the bicycle: a simple two-wheeled human powered pedaling unit which can take us places at an enjoyable and self-determined pace.  

In 2014, we happened to meet a couple from Germany who started their bicycle journey from Alaska with a 6 months old infant and spent 2 years on the road riding to Ushuaia, Argentina. Their story opened our eyes to the idea of bicycle touring and that neither age nor family size is a barrier to travelling on a bicycle. Starting early 2019, we found ourselves asking one question: Is there an alternate way to soak ourselves in family time? If not now, then when? 

As for Dharma, we thought between 1 and 2 years of age would be the perfect portable age, when all of Dharma’s basic needs could be met on the move. Being outdoors for most part of the day (and nights when we camp) is something any toddler would love, if given an option.

What is a typical day like ? How does Dharma feature in this?

A typical day begins around 6:30 – 7 am when Dharma wakes up with sunrise/ crowing roosters, talks a little about any dreams and breast-feeds on me. Jayaram and I divide the task of making breakfast, packing lunch, packing our panniers (camping gear, clothes, utensils, stove, gas etc.), while assisting Dharma with breakfast/diaper change and ensuring Dharma expends a good amount of energy by running around. By around 10:00 a.m we are ready to hit the road. We ride for about 2 hrs and stop for lunch. During the 2 hours, Dharma would be inside the Thule Chariot baby trailer sleeping, watching the scenery outside, talking to us or playing with her toys.

During the afternoon break for lunch, Dharma is back on the playing field full of action, while Jayaram and I switch between tasks of assisting Dharma with lunch/diaper change, having our lunch, taking a power nap/rest and packing our bags to get going for the second half of the day. Another 2-3 hrs of bike ride, part of which Dharma spends on a front baby seat with me chatting, watching nature, chewing on some energy bars/cheese, hi-fiving with Jayaram while on the ride and posing for some camera shots. After an hour and half, as sleep sets in, Dharma settles into the comfort of the baby trailer for a short one hour nap. (Depending on the day, weather and sleep schedule, Dharma sits in the baby seat with me in the earlier part of the day.) 

Once we reach our destination, Dharma gets to run around again and soon it is time to start with dinner preparation. We typically start feeding Dharma between 7-8pm (earlier on camping nights). By 8.30-9pm, Dharma breastfeeds to sleep. While Dharma nurses, Jayaram narrates stories from the day (on what we did/saw with lots of masala added). Most days, I fall asleep with Dharma, and Jayaram maps out the route and logistics for the following day. 

Toddlers usually have a need for order and predictability. With so many rapid changes, how do you help Dharma adapt?

From the previous answer, you might have observed that there is a certain order and system established within what at first might seem like a chaotic moving lifestyle.  Food, sleep and play usually happen around the same time on ride days. On rest days, there are slight variations and Dharma chooses to spend more energy and sleep less. At the start of our journey, it took about 2 weeks for Dharma to adapt to the new life style. Of course, everybody has different moods and Dharma has days when she just does not want to sit anymore on the bicycle. Those are our curveball days and within reason, we respect those needs, stop riding and find a safe place to sleep (because most likely we have limited choice ☺). We always make sure to keep Dharma informed of our plans for the day especially if it is going to be a long day and that we need full cooperation by sitting for longer time. On those odd days Dharma adapts by sleeping for more hours and sleeps later in the night than usual. Although it is challenging for us to keep Dharma entertained when we are tired after a longer ride, it is part of the game we signed up for. In general, babies adapt to changes much faster than adults, which we often underestimate or overlook. Adaptability is an important quality adults can observe and learn from babies. 

How do you strike balance for Dharma between time in the wagon and time freely?

As a family on a bicycle with a toddler, we ride for an average of 50 Km a day, lasting for about 5 hrs on the bicycle over a period of 12 hrs with daylight. Dharma has at least 7 hrs of free time. In addition, we usually take a day or two of break after 5-6 days of continuous riding and at times a week for local sightseeing and visits.

Being on the move exposes children to all kinds of weathers. How do you help Dharma power through?

We invested a lot of time to pick the right baby trailer since Dharma would be spending a good amount of time through the journey in it. The Thule Chariot Cross comes with features that include a rainfly for rainy days, a sunshade against the midday sun along with UV protective coating on the side screen through which Dharma can watch outside and an adjustable recline. Of course for the cold days Dharma is padded up with extra layers and has my shawl for extra warmth. All of this is while riding. What we really like about the bike travel is the potential for acclimatization. When we slowly pedal through different areas with varied weather, our body has time to naturally adapt to the weather. And in the event we fly into a new place we give it a week or so to get used to the new weather before we start riding. 

On your social media account @life.by.cycle, I noticed that you use cloth diapers for your daughter. How do you manage this on the go?

Cloth diapers have been easy to handle for us. At the end of the day, we soak all the soiled diapers that we collected through the day (roughly 4-5), hand wash and dry them overnight. If the diapers have not dried up by morning, we hang them to dry on our bikes while riding and by mid afternoon it is all ready to be used. Sometimes we get lucky and have access to a washing machine (extra bonus for dryer). We carry a foldable bowl and a long rope with us, that has served great as a bucket to wash and dry respectively.  We carry enough cloth diapers to go for 2 days without washing / drying, either due to weather or unavailability of water to clean.  We were once forced to use disposable ones while crossing a desert for 4-5 nights.

Can you share some defining parenting moments that you have experienced in the last several months?

Jayaram and I fortunately balance each other out in our parenting approach. We usually watch Dharma adapt to changes and we ourselves adapt as a family as well. I can’t really think of a particularly defining parenting moment. We are all just learning to be a unit. While riding on the bike we have a lot of time to reflect on our actions and reactions with Dharma. Jayaram and I discuss the things/changes we observed in Dharma during this time and it puts a smile on our faces while riding.   

What do you hope is Dharma’s biggest takeaway from this journey?

This is a little far-fetched, but I hope one of Dharma’s biggest takeaway from this journey is to be brave, to be an explorer and to believe in the power that resides within her. The second biggest takeaway I hope is that she has felt the love and kindness from strangers and Dharma can channel it in a positive way in the future.