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

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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

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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

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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. 

Relaying

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

Recollection

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

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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. 

That Empty Box is ALSO a Toy!

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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

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

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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

The Words we use to describe Children Matter.

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Words.

Words are a carrier of our thoughts; they elucidate our emotions, pain, joy, frustrations, ideas & play through meaningful sounds. When we hear words, images pop in our minds; words take us to faraway places and make us laugh. They evoke memories and instantly bring up deeply buried scars. A single word has the capacity to make our day, decide our mood and steer our course of action.

Words are so much more than just sounds.

Yet, how often do we pay attention to the words we use? 

When a child is born, it is only a matter of time before we start to describe them, box them – “He is so naughty. Look at him reaching for the ball”, “Don’t pick her up, she is manipulating you”, “She is such a picky-eater, just like Tina” , “Mine is such a brat, what about yours?” 

While many of us catch ourselves using such words, those seemingly harmless & casual remarks, how many of us pause to think about these words we use? 

Why do our words matter? 

  • Words decide the way we approach our children 

Let us assume we have named a child a fussy-eater. “Tara has always been such a fussy eater!” When we pin this on Tara, our attitudes and approach towards her changes drastically. We now view her AS a fussy-eater.  We tell ourselves “Okay, my child IS a fussy eater.” We acknowledge this in our minds and every time we approach this child, we are going to approach A fussy eater.

So, how would we approach & handle this child? Would we be patient, empathetic and respectful or would we be impatient, irritable and stern?

Our brains are shaped by the words we hear, the words we speak, by our mental chatter. So, if we tell ourselves, “Tara is a fussy-eater”, we will not just approach her with less empathy and patience, we will also be unconsciously looking for ways to confirm that thought, that belief that Tara is a fussy eater. 

how we word it is how we think about it
  • Words become their inner-voice

Children carry our voices with them throughout their lives. Overcoming these voices in adulthood takes conscious acknowledgement & effort. 

Let us take an example, in Southern India, being fair-complexioned is considered essential for women. If, however, you do not fit this box, many women are commented on for their ‘lack of colour’, their ‘dull appearance’ and the likes. Or, they are given suggestions : “Why don’t you apply this new fairness cream? , “Have you tried using olive oil and turmeric?” As a girl who grew up in this society, everytime I bask in the sun, I pause for a moment and wonder what would happen if I lost my complexion because a dear one repeatedly told me that being fair IS essential. Like this, don’t we all have our own insecurities about ourselves fed by the people who surrounded us in early childhood?

The words we use become the voice for children and as significant members in their lives, it becomes increasingly hard to ignore the voices that nurture them in early childhood. 

  • Words put children in a box 

Being in a box can be very limiting because all humans change and grow throughout their lives. When we have called a child terrible at math, they believe this to be true and every time they make an honest attempt at trying to understand math, our words will hold them back! Even labelling a child ‘perfect’ and ‘amazing at everything’ is counterproductive. This is because, we now put this child on a pedestal from which they cannot fall. Very often, such children find it hard to live up to these expectations; they find it easier to hide parts of them rather than disappoint loved ones. 

  • Words become their identity 

When we attach labels to our children, these become their identity. This is hard for young children who find it difficult to understand that we love them regardless of these identities.

As Veer grows, he will believe these to be true and his behaviour will begin to support these labels. These will become his identity! Now, some of these labels might hold him back from exploring what else he can do; they can also hold him back from being open to experiences because of the fear of losing his identity!

Where to go from here?

The truth is, as caregivers it is hard for us to not form any opinion about our children as their personalities take shape. However, by calling a 2 year old a fussy eater, we limit the capabilities of this child. Our 2 year old may not yet be open to trying all foods. But this is their journey; the ups & downs contribute towards growth. They may go through phases where they are enthusiastic about some foods and not as much about others. Children (and adults) are a work in progress. This is what we must be mindful of. 

So, going forward, it does not mean we are wary of every word we say. However, it is important to watch what ideas we are feeding our children about themselves using our words; what words are we using to identify them because how we word it is how we will think about it.

Do we look at our children as horrible-nappers, fussy-eaters & math geeks or do we let them be? Do we let them show us how different life- experiences are moulding and transforming them? 

“We are always in a perpetual state of being created and creating ourselves.”

Dan Siegel, The Developing Mind

Let’s talk about Mess!

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Children are messy! This is a common notion that we adults share. Whether they are playing with some blocks or washing their hands, whether they are painting or rolling up a rug, mess always seems to follow children. We instantly know there is evidence of a child’s handiwork wherever things are in disarray. 

Trigger for a Reaction

Mess is something that throws many of us off. It is a cue for an elaborate clean up – no adult with a toddler needs to be told the scrubbing that has to be done following a painting session. Mess is something many of us struggle to look past because it requires effort to rectify, energy to restore and time to reset. Mess is not something we want to have time for because we associate mess with mischief, disrespect and unruly behavior. We think of mess as bad.

But, in early childhood, mess is not a sign of rebellion. It is a sign of learning, a sign of overwhelm, a sign of wanting some 1:1 time. In young children, mess is a reminder for observation. 

Types of Mess 

  • The “ I’m learning” Mess

When a child is learning to do something by themselves, there is going to be a mess. This is a natural part of exploration and learning. We need to train our eyes to look at the mess and see what it symbolises. It is a sign of work. In the process of taking food from the plate to their mouth, their yet-to-be coordinated body, their yet-to-gain finesse hands have spilled some or most of the meal. This type of mess is the remnant of a child at work. 

How to help?

We help by first not saying, “Oh my god! Look at what a mess you have made. This is why I prefer to brush your teeth myself!” Likewise, there is also no need to tell this child that the mess is a sign that they are learning. Instead, what we can actually do is look at this child.

  • Is this child a baby, a toddler or an older child of 4 or 5 years? 
  • Can this child help you in the clean up? If so, is this child actually going to clean up without your prompt?

If they are going to clean up, we just wait. Else, we swoop in and say, “Okay, so you have finished washing your hands. I notice some water here. How about we get that purple sponge and clean it up?” If this is a baby who cannot yet help, we can offer a piece of cloth for them to hold and also model how to clean up. Yes, this is hard work! But we need to remind ourselves that we are setting the tone for future initiatives by this child. When this baby becomes able and ready, they can collaborate in fixing the mess. 

  • The “ I have too much” Mess

Another kind of mess happens often with children who have too much. For this, we need to understand that our level of too much and the child’s level of too much are not the same. If we have a book cabinet with about 30 books, we can look for the title we want from the mix and move on to reading the chosen book. But, even we struggle nowadays, I must say. Everytime we are on Netflix, we take hours just deciding which movie to watch. If this is true for us, then it is even more true for little children. They need limitations. 

When we have all their toys dumped in a tub inside a playpen, there is going to be a mess. This is a kind of mess that is detrimental to progress because it curbs exploration. It leads to a child jumping from one to another, banging, throwing, screaming and creating further mess – signs of the child coping with the mess. 

How to help?

We help by offering this child the much needed limitation. Have a look at what draws the child and choose 3 – 5 toys that support or aid this. Put everything else away in a closet, out of the child’s sight! Now, these chosen toys can be arranged very neatly on a mat on the floor, under the centre table, on a low cabinet or shelf. The toys can be rotated when we feel the child is seeking new challenges. 

  • The “ I need some attention” Mess

This happens to almost all of us several times a day. Adults have a lot of responsibilities around the house – we have to wash the dishes, fold the clothes, take that important call and we cannot give children our full attention all the time. And, we needn’t! But, when the child is creating a mess, it is a sign that they need help. It is not a time to ignore the child or the mess as this child needs help to fix the mess, to fix that feeling of wanting to create the mess. It is  a reminder to stop. 

How to help?

If this is a toddler or an older child and you have to take that important call, talk to them. Tell them, “Amma really needs to talk to this client. I will be with you as soon as I am done. You can bring a nice book over here and read it. We can look at it again after I am done.” They may be able to wait or they may not, depending on the situation and prior experience with waiting. Once you are done, you can go over and give them that 1:1 time to calm their energies.

It is important to stop because we first need to calm the energies, calm the need to make that mess. Children also need bites of 1:1 time with us during the day. This will calm, ground and secure them, readying them for periods of play. 

  • The “ I’m curious” Mess

Young children are learning. They are learning that when they release their hold, that piece of potato will fall splat on the floor, that when they turn the tap fully, water is going to flow at full force. This mess is similar to a child who is learning. However, this mess may happen because of a curiosity to know what happens if? This is a way to understand that their actions impact their world. 

How to help?

We help by showing the child how to fix the mess once the curious exploration comes to an end. This is very similar to the, “I’m learning mess” and requires the same kind of assistance in resolving.

Looking beyond the Chaos 

Understanding where children are in their development, observing their actions and the motives behind them will help us form a bigger picture of their mess.

The child’s order and disorder, the successes he attains, depend often on one’s ability to observe the least particulars, because only through doing will the result be satisfactory.”

Maria Montessori, The Child in the Family

As we have seen, mess is a sign of work, a sign of learning, a sign of exploration, a sign of having waited. Mess is a sign of growth. 

Why Vocabulary Matters!

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What is Vocabulary?

When a child is born, we surround them with language. We offer words, “Oh, look at that bird, that is a crow.” We move on and name a few other birds – pigeon, myna, sparrow and soon, our repertoire of birds is exhausted. We now look at every other bird and say, “See, that’s a bird!” This happens to almost ALL of us. When we take a walk in our neighbourhood park with our child, how many of us stop and show our child the different trees, shrubs, plants, flowers and birds? Do we ever stop to look around or do we just group all of these into ‘nature’? For most of us, every tree is a ‘tree’ and every flower is a ‘flower.’ But for young children who rely entirely on us to understand what their world has to offer, vocabulary becomes a necessity to connect with it completely.

Vocabulary is a collection of words. It is a list of words that we associate with objects, emotions, people. All of us have a database of words which we use to communicate with one another. For some of us, this vocabulary is rich, while for some others, it is limited. Vocabulary becomes so important when we want to understand something, remember it, explore it further, build abstractions and speak about it. We never stop to think of the limitations of a scarce database of words!

Our Obsession with Letters!

There is a serious concern that haunts each of us when it comes to teaching our children the alphabets. We don’t think as much about words as we do about letters. We start with letters very early. We sing the ABC songs when our babies are barely a few months and we read them a string of alphabet books. The day they identify the letter R or the letter P, we celebrate.

The truth is letters are important. Yes, we want our children to know them because they are the building blocks of words. But, what use are letters for a young child who has no words to build them into? What will the child talk about if she does not have the experience and word association to remind herself of that experience? With young children, we need to worry more about words and less about letters. This is because, without words, letters stand as isolated entities that have no meaning! Letters become important only when our children have a well-stocked repertoire of words that they then want to pen down or read about.

The WHAT child

Children under six are explorers. In their exploration of their home, their garden, their society they come across various objects. This sparks their curiosity and they eagerly ask us, “What is this?” We have all come across that young child, constantly asking us what, what, what! They parrot this as they move from one to another, trying to understand what their world is made up of. If our own repertoire is very limited, what can we feed our children? This unique aspect of human beings – naming everything from objects to emotions is what connects us with others. Without words, without a rich vocabulary, we are limiting the child’s further exploration and understanding. We are taking away from them the joy of communicating their discoveries with others.

Why does Vocabulary Matter?

A Word for Everything 

When we say the word flower, each of us conjure up an image of a flower. The flower in my head is the poisonous oleander. This is probably because in southern India, most of us grew around oleander flowers. Poisonous as they are, oleanders are found in abundance in South India. This is the image that comes to my mind when I hear the word flower. Now, when I say the word flower, each of you reading this has your own image of a flower. The images in our minds may or may not match. This is because we each have different experiences that conjure up an image. When I become more specific and say sunflower, immediately all of us draw up an image of a sunflower. This abstract image of the sunflower in my head may still be different from yours but we are all thinking of sunflowers. We have now narrowed down to the specifics. 

A word for everything is important because every word is a tag on which that whole experience will sit. Without that specific word, a child cannot carry the experience anywhere. If our child comes to us and says, “Amma, today I saw a big flower. It was yellow.” and all we can say is, “Oh you saw a flower. Very nice!” That whole experience stops right there. Instead, we say, “Oh, what colour was it? Was it purple? Was it yellow? Did it have large yellow petals? Did you notice a brown disc in the centre? I think you saw a sunflower. How wonderful.”

Later, we can talk about sunflowers and go back to observe it with more understanding because we have given a word for that particular experience of the child. 

Ability to Notice 

This is a skill that is lacking in most of us as we now spend more time looking at our screens. At the bus stop, we hold our child’s hand and are busily looking at our screens. At the restaurant, each of us is holding a phone and scrolling down. We don’t notice what is happening around us. Let us take the same example of the walk in the park, assuming we know the names of the different trees. When we have named these for the child, we will see ourselves and the child begin to notice more details. It is like getting to know a person. We have taken the effort to learn the name of this tree and the tree then starts to come alive for us. We notice its branches, how they sway differently from the branches of another tree. How the trunk has ridges and how the roots are as thick as the branches and so on. Without that word, we don’t notice further. We just move on with our lives because we know nothing about that object. 

Wonder! 

Oh, the joy of wonder! The ability to wonder should not just be a child’s gift but an adult’s as well. How many of us wonder? Do we ever curiously look at a bird and wonder why it flies so low, why does the hummingbird jump from one flower to another so swiftly? How are big birds able to lift their bodies? Wonder is the birth of all knowledge, without wonder, we are limp! A child can carry the abstraction of the object and the word in her mind and gradually begin to wonder about it. A word is a gate pass into wondering all about an experience. It is the beginning of all the why questions that an older child comes to us with. However, without the what’s the child cannot move onto the why’s.

Fondness & Love  

This is ultimately where we want all these words and experiences to take our children. This love for what they see around them. Let us take the same example of the park. If our child accompanies us every morning and we spot different birds and rest under different trees, these experiences create joyful memories. If someone were to cut that large tree under which you spent every morning with your child, resting, singing and laughing, won’t it be like someone is snatching away a dear friend? Would we not care enough to at least see if that can be stopped? We rarely ever pause and care about these things, not because we don’t have the ability to care but because we don’t know anything about life around us to even notice what is going on. 

A word is so much more than a word. It has the potential to lay the foundation for abstract thinking, imagination and intelligence. This is not to say we invest in a pack of flash cards and just offer ‘names’ to children. With young children, we offer words with experiences so that the word can sit on top the sensory richness of that experience. This way, the child can club all that experience into a single word. So, we need to take the effort to learn the names of words ourselves so that we can pass this on to our children. It is not just about ticking off a list, “bird, tree, car.” We need to invest a little more attention and care into marrying that experience with the word.

Dr. Montessori, in her book To Educate the Human Potential, said “We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.”

Interdependence over Independence : Earth Day Special <3

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Today, we live in a world that is all about autonomy – I, Me, Mine. All of us strive to be self-sufficient; we do not wish to rely on others. Our family units are becoming smaller and smaller pushing us further towards self-sufficiency. But, let us take a closer look at this ‘self-sufficiency’, this so-called independence that we all cherish. Are any of us truly independent? Are we ever to call ourselves self-sufficient, forgetting the innumerable factors that come together to sustain us?

When we look at a newborn, helpless & frail, solely dependent on us for love, comfort, food & security, we hold a vision for this life. A vision to enable these tiny beings to become independent. From very early on, we nudge our children towards doing for themselves – whether it is learning to dress, eat or move, our goal is to guide them towards independence. True, being able to independently do, think & be are critical to survival in this world. However, we celebrate independence as the goal, the destination. But this independence is only a means, a means that will hopefully take our children towards that intricate web of interdependence that holds us all together.

So, instead of stopping at independence, our goal must be to guide our children to use their capabilities in contributing towards the web of interdependence.

So, how can we highlight interdependence in young children?

Young children derive immense joy in being able to do something by themselves. Anyone who has observed toddlers, will have noticed the pride they derive in being able to do – whether it is carrying an oversized pitcher of water or moving a tiny piece of furniture. This is often followed by the famous “Me do it!” phrase. While we nurture this independence by giving them the opportunity to do tasks & make simple choices for themselves, we can also guide them towards doing for others.

Doing for the Home : For little children, home is the first solid & stable environment. In this home, every member is integral and doing for each other is what makes the home a warm, loving & joyful space. So, involve your children while you set the table, casually highlighting, “Today, let’s set the table for dinner. One plate for amma, one for appa, one for thatha (grandpa), one for paaty (grandma) & one for you.” This is an example of a simple way to draw the attention of the child that they are helping set the table for their family. Similarly, activities such as dusting a shelf or collaborating in preparing a meal, either by washing the vegetables or by peeling or pounding, children can be involved in countless activities at home that put them in touch with their whole family. By peeling the potatoes that everyone will be having for lunch or dusting a shelf that sits in the living room, children are contributing towards their family.

Doing for the Environment : This environment, this planet is our home & as a member of this home, we ought to show other new members (our children) how to nurture & care for it. For very young children, filling a bird-feeder or keeping a bowl of water for birds & squirrels instantly puts them in touch with other beings. Having a few potted plants, or a vegetable garden and learning to water them, pulling weeds & caring for them tenderly shows them to treat other beings with respect, value & kindness. Even by avoiding wastage, at the dining table, while cooking and while using compost from simple vegetable waste as manure, or by consciously staying away from single-use plastic, we are constantly modelling to our children how our choices & our decisions are impacting our environment.

Doing for Others : Young children are eager & enthusiastic little helpers, if only we let them. When we use children’s innate kindness towards doing tasks for others such as fetching grandma her shawl or helping appa (dad) carry a bag, helping feed their younger sibling, we are again highlighting how we can use our capabilities towards fulfilling others needs.

Stories : Lastly, something that always ties things together for little children is stories. Talk to children about people who have cared for this planet & treated it with the kindness it deserves. Talk to them about kindness and the joy of helping one another. Apart from oral stories, if we can read books to children about these, and hold conversations on their importance, such experiences will leave an impression on their psyche.

Earth Day
The Water Princess

Why?

If there is one thing our current circumstance of a global pandemic determines, it is that we are ALL in this together. Our actions determine the health of others around us; our actions determine the health of this planet. We want to raise children who are mindful of their actions on the environment. We want our children to hold the big picture – this is not their independence but their ability to use their independence of thought and action to support one another. Every choice matters; our children need to see us make choices that take others into consideration; choices that nurture and nourish the environment.

“Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being.”

Mahatma Gandhi