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

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.

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.

Our Breastfeeding Journey: From One Mamma to Another

Hear it from the Mammas!

Hi Shilpa, tell us about yourself and your family. 

Hello, my name is Shilpa. I’m a Bangalorean, married to a Chennai boy. We got married in 2016 and were blessed with our darling little boy in March, 2019. We’re currently based out of Chennai.

Can you share with us  your birthing experience? 

I was blessed with an amazing doctor who was extremely supportive from day one and gave me a patient hearing no matter what concerns I had. I had a LOT of concerns and questions, so I was extremely thankful to her and all I did throughout my pregnancy was follow what she said. There were certain reasons due to which I was advised a cesarean section and it was scheduled for when I completed 38 weeks. I had a fairly pleasant experience, constantly reassured by the doctors in the room. After what felt like hardly any time at all, my doctor said, “Shilpa, it’s a boy!”

It was about two weeks post delivery when I was still struggling with breastfeeding that I started reading up a lot more and learnt about the importance of the “golden hour”. I wish I had known about it earlier so that I could have at least asked my doctor about it. How I now look at it is that, though I missed the golden hour, I managed to leave the hospital with a healthy baby and that’s more than I could have asked for.

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Representative photo of the Golden Hour

What kind of breastfeeding support did you receive in the weeks following birth? 

At the hospital, working with my doctor and the lactation consultant and the numerous nurses, I was able to get the latch right after a lot of work. Once I got home, my mom was my biggest support system, guiding me and ensuring I was always well fed and hydrated, she tried her best to get me to rest as well. I think immediately after birth it was more of making sure you are doing it right, how to hold the baby and how to get the latch right. There wasn’t too much information being given on the actual process and benefits etc., as my doctor had already asked me to attend some classes on that.

What are some struggles you have had to overcome in your breastfeeding journey? 

Some of the basic challenges I faced were how to get the latch right, how to get a sleeping baby to feed, multiple feeds at night, handling a cluster feeding baby, and of course the most important one – how to ensure that you build up your supply gradually. 

However, there were a bunch of struggles I wasn’t prepared for. 

  • I was not aware that breastfeeding works differently for different mothers, although it is made out to appear as if it is the same for all.  While I was advised to go get a few classes, all they said was “Latch, hydrate, sleep, repeat, and all will be well”. What they didn’t talk about is the importance of a deep latch, the importance of nursing as and when the baby demands and how that affects your supply.  They didn’t talk about how babies latch for comfort or how long it takes for a new mom to start producing more milk and how the baby really does not need too much in the first few days post birth. 
  • I was also not aware of the link between maternal mental health and breastfeeding. It is incredibly important for a new mom to be made to FEEL comfortable and safe at all times. The reason I highlight the word “feel” is that everyone may be under the impression that everything is well, and the new mom has all the support she needs but it is very difficult to predict what may be going on in her head.  Stress can affect the milk supply and since it is common and normal post delivery, we need to ensure we do what is possible to keep it under control.
  • There always seems to be a lack of consensus between the various healthcare professionals you encounter during your stay at the hospital. In an ideal scenario, the gynecologist, paediatrician and lactation consultant are on the same page. In my case, while the paediatrician couldn’t stop insisting that I probably didn’t have a good supply, and hence instructed the nurses to feed the baby formula, the lactation consultant instructed the nurses to stop the formula. So not only was it stressful but it was incredibly confusing as well, as to who was right.
  • I also had challenges with pumping. The paediatrician insisted that I pump in order to “check my supply”. In case it wasn’t adequate, I was supposed to start the baby on formula. He started with this on day two and would tell me every single time he came to check on us. That was three times a day! When I finally gave in and pumped, all I got was 12 ml. The shock of seeing 12 ml in the bottle got me so upset; I was completely convinced I was incapable of feeding my baby and I had been starving him until then. What I wasn’t aware of at the time was that: 
    1. Pumping output varies for every mom.
    2. Pumping output is not an indicator of supply, what is an indicator of supply is the number of times the baby pees (no input leads to no output).
    3. Supply takes a few weeks to get established, and in the first few days post delivery it is very normal to see lesser output as the milk may not have come in properly as yet. 
    4. One cannot expect much pumping output when you are handling a cluster feeding baby, there needs to be a bit of a break once the baby has been fed. 

Do you feel there is enough psychological support for new mothers who want to breastfeed? 

I think that the lack of awareness about breastfeeding in general poses a huge challenge for new mothers. Some of the questions and reactions that I got from near and dear ones and even strangers made me question if I was indeed doing the right thing.

  • “Are you breastfeeding the baby?” – first of all, it is no one’s business how a mother chooses to feed her baby. She does not really control whether she can exclusively feed the baby, do a combination feed or formula feed. Depending on the person who is asking – it could be interfering or accusatory, or simply uncomfortable. This seemingly harmless question can make a new mom question whatever method she is following regardless of which it is.
  • “Why aren’t you giving the baby formula?” – My response to this has nothing to do with formula feeding, but when a mother is trying to exclusively breastfeed her baby because that is what she wants to do, asking this question in the initial few days can make her question this decision and wonder if she is indeed starving her baby.
  • “The baby is crying again, are you sure there is enough milk”, “he looks hungry” (after a long feeding session), “Oh, is it already time to feed him again”, “Oh the baby is quite lean, we need to make him more chubby” – again, these may be harmless remarks in the mind of the person making them – but they are best avoided. They are not supportive and can make a new mom feel like she is not doing enough/ not doing something right.

How do you think families and society can help new mothers succeed in breastfeeding their babies? 

I think the most important contribution from family would be to help the new mom with whatever she thinks she needs help with. I had a fabulous support system wherein all I did was take care of my baby and everything else was taken care of for me. And to be honest, despite the support, I found breastfeeding incredibly challenging. Families also need to educate themselves on the entire process of breastfeeding in order to be able to fully support the new mom. 

As far as society is concerned, I think there needs to be options to support every kind of new mom. Some are incredibly comfortable nursing in public, and some are not. Every establishment such as hospitals, clinics, restaurants, malls, stores etc. should have feeding rooms that are hygienic and well ventilated, and all workspaces must mandatorily have creches and pumping rooms. In fact my biggest challenge to continuing feeding is that my workplace, far from having a creche, does not even have a pumping room. 

From your experience, do you think breastfeeding is exclusively nutritional or is there more to this connection between mother and baby? 

There is definitely much much more to it than the nutritional aspect. I read somewhere that breastfeeding helps in coping with postpartum depression. But from my experience, I can say it can also be one of the primary contributors for depression. The immense pressure on exclusively breastfeeding or not being able to exclusively breastfeed can both prove to be extremely hard. In the early days, each feeding session was stressful, tiring, just painful. But after ploughing through, almost 100% thanks to my mom, I now love it. And just the look in your baby’s eyes makes the struggle worth it. Now, I know it’s going to be incredibly hard weaning him.

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Representative Breastfeeding Photo

What would you recommend : fixing a time-table from birth or following the baby and understanding their inner clock? 

With a newborn, I was advised to feed every two hours. But back then the baby wanted to feed almost all the time he was awake. So what I did and what I still do is follow his clock. When he was tiny I fed him whenever he wanted or once every 2 hours whichever was earlier. And now I feed him on demand, but the intervals between feeds are still pretty short in my case. Some people say I feed the baby too often, but that’s a choice I have made. 

An important point to be noted here is that the more the baby feeds, emptying each breast fully, the better your supply. This is because the supply comes on the basis of the demand of the baby. The more the baby latches, the better it is for supply.

What are some effective strategies that worked for you with respect to breastfeeding? 

These are some of the things that played a vital role for me,

  • Rest. The more rest (not always sleep, but that’s great of course, if you can manage it) I got, the better my mental state and also my supply. Feed and rest and feed and rest is what I was told. I wasn’t too successful with following this advice, but when I did, it made a huge difference.
  • Hydration. I was told to drink lots of fluids. Especially post a feeding session. Water, milk, juice, soup, porridge. What I do know is that when I didn’t drink enough fluids, I felt a hit in supply.
  • Nutrition. There are plenty of foods that help with lactation and I have almost lost track of all that my mom fed me.  But as someone who had supply issues, it was all of this that got me through. Everyone may not need to follow the path I had to, but a nutritious diet is a must anyway.
  • Stay calm. By nature, this is hugely challenging for me. But I did realize eventually the more I stressed, the less it helped and there was a noticeable difference when I managed to keep myself calm and relaxed.

What would your advice to new mothers, who are anxious about breastfeeding, be? 

  • Read up, well in advance. It’s important to understand breastfeeding before your baby arrives. 
  • Talk to other new moms and ask them about their breastfeeding journey. If you are having a hard time, maybe, someone else went through the same and could have told you what got them through it. 
  • You and your family need to be on the same page, and this discussion must be had before the baby arrives. For this, not just the mom, all those who are likely to be around her in those initial weeks need to read up as well.
  • Get a breast exam by your doctor. That may help you get a head start on preparing to breastfeed. In case of any challenges, they may be able to suggest solutions. 
  • Have a back up plan in case you are unable to follow your preferred method of feeding. When our baby had an accidental fall and hurt his lower lip, he was unable to feed. He was clearly hungry and crying out in pain. I managed to hand express and feed him with a spoon. But, not only was he not used to it, it was also incredibly time consuming and a hungry baby does not have the patience. Thankfully I had a manual pump, but with a crying baby, opening a new pump, washing, sterilizing, assembling and then pumping was all incredibly stressful. I realised it is worth keeping a backup option in mind. Having a breast pump as a backup, keeping it washed, sterilized and ready to use, or knowing which brand of formula you can use as a backup and how to prepare it could be very useful information and you never know when it could help you. 
  • Lastly, try to relax. There is so much thrown at a new mom all of a sudden that it is incredibly easy to get overwhelmed. Keep in mind that the calmer you are, the clearer you will be able to think and nothing beats how good that is for you and your baby.

Screen- free Parenting : From One Mamma to Another

Hear it from the Mammas!

Screens have become a huge part of our lives in the last decade. This past year, the pandemic has isolated us even further, connecting us with the outside world only virtually. So, when we speak of ‘screen-free’ parenting, it might come across as a shocker for many parents. While each family knows what works best for them, this is a story of one family that opts out of screens for their child. This shows those of us who are curious how they make this choice work.


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

We are a family of three with my husband Gokul and son Samvidh who is 3 ½ years old. Gokul works long hours and used to travel a lot for work. Even as he works from home now, he still gets only a few hours of free time in a day. So, for majority of the time it’s just Samvidh and me. I completed my AMI Primary Montessori Diploma in 2016 and Samvidh was born soon after. I chose to take a break from work since we wanted one parent to be with our child full time in the initial years. Both sets of grandparents live close by and we visit them often, so, Samvidh spends a few hours a week with them too.

How would you define the role of screens in early childhood?

Ideally, I feel there is no role for screens in the first 2 years and should be avoided. Beyond a certain age, children start paying attention and get involved in what we do, so it may not be practically possible to keep them oblivious to screens. However, in early childhood, it is essential not to give any dedicated screen time.

What are some reasons why you opt out of screen-time for your child?

We feel that screens are addictive. When children watch videos or play games, they are so immersed in the device and become unaware of what is happening around them. Screens are usually used as a means of distraction or to get them to do some tasks which they would otherwise refuse. The instant gratification that the screen provides makes the child seek the same in everything they do and this comes in the way of learning patience and the ability to stay calm and wait. We read a lot about this and also observed it in some children around us. So, even before our son was born, we decided that we did not want any screen time for him.

How do you manage to stay screen-free even during a global pandemic?

We have not thought of screens as an option for Samvidh even though we are in the middle of a pandemic. We do have video calls with family and friends to avoid social isolation for us and him also limit the total time spent on it. I found that sticking to his usual routine as much as possible helped him to adjust to staying indoors and after the initial week or two he adapted quite well.

Top Shelf L – R : Lego Vehicles, Puzzles (a 3- 6 piece set and a 9 piece set) Kaleidoscope Middle Shelf L – R : Kitchen Set, Play Dough with Moulding Instruments, Beads to Lace Bottom Shelf L – R : Race Track with Small Cars, St of Vehicles, Notebook with Crayons & Pencils

During this pandemic, most of us are indoors working or seeking entertainment. How do you plan your own use of screens?

It can be very difficult to plan our screen usage especially as Samvidh is growing up, but we do try our best to keep it to a minimum around him. We absolutely avoid watching television when he’s awake. We also request grandparents and close relatives or friends to turn off televisions when we visit and they usually oblige. Work related laptop usage is unavoidable but we try to keep it at the study table so it’s not in Samvidh’s face. However phone usage is a bit tricky since we frequently check messages and do some reading on phones but we try to do it only when Samvidh is occupied with some play or reading and we make sure to put it away when he needs our attention.

How do you think screen-time affects language, attention and cognition in very young children?

Young children learn everything about life and culture from family first. They spend time with family members, going about their daily lives and automatically absorb language and social interactions and these become a part of them. Listening to and taking part in conversations with people around them provides a mutual interaction which helps them practice their vocabulary too. Some may argue that children learn language from educational videos but I feel it doesn’t give a chance for interaction and doesn’t help them to integrate with their environment. They actually become isolated. With fast moving images and sounds on screen children are just passive observers with zero effort which fails to create a lasting impression of knowledge.

If parents choose to give some screen-time, what would your recommendations on content be?

Content should be strictly filtered, controlled and monitored. As with books, it should be age appropriate and as close to reality as possible for younger children. Content should also be made available offline as much as possible (can download instead of streaming) and they should not be given free access to the internet. I’ve personally seen a lot of shockingly inappropriate content that children are able to access even by randomly swiping while watching videos.

Many parents find screen-time gives them a little respite. What would you suggest instead as an alternate?

I have found it most difficult to engage Samvidh when I have some work to be finished or when I’m really tired and need a break. It can also be very tough to keep a young child in a small enclosed apartment for long hours without frustration. Engaging him in the right kind of activities from the beginning has helped to develop independence in play and exploration. He does not have toys with bright lights and sounds but instead has a lot of puzzles, open ended toys like blocks and play dough, some pretend toys like cooking sets because he loves cooking and many options to colour or doodle. He also has a push car which he drives around the house and has a lot of imaginative play with. We have also been reading to Samvidh from the first few months of his life so he loves books and will sit and “read” them on his own when we can’t.

If he is still not interested in doing anything by himself and requires my attention, I try to involve him in whatever I’m doing by giving him little tasks that he will be able to help with. For example, putting things away or wiping tables if I’m cleaning or giving him small balls of chapathi dough to roll if I’m cooking.

Regular outdoor play time in the evenings help a lot to burn off excess energy and also helps to get through the tail end of his day when he would be tired and cranky if he has had to stay indoors the whole day. During these times of social distancing he’s unable to play with other children but still an hour or so of fresh air in the terrace makes a huge difference to his temperament in the evenings. We watch birds or plants around us and get some physical activity by walking/running around.

L to R : Easel, Bike, Sit and Spin

The pandemic has thrown families off schedule. Children are now indoors most of the time and lessons are happening on screens. How do you think this will impact children?

In these dire circumstances, schools have been forced to resort to online teaching and most children are now stuck in front of a screen for many hours a day. This in addition to being unable to leave the house will definitely be stressful for children in a way they’ve never experienced before. Children are also unable to express their frustration like adults which leads to changes in behaviour and unexpected outbursts. They really need strong support and understanding from adults to get through this tough period.

Is screen-free parenting a possibility? Share some motivation on why more parents must commit to this.

It’s definitely possible as long as we are willing to put in some effort and identify what our children need help with. Most parents introduce screen time in an effort to keep children quiet or sit in one place, or to make them do certain tasks like eating or to avoid tantrums or meltdowns. I feel that if we just take some time to think and understand what they actually need instead of distracting from the problem, it would help not only in that moment but in everyday life. Letting the child engage with the environment and become aware of what is going on around them feeds their curiosity and inquisitiveness which will help them further explore and understand their world better. This understanding also brings an air of calm and confidence since they have a deep connection with the environment. I feel all parents should try going screen-free for some time and see the wonderful effects it brings to the child which will be motivation enough to stay committed.

A World of Changes : Ana’s Story

Making Montessori Your Own : Ana's Story

In Part 6 of Making Montessori Your Own : Introduction, Ana shares with us about changes. Young children rely on us for stability. We are their lighthouse and she shares how she and her family are supporting her daughter through this whirlwind of a year.

Dear Ana, how has 2020 been for you & your family?

It’s been a year of big changes, both expected and unexpected. We moved cities in March, which was a good thing, after nearly a year of living split-family as my husband and I worked in different cities. However, this happened days before the lockdown began and the pandemic came upon us, so it was more change for S than I’d anticipated. Helping her transition smoothly through this phase was a big priority in the first half of this year. It’s also been a year of simplifying, of focusing on things in our sphere of control and of having gratitude for the small joys of life. We’re lucky to have jobs where both of us are working from home for rest of the year at least; and to have support of grandparents and a caretaker. So, we try to make the most of our time together at home amid the uncertainty and constraints of the pandemic.

You mentioned that you moved cities in the last year. What are some ways in which you supported your daughter through the move?

The change was big for S because it coincided with the lockdown. So not only was she in a new place, she also couldn’t go out to play, which was a drastic change from the almost two hours a day she used to spend outdoors earlier. Her discomfort with the transition translated in more clingy and cranky behaviour. It was upto me to understand where she was coming from, and meet her there. I often reminded myself of the Janet Lansbury quote, “All feelings are welcome, not all behaviours.”

Here are somethings that helped us through the transition:

  • Share upcoming changes with the child. I told S about the move, and upcoming changes often in the three weeks leading up to the move. And then, kept connecting back to it while it was actually happening.
  • Keep the rhythm going even during the most disruptive days. For example, on the days of the move, we held on to basic rhythm of mealtimes and naps
  • Keep familiar things around. We carried her cutlery, familiar play and bath toys with us to the hotel, flights and transitory stay. This helped her feel a bit secure amid all the newness.
  • Acknowledge all feelings. We helped her understand what she was feeling by verbalising them for her.
  • Be present and stay connected with each other. Even on the busiest days, we made sure to have just a little bit of one to one time to slow down and connect. For us, breakfast and bedtime routines are often our anchors to begin and end our days.

Many families have had to make rapid and sudden changes to their lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. How has your daughter taken to these changes?

The lockdown has meant we are not going out to play as much as we used to and we used to be outdoors for nearly two hours everyday. So, this is a big change! We have adapted by keeping to our old routine, and finding new ways to have outdoor time.

  • We have introduced balcony time. It is announced, there are rituals of putting in shoes before going out, and there are lots of gross motor play and free movement. Now she asks for it by name.
  • We ensure she has ample gross motor play even when indoors. We put on music and dance, use beanbags for indoor throwing, have a bowling pin set-up on some days and cushion obstacle course on others.
  • We make sure to connect with nature. We have introduced her to gardening, we pause to listen to and spot birds, observe the sky, clouds, sunrise, sunset and rains. These keep us grounded.
  • We indulge in a lot more practical life. The kitchen is by far S’s favourite room. She loves to watch us cook, name things, do dishes and prepare her own snacks. She’s welcome to join any daily chore going on but not obligated to.
  • We offer age-appropriate discussion regarding the virus. At 19 months, S is still too small to understand what is going on. But with time, we speak of why we’re indoors, hygiene practices when going out, etc.
  • We have virtual play dates. We do not watch any television or videos, but we do video calls with friends and family. That is the only way we can all connect with others.

As working parents, how do you navigate working from home with a toddler?

S was used to the concept that we (her parents) went away to work, and we’re available to her when at home. So this concept of being at home, but unavailable due to work was new for her. We’re lucky to have support system of grandparents.

Here’s some things that have helped us adjust to the new routine:

  • Have a dedicated space for WfH. We are lucky to have a study where we “go to office”. S knows that is time when we are unavailable to her.
  • Have regular rhythm. Having a predictable rhythm such as regular start and end times make it easier for her to feel secure and in control. She knows once I am in work clothes, it is time for me to go to work.
  • Have dedicated, quality time spent with her everyday. Apart from working hours, through our morning routine, bedtime routine and even small rituals, we have quality time together. For example, we start our days with dry fruits and time together in the balcony which anchors the day and gives security.
  • Ensure a rich environment and lots of ‘yes spaces’ for freedom of movement. S is free to move through the house, participate in many practical life activities throughout her day, and we ensure she is purposefully engaged even while we are “away” at work.
  • Gratitude! We share things we are thankful for each night at bedtime. She cannot always verbalise, but has picked up on the practice with time.

Even with the constraints, we have a lot to be thankful for. Learning to cope with change and adversity are valuable life skills, and how we show up in this time, is our children’s first lesson on how to handle these changes themselves. I’m just taking things one day at a time, and trying to make it count.

Discovering Practical Life : Ana’s Story

Making Montessori Your Own : Ana's Story

In Part 4 of Making Montessori Your Own, Ana shares how discovering practical life has helped her daughter become capable and independent in her home. She shares simple examples of ways they collaborate together in different daily activities and how she prepared herself and their home to achieve this. 


Our Discovery of Practical Life

I discovered Montessori when my daughter (22 months) was 5 months old . At the time, I was amazed by all these posts on social media – of 5 year olds baking a dish from start to end, of a 2 year old unloading the dishwasher and putting the dishes back in their place, of 18 month old children eating using the same cutlery as their parents. It seemed unrealistic, to say the least.Now that my daughter at 22 months, peels garlic and cuts vegetables, and eats from the same cutlery as us, and puts her laundry into the washing machine, I know that it’s quite possible, and what each intermediate step looks like on the way. Infact, practical life skills have been one of the most eye-opening parts and unexpected delights of following the Montessori approach. The amount of time we spend “doing” practical life has only increased during lockdown. 

Practical life skills come in two big categories – care of self and care of environment. While there are shelf activities that come under this category, for example, threading beads or button frames, the revelation for us has been doing practical life activities organically as part of our daily routine.

 How do we involve our daughter?

She’s part of our routine – less time that I have to “think of activities” to engage her.

The confidence she feels as a contributing member of the household – and we know, toddlers crave this.

Practical life has given a rich context for learning so much more: for building language, as she learns names of things she’s working with, their colour, texture, size, shape, etc;  for observing processes – the steps involved in washing laundry and the order in which they must be done, for example; 

Perhaps, most importantly, being involved in daily practical life activities has helped my daughter orient herself to our daily life and home – we clean the house in the morning, and do the laundry in the evening; we eat at the dining table and brush our teeth at the sink; knowing the place and time for everything feeds her sense of order. 

How did we approach Practical Life? 

We started introducing practical life to our daughter in three ways 

By having a place for everything, and everything in its (accessible) place– the prepared environment is a prerequisite for a child to be able to do things on their own. While this is a topic for its own post, I will say – we didn’t “prepare” all environments at first – rather, started with a “yes” space for play, and then built accessibility in other areas as our daughter was ready for it.

By having a routine – this is a way to extend the first principle with respect to time – have a time to do everything in your day, and do everything at its time. Toddlers are going through lots of changes in their bodies, and having a predictable routine – of knowing what comes next – gives them trust and confidence and a sense of control – they know what’s going on.

By sportscasting our activities – here, we’d explain things in words as we were doing them, talking about what we were doing and where things go (e.g. “Now I’m putting your dirty clothes in the laundry basket.”). This helped her understand our routine and gain vocabulary.

None of the above three may feel like “practical life” activities – and they are not specifically – but that’s the point. Practical life isn’t “an activity you set up” – it’s a natural progression of involving your child in your life and in your home.

Gradual Progressions

Adding more challenges : We gradually started adding more steps of the full process: for example, at 6 months, I’d place the changed clothes in my daughter’s grip, carry her to the laundry basket and sportscast ton her what we were doing, requesting her to release her grip and ‘drop’ dirty clothes into the basket. By 10 months, my daughter was able to crawl to the basket on her own, and pull to stand up next to it. So, I let her lead those steps too, only sportscasting what was happening. At 15 months, she was carrying her clothes to the washing machine too. We just let her take the lead on different steps of the whole process. Now, she understands end-to-end of changing-to-laundry basket-to washing- hanging to dry – to folding dried clothes-and keeping in her cupboard. It all started with releasing the grip over the laundry basket, and scaffolded from there.

What else? : Last week, my daughter was so proud when she learnt how to open the pedal dustbin with her foot, and put garbage in it. I wasn’t comfortable with her using the dustbin when she was younger, but now that she isn’t mouthing things, and understands we don’t touch the dustbin, and we wash our hands when we do, we’ve added this net new activity, she can do on her own. It may seem like a small thing, but the coordination required to use a pedal bin is quite amazing for a toddler, and seeing her feel proud of her accomplishment, is an added bonus. 

Showing, speaking about and involving in activities she’s not ready to independently do yet: Even when she’s not ready for a practical life activity (e.g. using the gas stove), we regularly model to her how we use it, use the language as we explain the steps. This builds her understanding and readiness for new activities.

All in all, practical life has been a revelation to me! If somebody had told me a few years ago, that a toddler can meaningfully participate in activities around the house, I’d never have believed it. And yes, it’s messy sometimes. And it’s slower than doing it on my own. We don’t do every activity fully everyday, and life isn’t an Instagram-worthy-highlights-reel. But there’s a joy and harmony in having your toddler involved in everyday life around the house that cannot be put into words. Let them surprise you!”


“Any child who is self-sufficient, who can tie his shoes, dress or undress himself, reflects in his joy and sense of achievement the image of human dignity, which is derived from a sense of independence.”

Dr. Montessori, The Child in the Family

Part 1 : Montessori in Limited Spaces

Making Montessori Your Own : Ana's Story

The moment we hear the word Montessori, many of us have flashes of large, fabulous spaces filled with beautiful shelves holding material that beg to be touched and explored. While these pictures may inspire us, they often remain a dream because of practical constraints that hold many of us back such as limited space, budget and other constraints. 

In Part 1 of the series : Making Montessori Your Own, you can read Ana’s simple solutions on how she has made Montessori work in a Limited Space.


Montessori in Limited spaces

There are 5 of us sharing a 2 Bedroom, Hall, Kitchen (my 21 month old daughter, my husband and his parents) and we’ve been following the Montessori approach since my daughter was 5 months. Living in a limited space hasn’t been a barrier to giving our daughter freedom of movement. Looking back, here are a few things we did that really helped us use the space we have in a way that enabled our daughter to do more.

Foldable yoga mats for play area:  These provide good grip and cushioning while your child is learning to crawl or walk. During naps, or after bedtime, you can stow away the mats and use the space. We’ve actually made rolling mats part of the starting-the-day and clean-up routines that book-end the days.

Foldable Yoga Mats

Use the edge of the mat or breakfast table for shelves: The idea is to have toys accessible to the child in an aesthetically pleasing manner. When my daughter was 6 months old and learning to crawl, we kept her toys in a single line at one edge of the play mat. That was enough to serve the purpose, and we didn’t need any shelves for the limited number of toys (3-5) available to her at the time. Now that we place 6 toys for her, we have repurposed a breakfast table that we’ve had for years. This serves the purpose, and that’s all that matters.

Play.jpeg

Embrace practical life: Whenever you are feeling doubtful on how you can be “more” Montessori or how you can “follow the child” better – think of everything that they typically do in a day and ask yourself if there’s something that you don’t need to do for them, which they can do on their own. It doesn’t have to be (and is very unlikely that it will be) an end-to-end task, especially with toddlers. It can be one sub-step of one part of an activity – maybe just the action of transferring clothes from your hands to the laundry basket – but it is a step the child does on their own and this builds confidence in their abilities. 

PL-energy-balls-e1590596841448.jpeg

Next think of everything that you do in the day – all your tasks – and ask yourself, where can your child help? Think of the simple actions they can do, and where they can possibly fit in your task. For e.g. simple action of pouring pre-measured ingredients into the hand-mixer where they just hold the cup while you guide the action. Anything to make them a contributing member of the family. You’ll find many of these activities do not need extra space – but just some rearrangement of  the existing space, or just look at the same task in a new way. 

Kneel and look at your house from your child’s level:  I learnt this simple trick from themontesorrinotebook and it works wonders. Before you begin setting up an area for your child, get on your knees (to your child’s height), and have a look around. This gives you your child’s world view – do they see underlying cables, sharp edges, bulky furniture? Is the space open and inviting for them? Seeing your house from your child’s height will help you prepare the environment for them. 

Keep books on floors/existing shelves:  We keep a couple of books on the bedroom shelf, and a couple more on the centre table in our living room. We don’t have space for a separate bookshelf, but that hasn’t stopped us from keeping a limited number of books, which are frequently rotated, easily accessible to our daughter. These books are available at multiple spots around the house. You can plan to have 1-3 books each in the bedroom, play area and living room, or any other place  your family spends time together. 

Books

Lastly, if you can make one change, make this one – switch to a floor-bed:  This gives your child control over their sleep and has the added bonus of you not having to worry about them rolling over. For our family, we wanted to co-sleep with the baby in our room, so we chose to move to a floor bed with our mattress on the floor when our daughter turned 7 months old.

Floor Bed

For us, this change required no extra space (other than to store our own bed), but we’ve seen it have a remarkable impact on our child’s freedom of movement. You can make this change when your child starts rolling over and the risk of them falling off their bed begins, and keep it till you feel comfortable. The first night we slept on the floor, I asked my husband, “Remind me why are we doing this to ourselves?” (it was actually my idea), but the next morning, when I saw my daughter practicing getting on and off the mattress on her own, it was all worth it. Now, a year in, I think it has been one of the best modifications we have made to our sleeping set-up and I intend to continue this at least until she is about 2 years old.


Montessori can work in all kinds of spaces & Ana’s story shows us the same. It shows us that Montessori lies in the small things such as looking at the environment from the child’s view, asking ourselves how we can involve the child in our daily lives & making do with what’s available. These simple tweaks, moving to a floor bed or repurposing a breakfast table for a shelf are actually all it takes to help young children explore and thrive.

Dear Mamma, 

As you hold your precious little bundle in your arms, take a moment to acknowledge the arduous effort that has gone into this. You did not get here easily. Pregnancy is filled with joy, pain, anxiety, unconditional love and an inexplicable excitement to meet your little one. And, now that she is safe in your arms, take a moment or two to breathe and bask in this space. 

Give yourself time to heal, mamma! For many of us, breastfeeding did not come easy. It has been a hard, rocky and painful journey. Whether you decide to breastfeed or formula-feed or do a mix of both is between you and your baby. Different people have different opinions; find your tribe that understands and supports your decision. You will feel less alone. Don’t ever feel guilty for the path you and your little one take. This is your story!

Take care of yourself! Let others take care of you. You are not weak for leaning on others. Your physical and mental health is of paramount importance. It is easy to get caught up in all things baby and forget about yourself, but please remember that you cannot pour from an empty cup. Spend time with your baby in your arms; spend time with your baby outdoors; soak in some sunshine; talk to them; read to them;  talk about your feelings, sing, dance and just involve your baby as much as you can in your life. Cherish these moments and cuddle up as much as you want. Don’t ever listen to those who say you will spoil your baby by holding them; remember, everything grows with love. 

“The nights are long but the years are short.”  It is normal for a baby to cry for hours without any reason. It is normal for a baby to fall sick. The effort is superhuman, but the time will fly by before you know it, so hold on tight to the precious munchkins while you can. Before you realize it, your little one will grow up and need you less, leaving you yearning for the days they were tiny and needed you the most. 

Mamma, cherish the highs and lows of motherhood and the time you spend with your little one. Don’t compare yourself to others and worry whether you are doing your best. There is no better mamma for your baby than you! Just be the best person you can be, each day, and you will automatically be the best parent you can be. 

Love ♥

Mamma Love Series

Interdependence over Independence : Earth Day Special <3

Articles

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