Stop worrying about entertaining your child.

The creative adult is a child who survived

My son is 3.5 yr old and in junior kg class ... daily I take his study Lyke writing and oral for one an hour... I just want to know am I doing right or I need to do something else in that one hour ... wt can I teach him in this age .. he goes to school for 3 hrs in d morning .. and at evening he goes to activity class for one and half hour... he is very much naughty ,he dsnt play wid toys, he likes pretend play , he messes up all d tym , he loves his small brother bt always mischiefs wid him and will make him cry all d tym ...  bt he behaves very shy outside home 

So plz suggest wt I need to make him learn in this age... shall I take his study or not?

This is question we received in our regular what’s app group. The intent behind the question is clear, it is a query raised by a well-intentioned parent. A parent trying to do her best, a parent wanting to gift her best to her child. Also, a parent engulfed in the age old concepts of parenting….I feel as we progress from one generation to another, only the faces are changing, parenting still being the same.

Parenting is a journey which we need to take with the child. We need to unlearn, unwire, we need to re-learn. From a perspective of how can I teach my child, the focus should shift towards how can I co-learn with my child?

My blog on My transformative journey as a parent  is a good read to delve into my journey of how my perspectives changed while co-learning with my daughter.

On this blog, I attempt to pen down my thoughts, my experiences, my journey, my observations, my awakenings to break the notion that we need to be experts to home-school / unschool or provide a conducive environment to the child. Gaining knowledge through reading well-established principles on parent-child communication, undergoing training as a parent are a few techniques that will assist any parent. However, if you are not able to do any of these, you can still provide a conducive environment to your child to blossom. Parenting can be as simple & fulfilling as taking our children to a garden, playing in the rains or as complicated as getting inappropriate toys/ unnecessary flashcards and then being supremely insecure of our parenting choices.

These simple words form the premise of my life as a parent. These words resonated with my observations of my daughter and other children coming to my workshop that lead me to trust, ‘that my child is learning in every moment of her life’.  

This blog is only an indication of ideas on “engaging children productively” that are anyways available on any conscious, meaningful, respectful parenting styles or on any progressive pedagogies that exist in the public domain. What I have attempted to do here is to amalgamate all what has inspired me, all what I have observed and all that I have implemented or I intend to implement with my daughter. This blog can only unleash its full potential when read in conjunction with the reference links that I have shared on the blog.

This blog is based on the foundational philosophy that has been propagated by many great thinkers that “human beings are natural learners.”

The activities/ learning spaces that I expose my daughter to are based on my sensitive observations of my daughter’s day-to-day life. I share my journey with a wish, with a hope that you as a reader through my experience are able to transform your perspective, are able shift your intrinsic, conventional parenting style. It requires great power to walk away from being a “plagiarist’ version of the previous generation or from simply falling into the trap that the society lays before us. Our insights as parents from observing our children in a non-judgemental way helps us truly understand the heart, mind, body and soul of our child.

Before, reading any further, I request the readers to take a moment to unlearn and to read with an open mind.

Activities from birth– a child has come into this world. So, every thing that a child looks at is new for the child. The child just needs to be placed on his/ her back and left to observe. The parent can be in the vicinity silently observing the child.

We should start placing the child’s mattress in the open areas, in the garden, in a balcony. We should connect our children with nature, nature is the third teacher. Let your child observe the birds, the animals, the various sounds, the beautiful fauna. As a parent, we should consciously adopt the role of a facilitator engaged in observing our children.

For instance, if I am cooking, I would take my child with me and let her be on mattress/ mat on the kitchen floor. If I am working, writing, thinking, reading, I would let the child be on a mattress/ mat around me. There is no need for toys at this point. Also, as much it is of utmost importance to engage with the child, independent play in a safe space should be encouraged.

We can perhaps give just one open-ended toy at the age of 6 months. One age appropriate toy is enough for a child to be engrossed in for a few months.

Once we start observing our children sensitively that is without any interruptions, we will commence learning and gaining insights into our child’s heart, body, mind and soul.

Through my life experiences, I have awakened to the reality that child-directed learning is the only way real learning can happen. As human beings, we will find our learning journey.

To give an analogy, I observed that my child is intrigued by the presence of  a dog, I took my child to a friend’s house who has child friendly dog. She engaged with the dog by touching the dog,  she did get scared when the dog tried to lick her. At this point, as a facilitator, we need to understand our child. We need to let our child know that we understand that he/ she didn’t like being licked. We give our child a lending ear without any explanations. I have come to experience that ‘I hear you’ are the most powerful words then ‘I love you’.

 

I then shared stories on how dogs lick when they want to show their love for someone. After a few days, when my daughter encountered a dog, she was fine getting licked, getting pushed to the ground. There is a possibility that some children will intrinsically love getting licked by dogs or some may not. That is fine. As of today, my daughter plays with street dogs and she has self taught herself on ways to befriend dogs.

 

Now, the question here is what is the child learning? What am I teaching?

 

In my opinion, compassion and love for all living beings is what children are born with. Our role as parents is to nurture their innate qualities so that they do not lose their spontaneity and innocence. Raising kind and compassionate human beings is a service to mankind, to the upliftment of the whole society.

If a parent observes a child being interested in plants and flowers, let the child touch and smell the different textures of different plants and flowers. We might not want to see this as an educational opportunity and talk about the name of flowers….just let the child enjoy the process of exploring. There is time and place for knowing the name of flowers, don’t rush into it. Let the child ask you the name? That means you might have to wait for 2 years or one year….but, I insist, please keep on hold any structured agendas.

If the child shows interest in the food you are eating, create a food mat for the child. Let your child play with steel and wooden utensils for a rich sensory experience. This is what I did when my child started showing interest the food we were eating.

The early stages of a child’s life are all about offering a rich sensory experience. From ages 0 to 7 years, we as parents and facilitators need to understand that children are making a sense of the world through touch, smell, taste, hearing, sight, body awareness and balance.  It is only through sensory play that children develop their fine motor skills and gross motor skills.

Now, again, the question is what are children learning?

Children are absorbing the sounds and smells from the kitchen and therein getting a rich sensory experience of sight, smell and touch.

More importantly, our children develop a strong connection with food, child learns to respect food, this is first step towards letting the child learn to eat independently.

A kitchen in my experience is a rich source of a sensory experience.

Infants/ toddlers/ young children ‘smell’ the food being cooked, ‘touch’ different food objects, utensils, ‘hear’ different sounds, ‘see’ variety of objects. Toddlers and Young children can engage in hours of pretend play, they really might not need the fake looking kitchen sets that the toy companies keep marketing about. Toddlers can be given a few vegetables, pans and ladles and here you have countless hours of play and real learning. When children engage in real tasks of smashing food, peeling, chopping etc, they get a sense of responsibility besides ofcourse  developing their fine and gross motor skills.

What is a food mat?

Food mat is essentially displaying different sort of food materials on a mat and letting our children crawl and touch different fruits and vegetables. If the child is not crawling, but, showing interest in food, let’s say the child is at the age of 9 months, we can still create a food mat for our child. The child might roll over to reach out. The child might communicate to taste a fruit, we can cut and let the child explore. This again is a rich sensory experience.  If we are not able to create a food mat, it is enough that we let our child touch and explore a bowl of fruits.

The idea is we should always follow the child’s lead. We might see tonnes of ideas on Pinterest on activities for babies & toddlers. But, we should instead of setting up this activity, learn to observe our child and follow the child’s direction. If an open ended activity on Pinterest coincides with the child’s area of interest at that stage in a child’s life, yes, we should go ahead  and execute the Pintrest idea. We should learn to let our children built their curriculum.  We should to the extent possible get disinvested from the idea of “teaching”.

For instance, typically, children in the age group of 1 to 2 years are interested in pouring water. A parent might in ignorance say it in a colloquial tone, “my child only likes to pour water and splash water….he is not interested in anything else”. This is a grave mistake parents make.

This is a matter of perspective. ‘my child is slow at learning numbers’. At this stage, my child is interested in playing with clay. My child is more interested in learning about animals. My child is very good at woodwork. It is a matter of perspective.

If we observe our child being interested in pouring water, we can set up a pouring station or give water and a few utensils for the child to play and explore. Now, what is the child learning? It is a disgrace that our whole meaning of learning boils down to learning colours, numbers and alphabets.

When a child pours water, in addition to getting a rich sensory experience of water, the child is understanding how to measure?we need to appreciate the fact that a small child needs to really concentrate to pour water from one container to another. So, these are the essential steps before a child reaches a pre-writing stage. You can use the terms ‘Oh, your jar is half full, and we have a math lesson happening while playing.

Spiritual growth

In our whole endeavour to providing activities for activation of brain and cognitive development, we forget the most important element, that of visiting places of spiritual growth. Taking a child to places of spiritual growth is far more important than taking a child to a colouring class. We should devote our parenting towards the enhancement of the heart, mind, body and soul.

Do read this blog to further understand on introducing meditation in a child’s daily routine.

GIVE me the child until the age of seven, and I will give you the man” — Jesuit proverb

Social skills

Children spending time with family members, children spending time playing with friends, cousins, siblings, children playing in parks, role-play, children spending time with people from a cross section of the society are all instances where children’s social and language skills are being nurtured.  

Physical growth and sensory development

Playing with mud, playing with sand, making puddles, jumping in puddles, practicing yoga, walking, nature walk, running, balancing on a log of wood, climbing, sliding down, cycling, rocking are simple instances on how children grow physically.  Young children require a lot of physical movement, they aren’t built to sit in one place. Let them run, let them play with sand, mud, sticks, earthen clay. Take them to parks, let them slide, climb on the jungle gym. Let them learn to take age appropriate risks, let them develop their physical side. Let us vouch to give them an open platform. Going to parks and engaging with different playground equipment contributes immensely towards the development of sensory skills of balance (the stimulation of the vestibular system of the inner ear to tell us our body position in relation to gravity) and body awareness (also known as proprioception) – the feedback our brains receive from stretch receptors in our muscles and pressure receptors in joints which enable us to gain a sense where our bodies are in space.

Children are born to play and learn while playing. They are learning while playing. We should refrain from meddling with the natural instincts of a child and observe as silently and in a  non-judgemental way possible.  I have noticed a child in need of vestibular sensory development will jump, will spin on an office chair, will swing, will chose to go round & round on a merry-go-round, will dance, will roll in a garden, will rock on a rocking horse, will slip and slide.  We need to refrain from saying derogatory remarks such as ‘stop rocking or stop jumping.’ I had once read

To rediscover the role of a parent as a facilitator in a playground, do visit my blog.

http://swarnaprashana.org/?s=playground

We should in reality present children with safe opportunities to match with their sensory input requirement. Instill hooks for swings in different locations, provide a mattress to jump on.  The child can stop if the child feels dizzy or nauseated and these activities need to be under supervision of an adult. (Inputs from my guide and friend, Yamini Priya on a discussion on sensory input requirements of children).

Pretend play/ Role play

Encourage pretend play, let the child act out his part. In-fact, I engage with my child and my niece in role play, sometimes, I become a chef, sometimes, I am a baby, sometimes, I am a receptionist, sometimes, I am a patient. Sometimes, I might not be involved with the pretend play, I might be listening to the creative conversations from the room next door while reading a book or working on my blog.  Pretend play also gives us an opportunity to delve into a child’s inner world, towards the child’s innermost feelings and thoughts.

Take the lead from the child and let the child thrive in the make believe world. Let the child imagine things and scenarios and we would soon realise that how we as adults have lost our creative juices long ago. Let these creative thinkers shine. We would be doing a big favour by letting the child’s imagination prosper. To make a world a better place, we need problem-solvers and we need creative thinkers. To raise creative thinkers, we need to raise kids with imagination skills. Let us vouch to be indebted to the spontaneity and innocence of these souls who have come us to probably teach us how simple life really is .

This is what, Georgie Wisen, play therapist, working with well known author Tina Payne Bryson, co-author of the Whole Brain Child has to say about parent-child collaborative play,

“So… I’m a play therapist who does pretend for a living and mom of a 3 year old who does Floortime therapy 2x a week for a speech delay. Basically I have to play all day long everyday. Playing pretend is a muscle you build with practice. At the same time, we have grown up, followed our childhood play’s purpose, and moved into our adult responsibilities so we approach our children’s play differently than they do. Their play gets repetitive because they are learning from repeated experiences of doing the same thing but with micro-mini changes each time, i.e. the pillow fort “door” is one more inch to the left this time, will it stay on? I agree we don’t always have to show up to witness or facilitate the rich learning they are doing in their play, they are learning just the same while we get other things done. But there’s a big advantage when parents do “get into it” enough to create flow and mutual sharing, also referred to as joint attention or reciprocity of play between child and parent. Research points to more neuroplasticity and stress resilience. Of course we all work hard at parenting so your kids are likely to have a lot of this already from your loving care. But I have noticed anecdotally, that the kids I see in my practice whose parents enjoy playing with them seem to recover from rough spots much more quickly than kids who mostly play alone. Maybe we should do a study to verify that, but it’s really got me feeling more invested in my son’s play – an extra layer of protection against stressful times can’t hurt! :)”

Art

Just give your child crayons and plain paper. Give your child water colours and plain paper. Create vertical and horizontal structures.  Give your child chalks and blackboard. Let your child create art with scribbling. Watch the process, engage with the child by matching the child’s scribbling skills. There’s no need to overstep and hijack a child’s art. There is no need for worksheets, activity books, activity classes. Let us do our selves a favour, save this money and spend on stocking art supplies. My detailed blog on my experience as a facilitator of a parent-child session on Artdom shall follow soon that will surely assist us in deepening our understanding of our role as a parent during an art session at home. Have abundance of art supplies(in stock), create a dedicated art space, let them experiment, let them explore.

Music and Dance

Dance with your baby, dance with your toddler, listen to music, put on some soft soothing music at bedtime. Get simple musical instruments, play those instruments with the child and here you have a music class. If we know how to play a musical instrument, we should just play the instrument. If we are learning how to play an instrument, we should take our children with us to our music class. We should sing to our children, share stories, read stories to our children. We should do all this to engage with our children and not to set up an educational experience.  

If we follow the path of observing and providing opportunities for self directed learning to our child/ children, we will never have to go to any hobby classes.  While guides/ teachers are required for certain learning experiences, we should refrain from bombarding our child’s routine and over stimulating with a series of activity centres; hobby classes. What we can instead do is direct our child’s current interest to specialized guide.  For instance, I have often observed that we as parents enroll students to a series of music classes, dance classes, art classes, sports. What I feel is, children in a specific age group might require specialised training. But, the election of classes should always be based on the curiosity level, the relevance of the specific class with the child’s interest.

Taking the above discussion further, let us visualise a 7 year old is interested in jumping, take that child to a trampoline or create a mattress for the child to jump. If we google up, we will get tonnes of ideas on a safe DIY jumping mattress for a child in this age group. This 7 year old is in need of a strong vestibular inputs and is listening to his/her body that is asking them to jump. Let us raise our children who learn to listen to the intuitive inputs from their body.

There are many parents who would say, I let my child do whatever my child wants. I never interfere when my child paints an apple as yellow. I invite you to shift a focus and tell yourself, I am a facilitator, I am no one to allow or disallow my child. As a facilitator, I can set limits in certain situations (for eg.where physical safety is involved), but, I cannot impose my own conditioning to invade my parenting journey.

Free play and boredom

In my opinion based on my journey as a parent and a facilitator, free play and boredom leads to new inventions, cognitive development, self discovery, independence and social interactions.

Kids should have scenarios where there’s nothing to do and they will invent a new play or a new game. I would in-fact encourage parents to offer free spaces, opportunities of free play, no conditioned structures, space & time free of planned activities and then, take a back seat to appreciate the magic to unfold.

Most parents would agree that they want to raise self-reliant individuals who can take initiatives and think for themselves. But filling a child’s time for them teaches nothing but dependence on external stimulus, whether material possessions or entertainment. Providing nurturing conditions and trusting children’s natural inclination to engage their minds is far more likely to produce independent, competent children, full of ideas.

The only condition during this time is that children shouldn’t have any access to any form of electronic media. To re-phrase this, children should anyways have no access to electronic media.

To understand the obvious perils of media, please read this very informative and transformational blog

Perils of visual media

Household chores

Watering plants, helping with the dusting, mopping the floor, organising are some of the household chores that kids not only are very happy to participate in, but, these chores instill in the kids a sense of responsibility.  The foundation years (Age o to 7) is when we can establish a real sense of the adult world. If we wish to have an equitable society where men and women participate in discharging their duties towards the household chores, if we really wish to impart life skills, let them participate in sweeping the dust off the floor, mopping the floor, dusting, making the bed, cleaning the utensils, folding clothes. Give them age appropriate real tools. I had once read somewhere (I cannot recollect where, so, i am unable to give credit). “Children are real people, they need to be given real tools”.

The everyday tasks of playing with water, feeding animals/ pets, caring for pets, climbing stairs, playing with playground equipment, playing with animals, watering plants, eating food independently, smashing the food and eating, playing with clay, cooking food(washing fruits & vegetables, smashing mush, smashing potato are the basic tasks that children can help with).

Do read this blog to get a deep insight into introducing age appropriate life skills to kids.

Age appropriate chores

Activities and toy selection

Toys and activities should be open ended. Also, the mantra should be “less is more”. There is no need to buy expensive and lot of toys. Firstly, as my friend & guide, Yamini, once mentioned, kids who are given abundance of toys can’t learn to value things. Secondly, I feel, kids with abundance of toys are not able to concentrate on one toy. So, at any given point in time, the child should only have 1 toy which can slowly increase to 5 toys.

Do visit this blog for a lot of ideas on open ended play Best open-ended spaces

The beauty of open-ended toys is the palpability that kids can play with these toys for infinite time, there is no correct or incorrect way of playing. There is no ending point, there is no psychological pressure of task completion. Examples of open-ended toys would be wooden blocks, cars, ribbons, cotton & silk scarves, animal figures, dollhouses, balloons, puppets, dolls(made out of wool and not the plastic ones), kitchen equipment, home-made play dough, clay, sticks, shells. Also, before introducing any new toy, always observe the interest of your child. For instance, I introduced blocks to my daughter only when I observed her stacking a few bottles sitting on a dining table.

Activities can vary from art activities, water play, sand play, mud play, gardening, watering plants, playing with animals, feeding animals.

In the end, it is not so much about selection of toys/ activities/ after school programs. It is more about our commitment towards a philosophy that entails us towards counter-intuitive ways of banishing the use of ‘right and wrong’ and let kids manipulate toys in a manner they deem fit.

Examples of close-ended toys would be electronic toys, jumpers, bouncers etc which are detrimental to a child’s growth.

If we do choose to offer close ended toys like shape sorters, puzzles, Lego blocks, there should be minimal or no intervention from adults on the correct way of playing these toys. Let the child figure out which shape fits the sorter, let the child create his/ her own play with close ended toys.  In all likelihood, children create their own play with shape sorters. Children, typically innovate, they take their time to decipher the so called ‘correct’ way of playing with these toys.

Trust

Have immense trust that your child is learning and thriving in each and every moment that the child is living. Human beings are born with an innate ability to learn and they will learn whatever there is to learn for their physical, emotional, social, spiritual and sensory development. Facilitate their process,  offer open-ended toys, offer an unstructured space for them to thrive.

Above all, trust them. Please stop labelling kids as shy, good, bad, clever, naughty, mischievous, bright, intelligent. Accept them for who there are, love them for who they are.  Any book that you might read on parent-child communication stresses on this cardinal law. We really really need to stop labelling our children. We need to love them for who they are, we need to accept them for who they are and love them unconditionally.

Limit setting and safe space

I am often misunderstood when I offer my suggestions and many parents feel that what I am essentially suggesting that the child should be left to mend his/ her own ways. While the child needs a lot of freedom, the child also needs to be gently guided towards a set routine, safety issues. But, we should use our interruptions sparingly and only when it is absolutely necessary. Also, it is important to create a safe space, so that, the need to say ‘No’ reduces. It is my belief in creating a safe space that lead me to Resources for Infant Educators (‘RIE’) and we can read more about creating a “Yes” space on this blog Indoor Playspace by Janet Lansbury.

As we commence the process of trusting our children, we acquire an art of appreciating the little miracles that happen in everyday play and an otherwise ordinary day will suddenly seem as an incredible day filled with real learning and immense joy. Real learning can happen only through play and through a process of fun. Let us learn to let our children ‘live’ and all the life learnings shall come to the child in a harmonious manner. We will slowly and gradually shy away from compartmentalizing learnings(physics, math, language, chemistry etc etc )  and surrender ourselves in the complete belief that children will learn whatever is there to learn for their mental, cognitive, physical, spiritual growth.

To summarize, a parent needs to work on the principle of trust and ‘non-judgement’. Parents need to offer open ended toys & activities. Not every opportunity needs to be an educational opportunity, have trust that the child is learning in every moment. Being busy and keeping the child “busy” are concepts that we need to introspect about.  

To conclude, I will direct my readers to this link Sensory activities for kids which has a detailed list for activities for children in varied age groups to engage with. My purpose for this blog was to transform the perceptions of “doing something” for children towards understanding and accepting that children are learning in every moment of their being.  

Credits- list of resources that I have taken some inspiration from-

https://www.thespruce.com/why-sensory-play-is-important-2086510

https://www.goodstart.org.au/news-and-advice/october-2016/exploring-the-benefits-of-sensory-play

http://www.playcounts.com/ 

http://indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/bollywood/kangana-ranaut-open-letter-if-saif-ali-khan-opinion-on-genetic-inheritance-is-right-i-would-be-a-farmer-back-home-4762137/

I owe this blog to the following people for teaching me through their philosophies, blogs, books and discussions:

  • Janet Lansbury
  • Anisha, my friend from Mexico
  • Teacher Tom
  • Shri Aurobindo’s philosophy on integral education

Author: Ishani

Ishani Shah-Verdia is a mother of a world-schooler, facilitator, an advocate for children's rights, believer in alternative philosophies and a traveler.

What to do to keep your child safe in a playground?

It is so easy to get bogged down when the society keeps giving constant onslaught of what our children should or should not be doing or else they will be left behind. What our children really don’t require is worksheets, tests, colouring books, educational games, videos on nursery rhymes, games on laptops or any other so-called “educational applications”.

What they really require is unstructured, unconditional free play time, what they require is time to get bored, what they require is to play freely in the outdoors.

Playing outdoors, playing with sand, playing with water in an independent environment in the company of kind adults engaged in sensitive observation is the need of the hour for the overall sensory development of any child.

A playground, a park are facilities that are freely available in any city. Parents should explore these facilities rather than taking children to consumerist malls, gaming zones in malls. The more our children play outdoors, the more they are getting a rich opportunity to connect with nature, outdoors is such a powerful tool that is available to us to raise intuitively intelligent adults.

While free play itself is vital, an outdoor playground is the only place that contribute towards the overall sensory development of any child. To understand the relevance of playgrounds for the optimal sensory development of children, please refer to this blog.  How to design playgrounds for optimal sensory development? It is a good read to understand how the different sensory skills are developed through playing with various playground equipment.

Let us now commence our journey towards discussing a more beneficial, a more conscious, a more meaningful process of connecting with our child in a playground set-up.

1. GIVE SPACE

It is not our right to intrude in the personal space and the internal mental thoughts of a child. When we take our children to a park, the best thing that we can do is step back and observe our children. Some kids might instantly start climbing the hill or climbing the stairs leading to the slide. While, a few other kids might just stand there looking at the joyful kids playing.

To an uninformed parent, this might feel like the ‘child is not playing’; or ‘child is not enjoying or perhaps the child doesn’t like going to the park.

However, these impressions that we make about children are based on our perceptions.

The child is there observing, absorbing, processing the new surroundings, the energies, thinking on where he/she wants to play? What does he/she really want to do?

What looks to an adult as a child not doing anything is in-fact a child who is keenly observing the bright colours of the playground equipment, the child is in-fact learning by observing how the older kids are climbing the stairs or how the toddlers are swinging? The child is In-fact analyzing the risk associated with each playground equipment and making mental notes about which equipment he/ she would want to play with.

For an analogy, let us compare a child’s first visit to a playground to what happens when an adult visits a bungee jumping site. How many adults would straight away wear the harness and take the jump? I bet on a ratio of 100, perhaps 1 adult might do that. Adults would normally scan through the area, observe others taking the jump, muster the courage, visualize themselves taking the plunge and then finally decide on taking the plunge or perhaps decide not to take the plunge.

So, now as an adult, when you take your child to a playground, put yourself in the shoes of your child. Empathize. Imagine yourself at a bungee jumping site.

2. MINIMAL INTERVENTION

Interrupting the child and not giving the child the space to breathe leads to the joy slowly fading away and the enthusiasm of playing disappearing.

Intervene only when it is inevitable, when there is a real safety issue involved as opposed to perceivedsafety issue.

For instance, there is a slight danger if a 2-year-old decides to stand up while sliding. I have often seen that many toddlers chose to climb the slide from the opposite direction, to my observant eyes, I have never seen a child hurt himself/ herself by trying to climb from the opposite side. What I have observed is that  in due course the child realizes himself/ herself that it is better idea to take the steps instead. What I have also seen is that the child coming from the opposite direction would usually not slide down till the child coming from the other side has not stepped down. When adults step back, kids learn to take turns, learn to share, learn to be patient and above all learn to trust themselves.

So, intervene only and only when it is “absolutely necessary”.

A parent’s urge to kiss/ hug their child; a child’s favourite uncle  or a favourite friend or a child’s favourite bird flying above does not act as a warrant to interrupt. Trust that your child will any ways in due course spot their favourite uncle/ friend/ bird. Unless there is a “serious” safety issue involved, there is no need to interrupt the child.

It is definitely not in our child’s interests to be physically lifted and put on different playground equipment based on the likes and dislikes of parents.  As parents, it is our duty to take steps that are in the best interest of our child. So, have “trust” that your child is enjoying, “trust” that your child is learning, “trust” that your child’s senses are getting developed even when it might look as if the child is not doing anything. The child is “thinking”. Give your child the space that he/ she deserves.

A really small child might look at the parent for approval, all a parent needs to do is acknowledge the child. The adult needs to be present with the child and yet not intervene. This process is similar to an adult getting absorbed in admiring a tree or sea waves. The process of silent observation is akin to observing the leaves fluttering or observing the sea waves roaring to the shore.

At this point, I would like you to answer these questions:

  • Should a parent interrupt their child’s sequential arrangement of thoughts? (By lifting her and putting her on a slide or showing her or comparing what other kids are doing)

Or

  • Should a parent trust the ability of a child to decide on which playground equipment the child wants to play?

3. RAISE INDEPENDENT THINKERS

It is okay and and in reality a  cherished moment if the child plays with just one equipment for the whole evening or chooses not to play with any equipment. Depending on the personality trait of a child, the child will take a day, a week or a month to decide to play with a different playground equipment.

I will take you through my journey with my daughter. She would initially just play with sand at the playground. After, almost 5 visits, she decided to play with the toy car at the playground. After, a few days, she commenced to play with the merry-go-round. On one of the visits, she chose to play with the puppies instead of the playground equipment. As a parent, let us not attach any predetermined notions on how the child should play at a playground. Let the child lead the way and the parent should just follow her lead with trust and conviction.

After almost 20 visits, she chose to play with a tunnel. The beauty of this process is when she decided to enter the tunnel, she was able to hop on and hop down the tunnel all by herself without any support. She is yet to explore the other playground equipment, but, I have the trust in her that when she is convinced of her own physical strength, she will choose to use slides, the see-saw and the rest of the playground equipment

The inner joy and lessons learnt from being able to independently decide and successfully execute a thought are immense. She is building her confidence, her concentration and independent thinking skills. Life skills that shall support her throughout her entire life. If you wish your child to excel at one particular subject at academics or to triumph at a particular sport or any activity, a playground is the perfect place to build the right foundation.

4. ALLOW YOUR CHILD TO FALL DOWN

Most of the playgrounds are designed keeping in mind the safety of the children. Every park will normally have sand, grass or soft play-mats as a base to create a safety net for children. To my mind, children have an inherent mechanism to judge the degree of risk involved. Children should be encouraged and supported to take age-appropriate risks.

It is typically seen that parents intervene, parents continue to demonstrate what equipment to play with, how to play with it, what to do, what not to do?

Broken spirit.jpg

“Don’t go so fast on swing, you ‘will’ fall down”- When we say something negative, we have in a way manifested  a wrong intention. So, choose your words carefully. Ideally, trust the child to understand his/ her strengths and if you chose to say something, Be careful is all you could say. Avoid making statements that might either be negative or instill an element of fear. These unnecessary interventions take away the joy from playing.

In some cases, some wealthy families will ask their nannies to be with the child. So, the nanny will constantly hover around the child keeping a hand behind the child (so as to hold the child and prevent the child from falling). Falling down and rising up is an integral part of growing up. A child who has never fallen down will grow up to be an adult who cannot accept failures.  An adult who cannot handle emotions of failure is likely to enter a state of depression or in some cases suicide.

However, let us understand what messages are going out to the child when parents keep worrying about their physical safety even at a playground.

When we intervene, these are the messages that go out to the child:

  1. ‘I am incapable of making independent decisions’
  2. ‘The world is not a safe place to play’
  3. ‘My decisions are not important’
  4. ‘It is not okay to fall’
  5. ‘Adults have no confidence in me’

When we keep worrying about a child playing with sensory appropriate playground equipment in a relatively safe environment, we forbid ourselves from nurturing a parent-child relationship based on trust and open communication. When we constantly protect our children and worry about the physical safety of the child, we are building a relationship based on fear. In our attempts to protect the child from any physical harm,  we let the child get harmed from within. Physical harm can be repaired with bandages, would we as parents ever be be able to repair the psychological and emotional harm done to the child through meaningless interventions?

So, the next time, you visit a playground, relax a little, give the child’s nanny a break too, let your child play independently. You can observe what your child is doing, how is your child playing, learn from your child.  We need to shift our perspective from I have to teach everything to my child’ to ‘I have to learn everything from my child’. Do read my blog on My learning journey as a parent to get an insight on my progress as a parent.

5. NO ‘SELFIES’ PLEASE…

In the world of social media, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, it has all come down to clicking those perfect pictures.

We have forgotten the magic of enjoying the moment and our focus has shifted from finding inner happiness to pretentious display. Does every moment of your child’s life need to be captured on camera? Does every moment of your child’s life need to go on social media?

As parents, we need to focus on instilling in our children the right values, the right ethos. Do we fully understand what this generation will grow up to become? A generation that will grow up to give more importance to selfies is likely to grow up to be narcissists. Imagine a world filled with narcissists with no love and compassion for fellow human beings. Imagine a world where friendships are harnessed for social media platforms and there are no real feelings? My heart cries when I see parents intervene, specially to click pictures. When a child is climbing the stairs leading to the slide, the child is doing it with a lot of concentration, all the focus of the child is on safely climbing these stairs without skipping a step.  It is dangerous to intervene and that too so that we can take a picture of the child.

If this is not enough, I often find parents marching orders to kids to dance or to smile to jump for them to be able to take Instagram perfect pictures. Ever wondered what the child feels? If you really wish to click pictures, click natural pictures from a safe distance. These natural clicks would speak a thousand words and create memories to last a lifetime.

Not all teachings have to come on the same day, not all moments need to be captured on camera. The most beautiful moments can be experienced when we observe in mock silence and let children lead the way.

Let kids play freely!

Keep the joy of playing alive!

Disclaimer- The blog is an expression to advocate the rights of every child for free play and outdoor play. Kindly note that, neither the author nor the website are responsible if any unwanted accidents happen owing to poor maintenance of playground equipment.

Author: Ishani

Ishani Shah-Verdia is a mother of a world-schooler, facilitator, an advocate for children's rights, believer in alternative philosophies and a traveler.

Stage 1 – Weaving pearls of wisdom to connect with the beautiful baby inside you

pregnant-woman-1512961_640Congratulations! So, you have seen the two pink lines and you are feeling elated, happy, excited, overwhelmed, scared, responsible. You might be experiencing very strong emotions, the reality might not have sunk in as yet. So, now, what do we do next?

I would love to share what I did when I commenced my journey of motherhood. I started talking to my baby, the little human being that had come to me. This might feel weird to a few mothers and very natural to a few other. However, once we are able to shift our mindset, we as human beings rise to a higher level of consciousness.

I read these eloquent lines somewhere on the Internet and these lines resonated with me on a much deeper level since it fully encapsulates our feelings as mothers.

When someone is expecting, she is not “expecting a child” she already has one. She is not “going to be a mother” she already is a mother. The baby is not “on the way” the baby has already arrived.  If we are going to change the way society treats unborn children, “we have to change the way we talk about them”.  

And, let me just add, we will have to shift our perspective on how we perceive unborn children.

My very good friend and the founder our community, Jayprakash Velu (better known as Velu) has spent years researching the origin of the journey of the soul.  He has spoken to Siddha gurus, ayurvedic practitioners, midwives, holistic healers and from years of his dialogues with these noble souls and deep meditation, he has some very delicate and beautiful information to share with us about the journey of a soul.  I wouldn’t want you to shift your beliefs based on your religious opinion, I would instead like to invite you to delve into understanding the journey of the soul and it’s emotional well-being with me so that we can co-learn together.

From Velu’s learnings, “we have come to understand that the soul always comes from a different dimension, from the sky. It travels to the ground, and then enters the soil, later into the father’s food three months before the act of conception. If the conception happens, it enters the body of the mother. In next few days, it is the nature in combination with their karma, that decides to start the process or not.”  

Our ancient scriptures, many alternative education philosophers believe that the soul chooses the life, the soul has chosen you to be his/ her caretaker/ parent/ mother-father.  The child is ours, yes, but the soul belongs to the world and the soul has come to this world with a purpose.

It doesn’t matter which religion we belong to, the soul is at the crux of human life.

With this understanding, we will be ready to stretch our horizon and look beyond the tiny little dot that we might be able to see on the sonography monitor. Now, what you see is the physical form but what a mother experience is a spiritual form, it is the true form. Being true to this understanding, a mother should commence talking to the child in her womb from the start.

“Eat right, eat healthy, take care of yourself” is the advice that you will get from your family, friends, and doctors. Yes, that is very important. But, what we are going to talk about is how do we as mothers nurture a beautiful relationship with our children while building a healthy emotional state for your child.  

WHY? There is an old saying which says “Precaution is better than cure”. In today’s modern times, we are blessed to have many Theta healers, past life regression healers among us. In numerous conversations, these healer friends of mine have pointed to one fact, the fears, the stress, the complexes, the stigma that an adult faces, the root cause of all these problems goes back to their childhood and the journey they had as an unborn child.

“It is easier to build up a CHILD than it is to repair an ADULT”. Choose your words wisely.

In ancient texts, there are numerous references to the unborn child understanding every feeling, every emotion that the mother experiences and also understanding every word that the mother says and hears. Hence, we often hear our adults say be careful of what you say in front of a pregnant woman.

The famous story of Abhimanyu from Indian mythology Mahabharata where Abhimanyu not only learns the art of warfare and archery while in his mother Subhadra’s womb, but also, learns how to break the whirlpool like army formation by listening to his father Arjun’s words is a very good illustration for us to understand that the unborn child is already a person in himself/ herself. Caught in a whirlpool by Devdutt Pattanaik

How should I talk to my child?

Talk to your unborn child with love, respect and gratitude. Give your child the same respect and dignity that you would give to a fellow human being. Talk to your child in a dignified tone that you would use for a person-to-person contact.  

Why should we talk to our unborn children in a respectful tone?

Because it gives our unborn children an affirmation that they are respectable, independent human beings about to come to this world. Isn’t this what we want our children to grow up thinking about themselves?

What should I talk to my child? What should I say?

In my experience, the first thing I feel a parent should do is thank their child as a sign of gratitude for choosing them. The child shares the energetic fields with both the mother and the father and when the father starts to connect/ communicate with the unborn child, father’s affirmations sets the foundation for inviting fathers into the parenthood journey.

A parent can start communicating by saying “thank you for choosing me as your ma and thank you for choosing <<your partner’s name>> as your papa” in their native language.  

The second step would be to welcome the soul to your womb and you can do so by simply saying “Welcome, my child to my womb. Let us start our journey from today.”

As an analogy, let us compare this situation to an adult visiting a friend’s house to live with the friend for six months. How comfortable would you as an adult feel if your friend says these simple words, “Thanks buddy for coming and staying with me, we will surely have a great time”.Wouldn’t it be beautiful for an unborn child to feel honoured? For a moment, just put yourself in the position of your unborn child and experience the joy of your mother welcoming you to her. This joy is what our unborn children need to experience for leading a truly happy life.

It is also important for the mother to start getting prepared for the coming nine months of pregnancy. The mother can also start giving positive affirmations to herself.  Just listed a few illustrations below:

  • I choose to see beauty in the whole process of bringing a new life into the world
  • My body is physically ready to experience these beautiful nine months of pregnancy.
  • My pregnancy will be a happy, healthy and a beautiful journey.

A parent can now simply add a few thoughts of their own to commence this beautiful journey with their child.

These simple messages are very powerful and act as a stepping stone for establishing a lifelong relationship with our unborn children based on mutual respect, trust, transparency, communication and honesty.

By taking this first tiny step, your boat has sailed and we can now let our inner voice guide us from here, for inner voice has no reasoning, it is what we know is the right thing to do. It is our inner voice, it is the absolute truth.

Author: Ishani

Ishani Shah-Verdia is a mother of a world-schooler, facilitator, an advocate for children's rights, believer in alternative philosophies and a traveler.