All work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy

Without time off from work, a person becomes bored and boring is what the proverb seeks to convey. It is supplemented by a second line sometimes,

“All work and No Play Makes Jack a Mere Toy.”

 

21stfebHumans do possess the capacity to shut themselves out from everything and concentrate on a single activity such as work.

Single-minded devotion is the word often used to describe the condition where factors other than those that help in achieving one’s goal are ignored.

But human mind is designed to work at its optimum best for certain periods after which the productivity diminishes. Brain needs rest.

Okay, you say, “Isn’t this an anomaly? We’ve always been taught that hard work is essential to achieving our goals in life.”

Yes, but it is equally true that our mind also needs distraction from time to time. Recreation is a useful distraction that can provide the fuel needed to power a person’s creativity.

The pace of modern life is such that people tend to become oblivious to their surroundings.

For example, busy people do not know or care what food they are eating. They tend to finish their meal in a jiffy or take inordinately long time to complete the activity. Often the food goes untouched.

A mother can recognise the early signs. She will try and get her child, the ever-busy professional, to slow down.

When that happens, pay attention.

It means, the ever-observant mother is beginning to get concerned that you are showing classic symptoms of overwork – failing to observe social norms like acknowledging the presence of other people around you.

At this stage, you are as bored of others as they are of you.

Take a break. Go on a vacation.

Pick up a hobby like gardening or join a citizens group.

Break the monotony.

The pressure to perform is not just the preserve of working professionals alone. Our Jacks (and Jills) are also under considerable strain to outperform their peers.

It is not uncommon to see young children cooped up with books all the time because parents worry that their kids are not putting enough effort to make the cut at certain prestigious educational institutions.

However, let us remember that good grades do not necessarily ensure blossoming of creativity in your child. Balancing study/work, fun, recreation, and social interaction is more important for your child to be successful and be a well-rounded personality.

Finally, the single most significant reason for achieving a balance between work and play is that the personality of your child is being moulded during this time.

How to Encourage Creativity and Thinking Skills in Your Child

 

Modern technology is often accused of making zombies out of people by hiding the complexities from its users. Buzzwords like ‘enhanced user experience’ is freely used by the manufacturers to showcase their products. No matter how complex the operations involved behind the scenes, companies make sure the end product can be operated with the help of a couple of buttons.

All that is very well from an adult point of view. But, scientists and doctors worry that hiding complexities from the user is resulting in a gradual stifling of creativity in young minds. Elimination of the need for independent thinking and its impact on decision-making is a far greater danger facing mankind. We are increasingly being served ready-to-eat food all the time.14thfeb

If, for some reason in the future, should there be a food scarcity on a global scale, many of us possess no knowledge about how food is actually grown and might be forgiven for thinking that it is grown in supermarkets. We forget that the process of growing food is complex and involves specific knowledge about sowing, weeding, watering, and harvesting – to name just a few things.

Unsurprisingly, many among us today are unable to do simple mathematical calculations using pen and paper! Human brain thrives in the face of challenges – the more complex the better. It is designed for constant and creative usage which also prevents it from degeneration.

Apart from the anthropological and anatomical needs, the 21st century economy makes it incumbent upon its workforce to be creative. As the old economy slowly makes way for the new one, we have to be creative in our approach to problem solving and independent in our thinking. Let us examine then how to encourage children to be creative and independent thinkers.

  • Encourage them to play with other kids in the neighbourhood. Interacting with other humans promotes the ability to respond to a given situation quickly. If your child gets bullied he will learn to deal with it in due course of time.
  • Don’t rush to your kid’s help in cases where the problem is non-life threatening in nature. Children, given sufficient time and encouragement, are fully capable of solving it. The confidence gained, along with your praise should encourage them to think independently.
  • Pick a suitable topic at random and ask your kid’s opinion on the issue. Discuss possible scenarios together thus encouraging your child to explain the reasons behind the views expressed. Earning parents’ respect can be a great morale booster for the child.
  • Reading promotes critical thinking and makes children rely on their power of imagination. It encourages visualization and raises more questions than they can answer. This in turn will lead to an interest in research and further discussions on the topic.
  • Introduce them to sports and outdoors. Sports makes them mentally tough and gives them the ability to assess their situation and take appropriate action. Love of outdoors opens up further avenues for their mental and physical evolution.

Finally, before you do anything else, make TV viewing a restricted activity. Children gorging on junk food and watching television all day does not make for a pretty sight. Once the idiot-box is out of the way, your child will have plenty of time on hand to put to good use.

 

Teaching Kids Healthy Eating Habits

breakfastboy1ah-300x160Ajita Seethepalli, is the Founder of KidsCenter.in (www.kidscenter.in) and practices as a professional Child Sleep Consultant and Child Food Habits Consultant. She can be reached at ajita.gopal@gmail.com

For most parents getting their children to eat a balanced meal is a daily struggle.As a Child Food Habits Consultant I have always found that thetrick is in getting children involved in the decision making instead of forcing a set of values and concepts on them.

I strongly believe that even the pickiest eater can be taught to eat right and healthy. Teaching children to eat a diet full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and plenty of healthy proteins is important to maintain a healthy diet and weight. In India mothers are constantly worrying about their children’s diet and eating habits but feeling completely helpless about improving the situation. It is important that as parents we start implementing healthy food habits early on in our children’s life.At a young age start by encouraging children to try new, healthy foods, allowing them to listen to their internal signals of hunger and fullness, and as a parent learning to respect their decision on how much they eat.

Trying New Healthy Foods
Research has time and again shown us that it takes many exposures to new foods before children decide to accept them. I often suggest to my clients that instead of asking/begging/pleading/threatening/bribing a child to try new foods, it isbetter to have them do a taste test, and if possible at a time other than the main meals. A small spoonful with no conditions attached. Ask them to describe the food…taste, texture, smell etc. If they are old enough to write, have them write down their description. If you have more than one child, have them all do the taste test. Take their views and findings seriously. You can also describe the ingredients you have used. Get children to smell and taste some of the ingredients separately. Let it be about recognizing and analysing the taste and textures and not about having to finish all that is in the plate. Take the pressure off eating. Over time, children who taste lots of different foods tend to eat a variety of foods.

Flavours and Cravings
Kids will eat flavours they are most exposed to. Most packaged foods that target children are generally high in sugar, salt, additives and preservatives, which we all understand is not good for children or adults. A child who is used to eating store bought crackers, chips, juice or other such foods often, will find vegetables and fruits to be extremely boring as they don’t give the same flavour hit as store bought foods. However, a child who is used to fresh fruits and vegetables as a major part of his diet will more likely crave for those healthy food flavours when he is hungry.

Surviving the First Year of Motherhood

 

Ever tried taking a pre-dawn shower on a cold winter day? If you survived the sheer terror of the first few moments, it is reasonable to assume that you went on to complete a refreshing shower that alerted your every sense but left you a little shaken for the experience. Brutal but enjoyable – once you absorbed the initial shock and took the numbing cold in your stride.

The first year and sometimes the first day are usually a precursor to the size and shape of things to come in the future. That probably explains why our first date, our first day at our first job, and of course, our first baby gave us the heebie-jeebies. Fear of the unknown is always overwhelming.

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Motherhood in the first year, with due respect to all mothers out there, is a little like the bathing experience described above – survive the initial experience and you will love the rest immensely. The first year of motherhood is relentless in its demands on the mother. If all new mothers were to be offered a choice between a million tax free dollars and a good night’s sleep, almost all of them would opt for the latter option without a moment’s hesitation. Sleep, or lack of it, is the single most recurring topic of conversation involving a household that has just had a baby.

Parenting in the first year can be difficult, but it need not be as scary a task as people often make it out to be. If you are a new mother weary of the equivalent of first-few moments-under-the-cold shower-in-winter moments of motherhood, here are some tips for you:

  • Number one is, of course, making parenthood a family affair. Get your partner to share the responsibilities. Share and share alike.
  • Find out about your baby’s feeding and sleeping habits. Let her decide on her own schedule. You simply follow suit.
  • No matter what everyone says, you should expose your baby to external environment sparingly. Babies can catch an infection very easily.
  • Listen to good-intentioned advice from everyone and thank them for it.  But understand that every baby is different in her preferences and routine. You know your baby best.
  • Babies can be difficult to manage when they are sick as they know only one way to express their feeling – through crying. In a worst case scenario, babies can cry all night. One way to ensure your baby is healthy is by not missing her vaccination schedule.
  • Winters can be difficult months for a baby, and for you. Make sure the baby stays warm at all times. Buy winter clothing if local conditions demand it.
  • Synchronize your sleeping habits with that of the baby’s. In other words, sleep when she sleeps. It is the best way to catch up on some much needed sleep. You don’t have to worry about waking though! She will make sure the whole household will wake with her.

It will get progressively better from the first year onwards. The baby will begin to understand her surroundings and recognise her parents. She will begin to derive comfort from their presence and physical proximity. She will also begin to sleep better, and at regular hours. That is probably the best indication that you have done a great job with your baby and earned yourself a pat on the back. Or should we say the right to get some shut eye when you are supposed to!

 

Preparing and Planning for School Holidays

Another year has gone by and we are almost a month down in the new year. Now it is just a matter of time before schools close for the academic year. Needless to say, everyone is looking forward to the welcome break. The countdown has well and truly begun.

Kids are looking to do something exciting after a gruelling schedule of homework, exams, and early morning starts. Teachers are grateful for the well-earned time out too. Summer is a happy time for all. Well, maybe not for all.

If you are a parent, challenging times are ahead. Like they say, “Summer (holidays) is the only time when parents realize how grossly underpaid teachers are.” Perhaps, truer words were never spoken. Parents know only too well about what to expect from their kids.

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Did we scare you? If we did, we apologise sincerely and unconditionally. We know you do appreciate the noble intentions behind our scaremongering.

Sure you have dealt with the situation before. But the problem is, it’s been a while. A year is a long time, especially with kids. And their level of expectation goes up too. Well, without any further delay, let us look at some of the ways to plan and prepare for the holidays.

  • First up, spend the first week at home, doing nothing (this usually means watching TV). This will help everyone to relax, immediately after a long period of hectic activity, and gives the family members time to settle down and do some planning.
  • Next, sit down with your kids and discuss what they would like to do during the holidays. Being democratic in your approach and making the kids part of the decision making process not only helps you with fresh  ideas, but also provides you with a safety net should things go not to your youngsters’ liking. Clever, ain’t it?
  • Next, organise things around the house. What really tires us out is the constant running around. Make sure you are well stocked on supplies so that kids can choose activities on their own to amuse themselves and to eat when they want, which is often.
  • Next is time to move out of the house and spend some time outdoors. Mix education with fun. Visit art galleries, zoo and libraries. Hiking or a day at the beach can help the family to spend time together and be engaged for the entire day. Delegate work to children, be it carrying picnic basket or making sure your house is securely locked before you head out.
  • Set aside the penultimate week of the holidays for visiting members of the family and friends you see less often. Renewing relationships and strengthening them further is a good way to remind your kids the importance of family life.
  • Well, it is last week of summer. Time to get back home and talk about things you did together as a family and also plan for the year ahead. Paying a little attention to the cleaning of the house, which may not have received the kind of attention it normally does, is now in order. Happy holidays in advance!

 

Age-by-Age Guide to Feeding Your Toddler

One of the greatest joys of life is watching your child grow. After the trials and tribulations of the first few months after the birth, it is a fantastic and fulfilling experience to see your bundle of joy take baby steps, unsteadily at first, but with growing confidence as the days go by.

The world toddler is derived from the word ‘to toddle,’ which means to walk unsteadily. A toddler is a child of age between 1 & 3. It is a very important stage in your child’s life from the point of view of her physical and mental development. So, it does not come as a great surprise that many parents constantly worry about giving their child the right food to eat and in right quantities. Here’s some useful information you could use:

 

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Age between 12 to 24 Months:

Q: How do you know your child is ready?

A: A reliable sign is your child can now handle a spoon with reasonable proficiency.

Q: What food Items can be considered and in what quantities per day?

A: Food should be mashed or chopped into small pieces. You could consider

  • Dairy like whole milk and cottage & soft-pasteurized cheese:  2 cups
  • Cereals like oat, barley, mixed cereals: 1 ounce
  • Other grains like whole wheat bread, pasta, rice: 2 ounce
  • Fresh fruit like melon, papaya, apricot: 1 cup
  • Proteins like egg, tofu, beans: 2 ounce

Age between 24 to 36 Months:

Q: How do you know your child is ready?

A: Your child is capable of self-feeding and begins to show a marked preference for certain foods.

Q: What food Items can be considered and what are the daily quantities for each?

A: You could consider:

  • Dairy like low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese:  2 cups
  • Cereals like oat, barley, mixed cereals: 2 ounce
  • Other grains like whole wheat bread, pasta, rice: 3 ounce
  • Fresh fruit and fruit juices: 1 to 1.5 cups
  • Proteins like egg, tofu, beans: 3 to 4 ounces
  • Soft cooked vegetables: 1 to 1.5 cups

It is very important to make sure the food is well cooked and mashed or cut into small pieces the child can eat and digest easily. This also eliminates the dangers of choking on the food. Some foods to avoid for this reason are: chips, popcorn, candy, whole grapes and chewing gum. In fact, avoid any soft and sticky food that you feel is unsafe for your child.

Note: (1 ounce is roughly 28 grams)

Disclaimer:

The aim of the article is to be informative in a general way. DO CONSULT your child’s pediatrician or a dietician about your toddler’s diet.

Acknowledgements: http://www.babycenter.com/

How to Discipline Your Kids in Public

Most children behave well in public places and at social gatherings. They try to be at their best behaviour and to not make mischief. But, they sometimes feel the need to impress people around them by doing something clever. In most cases, mothers can discipline the errant kids with a curt word or with a look the children know only too well. They fall in line almost immediately.

Then, there is a small bunch who insist on indulging in obnoxious behaviour in public places much to the discomfort of their embarrassed parents. As parents what are our options? Would you leave in a huff, red-faced and dragging your youngster along or you would much rather give your brat a dressing-down in full view of the public?

 

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You also have the option of just grinning and bearing with your kid’s antics, partly in the hope that it is all part of growing up and partly for the fear of the consequences of disciplining your child in public. In an ideal world, parents should not ever have to teach their kids manners outside of home. But let us make provision for the the fact that the kids will always be kids.

However, as parents we have to face up to the fact that our kids are not the best behaved. Clearly, some course correction is in order, when your youngster starts throwing tantrums and disobeying you. But it is a delicate job and needs to be handled with finesse.

The next time you need to discipline your child for knocking things down at a party or for gargling with fruit juice at a fine-dining restaurant, these pointers might come in handy:

  • Start gently: Don’t fly off the handle. Your kid might have a genuine grievance which might account for the bad behaviour. It’s always best to ask them to explain.
  • Give them limited choices: Be firm with how far you are willing to be pushed. Drive home the point that while you are sympathetic, you cannot be pushed beyond a point.
  • Try humour: Make light of the situation by cracking a joke. The resulting laughter will help the child to either lighten up or embarrass them into being their normal self.
  • Make them self-conscious: Most children are very conscious about their public image and are careful not to spoil it. Making them aware that their actions are being watched by everyone around them often works wonders.
  • Don’t punish them on the spot: This impulsive act always has undesirable consequences. It only aggravates an already bad enough situation. But you need to tell the child that bad behavior is unacceptable – discipline them the moment you reach home.

Finally, we must understand that in most cases, children do it as a way of drawing attention to themselves. They could be tired, hungry or plain bored. Give them a patient hearing before you do anything else!

Reading With Your Child: Is it Part of Your Bedtime Routine?

Most of us are used to witnessing our children falling asleep on the living room couch while watching TV. The practice of reading bedtime stories to your child, which before technology and gadgets took over our lives, was the traditional way of indicating to children that they should be shutting shop for the day and get some much needed rest. The art of bedtime story reading seemed all but a lost cause, given the hectic pace of modern life and the resulting lack of time.

 

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Good news is, the practice is being revived, partly due to the concerns arising out of children’s overdependence on modern gadgets and electronics games. The other major concern is a lack of communication between children and parents, especially if both parents are professionals spending a large amount of time away from home.

First, let us look objectively at some of the pre-conceived notions held by us adults about children and see for ourselves if there is any truth in it.

  • Children have short attention spans: Not always true. In fact, one could keep them engrossed with right content and narrative. We have definitely come across children who prefer such activities as reading and painting to TV and video game consoles.
  • Children like ‘modern’ entertainment: Not correct. Children will always remain children. Curiosity is what differentiates them from adults. Grownups are partly responsible for making them rely on gadgets, television and electronic games.
  • Children must be tech-savvy: Most parents feel the real indicator of their child’s development is the child’s ability to operate gadgets. While this ability has its benefits, the real education is about getting your child to THINK – positively and creatively.

So, let us examine the benefits of making reading with your child a bedtime routine and how it can contribute to the overall development of your child.

  • Fire up their imagination: Great ideas are products of the power of imagination. Constant exposure to visual media can sometime hinder this ability. Don’t let their ability to visualize weaken. Reading with your child gets them to use their imaginations.
  • A chance to bond: Reading with children at bedtime is great for bonding. The last memory before they fall asleep should be a pleasant one as it makes them sleep better. Getting plenty of sleep is key to your child being active and energetic during the day.
  • Encourages love of reading: When children are read to, they may not always understand everything that was read to them. Their curiosity will lead them to do further research. At some stage, parents’ help is sought and these interactions are always good.
  • Give them attention they deserve: Children love attention and the lack of it may lead to insecurities and behavioral problems. Reading with children is your way to show you care and that the child will always remain the center of your affections.
  • Reinforcing moral values: Reading with your child at bedtime is a great to way to initiate a dialogue between the parent and child. Discuss a few scenarios in the narrative to know what the child thinks about a particular action or situation. Parents can guide them to follow the right path by explaining to your child the reasons for it.

 

The Benefits of Creative Activities for Children

Shobika-blog-300x200We all know people who love to indulge in creative activities like painting, crafting, writing, dancing and so on. Ever wondered what keeps them going? What makes this someone keep making hand crafted goods or keep writing thoughtful articles? If you ask anybody who engages in creative pursuits, they will tell you how they not only love the process of making something but they also enjoy the praises showered by others. Further, the satisfaction of seeing something that one has created is also unmatched.

Creativity, an often unrecognized attribute, is present in each one of us but only some choose to let their creative juices flow. As parents/educators, the earlier you sow the creative seed, the more chances there are that your ward will be in touch with his/her creative side later in life.

Creative arts of all forms have been used as tools of expression, communication and release by individuals, schools as well as therapists. Research suggests that when individuals are involved in the art of making something, they are tuned into themselves, thus giving value to self, while at the same time expressing what is inside. Creative arts are not only good for mental health but also for physical health and relationships. Researcher R. Reiner from New York University suggests based on his study that, crafts de-stress. This is also indicative of the fact that engaging in crafts is not compatible with emotions like anger, worry, obsession or anxiety. Crafts can transport one to another place and often times, assist in the journey of life.

The benefits of creative activities are manifold for people of all age groups. Apart from the obvious developmental benefits, there are other well documented benefits of creative arts when adopted by young children:

Creativity boost: Activities that encourage generation of new ideas allow children to use their imagination and as a result help them in developing their own perspectives and make them more thoughtful and inventive; attributes crucial not only for education but also helpful in life.

Increased Happiness: Expression of emotions via arts and crafts can help children to feel calmer and happier. These are also great ways to work with children exhibiting any kind of emotional/social problem.

Building up of patience: Most craft activities require children to follow guidelines and some activities require repeated attempts, thereby, helping children become more patient. Being patient is an important virtue and it helps children particularly when trying to work on long projects.

Instilling the Values of Christmas Cheer and the Spirit of Christmas

Festivals are events celebrated to mark a social, ethnic or religious milestone of a community. They are observed as a tribute to a momentous occasion in history, where a great victory was won or a calamitous moment was averted. They often serve as a reminder to the newer generations of the sacrifices and hardships endured by the early members of the community.

Food is often a central theme in the celebrations of many festivals, underlining our agrarian origins and how agriculture played a central role in the advancement of the human race by taking away the major worry and preoccupation of having to search for food on a daily basis, which allowed humans to evolve into an advanced society that we are today.

 

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The central message of most belief systems in the world is the same: firstly, to be a good human being and to help people around you; and secondly, ensure victory of good over evil. There are many paths to the same eventual truth. As societies evolve, the religious connotations of the festivals are obscured and people from all walks of life begin to take part enthusiastically in the festivities of the others. Christmas is one such festival, which is celebrated by every community and in every part of the world.

One way to celebrate festivals is to plan lots of fun activities. Another way of celebrating a festival is by going the traditional way and use the occasion to follow traditional practices, reinforce moral values, spread happiness, help others, and strengthen family ties.

Celebrating by mixing fun with philanthropy and taking time to ensure everybody is a part of the festivities is probably what most of us do. So how do we observe the festivals, in the spirit they are meant to? Christmas is a good time to make some fundamental changes to our life.

  • Make a pledge: Give your life a sense of purpose, and discover the joys of giving. It could be as simple as clearing your wardrobe and giving away that extra pair of clothes to a homeless person. Most of us buy more things than we actually need.
  • Offer your time: Time is precious and there is no nobler gesture than offering your time to your community, an orphanage or an old age home.
  • Teach your kids to share: Children learn from their parents. When children learn to put their own interests after that of others, parents can rest assured that they are on the right path. What they have learnt when young will stay with them for life.
  • Strengthen family values: When we decide to do something for others, it would also be a good time to assess how we as a family are functioning. Take some time off and see if your partner and your children are receiving your attention and time.

Good neighbourly relationship: The pace of modern life means that we do not even care who stays next door. This Christmas reach out to your neighbours and see the  difference it can make to your life.