Ask Amma

Posts Tagged ‘exploration’

Won’t some people be walking sideways?

In Wit on 15 December 2015 at 2:35 am

From Bangalore Chetana Amma shares this delightful question from 5 year old Disha:

Kids Just Say the Darnedest Things …

Disha and I saw a video about the planets, sun and earth. She had many many questions about what she saw. We even took her to the planetarium for a show. We made the solar system model using balls at home. We showed her the globe in my dad’s place, which was there since my child hood. We talked about how different places on earth have sunlight while other places have moonlight. After a few days of contemplation, she asked me, ” Amma, if the earth is round, then won’t some people be walking sideways, right side up, up side down?”

Such a wondrous thing to imagine!


Incidentally the question came up on Quora.  I liked the response of Kevin Guerrawho said:

They are, usually anyway, it’s just that when you go and visit, they all sit properly, they don’t like to be caught sitting upside down, you see?
Won't some people be sideways and upside down?  Image:  Quora

Won’t some people be sideways and upside down? Image: Quora

 

Reflections on Parenting

In Field Notes on 6 January 2014 at 4:02 am

As a participant-observer in the parenting tribe, Rushabh Mehta from Mumbai reflects on his three years’ experience as Poppy to his daughter Kavya. 

Kavya and her Poppy

Kavya and her Poppy

Kavya is already three. For first time parents, there is always a feeling that there was an era before parenthood and after parenthood. Before parenthood, life is much simpler. With a child around, the amount of activities suddenly explodes.  Also if you are someone who is not used to anticipating and planning, you can quickly get behind the task list, that just keeps on extending. Read the rest of this entry »

The right toys

In What on 8 June 2013 at 3:30 am

My son is 18 months old and it feels like he is growing up very fast.  I often have thought about “Am I giving him enough toys to play?” or sometimes “Am I giving him the right toys?  I have also heard about introducing new toys to children which are age appropriate, and it would be helpful to get your insight on this topic.

– mother of an 18 month-old in Irvine. 
 
Though almost anything can be a toy, play does not require toys.  Running, climbing, dancing, hide-and-seek, hopscotch and all kinds of imaginary games are fun and appropriate for all ages.   Coming to your question, what makes you think he needs more toys?
What are the things that your son reaches for now?  Observe the ways he engages with the people and things around him.  Young children often want to be involved in whatever those around them are doing, and so common household objects like dishes and buckets and cabinets become attractive.  If people in the family are into gardening, art, music, woodwork or other crafts, kids would probably want to get their hands on the shovels, brushes, instruments or other supplies involved.  Of course if the important objects seem to be the phone or laptop, kids will want those too.  Most of us would be better off spending less time with our gadgets, and diversifying our activities.
More important than selecting the right toy is cultivating a positive attitude towards work and play, which are one and the same for a child.  Why should we as adults break that continuum?  Often I hear children who are taking pots and pans out of the cabinets being told to “go play” and even given “toy” pots and pans for this purpose.  Rather than recognizing the child’s desire to be part of the action and including the child in their work, these parents impose a separation between work and play.  Having given the the plastic kitchen set to the child, do the parents join them?  No, they continue in the actual kitchen.  Children resist this second-class status, and hence the instructions to go and play and stay out of the kitchen are repeated and reinforced through various means, often including more toys.
What if you could share the space and material in the kitchen?  It would slow down your work, only if you narrowly define your work as getting that specific meal prepared in a timely manner.  But the work that you thought you were accomplishing by providing age-appropriate toys, can also get done by allowing kids in the kitchen.  Secondly, why be so possessive about your work?  Doesn’t the work belong to the family, including the child?  Taking items out of the shelf may seem useless or counter-productive to you, especially when you are putting them back, but if you hear what the child is communicating (I want to be part of the family, to do what the elders of my species do), it is not pointless.  And if it makes you feel better, there are some motor skills being honed, and spatial relations being worked out in the process.  When you believe the noise has a purpose, it is less likely to give you a headache.
As you mention that he is growing up fast, you may not be surprised to find that soon he can also do things like put the spoons away or wash some tomatoes or roll some chapatis, if you let him do it in his own way.
Another positive attitude parents should develop is a positive attitude towards dirt.  As Fraulein Maria said, “Children can’t do all the things they’re supposed to if they have to worry about spoiling their precious clothes.”  I can also summon the New York Times, “Babies Know:  A Little Dirt is Good for You.”  Much of the toy market is driven by a motive to engage kids in a way that keeps them indoors, sitting still and not getting dirty and not falling down and scraping their knees.  This is hardly age-appropriate!
So to recap – the way to encourage play is
  • provide plenty of space to run, jump, climb, etc
  • allow children to get dirty and take some risks
  • don’t separate work and play

And now for toys.  As the new / old wisdom on food says, “buy no food that you see advertised (Michael Pollan).”   Why not apply the same to toys?  Especially toys that talk, light up, or claim to develop the brain.   Of course such educational claims are part of the sales pitch for most toys, so I would probably just ignore them.  Also avoid any toy that is so expensive that you would not want to see it broken.  Toy inventor and scientist Arvind Gupta says that the best thing a child can do with a toy is break it … and on Arvind Gupta’s website you can find toys that you can put together and take apart all you want, since they are made of odds and ends.

Everything that toys are touted to promote – be it imagination, creativity, problem solving or – arise more meaningfully through self-directed interaction with real time, space, people and ordinary objects found in mission-critical places like the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, or the puddle in the yard.  Toys from the store often have predesigned functions, whereas in the imaginary world of the child, anything can be anything.   A boat made of paper or tinfoil can be a raft or a coast guard vessel or cruise ship.  Even a bead or a twig or a leaf can be a boat.  Or a passenger.  Or an iceberg.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If I had to buy a toy, I would go for one without many features, that does not do much on its own (or require batteries!) or have a script already designed for it.  Even if it does, of course there is no requirement that one follow the given script.  So I would avoid suggesting the “right way” to play with a toy.
When one has only a few toys, their roles grow over time.   What I have found is that through years of playing, some toys are far more versatile than we imagined at first.   Even if you don’t buy any toys, you might get some as gifts or hand-me-downs.   To avoid accumulating too many toys, you could pass old ones along to make room for new, but a word of caution: if this happens frequently, then one of the lessons learned from the toy will be its disposability.

You may also like:

Mistakes

In Wit on 26 May 2012 at 12:57 am

Kids Just Say the Darnedest Things!

Sunitha from Seattle shares these words of wisdom from her 8 year old son Sahith:

Amma, you know what would be a good exercise for you?
For five hours, you let me make as many mistakes as I want
and you sit and just watch without saying anything.

Amma salutes young Sahith’s clarity as well as his Amma’s readiness to share these compassionate words with all of us.

%d bloggers like this: