10 best toys for 4-year olds

The twins have turned 4-years old. They do not go to a formal environment of pre-school / day-care yet. They continue to be in their comfort environment of home and do what a 4-year old should be doing – play, play and play. Accordingly, we require lots of toys and props to keep them occupied throughout the day. So, what would these toys be?

I felt that I should make a list of 10 best toys for 4-years old, without breaking the bank, basis our experience. So, here goes. (O +ve and B +ve see smart-phones in the house but they are not fond of it as such. They have not been introduced to any apps on a digital screen for the purpose of either fun or learning).

Mud / Sand

O +ve and B +ve love splashing in the mud. Since they were young and learning to crawl, mud/sand has been their best friend. Be it in terms of developing gross motor skills or fine motor skills for a child or just throwing around, nothing beats the feel of mud/sand.

New houses keep getting constructed in the colony of their maternal grandparents and each visit to their house brings forth an occasion to have fun with mud/sand. One of the favourite destinations for Dirty Feet, their mother’s enterprise, is Potter’s Galli and all the potters in the village now know the liking of the girls for the mud.

It is a pity that the opportunity for the girls to revel in mud/sand come few and far in between nearer to our house. Their mother did propose to our apartment secretary to make a mud-pit on the terrace. However, the idea was shot down.

Water

At times, handling twins turn out to be a handful. The kids are in an irritable mode and are throwing tantrums around. Or just that you want the children to be on their own for some time.

Enter the tubs when the children knew only to sit. Enter the buckets when the children know how to stand.

Leave them alone with a bucket half-full of water and even after hours together, they will have to be dragged out of the water. If they are backed up by paper boats, food colours, flower petals, toy animals; nothing better than that.

Packaging material

In the ear of Amazon and Flipkart, a lot of packaging material come into the house. The bubble wraps, brown paper bags, carton boxes, plastic sheets, thermocol sheets – all have a role to play.

The girls love jumping on the bubble wraps. Brown paper bags of Amazon Now plays a stellar role in playing feed the shark, feed the bunny, join the dots, draw the family, free-hand sketching – what-all and what-not. The carton-boxes basis their size becomes a cave, a slide, a see-saw, a boat etc. The plastic sheets are used to cut and make shapes and for drying the fryums they make. The thermocol sheets are used for shredding them apart, use as a sledge, as a bed for their toys.

The girls follow the principle that whatever enters the house can be used. We are actually quite popular in the apartment for people to hand over their packaging material to us otherwise thrown out as trash.

Doh

O +ve and B +ve love playing with flour in any form. They are becoming adept at making roti as well, as they continue their doh fantasy into the kitchen. They like playing with play-doh just that it was turning out to be an expensive affair. So, their mother makes play-doh at home almost on a weekly basis with maida, food colours, salt and water. Not just through the moulds, you name anything and the girls will try to visualize it through their play-doh.

Nature-based collection

The girls have a fascination for collecting twigs, dried leaves, fallen leaves, seed-pods, insects, petals, stones – anything and everything that can be found in the park, on the road – anywhere. The easiest way to engage them is to hand them their nature bags and ask to go for a nature hunt. The only issue has been with the stray dogs that do not trust the two little girls going about their task diligently.

Books

The books are kept in book racks that the girls can easily reach up to. They do not have any dedicated time to have the books read to them, it is impromptu. Once read to them, they like repeating the stories to the most unsuspected listener that they can get themselves to hear to.

 Colours

Be it the regular crayons and colour pencils, or the water colours or the rangoli powder colours, or the gerua or the food colours, it is sure to transform any time of the day to a veritable riot of rainbow colours.

House-hold material

We encourage the girls to play with whatever they can lay their hands on – spoons, bowls, straws, screwdrivers, spanners, keys, locks etc. This also ensures that they think that the house is a big play-area and we are in a state of perpetual mess, never to find what we want at a given point of time. Just adds another dimension to our already crazy lives.

Blocks

The girls do have their collection of Lego blocks. It helps to have some kind of formal structures thrown into their other-wise unstructured growing up.

Open Spaces

This is the most important toy for our daughters. Nothing else to do but just run, hop, skip and jump.

A 4-year old has to be a 4-year old.  We believe that above are the 10 best toys for our 4-year old twin daughters.

What’s your say?

Weight of school bags is not going to reduce in India

The government of India has passed the order restricting the weight of school bags of the students. The order limits the weight of the school bags of class I and II student to 1.5 kg. The school bag of class III to V student should not exceed 3 kg and the same of class VI-VII students has been restricted to 4 kg, of class VIII–IX student to 4.5 kg and class X student to 5 kg.

On the face of it, the order looks great. The parents, the educationists, the schools, the media – all have welcomed the step taken by the government. Now, the question is – Is the heavy school bag a problem in itself or is it a symptom of a greater order malaise affecting the Indian education system?

After all, the weight of school bags does not increase on its own. The child has no say in what to carry and what not to carry in the school bag. So the child cannot be responsible for the heavy school bags. Who is responsible for the weight of school bags? What goes into increasing the weight of school bags? Without answering or at the least, raising these questions, the government of the day has passed the order restricting the weight of school bags.

I suppose there are three issues plaguing the weight of school bags. All the three are known to everybody. The first is evident to all on a daily basis. The second issue can only be spoken about anonymously. The third is so much interwoven in our lives, that we would not be even aware of it.

The school timings

Majority of the school timings are for 8 hours – 8.30 am to 3.30 pm. Even for the class I and II, rather seemingly for all the classes. Now, when a child has to spend 8 hours in a school, it would be expected that the child has to carry enough material to occupy herself/himself throughout the day. (A full-grown working adult spends 8 hours in the office. A growing child also spends 8 hours in school. Unlike her / his parents, a child also has to participate in extra-curricular activities, project report, homework, prepare for exams – wonder where is the childhood?)

Unless the school timings get curtailed, the weight of school bags will not reduce. One may argue that will the weight of school bags definitely come down with the reduction of school timings? The answer is no due to the other two issues. However, the reduction in school timings is the first step in bringing down the weight of school bags. Else, what will schools do with the children for 8 long hours?

The school fees

This is the elephant in the room that nobody talks about. The school fees per annum in India range from 40-50 k to 1 lac to 2 lacs to 3 lacs to 4 lacs to 5 lacs to 6 lacs to 7 lacs and more. This is without transportation and food. I am not sure about the other incidental expenses.

Now with such exorbitant fees, the schools need to have the 8-hour school shifts. Else, what all will they claim in a 5-hour shift for charging such high fees? With these fees, the schools need to show the parents that their children are learning something very important. Hence the weight of school bags. Even for schools with lesser fees, they need to stand in the market. They also need to show that they are up to something. How do they do it? The weight of school bags.

Again, one may argue that the school fees are important for the schools to invest in infrastructure, teachers etc for a better learning output for the children. Well, if a school fee of 6-7 lacs per year is a pre-requisite for a successful learning environment and results, all other schools can very well be shut down for spoiling the future of other lesser children.

One will not speak about the school fees openly lest his / her child studying in one of those schools face an issue from the school management.

With these two issues of inflated school fees leading to 8-hour school timings, the weight of school bags is not going to come down.

The parental expectations

Narayana schools start their Medichamps programme and eTechno programme for cracking medical entrance and IIT-JEE from standard 6 onwards. The government has restricted weight of school bags for standard 6 students at 4 kg. Now when the child has started studying for something that is 7 years away, what is to be expected of the weight of school bags?

Expectations from a child get so much ingrained in an Indian parental mind that it has to manifest itself somewhere in a tangible form for a parent to be convinced that the child is on the right path. Nothing better than the weight of school bags.

Conclusion

Indian laws and rules suffer from practical execution issues. This government order is no better. Who is going to ensure that the weight of school bags is as per the norms? The schools, the parents, the government – Who?

If the parents/schools are so concerned about the weight of school bags of the children, they can address the issue themselves. The schools would not do, for that affects their profits. The parents would not do, for that affects the perceived future of their children. The government, anyways, would not do anything apart from passing orders (they run anganwadis and government schools with no stellar records, rather no records at all).

For all I know, the weight of school bags might get transferred to a smartphone/tablet someday and everybody, but the child, will claim success.

PS:

i. “As per the curriculum, six textbooks have been prescribed for classes VI to X. Three textbooks for three languages and one for Maths, Science and Social Studies each,” said the circular. “There shall be one notebook for each subject for exercises, projects, Unit Test, experiments etc. which the students need to bring as per timetable. Students should not be asked to bring additional books, extra material to the school.” The above adds up to 5 books, including the textbook, for each subject. With 6 subjects, this becomes 30 books. Even if the child carries 50% of the books, how it will remain within the limit of 4 kgs for a class VI student?

ii. As per education experts, heavy bag brings stress on the child due to which back pain and muscle pain occur. The posture of the child also gets affected by the heavy load of the school bag carried on the back. Apart from the visible physical stress, there is no mention of the mental trauma of a child. He to study for 8 long hours whatever he carries and, needless to say, the expectations of the parents.