How To Involve Kids In Everyday Household Chores

Everybody knows that it is good for children to get involved in everyday household chores. People are aware that it is beneficial for children and parents, as well. There is a laundry list of age-appropriate household chores for children on the internet.

The only thing is how to get children involved in household chores? Also, how not to involve them? As a hands-on stay-at-home father for the last two and a half years to now five-year-old twin daughters, I am sharing my experiences.

Children follow live examples

One thing that we learnt early was that children are great imitators, which I suppose everybody knows. They like to copy the actions, whatever is happening around them. So, my wife and I figured out that this is the simplest and easiest way to involve our children in daily household chores.

We start doing any task ourselves. In a moment, our children will jump to it. Just that, first we have to train ourselves and have the self-discipline to do the tasks on our own.

There is no point in telling the children to do this and that. They see that their parents are just sitting and giving them instructions. The output is also the same. They also sit and give reasons not to do the tasks. Or better, they do not get into the conversation at all. They behave as if we do not exist.

Rather, we start the tasks. The children follow suit. We do not have any age-appropriate classifications for household chores. They figure out themselves along the way if they can do it and find a way to do it. Be it dusting, folding clothes, putting clothes for drying, cleaning the kitchen, putting utensils, cutting vegetables, putting grocery, feeding the pets, making the bed, they have been able to get themselves involved in all these tasks and more.

Time is not of the essence

This again applies to us as parents, then children. When children are learning to do the tasks, they will, of course, be slow, they will take time, they will wander around, they will make a mess out of it, they will ask questions, they will leave the task mid-way and what not.

We know that without them, we can finish the tasks in less time. But that is not the purpose. The purpose is to train the children in these household chores and get their interest going. The purpose is to make them self-reliant and able to take care of themselves.

In this endeavour, if we take more time than usual in completing the tasks, rather at times, not getting them completed at all, it is all a part of the learning process. Many times, we have gotten into all sorts of conversations doing household chores and this is where their hands-on learning happens. This is where their curiosity gets all fired up.

In the larger scheme of things of getting children involved in household tasks, the clock has no role to play.

Quality will come along the way

Our children help us with all the tasks we do. Just that, once they are through and leave, several times, we end up doing whatever they have done, all over again.

Our children do whatever they interpret as our actions in household chores. We observe them and ensure that they do not hurt themselves. Apart from that, they are free to do the tasks in whatever way they deem fit. They are developing their methods to do the tasks and show their creativity in doing them.

What is important is that the children are doing the household chores, and it is fine if the means and the output vary from what we would have done ourselves.

How not to involve in household chores

As mentioned above, instructions have never worked for us. We do not believe in punishments and rewards at an over-all level itself, so it has no role here as well. We have a time-table to do our tasks, but there is no time-table for the kids. If they feel like it, they join us; else there is no expectation that they will do with us all the time. We do not give them any directions on how to do the tasks and how well they are doing. They are free to do as per their inclination and application.

In short, it is our children’s self-initiative basis our household chores that they get themselves involved in their own manner.

We believe that this is the process that has worked for us till now. We will see for the future how it pans out.

What are your views on how to get the children involved in everyday household chores?

India Is No Country To Raise Daughters

It is outrageous. Shocking. Absolute disgrace to all of us. The whole nation. Supreme Court’s report showed that from January 1 to June 30 this year, 24,212 First Information Reports (FIRs) were filed across India under the POCSO Act.

(POCSO – Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. It deals with child abuse and sexual assault on children. In short, Child Rape).

India registered 24,212 FIRs for child rape in 180 days. That is 135 FIRs for child rape daily. This is insane. Out and Out sickening. There are no words to describe this.

Also, there would be incidents where children do not report sexual assault to their families. There would be cases where families refuse to approach police station to file FIR. If all these get added up, I do not want to even think about it. And, POCSO does not deal with FIRs of rape on adult women.

24,212 FIRs of child rape in 180 days. These are not mere numbers. 24,212 lives ruined forever before they reach their adulthood. These are 24,212 children, most of them girls, innocent, naive, simple, just a child, who would just want to play. What have they ever done to deserve such a fate?

What have we done as a country to avoid the FIR No. 24,213?

Political Leaders

When the elections come, the politicians turn up and promise whatever and whatnot for votes. Has even one politician owned up to fight for any of these 24,212 children? Has even one politician vowed that s/he will make her/his constituency child-abuse free, where the safety of the daughters is guaranteed? Ever heard even one statement condemning these incidents from Prime Minister to the Corporator or the Sarpanch and all the Honourable Political Leaders in between?

Forget it. They will only throw Kuldeep Sengar, the Unnao BJP MLA at us.

Judiciary

The time limit for investigation of all cases of rape has been prescribed, which has to be mandatorily completed within two months. The deadline for the completion of trial in all rape cases will be two months. Note that, this mentions all rape cases and not just POCSO cases.

So, what would this mean? India is getting justice? Far from it. 1.5 lakh POCSO cases are pending trial. These are not 1.5 lakh cases, damn it. These are 1.5 lakh children abused and carrying the scar for the rest of their lives. And India’s defunct judiciary will keep dragging its feet till the accused dies of natural causes – old age and the case will be dismissed.

Indian Parliament has passed a law to provide death penalty for rapists of girls below 12 years. When the Judiciary does not deliver justice, what use is the law of death penalty?

Forget it. Nirbhaya convicts are still very much alive. The Honourable Supreme Court is yet to decide on their review petition.

The Government

As per available data, the number of victims compensated under POCSO was 3% in 2015, 4% in 2016 and 5% in 2017. The Government cannot even compensate the victims, leave aside get them justice.

India has a Child Rights body – National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). It is a statutory body working under the Ministry of Women and Child Development. This distinguished Commission has not gathered any data related to child sex abuse cases since the POCSO Act came into being in 2012.

Forget it. The Government will just say “Beti Bachao”. What for? To get them raped?

The Police

Of the 24,212 FIRs registered under POCSO in the first six months of 2019, over 11,900 cases – just under half – were pending investigation. Meaning, the Police registered only the FIRs, and that is it. In India, anyways nothing is expected out of the corrupt politicians and the defunct Judiciary, at least the Police could have taken the lead in providing India’s daughters with a safe environment.

Anyone IPS officer/police station/constable could have taken a public vow to make her/his jurisdiction POCSO-free.

Forget it. They are busy perpetuating their indulgence.

The Media

Ever heard any one of these 24,212 FIRs in any of the media – print / digital / TV / anywhere? Has there been even one media outlet that says that they will report all the POCSO cases in their respective catchments from the day FIR is registered to when the trial court passes a judgement – daily?

Forget it. They will not see any saleability in this reporting.

This brings us to the biggest culprit of all. Us. Society.

What have we been up to? What are we doing? Where have we reached as a society wherein 100 + of our kid daughters get raped daily? We have lost our moral and ethical compass so much that nothing moves us out of our slumber.

Where did we go wrong as a society that perpetrators of these 24,212 FIRs within 180 days are amongst us and we are silent? Where have we lost our spine that our political leaders, government, judiciary, police, media – none of them are playing their part in delivering a safe society and we are silent? How did we become a place where it is unsafe for our daughters to enjoy their childhood and we are silent?

I know that we are somewhere, still humans. Just do not know, where humanity is lost.

I thought I am living my dream as a parent, I was wrong. It is a mistake from my side for making my twin daughters take birth in this country. I am sorry girls.

5 Ways For Children To Enjoy The Train Journey

The very mention of the train journey leads our twin daughters to jubilation and excitement. B +ve and O +ve look forward to train journeys as if we are going to a second home. Their reaction is like the brand ambassadors of the adage – It is the journey that counts, not the destination. For their interest lies in the train journeys, like none other.

The Railway Station

Our children love going to the railway station. Leave aside our train journeys, we go to the railway station to wave goodbye and say welcome to any of the family members that cross Secunderabad railway station. We wave to not just departing family members, but to all the passengers looking out of their windows and doors, guard, TTEs, pantry staff and sundry.

Even though the train has departed/is yet to come, we loiter on the railway station inspecting the escalators, sweepers, food stalls, trolleys, large rats scavenging on the tracks, leaking water pipes, pigeons and crows, and of course the stray dogs. The girls do want to have a peek inside the engine but the government staff does not believe in giving hands-on experience to children.

At times, we have taken food from home and gone to the railway station to have our meal. It has been a worth-while experience for our children just being at the railway station.

The train journey – Outside of the coach

We used to travel in AC class when the girls were young. However, after they turned two years, we realized that they are not enjoying the view behind the glass. So, we moved to the sleeper class / general class.

Whatever the girls see outside the moving train – trees, flowers, fields, crops, barren land, hills, factories, cattle, people, railway stations, dried river-beds, sky, birds and of course the garbage that accompanies the railway tracks – is a topic for discussion. The children want to know about each and everything that passes by and why it is the way it is.

Whenever the train has an extended stoppage at any station, we get down acclimatizing ourselves with the new place.

The train journey – Inside of the coach

The girls love to walk through the compartment. They are not comfortable crossing the coaches yet. They make acquaintance with the fellow passengers and run around merrily in the walking aisle. As I walk behind them, people get to identify me as the harried father of the two bundles of energy.

The girls love climbing up the upper berth. As they monkey around – up and down the upper berth, I end up standing in the aisle for an extended duration so that they do not fall in the moving train.

No matter what the Railways claim about the bio-toilets and the cleanliness drive, the wash-room is a big thumbs-down from the girls. Unless it is an over-night journey, they would not step inside.

The vendors

The girls chant cha-chai coffee-coffee whenever the vendor passes by. We have tried out almost all the snacks – non-packaged and non-branded, bhel, vada pao, samosa, kachori, soup, cutlet, idli, vada and the local fruits that otherwise would not be available at our doorsteps.

The girls have seen the beggars at the traffic junctions. However, seeing the handicapped people sweeping the compartment and begging, women going around with medical files, people coming and singing yesteryears Hindi songs, eunuchs asking for money etc is a different experience altogether for the children.

At times, we have asked ourselves if we should change our mode of travel to shield our daughters from this experience. The answer has been – Indians ought to know India in all its avatars.

The games and the food

When we travel to my home-town Rajkot, it is a 28-hour train journey one way. All the above loses its sheen after the 18-24 hour time. Then, it is the time for the blocks, books, play-doh, activities that we carry along-with and of course the toys, that we buy along the way.

Needless to say, the children get hungry more on the train journey. We carry a good amount of food to keep their little tummies full.

Summing Up

Indian Railways is not at all an easy place to travel in with children. We have a tough time sleeping in the night with the two girls. The wash-room invariably stinks and the girls refuse to go. It was difficult feeding them and changing diapers when they were young.

Now, the girls are enjoying themselves in the train and at the railway station, come what may.

I suppose they have internalized the Indian Railways train journey.

Introducing Seeds to Children With Fun and Games

“Summer Seed Race 2019” – A perfect time to bond and a great way to learn about seeds.

The sensorial and tactile act of rummaging, gathering and collecting seeds will contribute to kindling a genuine interest and connecting all of us intimately with our immediate natural world.

A humble attempt to get each one of us to spare a moment for the green blessings that we have taken for granted.

So said Dirty Feet‘s mail announcing the “Summer Seed Race 2019” activity under its NATURE SCHOOL programme.

B +ve and O +ve collect loads of stuff during their usual nature walks in the parks/neighbourhood. I suspect that many of them are seeds in different forms though I cannot identify any one of them. I spoke to the Dirty Feet team that we do not know a thing about plants. They replied that it is not a prerequisite at all; rather it is an opportunity to learn about seeds.

We enrolled immediately for the programme. We spent the morning of Saturday at the picturesque Sanjeevaiah Park, getting introduced to seeds in an amazingly beautiful manner.

The Seed Race

The first event was the seed race. We were a 4 member group – O +ve, B +ve, Sunny (a friend’s son aged 9 years) and myself. There were 3 teams along with us. In the race, we had to explore and scout around for seeds, seed pods and fruits.  As it was a race, there was going to be counting of the different varieties collected by us. One point for one variety and a bonus point if we can identify the tree.

We were free to google to identify the scientific/common/local names of the trees and a pdf file was also shared. I realized that I cannot identify even one seed with all the help possible and I let go off the task.

B +ve and O +ve have been to Sanjeevaiah Park several times. They started collecting the seeds from the word go. For me, it was like what is not a leaf/twig/branch, can be a seed. All the three kids were much better than me in identifying the seeds as well. Whilst scouting for seeds, they checked out many ant colonies, ran behind squirrels and watched crows having their breakfast – must-do activities for children in parks. As we were moving in one direction, park personnel warned us about the presence of snakes in the vicinity.  For a while, the kids forgot about the seeds and began to search for snakes.

As a group, we were supposed to collect only one seed of every variety, but the girls enjoyed filling their bags with whatever they could lay their hands on. So, their bags were overflowing with seeds. We finally got back to the starting point 45 minutes after we began our hunt.

The children did a good job by collecting 17 different varieties of seeds, they even identified 4 of them. I couldn’t identify even a single seed.

The Seeds Mandala

While we were away, Dirty Feet team had put together a Seed Mandala with 20 + varieties of seeds and pods. Kids were then, encouraged to pick seeds and pods from the Seed Mandala and create whatever they felt like. The children had a great time letting their imagination run wild. They were running back and forth from the seed mandala to the space provided to them to make seed installations and even had a background narrative in place to explain their intriguing creations.

The way every child was able to add life, character and features to the tiny seeds and twisted pods was mind-blowing.  The entire world with mountains, trees, birds, insects, humans, sun and earth was there in the form of seeds and pods including their selves. Dirty Feet has a stupendous collection and it was fun to watch children making the maximum use of it.

The Seed Games

Now, it was time for the Seed Games. The first up was the Subabul Moustache Game. The children had to balance the seed sticks above their lips and race without letting the sticks fall. Despite the balancing challenge, the kids thoroughly enjoyed the race. It was then the turn of the parents and I must tell you that I too loved it.

The kids then moved on to playing the Silk Cotton blow game, the dice game with Pongamia seeds and spinning eucalyptus and sea bean tops.

The cocklebur seeds were, of course, the showstoppers. When the kids figured out the clinging property of these seeds, they went the whole hog trying it on every possible surface. They then aimed the cocklebur seed darts at the silk cotton pouches. Kudos to the team, which designed the game incorporating the base characteristic of the cocklebur seed.

Phew. The children had a great time just with seeds for over three hours and I had no idea when the time flew by.

Waiting for the next Seeds Race

For me, the seed was a tiny little thing. I had no idea whatsoever that it came in so many different forms, sizes and types.

For the children, it was a great way to introduce them to seeds – nature’s bounty.

It reaffirmed my belief that if there is one way to make a better tomorrow, it is to introduce seeds, plants, trees and nature to children and parents – Dirty Feet way with fun and games. To make environment-friendly and ecologically sensitive citizens to help Mother Nature – out there in the open under the trees, day in, day out.

3 Factors In Selecting A House For Children

We had to vacate our home for the last 10 years. It was a place where O +ve and B +ve had stayed ever since they were born. This house was on the third floor of the apartment, with no play area, on a 24*7 busy main-road, right opposite a metro station. It served our requirements, that we had 10 years back, very well.

Now, we had to choose a house that suits the requirements of our twin daughters, currently four and a half-years-old. We listed down the factors important to us.

Nature

We know that in a city like Hyderabad, first-hand interaction with nature comes at a premium. With this constraint, our prerequisite was that our daughters can spend as much time as possible outside the four walls of the house.

A place to play, run and jump under an open sky with the accompaniment of sunlight and wind. It had to be a place where they can splash around in puddles and bath in rains. A place where they can do nature hunt as and when they like, as much as they want. It had to be a place where they can see insects inside/outside the home and also the stray animals. A place with trees around where they can hear the chirping of the birds in the morning. All these, without the paraphernalia of getting outside the home and with the main door of the house open for their safety.

Our former house was 3 km away from the nearest possible park. Now, we wanted a park within the walking distance. And yes, we wanted to be away from the traffic, for nature and vehicles do not go together.

People

Given that our twin daughters do not go to any formal environment until now, we wanted a place where children come out to play. In our earlier house, though there were 30 flats in the apartment, there was no play area and children hardly got an opportunity to play together.

We selected the house with this criterion and I must say that we got it wrong. I realized that the weight of school bags is not going to reduce in India.

Another criterion for us in house selection was that the girls get to see and interact with all different kind of people that co-habit our country. Our daughters have now made friends with garbage collectors; they speak to sweepers and see all the types of street-vendors that throng the locality. They see diversity and try to understand that everyone is different.

Of course, in people, the most important criterion was that Dirty Feet‘s office is within a walking distance of 5 minutes. So, their mother does not have to spend time in a conveyance from home to office and back.

Space

Our previous house, with all its limitations, had one thing – it was spacious. The girls had a gala time running, hopping, skipping, jumping, climbing, cycling inside the home. We wanted it to continue, within the house as well as outside the house. A place where they can play peek-a-boo and keep finding new hiding places. All these without making nuisance to our neighbours, which we did a number of times, in the earlier house.

We wanted a place ample enough for their activities, arts and crafts and where they can make a mess to their heart’s content. The house needed space so that all their stuff – clothes, toys, games, books are kept within their reach, where they can take and put it back.

The above was our criteria for renting the house for children. We are sure that we are not going to buy a house for we feel that our requirements keep changing and we do not want to be tied down to a place.

Summing Up

Fortunately, we did find a house which we now call home meeting the above criteria. A ground floor house with a good enough court-yard. Yes, we did lose out on the high-rises and the perks of the gated community. Win some, lose some.

The girls are liking their space, sun, wind, insects, street vendors, stray dogs and cats, parks, trees, jumping around and more.

We do not know how it will contribute to their growing up and what will be its impact. We shall see. I will keep you updated.

What would be your factors in selecting a house for children?

False Sense of Urgency and Service Providers for Children

I have written about a small accident that one of our twin daughters had and what it taught us. Along with our learning, what has also remained with me is the behaviour of the paediatric surgeon whom we met first and the false sense of urgency she created.

False Sense of Urgency

The paediatric surgeon described the condition of our daughter in a medical language that both the doctors, whom we spoke to later, did not agree. She told us that there are only two options for our daughter’s treatment. Out of these two options, one did not even exist for a child of our daughter’s age, as per the later discussions with other doctors.

The above divergence can be attributed to the subjective difference of opinion among doctors, maybe. However, what stood out is the urgency with which the paediatric surgeon wanted us to act. It almost seemed like our daughter would be in dire trouble if we do not agree on the medical procedure to be performed on her. The paediatric surgeon spoke so confidently to us that we thought there cannot be any other way out other than what she is saying.

As time passed by we realized that, whatever she told us, as a super-specialist of paediatric surgery, turned out to be false. Our daughter healed without any medical procedures, which according to her was not an option at all.

Why did she create a false sense of urgency for us, as parents? Why did she want us to act immediately? How and what gave her the confidence to hard-sell a treatment which was not required / non-existent?

More of the Same False Sense of Urgency

As I think more about this, I realize that this is not a stand-alone situation. It exists with most of the service providers for children. Seemingly, the parents are the most gullible lot.

We see so many schools that promise so many things for children and they do it so confidently. The parents think that if they do not opt for it, they are going to miss out on a golden opportunity for their children. The same is applicable for coaching classes, summer camps, training classes. You name it and I do not think the narrative will be any different from the paediatric surgeon, I mentioned above.

The context will of course change, but the content of the discussion will remain the same. We are best suited for your children. There is no other option. You have to act now. And the confidence with which it will be told to the parents.

Why this sense of urgency gets created for parents by these service providers? It happens so fast and with so much of high frequency that parents hardly gets any time to ponder over what they are being told and what they are getting into. It is almost like decisions are taken on an auto-mode. Rather the service-providers themselves decide on the behalf of the parents.

There is no mention at all of any of the options that could exist beyond what the service-providers tell us. I suppose, bringing up other alternatives would be met with utter disdain. They are the subject experts, and how could we, as parents, question them and their ways and means? Do we want our children to do well or not? If yes, fall in line with what they say.

Summing Up

I think we were lucky that we spoke to Dr. Adithi, who told us not to panic and that we could afford to wait. The other paediatric surgeon told us that letting it be is a decision in itself and also a worthwhile option. Nature heals best.

I wonder if we could come across more such service providers for children who could give their inputs with the child as a primary beneficiary and not their own business interests.

I hope that we, as parents, do not fall in this trap of false sense of urgency created by the service providers, for their self-serving benefits.

What are your views on this subject?

Bravery Lessons From My Child And Doctors

It was just another day in the house. B +ve and O +ve were up to their usual selves – jumping, running and dancing around.

Suddenly, one of the girls fell on the floor. It is a usual occurrence, it happens a number of times during the day, so no alarm as such. She got picked up by a family friend sitting next to her fall. The girl, who fell down, was not crying and was not in any pain either. A minute later, the family friend got up in alarm, her dress was getting wet with the blood dripping from the chin of my daughter.

We cleaned up the wound with water and applied turmeric. The girl was not complaining. We asked about any pain. She replied in the negative and continued with playing around.

After 3-4 hours, the turmeric fell off. The wound was visible now and we had a shock. She actually had a deep cut, it was looking like a pit dug on her chin.

Lesson 1: The child is intrinsically brave. We instil fear in the child.

We immediately rushed her to a children’s hospital, close-by to our home. The nurse cleaned the wound and did the dressing. The duty doctor told us to visit a paediatric surgeon immediately. We went to the see the surgeon and she scared the life out of us.

All through this, the girl who had the wound was just being her own self. She was not crying or complaining. She was asking questions about the surroundings, the hospital, what the people were doing all around. Her sister was also normal, doing the same thing.

After what the doctor told us, my wife and I were worried a lot. It was visible on our faces. Now, the girl realized that something was wrong with her. She wanted to be picked up and comforted. Fortunately, my wife had the presence of mind to show the pretence of normalcy. And, that was it. Again, the girl was back to being normal, her own self.

This reminded us of an earlier incident. The same girl had fallen, 2 years back, and twisted her ankle. She had to get an X-ray done and had to put a crepe bandage for about 10 days. At that time also, there was no crying or complaining, just playing, whatever her limited mobility allowed.

I realized that children are intrinsically brave, irrespective of their situation and the situation around them. This is the first bravery lesson. We tell them about the consequences of what has transpired with them and they get afraid, as a result. If she would have cried, there is no way that we could have maintained our sanity. But actually, she through her behaviour, made us brave.

For the child, who are we teach to them bravery? For, they are the really fearless souls.

Lesson 2: Do not panic.

The paediatric surgeon had scared us about the well-being of our daughter. We wanted to follow her advice immediately. Somehow, it occurred to us, to speak to Adithi, our in-house doctor, who has now moved to the Netherlands.

Adithi heard us out. She could not see the wound over the phone which was dressed up. She told us that she would not believe a word of what the paediatric surgeon told us. Adithi explained to us about a couple of things that the surgeon had spoken to us and informed that that is not how medical procedures happen.

She wanted us to get a second opinion from our regular paediatric doctor who has been seeing the girls since they were born. She assured us that our daughter would be fine and there is no need for immediate action within one-two hours itself.

This was the second bravery lesson – Not to panic. The most common-sensical, but never occurs at the moment when required the most.

Lesson – 3: Letting it be is also a worthwhile option.

The next day we went to see the paediatric doctor, who sent us to the paediatric surgeon. He repeated whatever Adithi had told us the previous day, a complete contrast to what the paediatric surgeon in the previous hospital had said.

We were told that we could either get stitches for our daughter’s wound or just leave it to heal naturally. We told the doctor that we were unable to decide and he replied that letting it be is also a decision in itself.

As parents, we want to do the best for our children. And if we do not do or are not able to do, which goes against the conventional wisdom, we feel guilty about the same. Here we were told that, no matter what the others say, letting our child be was also a good decision.

This does not occur to us at all – letting it be, allowing nature to take its own course. This was the third bravery lesson. There are multiple ways of doing the right thing and there are also the wrong things, which abound in advice.

Summing Up

Our daughter is healing fine, naturally. She continues to be her own self, aware of her injury but oblivious to all other paraphernalia.

For us, there has been a number of bravery lessons learned, we hope to remember for the future. Trust the child’s instincts, not to panic and let it be.

PS: Adithi told us that we should apply organic turmeric powder on the wounds, and not the regular turmeric powder. Another learning worth sharing.