5 Tips To Get Kids To Drink Milk

Our almost five years old twin daughters, B +ve and O +ve, eat all the vegetables. Likewise, they also drink their milk. Daily. Without a fuss. I cannot believe our luck in this context. Fingers crossed that they continue this in future also.

I was wondering what could have lead to the girls drinking milk. To be honest, the points mentioned below are what we feel as parents that have contributed. Though, it is very much possible that we can be wrong and that our daughters would have anyways had milk or they are having it for some other reasons.

Set an example as a parent

This is the fundamental step in getting kids to do anything. A parent is a role model for her/his child. The parent has to set an example by drinking milk in front of the kid. And, of course, everybody knows that children love to imitate.

I love milk myself. I suppose our daughters when they were not on animal milk, would have seen me having my daily glass of milk. Once they started on to the regular milk, it was a given that all three of us will have milk together. This continues even today.

When the child sees the parent doing a certain act, there is no doubt in her mind about doing that act herself.

No health drinks/sugar

Earlier, when our daughters initiated their milk drinking, they were having health drinks along with. Soon, I realized that almost all the health drinks are chocolate flavoured. I felt that something is wrong somewhere. Our daughters were getting used to the chocolate flavour and not milk. This was not done. We stopped health drinks immediately without any major damage done. Same for sugar.

I feel that when a flavour – chocolate or sugar is added, the child is having that flavour and taste and not the milk. As the child grows up, s/he is anyways going to be offered a lot of chocolates/sweets, why should a child have milk to get that flavour/taste?

We want the taste of the milk to stand out and have our children drink milk for the sake of milk and not for added flavours/tastes. This also means that no smoothies, no essence, no milkshakes, no cereals; no sugar, please.

Hot / Cold, Mugs / Cups

There have been times when one of the girls or both of them refused to have milk. They also happen to say at those times that the temperature of the milk was not to their liking. We realized that serving the milk at an appropriate temperature can help a lot. Both the girls like their milk at room temperature; neither hot nor cold.

The girls like to have options in mugs and cups to have their milk. They have 2 / 3 different sets in which they have their milk. They choose the cups/mugs daily to have their drink.

As long as they are having milk, I am fine with the hassle of bringing the milk to room temperature and letting them decide the crockery.

Bring on the milk products

Both the girls love all the milk products – curd, buttermilk, butter, cheese, paneer, yoghurt and their favourite – ghee.  They have malai – cream daily, as soon as the milk is cooled.

I suggest, to ensure that a child does have milk, it is better to introduce milk products first, rather than the milk. Once the child takes the liking to the milk products, introducing milk should be relatively easy.

Milk as a routine

I suppose the statements like “you have if you want to”, “it is ok if you do not like”, or a forceful statement like “you must drink milk” would make children defensive and create a doubt in their minds about what is being fed to them.

Rather, it is always a routine to have milk and a sense that it is expected of them to drink. And, they do. There is neither a reward nor a punishment for drinking milk; it is a way of life.

To repeat, we do not know for sure what has led to both the girls having their milk daily. The above-mentioned reasons are what we have come up in hindsight – may be true or completely off the mark.

I hope if any of the above points can be of help to you. Do share your experiences and views.

PS: Our paediatrician doubted that one of the girls was lactose intolerant. She was tested and the results were negative. The above-mentioned points do not apply to lactose-intolerant children.

Self-Defence: Teach Kids To Stay Safe

India is no country to raise daughters. I know about this. I am also a father of soon-to-be five-year-old twin daughters. Just like other parents, we are very protective of our children. We want to keep them safe from every danger.

At home, our daughters continue to be in their comfort place, filled with love, joy and happiness. We know that they are going to face the harsh reality of this world fairly soon. Rather, they have already started facing in several instances. There will also be occasions where they are alone out there and they have to learn to take care of themselves.

Self-defence for kids is important. It is not about hitting back. They are too young for this and this is not the purpose anyway.

Self-defence for kids is being aware of their surroundings. It is about having the confidence and the capability to grasp what is right and what is wrong. And, if it is wrong, how to deal with it at their age of 5 years.

Identify Unwanted Touch and Abuse

Some people have a habit of touching kids – mostly cheeks, sometimes back, nose, hair and at times, other body parts as well. This is completely uncalled for and unwanted all the times. This is no way to show one’s affection for a child of any age.

Our daughters are going to be five years, and even now, outright strangers feel that they can show their friendliness by touching them. We are telling our daughters to leave the company of these people. And if it gets repeated, immediately reach out to us.

Our daughters know their body parts and their functions. We are also teaching them about their private body parts and that should not be touched by anyone, even by the family members and their friends. If somebody touches, tell them not to do it and inform it to us right away.

Strangers and their offerings

Of course, not all strangers are bad. Most of them are good. Now, how to differentiate between a good stranger and a bad stranger, when many strangers have a habit of giving food items – mostly chocolates and sweets to children. I do not know.

As a result, we are teaching our daughters not to take any stuff from strangers. This looks impolite and rude to many people. But, I know that it is required in a country like ours for ensuring the safety of the children.

Bullying

Our daughters do not go to any formal environment. Their visits to parks and their playing with children in the neighbourhood have been enough to get them introduced to being bullied.

They are waiting for their turn and somebody will push them out of the queue. They are making their sandcastle and somebody will stamp and run all over it. There are few kids in the parks for whom pushing, shoving, poking, kicking are also the means of playing with other children.

We are teaching our daughters to stay away from these children as a first measure. If these acts get repeated, we have told our kids to tell the child, who is doing it, not to do it again.

We have not yet reached the third stage of provocation.

Snaps and Videos

There are utter strangers in the parks, public places, public modes of transport and they start clicking snaps of our children. Few of them even want to take a selfie with them.

I do not get this at all. What is it that leads a person to photograph a child that s/he does not know? We have politely told them not to take snaps of our daughters. Though, we have not been forceful enough to check their devices and delete our snaps.

We are telling our daughters not to allow any strangers to take their snaps and videos. It is absurd to teach such a thing, but I have seen it happen several times that it cannot be called an unusual occurrence.

Mobile Number and Address

This is the basic point to be taught to a kid in self-defence. No parent would ever want to lose a child. But, things happen, at times.

To better prepare kids for such unforeseen events, we have told our daughters to reach out to police. And if police are not there, tell the strangers around to call their parents. They have memorized our address and the mobile number.

Summing Up

The above is what has come to our minds for teaching self-defence to our soon-to-be five-year-old twin daughters. It revolves around understanding their surrounding and keeping themselves safe and protected. It is, of course, age-appropriate and the list will keep growing with their age.

What else would you suggest for teaching self-defence to children?

3 Tips To Manage Screen Time For Kids

It is a foregone conclusion that kids are going to have screen time. The only question is how much and how to control. Almost each and everyone I meet has an opinion about managing the screen time for kids. Digital space and newspaper inches abound with advice on this subject.

I have seen some of the suggestions to control screen time for kids. In my honest opinion, these would not work. These suggestions are like – creating “technology-free zones”. I feel, it has to be the other way round. Only 1 or 2 places in the house where technology can be used, rest to be devoid of it. Another input is to set aside times to unplug. Again, the advice is in reverse. The real-life advice has to be set aside times to plug. Rest all the time is to unplug.

One other gem that I have come across – let kids earn screen time. It is outrightly inane. Screen time is no carrot for which I would want to use a stick. We have no belief in rewards and punishments. Another crazy advice is to obtain your child’s passwords. What next? Put a drone behind your child?

Seeing all these experts’ advice floating around, I thought I might as well list down my hands-on tips on how I, as a stay-at-home father, am managing screen time for my five-year-old twin daughters.

Look at your screen time first

Give the children a break. We will speak about them later. The kids were not born with an idea that they will have screen time and oodles of it.

To start with, who showed them the screens? What do the kids see when they learn to turn around/sit/walk/speak? What do the kids see when they wake up / are being fed / potty is being cleaned / are asleep? Their parents glued to their respective screens.

The kids are only imitating the behaviour they see and remember, they are kids and not adults. When the adults find it difficult to control their screen time, why haggle behind the kids?

We sold off our television when our twin daughters were born. I, to date, use a feature phone. My wife uses two smartphones; I use an I-pad. We have an understanding that when we are with our children which is all the time as far as I am concerned (I am a stay-at-home father and my daughters do not go to any formal environment) and when my wife is at home, we shall NOT use the screens.

There is nothing more urgent than spending time with our children. Period.

Let the kids be the decision-makers about their screen time, Within the set limits

We know that our daughters are bound to have screen time. There is no point in squabbling with the inevitable. They know about its existence and they better have it at home, in front of their parents, than anywhere else, with anyone else.

Currently, we have told our daughters that they can have their screen time on I-pad, once a day. They are free to decide the time. They can have it in the morning/afternoon/evening/night. The girls have the screen time for 30-45 minutes. They do not have the concept of time, but we have learnt by trial and error that the short duration does not work. There are, of course, aberrations when they see I-pad twice a day, but few and far in between.

With this rule, they feel that they have the ownership of their screen time and they have to use it judiciously. We have set the boundary limits of having it once a day, we are happy. They feel that they are getting to decide on their screen time, they are happy. So far, so good.

Screen time to end with advance intimation, and not abruptly

Again, this is what we have learnt by trial and error. What would happen if somebody snatches a smartphone from an adult when s/he is in the middle of the game/binge-watching? There would be mayhem. It is similar to that. Just because they are kids, it does not mean that their screen time has to be snatched away from them.

Our daughters start their screen time at their pre-agreed time/schedule. Now, unfortunately, they do not have a sense of time (not that adults are any better when they are binge-watching). So, we have agreed with our daughters that whenever their story/rhymes are coming to an end, they will have to switch off the I-pad. If their stuff is getting extended further, they are told with a gap of 10/5 minutes that their time is nearing to shut shop and they are fine with it to continue on the next day.

We believe that if the kids are made to understand and explained with logic/rationale, there is no reason for them to throw a tantrum. They understand that if there is no electricity, there would be no internet on I-pad. They know that broad-band does not work once in a while, so they will have to let go off their screen-time, as and when it happens.

When they are showing this much of understanding, why not trust them in shutting down the device rather than snatching it away?

Summing Up

Screen time for kids is a necessary evil crept into our lives. It is bound to stay forever and better to control with practical clearly laid-down rules for children and more importantly, for own selves.

This cannot be done when the kids are growing up. It is better to discuss and agree upon between parents before the genie goes out of the bottle – the child sees the existence of the screen time when s/he opens the eyes in this world besotted with screens.

What would be your suggestions?

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?

Neem Peepal Banyan Lyrics for Children

Inspired by Neem Peepal Banyan from Karadi Tales, my wife wrote the below poem for O +ve and B +ve. It is similar to My Name is Madhavi adaptation.

 

We use the below rhyme to introduce the trees, the parts, the benefits to the girls. The lyrics also introduce names of the trees in Hindi and Telugu, along with English.

 

Neem, Peepal, Banyan

Coconut, Mango, Banana

Tamarind, Gulmohar

Eucalyptus, Ashoka.

 

Trees big, trees small

Trees large, trees tall

Trees are home for birds and bees

Trees dance and sway in the breeze.

 

Babul, Ber, Bakul

Kadamb, Jamun, Badam

Mahua, Kathal

Palash, Kokum.

 

Roots, trunk and the crown

Branches, leaves and bark that is brown

Different parts of the tree

Its nature’s wonder – we agree!

 

Bilva, Usiri, Eetha

Thangedu, Thati, Thumma

Chandanam, Kanuga

Velagakaya, Nimma.

 

Tree bower is nice to lie down

Trees are cool to climb on

Trees are good to hug and bond

Trees are great to play around.

 

Bamboo, Laburnum, Copper pod

Pine, Teak, Casuarina,

African Tulip, Coralwood

Tree of Gold, Jacaranda.

 

Trees fulfil our every need

Trees do us a great deed

With our future, we ought to share

Trees, which are friends rare!

 

So, let’s plant trees everywhere

So, let’s plant trees everywhere…

 

 

Rangoli Making With Kids: Fun and Learning

Rangoli making has been an all-time favourite activity for O +ve and B +ve. They were introduced to this activity when they were about 15 months old. Even today, their fascination with it continues unabated. When I see them involved in rangoli making today and look back at how they have always been engrossed in the past, I realize how important this activity has been for them.

For both fun and learning, this colourful activity has been a regular in the everyday activities of our twin daughters.

Material

The girls were first introduced to making rangolis with a variety of flours, pulses, grains, semolina and rock salt. Since then we have explored making rangoli with a range of material including powder colours readily available in the market.

They enjoy making rangolis with mud, sand and gerua. Who doesn’t like messy muddy art, isn’t it? Their collections of petals, leaves, twigs, branches from their nature walks and park trips have been put to good use by making rangolis. The pebbles and stones from their stones collection have been arranged creatively to make interesting patterns. They have also used vegetable and fruit peels, bits of paper and pieces cut from cardboard boxes for rangoli making.

Both the girls have understood that it is their own imagination which when applied to any material that makes their rangolis. They absolutely take delight in this simple art form.

Motor skills

Rangoli making has had a significant role to play in the development of gross motor, fine motor and hand-eye coordination of the girls. One of the girls had an issue with her pincer grip. The doctor advised a number of exercises. We realized that making rangolis also offered similar opportunities to work on the same.

Takeaways

We realized that rangoli gives a live, interactive and experiential three-dimensional learning environment. It is pretty much cost effective and also a very inclusive art form.

Be it colours, shapes, sizes, alphabets, numbers, counting, comparison, proportions – most of these are amenable to learning from rangoli making. Mixing colours, colour combinations, powder colours, wet colours, characteristics of various colouring/filling materials, canvases and accessories – there is so much to a humble rangoli. We have been making efforts to introduce festivals, celebrations, region-specific attributes and related cultural aspects through rangolis.

Colourful Imagination

The girls love their colouring and painting. Along with these, they also love bringing to life their imaginations through their rangolis.

An open-ended rangoli making exercise really stretches them hard. They know what they want to make and to convert their ideas into a three-dimensional canvass is an interesting challenge for their age.

It is only the space that is a finite and regulated attribute when they begin making their rangolis. Once into it, they know no restrictions or limitations, no specific set patterns too. They have tried their hand at making everything – clouds, sun, moon, stars, plants, flowers, mountains, hills, grass, sea, beach, fruits, vegetables, body parts, vehicles, roads, house, deer, butterfly, caterpillar, eggs, even the regular muggus and kolams.

The output – the big picture is for all to see. We cannot make out much of their abstract art but they patiently take us through their works of art. It is this detailing that we love to hear from our girls. In their rangoli, a cloud is not just a cloud, it is either a black coloured cloud which is just about to burst into rain or a cloud which is very big and is hiding the sun behind it. B +ve drew a flower with four petals with some space left out which could have easily fit another petal. When asked as to why space was empty, she said with all seriousness that it is a flower which is getting dried up and one of its petals has just fallen down. O +ve made an apple, complete with worms and all.

Tidying up

This facet is also as important as all the other aspects. Rangoli making with children will invariably lead to lots and lots of mess and chaos.

The girls have understood that they also need to pick after themselves courtesy this activity. They surely do not do it all the time, given their age. However, they know that all the things that come out for their rangoli making have to also go back to their respective places.

Summing Up

To be honest, none of the above things occurred to us or were done in a planned manner with a given purpose. Just that today, when I see my daughters engaged in rangoli making, I realize how important it has been to their growing up years.

Maybe, it could have been more helpful to get the full benefits of rangoli making to our daughters if we were more structured in our approach. There are just too many benefits of rangoli making for children without any apparent downsides.

Our children are enjoying their rangoli making. Do share your views about this often overlooked and unnoticed activity and its practical application for children.

Life Skills For Children: Vegetable Shopping

Vegetable shopping is a favourite activity for B +ve and O +ve that they look forward to every week.

Earlier, we used to go to the supermarket for vegetable shopping. I realized that it was not working out with the girls. They liked to touch and pick the vegetables. However, the crates arrangement in the supermarket was not conducive for the girls to get to work. So, we switched over to the weekly market that gets organized on the roads.

It has been a revelation for the girls and for the last two years, we have been doing this every week. The girls get their cloth shopping bags, the shopping list made by their mother and we are ready for the adventure.

I realized that it is not just the experience of vegetable shopping that O +ve and B +ve get in the weekly market; they also learn a number of life skills in the process.

Experiencing the real India

Weekly market happens on the arterial roads with vehicular traffic in full swing. The hawkers and the vendors put their vegetables on the road or on the pushcart – in the open. The girls experience the real markets with dust, dirt, heat, smoke, dogs, puddles, vehicles, people and everything else.

With the supermarket, they were seeing the sanitized environments. Now, they see the real India and they interact with ease.

I do not know how India will be when they grow up to be an adult. However, I feel that the transition from the road-side market to the sterile surroundings of the supermarket is relatively easy than the other way round. Navigating the maze of the weekly market as compared to the aisles of the supermarket may hold them in good stead when they grow up.

Talking to strangers

Due to the very nature of the weekly market on the road in the open, there are actually not many children out shopping. So, when the hawkers, vendors and the fellow buyers see two girls moving from one push-cart to another, they ask their names and what they are doing.

As the girls stay-at-home and do not go to formal learning environment, the weekly market serves as a good mechanism for them to get introduced to people and speak to them.

Understanding the concept of money

The girls pick their vegetables and also pay for their buy each time, taking turns.

In the weekly market, nobody accepts digital payments. So, we have to pay in cash. The girls understand that there are Rs. 50/-, Rs. 100/-, Rs. 200/- and Rs. 500/- notes. These are to be paid to the vegetable uncles and vegetable aunties and we get the change in return.

I understand that the girls are missing out on knowing about card payments and mobile wallets. But I suppose they will pick up along the way.

Knowing real vegetables

The girls did learn about vegetables from their books. However, they are all neatly coloured and of uniform shape and size. The supermarket sells graded and sorted vegetables, many a time. Going to the weekly market, the girls know how to pick tomatoes – red and medium-sized, and to avoid tomatoes with holes, that are green and soft. They know how potatoes and onions can be really out of shape and huge and tiny. They know how to pick brinjals, they know how arvi comes with so much of soil attached to it.

I felt that supermarkets, though they sold exotics, were weaker when it compared to stocking local leafy vegetables and gourds. The weekly market does not sell exotic vegetables. But they have all the local leafy vegetables and gourds – based on the season.

This has ensured that the girls know pretty well about the local vegetables basis their vegetable shopping experience.

Working at home with their buy

Coming back from the weekly market, the girls know that all the vegetables have to put in their respective baskets and bags. They practise their counting while putting the vegetables in their place. Having the ownership of their buys, the girls help their mother in the kitchen with all the cleaning, chopping, cutting and preparing the curries.

I suppose this has really helped in ensuring that B +ve and O +ve eat all the vegetables.

Going to the weekly market has another advantage that the girls do not get distracted by the processed food – chips and chocolates and the likes that the supermarket tries hard to sell to children.

Conclusion

Vegetable shopping can be a chore and difficult to get children excited about this task. However, for some reason, this has turned out to be an exciting weekly mission for O +ve and B + ve, till now.

I suppose they are not just learning vegetable shopping, they are learning a number of life skills along with.