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.

Interesting questions asked by children

I wrote about the questions children ask. Our twin daughters, B +ve and O +ve, ask us continuously about everything under the sun and the sun, itself. Here is the list of their interesting questions, that stand out for the periodicity and the intensity that they get asked.

Death

The girls ask us – what we are to them. We answer – we are their parents. They ask – where are your parents. We identify them to our daughters. Again we get asked – where are the parents of our parents? Of the 8 people, only 2 are alive now. So, the question – where are the remaining 6?

Earlier, we told them that they have gone to a far-off place. This led to a barrage of questions. How far is the far-off place? Why cannot we go there? How did they go to this far-off place?

Unable to bear further, now we tell them that they have gone to God. My wife and I are agnostic but other than invoking God, I am not aware of any other option. This also raises further questions. Why have they gone to God? Have they gone on their own or have they been called? What are they doing there?

From somewhere, somehow; they have understood that elder people die. So, they want to know at what age one goes to God. We have been asked when we will die. We get asked whether we will be around when they grow up. I have warned my parents and in-laws that they might get asked about their demise, out of nowhere, so that they do not lose their balance.

There would hardly be 2-3 days gone-by without the question on the inevitable. I suppose they care about their own security and safety as to what will happen to them if their parents are not around.

We tell them that either of their parents will be there, if one dies, to take care of them. If both the parents die, they will have their grandparents and my wife’s elder sister to take care of them. Other than this, I do not know how to deal with this topic further.

Money

This has been an inadvertent addition to their questioning repertoire. The girls see that men are travelling on the roads. So, they ask what they are doing. I answer them that they are going to work. So, they ask why they work. I tell them that I suppose, they like to work, and they get paid money for that.

Now, comes the trick question from them. They ask me why I do not go to work. I tell them that being with them is my work. So, they ask me if I get paid for being with them. I answer no. So, a follow-up question – If I do not get paid, it means that I do not have money. I am stuck on how to deal with this.

In the meanwhile, they drop the sentence around that their father does not have enough money. I do want to stop this. However, it is also a reality that we are going to run out of money and I will be searching for a job soon. I cannot tell them that their father has good money. My wife disagrees with me that what is the use in telling it to children who will not understand this.

While we debate, the message is gone. I keep getting asked on a repeated basis if I have enough money.

My blogs

This is a result of my being unnecessarily over-smart. Whenever I am sitting idle or not doing anything worthwhile, according to them, I get asked what I am up to. I told them once-twice that I am thinking about my blogs. They asked me what I was thinking. I told them about how to make people read my blogs and that I do not know marketing. That did it.

Now, whenever, wherever, they see me sitting silently even for a moment, they start discussing with each other that I am thinking about my blogs.

They come around to me and tell me that someday, somebody will read my blogs. They are our little bundles of sunshine which keeps my wife and me going.

Poop, Action of strangers on the road, Mythology

Why is my poop pink in colour? Need I write more?

Raising children and being responsible citizens

Introducing Hindu mythology to children

Questions related to nature

This has been a recent addition to their questioning. B +ve asked that if animals and birds can drink dirty water on the roads and do not fall ill, why we cannot drink. O +ve asked that we can drink the water that falls from the sky, the rain, but once it falls down on to the ground, why does it become dirty? The question that both of them asks – The trees are so good, so helpful, why do humans cut them?

There is so much more to write about their questions. I will cover it in another post.

Conclusion

I understand that all the children are inquisitive by nature. Wondering, when and how this process to raise interesting questions for everything around slows down eventually and children start accepting the things, the way they are, without the urge to tear them apart. That is, when children become adults?

How did you handle the questions your children asked?

The questions children ask

There is complete silence. Both the girls are looking at me expectantly. I look completely lost, ready to tear my hair apart, breathing heavily and speechless.

What is going on? What has happened? You guessed it right.

It is another of those questions that B +ve and O +ve have come up with at the spur of the moment and I have no answer to satiate the curiosity of the two ignited minds.

I have understood that the two most used words by children are WHY and HOW. At times, it almost feels like, both the girls are non-stop questions floating in the environment. They will not stop battering me till they feel that they have received a convincing answer to what they feel is their right to know.

Normally, neither of the two girls is in a mood to yield to her sister. So we always have thin ice to walk on. However, when any one of them comes up with a question, which is often, the other girl always seems to join forces with the questioner to force an answer from their miserable father.

There is no guarantee that once an answer is given, the Q&A session will stop. The answer will be followed up by another question. Again, once answered, there will be another bomb dropped. It will continue until they find another set of questions to ask. And if God forbid, I do not answer, the same question will be asked incessantly till the time I feel that anyone else listening to the conversation / the wall in the room will also ask me the same question.

It is, of course, great that our two daughters have innate inquisitiveness. As a parent, it is our duty to answer them. I understand that this process plays a major role in their learning and building conversation skills. Given that they are still not a part of a formal learning environment, raising questions is a key avenue for them to make sense of the world around them. Just that, at times, I see question marks in my dreams.

The girls have understood long back that their father is not a knowledgeable person. So, if they feel that I am silent for more time than acceptable to them / I am giving evasive answer / I reply that I do not know and that I will have to check, they themselves advise me to check Google. I wonder how parents of non-Google generations would have dealt with this in their times.

The intriguing part of these persistent innocent questions is that the same set of questions will keep getting repeated. I have tried questioning them back but now it is not working as a satisfactory response any more. They have told me that when they ask questions, it is my job to give answers and not theirs.

I have tried giving philosophical answers to their questions, using words and principles that they would not be aware of. I got ripped apart for this strategy when the girls kept stretching it to a point which was unbearable. To make matters worse, they started using these philosophical answers in front of an unsuspecting audience and my wife would stare at me to confirm the adage that looks can kill. I have stopped being over smart with my answers, now.

There have been a number of instances when we have provided enough entertainment to on-lookers and passers-by with our back and forth questions and answers. I have seen people nodding at me, looking at me mercifully, commenting internally about us. However, no good Samaritan has stepped up till now to answer the two little girls.

It has happened a number of times when after the girls’ sleep, my wife / I go on an exploratory spree over the internet to figure out what we have been asked during the day. It is fascinating to be asked about something where we felt no questions existed.

I came across this article that the study discovered girls aged four are the most curious, asking an incredible 390 questions per day – averaging a question every 1 minute 56 seconds of their waking day.

I understand that all the children are inquisitive by nature. Wondering, when and how this process to question everything around slows down eventually and children start accepting the things, the way they are, without the urge to tear them apart. That is, when children become adults?

How did you handle the questions your children asked? How do you deal with incessant questions every minute of the day?

The stones collection – A hobby

The girls have been collecting stones ever since they started taking their tiny steps outside the house. Whenever we go out, almost always, the girls come back home with a stone each in their hands, if not more.

The girls pick up stones from the footpath, from the road, from construction sites, from demolition sites, anywhere and everywhere. If we step out of the house twice in a day, then we have double the collection.

After coming back, they put their stones anywhere in the house and after an extended duration ask for their treasures.  They tend to remember why they went out, how many stones they brought and from where they brought. But, interestingly they forget where they have put it once inside the house. If we are unable to trace out their belongings, we have to endure quite a bit of their pangs of separation. We are now sufficiently trained by them to ensure that their collection is safely put from where it can be easily retrieved.

We have boxes and tubs filled with stones at our house. At times, I fear that municipal officers might levy penalties on us for our girls’ stone-lifting.

Once, their mother took them to a village during Dirty Feet field trip and they went on a stone-collecting spree. The villagers remarked that if they continue stone-collecting at such a pace, they might as well be able to construct their own houses by the time they turn adults with their collection of stones.

When the girls are collecting the stones on the road, a number of times passers-by have tried stopping them. They get surprised when we tell them that it is just fine.

Now, as they are growing up, they are also getting into collecting leaves, twigs and seed-pods.

The stones also, of course, help us in a number of their activities. They learn to sort them as per their size and shapes and colour and learn to barter between them, as well. The girls colour the stones. These stones also double up in making pens for their toy animals. The girls have learnt their number counting basis their stone collection. As kids, stones had a major part in fine-tuning their gross motor and fine motor skills.

After seeing my daughters collecting stones for more than 2 years, I can safely vouch that until now, they have not fallen ill due to this habit. It does seem to be safe collecting and playing with stones and just washing hands with plain water after that.

I suppose they are not just learning to collect the stones, they are learning to own up. They are learning to plan, execute and think through on what they are going to play/do with what they have collected and actually put it in action.

A lot many things that our daughters gather while collecting the stones. Memories for us and their own fun and learning and whatever.

My Name Is Madhavi, We Are Just Like You

Inspired by “My Name is Madhavi” from Karadi Tales, my wife wrote the below poem for O +ve and B +ve. We use this to introduce different regions and languages of the country to the girls.

My name is Hemu, I am from Jammu
I speak Kashmiri But I am just like you

My name is Bela, I am from Rourkela
I speak Odiya But I am just like you

My name is Rupali, I am from Manali
I speak Pahari But I am just like you

My name is Rameswar, I am from Bastar
I speak Gondi But I am just like you

My name is Jaswinder, I am from Amritsar
I speak Punjabi But I am just like you

My name is Kishore, I am from Indore
I speak Hindi But I am just like you

My name is Bansi Lal, I am from Karnal
I speak Haryanvi But I am just like you

My name is Sachi, I am from Khunti
I speak Santhali But I am just like you

My name is Aniket, I am from Ranikhet
I speak Kumaoni But I am just like you

My name is Kalicharan, I am from Champaran
I speak Bhojpuri But I am just like you

My name is Devashree, I am from Kashi
I speak Sanskrit But I am just like you

My name is Baichung, I am from Lachung
I speak Bhutia But I am just like you

My name is Shivani, I am from Pilani
I speak Marwari But I am just like you

My name is Subrota, I am from Malda
I speak Bengali But I am just like you

My name is Vasundhara, I am from Vadodara
I speak Gujarati But I am just like you

My name is Bendang, I am from Tuensang
I speak English But I am just like you

My name is Mili, I am from Dilli
I speak Sindhi But I am just like you

My name is Somadeva, I am from Ambassa
I speak Tripuri But I am just like you

My name is Madhuri, I am from Ratnagiri
I speak Marathi But I am just like you

My name is Sharmila, I am from Lamka
I speak Meithei But I am just like you

My name is Benjamin, I am from Bambolim
I speak Konkani But I am just like you

My name is Hitler, I am from Williamnagar
I speak Garo But I am just like you

My name is Jamshedji, I am from Panchgani
I speak Parsi But I am just like you

My name is Margaret, I am from Mamit
I speak Mizo But I am just like you

My name is Basavaraju, I am from Mangaluru
I speak Kannada But I am just like you

My name is Mamang, I am from Tawang
I speak Monpa But I am just like you

My name is Madhavi, I am from Alleppey
I speak Malayalam But I am just like you

My name is Mary, I am from Puducherry
I speak French But I am just like you

My name is Ranimai, I am from Madurai
I speak Tamil But I am just like you

My name is Sultan, I am from Kiltan
I speak Mahl But I am just like you

My name is Xavier, I am from Nicobar
I speak Nicobarese But I am just like you

My name is Melissa, I am from Silvassa
I speak Portuguese But I am just like you

My name is Chamanthi, I am from Tirupati
I speak Telugu But I am just like you

My name is Arundhati, I am from Nalbari
I speak Assamese But I am just like you

My name is Asaad, I am from Nizamabad
I speak Urdu But I am just like you

My name is Manan, I am from Daman
I speak Warli But I am just like you

We are Arka Iha, we are from India
We speak multi-languages
But we are just like you

Number Recognition Activity 0-9

This is one of the first activities that we put together for getting the girls to recognise numbers from 0-9. This up-cycled number matching box activity combines both the fine motor and the math skills in one go.

Materials Used:
  • Cardboard box (we used Surf Excel and Ariel Matic detergent powder boxes which are pretty strong and capable of enduring child play)
  • 10 popsicle sticks
  • Wooden coloured numbers available for craft work; alternatively, you could re-use cardstock which the children have scribbled or painted to create the numbers
  • 10 stickers to label the detergent powder box
  • Hot glue gun and Markers
  • Craft knife
Activity Preparation:

1) Using the craft knife, make 10 slits at different points on the cardboard box. Ensure that the slits are long and wide enough to insert the popsicle sticks.

2) Glue the coloured numbers 0-9 on to the popsicle sticks.

3) Place the stickers next to the slits and using a marker, write down the numbers 0-9.

We are ready to play with our DIY number matching box.

Play:

We, of course, created two boxes for O +ve and B +ve. Both the girls take their respective detergent boxes. They open the boxes and take out their set of 10 popsicle sticks. They enjoy finding each matching popsicle stick for the stickers on the boxes. As they begin matching the numbers, I start calling out the numbers, so as to practice number recognition.

When the girls were introduced to this activity, they took quite some time learning to identify 6/9, 2/5, 1/7. Now, they put the popsicle sticks in the slits in the chronological order of 0-9.

We have done this activity many times. The girls have learnt their numbers a long time ago, but they are still game to this activity to this day.

Counting to 100 by 10s: Krishna Fruit Juice Centre

An activity for number counting to 100 by 10s – Krishna Fruit Juice Centre.

Our girls love role-plays. They love being hawkers, vendors and shopkeepers – they get to stock loads of stuff and handle loads of imaginary money. They enjoy being customers – they get to carry wallets and bags and choose what they want to buy.

So here’s one that we came up with to introduce number counting to 100 by 10s to them.

Materials Used:
  • Cardboard box, big enough to hold 20 bottles, 10 popsicle stick labels, 20 straws and 2 wallets
  • 20 bottles – we used Yakult bottles which are easy to hold and manage
  • 10 images of fruits – we used images from old children’s books picked from Sunday street shops
  • 10 popsicle sticks
  • Straws – we cut them to be just enough for the Yakult bottles
  • Coloured tape
  • Wallets – we used passport photo holders
  • Cardstock to write the numbers and make the currency (we re-used the flashcards on which the girls had scribbled)
  • Stickers to label the juice bottles
  • Hot glue gun and Markers
Activity Preparation:

1) Glue the fruit images on to the popsicle sticks. It helps to have the names of the fruits along with the images. Add the prices (10/- to 100/-) next to the images.

2) Stick the coloured tapes on the plastic bottles as per the colours of the juices that you are going to sell at the juice centre. We made 2 bottles each for every variety of fruit juice, a high probability that both B +ve and O +ve might select the same variant.

3) Label the bottles – write the names of the fruit juices.

4) Put the popsicle sticks and straws in each of the plastic bottles.

5) Cut the cardstock and make currency notes (10/- 20/- 30/- 40/- 50/- 60/- 70/- 80/- 90/- 100/-) and put them in the wallets.

6) Stick the tape on one side of the cardboard box. We wrote ‘Krishna Fruit Juice Centre’ on a flash card and glued it onto this side.

We are ready to go for counting to 100 by 10s.

Play (Counting to 100 by 10s):

Girls get super excited when they are told that we are going to set up a juice centre. Do they want to sell or do they want to buy? They want to be customers. So I end up being the fruit juice ‘shop uncle’. I take 5 minutes to bring out our fruit juice centre box, lay out the contents and set up shop on a table in our living room.

I pick up the 2 wallets, hand them over to my daughters and introduce them to the money in it. They begin rummaging and try getting a hang of the stuff that is in there.

It is O +ve’s turn first. She checks out the labelled bottles, the labelled popsicle sticks and is very happy to find her favourite lemon juice and right away orders for it. B +ve immediately says ‘me too’. They read out from the number-price label that it costs ten rupees. So, they dig into their wallets, fish out the money and hand it over to me.

The girls’ order for another juice, read out the numbers on the labels, take out the matching currency from their wallets and pay me. I hand over the bottles to them along with straws. There is, of course, nothing in the bottle but air, but they get so excited about having made a purchase that they start making all kinds of slurping sounds with their straws. Whilst at it, we speak about the particular fruit – colour, taste, seasonality, benefits, which part of the country it comes from and all other related trivia. The girls also try reading out the names of the fruits. This continues until they drink all the juices and their tummies are full.

Whenever they have their grandparents, uncles, aunts or friends visiting, the girls want to play this with them. We have done this activity a number of times and the girls still love slurping and making all kinds of sounds.

Way Forward:

As they get comfortable with counting to 100 by 10s, we now plan to change the number labels and the corresponding currency notes as well to familiarise them with other numbers. Inflation has got us as well, you see. Also, we might have to introduce new flavours onto our menu, just to keep our little customers happy and asking for more.

Fruit Juices are tasty, healthy and also help in counting to 100 by 10s.