5 Things Online Learning Tells Us About Indian Educational System

With the coronavirus induced lockdown, online learning is the new buzz word doing rounds in the Indian educational system. The schools and colleges are shut. The students and teachers are at home. Supposedly, the future of India is at stake. What has to be done? Online learning is the answer to all the coronavirus ills affecting the education sector.

The Honourable Union Cabinet Minister of HRD Ramesh Pokhriyal in every interaction with media and parents drops the name of online learning without fail. Every private school worth it’s salt has latched on to online learning bandwagon in some form or the other. Parents have to share their screens with the off-springs and they are more than willing for this intrusion.

There is no iota of opposition from any quarters about this charade of online learning in India. After all, it is an optimal application of the available technology for the noble purpose of educating future citizens. What would be wrong in that? Read on.

Right To Education – I

RTE Act, passed in 2009, is an obligation on the Government to provide and ensure admission, attendance and completion of elementary education by all children in the 6-14 age group.  RTE puts the onus on the Government for the education of a child and not the parent.

Now, which sane person in India would claim that parents of children going to government schools would be having access to a smart-phone to enable online learning for their children? If the parents cannot afford a smart-phone, how can a child access online learning?

The Government has conveniently palmed off its responsibility of ensuring education to government school children to parents. It has not even put up a facade. The Government talks about online learning happening in private schools and not government schools. The Government has left the students of her schools to fend for themselves. Who is going to bother, anyway?

This makes it amply clear that the Government of India was never bothered or interested in education in government schools in the first place. This is the first learning from online learning fuss.

Right To Education – II

The RTE Act requires all private schools to reserve 25% of seats for the poor and other categories of children. If there was ever a doubt that private schools are following the RTE Act in letter and spirit, the online learning drama puts it to rest.

All the private schools are gung-ho about online learning and claim that their functioning is going-on as usual. There is not even a smallest of whimper that a certain section of students is missing out on this initiative. The private schools claim that the parents and the children laud their execution and all of them are a part of their programme.

Does it occur to anyone that when 25% of students are admitted from the vulnerable sections of the society, how can cent per cent of the population be a part of the online learning plan? There have to be some students that will fall through the sieve, but astonishingly there are none.

One can say that this 25% of the children, in the reserved category, have parents that can afford a smart-phone and facilitate their online education. If anyone falls for this bluff, I am the reincarnation of Ashoka, The Great.

This entire ado about online learning in private schools only means that 25% of reserved seats under RTE were never filled by those it was meant for. This is a scandal that nobody will ever talk about; neither the Government nor the private schools and most sadly, not the parents of children studying in those schools. The second learning.

It Is All About Fees, Stupid

The private schools would want to continue charging their fees, even with the coronavirus lockdown. They surely cannot charge transport fees, mess fees, uniform fees and other miscellaneous heads. However, they want to cling on to their tuition fees – after all, this contributes the maximum to their coffers. How to go about this? Online learning is the answer.

With the online learning, the private schools can formally and legitimately show that they are delivering as per their promise and hence the parents are liable to pay their share of fees.

Would anyone dare challenge the efficacy of online learning and make a claim for pro-rata deduction in tuition fees? No ways. The private schools would claim 100% effectiveness of their programme and hence, the 100% collection of fees. After all, there is no one to call their bluff. The third learning.

The Proof Of The Pudding Is NOT In The Eating

So, online learning is delivering. Great. Let’s have an online examination. Where did the backers of online learning vanish? Why is the Honourable Union Cabinet Minister shying away? Why are the private schools completely silent on this aspect? Even the parents are not supportive of this idea.

What use is online learning if there is no online examination? An elephant has two sets of teeth, one for chewing and one for showing. So, is the case of online learning. The fourth learning.

Never Let A Child Be A Child

Coronavirus lockdown is the first extended opportunity for a child to spend time with her/his family up-close. This is the time for the child to learn first-hand what goes on in the household and figure out ways and means to be of help to the parents. This is the occasion to develop empathy for fellow citizens facing a harrowing time and create a base for real-time life learnings.

If nothing else, let the child be a child. Play. Rest. Explore. Connect. Freedom. No, the Zoom class beckons.

The Indian educational system would not let the child be a child, EVER. The fifth learning.

After all, the weight of school bags is not going to reduce in India.

Children And Plants: A Lifetime Of Learning

What could be the prized possession of a child? A toy? A dress? Surely, not chocolate. What could it be? Something that encapsulates childhood innocence, skills and competencies, academics, spending quality time with parents, preparing the child for the world that s/he is going to inherit. What could that be? My take – Plants.

I am not referring to growing own food, exotic species or new-age technology like hydroponics for space and cost is a privilege in India. I am not talking about gardening or even trees. It is just about a simple plant, any plant in any pot with any seed present in any kitchen. It has to be that simple and easy for every child to experience first-hand, nature and environment, and learn to be a part of it.

As I see my twin daughters tending to their plants, I wonder about the aspects in which this activity has impacted their exposure, learning and growing up.

Skills And Competencies

Patience – Plants will not yield to instant gratification requests. Return on efforts will take time.

Failure – Every seed sowed will not germinate. All the efforts might lead to a big nothing.

Discipline – Day-in and day-out the plant needs to be taken care of and watered at a given time.

Ownership – I have sown. I tend to. I grow the plant. That is mine.

Curiosity – How does the plant grow from a seed? The different parts and their functions.

Hands-On – Learn with practice and by doing, and not just by hearing instructions.

Sweating – Opportunities to sweat for a child is few and far in between. Sweating is good.

Getting Dirty – It is not the sanitized and clean environment that boosts immunity, but this.

Cause & Effect – As you sow, so shall you reap. Your efforts, your learning, your returns.

All The Senses – The experiential learning that involves all the five senses, unlike classroom.

I can go on, but that is not the purpose. The skills and competencies that a child learns while tending to plants in beyond an adult’s imagination. And, all this learning is something that a child is not going to forget in a hurry. Rather, it is going to stay with her/him for a lifetime.

Academics

Learning skills and competencies through tending to plants is a non-tangible. It is not conducive to assessment and examinations that an adult and a schooling system are used to. No issues, at all. The learning from plants is amenable to textbook academics too. Just that, it requires a bit of application.

It is Maths time. Numbering, Counting, Addition, Subtraction, Shapes, Weights, Comparison, Time.

It is Language time. Speak and ask open-ended questions. Read and Write about plants and actions.

It is Environment time. Plants themselves are a living environment, a world in a microcosm.

It is Cognitive Development time. Discuss and analyze experiences and predict outcomes.

A humble plant can teach all the academics that a mighty classroom can, that too at a fraction of a cost, time and efforts.

Quality Time

There are just three actors in this entire story – the child, the plant and the adult, a supporting cast. No distractions, just actions and observations. There is nothing but daylight that separates what the child and adult are doing involving all their five senses with the plant.

The togetherness, the bond, the memories that tending to a plant creates has no parallel. There will no repetition and no monotony in all the time spent together. There will be unexpected twists and turns along the way and the child’s reactions to each will lead to stories to savour.

It is not just the plants that get discussed and spoken about, but also the children – how they think, evolve, grow and develop. It is about growing up together, including the adults.

Any Plant Will Do

Even if there are no pots around, just a plate or a broken bucket/vessel will suffice to grow a plant. Coriander and fenugreek from the spices box in the kitchen, peels and leftovers from the cut vegetables, seeds from a fruit that a child ate – anything and everything can be tried out for growing. Seasons do not matter. The place available does not matter.

A requirement is just a willing adult, a handful of soil and a child will surely follow the suit.

A Better Tomorrow

Plants give a chance to children to learn innumerable life skills, overlooked in standard school curriculums, and teach environmental awareness by exploring the workings of nature.

It is said that we have to leave a better world for future generations. Tending to plants with children is a small cog in the bigger wheel of creating an environmentally sustainable ecosystem.

There is no better gift than handing down a love of nature for children, starting with a base unit – Plants.

This is how I arrived at what the most revered and sacred possession of a child should be – A Plant. Also, a lifetime of learning.

What would be your take on this subject?

Labeling Children – Needless Childhood Hazard

He is aggressive. She is shy. He is studious. She is mischievous. Whenever there are children around, even a single child, one is bound to hear the above statements. These statements are made by adults, at times, by parents too, in front of children themselves. This is labeling children.

Labeling is a simplistic way of expressing what a person is seeing of a child’s behaviour. A child is acting in a certain manner, the observer is making a statement basis the evidence available, that too in the presence of the parents themselves and not clandestinely. What can be wrong about it?

Well, all of it. As far as I am concerned, everything about labeling children is outrightly wrong.

How about labeling adults?

We hear all about the children. How s/he is and how s/he is not. Does anyone talk in similar words/terms about an adult? An adult, who is present and is a part of the conversation. Will anyone ever refer to an adult that s/he is stubborn, is a hypocrite, not having certain manners and all such stuff, in her/his presence?

We know as an adult that one should not talk about the other adults regarding their personality traits in their presence. In that case, why do we mete out such a treatment to children? Just because the children do not retaliate and do not describe the adults as a return favour.

This is a double standard of the perk of being an adult – getting away with labeling children but not a fellow adult and surely, not one’s self.

Adults have diverse characteristics, so do have children

One can argue that grown-ups have many facets to their personality. We may not even know about the majority of them as a part of knowing a person. If we do not know the person in entirety, how can we go about describing the person in labels?

This is a valid reason for not getting into labeling adults. In that case, what makes an adult think that s/he knows children in total, in simply one interaction, and ends up branding them?

One might say that s/he spoke about children after multiple interfaces. Again the same question. Do we speak about a fellow adult even after numerous dealings? No. Then, why do we speak about children as a know-all?

Adults have varied moods, so do have children

We know that one can have a bad day at work, freak incidents happen, or maybe, one just got out of the wrong side of the bed. In this case, it is very much possible that we may not see a side of the adult that we are used to. Face it, we behave differently basis our mood swings.

It is not exactly breaking news, but even children have mood swings and not just temper tantrums. Simply put, children are not expected to show-case the same behaviour throughout the day and to all the people, they come across.

Similar to the benefit of the doubt to adults basis their frame of mind, children also deserve respect for their disposition. And, one may not come to a conclusion basis one incident or even several.

There are no good labels, only bad labels

One may say that labeling is a well-meaning exercise if positive labels are used. I beg to differ. Any label, constructive or not so charitable, strait-jackets a child. There is no need for children to behave identically, all through-out.

A responsible child wants to have a good time but being told that s/he is responsible feels under obligation to not be an over-the-top. A studious child wants to play but being told that s/he is studious feels under stress to finish the homework first.

The worst of labeling children – Being told good girl/boy. Adults can always compliment the behaviour of children if they like and be descriptive about it. However, from where does “good” come into the picture?

Getting refered to in a certain manner, even if affirmative does not let the child develop into a multi-faceted personality. Life is all about shades of grey and not black and white; which labeling is contrary to.

An adult looking for acknowledgment of labeling

I find the labeling of my twin daughters annoying, even by well-intentioned adults. What is even more infuriating is the adult passing a remark and then looking expectantly at me for the favourable reception to what s/he has just said.

Seemingly, the adult is pleased with one’s self for making a sense of the child in front of her/him in a single word and wants an affirmation from the parent.

Suffice it to say, I find these conversations most difficult to handle. I have never dared to tell the speaker that few things can be said about her/him as well.

If the parents are right in their way, why not children

It is often said that parents know best about their children. A parent cannot go wrong in the upbringing of their children. Nobody can and should comment about a parent’s parenting.

Similarly, why cannot we contemplate that children are also fine in their way? Why cannot we consider that children should not be commented upon? Why cannot we just be with children without labeling?

Adults, take a break. Give the child a break.

A Visit to Indira Park And Life Learnings For Children

We, five-year-old twin daughters and a stay-at-home father, visit parks often. One of our favourite destinations is Indira Park, Hyderabad. O +ve and B +ve love the place, spend 3-4 hours on each visit and they have to be dragged back home. Indira Park is one of the places for which I wrote 5 must-do activities for 4 year olds in parks.

Now, I am writing about Indira Park again. I never knew that a visit to a park can be so educational and informative for children about the country, the government and the people. It is always good to teach the children about the reality of the country that they are inheriting and going to live in. And, a visit to Indira Park ensures that this learning for children is fast-tracked, all-around and consistent in messaging.

Here go the learnings of B +ve and O +ve from the Indira Park visits.

Corruption

A ticketed entry leads to excitement for the twin girls. They love to give money, take their tickets, and proudly carry it around.  Indira Park ensures that the girls will learn even from this mundane occasion.

I give the girls Rs. 2 coins each and ask them to buy their tickets individually. They hand over their coins to the lady sitting on the chair and look expectantly at her to receive their coveted treasure. The lady nonchalantly takes their coins, shoves it in her drawer and nods at the girls, asking them to leave.

The girls are confused. They look back at me. I am also confused. I walk up to the lady and request for the tickets in return for the money that she has just taken. She coolly says that we can enter the park and need not worry about the tickets. It is all right.

I cannot believe this. I have no idea whether she is a government employee or on a contract or from a private agency. She is just taking away Rs. 4/- that should go to government coffers and expecting us to contribute to her loot.

I request for a ticket. She says that she has not been provided with Rs. 2 tickets, so she cannot give. I insist. She says that the tickets will be delivered in some time and we can collect when we leave.

We enter the park without the tickets for my daughters, though we have already paid. The girls witness the entire episode. They ask me why the aunty did not give their tickets.

The girls learn an important aspect of Indian Governance – Corruption.

Non-delivery of services

We enter the play area. The girls are looking forward to making the most of their time. They survey the surroundings. Most of the swings are broken, if not all. Most of the slides are broken, if not all. All the see-saws are broken. Merry-go-rounds give them no merry at all, they are beyond repairs.

The girls look around perplexed. They do not know what to do. And, then similar to Indian Citizens that they will grow up to become, they make use of whatever is available. They learn that they are lucky to get what is left and that they should make no fuss about it. Not that there is anyone to listen to their complaints in the first place.

The girls learn that Indian State shall not bother about the upkeep and the delivery of promised services.

Pushed out by the crowd

The girls are trying to make use of whatever is left. But even that is not possible. There are grown-ups around, half of them couples and another half of them bunking their classes. All of them wanting to enjoy their time, but nowhere to go. Hence, descending on Indira Park play area.

The girls request them for their place in the sun. They oblige but continue to their merry-making as well. I request the adults not to use the equipment that they have outgrown. They casually scorn at me and carry on. I try to find the park personnel around to raise a complaint but find nobody in sight.

I fear for the physical safety of my daughters and we leave the play area.

The girls learn that they will be shoved and jostled out of what is rightfully theirs by the fellow citizens.

Chai-Pani

I find someone – probably a supervisor of some sorts. Not sure though. I complain to him about the non-issuance of tickets. He says that maybe tickets have run out. I complain to him about non-functional play area equipment. He says that the government has raised a tender. I complain about the adults making use of children play area. He says that these adults do not listen to them when asked to leave.

I realize that I am just wasting my time. I turn my back. And, to utter amazement, he asks me money for chai-pani. The girls are awe-struck.

They learn the connotations of chai-pani and what it stands for in the Indian context.

Swachh Bharat

The girls have to use the wash-room. We approach the place. Alas, it is closed for repairs. It was closed last time too. Wonder how much time it takes to put a functional wash-room in place.

The girls relieve themselves behind a bush. And to think of it, Hyderabad has been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF). My daughters and I disagree.

Indira Park – Beehive of Learnings

A visit to the park is second to none when it comes to real-life learnings. My daughters learn a lot about India, the Government and the People from their park visits.

Do take your children as well to Indira Park or for that matter, any other public park. The learnings abound.

Every Walk With Children Is A Nature Walk

The most engaging activity with my twin daughters. The activity that never fails to amuse them. The activity that the girls are never tired of. Also, the activity that shows up my inadequacy as a parent. It is actually not an activity at all. It is just a walk. We start the walk outside the house and the activity begins – The Nature Walk.

Our five years old twin daughters do not go to any formal environment, not yet. We do not have a TV at home, either. So, what do we do? We just go outside the house and the girls keep themselves busy at least for an hour, if not more. We go out for running errands and we bring back much more than what we had gone to buy. Every time we step out, the girls make a new discovery or build further on their last. What is it? The Nature Walk.

To be honest, the girls do not even see this as an activity. They are not even conscious of it. They just do it. There is, after all, nothing better to do than this for them.

A Disclaimer: When I mention Nature Walk, Nature refers to any and everything that is not man-made. Nature does not mean that it exists in isolation, it is pure and pristine, it is difficult to reach. Rather, nature is any and everything around, that adults take for granted; at least I did earlier.

Clouds and Wind

Earlier, we stayed in an apartment on a busy main road. We used to go to the terrace and the girls had a great time looking at the clouds, their colour and shapes, their moving around and different hues of the sky.

The most under-rated aspect of nature – Wind fascinates the girls. How and why the wind blows? From where does the wind come? The wind also brings them their collection – leaves.

Trees and Plants, Any Vegetation

Large trees are few and far in between in big cities. Whatever and whenever we see, the girls keep asking questions about the trees and its eco-system: leaves, twigs, branches, buds, fruits, flowers, birds, insects etc. They collect whatever they find underneath the tree.

Not as much as trees, they have made great friends with plants around in our new neighbourhood. They find Beggars Tick in plenty and use their thumb to make it fly around. They love to swirl the Pinwheel flowers. Yellow Bells and Oleander flowers are a must to collect for them.

They love to eat Wild Sorrel. Also, to drink nectar from Ixora flowers. I was stunned the first time I saw them doing this. Later, I got to know that my wife, who runs an experiential travel firm – Dirty Feet, had taught them this.

 Animals and Insects

Again, like trees, animals in a metro city are hard to come by. However, moving around with my daughters, I have learnt that the fun and the size are unrelated. The smaller the animal/insect, the higher the interest levels of our daughters.

How long can one look at a millipede/centipede? The girls find them fascinating to keep a tab on them till they crawl out of sight. I never find a crawling creature on my own, but somehow the girls have a knack for finding them all around. Be it a snail, dung beetle, ants, spider, mantis, grasshopper, caterpillar and host of others whom I do not know to identify.

As soon as they see one, the girls take out their magnifying glasses to have a sneak peek into the lives of their discovery.

Birds and Butterflies

In our new neighbourhood, we do get to hear bird sounds once in a while. Though, sighting them is very difficult. Girls are learning to guess the bird from the sounds they make. Pigeons are the only birds they get to see in the city. No sparrows, no mynahs, no crows, no other birds; apart from their books.

The girls have a collection of peacock feathers. They are planning to make a dye out of blueberries and write with the feathers. Let us see how the plan unfolds.

The bumper prize – Sighting of the butterfly and running after the butterfly until it flies out of sight.

Stones and Pebbles

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.

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.

The Nature Walk

My wife and I believe that the nature walk keeps the child in our twin daughters alive.

I hope and pray that their fascination with nature continues. Fingers crossed.

5 Lessons Kids Learn At Indian Wedding

Our five years old twin daughters, O +ve and B +ve, attended a wedding last month at Chennai. The kids were excited about the travel, meeting new people – fellow kids and relatives, attending the wedding, the ceremonies and what all and whatnot. We are not sure what excited them the most. Though, does it matter when it comes to Indian Wedding?

It was an experience for the girls – the wedding and the paraphernalia. I am sure they learnt a few lessons from their interactions and the happenings around them.

The Relatives

The kids learnt to nod to all the relatives who asked if the girls remembered them, when they met earlier, when they were in their nappies.

The kids learnt to get their cheeks, their head, their back patted from various directions by dotting relatives. At times, simultaneously.

The girls were bombarded with the same question – Which school do you go to, by all and sundry. The girls beamed and answered to all that they do not go to any because they are young children.

The Food

Getting hold of two chairs is a pain for us in any of the buffets we have gone till now. How does one expect to feed children standing all the time?

Here, it was a pleasant surprise. The breakfast and dinner were served on a banana leaf. Now, one cannot stand and hold a banana leaf with food inside. So, we had tables and chairs. The girls learnt to have their food in banana leaves.

Our children have a mix of Telugu and Gujarati food. In this wedding, the girls learnt to have loads of Tamil pickles, podi, curry and a different taste to rasam and sambhar.

More importantly, the girls fed themselves for all the meals, without a fuss. Not sure, what clicked. The banana leaves, the Tamil food, the people sitting around them; whatever.

The Dress

The girls learnt to put on 3 different dresses in a day, with all the paraphernalia for their ears, neck, hands, legs. Kudos to their mother for the patience she has in changing 6 pairs through the day.

The girls tried out various colour combinations and they went on and on. I felt blessed that I cannot identify any colours other than primary colours.

Trying to put clothes to the age-group of 3-6-year-olds, which they are not used to, is one crazy exercise. They drive us nuts with their antics and tantrums, and this was no different. They learnt to add new tricks to their armoury in this dressing up and dressing down episodes.

The Children

In the earlier marriages that we attended, we went around the food time and never noticed it. However, this time when we were present for two full days for all the ceremonies, it was starkly visible. With two hyperactive kids, we had to bear the maximum brunt of it.

Our daughters learnt and we also learnt that there are hardly any children around in Indian weddings. Gone long are the days when the kids would be running around in the wedding ceremonies and creating a ruckus. Few of them turned up during meal times, but that is it. Our daughters did not find any play-mates for them, that we promised before the travel.

Wonder where the children have gone to vanish from the scenes of the Indian wedding?

The Ceremony

We had told the girls that marriage is a ceremony. Now, the ever-inquisitive five years olds wanted to know – When/How/What is the ceremony? There are a few things that we learn only when we experience it first-hand. This was one of it.

We had no answers to satisfy the curiosity of young minds. They wanted to know what was happening and why it was happening. I realized that I was clueless about their queries. I also realized that there was no way in which I could answer their questions. Apart from the priest, who would have known what was going on, I do not think there was an informed soul around.

As the girls kept asking – Is the ceremony over during both the days, their initiation to dumbing down the curiosity about the religious ceremonies had started.

The parents’ perspective

Attending an Indian Wedding is an important part of the child’s learning and growing up process. They get used to the attack on the sensory organs – eyes (bright lighting), ears (deafening music), nose (strong perfumes), skin (pinch and pat) and get only chocolates for their taste buds.

The arrangement for Indian weddings hardly leaves any space, time and resources for children to do what they do – play or try and involve them in the proceedings.

Indian weddings ensure that the child’s journey to the impending adulthood gets initiated at the earliest.

5 Questions To Ask Kids To Get Them Talking

In the post Why Do You Go To School? Why Children Are Asked This Question? I have expressed my views that children should not be asked about their school as a first question of the conversation. Now, if that is ruled out, then what does an adult speak to a child about? What are the questions to ask kids to get them talking?

I am referring to kids in the age-group of four-six years. I realized that barring schools and chocolates, there are not many things that adults get comfortable about talking to kids in this age-group. Our soon-to-be five-year-old twin daughters are a chatter-box, but they also need an ice-breaker to get them going with relatives/strangers.

I have come up with a list of 5 questions to ask kids to get them started. The list has been arrived at keeping in mind the ease of the adult initiating the interaction. Also, the children in this age-group cannot be asked targeted/specific questions for they may not have the exposure to what the adult is referring to / know how to express themselves in as many words.

The list of questions to ask kids is broad-based and depending on the interest levels of the adult/child, the questions can be worded/modified. Of course, it is not at all necessary that a child will reply to any of these questions. They are their individuals and with their own preferences/likes/moods. Like any other relationship, it depends on the rapport that an adult can build with the kid that s/he will respond.

Play

What does a child do? Play. This is an activity that a child does all the time. At least, that is what I have come to believe based on my experience.

Just ask the child – what does s/he like playing? If the child does not respond, say that you would want to play with her/him. Even now the child does not respond, you can suggest the games to the child. This is sure to get the kid going.

There are a lot of games that do not require any material. They can be played anywhere and anytime, by any number of players.

What’s more? It will enliven the child in the adult.

Food

Eating is something that everybody does. Ask the child what the food s/he had in the earlier meal, going to have in the next meal and so on. Speak to the child about the food you had/going to have.

Food brings people together, and children are no different. The conversation can be about meals, vegetables, fruits, milk, spices, cooking, buying, cleaning, portions, colour, source and what all you and the child can think about.

Just, keep the chocolates out. Chocolates are not food for it is no good.

Transport

The simple assumption is that either the kid or you have travelled for the get-together to happen. Children are fascinated with modes of transport.

Speak to children about how you/they travelled to come to the place. What did you/they do during the travel to engage? What all was seen and experienced during the travel?

One of my daughters love to talk about to how uncles driving two-wheelers do not wear helmets, taxi uncles do not wear seat-belts and auto uncles do not ply on meters. She can go on and on about the inefficacy of Hyderabad traffic police uncles if somebody brings her onto this topic.

Stories/Songs

This is another activity that all the children would do. They love to hear stories/songs and also to tell/sing themselves. Just give them the opportunity.

There is no need for the adult to know any fairies and demons stories, we do not know ourselves. Tell the children any make-believe imaginary story of 2-3 minutes, and that is enough for them. For time to come, they will keep asking questions about the story or even extend the story themselves.

By songs, I mean actual songs and not rhymes, though that will also do if adults happen to remember their rhymes. Children are very good at remembering the tune/rhythm and can pick it up fast.

Nature – Animals/Birds/Insects/Trees/Flowers/Sky

For children, anything and everything under the sky, including the sky, fascinates. I would want to believe that that is how it should be for adults too.

Just see anything and speak to children. Even if you do not see a thing, it is fine, speak about it. It will suffice to a child.

Summing Up

Children are innately curious, creative and imaginative. Majority of us adults have lost it as we grow up to be worldly-wise.

When the majority of us ask the same question – “Which School Do You Go To?” to children all the time, we are making them adults sooner, than later. Beyond the name of the school and grade/class, there is no other discussion point to continue the conversation, leave aside building the rapport and knowing the child.

What would be your questions to ask kids to get them talking?