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.

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?

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.

10 best toys for 4-year olds

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

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

Mud / Sand

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

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

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

Water

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

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

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

Packaging material

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

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

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

Doh

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

Nature-based collection

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

Books

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

 Colours

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

House-hold material

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

Blocks

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

Open Spaces

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

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

What’s your say?

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 wife has also written Neem Peepal Banyan adaptation to introduce the trees.

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.