Reclaim Open Spaces For Children: Car Parking

Children lack access to open spaces to play, have fun and live their childhood. Everyone agrees that open spaces are important for a wholesome and enriching childhood. But, the key ingredient – open spaces are in short supply. So, what can parents do about it? How can parents help the children to run around and well, be children?

It is a hard task. On the face of it, parents can say that children do not have access to open spaces simply because there aren’t open spaces around. What can they do about it? It is the Government’s responsibility to ensure the availability of open spaces and make it accessible to children. That’s all. The buck is passed and we, as parents, can have the satisfaction of having done our duty.

I also thought like this. What a single person or a group of people can do for a civic amenity? Then, I happen to look around. You also look around wherever you stay. Can you locate the open spaces? Actually, they are right outside your house/below your apartment/round the corner. Ok, they may not be huge but there are open spaces all around us, good enough for children to play and enjoy.

Where and what are these open spaces hiding in plain sight robbing the children of the opportunity to indulge in their childhood? If there are open spaces all around us, why cannot we see them and make it available to our children? Well, these open spaces have been taken up by a certain thing that has come to rule our lives.

Cars

Walk the area surrounding your house/apartment. We may or may not find the trees and bushes, or the stray animals. However, we are sure to find lots and lots of cars. The parked cars, stationary and lying idle, not going anywhere. These cars, in the process of going nowhere, take up lots and lots of open spaces.

All of us are aware that cars are hazardous when they move. Cars cause pollution – air and sound, traffic snarls, road rage, accidents etc. Yes, the cars on their own do not do any of these, the people driving them do. Similarly, when the cars are parked, they don’t do any good either. Again, it is not the matter of the cars per se, but the people owning the cars that create the issues.

A car owner shall not allow any play involving a ball in the vicinity of the parked car. Actually, a car owner shall not allow any play equipment to come near the car for the glasses may get broken.  Even worse, a car owner shall not allow a child to touch the car or even come near for the car may get scratches. Leave aside football/cricket, even tag/hide and seek are not allowed when a car is parked.

The car does not just occupy space as per its dimension/size when parked; it actually occupies space as per the car owner’s whim and fancies to keep the car unscathed. And, this space is much larger than the physical size of the car. After accounting for this mental space of the car owner around her/his car, there aren’t any open spaces left for children to play. Rather, even stand and talk.

Car Parking

One might say that cars are a required evil. But, how can even the parking of cars be evil? Per capita land availability in Indian cities is abysmal and that gets further compounded by cars parked indiscriminately, everywhere and anywhere. Why a dedicated underground parking lot is not considered a mandatory requirement to buy a car?

Some people might get offended by the idea of compulsory underground parking that it is too expensive and not a practical idea. For that matter, aren’t cars pricey enough to deserve a covered and committed parking? Why are cars parked on road-sides like stray animals and they can’t even be shooed away? Be it RWAs or commercial establishments, cars will be chaotically strewn around.

Have you ever tried speaking to a car owner about moving her/his car so that children can play? We try, the responses have been stares and outright indignation. For the car parked in front of our house, the truant owner removes the entity in question mumbling under the breath. For other cars parked in the lane, we are told to mind our business and not disturb the resting place of the prized possession.

If the cars have a utility to be driven, why can’t it be parked unobtrusively when not in use, without trampling upon the right of open spaces for children?

Reclaim open spaces

Imagine the open spaces that would be available for children to play and fool around if there are no cars on the ground except for moving on the roads?

Imagine the sounds of children revelling in joy and banter as compared to the ghastly silence of the parked car. Both of them vie for the same space in India and the car wins outright, as of now.

Along with children, imagine the space available for trees and plants, shrubs and bushes, if not for the idle cars lying around?

All the above and more are possible if we reclaim open spaces for the sake of children from cars.

What are your thoughts about the availability and accessibility of open spaces for children? Have I tried to over-simplify the problem by blaming the cars? What will it take for children to reclaim open spaces that are rightfully theirs?

Open Spaces For Children In India: A Myth

What is the ultimate joy of being a child? What should be the perk of being children? Where and how children get to live their childhood?

Few more questions. What is the most blissful for an adult in watching over children? What is it that delights adults, which a child engages in? For adults, what would be their childhood memories?

These are no trick questions. Think hard. A hint – All the above questions and even more questions that you can think of, similar to the above, has a single answer. Irrespective of who you are, where you are, varied social/economic class, the answer remains the same and yes, again an only answer.

For me, the answer is children in their natural surroundings, exploring, interacting and playing with other children, oblivious of the world around, just being children and having fun. There cannot be any other answer.

A child is not going to remember gadgets and toys, clothes and gifts when s/he grows up. A child is surely not going to recollect when s/he first saw the mobile and the countless mind-numbing screen time s/he had. But, a child is surely going to remember the experiences and the events that s/he has lived through; outside the home and more so, with other children. Come to think of it, these are the memories of your childhood that you still carry with you.

By default, these memories and experiences will have a common thread – open spaces. There is no exact definition of these open spaces. They can be a playground, an empty plot of land, a vacant parking lot, a gully/road with less vehicular traffic, with/without shade, but open nonetheless and also, safe and secure for children to mingle and goof around without adult/parental supervision.

Importance of open spaces for children

Open spaces and children obviously go hand-in-hand. Childhood connotes freedom and being self, uninhibited and natural. What better place to express this, than open spaces? Not just outside the confines of the four walls, but also beyond the endless directives of overbearing parents/adults?

Open spaces expose a child to all kinds of environs and interactions. It gives an opportunity to children for hands-on and experiential learning that no amount of simulated and artificial set-ups can ever do. And, yes it is free of cost, available any time of the day, never stocked out, fresh and novel every time and a lot more.

I can go on and on about the importance of open spaces for children. But I suppose, each one of us is aware of it and that’s not the point. The point is that even though all of us know about the benefits of open spaces for kids, all of us are blissfully unaware about the conspicuous absence of the open spaces, anywhere and everywhere, for children to express themselves.

Where are the open spaces?

Try to recall open spaces for children in any of India’s cities of today. Try harder. Come on, there has to be at least one, hidden somewhere, in the neighbourhood, in the ward/locality, or maybe in the entire city/state/country. Sigh, I cannot find any. You are lucky if you have found one for your child.

Mind you, similar to a spontaneous childhood not amenable to exacting adulthood, open spaces do not fall in the realm of adult understanding.

A playground is not an open space. It is not accessible to children across age-groups/it may not be free. More so, most of the playgrounds have now been taken over for some sort of sports coaching or the other purposes.

A park is not an open space. Do not believe me. Try visiting any large-enough park that is open from dawn to dusk. The trees will be taken over by swarming couples in dire needs of privacy. Surely, they are no places for children to be left alone. A community park is a shared resource between the retirees and children. Retirees do not like to have any kind of disturbance in their eternal chit-chats. The result – children of all ages are driven out from the parks or caged in one corner.

A play-area of a gated community is not an open space. Yes, it is open and accessible, but selectively. It is not within reach of the children of maids and drivers working there, children cutting across social and economic strata. This is a must-have condition of open spaces – kids getting diverse and heterogeneous exposure and not a mono-culture of ivory towers.

Vacant plots and parking lots, empty roads and by-lanes hardly exist in today’s urban India. If they do, they are not safe and secure.

Options, Choices, Future

In such a scenario wherein open spaces for children in India have turned into a mirage, what could be the options, the choices that we could have made and have actually made? What does the present herald about the future of open spaces for children? I have written about this in the second part to the current article. Publishing soon.

What are your thoughts on the open spaces, rather the absence of it, for India’s children?

To Teach A Child To Ride A Bicycle, 5 Things Parents Should Know

Our twin daughters, O +ve and B +ve learnt to ride a bicycle. Basis of my first-hand experience as a parent, this is what I have to say on how to teach a child to ride a bicycle.

According to me, the process of teaching a child to ride a bicycle is as much about the parent as it is about the child. It is the parent’s approach and his/her application that determines how bicycle learning will pan out for the child. There are things that a parent should know/learn and be conscious of, before embarking on the bicycling escapade with the child.

Parenting Is Growing Up Together, and to teach a child to ride a bicycle is no different.

The Ground Work

The advice on when the child should learn to cycle is omnipresent. There will always be a child in the family/neighbourhood, you will be told, who has learnt to cycle when s/he was younger to your child. A parent might be made to feel that sooner is the better. Please remember, there are no bragging rights attached to when a child learns to cycle.

Each child is unique and learns at her/his pace. The same principle applies to learn to cycle. There is no point in starting early, seeing a child struggling to cope with and losing interest in the activity. A parent should be realistic about the ability of her/his child, learning curve and accordingly, decide on the age to introduce cycling.

Our daughters learnt cycling when they were 6 years, the right age for them, we felt as parents. My wife and I are at peace when someone tells us that there are children who learnt to cycle when they were 4 years old. Good for them at that age, good for our daughters at 6.

We involved our daughters in buying their bicycles, took them to the shop, they sat on various models and chose the colour. We spoke to them when we were delaying the process till they turned 6. They were also told that their bicycles won’t have training wheels and they might as well fall.

The Child Will Fall

No child has learnt to walk without falling. And, no child shall learn to cycle without falling. We equipped our children with safety gear – helmet, knee guards and elbow guards. We told our daughters that despite our best efforts to hold their bicycle, they might fall. It is fine. They just need to dust off and be back to cycling.

This point is applicable more for the parents than the child. As parents, we tend to get paranoid when we see our children fall. Our fears and worries get the better of us. We panic and rush towards the child when s/he falls and in the process; the child learns fear from the parents and the society.

Yes, the training wheels will ensure that the child will not fall. The same training wheels will also ensure that the child will not experience an actual bicycling ride. Our daughters’ bicycles never had the training wheels. All of us were prepared for the imminent bruises and cuts. Surprise, surprise; a few falls, scratches, one bruise which required first aid and our girls were cycling.

Trust The Child

When a child is introduced to an age-appropriate activity, s/he will hardly take time to learn. It is just about hand-holding, conversing and giving confidence to the child. We have witnessed this time and again in our daughters, and cycling turned out to be no different.

We had realized that the training wheels cater to the insecurity of the parents. Children have no need as such for the add-on/paraphernalia. They have the innate ability to learn, take care of themselves along with and what’s more – enjoy the process.

We kept re-assuring our daughters that they can, kept telling them that we are right behind them, trusted them to fly and flew they did, in no time.

Parent Has To Put In The Hard Yards

Not having training wheels also meant that Shiva, my wife and I got much-needed running exercise. Too bad, it got over soon.

Leaving the bicycle from behind without telling the child is a strict no-no. If you feel the child is ready to cycle independently, ask if s/he feels that s/he is ready. Only if the child says yes, let go of the cycle. If the child is scared to take the leap of faith, speak to them about their fears and help them develop confidence. In the meanwhile, keep holding the cycle from behind.

When our girls drove away independently from our outstretched hands, it was a moment to cherish for a lifetime

It’s Ok If The Child Takes Time / Doesn’t Learn

We have twin daughters. As with everything that they have learnt at their individual pace, one learnt cycling before the other. It was a tough time for us to handle. The one who did was on cloud nine, the other was crestfallen.

It was a life-lesson for them and we took it as an opportunity to discuss that even for similar efforts, we get dissimilar results. Both the girls were trying equally, one of them learnt before the other. It doesn’t matter how soon you learn as long as you learn. Life is not just a race, much more than that. There is no value to learn to cycle in 45 minutes/7 days and the like.

We told them to enjoy the efforts, the process, the journey; and the destination of learning to cycle did arrive 2 days later for the other girl.

This taught us that if a child takes time, does not learn as expected, it is all right. May be, s/he will learn after some days, some weeks, some months, it does not matter. As long as, the parents and the child persevere, there will always be the next day. And yes, even if the child does not learn, that is fine too. After all, as an adult, I haven’t learnt many a thing and I cannot have double standards.

Balancing Not Pedalling

To teach a child to ride a bicycle is to get the priorities right. Remove the training wheels and get the child to learn balance.  The rest – braking, stopping, starting, turning etc will just be a matter of time.

This is how we taught our children to ride a bicycle. Alongside, all of us picked some life lessons too.

What are your thoughts to teach a child to ride a bicycle?

 

Factors To Consider When Buying A Kids Bicycle

We bought bicycles for our twin daughters, B +ve and O +ve. Based on our first-hand experience as parents, below are the factors to consider when buying a kids bicycle. Few of these reasons may seem counter-intuitive. Believe me, they will help the child and you in the long run.

Child’s feet should touch the ground

The innumerable charts on the net shall depict age, height and in-seam of the kids and accordingly, will recommend the size of the wheels for the kids’ bicycle. This gets confusing. To keep it simple, I suggest taking the kid to the bicycle shop and making her/him sit on each available model.

Now comes the tricky part. We are bound to think that the height of the kid will increase in a not-so-distant future. Hence, we might as well buy a bicycle that s/he can use for 2-3 years or even more. This will mean that, when the bicycle is being bought, the child’s feet will not touch the ground while sitting on the seat of the bicycle. This will necessitate the side/support wheels.

All the cycles in the shop would already be fitted with side/support wheels. If you look up on  Amazon, all the kids’ bicycle images will also show side/support wheels. If you happen to look around in the apartment/colony, the majority of the kids’ bicycles, if not all, wherein the kid is learning to cycle will have side/support wheels. My suggestion – Please do NOT buy a bicycle with side/support wheels.

The reason is simple. The child has to majorly learn two things when learning to cycle. Balance and Pedal. With the side/support wheels on, the child will surely learn to pedal but will not learn to balance. The day these side/support wheels are removed, the kid will have to re-learn cycling from a scratch. The only benefit of having them is that the child will not fall and the parent does not have to run behind the child.

We decided that we would want our daughters to learn how to balance, as a first task. They have had enough of pedalling experience with their tri-cycles. It is also time that we do some running around and get much-needed exercise. So, no side/support wheels for them. Yes, we spoke to our daughters in advance and kept explaining to them, why their bicycles will be different from their play-mates.

This also means that we will have to buy new bicycles for them within a year. That’s fine. The first bicycle is meant for learning and not lasting 2-3 years or more.

The accessories

As the bicycle does not have side/support wheels, the kid is bound to fall once-twice even after the best of the parent’s efforts. Moreover, all the bicycles around with side/support wheels will lead to suspicions in the child’s mind about her/his safety.

Hence, it is advisable to buy the accessories of the helmet, knee guards, elbow guards along with the bicycle. This may look like a needless additional expense. However, apart from keeping the child safe, this will go a long way in instilling the aspects of safety and precautions in the child’s young and impressionable mind.

Remove the paraphernalia

Predominantly, kids’ bicycles will come in two variants. Adventure and Regular. Adventure version will be light-weight and heavy on pocket. Remember that this first bicycle is being bought with the sole purpose of learning to cycle, so the adventure version will not make sense.

The regular version will come with all sorts of unnecessary paraphernalia which only increases the weight of the bicycle. Without the side/support wheels, the child is going to find it difficult to manoeuvre and this additional weight will make her/his life miserable. So, please remove the back-seat, basket and other such stuff, after buying the bicycle.

Keep the back-support

I would have removed the back-support to the kid’s seat on the bicycle to further reduce the weight but for my back. Without the back-support, I would have had to hold the seat from below when my daughters pedal and that would have meant bending quite low. My back did not permit it, hence I am continuing with the back-support to the seat.

If you are game for bending low while running behind your kid’s bicycle, removal of back-support will help her/him with a further reduction in the bicycle’s weight.

Factors not to consider when buying a kids bicycle

Remember the purpose of the first bicycle for the kids is to learn how to cycle and not to make it last longer. So, the brand of the cycle should not matter.

The kid is going to bang the bicycle quite a few times. Do not look for resale value.

You can opt for accessories of light, bell, basket once the kid has learnt to cycle. Not before that.

Don’t get into the detailing of frames – steel/aluminium/carbon/plastic. It is not worth it for the bicycle that will last less than a year.

Don’t bother about the maintenance and the spare parts, but after-sales service does matter. Majority of the kids’ bicycles come with tubeless tyres. So, if you buy one of those, the hassle of filling the air in the tyres will also be taken care of.

There is no separate bicycle for boys and girls when you buy them their first. Please do not fall for this needless gender segregation. It is a unisex buy at their age.

In nutshell

Remove those side/support wheels and all the other unneeded stuff. Don’t fall for the dictum of bicycle lasting 2-3 years or more. With all the safety accessories in place, the kid won’t get hurt even if s/he falls. It is fun to run behind the child when s/he is learning to cycle.

Just ensure that her/his feet are touching the ground when stationary and s/he will learn to fly in no time.

Lockdown Friends And Experiences For Our Children

India is in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020. Irrespective of the Government’s lockdown/unlock, one aspect of the response remains steadfastly constant – children remain locked up in their houses, but for entrance tests. In such a scenario, what can be lockdown friends and experiences for children?

The scientific evidence shows that coronavirus spreads predominantly in closed surroundings with poor ventilation. The outdoors has the least risk in spreading infections. The countries that have reopened have done so with outdoor lung spaces i.e. the parks as a first candidate to reopen. However, in India, the children parks remain in shut down mode, they would be the last to open.

The scientific evidence shows that children are at the least risk of COVID-19 infections. Yes, they can spread it to the adults, a risky proposition. In India, the Government lockdown has clubbed the children < 10 years with elderly > 65 years, who are at the maximum risk and have ordered them to remain at home ever since.

The Government refuses to understand that the children not getting fresh air and sunlight, a chance to play, social interaction opportunities also represent a risk in itself. In addition, kids get bombarded with online education, in a like-to-like replica of school time-table but on a screen. It is a tough time to be children these days in India.

Fortunately, for our soon-to-be six-year-old twin daughters, they are saved from the perils of online learning. The simple reason being, they are not enrolled in a school, yet. However, not being allowed to venture outside, an anchor to our lives could have played havoc to their young minds. But it is not to be. Courtesy their lockdown friends and experiences.

A stray cat and her kittens

Within a week of the starting of the lockdown, a stray cat descended on our home. The cat was not at all afraid of us. She kept demanding food, which when given to her, she graciously decided to adopt our family and home.

The girls were excited beyond limits. They suddenly found themselves to be the proud owner of a pet cat. They named her Licky; the reason being she licked the milk. The girls’ day started with Licky and ended with Licky.  They ran around her, patted her, fed her, sang songs for her; Licky basked in the attention.

The girls were over the moon when Licky gave birth to two kittens. Girls gave nonstop commentary on what the kittens were doing, how they were growing, how Licky was tending to her litter. Then, the lightning struck. Licky left the house with her kittens. The girls were crestfallen.

After 3 days, Licky resurfaced, terribly hurt and without her kittens. We got to know that the kittens were on our neighbour’s terrace. Licky had abandoned them, stopped eating food and died. We brought the kittens home, the girls were again over-joyed. We fed the kittens every 3-4 hours, stimulated to pee and poop and kept warm. The girls were learning how to tend to their young pets.

Throughout, the kittens kept looking for their mother. One of them died after a couple of weeks. We realized that a kitten should not be raised single. A kind acquaintance helped us find a foster home for the single kitten and we gave him up for his good. It broke the girls’ hearts, but they understood.

This entire episode lasted for about four months. It was an emotional roller-coaster ride for the girls, the highs of delight to the lows of sorrow. Till this date, they remember Licky and the two kittens with warm fondness. They have also come to learn that in life, nothing is forever. We lose someone close to us, but the remembrance of the time spent together is a joy in itself.

Shiva and Rakesh

Shiva was my wife’s colleague (was, because Dirty Feet has had to temporarily shut down due to COVID-19). He stays in the office. Rakesh is Shiva’s friend, who came for a day to the office on Janta Curfew and then got stuck due to the lockdown. They come to our home daily for meals. Rakesh has since left, Shiva continues to be there.

The girls have become very fond of both the guys. They have become their play-mates for the age-less games and endless talks. It is to the credit of Shiva and Rakesh that though they are in their early 20’s they play with amazing ease with the six-year-olds. They have made the girls so comfortable that they think that it is absolutely normal for kids of their age to play with 20+ year olds.

Yes, the children should play with children. But, that has almost never happened with our daughters. Whenever we go to any outdoor places/parks, children of any age are rarely present. In the neighbourhood even under normal circumstances, children hardly come out for playing. Lockdown has become a blessing that they have actually got play-mates, who have the ability to bring out their innate child when playing.

Plants, bugs and birds

Every walk with the girls is an opportunity for a nature walk. With the lockdown, that is also ruled out. My wife is extremely particular about the exposure to nature for our daughters. We have realized that plants are friends of a lifetime for children. So, she put the ample space in the front yard of the house to good use by getting pots and doing gardening.

The girls have a great time mixing soil with coco-peat, putting seeds, watering and seeing the blossoming of their sweat. The plants (a majority of them veggies) also bring with them a fair share of butterflies and bugs. A bulbul tried making a nest in the gourd creeping around but left mid-way after incessant snooping by the girls.

Hoping that the girls and we further grow our small kitchen garden even after the lockdown ends. It takes a lot of time and efforts to keep up with the gardening, but raising eco-aware children are a just reward. There is no other activity/experience with a bigger multiplier effect than nurturing nature-friendly kids. It does good to them, Mother Earth and everybody’s future.

Street Vendors

We stay on the ground floor of an independent house in the by-lanes of a busy neighbourhood (even now!). Barring the most strict phase of the lockdown (earliest 2 weeks), the area is thronged by 10-12 street vendors during the day. This turned out to be a window to social interaction for our daughters and us.

In the scorching summer of April, May and June, we taught the girls to stop each street vendor on the road and ask, if they wanted water. It might look like a poor cousin to regular social interactions, which lockdown has left no occasion for. But, it did a lot of good to build empathy and caring in our children.

The girls asked the reasons for the vendors to be on the road even during severe heat and lockdown, what happens when they get tired etc. We, of course, did not have answers to all their queries. It is a learning curve for all of us.

Lockdown friends and experiences

The above are the lockdown friends and experiences that helped maintain our sanity during the lockdown.

As I write this, I realize that irrespective of the lockdown, they could have become a part of our lives, and enriched our being. Just that, we may not have allowed it to be.

What have been your lockdown friends and experiences?

One Pot Meals: Highly Recommended For Children

A hard task for each parent is to ensure that their children eat every taste and every vegetable. Kids with fussy eating habits are a parents’ nightmare. A meal-time, at times, transform into a veritable push and pull as the parents have made a certain dish and the kids have their preferences.

We are blessed till now, that our soon-to-be six-year-old twin daughters eat everything served without a bother. I have written about my guess-work about what makes them eat all their vegetables. My wife has her hypothesis, as well. She feels that the girls have been introduced to a certain way of cooking pretty early in their culinary journey and seemingly, this has helped them develop taste buds that accept all the flavours and veggies. Enter the one pot meals.

One pot meals for children is apparently neither an appealing nor an exciting idea. On the face of it, one pot meal goes against the conventional wisdom that a child needs to be introduced to all the various tastes. One pot meal does not fulfil this criterion. Then, how can it serve the task of making children eat all the stuff?

One pot meals introduce each taste and veggies uniquely

Consider a delectable meal spread across various courses/dishes. As a parent, we feel that we have done our task to ensure that a child has options and can have a well-balanced diet. Now, this is an inadvertent pit-fall.

With so much to choose from, the kid would want to have what s/he prefers. That’s the end of the story, as it goes. The parent will keep banging her/his head and the child will also keep replying in a matching fashion. For s/he knows that asking for a dish of preference is very much an option.

More importantly, the child will keep choosing and having food, the taste of which s/he believes s/he likes. The kid would not want to experiment with other flavours on offer.  S/he will stick with the tried and tested much to the parent’s irritation.

Now, consider the one pot meals as the only dish available for serving. The kid does not have an option to choose from. S/he sees the parents eating it and knows intuitively that s/he will also have to eat the same.

More importantly, one pot meals will have a single and unique taste on offer, as per the ingredients used. When the child eats the one pot meals, s/he learns to appreciate the taste and may develop the liking over some time. Though, it is secondary; the child eats is primarily important and it is what counts.

One pot meals have an advantage over every other food dish that it is a meal in itself. And, it does so by using minimal ingredients and staying true to their taste/ flavour. When a child eats a unique flavour without any other flavour simultaneously jostling for taste buds; it helps in developing a taste/liking for the same.

One pot meals are healthy and nutritious

At times, there is a misconception that one pot meals are not healthy and nutritious. Believe me, they are. My wife ensures that without fail, there is a vegetable as a key ingredient. Apart from colour, taste and texture, it also provides vitamins, minerals and natural fiber. The grains/rice fulfils the carbohydrate requirements.  We add beans to complete the protein quota.

Seasonings add to the flavour of foods. Using spices and herbs limit the amount of salt needed in the dish. Moreover, sugar has no relevance. Oil usage is also limited. Ghee can be used as a topping as per the liking and meet the fats requirements.

What can be unhealthy in this? You have the choice to hold back on whatever you feel like; similarly, add whatever you would want to. Yet, the meal will be complete in all regards, unless you skip a complete ingredient in itself.

A child can help in the cooking, too

When a parent is making a meal spread across various dishes/courses, the bandwidth gets occupied in the process. The cooking itself becomes time-consuming and soaks up the energy. There is no way that the parent can involve a child in this process without tearing up her/his hair.

Now, look at the one pot meals. It is simple, requires minimal preparations and leaves enough room to involve the kid in the cooking. When the child gets involved in the process, s/he builds ownership to the cooked dish and makes it easier to have her/him eat the same.

A sure-shot winner

What is more? One pot meals are much more amenable to reduced wastage vis-a-vis ingredients, left-over and prodding the child to eat. It is more peaceful and enjoyable to cook and eat; leaving more calories in the body for everyone in the family at the end of cooking and eating.

One pot meals also give a subtle message to kids that the simple can be fun and enjoyable too. One need not have multiple courses/dishes to cherish the food. Similarly, one also need not have much of paraphernalia to claim a happy and fulfilling life. Life can be as uncomplicated and as undemanding as we can make it to be, ala one pot meals.

The basic reason for us to promote one pot meals for children is that it is about a unique taste and flavour. For a child to be an unfussy/adventurous/accepting eater, it is the taste and the flavour that has to matter; and not the particular dish; per se. One pot meals are not a dish at all. It is what you make it out to be.

Simply put, with one pot meals, it is not the potato curry or the paneer curry or any leafy curry or for that matter, a cheese topping that a child develops liking for, but for the potato, the paneer, the leafy vegetable, the cheese – individually.

Positive Screen Time: It Helps Children And Parents

Screen time evokes control, parental control as we talk about kids. Advice abound, online and offline, on how to manage screens for kids. No parenting discussion would ever be complete without the topic of screen time for kids. Quite a bit of parent-children communication centres on this subject.

Have you ever wondered how and why screen time brings forth friction and squabble? For an inevitable event, why should there be a push and pull for every aspect of the event? Why cannot there be a mutually acceptable common ground that makes everyone happy? Surely, nobody wants to be miserable about something that has become an integral part of life for everyone.

This leads us to the topic of positive screen time. While anyways we are at it, why not make every bit of it worth-while? Positive screen time is about children having good exposure and learning from it. It is about children having nice memories of their screen time. In short, making it a fun and enjoyable experience that children would look forward to growing up with.

So, how do we go about doing this? (Disclaimer: I am writing this as a stay-at-home father to soon-to-be six years old twin daughters. My experiences are hands-on, related to my daughters’ age and their growing up, and may not apply to higher age-groups).

Positive screen time is a family time

Look at it simply. Children are anyways going to watch, why not watch together? It has so many benefits.

A parent need not worry about the content at all. A parent knows what’s running, so will not come up with an abrupt end, a major tug-of-war point. There will be no time spent in instructing the children on what to see and what not to see and also checking the history of what the children finally saw.

Positive screen time is also about role-modelling. When the children see that all the adults in the house are busy pouring over their screens, s/he finds it obvious to do with one’s self. Indulging in screens ideally with both the parents or practically with one parent, children get the idea that doing this activity alone is not that enjoyable and not worthy enough to pursue.

With the children’s quota of screen time getting over as a collective family task, it leaves equal time for children to engage with each other as well as the parents. Imagine having everyone in the house watching screens at different intervals. Where the heck would be the time to even greet each other? Leave aside having a meaningful conversation or doing any task together.

Yes, there is a drawback. The parents do not get to act as adults in terms of having their screen time.

Screen time content as a means to foster common interest

Family viewing allows parents to introduce to children what they enjoyed in their childhood, or for that matter what they enjoy even now. There is enough variety in kids programming that can keep the adults, having varied interests, hooked up as well.

Consuming screen time together also works in shepherding children’s interests and trying to bring them on the same platform as their parents. The added benefit is that this hand-holding happens implicitly. There are no overt instructions, not even a mention of anything, children get their screen time and absorb along the way.

The only thing to keep in mind is that parents need to cross-check before-hand so that they do not end up watching what they don’t like and also, what they would not want their children to watch.

Positive screen time as a conversation tool

Simply put, positive screen time is active, and not passive. Meaning, parents pause the screen and talk to children about what’s happening on the screen. This applies to children of any age, and not just older children.

The programme is communicating to the audience – children and parents. Left on their own, it is difficult to gauge what the children are interpreting and it may show up in their behaviour and thinking in the most unexpected manner. The parents need to ensure that children get the message – explicit, implicit, intended, unintended, black, white and the many shades of grey along with.

The dialogue about what transpired during the videos can very well happen during the day. The characters of the programme can become a part of everyday household chores and keep conveying their messages, basis the parents’ imagination and application. This helps in broadening children’s perspective and imbibing learning from any source.

In nutshell

Screen time is here to stay. Whilst children are at it, let’s try and ensure that it does some good too, for the children as well as the parents.

Positive screen time for kids with the active involvement of parents has the potential to do just that. It encompasses discretion, quality, quantity and also the impact of screen time.

What would be your thoughts on the subject?