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.

Nature Appreciation: My Inadequacy As A Parent

A child asks interesting questions. Our twin daughters, B +ve and O +ve, are no different. They are inquisitive and curious to know about whatever they observe, feel, hear, smell and eat. This involves a lot of questions about nature.

Unlike a child, I, as an adult, take it for granted about the nature that surrounds me. However, for my children, everything is worth exploring, knowing and befriending.

I have to admit that I have no answers for their questions related to nature. I know zilch. My educational qualification says that I have completed 18 years of formal education. However, when it comes to identifying a tree, a flower, an insect, a stone, a leaf, a seed, whatever my daughters bring/show me – I am clueless to the core.

Leave aside appreciation of nature or knowing about it. I realize that I am unaware of the existence of nature herself.

The girls are just five years old. Their questions are no rocket science. They just want to know the basics of things around and I have no answers for them. I do take help of Google but the pace at which I am thrown the questions, I cannot match it. At times, I cannot even figure out how to phrase the question.

Come to think of it, unless for the questions of my children, I would not have even realized what I am missing out on and what I do not know. I see all these around me daily, I breathe around them, they breathe around me and I do not know anything about them.

I have realized that it is not just about answering the questions, my inadequacy goes even further. The girls collect a lot of stuff – fallen leaves and flowers, fallen buds and petals, feathers, stones, twigs, seedpods, dead insects; what all and whatnot, and I have no idea what to do with them. I know that each one of them can serve an educational purpose. Leave aside education; we can have lots of fun with them. I do not know that also.

I am trying to change and learn about my surroundings. However, I am not able to find any reference material. Whatever I find, limits itself to identification, that too is not at all user-friendly. Also, help for the identification of trees, insects, seeds and rudimentary details about them are very hard to come by.

I do not know how and why all the teaching material of children talks about maths, language and some weird thing called the environment. This environment has information on names of animals and birds, vegetables and fruits, vehicles and service providers. However, this environment is completely silent about what surrounds us – nature. There is no mention of what children encounter and experience around them for every second of their living.

I know where all the above is leading my children to. They are destined to become like their father – oblivious to their surroundings and ungrateful for the rewards of nature.

What would be your inputs on and about nature for my children and me?

5 Ways For Children To Enjoy The Train Journey

The very mention of the train journey leads our twin daughters to jubilation and excitement. B +ve and O +ve look forward to train journeys as if we are going to a second home. Their reaction is like the brand ambassadors of the adage – It is the journey that counts, not the destination. For their interest lies in the train journeys, like none other.

The Railway Station

Our children love going to the railway station. Leave aside our train journeys, we go to the railway station to wave goodbye and say welcome to any of the family members that cross Secunderabad railway station. We wave to not just departing family members, but to all the passengers looking out of their windows and doors, guard, TTEs, pantry staff and sundry.

Even though the train has departed/is yet to come, we loiter on the railway station inspecting the escalators, sweepers, food stalls, trolleys, large rats scavenging on the tracks, leaking water pipes, pigeons and crows, and of course the stray dogs. The girls do want to have a peek inside the engine but the government staff does not believe in giving hands-on experience to children.

At times, we have taken food from home and gone to the railway station to have our meal. It has been a worth-while experience for our children just being at the railway station.

The train journey – Outside of the coach

We used to travel in AC class when the girls were young. However, after they turned two years, we realized that they are not enjoying the view behind the glass. So, we moved to the sleeper class / general class.

Whatever the girls see outside the moving train – trees, flowers, fields, crops, barren land, hills, factories, cattle, people, railway stations, dried river-beds, sky, birds and of course the garbage that accompanies the railway tracks – is a topic for discussion. The children want to know about each and everything that passes by and why it is the way it is.

Whenever the train has an extended stoppage at any station, we get down acclimatizing ourselves with the new place.

The train journey – Inside of the coach

The girls love to walk through the compartment. They are not comfortable crossing the coaches yet. They make acquaintance with the fellow passengers and run around merrily in the walking aisle. As I walk behind them, people get to identify me as the harried father of the two bundles of energy.

The girls love climbing up the upper berth. As they monkey around – up and down the upper berth, I end up standing in the aisle for an extended duration so that they do not fall in the moving train.

No matter what the Railways claim about the bio-toilets and the cleanliness drive, the wash-room is a big thumbs-down from the girls. Unless it is an over-night journey, they would not step inside.

The vendors

The girls chant cha-chai coffee-coffee whenever the vendor passes by. We have tried out almost all the snacks – non-packaged and non-branded, bhel, vada pao, samosa, kachori, soup, cutlet, idli, vada and the local fruits that otherwise would not be available at our doorsteps.

The girls have seen the beggars at the traffic junctions. However, seeing the handicapped people sweeping the compartment and begging, women going around with medical files, people coming and singing yesteryears Hindi songs, eunuchs asking for money etc is a different experience altogether for the children.

At times, we have asked ourselves if we should change our mode of travel to shield our daughters from this experience. The answer has been – Indians ought to know India in all its avatars.

The games and the food

When we travel to my home-town Rajkot, it is a 28-hour train journey one way. All the above loses its sheen after the 18-24 hour time. Then, it is the time for the blocks, books, play-doh, activities that we carry along-with and of course the toys, that we buy along the way.

Needless to say, the children get hungry more on the train journey. We carry a good amount of food to keep their little tummies full.

Summing Up

Indian Railways is not at all an easy place to travel in with children. We have a tough time sleeping in the night with the two girls. The wash-room invariably stinks and the girls refuse to go. It was difficult feeding them and changing diapers when they were young.

Now, the girls are enjoying themselves in the train and at the railway station, come what may.

I suppose they have internalized the Indian Railways train journey.