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?

Self-Defence: Teach Kids To Stay Safe

India is no country to raise daughters. I know about this. I am also a father of soon-to-be five-year-old twin daughters. Just like other parents, we are very protective of our children. We want to keep them safe from every danger.

At home, our daughters continue to be in their comfort place, filled with love, joy and happiness. We know that they are going to face the harsh reality of this world fairly soon. Rather, they have already started facing in several instances. There will also be occasions where they are alone out there and they have to learn to take care of themselves.

Self-defence for kids is important. It is not about hitting back. They are too young for this and this is not the purpose anyway.

Self-defence for kids is being aware of their surroundings. It is about having the confidence and the capability to grasp what is right and what is wrong. And, if it is wrong, how to deal with it at their age of 5 years.

Identify Unwanted Touch and Abuse

Some people have a habit of touching kids – mostly cheeks, sometimes back, nose, hair and at times, other body parts as well. This is completely uncalled for and unwanted all the times. This is no way to show one’s affection for a child of any age.

Our daughters are going to be five years, and even now, outright strangers feel that they can show their friendliness by touching them. We are telling our daughters to leave the company of these people. And if it gets repeated, immediately reach out to us.

Our daughters know their body parts and their functions. We are also teaching them about their private body parts and that should not be touched by anyone, even by the family members and their friends. If somebody touches, tell them not to do it and inform it to us right away.

Strangers and their offerings

Of course, not all strangers are bad. Most of them are good. Now, how to differentiate between a good stranger and a bad stranger, when many strangers have a habit of giving food items – mostly chocolates and sweets to children. I do not know.

As a result, we are teaching our daughters not to take any stuff from strangers. This looks impolite and rude to many people. But, I know that it is required in a country like ours for ensuring the safety of the children.

Bullying

Our daughters do not go to any formal environment. Their visits to parks and their playing with children in the neighbourhood have been enough to get them introduced to being bullied.

They are waiting for their turn and somebody will push them out of the queue. They are making their sandcastle and somebody will stamp and run all over it. There are few kids in the parks for whom pushing, shoving, poking, kicking are also the means of playing with other children.

We are teaching our daughters to stay away from these children as a first measure. If these acts get repeated, we have told our kids to tell the child, who is doing it, not to do it again.

We have not yet reached the third stage of provocation.

Snaps and Videos

There are utter strangers in the parks, public places, public modes of transport and they start clicking snaps of our children. Few of them even want to take a selfie with them.

I do not get this at all. What is it that leads a person to photograph a child that s/he does not know? We have politely told them not to take snaps of our daughters. Though, we have not been forceful enough to check their devices and delete our snaps.

We are telling our daughters not to allow any strangers to take their snaps and videos. It is absurd to teach such a thing, but I have seen it happen several times that it cannot be called an unusual occurrence.

Mobile Number and Address

This is the basic point to be taught to a kid in self-defence. No parent would ever want to lose a child. But, things happen, at times.

To better prepare kids for such unforeseen events, we have told our daughters to reach out to police. And if police are not there, tell the strangers around to call their parents. They have memorized our address and the mobile number.

Summing Up

The above is what has come to our minds for teaching self-defence to our soon-to-be five-year-old twin daughters. It revolves around understanding their surrounding and keeping themselves safe and protected. It is, of course, age-appropriate and the list will keep growing with their age.

What else would you suggest for teaching self-defence to children?

Neem Peepal Banyan Lyrics for Children

Neem, Peepal, Banyan,
Coconut, Mango, Banana,
Tamarind, Gulmohar,
Eucalyptus, Ashoka.

Trees big, trees small,
Trees large, trees tall,
Trees are home for birds and bees,
Trees dance and sway in the breeze.

Trees lush, trees bare,
Trees cool and clean the air,
Plant trees everywhere,
For trees are precious friends rare.

Babul, Ber, Bakul,
Kadamb, Jamun, Badam,
Mahua, Kathal,
Palash, Kokum.

Roots, trunk and the crown,
Branches, leaves and bark that is brown,
Different parts of the tree,
Its nature’s wonder – we agree!

Bilva, Usiri, Eetha,
Thangedu, Thati, Thumma,
Chandanam, Kanuga,
Velagakaya, Nimma.

Tree bower is nice to lie down,
Trees are cool to climb on,
Trees are good to hug and bond,
Trees are great to play around.

Bamboo, Laburnum, Copper pod,
Pine, Teak, Casuarina,
African Tulip, Coralwood,
Tree of Gold, Jacaranda.

Trees fulfil our every need,
Trees do us a great deed,
With our future, we ought to share,
Trees, which are friends rare!

So, let’s plant trees everywhere
So, let’s plant trees everywhere…

Inspired by Neem Peepal Banyan from Karadi Tales, my wife wrote the above poem for O +ve and B +ve. It is similar to My Name is Madhavi adaptation, the first three stanzas are from the original song and the remaining 6 stanzas are the extension.

We use the above rhyme to introduce the trees, the parts, the benefits to the girls. The lyrics also introduce names of the trees in Hindi and Telugu, along with English.

Weight of school bags is not going to reduce in India

The government of India has passed the order restricting the weight of school bags of the students. The order limits the weight of the school bags of class I and II student to 1.5 kg. The school bag of class III to V student should not exceed 3 kg and the same of class VI-VII students has been restricted to 4 kg, of class VIII–IX student to 4.5 kg and class X student to 5 kg.

On the face of it, the order looks great. The parents, the educationists, the schools, the media – all have welcomed the step taken by the government. Now, the question is – Is the heavy school bag a problem in itself or is it a symptom of a greater order malaise affecting the Indian education system?

After all, the weight of school bags does not increase on its own. The child has no say in what to carry and what not to carry in the school bag. So the child cannot be responsible for the heavy school bags. Who is responsible for the weight of school bags? What goes into increasing the weight of school bags? Without answering or at the least, raising these questions, the government of the day has passed the order restricting the weight of school bags.

I suppose there are three issues plaguing the weight of school bags. All the three are known to everybody. The first is evident to all on a daily basis. The second issue can only be spoken about anonymously. The third is so much interwoven in our lives, that we would not be even aware of it.

The school timings

Majority of the school timings are for 8 hours – 8.30 am to 3.30 pm. Even for the class I and II, rather seemingly for all the classes. Now, when a child has to spend 8 hours in a school, it would be expected that the child has to carry enough material to occupy herself/himself throughout the day. (A full-grown working adult spends 8 hours in the office. A growing child also spends 8 hours in school. Unlike her / his parents, a child also has to participate in extra-curricular activities, project report, homework, prepare for exams – wonder where is the childhood?)

Unless the school timings get curtailed, the weight of school bags will not reduce. One may argue that will the weight of school bags definitely come down with the reduction of school timings? The answer is no due to the other two issues. However, the reduction in school timings is the first step in bringing down the weight of school bags. Else, what will schools do with the children for 8 long hours?

The school fees

This is the elephant in the room that nobody talks about. The school fees per annum in India range from 40-50 k to 1 lac to 2 lacs to 3 lacs to 4 lacs to 5 lacs to 6 lacs to 7 lacs and more. This is without transportation and food. I am not sure about the other incidental expenses.

Now with such exorbitant fees, the schools need to have the 8-hour school shifts. Else, what all will they claim in a 5-hour shift for charging such high fees? With these fees, the schools need to show the parents that their children are learning something very important. Hence the weight of school bags. Even for schools with lesser fees, they need to stand in the market. They also need to show that they are up to something. How do they do it? The weight of school bags.

Again, one may argue that the school fees are important for the schools to invest in infrastructure, teachers etc for a better learning output for the children. Well, if a school fee of 6-7 lacs per year is a pre-requisite for a successful learning environment and results, all other schools can very well be shut down for spoiling the future of other lesser children.

One will not speak about the school fees openly lest his / her child studying in one of those schools face an issue from the school management.

With these two issues of inflated school fees leading to 8-hour school timings, the weight of school bags is not going to come down.

The parental expectations

Narayana schools start their Medichamps programme and eTechno programme for cracking medical entrance and IIT-JEE from standard 6 onwards. The government has restricted weight of school bags for standard 6 students at 4 kg. Now when the child has started studying for something that is 7 years away, what is to be expected of the weight of school bags?

Expectations from a child get so much ingrained in an Indian parental mind that it has to manifest itself somewhere in a tangible form for a parent to be convinced that the child is on the right path. Nothing better than the weight of school bags.

Conclusion

Indian laws and rules suffer from practical execution issues. This government order is no better. Who is going to ensure that the weight of school bags is as per the norms? The schools, the parents, the government – Who?

If the parents/schools are so concerned about the weight of school bags of the children, they can address the issue themselves. The schools would not do, for that affects their profits. The parents would not do, for that affects the perceived future of their children. The government, anyways, would not do anything apart from passing orders (they run anganwadis and government schools with no stellar records, rather no records at all).

For all I know, the weight of school bags might get transferred to a smartphone/tablet someday and everybody, but the child, will claim success.

PS:

i. “As per the curriculum, six textbooks have been prescribed for classes VI to X. Three textbooks for three languages and one for Maths, Science and Social Studies each,” said the circular. “There shall be one notebook for each subject for exercises, projects, Unit Test, experiments etc. which the students need to bring as per timetable. Students should not be asked to bring additional books, extra material to the school.” The above adds up to 5 books, including the textbook, for each subject. With 6 subjects, this becomes 30 books. Even if the child carries 50% of the books, how it will remain within the limit of 4 kgs for a class VI student?

ii. As per education experts, heavy bag brings stress on the child due to which back pain and muscle pain occur. The posture of the child also gets affected by the heavy load of the school bag carried on the back. Apart from the visible physical stress, there is no mention of the mental trauma of a child. He has to study for 8 long hours whatever he carries and, needless to say, the expectations of the parents.

My Name Is Madhavi, We Are Just Like You

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

My name is Natwar, I am from Srinagar
I speak Kashmiri But I am just like you

My name is Shubrata, I am from Kolkatta
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 Shamsher, I am from Ajmer
I speak Urdu But I am just like you

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

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

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

My name is Jaswinder, I am from Chandigarh
I speak Punjabi 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 Jamshetji, I am from Panchgani
I speak Parsi But I am just like you

My name is Bindiya, I am from India
I speak Hindi And I am just like you.

Inspired by My Name is Madhavi from Karadi Tales, my wife wrote the below poem for O +ve and B +ve, our twin daughters. We use this to introduce different regions and languages of the country to the girls, missed out in the original song.

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

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