I grew up with piles of Ladybird books, Reader’s Digest gift editions and Tell Me Why’s. I don’t know how many of the Tell me Why’s I read in the true sense and how much I imbibed, but I definitely flipped through the pages because back then we didn’t have TV and definitely didn’t have smartphones.
Today it is a challenge to veer kids away from the lures of gadgets but it is not an impossible task. Inadvertently, I have been successful in making a bookworm of my 8-year-old and because of her my 4-year-old is following suit.
Here are some of the things that I did; most of it unintentionally but which turned out great…
Books can be around babies from as early as when they are grasping their rattles and soothers. Cloth books are a safe option which cannot hurt them and showing them the pictures in the board books arouses their curiosity. This way books are familiar to them at that young an age and the colors and pictures and the stories being narrated keep them asking for more.
As they grow older it would be wonderful to create a little corner for them with their favorite books and pencils or crayons and notepad for scribbling. You can be assured that the books will inspire them to imitate and also create their own stories in pictures too. This also instills a sense of discipline that the notepad is the place for them to doodle and get creative (or destructive too!).
As wonderful as reading is it is better to ask questions. Even at a young age, we can ask them for colors, names, shapes, etc. Questions can be plain yes/no questions; is it green? Or more general ones like; What do you see?/ Show me something square. This helps develop an analytical mind as well.
I have recently come across a range of books with just pictures and no words, this gives a free reign to the child’s imaginations as they can create their own stories from what they see. For the busy mother, the range of Audiobooks available helps the child to have the book and listen to the story too. This also lays emphasis on tone and intonation which they can be exposed to early on.
Reading need not be restricted to bedtime stories. At least in our metros, we have professionally trained story tellers. Their stories range from the classic fairy tales to complicated stories from mythology. This could pave the way for the little ones to tread away from clichéd professions and dabble with the possibility of offbeat ones too.
Books were very expensive where I stayed and we have bought books and sent it by cargo from India. I made the most of any book sale that came to town. This was a blessing in disguise because I started making use of the opportunity and buying books whenever I saw a good offer. So I had Famous Fives and Secrets Sevens piled on their bookshelf even before they could actually read.
Recently a friend told me her kid who is my daughter’s age doesn’t read anymore while the younger sibling is enjoying the books. What has happened is that the older ones outgrew their books and got bored while the collection was right for the younger child.
We all go a little overboard when they are children and forget to keep replenishing the stock with new books which are age appropriate. Bored with stories they have read zillion times, they turn to the ever-present instant joy-giving gadgets. So, though I was just making good of the deals around me, I just did something right, unintentionally, by buying all those Amelia Janes and Roald Dahls.
My child reads books which are way ahead of her year in terms of language and I wonder how much of it, she understands. Sometimes I feel it is her way of killing time as she has very limited screen time. But on the flip side, she is getting familiar with the nuances of the language like spelling, word patterns, and structure. She might not understand what she is reading but she will come back to the book (as she loves to re-read) and then vocabulary, spelling, and concepts will be reinforced. She does try her new vocabulary on me so it keeps me in the loop about what she is reading and gives me the opportunity to remove inappropriate books.
I can’t stress enough on how important it is to be a role model. Asking your child to read when you are glued to TV or fidgeting away with your smartphone is a complete deal breaker. The more your child sees you reading the more likely he/she is likely to follow suit; so I guess it’s about time to grab a book!
Looking back, growing up in a suburb of Mumbai in the 80’s was idyllic, just like that Commodores song, “Easy like a Sunday morning”. My life diet then was pretty uncomplicated; there was school, sibling rivalry, almost no fast food, bike rides with friends, mullet haircuts to ape our favorite rockstars and the neighborhood library.
I still remember the name – Kings Library.
I read everything from Archies to the casual, fast paced paperbacks that are the rite of passage for anyone growing into a love for books. I read my way through childhood, and I know now I owe so much of who I am to these books and the folks who wrote them. Through books, we travel to different places, we taste exotic foods (Enid Blyton did lip-smacking descriptions of food, she wrote up a larder full of scones, strawberry jams, hot bread, and melting butter…do not get me started), meet people from different cultures and races, good people, bad people, beautiful people, you get the drift. So in short, it’s the easiest way to get acquainted with the world. And the inadvertent gift of all this reading is a refined and vast palette of words to choose from, an expressive vocabulary with which you can make sense of the world and engage with it.
Today, I’m the mother of three little girls. And very early on I decided I would have “padte-likhte bacche”. The kind who would be content to curl up with a book on the couch, on the bed, at airport lounges en route a family vacay and the kind who would be agog when they spied a book collection of note, anywhere.
But horrors, it was rude, my reality, as I find my first-born needs to be bribed, rewarded, threatened, guilt-tripped, cajoled and pep-talked into reading. My other two girls are yet to reveal their colors and I’ll know only later. So I wait with bated breath.
But here’s the learning for me.
There’s nature and there’s nurture. Old tripe like that does have value. While you can do everything in your power to nurture, or orient your children towards a particular behavior or thought (thinking of them as clay with the potential for molding), sometimes you have to just accept that nature or their predominant characteristics will overwhelm all your efforts.
My oldest is very observant and is interested in everything around her. She loves being with people and engaging with the world. I now realize that’s her process for learning and assimilating. She’s taking in everything around her, filing and processing a hundred cues per minute. And that may be the basis for the individual she is and grows up to be.
The world we inhabit and the terms of reference for this generation are one of sensory overload, technology, gadgets, shorter attention spans, 1-minute videos, 140 characters and other such developments.
Here’s my offering to you, (heaven knows I’m still working on this), surround your children with books, read to them, discuss with them, let them see you enjoy books for yourself, encourage them and if you’re lucky they may just be bitten by the only bug a parent won’t mind, the reading kind.
As parents, we all know the feeling of getting up in the middle of the night completely panicking at the thought of all the horrible things that could happen to our children. And, given the grim statistic that 16 children die on India’s roads every single day, car safety is a concern for all of us whose children use those roads to go to school, to Nani’s house, to the temple, to the mall, to the party. That said, we also know that parenting means knowing when to let go of what we can’t control, and concentrate on what we can. So let’s review some aspects of car safety – maybe thinking about this in the clear light of day will prevent one 3 a.m. panic attack.
You can go online and find out all sorts of useful information about seat belts, safety limits and such. That is all essential. Children (and the rest of us) should buckle up, keep their elbows inside, etc. But this issue also offers a chance to think deeply about your role as a parent in new ways. Here, I invite you to think about an aspect of car safety we too often ignore: the driver.
You can’t control the other drivers on the road, or the weather, or the potholes. But you can control who gets behind the wheel to take your child from point A to point B. And what do you do when you’re not comfortable with that person?
None of us is with our children 24 hours. Sometimes, the driver takes them places. Sometimes, an uncle. It could also be a teacher, a neighbor or a friend. We need to remember that we are trusting these people with our children’s lives. So how do we keep them as safe as possible? Here are just two things to consider.
- History: Does the driver/relative/friend who is driving your child have a good safety record? If there’s a history of either accidents or road rage, perhaps you should make alternate plans.
- Alcohol: This can get very awkward, particularly in our macho culture. What if you’ve been at a party and your child is going home to her uncle’s house for the night, with her cousins? You’ve had a great time, and everyone’s had a few drinks. Your brother gets up to take her home and you know he has had at least five drinks. What do you do? If you say anything, you risk offense and embarrassment. If you don’t, you’re sending your child off with an unfit driver (and are being an unfit parent, in this instance.) Maybe nothing will happen but then again, maybe something will. This one, however, should be a no-brainer: drinking and driving is bad, bad, bad. Neither you nor your child should never, ever, under any circumstances, get into a car with a driver who has been indulging.
As a polite member of society, it’s very difficult to be the person who creates an awkward situation. But as parents, it’s part of our job, maybe the biggest part, to keep our children safe to the extent that we can. So, uncomfortable as it is, here are a few tips that might help in navigating a situation where you think your child is about to go off with an unsafe driver:
Be prepared: It’s always good to think of possible scenarios in advance. Maybe you can take some time and think about the various people who are responsible for transporting your child. Does anyone make you uncomfortable? Maybe it’s someone very close to you. Maybe it’s you – do you find yourself driving when you’re very tired, for instance? Possibly there’s a way to arrange something different. If you’re prepared, you can be ready with an alternative plan.
Get support: This could be a partner, parent, friend, colleague, or anyone at all who might be willing to talk it over with you and help you plan. There’s probably someone sensible you trust. If there’s a cousin who drives too fast and is always intent on taking the younger lot out for joyrides, this other person could help you figure out how to keep your child away, without causing embarrassment. Embarrassment is better than injury, of course, but realistically, we often let people get away with things in order to avoid social embarrassment.
Make a plan: You could jump in and offer to do the driving yourself. You could try the polite route and say, “It’s too much trouble for you. I insist that my driver/husband/sister do it – you seem so tired and you already do too much.” It’s tough to change patterns, but it’s easier if you plan a little. Here’s a newsflash: it’s okay to tell a white lie to keep your child safe if that’s what you have to do.
Talk to your child: If your child is old enough to understand, this might be a good opportunity to talk with him or her and strategize. Be careful with this option though, remember being a child? Now remember the thrill of danger and of going against your parents’ wishes. Make sure that you use this suggestion with care.
Cars are dangerous. Cars are necessary. Someone has to drive them. Just remember, when you think about car safety for your child, the person behind the wheel matters just as much, if not more, than the seat belt, the weather, and the road conditions.#CHILDSAFETY #BABYPROOFING #BLOG
Child safety – the phrase sounds like a football referee blowing his lungs out on the whistle, calling a foul! Everywhere you look these days, parents are constantly being hung on the “child safety” guillotine. So, why don’t we take a closer look at this global phenomenon?
Child safety nowadays has become a huge business market. Newfangled products and concepts have pushed parents towards biting into the idea so hard, that platforms of safety have turned into platforms of fashion. Child safety has basically become another name for “full fuss fashion accessories”. To illustrate my point clearly, let us take one basic thing from this huge business of child safety: car seats, perhaps?
Car seats started out more as a way of keeping a child ‘contained’ in a car while keeping them safe at the same time. However, these days they are instead becoming the latest accessory that one can fit out in their cars.
Here, I shall outline a few parent-traps that most of us fathers tend to fall into. Let us call them Daddy Traps.
Daddy Trap 1: It is not just a simple car seat. Fathers like to have a snazzy car seat for their babies. Or is it because they feel proud to show off the name of an Italian supercar imprinted on it? It doesn’t matter that the car they drive is Korean or Indian but the car seat has to be Italian. Listen up, in all probability, the seat is not even Italian. It probably got stitched in the state next to yours. An imported car name brand is by no means a measure of the car seat being safe.
Daddy Trap 2: Call the name out loud, will you? I hope you do not judge usability, durability and stability of a car seat based on whether you like the brand name, phonetically. Well, how perfectly the brand name rolls off your tongue will ensure a good conversation within your parenting friends circle. They will certainly see the depth of parenting when you do that. Try.
Daddy Trap 3: It is just a simple car seat. It is not meant to be a jet pack. No, don’t pretend to casually check out if it comes with an eject button. It doesn’t. Just because it comes with a set of thick nylon straps, do not think that your child will star in the sequel to the Martian or get a scholarship to NASA. What you need to do is to check those straps for smoothness. Judge it for being ergonomic and not fancy. Check how the straps are designed and ensure that it doesn’t cut into your baby’s soft skin.
Daddy Trap 4: Oh it’s not just a car seat? Does It need to carry the mark of your favorite comic character? Of course, when you were a baby, you only got stickers to play with and no car seat. But now you can get a car seat with a sticker on it! How exciting! So what if your child does not care if his or her car seat has the feline Transformers logo or the cocky smile of Lightning McQueen. You believe that it will come to life. One day. WAKE UP! Nothing like that will ever happen. Check for smoothness and good seaming of fabric instead. Your child will be sitting there and it better be comfortable for those sensitive little cubs and their tiny little butties.
Daddy Trap 05: Listen, it is a car seat. It is not meant to look like a miniature sofa. Neither is it meant to be a throne or Joey from Friends’ recliner. Understand the contours of a car seat, jahanpanaah. Read the manual and see the illustrations. Side head rests are a good idea, as are hand rests.
Daddy Trap 6: I can understand most fathers waiting for their kids to grow up so they can share a beer together. SNAP out of that daddy. It is not happening anytime soon. So why, o why does it matter that your baby’s car seat has a cup holder!!! Do not spend on frills that won’t be used or at the most will be used very sparingly. Go for utility, like handles with grips that support dangler toys to keep your child engaged.
Car seats are essential, they can keep a child safe in case of any untoward incident. Choose seats with a base. It gives a stable fitting to the car seat for your infant and also allows you to take out the seat without having to take out the whole installation. Car seats for infants and toddlers are different, structurally. Do not compromise on that. Never keep a car seat in the passenger seat, next to the driver. In eventualities of the air bag flipping out, it has a huge impact that can be fatal for babies. User manuals explain those well. They must be read carefully.
And as for that fancy brand, well, what’s in a name.#CHILDSAFETY #BULLYING #BLOG