Look! The moon is moving!

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We were in the play ground yesterday and the twins were swinging fast and high, enjoying the breeze and the thrill of the swings. Nish bent his head back to stare at the sky as he was swinging. Suddenly he called out to Sid in excitement :Look Sid! The moon is going back and forth back and forth back and forth!!! It’s swinging like us!” Sid threw his head back too in order to better appreciate what his twin was saying. Then after a few minutes of deliberation he responded..”it’s moving yeah…but the moon doesn’t have a swing. I don’t see one!” Nish gave this some thought. “Maybe it’s just happy that we are on the swing and so it’s moving back and forth” he concluded.

A few minutes later Nish yelled out again “Sid look! actually everything is moving…look at the trees and the building! it’s all moving with us!”

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I did not jump in, did not question, did not correct. It was simply too fascinating and too perfectly adorable to add my two wise scientific bits. As far as they were concerned…everything was moving and the moon was happy they were having such a good time! Oh, the small yet wondrous joys of childhood!!!

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some thoughts on school and self respect

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Last evening i was sitting down with the kids as they had their dinner. My two year old took a bit of his kheema and paratha and looked up with a smile saying “hmmm…deeelishus!” Nish of course, wanted to add to that and he said..”you know..it’s actually scrumptious!” “i like how you are using different words in stead of simply saying yummy” I said to them. Not to be left out, Sid immediately jumped in, nodding his head in a new funny way he has recently acquired. “you can also say it is yummilicious! Aunt S told me that” (i remember my sister in law telling Sid this during our recent holiday together. Then it was back to dinner as they happily giggled and took “baby sparrow bites” and some “humongous bites”

I smiled to myself as I thought about how much these kids were learning and picking up all the time. Exposure, a safe space to explore and try things out and as much as i can manage- respect for them as individuals…these are things which i feel helps them become continuous and engaged learners. Just a couple of days ago when I was short with one of them, I sat down and deliberated on how to react differently because I did not want to hurt their self esteem. In the end, they pick up so much from what they see, the last thing I want to expose the kids to is rude disrespectful behavior.

My morning visit today to a low income private school lead to an invariable juxtaposition of two realities. On the one hand were my boys and I could see them grow and learn so organically. I was careful how i talked to them and I looked for a school that would respect them for who they are, hear them out, allow them to stumble and yet be there to give a hand…On the other, I was in this classroom where a teacher pulled a kid up for having “such big big handwriting”. She took a red pen and made an ugly slash across his paper, held his book up for all to see and then asked him to stand through lunch break and rewrite the whole thing. This was just a few seconds before she yelled at a kid, told him he was lazy and always causing problems…she compared him to his neighbor in class and basically ran him down in front of everyone. Her instructions were short orders pretty much barked out. This was 6th grade….

4th grade was not much different. The teacher was giving a pop quiz to the class and did not hesitate to ridicule a child, his spellings or drawings publicly. Punishments were arbitrarily meted out…stay inside during recess and rewrite all the spellings, remain standing and so forth.

The 6th grade class got me teary eyed. If this is how much you respect a student then why are you expecting him to turn out into a self respecting and people respecting person? How do you expect him to succeed when you don’t even believe he can? How does reducing his self worth in this manner provide any impetus for him to succeed? How are you teaching respect and discipline in this way?

I few months back I was upset because a teacher told Sid that his crayoning was like scribbling. It upset him and it really bothered me that someone could affect his self perception and confidence with a small un – though through statement. And then here today…what I saw was so much worse…so disturbing.

It is time for us educators and parents to recognize and appreciate a child for who is his and respect him for that. Sure we want them to learn and grow and become lots of things…but for me, it is important that before any of that stuff, my child needs to be comfortable with who he is, happy with how he is, respectful of himself and the world around him. Everything else will follow in due course…

Going easy on my boys

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There are days…and there are days. On some days I feel like I am going crazy…on others I realize I already have. Seriously, while it is fun being a mom to three boys there are times when I feel ready to pull my hair out. And then, every little thing piles up till I finally lose it!

I hate yelling at my little chaps. But at times, although I breathe (deeply and a lot) and try to keep calm I can’t. The shouting, fighting, crying and tantrums culminate in me just snapping and then I raise my own voice up a few notches and let loose!

But then, after I do that, and I see my boys’ bright little faces crumple I stop and feel worse than I was. I cannot expect them to not yell if that is what they see me do when I am upset. And I think, sometimes as an adult i get overbearing in terms of what they should do. Just because they are little kids does not mean they don’t have the ability to choose for themselves. And I really need to pick my battles and reserve my judgment for issues where they can hurt them selves or others and not over what they have to eat or wear. I realize that it is more important for me to treat them with respect because they will truly learn to respect themselves and others if that is what they see. I expect them to sit still in restaurants, not touch things in shops, not talk loudly, not argue or get upset when we are out….there are seriously so many NOs.

Today my 2 year old came up to me when I did not respond to something he had asked. “Aai!” he said in a serious and firm voice “Now, you listen to me please!” I realized exactly what I sound like and decided that i did not quite like it.

I am going to try harder tomorrow…because I want my kids to be loving, respectful, kind human beings..and for that I first need to try and be a better human being too!

Birthday Party!!!

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Okay…don’t get too excited by the title of the post. This was a super peaceful and low key birthday party. I did not go overboard, did not spend hours prepping and decorating and did not get any clowns or entertainers.

I decided to focus on the reason for the party…our 2 year old bundle of joy. The party was about him and for him…not about all that I wanted to turn his day into. And honestly, I have realized over the years that it takes really simple things to make a child happy. While bouncy castles and jugglers and puppeteers are fun..so are simple thing like just being with your friends and family and playing together. After much thought, I decided that I would plan the party around what Amu likes.

I have this thing for themes…so I figured I would go with that. Amu absolutely loves Eric Carle’s Brown Bear book…he has since he was a little over a year old…and while a lot of the other books have been passing favorites, this is one that he has carried forward even as he has moved on to longer more complex paper back picture books.

The twins thought it would be a fun theme too and so we sat and designed a simple invite that i got printed on photo paper. I take no credit for the idea…it was from the wonderful world of pinterest and google images but basically it had a pic of the brown bear and one of Amu, and it read: Brown Bear Brown Bear, What do you see? I see a birthday boy looking at me”

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Going along with the general Eric Carle theme, I painted a canvas with balloons that had HAPPY BIRTHDAY on it. I picked up cute polka dotted plates, cups and napkins from a local party shop and lots of round colourful balloons. That along with 5-6 cloth buntings (made by our company Printed Elephant Designs) gave the room a really festive cheerful feel. It took hardly anytime and I felt like instead of using paper streamers this was faster, easier and really pretty too!

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Snacks were again around what Amu liked…freshly popped corn (popcorn is of of Amu’s all time favs), ragi/nachni crisps with hummus and salsa, pizzas (bought whole wheat pizza bases and made the sauce at home), jello set in individual cups and of course the birthday cake (which this time we ordered from a place called Aubree).

I picked picked out some of Amu’s favorite music CDs, made a big batch of glitter play dough and set it up with a baking tray, rolling pins, silicone cup cake molds, cut up straws to use as candles and bits of colored plastic beading string as sprinkles. In addition to that, we set up blocks, a reading corner and a puzzle mat. My cousin drew outlines of the animals from the Brown Bear book which we kept in the balcony along with little cups that had crayons.

Once the kids came in, they went straight for whatever activity they chose. Since these were all Amu’s school friends, everyone knew each other and they seemed very comfortable. The playdough was a hit…they were all playing with it. A couple of kids sat in the reading corner while another girl focused on the puzzles. Amu waled excitedly round the room on his tiptoes (a sure sign of being happy-excited for him) and showed off his territory to his friends.  Sid and Nish helped collect the presents and put them away inside. They showed the little kids around and tried to engage with them too. it helped having their friend from school there too so that they had one more person in their age group.

The cake was a big success…All the kids stood there excited as we waited for Amu to cut it. The cake had a big brown bear sitting on top and lovely fondant animals from the story all around the sides.

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Popcorn and jello worked really well too.

All in all the kids had a blast and Amu was super happy through the party. It meant less stress and more fun for all of us!

The return presents were these really lovely eric carle style flash cards made by Art for Akanksha! (www.artforakanksha.org)

Happy children’s day to my wonderful boys!

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My boys were sitting and coloring in the balcony a couple of days ago…I walked in and looked at what they were drawing. Sid’s picture looked like random scribbles and Nish’s was all kinds of curvy lines in bold strokes and different colors. I walked over to the other side of the balcony but the picture still did not make sense to me. Then Nish looked up at me and asked in a voice full of excitement and anticipation, “You like what I drew? I am making this for you!” “Oh, it is so pretty” I replied, cringing instantly at the shallowness of my remark. I did not think it was pretty and I had no clue what it was. “What is it?” I finally asked. “it looks like a lot of pretty swirls” I added so as not to discourage him.

Sid looked at me. “It’s not swirls Aai!” he said indignantly. “Nish is drawing the playground and all the slides and the kids going down the slides”
“See this?” Nish asked, happy to explain. “That line is going up and it is me sitting on the swing. This one is Suraj going fast down a slide”
“My painting is motorbikes…so many of them. They are racing” said Sid. The two went back to their papers and as I sat and listened they created fascinating stories as they drew. Oblivious to my presence for the most part and graciously including me every now and then, the two drew more squiggles and lines…only this time they really did look pretty!

In a bit Sid started on another paper…more squiggles and frantic slashes of bright color on the paper. “Is that another motorbike race?” I asked. “No…just scribbling” he replied.

I marveled at their imagination, and their ability to keep it simple. Here I was looking for form and structure, ready to push my notions of art onto them, and they were on their own little happy adventure. They were happy to scribble for scribbling’s sake…it did not have to be something … it was about the process and not the product. When was the last time I was able to do that? Usually I am so focussed on the product that the process is lost on me…a blur while I treat to meet a target of some kind.

With kids, it is so much simpler…they see things for what they are, and where they want to see something different they simply create it for themselves; they marvel at the simple things in life…a shade of blue, a funny word, a leaf, a bird, a fallen seed. It takes a swing to dry their tears, a hug to soothe a bruised knee. They fight and forgive, they scream and forget a minute later what it was that they were screaming about. They don’t think before launching themselves at someone to envelope them in a big hug. They love people for who they are not for where they come from. They are honest about their feelings and don’t overthink or over complicate…and honestly my world is a much much better place because of my three little boys!

Happy children’s day to my precious little artists…my weavers of magic and giver of hugs!

bee in my bonnet

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I have the proverbial bee in my bonnet…and  i guess it is time to try and blog about it. A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a 5 yr old boy when he sneezed…without thinking twice, i said “bless you!” and without batting an eyelid or wasting a moment in though, the little boy looked at me and declared that he did not believe in my gods or anyone else’s but his own. I was too surprised to respond…i did not think that saying ‘bless you’ had religious connotations or would at any level offend a 5 year old boy. I dwelt upon it for a bit and then got busy with other stuff.

Fast forward to today when I was at a school and was told that the kids could not learn christmas carols because the school stayed separate from religion. We were talking about Jingle Bells and Rudolph the reindeer. For whatever reason this whole scenario has been bothering me. The school gives vacations for christmas and dassera and diwali and eid but does not talk about any of the above in the school?

In a time fraught with religious clashes, hatred, lack of understanding and acceptance of the other, I would imagine that the school would be a safe space where one could broach the topic of the other without any indoctrination..a place where exposure, exploration, understanding and tolerance would be possible to work on. Religion is all around us…from what we eat and what we wear to how we talk and how we react and respond to things. I am no devout follower of a specific God but I believe there is a greater power there and while I may not understand it I believe God exists. You can call him what you like and find him where you want. By that same token, I totally respect people who don’t believe in him.

But manifestations of religion and belief are all around us…the temple bells and the call of prayers from the mosque both drift into my balcony every morning. The almost innocuous looking cross that my cleaning lady wears…my husband praying at the altar in the morning. The beggar on the street who blesses you…the colourful brightly lit streets during diwali, the caroling around Christmas…how can you escape it? And why must you? We are in a secular country and a country of many religious beliefs. Looking at those beliefs and their manifestations in a safe and constructive environment is, in my opinion, dearly needed. It can help build understanding and respect. I don’t think the school should teach religion..that is for each family and child to choose or not choose…it is a personal choice…But, that does not mean one continues as if none of it exists at all. I see no harm in kids celebrating different festivals together..seeing similarities and understanding each other better.

I graduated from a protestant school…we sang hymns every morning at assembly and learned christmas carols and as far as i can remember there wasn’t a single protestant or catholic kid in my class. I walked out with a better understanding of crtain beliefs and way of life and I feel I am richer for it if anything.

Any thoughts on this? I would love some inputs because for some reason this very small thing has destabilized me..it has been bothering me through the day…Should schools celebrate religious festivals? Should the school try to expose children to other ways of life that the ones that the kids come in knowing? (once again, I am not in favor of the school ‘teaching religion’)

Experiments with ‘pot’?!

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Last weekend on a rare occasion I decided to take an afternoon nap. My littlest fellow was curled up fast asleep with my husband and the twins showed no signs of being remotely tired. I tried to get them to lie down but with no success…so i finally let them be as they seemed to be playing well together and thought I would grab myself a little shut eye.

I woke up about an hour later feeling much better and refreshed and walked into the kids room. They were playing quite nicely with some puzzles and had many toys strewn on the floor.  As I plonked onto the floor to join them, Sid came to me with quite an enlightened expression on his face..”Aai!” he started with some visible excitement, “You knoooooow, some things don’t get flushed down the pot. “Like what?” I asked, a little concerned where this was headed. “Like the old phone. It is stuck in the pot. i flushed and flushed but it is not moving” Ok..shit was about to hit the fan…literally… I sprinted to their bathroom and sure enough, the old (anyway non functional..thank God for that) phone was lying in the pot, refusing to go down the drain. I yanked it out, ditched it on the side of the bathroom and washed my hands.

Satisfied that I had addressed the issue I went back to my spot on the floor. Sid and Nish returned and Sid started again. “But somethings don’t even sink. The phone sank” I looked at them, pretty annoyed. “What do you mean some things float? What else did you put into the pot?” Sid looked at his brother and pushed him forward “You tell her” he whispered. “The phone doesn’t float” Nish stated the obvious. “I know that” I replied, “I just fished it out of the bottom of the pot. What floated?”
“not the phone” replied Nish looking edgy and a little stressed.
“Guys you need to tell me what all has been put into the pot” i said
“The cricket bat did not fit into the pot at all” said Sid
“And the soft smiley face balls just sat on the water…right on top..they did not go in at all” said Nish looking like Archimedes…almost ready to jump screaming eureka.
“What else?” I asked. “Is there anything that you managed to flush down the loo?” (I was running their toys through my mind trying to figure out what might possibly begin causing some massive plumbing issue in our apartment now).
“The balls floated and even this small stick floated” said Sid
“What did not float and got flushed???” I repeated
“The phone did not go” quipped Nish
One by one we managed to list a whole bunch of things that did not go. I have yet to figure out what did go down…anyway, it has been a week now and no plumbing disasters so i guess if anything went down the pot it was fairly innocuous. (i hope).
“Quite cool right?” asked Sid
“Yeah and it was so much fun!” added Nish
I managed to hide my smile…and told them very very firmly that the pot was not a place to try their experiments in…we can reserve the sink and float stuff for the bath tub…and the ‘flushability’ of objects…well…let that just continue to be a mystery!

A school full of memories

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It has been six months since we left Mumbai but still, when we took a short trip down last week and I asked the boys where they wanted to go and who they wanted to see, they both almost instantly said “By the Sea!” And so, almost like a pilgrimage, we went back to the school where my boys had started preschool last october. They attended school at By the Sea for about 6-7 months and in that short period of time formed such amazing bonds with their teachers and friends…something that made them call out their school’s name as one of the first places they wanted to go to in Mumbai.  In fact, even when we moved from Mumbai to Bangalore and went looking for preschools, the benchmark that By the Sea had set for us was simply too high and very little seemed to measure up to it. As i turned away from yet another school looking dissatisfied, my husband finally said “babes…let it go…we are not going to find another By the Sea here!” Even Sid and Nish used BTS as a yardstick for schools they visited with us. “This does not have cars like BTS!” or “There are no paints set up here!”

We finally found a school we liked but it was difficult to move on from BTS. As a parent and an educator, I could not think of a single instance when i was dissatisfied with BTS. The approach, the setting (literally by the sea), the space and the way it was done up, how open and welcoming everyone was, and most most importantly…the absolutely WONDERFUL and capable team of teachers and staff…the school was like a dream come true for me. I felt connected to the school, its philosophy, the team, other kids and parents. It was warm, friendly, non-threatening and safe. And so did my kids…they bounced off to school everyday, singing on the way there and chattering away about their day on the way back. They have made friends who we are still very much in touch with.

For people in south and central Mumbai…this is a preschool you really must look at. They start only when the kid is 2 1/2. The principal and teachers will bend backwards to help the child settle in and get comfortable. I loved how the environment nurtured my twins who are so very different as individuals and learners. The school has an inclusive approach and they are very open in general. The principal and teachers are very impressive..and warm, genuine caring individuals. The teachers know every kid and understand their pulse. There is space to run around outdoors. The indoor space is beautiful. There is a focus on art, music and free play and it is basically a lovely space that allows kids to be kids.

I realized how much the boys missed their old school when we went there last week. Although school was closed, the principal had opened up the classroom and set out their favorite trikes and cars…the boys were zooming around the school and it was almost like we had never left…I though we would be their for 10-15 minutes but the kids did not want to leave and we were there for almost an hour and half!

I am glad we were lucky to be part of this wonderful experience and while I am sure that the boys will love their other schools too I am so thankful that their first experience at formal schooling was as magical as this!

You can check out their website: http://www.bythesea.in  or visit them on FB

10 of my favorite picture books for toddlers

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Before I start on the post, let me try and define a picture book. Very often, when I use the term picture book, people mistakenly think that I am talking about any book with pictures..like a lot of the vocabulary type books that one gets in the market. I am personally quite averse to those. They are good for perhaps introducing kids to names of things in a very matter of fact and unimaginative way. A hard cover book with Baby’s first animals…pictures with the names given under…sure..it can help the baby identify an animal with the correct name but can’t one do the same thing in a more creative manner? I am not being prescriptive..this is merely my opinion as a parent and an educator.

So, when I say picture books, I am referring to a book with text and illustrations – where the illustrations not only complement the text but also supplement it. The picture book is a literary form in itself. The text and the pictures are both equally contributing to the story…the images add to the text and there may be cues and elements that the pictures bring in that the story does not even state.

Picture books are great for collaborative reading, the fact that so much of the story is told by the illustrations helps the child be a co-reader/co-story teller as he looks at the images to co-construct meaning as the story is being read aloud to him.

My three boys absolutely love books and reading and it is an important part of our daily routine. We start and end our day with books and very often they feature several times along the way as well.  We read and read and re-read the same book a zillion times and then they “read it” on their own or to each other as well.

When a friend asked me to put down a list of 10 picture books that I would recommend, I realized it was going to be a tough choice. Anyway, I have tried to put down the ones that came to my mind. These are all books that I have used with my boys when they were toddlers (one of them still is a toddler) and while at first glance you may feel they have more content than you expected, trust me when I say that they will learn to love the books in time. Start with simple ones that they can relate to easily and then gradually bring in the ones with more content matter.

A couple of the things to remember:
Make reading time special…create a small reading corner, get the child excited about a new book, pick something he will relate to or find interesting/funny
Engage the child – sit in a way that he can see the book, let him hold it, explore it in his way; ask him to find something in the picture or describe what he sees; don’t expect him to say what you want him to
make it fun and non threatening. make reading a part of your daily routine
there is no such thing as too early! start as early as you can!

Here is my list:

No David! (by David Shannon)

What is probably the most frequently heard word for a toddler? NO! No    climbing on the sofa, no digging you nose, no throwing food…NO! And that is pretty much what this beautiful book is about. Simple, repetitive, hilarious and with absolutely stunning illustrations, No David has been a favorite with all my boys. (Other books in the same series are also great)
Moo Baa La La La (By Sandra Boynton)

Another hot favorite in our home! This book is super simple with lovely illustrations…a great starter for a nice long Sandra Boynton journey! I introduced my boys to this book when they were about 8 months old. With my third boy, he took to it suddenly when he was about 10 months old and it was his absolute favorite book for the next 3-4 months. In fact, even now (at 23 months) I catch him ‘reciting’ the book to himself as he plays. My kids enjoyed mooing and neighing and making whacky animal sounds as we went through the book. Boynton has a whole bunch of books for infants and toddlers..our favorites, in addition, to this one are: Belly Button Book, Pajama Time, Barnyard Dance, What’s wrong Little Pookie?  There are many more that you can try and doscover!

Brown Bear Brown Bear What do you see? (By Bill Martin Jr. Illustrated by Eric Carle)

This is like a legend with the boys! The book is simple, repetitive and so allows the kids to participate in the reading almost instantly. It helps them recognize animals and birds, introduces them to colors in an absolutely stunning manner! Eric Carle’s artwork is beautiful and his style is one that kids enjoy and relate to. We have done follow up activities with my boys where they tried creating collages in a fashion similar to Carle’s. (This is of course something I have tried with my 3 yr olds…toddlers may not be able to do this but it is a a great exercise nonetheless).  My youngest loves this book and knows it by heart. He even makes his own variations to the story, introducing his own animals and characters – something you can have your toddlers do. This is also great to use in a classroom. Eric Carle has a lot of books that you can aloud to your kids!

Chocolate Mousse for Greedy Goose (By Julia Donaldson)
I love Julia Donaldson’s books. Again, like with the other authors I put down, this is one of the many books we love by her. The book has a lot of animals, talk about table manners (or lack thereof) and has a nice rhyme scheme. The book is great for predictions while reading because each page has a part of the next animal on it and my kids loved guessing which animal was coming up next. Gorgeous bold illustrations by Nick Sharrat. (other books which are good for the infant/toddler age group – One mole digging a hole, Hippo Has a Hat). The books are available in paperback as well as in board-book version.  Another hot favorite is Cave Baby by Donaldon…absolutely incredible book and pictures!

Goodnight Moon (By Margaret Wise-Brown)

This is a book that has mixed reactions from people…I love it…my boys love it. In fact we read it almost every night for almost 4 months straight. Yet, I see other friends have a very different reaction to the book. So I guess this one is up to you to try. It has been acclaimed as a classic in this genre and it is the simple process of a baby bunny saying goodnight to everything in his room before he falls asleep.  Illustrations are simple yet there is a lot of meta-text to look for if you like. My boys turned the book into a ritual as they also started saying goodnight to the various things in their rooming before finally falling asleep.

Where the Wild Things Are (By Maurice Sendak)

“The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind…or another…his mother called him Wild thing! And max said ‘I’ll eat you up’ “…and so his mother sent him to bed without his supper. “That very night in max’s room a forest grew…and grew” And so the story goes…getting more and more fantastic with each page….just like a child’s unbridled imagination. An absolute work of art, the illustrations and text are very intelligently juxtaposed…each holding a very important place of its own. As Max’s imagination grows, so does the size of the illustrations on each page, till finally the illustrations replace words altogether! And what i also like is the fact that Max’s supper is waiting for him when he is back from his ‘adventure’…His mother may have sent him to bed without supper but she loves him too much to really send him hungry! We LOVE this book as well as In the Night Kitchen by Sendak.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar (By Eric Carle)

OK…I know I already put down a few books by Eric Carle earlier on this list, but this is one that needs a separate mention. Done in Eric Carle’s incredible illustration style, the book is a story of a very hungry caterpillar and in an early introduction to the process of metamorphosis. While the book can be read to a toddler, it works really well with first graders too as it looks at how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. It introduces days of the week, numbers, fruits and other food items, as well as the process of transformation. I still remember how one of my twins gasped in sheer wonder at the last page which had a stunning butterfly!  You can engage kids in the reading, have them retell the story, help them create a variation using food and fruits of their choice!

A bit Lost (by Chris Haughton)

A heartwarming story of a baby owl who falls off his perch when he is sleeping and is now can’t find his mummy. A very helpful squirrel helps him out and the two set off to look for mummy. The illustrations are simple yet striking and complete the story. Each page leads to the wrong animal (who is only shown through the illustrations and not mentioned in the text) till finally the baby owl is reunited with a very worried mummy owl.
In the Bath (by Leslie Patricelli)

I recently discovered Leslie Patricelli – more specifically a book called In the Bath. Given how much my youngest likes books and bath-time i figured this would be perfect for him…and it is! Although very very simple in content and style the book takes us through bath time for a little baby (who could be any baby anywhere). The illustrations are fabulous and contribute well to the story. This is great for co-constructing the story while reading aloud and has a lot of space for kids to add their ideas and descriptions. My little fellow loves it and identifies with the story really well!  Other books by the author are also great for this age group.

When Sophie gets Angry- Really, Really Angry (by Molly Bang)

We have heard of the Terrible twos and probably experienced them first hand too! Tantrums and getting really upset over small things isn’t something new in our house…and a year ago it was pretty frequent. With 3 boys under 4 that is hardly surprising. Fortunately, with the book, my boys are able to see that getting angry is an emotion a lot of kids may experience…and there are ways to deal with feeling upset. Sophie does not want to share and when she is already upset about giving a toy to her sister and ends up tripping over a truck it is the last straw. Sophie storms out of the room, slams the door and runs and runs till she finds a tree to climb. There she cries for a bit calms down, then comes back home where everyone is waiting for her. The artwork is beautiful and very clever. It is interesting to see how everything becomes tones and hues of red and orange when sophie is angry but then slowly moves on to cooler blues and yellows as she calms down.

So that is my list of top 10 books for toddlers. This is a starting point and there is so much to discover in the world of picture books. Good picture books are very cleverly done, the illustrations tell a whole story on their own and the books are great for read alouds, shared readings, story constructions, descriptions, re-tellings, predictions, etc. They can be used with different age groups in different manners and are wonderful for adults to read as well!

Preparing for a sibling

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For those of you who know me…please don’t panic..this is not another baby announcement. I already have my hands full with my boys. Actually I am writing this because I happened to have conversations with two different friends today on how to prepare for a new baby in the house..more specifically how to prepare for a new sibling.

Actually, I had a really simple time doing this. Maybe i was just plain lucky or maybe some of the stuff we did and talked about with the kids helped. My twins boys were all of 20 months when our younger son was born and from the first day on all I saw was lots of love and care. Sure they fought for attention every now and then…of course they were boisterous and noisy at times around the baby…but no pinches, no hitting, no pushing. They made sure everyone around them knew they had a baby brother…they chose his name and and clothes for him…they tried to give him their toys and they made sure no one came to pick him up without sanitising their hands first. Honestly i could not have asked for anything more.

Here are some things that helped us make this a fairly easy transition for the boys and the whole family. For one, we started talking about the baby once I was about 6 months pregnant. I started looking pregnant and alos started to tire out more easily. The twins who were less than a year and half then loved to jump on me and horse around and some of that was about to change. It really helped that a good friend of ours who has a daughter their age had just given birth to a baby boy. The boys loved going over to see the baby and were most fascinated by the whole thing. So when I told them that we were going to have a baby too, they actually seemed excited. I don’t think that at that point they realized it meant that they would be sharing me and Dad with this new creature.

Every evening as we lay down and read our books before bed the boys wold take turns touching my belly, talking nonsense to the baby, singing songs and more often than not, making funny farting sounds with their mouths on my very large tummy!

We made a list of girls and boys names and had them pick the ones they liked. They only chose a boy’s name as they said it was definitely going to be a baby brother. We started picking up a few small things together and every time we got the baby something we made sure to get something small for the twins as well.

My boys all love books and so I figured that would be a good way to talk to them about the baby. Here are some that we read:

1. Will you Still Love Me by Jean-Baptiste Baronian, Illustrated by Noris Kern.
This is an extremely delightful and touching book that articulates in the simplest of manners the fears and worries that a child might have about a new sibling arriving into his/her life. The most basic question on all captured perfectly in the title of the book : Will you still love me.
A story about a little polar bear who feels that his parents are behaving slightly differently. He talks to his friends about it and finally talks to his mother who tells him that she is pregnant. And my children’s favorite lines from the book: A mommy’s heart is as big as the sea. And a daddy’s heart is as big as the sky. I will always love you. Even when you are a big brother, you’ll still be my little one. And I’ll love both you and our new baby with all my heart”

2. My New Baby illustrated by Rachel Fuller
Another extremely simple book with lovely illustrations. The book is very different in style and approach from the first one I have put down but it beautifully juxtaposes what the older sibling and baby are doing and able to do. It shows acceptance, sharing and how in spite of the new baby the parents are still there for the older sibling.

3. Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats
Written by Caldecott award winner Ezra Jack Keats (For Snowy Day) Peter’s chair beautifully captures some of the struggles an older sibling goes through. This is a story about a boy called Peter who has a younger baby sister. His parents are trying to reuse a lot of Peter’s old toys and things for the new baby and Peter resents that. He does not like his crib being repainted or his stuff given away to her. He takes his favorite little chair and hides with it…that’s when he realizes that the chair is actually too small for him. This is the story of a young boy trying to deal with the struggle of having a baby sister and accepting her and sharing with her. Peter is someone my kids could related to very easily. The illustrations are stunning too and Keats use of collage with cutouts is simple yet beautiful!

4. I also put together a simple story book for the boys. (http://myfourboysandme.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/book-for-introducing-a-new-sibling/) You can check it out on my earlier blogpost if you like. The twins absolutely loved it and we read it many many many times!

Once the baby came, I tried as much as possible to involve the twins. They got me diapers, sang songs to the baby, picked out his clothes for him and chose his name. They called me when he woke up, they checked to see if his diaper was full. They climbed into the baby cot and cuddled with him right from the time he was 3 days old. I bit back the NO on my lips as much as I could and just made sure they did not hurt the baby accidentally.

Of course things are different with each child and this post is in no way prescriptive. I have simply put down some of the things that worked for me and I hope this is useful to some of you out there :)