Monthly Archives: February 2014

strawberry fields!

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We are spending a week at a lovely hill station called panchagani. Just the four boys, our nanny and me. It’s a lovely place…and so much to explore.

The resort we are at is actually quite basic but the trick is to look at things through the eyes of a kid…suddenly everything is fascinating and magical. As we walked into a slightly stuffy 1 bdrm apt and realized that 2 lights were not working, the boys had already discovered the bath tub and were jumping up and down all set to get right in.

They ran outside and made friends with the gardeners and the cleaning ladies who were more than happy to chat with the little men and explain to them all that they were doing. The mundane task of sweeping up leaves suddenly took on such a fascinating angle and the kids exclaimed in joy over everything they were seeing and being shown. The golf cart taking us from the parking lot to our room was another highlight and the boys extracted promises of several rides from the driver.

We have spent today discovering the eucalyptus tree. We crushed the leaves and smelled them. We discovered that the bark actually fell off and that we could write on the bark bits with out felt pens. We even found resin on the tree bark and pulled some of it off to observe it closely. Sid discovered that the it looked really pretty when help up to the sunlight.

Nish went around collecting leaves and giving them interesting names. So a red leaf was a beet root red leaf…and orangish one was a sun orange leaf, and so on. This was completely spontaneous and fun. We also saw creepers and talked a little about them.

Once the boys were done with breakfast (chocos, milk and strawberries that we bought at the market…its a divine combination), we all set out for strawberry picking. We went to a nearby farm…and the boys saw their first real scarecrow – we had only read about poldy the scarecrow in a story.

The strawberry farm was lovely. The owner Mr. Sunil Bhilare showed us the strawberry patch and then left us there to pick. We had carried baskets for the twins which was a great idea because they could carry the baskets around and fill them up with the fruit they were picking. There were lots of strawberries and it was fun plucking the luscious juicy ruby red fruit off the vines and filling up our baskets. The boys ran up and down the rows of strawberry vines looking for “big” and “red” berries to pick. Nish and Amu stuffed a couple of juicy ones into their mouth and then walked around with tell tale pinkish red stains on around their mouths and on their chins.

There were other things growing there too…we saw red chillies, brinjals, broccoli, pumpkins, bitter gourd, cabbage and mulberries as well. It was great because the boys got to see what a field looks like and see how things grow (because they are so used to seeing this stuff only in cane and plastic baskets in the market!)

At the end of our picking, Mr. Bhilare weighed the strawberries and we paid for them…very reasonable too!

A really fun morning!!! And the boys have been gorging on strawberries since! Esp Amu and SId who absolutely love the fruit!

Will upload pics in a day or so…really slow internet here.

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it’s not just play

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Kids take their pretend play seriously…i mean, we may think it is cute, it is just a form of play or the kids being silly…but that is certainly not what it means to them. For them it is a parallel world, a world that allows them to learn in a safe way, to practice what they have seen and done, a world in which they can experiment, negotiate and work on their own terms.

I’ll tell you why i am saying this…just last weekend, when we were at my mom’s place, the boys got busy with their ‘pretend play’. Sid came into the balcony where mom and I were sitting and asked his ‘ajji’ (grandma) if she would like some tea. When she said yes, he went out for a few minutes and returned with an imaginary tray carrying imaginary tea cups. “it’s hot” he warned her. “blow on it phooooo”. Ajji obliged. Nish came there and said he also wanted tea. “It is only for Ajji” replied Sid. “I want tea!” said Nish sounding offended and a little insistent. “NO!” was the reply. He tried to grab a pretend cup off the imaginary tray and Sid screamed and started running off with Nish in hot pursuit. We could hear them arguing and then Sid ended up back in the balcony. Nish arrived a few seconds later and quickly grabbed an imaginary cup from Sid and remebering to blow a quick “phooooo” he started gulping imaginary sips with a sense of urgency. Sid shrieked and grabbed it back. Nish looked at me with his chin quivering and lower lip trembling for a few seconds before bursting into tears. “he is not giving me any tea!!!”

I had to keep a straight face as i wiped away his tears and fortunately in a bit the ‘tea’ for forgotten for some other random fight.

A fairly disappointing morning

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There was a festival for toddlers at the Maharashtra Nature Park over the weekend. It is generally such a lovely green space that i was most excited about this. We usually go there on Sundays for the Farmers’ Market but this would be a different experience for the children. So we went there last morning…the twins, Amu, the nanny and myself. We got there around 10 am and first stood in a line to ‘get registered’…which meant Rs. 150 a head + stickers for the kids with their names, my name and contact info on it. (which is a good idea in case any of them were to get lost). We also received a schedule…and when i looked at it, i realized there was actually very little going on. there were gaps of unto 2 hours between events and performances…which meant that for all that “in between” time we would be simply obliged to visit the commercial stalls that had been set up or engage in yet another paid and directed activity like stamping or pottery. I have no issue with paying…i can afford it…but it saddens me to see how even a simple event in a lovely space that i guess belongs to the city is immediately made inaccessible to the non affording families.  The park usually charges a nominal entry fee…but 150 a person becomes steep for a lower middle class family. And honestly, there was nothing that warranted that fee.

A reading was conducted in the amphitheater which was quite decent. Then there was nothing to do between 10.45 and 12 (which is a long time for toddlers). So we sat on a mat, ate sandwiches we had packed, played with pinwheels, walked around looking at plants and some butterflies and generally rolled around in the grass (more amu than anyone else).  Let the boys try their hand at pottery…they liked it although i found it extremely over guided and structured…with the result that everyone left with nearly identical looking pots and diyas. Not my idea of engagement or creativity..but it let them get their hands into the mud and onto the potter’s wheel which was a new experience for sure. (i was then stuck carrying wet clay objects around on a stiff piece of paper)

It was finally noon and time for the next performance… music by the shankar mahadevan music academy and the miraya foundation. Since all three kids love music this was something I was looking forward to. However, the introductions took so long that the nanny left with Amu to wait outside as he was getting restless. 

What followed was very very average. A group of kids performed for us…and I admire that…I respect and understand that this was their first performance. However, having worked with kids myself, i felt let down by the level of prep…especially the notes as they were often off key.  The twins got fidgety after 4 songs and so we waited for that group to finish and decided to leave. 

The food counter was doing brisk business and styrofoam plates were piling up in the large trash cans. The next event was another couple of hours off and i figured there was nothing more for us to do here. 

I felt sad that nature wasn’t better incorporated into the plan (or maybe it just wasnt for the 3 hours that we were there). Sure, the stalls were set up under the trees but they could just as well have been in any other venue. And the plastic and styrofoam waste probably added to the carbon footprint of the event. 

It is nice to see that people are trying to do stuff like this for kids (we really need it in mumbai). But i wish these things were better planned, less commercial and more accessible to the larger public. 

Sink or float…experiments with a paper boat

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It is always fun to watch curious children try out things and see how they work. This afternoon post our little valentine’s art and craft project (will post about that soon) Sid asked me to make a paper boat. I made on with stiff card paper that had been crayoned on and Nish quickly claimed that as his. Sid handed me a thin one sided A4 paper and i made him another boat with that. Then we filled up a tub in the bathroom and the boys gently put their boats in. Nish’s thicker boat floated around gracefully while Sid’s boat soaked up water and tragically unfolded, all soppy and sad. Of course Sid was most upset. I asked what they thought had happened and Sid immediately said…my paper is thin. Good point…so we went back to the kids’ room and made a sturdier one with more card paper. This one did much better but then north capsized when Nish decided to turn the tap on to fill the tub up some more, filling the boats up in the bargain. “Nish drowned the boats!!!” was Sid’s complaint.

Ok…since i already had 3 very soggy soppy boats in the bathroom, i decided to change the game a bit. “Let’s make a different boat”, i suggested and dropped an empty blue sop box into the water. Is it like a boat? Yup….it floats. Then i put a small pail in. That floated too. Then i dropped a metal spoon in. This object did not float ..it sank. A new concept was introduced. The boys got super excited and brought in all kinds of stuff…rubber ducky – floats…plastic fish and octopus…both sink… plastic cup…floats, empty bottle – floats…metal car – sinks. 

This of course was just an introduction to a basic concept of physics but it happened in such a nice organic manner. It has also set the stage for some more follow up conversations and experiments around this.

sense of humour

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It is so nice to see that the boys are slowly and surely developing a sense of humour (which i think is very important!). 

Yesterday, we were talking about the parts of the face. Going into details. So we talked abotu the ear and the ear lobes, the mouth and the lips and jaws and gums, nose and nostrils and nasal septums (septii?) and then moved on to the eyes…

We did eyebrows, eyelashes and eyelids. Then i tried to do a quick recap with the boys. We got eyebrows and eyelashes. Then i closed my eyes and waited for ‘eye-lids’.  But nish yelled out “aai-angry’ instead! And the two of them giggled and giggled and giggled (aai = mom in marathi and that is wht the boys call me. aai is pronounced almost exactly like eye and so the play with words began!). I guess i do close my eyes what i get angry too! 

Of course, that was the end of the conversation because everytime i asked anything more they would only say “aai-angry” and collapse into giggles! 

Amu who had no idea what wasw going on found it super fun too and laughed and clapped and said AAI!!! loudly to add his two bits. 

Our super ‘goop’er morning

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I am trying to use the morning times, when the twins are in school, to do stuff with Amu…now a very naughty and curious and happy 14 month old. He enjoys playing, loves a mess and is very happy to hang out with him mommy for some (extremely rare) one on one time. I had posted about goop before. It is really very simple to make. I don’t have a fixed recipe for it. I just start out with cornflour and keep adding want in till it is the consistency i want..slimy, a little runnyish but still holdable and “pickup-able”.

I made some in my baking tray (about 60% cornflour and 40% water…approx). Then I dropped a few drops of food color into it but did not mix it in. I left that for the little man to work on and he loved it. I also tossed in a couple of ice cubes and that made it closer to slime almost! Fun!!!

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He started out by trying to pick it up with a spoon and then slowly moved on to playing his his fingers…and toes..and hands and feet and then decided to just shift base into the goop tray!

Definitely a fun and messy morning..and so quick to clean up. Great for playing with texture, tracing in the tray, learning about colors and mixing. The goop is solid and liquid at the same time. You can catch it, drip it, swirl it a little, make a little ball or just slide around in it!

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