Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A rather overdue set of posts from the Make Believe exhibition

Simple, but inviting, thats what we would use to describe the Make Believe exhibition at the Science center's omni theatre





A head cold and a long day make for a grumpy mom

I was an ultra grumpy mother yesterday and even the smallest things that the kids did seemed to get on my nerves. First they were painting and Anjali had left one of her fat markers on the floor where the tip had gotten wet. I gave her a talking to and "punished" her by telling her that I would throw her favorite toy into the dustbin.

She didnt improve my mood when she said

"Sophia is my favorite toy. Throw Sophia!"

After some deliberation, we put the candyland near the dustbin to throw and then i figure sout that the marker was not completely spoilt and it you scribbles with it long enough, the ink came back. To be fair, I told the girls to take back the candy land, but Sophia, who had already been to investigate, had strewn all the cards on the floor, near the dustbin I told the girls to clean

"She did it, so she must clean", said Anjali.

Ofcouorse, that didnt help matters as I retorted

"And whose fault was it that the candyland ended up near the dustbin in the first place?"

Silence. She pointed at herself.

"So clean!"

And the girls spent a quarter of an hour, perhaps more sitting near the dustbin and sorting the cards. At the end of the quarter of an hour, a lot of sorting and unsorting had been accomplished and not a single card was in the box. When i enquired., Anjali said

"Sophia is messing up everything I do"

And Sophia said

"Anjali is not letting me do anything!!"

I dont know what the back story was, but at somepoint, Anjali threw down all here cards and the box saying

"I am not doing it anymore, she is always messing everything!"

I let it pass because I thought some effort had been made.

Then there was the matter of the living room floor which looked like a black swimming pool. I handed the girls two nappy cloths

Word of advice: Two girls with nappy cloths and a small pailfull of water is not going to make for a clean floor

Soon there was more dirty water on the floor than we had begun with although Anjali kept saying that

"We can see the white floor!!"

The floor simultaneously became a skating and slipping ground and Anjali began to run on the wet floor and slide down on her knees very fast.

I didnt want to make an effort, and I tried to join in, but was way too tired to do more than get my clothes full of paint as we rolled around in the floor.

When we were nearly done, the floor was whiter, but it was not the nappy cloths that did the cleaning. As Sophia so eloquently put it

"We are cleaning with our dyesses!!"

And then Sophia threw a tanrtum because I took away her dirty cloth and dumped her in the bath.

I had planned to take the girls snail hunting. We have 365 games toddlers play and one of the activiti9ies that interested me was to keep a smal farm. The container and the cover is ready, we are just missing the snails.

But with all the circus over the candy land cards and the painty swimming pool, it was bedtime before we could say Jack Robinson.

By that time, I was absolutely spent.

A quick story, milo and bed.

"I am sorry I was so tired this evening", I said, once the lights were off.

"Do you want me to tell you a story?", asked Sophia

"Do you want me to tell you a story?", asked Anjali

They told me stories, both of which were worth recording, but neither of which i recall the word of. The last thing I remember before drifting off to sleep was Sophia sitting near me on the bed and cradling my head in her arms.

The last thing I remember feeling was gratitude, which, all said was a nice way to end the day.

Ofcourse, I was woken up in an hour as Sophia had had an accident on the bed and had to be cleaned, but thats another story.

Our Julia Donaldson farm was one of the casualties in the paint play. Its cardboard was soggy and had to be sacrificed, but I had gotten this from work and it made for great play

Monday, November 28, 2011

Potter mania

"How do people become wizards mom?", asked Anjali, as we were waiting for a taxi to take us to the library.

"Well", i said. "You got to go to a magic school and then study there for seven years. Then you can become a wizard"

"What do you study in magic school? Where is the magic school?"

"Well, when you get to magic school, they sort you into houses"

"What houses?"

"Giffindor, hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin"

"Is there something wrong with Slytherin?", she asked

Husband, it transpires, has been showing the girls the harry potter movies in the afternoons sometimes. This is combined with that I got the philosopher's stone on the kindle and sometimes read the story to the girls.

"IN wizard school", I said, "the students dont learn reading and Math and stuff"

"No mummy. They learn about herbs and plants", piped in Sophia.

I hadnt known about the movies then, so I said

"Yes, she is right. They learn herbology..."

"And when the pull the plants up the plant ciyes!"

I stared quite blankly. Its been a while since I watched the second movie (though I have read the books about a hundred times each) I think that the movies exaggerate where they shouldnt and cut where they shouldnt. I never quite forgave them for cutting out nearly headless nick's deathday party, but for making all that hullabaloo with the train coming behind the car.

Maybe Sophia will stop the Simba Nala business and start the Harry Potter instead. I might nudge her a bit and make some wizard crafts


When we find water,

We naturally take the opportunity to get our feet wet

We follow it, even though it is not in our official road

We find hidden treasures and ruined boats

We investigate the moss on the rocks, feel the softness of it

We ignore the dry path that runs alongside and across, preferring the sensations of wetness over dryness against our feet

We explore the rocks, climbing over, finding our exactly how to put our feet and maintain oour balance so as not to slip.

The children often converge on water play options when outdoors. On Saturday, when we were at the playeum and it began to rain, they had these huge canvas sheets on the floors where water was collecting. It wade a wonderful opportunity for splashing in "cleaner" rain water puddles. I wish we had had a bit more time and we would have gotten some brushes for some paint with water time. Unfortunately, we were due to leave for Anjali's piano class.

Fancy Nancy: The show must go on

We got a new Fancy Nancy book out from the library. IN that book, Nancy makes a new friend and learns how to balance spoons on her nose. It was, ofcourse, a great opportunity to learn spoon balancing

We have no clue how she did it. Neither does she, it seems, as, when we aksed her to do it again for the photo, this is what we got

The game morphed later to fifteen minutes of spoon involved stuff - balancing balls on spoons, walking from room to room with a spoon in the mouth - you get the idea

Thursday, November 24, 2011

updates on small worlds

"These small worlds are really great!", said husband yesterday evening, as the girls were working on and adding to their What the ladybird heard farm. "They require so many skills and hone them"

We have been taking a fairly open approach with our small worlds. Patti mentioned yesterday that Sophia was at Pride Rock for half an hour yesterday afternoon, putting up a show, with Anjali and Patti as the audience. Given that Sophia's shows goes something like this, half an hour is not a lot of time.

Sophia: Simba and Nala, you must climb on pyide yock! All the animals must stay here! Meerkat must stay here! Warthog must stay here also. You know something happened when Simba and Nala was small?

Audience: What happened?

Sophia: What happened? We will discuss. Something happened when Simba and Nala were small. What happened?

Audience: What happened?

We go with this conversation in circles for half an hour without anyone really knowing what happened. I guess this kid should go into international negotiations. She'll drive everyone crazy into giving up.

The girls were working on the farm yesterday. Anjali is improving her scissors skills and works hard in cutting up characters along the lines. You should see her cutting of lanky len.

Again, it is interesting to see how the girls have different interests, and small world creation and play allows them capitalize on their interests. Anjali is interested in single processes - cutting, single media painting etc. She simply doesnt like to glue stuff, though she is good at it, but the process doesnt interest her. Sophia loves glueing. I guess there is something very satisfying about squeezing the whole pot of glue out onto the paper for sticking a small piece of flower on top.

For the farm world, Anjali cut out the shapes while Sophia works on farm decoration. Yesterday she glued pieces of yellow tissue all over the farm as a backdrop and the gluing was done extremely uniformly. No idea what they represent though. And she made this mixed media art where she took a few pieces of every single collage material that i had and glued it very deliberately on her art paper.

We are planning next to make a fairy land, including a teeth inspired castle for the tooth fairy. If anyone has any inspirations on how to get this done/ how mot to go overboard with it, please let me know. 

Learning with Anjali

there are three formal learning activities that I inisit that Anjali do everyday, reading, piano and Shloka. Added together these three activities take anywhere between half an hour to one hour. Sometimes, various challenges make the activities take longer than I would expect them to take.

During lesson time, Sophia's presence proves to be a distraction. To help with this, and to ensure that both kids have a fair time, and because he thinks thatb I criticize too much, husband takes the piano lessons while I take the reading and Shloka. Yesterday was Sophia's first time doing tot school with me when Anjali was having piano and I discovered the challenges that one would have to face while doing schoolwork with Sophia.

"Who likes ponds?"


"Can you color the tortoise yellow?"

"No. Wwant to coloy pink!"

I let her.

When it was Anjali's time to read, we shut ourselves up in patti's room and husband worked with Sophia. They both came looking for us after about a quarter of an hour , with husband saying

"I have a moral duty to inform her future husband (god bless him) that she never listens"

Anjali makes good progress with her reading. She reads her passages and sounds very well, but has trouble with words. But that could simply be because words are a little boring to read on themselves. She is more interested in words that have more context with her surroundings, and each time she reads a word, she tries to put a sentence to it. The problem comes when she makes errors like sayingg

"Lets fill up the bottles" when the word she is reading is "feel"

But I guess thats part of the learning phase

During Shloka time, the girls both took a book from the altar bookshelf (neither book was about the Bagavad Gita) and began to follow the shlokas with their fingers. So I have promised to give them both a book with Gita verses printted nicely for them to read. BEgan work on it this morning, but need to find illustrations

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pretend play with small worlds: What the ladybird heard

Once upon a farm lived a fat red hen
A duck in a pond and a goose in a pen

So begins one of our favorite stories by Julia Donaldson - "What the ladybird heard"

Julia Donaldson's best known book is the gruffalo, a story which we have read many times until the kids are totally bored of it (and I could recite it in my sleep)

But I prefer her works with Lydia Monks much more. We have borrowed What the ladybird heard multiple times from the library and this time, I went over with the girls on the farm map the actual plan and how the animals tricked the thieves. This is the first time that the girls really appreciated the cunningness and the humor of the story. So after the success of Pride rock, we decided to build a farm model heavily inspired (read plagiarized) from the book.

First I drew out (read copied) all the animal pictures from the book. Then Anjali helped me to color them. She colored the cow green. Then we recycled an old shoe box into a farmhouse which the girls helped me to paint. That. incidentally, was the painting activity from the 30 days thingy.

Anjali helped me to cut out some animals and I cut the rest out yesterday morning when the girls were sleeping. I filed the whole thing away for the day and the girls apparently thought that i had thrown the animals away and gave husband a very hard time about it when I was at work.

This morning, we set up our first prototype. We will be continuing work on this over the next few days, but this is what happened.

"Anjali forgot to color the sheep", said Sophia, who had woken up early. So we put cotton on it and made the wooly sheep

This is the duck pond, which Sophia colored green

A pretty little farmhouse with the animals in the background and Noah from the Fisher Price Ark acting out the role of the farmer

I went to take a shower and Sophia realized something, so she came after me.

"Mummy, there are two thieves in the story", she said.

By that time, Anjali had woken up and husband and Anjali worked together on hefty Hugh and Lanky Len

Anjali's scissor skills have improved tremendously and I admit that husband's drawing skills are better than mine

"We need a panda car!" exclaims my three year old. I got an old milk carton which she helped me paint black. It is currently drying. I promised to help her fit wheels and make it into a panda car to throe the thieves in

Monday, November 21, 2011

Playing with the girls and how hands on play has changed my views of how to play with the children

I had being going on a bit of a play rut. The children were somehow growing to a stage where development happened so imperceptibly and yet so overwhelmingly that it was difficult to get it on paper. This was illustrated by the reduction in prolificity of my writing. Things were also happening at work which suggested change and increased responsibilities, responsibilities involving two feet long to do lists and responsibilities that I am still coming into terms with.

One of the hands on challenges, last Friday's I think, was cooking with your kids. The girls and I often putter around the kitchen together, making cakes, cookies (like the batch of heart shaped ginger cookies that we made for Anjali's school farewell). I didnt want to make another sweet thing, I have been having a bit of battle with my weight and have taken a soft decision to lay off juices and desserts. So the best thing to do was to make pizza.

Anjali had had a coupon to redeem from the girls' good deeds coupon box. They get about one coupon a day, on the average, which they could redeem anytime, . Anjali wanted to redeem her walk with nature coupon for a trip to the nature park. So, Friday evening, we cycled over to the park and played in the sand pit. And instead of taking the usual hands off, give instruction approach that i usually took, I decided to get in the pit and put my fingers in the sand, digging trenches for Anjali to pour water into and making little castles with Sophia to house her fairies. There is a little brook just across the sand pit, which makes a good source of water, to wash legs and sandy hands and also as water source to add spice and channels to sand play.

We biked past the market to get cheese for pizza.

On Saturday morning, Anjali woke up early and helped to do the following for the pizza. Saturday is one of those days where we have a deficit of vegetables and I tend to fish out stuff from the bottom of the fridge for lunch. The only thing that was left and was pizza friendly was the pack of cherry tomatoes. Anjali, who likes to cut vegetables, doens like to cut tomatoes in general and cherry tomatoes in specific, because cherry tomatoes are "rond, small and roll away". To top it off, they squirt juice on her as she cuts them.

It was a great opportunity to sit with her and work out the nuances of cutting the tomatoes. I showed her a couple and then let her to work while I let the sauce bubble and put the dough in the bread maker. Soon, we had, not only cut cherry tomatoes, but also a load of tomato seeds which Anjali cheerfully declared that she would plant.

It is important, I think, so facilitate creative ideas as thye crop up. So we cut up an old juice bottle and took it to the garden, filled it with earth and compost. Then the girls dug holes and spooned seeds inside them to cover up. We have had some luck with tomato plants so far, even though none have fruited, so I am somewhat optimistic about the plants that Anjali has come up with.

By that time Sophia was up and she also helped with the planting, and then we washed up and had breakfast. The dough was ready when the breakfast was done, and the girls helped me to spread the dough in the baking pan. Anjali used her hands to spread the tomato sauce on the dough and bboth girls helped in the spreadin of the cherry tomato and cheese topping. The pizza was ready for the oven and we went to the Make believe exhibition at the Science center.

Its amazing to see how many parents are taking up the initiative for developing exploration centered activities and exhibitions for kids. I have written extensively about the playeum and how much the children and I enjoy working with them. The girls had a nice time at the make believe exhibition where the order of the day was exploration. I believe that Anjali enjoyed most the construction station where the children had giant foam blocks for building. The thing was the these blocks were resistant enough for the children to climb on their constructions. Anjali's creation morphed from what was originally a tower of rectangles to some fairly complicated structure as she figured out that she needed to add supporting structures to her tower. I wish I had a camera, but I had left the phone at home.

We had pizza for lunch, the same one that we made at home, at a grassy spot in the Science center gardens.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dress up at Miti's house and Treasure hunting

When we went for playdate at Miti's housse, she had taken out a whole bunch of interesting looking fabrics and dresses for the girls to play with. While Anjali went for the classic look, Sophia went for the all out traditional look

WE had a bit of a ramp walk after Veer went to sleep. Sophia insisted on it.

On other activities, treasure hunt was the order of the day and once I got home, while patti was reading to the girls, I opened up their alphabet puzzle wooden board and hid the pieces in several different places around the house - The rubberband box, Anjali's sock box, my cupboard, under pride rock- you get the idea.

Then I gave them clues for finding the things

"Sophia, look near the place that shows the story of a show that you like to watch"

"I like to watch Mulan mummy!"

"What else do you like to watch?"

"I like to watch Simba Nala"

"Is there a place in our house that shows the story of Simba Nala?"

"Pyide Yock!!"

And she found the pieces

"Anjali. look in the place where mummy goes when mummy finishes her bath"

"The bedroom?"

"What does mummy need after finishing her bath?"

Expected answer: clothes

Anjali was a long time in getting back and I went to the bedroom to peek. She had opened husband's cupboard

"Anjali, Why would mummy go to daddy's cupboard after finishing her bath? My clothes are in the other cupboard"

"Clothes? I thought you meant towel"

I hadnt anticipated that, but the girls had fun searching for stuff

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pretend play with small worlds: Pride Rock

The Lion king is still going on strong with Sophia. How a three year old child converts a story into something alive is a process involving much creativity and cognitive skills.

The 30 days of hands on play challenge yesterday was to act out a story. I saw that and smiled. We do it all the time, everyday and the story has been the same one for the past three weeks.

"You always want to play Simba Nala", i complained to Sophia.

"No mummy", said Anjali. "Sometimes, she plays Jasmine"

Pretend play, for my technically trained brain, seems too unstructured to be of real use. But I have read the literature and the opportunities it offers for the growth of structured left brain skills, so I try to facilitate it, although I should reckon that someone like Patti may be better than me at initializing it.

But Sophia's obsession with pride Rock has challenged me in a way in which I try to incorporate structure into her Simba Nala world. The Pride Rock small world set up resulted from this collaboration of the structured and the unstructured

Simba and Nala on Pride Rock, overlooking their animals of Pride lands

Anjali cut out the butterfly and I stuck them on a toothpick to give dimension and make it look as though they were flying

Soon we had an overload of butterflies and flowers and we made a butterfly tree

A close up of the pride rock, which is basically an arrangement of tissue paper rolls shaped with newspaper mache and painted brown by the girls, and the tree which we created during the 30 days of hands on play sticky art challenge

Monday, November 14, 2011

Words and Wonder

Sophia on Saturday after dropping Anjali at piano

"Mummy, I want to go theye"

"Theye" was an exhibition of kindergarten work at the courtyard of the community center. It was colorful, neat and interesting looking

"We cant go now", husband said. "We have to go shopping"

"I'll take you when we come back to pick Anjali up", I added

"Mummy Mummy", she said, in that tone she takes sometimes when she wants something very badly "Mummy mummy..."


"I want to go theye now. Its fasinating"

It took me a while to digest the word

"Its what?"

"Its fascinating!!"

It was, though we didnt see it until after Anjali's piano

We were on the way to school for Anjali's PTA and walking across the park. There were two large dogs on their morning walk.

"Patti says that I shouldnt touch the big dogs.", says Sophia


"Patti says I shouldnt touch them", she repeated.

"Why not?"

"Because they will bitey bitey my fashe and my hands and evywhere!"

"Not true", I said

"Patti says they will bitey bitey", she repeated

"They will only bite if you do something silly, like take away their food when they are eating", i said

"Patti says I shouldnt touch the big dogs. I can onuly touch the small dogs", She said

And as an afterthought

"I am only allowed to touch the small dogs"

We were going for the Nirmanika show. We had, the day before gone for a War rememberence day based activity at the playeum and were fixing a jigsaw that they had given in a goody bag that illustrated peace. Here are snippets of dialogue that happened before and after

"One day we went to the Simba Nala show"... "When Simba and Nala weye born Something happened. What happened? Do you know?"


"What happened? Andhali, do you know??".... "When Simba and Nala were small, somebody died. That is the onuly bad thing that happens in that show".... "In the Simba Nala show when someone dies, at the end of the show, they will come back to bow. That is the yule"

While fixing the puzzle on the fridge, I was talking with the girls about war and peace.

Sophia: This man is dead mummy!

Me: Yes.

Anjali: What is a war?

Me: A war is when people fight and many people die.

Anjali: Only the bad people die right?

Sophia: No Anjali. The good people also die. In the Simba Nala stoie some good people also died.

Me: Who died?

Sophia: Some good people died Mummy!!

Me: Ok

Sophia: Like Simba's daddy...

Interesting how much children get out of a show. We have made a lot of lion king themed stuff - besides the lion cave and the lion gate, we also have made a paper mache pride rock which sits on top of a grassland, and animals at the foot of pride rock with lions on it. Its the first of our small world models - photos to come. I printed out disney's Lion king puppets and Anjali colored and cut them out. We have them up for Sophia, who wants to play Simba Nala every night before bed.

A weekend with the girls

Thankfully, many of the stuff that was on during the 30 days of hand on play challenge was stuff that we did any way

Concoctions: Finger paint. Veer came over for playdate on Friday and Sophia learnt about printing.

Outdoor play: We didnt officially do an outdoor play activity. We went to the playeum event on Saturday, and it was raining. So we stopped making poppies and got wet in the rain for a while, before changing the kids' clothes to return to the activities there. There was a wonderful moment when Anjali stood in the pouring rain with her arms wide open and her mouth wide open, trying to drink the rain water. Too bad I didnt have a camera.

After drying as best as we could and changing the girls out of their wet clothes, we sat down to the art and craft activities that were at the playeum. There is one nice advantage to going there, I dont have to scrimp on materials and I dont have to clean up. So the whole arrangement plays well with me.

When we do crafts at home, it is hard for me to set out a huge tray of materials. I know that they will not, all get used, and that I will have to clean and organize the stuff for using the next time. So i tent to be fairly economical on the stuff I put out - two sheets of tissue, just enough paint, one cup of corn flour - you get the idea. Here, there was paper and markers and glue galore (That reminds me to stock up on markers at home, the girls go through them like anything)

We didnt make the recommended Super hero capes, though it would have been a nice opportunity to tell the children about heroes. What we made instead were art aprons, highly inspired from Fancy Nancy. Sumitra mentioned a fancy Nancy birthday party, perhaps we should try it for Anjali's birthday.

Does the trip to the playeum count as a field trip?

I guess it does, but then that would be squeezing too many activites in the same place - the outdoor, the field trip and the sticky activity, so lets split them up. We went on another field trip!!

On Sunday we took the girls to a Bharatnatyam program on Nirmanika - Architecture and Bharatnatyam. Anjali was totally fascinated by the dancers and Sophia was too, despite the fact that we sneaked in on a show where Children under 6 were not allowed.

We told Sophia A priori not to talk whereupon she says

"I cant be quiet mummy, I need to talk!!"

Friday, November 11, 2011

Playing with children often takes a turn on its own

I wanted to write about this yesterday, but didnt have the time. I had prepared a sensory tub for Anjali and Sophia - for Sophia mostly, as Anjali never had been one for sensory tubs. It was mostly an upcycling of one of our nature baskets. I added to the seashells and pinecones some paint box lids, a small box of pista shells, some beads, which were in a box together with the paintbox lids, some kitchen paper rolls and some toilet paper rolls.

Anjali was playing go with husband and Sophia got a headstart on the sensory basket. By the time Anjali joined us, we were pouring and funneling for all it was worth. When Anjali joined us, she did a bit of exploration, but as I had expected, was not very interested in exploring the tub. Instead, she dug out the beads and began to play with them

So I offered her some string to thread the beads together and she brought out all her beads that were in a bead box. The strange thing was that the bead box was within her reach for several months and she had never cared about it. It took a single misplaced bead to trigger the creativity.

So with a needle and thread, she strung together a bead necklace. Sophia, in the meantime, had finished with her sensory tub play and put together a bracelet with colorful shapes.

Anjali wore the bead necklace to school yesterday morning.

It was time to clean up and Sophia was helping me. Here is an interesting question - What happens if the child's idea of clean up doesnt correspond to yours? I had put the seashells and pinecones in the basket and a bunch of pista shells in another small basket. Sophia, in the act of cleaning up, dumped the pista shells into the big basket, mixing them all up. Obviously, she had thought that the pista shells were in the small basket because someone had poured them there - we had been transferring stuff between the baskets all evening.

I didnt have the heart to tell her that she was wrong, not when she was so proud of herself for finishing up the cleaning, so I just put the whole messed up basket on the stool to sort out the next morning

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Water play with Anjali and Sophia

Yesterday was water play day at the hands on challenge and boy, did we have fun!!

As it often turns out with children, the activity ended up being quite different (and far more constructive) than what I had planned. I had planned to take a tub of water and some plastic bags to the stairwell and throw water bombs around. The girls, on the other hand, evolved the time into something more beautiful.

There was a bit of community service thrown in too.

See the seriousness in their face as they scrubbed the stairwell, first using some old cloth and then the plastic bags (who ever know that plastic bags are so good for scouring!!) I joined in to clean the walls as well.. It was the perfect kind of messy play!

Husband popped in from time to time and said that it gave him a headache just looking at the amount of cleaning being done. But all the rest of the family had good fun.

And at the end of it all, we poured the rest of the water down the stairs and watched it pool at the bottom. Then we put our feet in the puddles and made footprints in the dry landings.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I wish

Over the years, I have learnt to come up with substitutes for the things that i wish for.

I have wished for a garden, with plenty of space, and we made a balcony garden and watched it flourish.

I have wished for throwing less and have learnt to recycle and be more creative in general

I have wished to be a kind of Martha Stewart and have learnt the joys of simple stuff like home made bread and self cooked lunch.

But one thing that i still wish for is a garden space. I envy those bloggers who share spaces with lots of grass and trees and brooks and water ways for children to explore. On my to do list is a play garden designed out of simple materials, possibly tires or old tubs, for the children to grow their own garden.

But in the meantime, there is this

We were at the Jacob Ballas children's garden yesterday and we found this nice tree with low branches. There are very few trees in Singapore with low branches, and this one was a real treat to Anjali

Can you see those legs dangling above husband's head? Thats Anjali.

Jacob Ballas children's garden is a delightful place, with little crannies for children to explore and large areas that attract kids. I do wish that we had the initiative to go there more often, or better, if the lawns and play areas downstairs could be landscaped into a garden like that. It wont take much, a community initiative is probably all that it would take to create a garden which would be a feast for the explorer.

the day may yet come.

updates on 30 days of hands on play

I usually dont blog on weekends, as it gives me the time to concentrate on the kids, and I have to hand it to the guys at imagination tree for keeping their challenge running regardless of weekends and public holidays

So I have been keeping an eye on my email every evening to see if the activity for the day is in, as it gives me a chance for a resolution at active uninterrupted almost child directed play.

So this is what we have been doing:

Islands for jumping.

ofcourse, Sophia wanted to put up her Simba Nala cave. She makes us put up the fort every couple of hours and makes us repair it when it falls down. So we had a bunch of rocks to lead to the Simba Nala cave which at some point turned out to be boats

And here are the islands on the corridor

And the fort in a brighter angle

For block play (though I dont have any photos), it was the building of a gate in front of our fort to protect Simba and Nala from invaders.

I told Sophia that lions donot have hands, and we should try to build with opur feet and teeth, and she goes

"Mummy! We are people lions!"

What are people lions? - I ask

"People lions are the lions that they make for the show!!", she exclaims, pointing out the obvious.

How come we missed that crucial step in evolutionary history?

We had playdough as well, two days in a row. I usually avoid crafts and art that have to do with using food, as sometimes we feel that it encourages waste. But playdough just happened to be fine as I had a kilo of white flour which I had left in the cupboard forgotten for a long while. I had taken it out for the purposes of playdough and found that it was starting to get insects.

Anjali and Sophia are very fond of insects and enjoyed digging them out of the flour first before I decided to add to my karma by dunking boiling water on the dough to make playdough.

It was good fun, I even joined in and baked some salt dough stars and spiders.

The girls enjoyed it so much that they made me do it again on Monday morning, this time with colored playdough. On Sunday night, we had done the playdough without colors, but with some playfoam and stuff to stick in it.

A photo didnt quite capture the dough play, so here is a video. The girls still watch a lot of princess movies, and they are on a lot about falling in love and getting married.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Happy birthday Tata Sile

Patti made the girls draw cards and posted them for Tata Sile and we found out because we were chatting over skype.

La Multi ani!!

snail in the flower pot

Yesterday morning, I found a tiny snail in the frangipani pot. I left it there and told Anjali about it. Accordingly, when we came back in the evening from patti's house, we took it out and let it crawl all over our hands. The surprising part was that this brave snail even craled on Sophia's hands, despite the fact that she kept moving them around.

We put the snail back in the frangipani pot, but I couldnt find it there this morning. Maybe it was hiding in the earth, or maybe it got eaten by some birds. But it is nice to see the garden life that we have in our little balcony.

Pride rock and our fort

Hands on as we grow has a build a fort challenge.

The girls were not very enthusiastic about the idea of building a fort, but since Pride rock was still going strong, and I was starting to have serious doubts about the sustaining capability of the pocketed spring mattress to the kind of torture that it was subjected to, I enticed the girls into building a cave for Simba and Nala to sleep in

It was fairly late in the evening ans some kind of simultaneous chat was happening over skype with bunica and Tata Sile and Sophia's drawings of pride rock and the elephant graveyard with all the hyenas are still on the floor.

The idea of a lion cave was pretty well received and although the fort was taken apart after the girls went to sleep, Sophia and I rebuilt it bigger and more roomy this morning after dropping Anjali at the school bus.

In the meantime, here are the renderings of pride rock and Anjali and I have been doing every evening.

I made the drawings (she asks me to do the same drawing every evening, this is the second night in a row) and Anjali did the coloring. I think her coloring skills are improving a lot. I dont get them to do much coloring at home because of all the debate over coloring not being open ended enough, but sometimes indulge them if they ask me to draw some specific image for them to color.

Talking about color, here are the puffy paint renditions that I had blogged about a couple of days ago

Thursday, November 3, 2011

An effort to be more hands on: Update

In an effort to be more hands on, I flipped through a copy of playground games just before going downstairs with the children and actually organized a couple of games with them. We played jump in and jump out, and sliding upside down on the slide.

Its a little hard to pull off jumping when your pants are a couple of sizes loose, but thats another tale.

Swati has started a blog, aptly named Finding myself. Congratulations Swati and welcome to the club.

And then I climbed up the slide after Sophia who was apparently exploring Pride Rock, and Banged by knee square on the playground steps. Ouch.

It took a while for the pain to subside and then it came back when I began to walk again.

Double ouch.

So I had to sit for a while with Sapna's patti while the girls and Sapna did whatever kids do in the playground. I am positive that it involved lions and hyenas and dramatizations, but I was in too much of a hazy pain to care.

It began to rain and we returned home. Then the girls wanted to continue their play. In the bedroom. They convinced husband make a big pride rock by inclining the king size mattress (evidently, the stack of pillows was not tall enough) and they scaled the pride rock wall and jumped down from it. Imaging two girls standing on top of a four foot contraption with a baby lion in their hands - thats baby kiara for you.

Today's hands on activity if building forts. Does uprooting the bed into a Pride rock structure count ?Because any other fort that we make is definitely going to fall short. More tomorrow. 


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

30 days of hands on play

There is a very nice reflection and play opportunity organized by Hands on as we grow, which I hope to follow over the next month, hopefully geared towards encouraging more hands on play with the children.

The idea of the first task was to reflect on how I could get more hands on with the kids to play.

I had to ask myself, how hands on am I with the children as they play?

Here are the positives.

1. I set up activities for them to explore. Almost everyday, we have an exploration activity, some complicated, involving lot of setup time, like the baking soda flour activity, some simple and easy, like what I did yesterday by giving the kids a bunch of ice cubes, and several containers/ sieves, cloths to play filtering and drink water from. The activity is usually artisitc/ scientific, often a mixture of both.

2. While they are doing these activities, I try to explain stuff to them - why does ice melt faster when you pound it with a garlic pounder? Why does the flour paint become spongy like cake when you microwave it?

That said, here are the negatives

1. After setting up an activity for them, and sometimes spending a few minutes on it with the kids, I often step back and let the children explore. Sometimes I ask myself if that is a good idea or is it better for me to be constantly there, actually taking part in the activity and exploration? For instance, during yesterday's ice exploration session, I was hanging around the kitchen, making sure that the pita bread for today's lunch were shaped, risen and in order. So, while I was keeping an eye on the activity, I wasnt actively taking part in it. So I ask myself, would the exploration have been more engaging if I had joined in more activelyt? If I had, for example, shown the kids how to do extended play, like ice cube painting?

2. I have, as I am too often aware, limited time with the kids in the evening. Between 3 to 3.5 hours between the time I get home and the time the kids go to bed. Added to this is the lethargy and tiredness that i bring back from work which simply, at times, makes me want to curl up and go to sleep. There are also the structured activities to follow up on: For Anjali, she has to do reading, piano, and shloka practice before bed. While these activities, put together, dont take much time, I estimate a total of half an hour of work, getting her to sit at these (while its getting easier), is sometimes a challenge. For me, it is especially hard to do it if the kids are in the middle of some elaborate pretend play, like yesterday when they were doing a very elaborate Simba Nala dramatization on top of pride rock. I feel guilty about breaking the pretend play, and I feel guilty about not breaking the pretend play, for perhaps, when the pretend play finishes, the girls may be too tired/ cranky/ hungry to do the structured activities. Is there a way to improve this situation?

Hands on as we grow asks us to jot down the kids' interests, so possibly we can align playtime to these interests, so here goes

Anjali's interests
Very diverse, Jack of all trades sort. Starting to show a improving interest in reading. Dancing, pretend play, anything physical - climbing, jumping etc

Sophia's interests
Pretend play. Dancing, music, especially if it comes back to the pretend play. Talking. A lot.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How creativity encourages conversation and strange behaviors

I remember reading a piece somewhere about a famous scientist who dreamed about the solution to a problem, which was later to win him the nobel prize. However, by the time he woke up and got to the lab, he had forgotten the solution.

The next time he had a dream, he was better prepared, he pulled on his pants and headed to the lab straight away.


The girls are making love potions in the kitchen.

"I want blue!", says Anjali

"Girls dont like blue Anjali", Says Sophia.

"I like blue", says Anjali

"My patti says that girls dont like blue"

"Some girls like blue, blue is very beautiful", says Anjali


I found this fabulous article on mommy labs where a very creative lady named Rashmee shares cool activities. I had marked the article on microwave puffy paint to try out with the girls

The best art is open ended and the girls set to work on their drawing blocks. While their first paper was mostly exploration, by the time their second and third sheets rolled around, the girls had come up with truly exceptional creations, which I microwaved before taping to the wall.

Sophia woke up in the morning at 5.45, shortly after I had gotten up. I went to the bedroom, but she ignored me and walked straight to the computer table

Sophia pulled two sheets of paper from the computer table and walks to the lightbulb lab, from where she gets a fat black marker pen. At some point she realizes that she has two sheets of paper in her hand, so she goes back to the computer table to return one sheet.

Then she clambers up on patti's black chair and tries to open the marker. it wont budge. After a few tries, I offer to open it for her. She begins to draw.

"I will tell patti that girls like blue", says Sophia

"You shouldnt believe everything everybody tells you, Sophia", I told her. "Sometimes Anjali tells to a lot of things which are not really true, because she is just needling you."

"Does patti go to school?" asked Anjali to Sophia

"No!" said Sophia

"Does patti go to office?", asked Anjali

"No", said Sophia.

"Then patti does not know anything", she concluded triumphantly

Whoa! hold on! where did that come from??

I washed my dough filled hands and sat down to explain that people dont need to go to office or school to know things and people who know things choose not to go to office or school so that they can take better care of their babies. I hope I got the point across.

Sophia's drawings, though mostly abstract, could be interpreted, by a very imaginative soul to represent various things- a red and yellow cow head, a flying super dog, a fat snowman with a huge mustache...

Not to be outdone, the girls sat near the wall for a whole quarter of an hour to describe their art - Anjali came up with seahorses, playgrounds, red clouds, blue clouds, yellow rain and crocodiles in blue water.

I leave Sophia to her drawing and return to the kitchen to work.

A couple of minutes later, I hear the trip trapping of feet and Sophia has closed her marker and returned it to the lightbulb lab. She stumbles right back onto bed and is asleep within seconds.

I looked at the doodle, it sort of looked like a bird.

Who knows' maybe she will win some kind of nobel prize in art.