Posts Tagged ‘children’

Raising Young Artists
Author: Guest Blogger

(Image © 2008 Dithi Chakrabortty)

This post is authored by Ms. Dithi Chakrabortty, a self-taught freelance artist from Geneva, Switzerland. Dithi’s work has been featured in various Indian and international magazines and websites. She takes on private commissions and also sells her work online through her Etsy shop.

My childhood – including my family and the home that I grew up in –  has almost everything to do with my love for art.  I remember vividly my very first art lesson, at 4 years of age:  my mother was teaching me how to draw flowers.  She would emphasize drawing “clear, confident lines” and would say “….try to use the eraser as less as possible, keep it neat.” I probably fell in love with creating art right then, watching Maa enjoy herself as she drew a bouquet sitting pretty in a vase with a Camel HB pencil – helping me with my first drawing copy.

A lot of learning and inspiration came from the family.  Both of my two elder sisters loved art and crafts.  Sitting down to paint was a way to relax for all three of us –  on weekends and even on some vacations.  Both parents encouraged us to take our art-kits along when we travelled – so we could draw scenes from holidays to bring back home as visual journals.

Then there was this one-of-a-kind art school that we attended (all three of us in succession) in the quaint little town where we grew up – very close to Kolkata, India.  It was a school that didn’t just hand out certificates to students at the end of a cut and dry curriculum; it was a place where kids learnt how to enjoy and immerse themselves in the process of creating something that is their own.  One of the many interesting activities in our class was when our teacher took a blank page from each one of our copies, hand-drew borders to the page and then wrote in the top right hand corner Mon theke which in Bengali means “from your imagination.” Those blank bordered pages became the windows that led us into our own creative worlds.

Meaningful family activities can go a long way in stimulating children to express themselves creatively.  Every time there was a birthday in our family, for example, it was sort of a tradition to make gifts and greeting cards from the scratch (buying presents was not considered a cool thing to do as it was the “easier-way-out”).  Not just that, we would make gifts out of recycled products – the idea was to create something thoughtful and relevant, with whatever resources were around.  So birthdays meant thinking ahead of time, trying to conceive an appropriate gift without being repetitive and then giving that idea shape and form.

Making art, as you can see by now, is associated with loads of happy memories from childhood, probably the reason why it still remains for me:  a therapeutic process and one of the best ways to unwind and introspect.  This, to my mind, is one of the most valuable gifts parents can give to their children – enabling them to appreciate the fact that you will have a beautiful friend in any form of art, be it music, painting, photography, drama or dance – a  friend that is demanding but one that will never fail you.  On that note, I hope all of you parents reading this today will take a page Mon theke and give that to your little one(s), letting their creativity take flight and letting them have fun as they fill it up.

© 2010 Dithi Chakrabortty


Image by Delhi Public School Indirapuram

Our June Newsletter is out – and this month we’re featuring some traditional games played by children in Indian villages.  We did some investigation, emphasizing games which required little or no equipment (so games like Caroms, Chess (Shatranj), etc. were excluded).  Here’s a list of what we came up with – so you’ll have plenty of tube-free activities for the kids this summer:

Indoor Games

Pallankuzhi (also called Pallanguli) – Many claim this game to be a South Indian game from Tamil Nadu, but we found that it’s been played for centuries all over the world!  It’s similar to mancala – with 2 players shifting and capturing coins in 14 crevices.  Although you can buy a wooden Pallankuzhi board (and tamarind seeds were originally used as the coins), we made our own “board” with paper and a marker and used almonds for the coins – see picture above.  This is a great counting exercise for kids.  Rules of the game are here (but note there are many variations).

Kanche (marbles) – Infinite possibilities!  Here are a few possible games to play.

Lattoo (tops) – See who’s top can survive the longest OR try to get your top to travel to a particular spot.

Outdoor Games

Gilli Danda – Probably the most well-known traditional game, it’s similar to cricket (and featured in the Bollywood move Lagaan).  Rules of the game here.

Pitthoo – All you need is a soft rubber ball and 5-6 flat stones.  This is a team game for 4-20 players – perfect for a family reunion.  Rules here.

Poshampa – Kind of a variation of musical chairs – 2 people make a gate-like structure with their arms, and other kids form a line and pass through the gate.  When the song ends (you can sing a song or use a CD player/radio), the “gate” closes, and the person trapped inside must answer a question.  Depending on the answer, he/she joins 1 of the 2 teams.  A tug of war (rassa-kashi) between the teams serves as the finale.  More here.

Gucci Garam – A player draws a circle and stands inside of it with a stick.  Other players throw a ball at him, which he tries to deflect.  If the ball touches him, or if he steps outside the circle, he is out of the game.

Giti Phod – Another team game, members of one team have to try to arrange rocks in a pre-selected configuration, while avoiding getting hit by a ball thrown by the other team.

Going Green With Your Kids
Author: Guest Blogger

image © Saffron Press

This post is authored by Ms. Navjot Kaur, a Toronto-based elementary teacher, children’s author and advocate for inclusion.  Ms. Kaur’s first book, A Lion’s Mane, published by Saffron Press, is an important story about a young boy and his Sikh identity.

We happened to be visiting our friend’s home the night of Earth Hour.  What we experienced was a lovely surprise!

My son, who is only four, loved having the lights suddenly turn off, playing Charades in a candlelit room and believing it was all for him!  Our friends’ amazing children even found a candle look-a-like for him so he could be included in the whole process.  It really was a fun night and there were no short-cuts – lights remained off for the entire hour!

Excuses are easy at times like Earth Hour, especially if you have company over, but this example just defines the leadership potential of our children. Not only did their responsibility towards this cause shine through the darkness of the night, it also helped us to reflect on the time we spend with our children, and what we could be doing better to ensure that they grow to respect the Earth and our environment.

While researching content for my last children’s book, I learned more about the Ojibwe Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers.  The universal teachings – to respect the Earth and the natural environment – are a central part of Aboriginal culture and tradition.  Today, we can still learn from these teachings:

• Only take from the Earth what you truly need
• Shop locally to minimize your global footprint
• Reuse paperwork you receive from school or in the mail. (I fold the sheets in half and use a highlighter to write letters, numbers, words or fun questions to trace or solve on the back!)
• Involve your children in using those green and blue bins – habits form at young ages

A great family activity for Earth Day – coming up on April 22nd – is to create a tree using recycled materials.  Start with a large, empty margarine or yogurt tub (you can paint or decorate it).  Place packing peanuts you receive in parcels (preferably those made from corn so they are biodegradable) into the tub.  You can also use clay.  Use a little glue if needed.  Top off with small rocks and stones from the beach or garden to keep everything in place.  Take some earth-tone pipe cleaners or chenille stems and stick them into the tub to create a tree trunk.  Twist some stems around the main trunk to create branches.  Your child can choose to glue on some leaves or blossoms by tearing small pieces of tissue paper and scrunching it into a leaf or blossom.

Talk with your child throughout the process so they are learning about plant growth.  Older children may even want to create entire habitats with lots of trees.  Other ideas are to create a snapshot of the ancestral region of your family or, on a larger scale, paint a Famiy Tree on canvas board.  Place old and new family photographs in simple frames and “hang” them onto the tree.  Whichever tree you choose to create as a family will be beautiful as long as you have fun going green!

© 2010 Navjot Kaur

Raising Compassionate Children
Author: Guest Blogger

This post is authored by Ms. Navjot Kaur, a Toronto-based elementary teacher, children’s author and advocate for inclusion.  Ms. Kaur’s first book, A Lion’s Mane, published by Saffron Press, is an important story about a young boy and his Sikh identity.

The most beautiful things in the world are not seen nor touched.  They are felt with the heart.
– Helen Keller

Helen Keller was deaf and blind and yet a wonderful teacher helped her break down the barriers of isolation – leading her to achieve immeasurable goals.  Helen became a dynamic author, political activist and lecturer – constantly campaigning for progressive causes.

To hear of such courage and strength is inspiring when today’s media images are filled with mainstream connotations of what beauty and success should look like.  How can we ensure our children can sift through their world of iPods, iPhones, streaming videos, text messaging and billboard images and still find time to think about another person in need?  Or to  make friends with someone who doesn’t quite fit in with the crowd?  It is a difficult, but necessary, task.  For now, we as parents are the role models – so the dialogue starts with us.

The Sikh festival of Vaisakhi is here and every year I wonder how I can make it more meaningful to my child.  Gnaana is doing such a great job of raising awareness about cultural heritage and it shows that this is a common thought amongst parents of diverse backgrounds.  So, I started to really delve into the story of Vaisakhi while researching an upcoming title.  What I found made me feel Helen Keller’s definition of beauty in my heart.

The Panj Pyaare, or five beloved ones, chosen to represent the Khalsa (the baptized body of Sikhs) did not hail from high financial backgrounds or social status but came together to create a new force – united towards progressive causes – to uplift ordinary people’s lives.  The hierarchical Hindu caste system of the 1600’s systemically kept everyone “in their place” and people craved change.  It is inspiring to learn of the individual struggles and challenges each of the Panj Pyaare faced before joining the Khalsa and also, the knowledge that in April 1699, Guru Gobind Singh ji dared to challenge his Khalsa to stand out and BE different.

It could not have been easy to visibly stand out given the political climate of the time.  Perhaps our children would feel uncomfortable helping someone who is being harassed or being bullied in school – for fear of repercussion.  But we need to make them aware of ways they can help, such as telling an adult about the incident.  With courage and compassion on their side, our children can become strong advocates for change – recognizing the right thing to do when faced with difficult situations.

A unique identity made sure that members of the Khalsa could not be bystanders, but must always be ready to help someone in need.  Through the Amrit ceremony, and adopting the common last names of Kaur (lioness) and Singh (lion), all Sikhs, including women, would hold equal status in society.  Now that is a beautiful thing to teach my son and to celebrate – Happy Vaisakhi!

© 2010 Navjot Kaur