Cakes should be an integral part of birthday celebrations for all age groups

Kids cannot fathom / imagine a birthday celebration without a cake. Right from triple-decked cakes made at home to cakes 2.0 where in, the choice of the image on the cake lies with the kids and is printed on using edible glazed sugar.

And absolutely why not have a cake as part of the birthday celebrations – as this may change during teens or once an adult – where the impact of sugar may be the deciding factor in whether a cake is being ordered or baked. (notwithstanding the countless healthier / sugarless options available today)

Irrespective of what the impact it has on my midriff, cakes and birthday celebrations go hand-in-hand in my household. The protagonist in this case being my son, who, religiously ensures that we celebrate every member’s birthday with the customary cake cutting. So across generations, we are now accustomed to the customary cake cutting and happy birthday singing which goes with the process. The fact that you may be on a diet does not hold any bargaining power in front of the child. Their own birthdays are naturally more elaborate with the current favourite superhero likely to find himself on the cake with all the kids looking at it with barely suppressed glee in their eyes as they decide which part to consume – this site is pure pleasure to watch.

And if you step back and think about it – we can certainly emulate some learnings from what we see with our kids – birthday cake is equal to celebration which equals celebrating life. So let’s not think cutting a cake is childlike but go out and order one when the special day arrives.

Battle for the TV remote

Parents, time for you to give up the battle for the TV remote in summer vacations!

I am sure this problem is not unique to me but possibly faced by families across the world. TV watching is an integral part of evenings for most families. Higher the family number, greater is the battle for the remote. Tastes and preferences vary with age and across family members. While men have a skew towards sports, women may lean towards soaps, family & drama, and for children, the first point of addiction is usually cartoons, edutainment and super-hero movies as they grow older.

Advancements in technology today have increased the number of screens we access during the day and have also given us options for the consumption of content. However, the simple pleasure of sitting together and catching up with the family cannot be replaced, even if it is as family hour over dinner or with TV. Kids, however, demand their exclusive TV time away from the family. If we succumb to this demand then we are only increasing their screen time.

Is there a way out? One possible solution could be that the family hour and the children TV time are clubbed together. The challenge is to break the grip of mindless and violent cartoons to loop in something more relevant and entertaining such as the new edutainment channel in India, DaVinci Learning. Having seen some of the shows in the evening with my son, I must say they offer a wide variety of informative content created in an captivating manner for kids and adults alike.

If this route does not work, the other solution could be fixed slots with a hard stop, where the children are allowed to watch channels such as DaVinci Learning for entertainment and educative learning. Hard stop is most definitely required as most kids learn early the power of “five minutes more” as they know the adult is likely to get distracted and the five minutes can easily become fifteen.

Yes, I do have a lot of experience of this debate as well. Either solution, mutually agreed upon, could work wonders in harbouring peace as against the battle for the remote.

Father – Son combine for Mother’s Day Surprise

Mother’s day is another reason for us to thank the mom’s. Each day is actually mother’s day

Yes, Mothers are indeed special, not only on Mother’s Day but 365 days a year. According to me #EveryDayIsMothersDay. The role they play in bringing up the children, managing the household and juggling between domestic and professional demands is probably un-parallel and the toughest in the world.

So this Mother’s day the boys in the house decided to give mom a special treat; a surprise by cooking dinner for the evening.

I do have a confession to make, it’s not the first time that I was cooking. I do cook occasionally, but the caveats are that the raw materials would be chopped and ready for use by the Master Chef, a.ka. ME. Like any celebrity chef (tongue-in-cheek), my prowess lies in mixing the ingredients and giving it the magic touch.

Since it was Mother’s Day the cook too had been given an off…so that meant that my son and I would have to do everything from scratch. Chopping and dicing are not necessarily my best traits in the kitchen and since we had planned the surprise there was no getting out of it.

So after freezing the menu, i.e. Kuchumber Salad, Bhunna Chicken (my style), Cucumber Raita along with Tandoori Rotis; my son and I took stock of the raw materials to set ourselves for the evening. Capsicum, Red and Yellow Paprika, Cabbage, Carrots, Cucumber, Onions, Tomatoes, Ginger, Garlic along with Boneless Chicken marinated in Curd were the raw materials identified to be used.

Now came the most boring and tough part according to me i.e. chopping and grinding. Here’s where technology came to the rescue in the form of Philips Onion Chopper. It is God sent.

Having washed and cut the vegetables for chopping, we plugged in the Philips Onion Chopper to use. All my son had to do was put in cut pieces of vegetables for the Kuchumber Salad in the chopper, and, lo and behold, finely chopped vegetables for the salad were ready. The consistency and size of the chopping was amazing and uniform across vegetables, i.e. carrots, cabbage, capsicum, red and yellow paprika were chopped squarely and fine. Same was the case with the cucumber.

We changed the blades for grinding the Onions and Ginger Garlic for the masala for the Chicken and were not disappointed. Extremely smooth and efficient with excellent consistency of paste is what we got courtesy the Philips Onion Chopper. My son felt extremely involved, motivated and most of all proud of his part of the program, as had it not been for the Philips Onion Chopper, he would not have been allowed to use a knife and chopping board at his young age.

Needless to say the tough part of cleaning post-use was also relatively simple and easy.

After the tough part of chopping and grinding was over, putting it all together into a mouth-watering, lip smacking meal for the Mrs. was left hand’s play for the Master Chef (tongue-in-cheek). Net-net, it was a great Mother’s Day Sunday evening where my son and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves thanks to the Philips Onion Chopper.

And as expected, we got a 12/10 for my cooking from the Mrs. and 100 on 10 for not creating a mess.
My son now wants this to be a weekly ritual…along with a contest thrown in…i.e. who can complete his task faster…..phew…..tough times ahead…:)

Making our kids future ready

It will be safe to assume that most parents will, within their means, try and give the best of everything to their children, be it schooling, exposure, sports, materialistic possessions or, most importantly, principles and values.

While parents will have their own inimitable style and experiences to share and dwell on, two values which according to me stand out are as follows:

Dare to be different i.e. not straight jacketed, treading on paths unknown and breaking stereotypes. Seeing the number of new and different kind of businesses surround us it is evident that there are a number of people who create their own paths. The other value of significant importance is the ability to share. In a hyper competitive world we are all busy trying to acquire, live and build upon our dreams. Focus is on achieving, achieving and achieving more. While we are on a roller coaster ride pursuing achievements, it is of utmost importance to keep in mind the lesser haves, particularly in the third world and developing countries.

Interestingly, I am seeing quite a few communication campaigns based on these two values on television, one of the leading brands being Surf Excel. The brand has taken an angle that “dirt is good” to communicate that nothing is wrong in getting your hands dirty for a righteous and kind purpose without worrying about “daag”. Additionally, the ad shows friends helping and supporting each other.

The seeds of sharing as well as making your own path have to be sown at a very early age. It is fairly easier for kids with siblings than single children. Typically, this begins with sharing toys and goodies like chocolates and sweets with each other at home. With age the circle gets wider and can extend to old books, clothes and games, etc. Through free play, interaction and trial and error children learn to rely on themselves and their own decisions.

Parents can lead by example to inculcate confidence in children so they do not hesitate in exploring their paths in life. In a hyper-competitive world, as parents, we can only hope for the best for our kids and ensure we provide them the right platform to make a success in life. It is equally important for us to not stress on achievements alone but to encourage the children to develop into well-rounded individuals who know how to stand for themselves as well as the art of giving back to the society they live in.

Link

March is spent under the influence of examination fever, especially for parents with children in higher classes, also for the kids themselves. Some children in primary school also have to go through the rigour of exams albeit just for grades at the end of the academic session.

After examination fever pales, the anxiety of results/grades and beginning of a new academic session rules. Post the hurrah or disappointment of the results comes the task of preparing to go back to school, ie. new class, new session and a new start.

The key here being “new”, that is uniforms, shoes, stationery and most importantly books and of course a different class with different subjects, new teachers and at times new friends in schools which have a policy of shuffling the children each academic year. Last Parents Teachers Meeting (PTM) of the academic year where results are shared is usually followed by parents with the kids in tow making a beeline for the stationery and or uniform shop. To avoid serpentine queues most schools would give a window of a week or a fortnight to stock up on the “new”.

This year a trend I noticed on social networking sites parents recycling old books and notebooks to be used as reference material. Brilliant initiative without a doubt, but is there a way out of the long queues to pick up the new stuff in school?

Yes, there are shops in markets that are authorised to sell certain school uniforms, there are always stationery shops with pre prepared book bundles for each grade as per syllabus and then there are the shoe shops brand franchisees to save the parents and children another trip to the school.
The bottom line in the school or market choice is the apparent lack of perceived convenience for parents in the whole process. Yes, this is how we have been procuring new uniform, books, shoes and stationery for the children in the beginning of each academic cycle and I guess are tuned to it.

With e-commerce booming and the rapid proliferation of smart phones it was only a matter of time before the marketers on such platforms recognised the opportunity in catering to this particular audience, which in sheer numbers is humongous.

So this year I decided to buck the routine and explore the online world. Most e.tailers have categories for schools, however, I came across an aggregator for just school in schoolkart which was a very pleasant and economical experience.

Replacement or new purchase now with the convenience of a click, thereby making going back to school only easier and more pleasant.

Shopping 2.0 – its about reverse mentoring by kids

Kids are likely to have their favorite heroes or heroines from the time they start hearing bedtime stories. With age and exposure to television, cartoon/animated characters come to the fore, depending upon the field of interest. Exposure to big banner movies is likely to add to the list of ever growing characters that can be imitated and aped by the little ones.

My 9-year old is no different, besides having a host of favorites cultivated through the TV-shows caught over the years, he also has a tendency to pick up seasonal fascinations, usually coinciding with the release of a movie.

This holiday season it is Star Wars. What this really means is that he had to see all the earlier sequels (and mind you there are quite a few!) in order to be up-to-date for the big day the movie was released. Watching sequels meant that a favorite character was also identified and role play and play acting began at home.

Luke Skywalker was the chosen one for him and I had to fill in as Darth Vader. A simulated fight sequel without the use of lightsabers and a mask for me would not have had the same effect.  My feeble attempts at making the props at home using rolled up calendars with colored paper just didn’t feel like Star Wars and the look of frustration and disappointment of not having to play proxy Star Wars was telling on his face. Thinking I knew it all, I went ahead and picked up a lightsaber and a Darth Vader mask which I believed would serve the purpose from the local market.

This proved to be my folly. His enthusiasm was damped on seeing my purchases as it came nowhere close to what he had imagined or desired.

Even though this fascination is likely to change with a new Spider Man or an Avengers release, I gave in to redeem my mistake and we trekked back down to the local market to return the purchase and to try and source better props. It was an exercise in futility as the quality and the choice available at the local shops was poor.

“Let’s buy it online,” was my son’s suggestion, who is super well-inducted into the online shopping space thanks to my wife’s nimble fingers.

I dutifully logged in once we reached home and Flipkart came to the rescue. It was, frankly, a relief to see the choices they had in different price bands and quality was very good. Having worked out the maths, which included a couple of months’ advance pocket money to fulfill the purchase, the order was placed on Flipkart. A participative exercised dominated by my son, who browsed and searched various options, studying each photo with the intensity of an x-ray technician, before zeroing in on his choice. A memorable experience indeed!

This wasn’t the first time I had ordered his favorite toys or animated characters online. Earlier, when he was younger, I would usually pick up the pulse and fascination for a character and surprise him on big occasions. However, now that he is growing up and shopping has evolved to a few clicks,involving him in the purchase decision, evaluating the various options, discussing budgets and need assessment only augers well for both the parties involved.

Kids are adept at adapting to the dynamic nature of technology and since online shopping is a reality and is here to stay, we can only imagine their increasing role in shopping. This fact has been wonderfully captured in Flipkart’s All India Baccha Party video which is a testimony to GenZ. https://youtu.be/WXW0WWeJ4kQ

 

#DellPCLiteracyDays – Early Adoption Of PC’s Has Advantages For GenZ

PCs are an integral part of growing up today and as parents,the sooner we start exposing our children to them (tablets/laptops) the better it will auger for the young impressionable minds.
An interactive panel discussion curated by Dell established that PC is a foundation device for creation and learning for individuals in its first parenting community outreach event#DELLPC Literacy Days campaign. The technology awareness initiative had a good mix of experts from the fields of both, technology and education offering practical and subjective perspective on the matter, based on their experience.
Children of today are technology natives and the proliferation of technology across all walks of life, be it personal or professional only means that they will be better equipped and will keep pace in the rapidly changing and competitive global environment.
In developed countries, the use of PCs as an accepted part of teaching in schools is well established. In developing countries, the use of PCs and other such devices may not be that wide spread. Some of the newer schools today are exposing kindergarten children to PCs and only using the new age devices to impart knowledge and education but we are still very far from digital devices being uniformly adopted by schools across the length and breadth of the country. For that to happen, the entire eco-system needs to change in the country and a grounds-up approach is required, where governments, parents, manufacturers, and teachers all work cohesively for faster incorporation of technology and devices in education. This does not mean that text books are unlikely to be made obsolete, but instead the two are likely to work hand in hand; with PCs offering a much greater research universe and acting as information aggregators.
While school-led technology- and device- based learning is likely to be a longer process involving numerous stakeholders, home-based interactions are sure to have a more immediate result. However, the parents must ensure the exposure is age-appropriate under supervision. a device can certainly not take the place of a friend or baby sitter.
Some Do’s:
1. Set up time and schedule the use of PC’s for homework or recreation and ensure cadence is maintained.
2. For slightly older kids discuss the road map of a particular project and nudge them gently to explore the journey themselves.
3. Ensure firewalls and site blockers are in place to prevent children reaching unwarranted content / sites inadvertently
4. Some of us may be technology nomads; hence investing some time in mastering or at least being comfortable with the use of PC will be highly beneficial.
Some Don’ts
1. I believe that books are not out-dated and there are numerous joys which come with them, so don’t throw them out of the window just yet.
2. Allowing the child a game on the tablet or PC can give us parents the much desired break at times but as far as possible don’t encourage it outside the agreed time and schedule of using devices
3. There is no substitute of outdoor physical activity so don’t let that fall of the radar

Simple ways to boost handwriting skills in children 

There was the Stone Age and then the Bronze Age… and it wouldn’t be wrong to call ours the tablet age! Writing, in the very near future, is likely to become a lost skill. This is particularly true for the ubiquitous corporate executive whose day starts and ends with smart appliances. Additionally, technological developments such as screen readers and speech recognition have already started reducing the need for writing as we know it.

This trend is now moving to schools and educational institutions in a big way. With an increasing number of educational institutes adopting technology during the children’s formative years, it is likely that tablets and computers may make the traditional pencil an antique and a collector’s item.

Honing the basic writing skill in children is as essential today as it was in our childhood. Some of the obvious negatives of an unformed hand are peer pressure, low grades in assignments and a general impact on confidence and personality.

Usually, the first exposure to writing for children begins with the use of crayons at home and is followed by pre-school, where elementary education of numbers and alphabets is imparted. Parents can do a lot to bolster the efforts of the school in helping children form a clear handwriting.

Take a look at some of these suggestions:

Posture and grip
Correct posture and a hard surface are equally important to ensure flow, consistency and neatness in writing. Discourage the use of cushions as support or the habit of writing on beds and other soft surfaces. Inculcate the need to sit on a proper chair and table to write on. Gripping the pencil or crayon correctly becomes the next step towards learning the art of writing.

Stationery
Getting the stationery right is critical. With fancy and expensive choices in leaded pencils, it is easy to get swayed. The right size in terms of length and thickness is important as children need to grip the pencil correctly. It shouldn’t be too long as that may put them at the risk of poking themselves.

Use of dots to begin the journey
Dotted alphabets, shapes and numbers are very effective in introducing children to the basic flow of writing alphabets and numbers correctly. Start the learning journey with dotting alphabets, shapes and numbers on a piece of paper or notebook and encouraging children to connect the dots. Published books too, are available to make your task easy.

Practice makes perfect
Important to supplement the effort made in teaching our young ones to write through the use of stencilled practice books. Encouraging them to write out a page each day will not only keep them engaged but also ensure that learning and practice of writing goes hand in hand.

Enrol in arts
Sketching and drawing is intrinsically tied with writing skills. Focus on posture, grip and the right motion of the hands in art also impacts handwriting. It is a good way to strengthen the writing ability in young ones.

This article was first published on www.parentcircle.com

Survival kit for single dads

My experiences in raising my son single handedly are limited to the periods when my wife is travelling for work. It is then that one (read a father) recognizes the true value of the effort put in by mothers in raising children.
So, apart from missing the bus on day one and forgetting the lunch coupons and water bottles on another, it was not a complete disaster. My son did give me an 8/10 for looking after him whilst mom was traveling. I will only strive harder to get to the coveted 10/10.

Going by my experiences here is my survival kits for single dads:

1. Get your basics in place: Be organised and pre-prepared about food, medicines, essential clothing, toys, books… This will ensure you have ready access to what you need at a minute’s notice, especially if the need of the hour is to distract a tired and fussy child at the end of the day.

2. List of emergency numbers: Have all the important numbers, such as that of a doctor, grandparents, babysitters, other parents, and teachers, posted on the fridge, in your mobile phone, on your office table… wherever they are likely to be just a glance away. You would need them to coordinate pick-up and drop-off, homework, play dates… and save a lot of time this way.

3. Discuss the schedule with your child: Just as it is important to plan your day, it is important to help your child plan his/her day. Once you discuss and mutually express expectations about time to study, play, watch TV and go to bed, it is easy to close key deliverables for the day. You do need to adhere to the schedule and help the child adhere to his. This way you are also setting a great example for the future.

4. Recap the day: Make time to have a ‘How was your day?’ chat with your child. Let her share her little ups and downs; comfort her, laugh with her and where required, give advice. Share a few highlights of your day. Just bond. This is also a good way to keep tabs on incidents of bullying, etc. that may take place on the playground or in the school.

5. Encourage your child to be independent: Give him the confidence to do small things independently, be it just buying a chocolate from the corner store or describing his symptoms to the doctor. It lets a child become self-reliant and confident as he grows and faces various curved balls thrown by life.

This article was first published on http://www.parentcircle.com

Spare the rod and spoil the child

Fundamentally, for me, hitting children is a strict no-no. However, there is a school of thought which believes that sparing the “rod” in the initial years will lead to spoiling the child. I am not proposing that believers in using the “rod” only follow this approach to discipline the child but am saying that there is an inclination to use the “rod” more frequently, depending upon the situation at hand.

Not taking a professional qualified view on this approach, but the fact that one is inclined to use force to discipline the child could result in the following situations:
1. The child becoming timid and scared on account of the fear of the severe reprimand he or she is likely to receive in case they do a serious enough offence.
2. Conversely, the worst can happen, i.e. they can become obtuse and indifferent to the beating that they get there by becoming a possible rebel.

In my opinion both the scenarios described above are not desirable at all. Infact, a more mature and effective approach would be to counsel the child on the mistake that he or she has done and how they should learn from this, recognize the consequences of their actions and hopefully not repeat it. I feel that frequent, unrequited use of the “rod” is akin to disrespecting the child – their personality and individuality. It is also a shortcut that people in authority choose to take to get their point across or job done.

However, I feel the conversational approach is better in the long-term for all the relationships involved. Depending upon the seriousness of the situation, at times a raised voice along with stern looks can be equally effective in sending home the message. Yes, sometimes some cooling off time could also be required (for both parties involved) wherein the child should introspect and recognize the results of their action and learn from them and the adult and the authority figure should control/compose themselves.

Net-net using the “rod” is not going to be any more effective than a counseling approach, rather by not using this approach, you are more likely to ensure that your child will grow into a confident self-assured individual.