The second week of March this year had me almost at my wit’s end – my children’s exams were cancelled, our much-awaited vacation to Belgium was stalled and my husband was stuck in Brussels indefinitely due to the flight ban. The media was saying the Covid 19 lockdown would be the new normal for the near future. And my first thought was how would I keep my young, energetic boys engaged at home?
With summer vacations just round the corner and the fact that travel and vacation plans are likely to remain cancelled, the annual holidays are definitely going to be an extension of the lockdown days for both parents and children. For all of you wondering how to keep your little ones occupied during the vacations, we have created a list of things that are fun, interesting and informative. Vacations stuck at home will be less daunting with all of these options:
READING AND STORY TIME
There has been no better time than this lockdown to inculcate the reading habit in your kids. Amar Chitra Katha was one of the first to offer free access to its ever-popular Tinkle magazine and over 350 Amar Chitra Katha comics.
Tulika books and Karadi Tales have been hosting enjoyable story telling sessions with the help of authors and master story narrators. Integrated with simple art and crafting activities, these have been very popular with children.
“We started with online story telling events and then organised online story fests. Our last one was based on the theme, ‘Tales from Around the World’ where over five days, five stories from five different continents were covered” say Rajavel Sundar and Avanti Natarajan, Co-Founders, LilTrails, Channai.
Bangalore's famous theatre Ranga Shankara too has taken its famous storytelling programme, ‘The Little Cloud’ online. About 22 stories in six languages by 15 of the country's best theatre artists are being streamed on their YouTube channel. Replete with puppets, props and live music, these stories that span mythology, history and folk are sure a feast for children.
COOKING WITH CHILDREN
A great way to bond with children during this period is to involve
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them in your daily kitchen activities. From the simple tasks of meal planning to vegetable sorting to teaching them basics of cutting and peeling, kids can be engaged in several ways. Get children to unleash their creativity by teaching them simple, flameless recipes like salads, sandwiches, fruit chaats and no-bake desserts. Parents can check Sanjeev Kapoor’s website for more ideas.
“We recently organised an event called “Junior master chef” wherein kids from the age of 6 were asked to make a dish at home and post a 1-minute video for us. We were bowled over by not only their cooking skills but also their presentation, video making and editing abilities. Some kids even wore chef dresses while sharing their recipes!” says Neeru Bansal, founder Shagun Creations, Bathinda.
CONNECT WITH NATURE
Birding is arguably one of the most fulfilling hobby activities for children and adults alike. With reduced noise and vehicle pollution levels, there has never been a better time to spot those elusive birds and animals. Hence, it is the most appropriate time to introduce children to balcony birding, bird calls, bird behaviour etc. “Early Bird's Lockdown Series for children have ranged from sessions on common bird species, to art-based sessions, story-telling, and even a non-competitive quiz! A large number of children have been attending our sessions. We have also conducted sketching and poetry-writing activities related to birds, which children have really enjoyed, and have shared their artwork and poems with us. In fact, we got a comment from one parent that their child has never before been so engrossed and sat in one place for a full hour!” says Garima Bhatia, project manager, Early Bird, a Nature Conservation Foundation initiative which aims to get young people interested in and excited about Indian birds. The best part is that all their sessions are recorded so that they can be watched at a later time too.
FB and Instagram: @earlybirdindia
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LEARNING AND SELF-STUDY
With schools being closed abruptly and exams cancelled, the lockdown can be productively used by children to continue their studies. While CBSE has made its books available online, organisations like Scholastic India have been organizing webinars on subjects like Math Pedagogy.
A novel way of staying updated with history, science and culture is by taking virtual museum tours. While Google Arts & Culture has tied up with almost 2500 museums and galleries all over the world, even The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has opened up virtual tours of select exhibits and areas. Check here for more details.
Community learning through Whatsapp quizzes is fast gaining popularity. “There is a quiz we host daily at 5pm via the Joinmyquiz app. Participants are a part of a Whatsapp group and anyone who has the quiz code can join from anywhere. The questions for children range from analytics, science, general knowledge, wildlife and even mythology,” says Mahesh Satyanarayana, an avid quizmaster from Bangalore whose daily quiz is attracting attention even from adults!
For younger children schools like EuroKids International have made their preschool activities go online. “We have been conducting classes online since mid-March and children have really begun to enjoy this as the teachers make it fun by integrating it with storytelling and singing. Lesson plans are also sent regularly which involve home based activities including art, gardening, developing gross and fine motor skills,” says Alefia Poonawala of Creative Kids playschool Mumbai.
MASTERING THE ART OF MAGIC
Magic tricks have always aroused the curiosity of kids. For self-learners, there are umpteen tutorials and YouTube videos on the net that serve as great guides. “We conduct the Junior Magic course every weekend. It is a specially curated two-day course, for children aged 7-12 who perform magic with items easily available at home. Through this course we focus on improving creativity, dexterity, stage presence, communication and confidence of children. The idea is for children to have magic on their finger tips and standout in a crowd” says Nikhil Raj, Mystic Magician and Secretary of the Institute of Magic and Allied Arts.
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Getting kids involved in gardening is a great way to instil a sense of appreciation and love for nature in them. Growing microgreens like methi, herbs like mint, basil etc are an ideal way to introduce them to healthy eating. Growing succulents, painting existing pots, transforming baskets to planters and basic terrarium making are some other popular tasks to keep children engaged constructively.
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It is imperative that children keep themselves physically active during this lockdown. Take time and make them aware of sanitizing and social distancing practices as part of their fitness activity. “We have been conducting coach-led live strength training for kids, animal walks, online fun activities, dance fitness, functional training sessions and regular contests. Kleinetics is striving to transform their quarantine days to ‘QuaranTRAIN’ times,” says Dr. Tejal Kanwar, gynaecologist and founder of Kleinetics, a popular kids’ fitness system built around game play.
While the options are aplenty, it is key to realise that children should enjoy what they do and once in a while it helps that they follow their heart rather than a structured routine. So, do encourage your child to pick that paint brush or a crochet needle or learn a macramé knot or just indulge in some star gazing on the terrace or balcony.
Below are some resources:
Stargazing: Closed FB group: star gazing and astronomy; send in a request to join
Kinderpass: a website for parents and small children
Important still is to ensure that parents spend quality time with their little ones and keep that bonding strong. “I think this is a great time for parents as they can strengthen the emotional bond with their children. During this lockdown I have been calling up parents casually and enquiring about how effectively they are bonding with their kids which is key to their overall emotional development” says Ruby Jacob of Dolls House playschool, Kottayam.
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