Cheque Mate – The Indian Game of Strategy, Honour, and Pride

IMG_20170829_144833Cheque Mate” – two words I grew up hearing more often than not in my Indian household while keenly observing my father and brother play the game of strategy together. The honour and pride I would see on their faces while saying these words, would always make me feel this game was special. But probably like many other Indian girls growing up in the 80s and 90s, I was only a silent spectator of the game for years together. It was assumed, as it was for many other games or sports in India, that women do not like playing chess!

30 years later when I finally got a chance to say cheque mate while playing the game on a floor with pawns almost as high as my knees, I could not help but grin with delight. I always knew there was more to the game of strategy when I saw the design being replicated on streets and floors in different nooks of the world. Despite the controversy around its place of origin (India or China), I had no qualms about representing the game on the cover of my next Lit Tale – My Indian Games.

Most children can be taught to play chess when they are about 5 or 6 years old, but my 3 year old and I had a lot of fun pasting the white squares in alternate positions while creating the game. While running his little fingers up and down, over and over again, on the “alternate” white squares, he discovered that numbers do not necessarily follow the sequence of “1,2,3…”.

The design of the game can be used to explain many different number related concepts to kids in a fun way. My greatest joy though will come the day I am able to inspire young boys and girls to create and play this game of honour, strategy, and pride with their parents to preserve the culture of indoor games and enjoy some great bonding time together!

 

 

Big, Bigger, Biggest – A Tale of Spiders in Himalayan Holiday

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This long weekend, marking India’s 70th independence, we decided to take a nature break by traveling to the quaint town of Ramgarh, nested in the hills of Uttaranchal, to admire the beauty of very own country.  “When will go back to India? This is India, every vacation you take is not abroad.” I overheard a couple talking to their 5 year old son as soon as we reached our destination. I smiled, perhaps the child was as mesmerised by the beauty, purity, and quietness of our surroundings, where the great Indian poet, Rabindra Nath Tagore, often found inspiration for his poems.

As for my own son, I tried to show him a variety of birds & butterflies, flowers & fruits growing on trees during the nature walk we took while waiting for check-in. But it was a creepy crawly creature that caught my toddler’s fancy. “Mumma look,” he said pointing to the lamp post next to the bed when we walked into our cottage room. While he was fascinated by the creature with 8 long legs spread around in a circle, I almost screamed as I had never seen spider that big (the size of my hand) in my life.

From the next day onwards it was spiders everywhere, for my son and me. In the bathrooms, in the car doors, behind the food casseroles in the dining room. So one fine night, when he was fussing over dinner and I did not have access to our usual eating aids (books, everyday objects) as well as could not remember the famous nursery rhyme Incy Wincy Spider, I was left with no choice but to coin a tale of spiders.

Come I will tell you a tale of 3 spiders. Once there was a big spider, bigger spider, and biggest spider. Big spider was hiding in the knobs of food casseroles, bigger were hiding in the paper airplanes hanging from the roof of the dining hall, and biggest in the circle in the middle of the fan that you see revolving on this wall. And the story went on and on for next 20 mins, with the spiders played together, danced together, joining their big long hands.

At the end it not only turned out to be a story which my toddler wanted to hear over and and over again, but also the easiest way to explain him the concept of relative sizes – big, bigger, biggest.  While playing the traditional “Akkad Bakkad” game of counting fingers during the train ride back home, I was pleasantly surprised when he asked “Mumma, which is biggest?”

 

 

 

Time and TimePieces

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I have been fascinated with the concept of time and timepieces since I was a child. Partly because I grew up watching clocks and watches more than 50 times in a day thanks to my extremely time conscious father. But also because I loved gazing at the sun, stars, and moon and playing with shadows, all phenomena governed by time.
So when I stumbled upon the astronomical clock while walking on the streets in a recent trip to Prague, I was filled with awe and delight. Climbing up the tower to purchase a similar looking clock for home was more enjoyable than getting a bird’s eye view of the city.
The greatest joy though came when I realised that some of the most interesting facts linked to the animals are related to the concept of time while designing the next book on African Safari.
Here was my opportunity to redesign the clock finally! To help little ones understand that there are 24 hours in a day, though most clocks and watches they see around show 12 hours, the difference between day and night hours, and how different eating, drinking, and sleeping, patterns of animals are from us humans.

The City of Five Seasons – Unlearning the Learning

IMG_20170629_100039Loud thunder, dark skies, cool breeze, and rain drops lining up on rails. As I sit on my balcony chair, admiring the sight, sound, and feel of the first rain of the monsoon season, I experience the same inner happiness as I do every year reminiscing the various small joy moments – from making and sailing paper boats, jumping barefoot with closest friends, to sipping hot tea and relishing pakodas made by mother and having a drink and larger life conversations with my partner.

I grew up and spent more than 30 years of my life in Delhi, a city of five seasons, but would always think of seasons as primarily four (spring, summer, autumn, winter) as taught in my school text book. Thanks to the phrase “Four Seasons” coming to represent the urban fabric – from hotels to apartments, it became so deeply engrained in my sub conscious that I never really thought of questioning it even when I grew up. It was not until recently, when  I started designing the seasons book for next Lit-Creations on nature theme and started representing seasons page by page in the context of changes in trees, that I consciously realised that there are actually five seasons in my city- spring, summer, monsoon, autumn, and winter.

Learning they say is a life long process. While I continue to enjoy learning new things (from trees and flowers in my city to birds and animals of different countries) as I design for nurturing the joy of learning among little ones, greatest joy comes from unlearning the learning !

 

 

 

Clean Roads, Bullet Trains, and Cherry Blossoms

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My son’s 5th birthday was approaching and I was looking to buy him something special, different from the regular cars and toys that children usually get as gifts, most of which don’t even keep them engaged for more than a day or two. When I got to know about the Travel Diary by LitJoys just a day before his birthday, I had a feeling he would love it as he is a very curious and creative child, and has been exposed to trivia about other countries of the world through his school, our own travels and the many sports that he watches occasionally with his dad. I bought the one on Japan as his last international trip was to Japan and I thought that would make it easier to get him initiated. Also, I was keen to see how he creatively expressed his observations of the country.

On the morning of his birthday, we woke him up with our room nicely decorated and the Travel Diary nicely gift-wrapped. I still remember the cute smile on his face and the expression of joy on unwrapping it! He was thrilled to see the Travel Diary on his favourite country – Japan! Ever since, we’ve been using it as a medium to have some joyfully creative and informative conversations while putting together a beautiful memoir of our Japan trip, albeit a year after the actual travel 🙂

I have no qualms in admitting that while he played with most of his birthday gifts only once or twice, he has been working on his his Travel Diary with me almost every day since the last two weeks. In fact he is enjoying it more than riding the battery operated Jeep, a gift that he chose on his own. There were days when he would ask “can we do page no. 6?” as soon as he woke up in the morning and there were days when he would try to buy more time before bedtime to work on it. So much so, that finally I had to negotiate two time slots with him in a day, given that I also have to attend to my 5 month old baby!

What my son loves the most about the Travel Diary is the craft work. I think he finds it immensely fascinating! Each and every page that we create is HIS expression. There is no template that forces him to think or present his thoughts in a certain way, and I think that’s something that excites children the most. Also, through LitJoy’s Travel Diary we both get a chance to relive our travel memories and have some very interesting conversations, which we probably missed while we were there last year! It gives him an opportunity to ask all sort of interesting questions and discuss larger life concepts (why is monkey in a cage in a zoo and not on the trees?). Finally, what comes out as the output is his own interpretation of his travel experience – from the Mount Fuji he visited in the super fast bullet train to the extremely clean roads he walked on, while observing the breathtaking cherry blossom flowers.

As for me, I love the fact that it provides me an opportunity to have those constructive and creative conversations with my child, which are so rare in our faced paced lives! I also liked the additional knowledge I gained while making the diary. I did not know that the national bird of Japan is the Green Pheasant and looks like the Peacock of India. I instantly Googled it to get to know more about it.

The beauty of making the diary is that it provides a very engaging medium to all of us to spend time together as a family. I cannot delegate this to anyone else, except my own husband maybe, and that’s something that I am very happy about 🙂

– Priyanka Jaitly, mother of a 5 year old son

Orange – The Colour of Indian Summer

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Orange is a colour that usually one associates with fall colours that we do not have the privilege of viewing in India. But for me and my little one it has become the colour that brings joy to our hot Indian Summer as we rediscover our love for nature while admiring the beautiful orange flowers of Gulmohar trees lining up the streets and parks of our city and get inspired to redesign the nature book on our favourite tree.

Growing up in Delhi surviving the peak summer month of June has always been hard. The soaring temperatures make it next to impossible to step out during the day and even the evenings are more often than not spent in the pools or indoors. To avoid feeling of being trapped and generally depression that sets in the mood, most people have started escaping the city for longer periods of time.

But one fine day when my son brought home the bright orange flower that had fallen from a Gulmohar tree in the park, I could not help appreciating the beauty of Indian Summer. Suddenly all childhood memories of admiring the tree, which stood only 3 feet distance from my bedroom window, every summer when it starts blooming with bright orange flowers came flashing back. Looking at my son’s curiosity for the same tree, I was inspired to redesign the nature book on my favourite tree.

Despite the relentless heat, every evening we went to the park to count and collect some fallen leaves and flowers of the tree. We pasted a picture of the tree on the cover page of the book and adorned it with its flowers & leaves, sticks, and stones – all collected from the park. While the son enjoyed pasting alternate dals (orange and brown), sprinkling and blowing the orange saw dust while writing the name of the tree was as a lot more fun.

As for me I suddenly realised why I grew up to fall in love with the colour orange as it adorned the walls of my house and reflected in many of my personal belongings from shoes to handbags. For the first time, I also took notice that the orange flower of the Gulmohar has a white streaked petal in the middle, which made me appreciate its beauty a tad bit more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GP for Giant Panda , Golden Parakeet and Gurgaon Police – The Scrabble of Words

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It was Day 1 of son’s pre school summer holidays after coming back from vacation. I had not even finished unpacking and he started to pull curtains of the living room out of boredom. I had decided to not enroll him in any summer camp for reasons more than one. So I took him to my work drawer and made him select an animal and bird from the list of photographs from my latest Travel Diaries workshop. It was the Golden Parakeet and the Giant Panda that caught his fancy.

The initial intent was to only draw the bird and the animal and do some painting along with the flags of country they belong to. When I realised the names share the same alphabets G & P, I thought it was an excellent opportunity to also teach him some new alphabets. All the more because it aligned with my philosophy of not learning alphabets in a sequential order, the first two alphabets he learned were M for Mumma and E for Ekta.

Inspired by the designs of my books, we brought out some bindis and dals to craft the alphabets to help him further enhance his fine motors skills, but also ensure alphabet recognition.  It took him 5 days to complete them bit by bit, a true test of patience both for him and me. But at the end when he learnt to say new words that are not a part of his usual vocabulary – P for Parakeet, G for Giant and started recognising and pointing these letters in numbers plates of cars and sign boards, the effort seemed worth it. I was also happy to hear a new slogan GP GP as I was bored of listening to ABCDEFG…song over and over again.

The greatest joy though came when we coined the word guessing game starting with initials of our new slogan, GP for Grand Parents, GP for Gurgaon Police! And just like that he learned two new concepts, the city we live in and the folks who discipline our city. But I could not think of any other phrase that has GP as its initials. And suddenly all the memories of playing Scrabble as a child came flashing back.

The son is not even 3 yet, but I am very inspired to buy the game and play with him. It may help him further with alphabet recognition or learn new words and concepts, but more importantly, will be another joyful way of spending time together as it brings back cherished childhood memories.

 

 

Lit-Tales

Lit Tales are real life stories based in different parts of the world that you and your little ones can read, experience, and create together using everyday and natural materials – to imbibe new behaviours, enjoy constructive conversations, and learn about new contexts and cultures together as a family.

Designed for Children Across Age Groups (3 to 7 years)

Categorised based on interests and passions of both children and parents

Travel . Nature. Animals. Underwater. Sports/Games. Outer space. Music. Dance. Food. Culture.

includes props designed based on understanding of natural behaviours and psychology of children 

  1. Printed story book to read and experience a theme based tale
  2. Custom designed book for creating theme based story and related concepts using everyday and natural materials.                                                                                        The calendar format of the customised book allows display of different concept pages to ensure continuous learning and greater retention of the learning concepts
  3. Cards for inventing your own stories based on interesting facts about key topic areas
  • Explain learning concepts to your child in a fun and innovative way
  • Imbibe new behaviours (e.g., interaction with nature, love for eating greens )
  • Enhance key skills  (attention to detail, observation and visual perception, fine motor skills, and increased attention span)
  • Encourage creative thinking and build aesthetic sensibility at a young age
through READ, EXPERIENCE & CREATE Lit Tales

READ

  • Real life stories around the world
  • New and interesting facts linked to different topics

EXPERIENCE

  • Key concepts linked to everyday life (e.g., changes in trees in different seasons)

CREATE

  • Key concepts and facts in an innovative form for better retention

 

Travel Diaries

FINAL FB INVITE

This summer before you take off or plan your next holiday to explore another country, come and bond as a family, learn about national and cultural symbols of 18 different countries across the world, and build a travel story of your own to enrich the holiday experience in a Lit – Bonding family experiential learning workshop.

Each child will experience a travel story, build his/her own Travel Diary on a particular country and get to make new friends along the journey along with their parents, through a combination of group games and individual creative activities during the workshop. Your child and you can continue to create the Travel Diary at home during summer break to enrich the learning process.

USA . Canada. Mexico. Brazil . Peru. Iceland . Russia . Holland . Tanzania . Morocco . South Africa . Vietnam . Japan . China. Thailand. Turkey . Australia . New Zealand

Workshop 1: May 14th, 2017, Exotica Condominiums, Gurgaon

“This was our second workshop with Litjoys and was truly fantastic as well.
My 3 year old and I had a great time. We love to travel with our toddler and want her to appreciate and marvel at the world around u and wanted her to experience the diversity around us. Starting from the diverse group for the workshop, kids of various ages and parents from different walks of life to the diverse animals and birds of different countries! This workshop achieved just that, helped her appreciate the diverse countries, their culture, the flora and fauna and even the difference in climate through fun and engaging activities!”

– Mother of a 3.5 year old

Blue Spiders & Yellow Cobwebs

20161005_184204 (1)I was visiting my sister in the States and it was just one of those days when the children had gone berserk. TV, the quintessential baby sitter/soother, was denied to them. To punish us, as it were, they soon laid the backyard-and each other-to wasteWe didn’t know how to save the plants, tables and chairs along with everything in the yard from complete destruction. And then, we saw chalks. All at once, the ground came alive with stories about pink crocodiles wearing braces, blue spiders, and yellow cobwebs. And then, hopscotch! We drew awfully crooked lines on the floor. But oh! how the kids played the game in utter excitement. Together, involved in the buzz. 

Hop scotch part 2For the adults, (parents and grandparents) a long-forgotten part of childhood had come bustling back. As for the kids, they had never known this game, busy as they are with trips to the park, riding kiddie cars or mini quads, and worse, videos (educational as they may be). All those rules, the hopping and jumping with one leg, throwing the stone in the right rectangle and identifying the right number, missing the mark, thrilled the little darlings. In between it all, someone’s sprinklers came on and of course, created puddles. How could the tots resist jumping in them?

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All in a short while, we managed to turn screaming banshees into human children who were squealing with delight and enthusiasm. For a change, the adults hadn’t been bystanders watching the kids play; they had become part of the gang, enjoying just as much. Clearly, the charms of a bygone era engulfed us all and left us feeling bonded in an experience full of fun, laughter, and learning.  

– Dr. Nidhi Sharma, mother of a 2.5 year old daughter