It’s that time of the year again. Noses are running and eyes are watering. Throats are hurting and heads are spinning. Purifiers have been turned on, but our children are still coughing. We (mothers in Delhi NCR)… More
In Nov 2017, after the Diwali break, I got a frantic call from another distraught parent…Our children are suffering because of the unhealthy, polluted air. Can we request their school to put purifiers in the classrooms? Can’t we do anything about it?
It struck me then that the future of our children – and their health – lies in their own hands. It can become brighter only if they change and if WE (the parents) change. If we want to protect ourselves, WE need to protect our environment first. If we want to see the bright stars and blue skies in our cities again, WE (the citizens) need to change our everyday habits. And thus, City of Stars was conceived!
I started writing stories linked to air and other forms of environmental pollution in the form of real-life conversations between a child and his parents. I conceptualised the book as a calendar as I want the stories to be READ over and over again throughout the year to have a long lasting impact.
I designed the EXPERIENCE pages along with the stories to make children fall in love with stars and nature, become more aware of their environmental conditions, experience the stories themselves and imbibe the learnings to bring about a real behavioural change.
The character of Abdu is inspired by my four-year-old son, to whom I have been reading these stories, while writing and rewriting them over the past one year. I hope this experiential calendar book will introduce all the little Abdus across the world to the small and big lifestyle changes for a GREENER, CLEANER and HEALTHIER planet!
Know more and order your copy here
“Mumma, I don’t want to eat dal. I just don’t like it. But, dal is good for you. I don’t want it…” As soon as my son joined big kid school at 3.5 years he started having many such food battles with me. Obviously, he wanted to eat yummy candies and chips and many other such packaged and processed food items that other children at school were eating every other day. “Chips and candies are yummy, but not good for your tummy.” I would often come up with such phrases to convince him, but all in vain.
And to top it all, when he turned 4 there was a fuss about not wanting to eat on his own even though the boy was growing up. And when I heard other moms pulling their hair about their kids not wanting to eat vegetables or fruits or refusing to eat without being handed a tablet or turning on the TV, I became more determined to resolve the new challenge.
After doing further research, I realised being fat was often considered healthy, even if the child lacked energy to run and play sports. If a child was lean, and though energetic, the moms were often told how unhealthy their kid is. Many mothers also often had battles with their parents over whether to feed their children biscuits or sweets as even high amount of sugar was often considered healthy.
When I observed many toddlers same as my son’s age, always wanting to grab food menus from their parents in restaurants, I decided to give the food project the shape of a menu card. Seeing children’s excitement with smileys received at school in different colours, the food in the menu and other eating habits were classified in 3 categories – red smiley apple, yellow neutral apple and black sad apple. Why apple? Because an apple a day keeps the doctor away!
And voila the apple food game was born! To help many other moms avoid food battles with their toddlers, little children and other family members. To instill healthy eating habits (not only what they eat, but also how they eat) in them from a young age. To help them be active and have enough energy to play their favourite sports for the rest of their life!
Know more about the Apple Food Game and order your copy here
Order your copy of the Little Collector’s Passport here
This year has been special in ways more than one. I travelled extensively with my little boy– from quaint hills of Uttaranchal to cities of Japan. Wherever I went I always found my toddler’s pockets full of travel tokens, from coins and train tickets to beautiful flowers and leaves. Sadly for both him and me, many of these tokens never came back home. He lost his precious belongings and I lost my travel memories.
Traveling with my little boy was fun, but I often had to find creative ways to keep him engaged during flights or trains, while waiting for meals at restaurants or during rest periods in hotels. And to top it all there were fights between father and son at the airports over possession of son’s passport, now that son had clearly started recognising his name and face on it.
Thus, Little Collector’s Passport was born. For all little travellers who love collecting things. For parents, who love traveling (within and/or outside India), to make their travel more memorable and enjoyable by keeping their little ones engaged in collecting and recording things throughout their journey in a document they treasure.
Sticker book with flags of 48 countries across the world is included to make parents learn about flags of different countries along with their children. To keep alive the dying culture of stamp collection, sticker stamps of 48 countries are also included to learn about symbols of different countries and get motivated to explore unexplored territories.
Besides country flags and stamps, multiple interactions, from sticking to pasting, colouring, drawing and writing, have been built into the passport design it to make it more engaging and relevant for kids of different age groups. Finding a colour that would appeal to both genders was an equally tough task. To avoid the dichotomy of pink versus blue, finally settled on a purple colour for the cover. While the inside leaflets are light blue to retain the look of an original passport, in many places dabs of pink have been used to serve as a reminder that pink is not only for girls.
And it may just keep your kids off screens and be willing to try out new foods for the time they are busy collecting and recording things they loved!
“Cheque 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!
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?”
Loud 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 mini-book for next Lit-Tales 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, post-monsoon, 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 !
Order your copy of Travel Diary here
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
To help your child fall in love with nature, order your copy of My Gulmohar Tree here.
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 and star shaped centre, which made me appreciate its beauty a tad bit more.
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.