Little Abdu’s favourite toy was the alphabet train puzzle. He loved putting the pieces together – like a train. He also found joy in matching the alphabets to images and learning words written on the pieces.
One night, when his Mumma was too drained to have a full-blown reading session, she found a new way to bond and make him learn language. She asked Abdu to look around for things in the room and identify words linked to the different alphabets. While he did not want to stop playing the guessing game, he was happiest to know that his Mumma’s favourite thing in the room started with the letter A.
The session delayed his bedtime, but his Mumma was still happy. She had discovered a fun way to keep him engaged without toys, in or outside of home…and to help him OBSERVE, THINK and CONNECT.
Janamashtmi, the birth day of Lord Krishna, brings back a vivid and happy childhood memory of spending hours creating arts scenes from his life in the front verandah (porch) of houses with neighbourhood friends across age groups. While this tradition has died over the years in India like many others which involve “real play” with other kids, I decided to indulge in an act of art creation with my son to relive the memory and keep him engaged on his day off from school. His existing love for vehicles, our recent trip to Kerela where he made merry on the boat, and, more importantly, depiction of boat in most art scenes of Krishna, made me choose the vehicle for our first act of joint creation.
To begin with, I encouraged him to empty out the craft items created out of everyday objects from a cardboard box and hunt for coloured matchsticks as they would fit well in the form and help him learn a new shape – rectangle. While he excitedly started handing the sticks one by one to me for pasting calling out yellow rectangle, orange rectangle, the joy lasted only for 10 sticks. Soon after he started climbing on the cardboard box to pull a nearby lamp, taking on the naughty child avatar of Krishna.
To distract him from his mischievous acts, I asked him to get some atta (round wheat ball) from the refrigerator. Though he loved the opportunity of rolling it on the chakla (wooden board) with belan (round implement used to make chapatis) and tracing the shape of letter b (for boat) with his black magnet, he found greater joy in picking the tiny black dals and sticking them one by one with his fingers in the b shaped cavity created by the object.
Surprised and delighted at seeing him enjoy getting his hands messy, I encouraged him to complete the boat creation by dipping the sticks in fevicol instead of handing them clean. To add a finishing touch, we pasted a big rectangle (ice cream stick) in the middle inspired by the cover image on Oliver Jeffer’s Lost and Found and his love for umbrella. When I checked the time at the end, it had been more than an hour – the longest he had been engaged in a particular activity, but perhaps it would have been more fun and lasted longer if there were other kids involved in the creation.
I have been fascinated with handbags since I was a child (have a collection of different colours, sizes, and shapes), and as genes would have it so is my one and a half year old daughter. One evening, when I walked in extremely tired after a long day at work, I just dropped my bag open on the chair for a quick trip to the washroom. My daughter, who was apparently busy playing with clay with her nanny, didn’t miss this opportunity of exploring and within seconds everything from the bag was out on the floor. When I returned and looked at the scene it appeared as if the house had been ransacked. Completely oblivious to the mess she had created, my daughter though was curiously staring and looking at every booty item she managed to grab.
It struck me then that it was a fantastic opportunity to make her learn a few new words. Besides naming all the items in the bag for her, I started discussing their application and use to make her remember the words. We had been 10 mins into this exercise and she now knew words like perfume, sanitizer , pen, coins and ATM slips J. There hasn’t been a party since then when she hasn’t asked me to apply some perfume on her and every time we are eating out she asks me to apply some sanitizer on her hand as the words and the applications have stuck in her mind.
– Supriya Uppal Kumar, mother of 19 month old daughter
Those of us who believe that our little children can learn language by listening to rhymes on television, mobile phones, or ipads, need to rethink again. In her TED talk “The Linguistic Genius of Babies” Dr. Kuhl, who has been internationally recognized for her research on early language and brain development, emphasises that nurturing interactions with caregivers is more valuable to babies’ early language development than interfacing with technology.
Based on a research study, Kuhl states that young babies cannot learn language from television or other screens and it is necessary for babies to have lots of face-to-face interaction to learn how to talk. Kuhl’s team exposed 9 month old American babies to Mandarin in various forms of in-person interactions with native Mandarin speakers vs. audiovisual or audio recordings of these speakers. They looked at the impact of this exposure on the babies’ ability to make Mandarin phonetic contrasts at 10-12 months of age. While twelve laboratory visits featuring in-person interactions with the native Mandarin speakers were sufficient to teach American and Taiwanese babies to distinguish the Mandarin sounds, the same number of lab visits featuring the audiovisual or audio recordings made no impact.
As I was concerned that 4 year old son was not learning phonics at school, I tried to teach him the concept at home. After trying hard for two consecutive days, I sat back and gave the whole exercise a concentrated thought. With his lack of interest in anything that involves sitting and listening, I knew I had to make the exercise more interesting for him.
With inputs from my husband, I came up with the ‘Things to Phonics’ activity. I chose the big size letters from his play mat like L, H, E, F, T, A, I, P , which he has been taught in his school and laid them on the floor. I then collected a set of household objects that start from these letters like ladder, hat, hanger, egg, flower, tomato, apple, ink pad, pen, pencil and heaped them on the side. I asked my son to pick up one thing at a time, say its name aloud, identify the first sound of the name and then match it to the corresponding letter while I count from 1 to 10.
It of course took him a while to understand the sound of the letters and he still gets confused whether the first sound of ‘HANGER” is H or A…. but he sure enjoys playing this game. To make it more competitive for my boy, I might actually turn this into a Points game where he will score a point if he gets it right within the count of 10, else I score a point!
– Mother of a 4 year old boy