More Than Just Words – The New Guessing Game

IMG_20180731_145121Little 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.

Fun with Numbers

IMG_20160826_161550 (2).jpgAlthough my son is quick at reciting and writing numbers, he lacks the patience of counting things. More often than not, he skips a thing or two while counting. When I ask him to count the number of pictures on a wall, he ends up just saying the numbers without really pointing at each one of them. To help him build the patience to point at things one by one and count accordingly, I invented ‘Fun with Numbers’ game.

I collected everyday things available at home like pillows, pens, pencils, toys, chick peas, bowls, and glasses. I asked my son to count these things not by pointing at them, but collecting them one by one and handing over to me. It seems that the trick worked as doing things with own hands was a lot more fun. I also encouraged him to write the corresponding number on a paper, so that he could simultaneously practice writing the numbers 1 to 10 as well.

Given his love for fast paced things, I encourage him to do the activity with each number within the count of 10 to make it more exciting. I think his patience was tested the most when I asked him to get 8 chick peas which he had to count twice as he did not count them right the first time! As I play this game with him more and more with higher numbers in future, it will also help him enhance his hand-eye coordination.

– Mother of a 4 year old boy 

Belan Boat for Baby Krishna

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.

IMG_20160825_103721 (1).jpgTo 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 actIMG_20160825_103039 (1)s, 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.






Circle of Things

IMG_20160815_185742.jpgWhen I finally found time to go shopping this independence day long weekend, I decided to replace my son’s tattered play mat. Though it was not an easy to abandon this treasured belonging, I was quick to select a new one as it came in the bold and beautiful colours my 23 months old had learnt to recognise. Given his recent interest in puzzles, it did not surprise me when he wanted to try his hands at fixing the different pieces minutes after they were brought home. After an initial round of assembly, I encouraged him to dismantle all pieces with the objective of joining similar colours together as instead of teaching him alphabets I was more interested in reinforcing his learning of colours.

When  I observed that he found greater pleasure in poking the round shapes out of the various alphabets (a,b,d,g i, j,o,p,q) with his fingers, I was quick to capitalize on the moment and introduced the concept of circles. Very soon he not only started pointing to circles of different colours, but also learnt the difference between a big and small one.

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Over the next three days we played the circle game again and again – lining all of them in the order of big to small from left to right and top to bottom, putting back the big and small circles in their respective holes, matching and rematching the colours of circles with the alphabet squares, aligning the rough and smooth circles with the respective surfaces. In the process, of course, he learnt a lot many new words and concepts. But what was more fun was hunting for big and small circles everywhere, in the wheels of car while going out, in the clocks of restaurant while lunching, in the jars of candy and plates of dinner at home, in the bindi of his nanny on her forehead and in the mole of  his mumma on the cheek. The moment of greatest joy however arrived when he pointed to the circle in the middle of the flag I had bought to teach him the Indian tri-colours.






Yellow Dal, Red Berries

IMG_20160812_175837_1471015540180As the rains came to Gurgaon, I had to brave up to a new challenge – how to keep my 10 month old energetic baby engaged indoors. Considering that that she was just learning to walk and wanted to explore the whole house, keeping her busy and entertained at one spot for even 10-15 minutes was a task. Icame up with several activities to “learn through play,”one of which involved playing with grains and pulses.
I put enough of uncooked dry dal into the old big ice cream bucket, and for several minutes she just enjoyed putting her hands inside it and pulling out more and more of these wonderful, small, hard and round dal pieces. This “substance” was not familiar with her, so she took her time exploring single grains, pinching them with her little wet fingers and watching closely how they stick to them, and of course bringing into her mouth to taste.
I showed her how to pour the dal into small buckets and pour it back to the big one.  She tried herself, and oops – most of it ended on the floor all around her. She continued playing and throwing it around just like sand on the beach. Then I tried to add different colours to the game, and hide several red dry cranberries inside the bucket with dal. She took a lot of interest in searching for soft red berries, so different from dry yellow grains. And once she discovered them, she got a sweet bonus –  the berries were pleasant to eat.
The simulation of receptors on her fingers was great for development of fine motor skills along with sorting and searching for small things. I also pointed and named the colours (yellow and red), and qualities of the grains (soft and hard) to help her develop speech. And boy did we have fun throwing this dal around! We will definitely try this game again, and this time around I am planning to have more interesting things hidden in the dal bucket to make it an even more joyful experience.

 – Katerina Folkman,mother of a 10 month old daughter

Bag of Words

IMG-20160808-WA0000I 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


The Train of Boats

Rains evoke a feeling of nostalgia and the first thing you think of  when trapped at home with a two year old is paper boats. While my son showed no joy in the act of making, he insisted on placing them in water as and when a new one was created. With very little water and no opportunity to float, lining them like a ‘train’, in the order of big to small, next to the bedroom door became a new game to explore.


And just as he was losing interest in the game, the bell rang with his four  year old friend from the building showing up at the door as he had also lost the opportunity of outdoor play. The train of boats moved to the living room now, where his friend lined them on the rails of the door. Observing his friend place the train on a track, my little boy also wanted to play the same act. This time around, in the third attempt, he managed to place most boats in the right sequence, with the exception of  a white one, which his older friend helped in fixing for him. While the boys never played with toys together, at last they indulged in a group play act.

IMG_20160728_204446.jpgAt the end of the day, the train of boats moved to the dining room where it was dismantled and the boats were placed one inside another. As the boat was now perceived as a vessel of things, a bunch of beans and peas were picked up by the little fingers and placed inside the container. The next day the rains continued and so did the joy as a big boat was made and placed on the head as a cowboy hat.