Often when we think of children and learning we think of schools and classes that they can join to learn this skill or the other. A music class to develop an affinity for music. Or a storytelling workshop to learn to enjoy the magic of stories. Truth is, however, that children, more than adults, have a natural affinity for the creative arts. They are naturally wired to enjoy stories and music and fun games. And whatever learning happens from participation in these pursuits, needs to happen in a spirit of playfulness and fun.
Children naturally love stories!
The first Sunday of our new year started with a Kids’ Open House at our place. All kids we know were invited. If parents could join in, they were most welcome to. If not, they could drop their little ones and go do their Sunday chores. And what did we do? If you’re thinking this was an event that needed a lot of planning and thinking up child-friendly activities, you’re mistaken. All we did was sit and sing together some good old songs that everybody was familiar with, with some of the kids who were learning this instrument or the other, providing some accompanying music. By the end, we even replaced the lines of one of the songs to make up our own version! We built stories together, each one adding on a line to what the previous person had said, and then laughed ourselves silly at the crazy stories that got created as a result! We made some simple homemade yet exciting hot dogs and burgers, which the kids helped to assemble and serve.
Here’s what it took. A couple of adults taking out a few hours on a Sunday to create a space that was for, and about, and with, our children. That is all.
And here’s what we got. Moments of wide eyed wonder, and the magic of stories, and a whole lot of laughs. Not just at what children can and will do, but what we adults can and will do when we let the child in us simply come out and play. All in a day’s work. Of living and learning with our children 🙂
Diwali is right around the corner and we are in the midst of planning our annual Diwali party. While drawing up the guest list, I realised that many of our favourite invitees are ‘little people’, and I started wondering what kids usually do at these adult-centred Diwali parties. Play on their gadgets? Watch TV?
Many adult taash parties do not include kids, but I have attended many that do have a few kids turning up, especially if there is nowhere else to leave them. Secondly, most kids find crackers to be the most fun part about Diwali, but with the concept of a cracker-free Diwali becoming more and more popular, we do need to find new and exciting ways to make Diwali celebrations fun for them.
Here are some ideas I’m trying to play around with in my attempt towards a child-friendly Diwali this year:
- If you are inviting a family that includes kids, make sure there is a kids’ invite too. It makes them feel ‘seen’ and valued as guests to the party, not just add-ons, who “couldn’t be left at home”. You can get your child to draw or write out this invite, or it could mean simply adding a line to the main invite addressed to the child, letting them know what fun things you are planning specifically for them.
- Set up a separate space for the kids’ activities. Make sure they are not in the same room as the adults’ playing cards or drinking. They will, of course, be in and out but it is important to bring home the message that some Diwali activities for adults and kids are different.
- Fun Diwali-related activities for kids could include working on a big rangoli together, making cards or paper lanterns, and painting diyas and candles. Setting up a work station lined with newspaper, with enough supplies and on-and-off supervision by an adult, usually works well.
- A great follow up from this would be to use what they have made for decorations and even giveaways.
- Leaving around some nice and age-appropriate books about Diwali for them to read is a good idea. If an adult or older child could volunteer to conduct a Diwali story-telling session for the kids, that would be great too. We found a lovely and most beautifully illustrated one called ‘Amma, tell me about Diwali’ by author Bhakti Mathur that we have ordered online this year for our ‘little’ guests. They make excellent Diwali kids’ giveaways too.
- Co-creating some little rituals with them and incorporating these into the Diwali puja will help them connect with this part of the festival too.
- Saying no to the excitement of firecrackers is tough for little ones. However, kids respond well to stories and causes that involve the welfare of other kids, and also help them bring out their compassionate side. Here are some great links to educate yourself and your children about the story behind the anti-firecracker movement .
Festivals are a great way to help children connect with traditions and culture, but this is only possible if this ‘connect’ is made relate-able and meaningful for them. Wishing you and your little ones a happy Diwali!