Vote for Political Awareness: Why we should be talking to kids about politics

If you think talking to kids about politics is pointless, that they would rather watch cartoons or play games on their tablet, think again. Children have an innate curiosity and intelligence. And talking to them about politics helps them make sense of the world they live in. Here’s how we can educate our kids on politics:

The many different forms of government:

It helps to begin by explaining the different kinds of government. Monarchy is the earliest form of government where one person has all the power. Aristocracy which in modern times is termed Oligarchy or Plutocracy is where only a select few have all the power by right of birth or wealth. Democracy is where every citizen has equal power. And Anarchy is the absence of a system of government.

If say in a group of friends only one person has the power to decide what to play, it’s Monarchy. If only a few of the friends have the power to decide what to play, it’s oligarchy. If everybody together has the power to decide what to play, it’s democracy. And if no decision is arrived at and chaos follows, it’s anarchy.

The inner workings of democracy

India is a democracy which means every five years elections are held in India where each and every citizen over the age of 18 casts their vote. The political party who gets the most number of votes wins and forms a government.

But why are elections held every five years, your little one asks. It’s like when Thanos in Avengers gets all the five infinity stones and therefore infinite power. He inevitably misuses that power. Likewise if a single person or government is given infinite power, it can be misused against the nation and its people. Therefore in India every government remains in power for five years only after which once again elections happen.

Political Parties

Inform kids about the major political parties and their symbols and smaller political parties. There are about a thousand political parties in India, but only six of them are national parties. They are BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) with Lotus as their party symbol, INC (Indian National Congress) with a hand as their symbol, BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) with an elephant as their symbol, NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) with a clock as their symbol, CPI (Communist Party of India) with Ears of Corn and Sickle as their symbol and CPI-M (Communist Party of India Marxist) with hammer, sickle and star as their party symbol. The rest are state or regional parties playing a pivotal role in Indian politics.

To Debate or not to debate

Watching a few debates together can be a great way to expose children to different political opinions. Explain a little about the topic that’s being discussed and what the two sides are saying. Watching debates or listening or reading about them will not only enable kids to stay informed about the current issues but also equip them to look at the bigger picture.

Historical Tid Bits

Everybody loves a good story and history is nothing but. Tell kids about the formation of the oldest party of India, the Indian National Congress. Talk about its stalwart leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Jawaharlal Nehru representing the party. Talk about the origins of Bhartiya Janata Party and its great leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

International politics

Talk about the leaders of other nations and their forms of government. Former President of America Barack Obama, his successor Donald Trump, his rival in the Presidential race Hillary Clinton, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, Angela Merkel Chancellor of Germany, Xi Jinping President of China, Vladimir Putin President of Russia are some of the prominent leaders you can speak about. Mention the things you appreciate about them and the impact their decisions have.

In conclusion remember what Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” So the next time you are reading a newspaper or watching a debate, make sure to include your kid in the discussion. Because Knowledge is power. Let’s empower our kids by making them aware of politics and continuing the conversation throughout life.

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Explore Space in Summer: Children’s Space Reading List

Summer is a time for simple pleasures, sleeping in late, singing in the shower, swinging in the park, sipping cool lemonade, sitting at the beach and watching the sun set as the sky goes from blushing red to bold blue and black. But above all summer is a time for opening our hearts and minds and going on adventures from the comfort of our living room. Summer is for reading and falling in love with the characters. This summer how about taking our kids on a space adventure? Here’s a list of books you and your little ones will love:

1. Earth: My First 4.54 Billion Years

By Stacy McAnulty

Illustrated by David Litchfield

“Hi, I’m Earth! But you can call me Planet Awesome.”

So begins the book about earth and our galaxy. But what makes it special is the fact that it is narrated from the point of view of earth. She introduces us to her BIG family and confides to us that she is closest to Venus and Mars. We also meet earth’s best friend – the moon. They hang out together all the time even when we can’t see the moon. Filled with kid-friendly facts and fun language, this is a must read for any kid fascinated by the moon, the stars and the planets. Award winning illustrator David Litchfield makes the Milky Way a lovable fantasy. Recommended for ages 4-8 as well as their parents and grandparents! Happy Reading!

2. A Place for Pluto

By Stef Wade

Illustrated by Melanie Demmer

All of us learnt the names of nine planets by-heart in school – Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. And all of us were taken aback when told that Pluto was no longer a planet. If we were so shocked, imagine what it must be like for Pluto to be ousted from the famous nine! A Place for Pluto by Stef Wade and illustrator Mélanie Demmer is Pluto’s quest to find out who he really is and where does he belong in the solar system. Great for kids aged 5 – 8. I highly recommend this one for the summer.

3. To Burp Or Not to Burp

By Dave Williams and Loredana Cunti

Illustrated by Theo Krynauw

Thanks to gravity we can stand, walk, run and jump, trees stay rooted in one place, buildings don’t float and cars and trucks don’t fly. But on an international space station, with zero gravity, things change. From food to drinks to toothbrushes to people nothing stays in one place – everything can float. Then how do astronauts manage to brush their teeth, or use the toilet or eat and drink? To Burp or Not to Burp answers all these questions and more in a fun, interesting way that engages the children and proves to be an eye opener for oblivious adults like me. A great read for ages 7 – 10 by a real life astronaut Dr. Dave Williams, who also became an aquanaut in the only underwater research laboratory. Go ahead, this summer know more, dream more!

4. Mousetronaut

By Mark Kelly

Illustrated by C. F. Payne

An astronaut needs above average intelligence, adaptability, hard work and problem solving skills to successfully achieve a space mission. Meteor has all these traits. The only drawback is he is a very small mouse compared to the other 16 mouse on the mission. But he has an unrelenting desire to prove himself. And when an important key gets stuck between two computers, the tiniest member of the team saves the day and how! Mousetronaut is a story of working hard for what one wants, of perseverance and never letting the odds go against you. A must read I say.

5. Out Of this World: Poems and Facts about Space

By Amy E. Sklansky

Illustrated by Stacy Schuett

T-minus 10…9…8…Seat Belt Tightening…7…6…Knuckles Whitening…5…4…Rockets Roaring…3…2…1…Spaceship Soaring…Blast Off…SPACE…so begins the delightful children’s book Out of this World by Amy E. Sklansky.

Filled with poems and amazing facts about space, children will learn about astronauts, planets, the moon, stars, and zero gravity. What’s more, the format of each poem is unique. Zero Gravity has upside down words, Black Hole has words swirling into the black hole. The language, the words, the picture the book creates is truly out of this world!

And that brings us to the end of this post. Let me know what do you think of this collection and if I have missed some really wonderful books about space out there. Happy Exploring!

Read to Lead: Why Reading is Essential for Success in School

“Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky,

My pile of books is a mile high.

How I love them! How I need them!

I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them.” – Arnold Lobel

Books are powerhouses of wit and wisdom that spark our imagination and sharpen our intelligence. They are potent weapons of vocabulary and knowledge. And when these potent instruments are thrust into little hands, the result is nothing short of a Big Bang like explosion of ever improving language skills, better analytical skills, improved listening skills, more empathy, better attention span and an unfettered supply of creativity.

But great minds like great books are never built in a single day. It takes time – years and years of it and wave after wave of effort.

In fact the single most important skill a child needs to excel at kindergarten and consistently thereafter is a rich vocabulary. This is because instruction in kindergarten is disseminated orally and the kid who has more words in their repertoire will understand better what is being said and have an advantage over her peers.

Jim Trelease, in his book The Read-Aloud Handbook (Penguin), explains how it all begins with the listening vocabulary. When you read to your child day after day, her cup of listening vocabulary fills to the brim and slowly starts overflowing into the speaking vocabulary. Keep reading and slowly words will overflow from her speaking vocabulary into her reading vocabulary. From reading vocabulary, words will gradually overflow into her writing vocabulary. So, replenishing our kids’ cup of listening vocabulary is crucial.

In fact reading aloud shouldn’t be restricted to young kids. Kids as old as 14 or older too should be read aloud to. This is because kids are better listeners than readers. They may be able to read fifth grade books, but they can understand and appreciate more complicated plot lines and characters if it is read aloud to them.

“We let down our guard when someone we love is reading us a story. We exist together in a little patch of warmth and light.” says novelist Kate Dicamillo to Meghan Cox Gurdon, the author of The Enchanted Hour. In this distracted age of multiple screens and ever shorter attention spans, reading aloud is a kind of magic elixir. It is a soothing balm for the soul. It replenishes all that technology leaches away.

Reading to our kids is a gesture of love. They may not remember the toys we purchased for them or the technology we gave them access to or the apps we downloaded. But they will remember our voice, the stories we tell them, the places we describe, and the characters we bring to life.

For infants and toddlers alike whose brains are developing at an exponential rate, there’s simply nothing like being read to. Listening to stories while looking at pictures fosters optimal cognitive development. It is the best possible start in life parents, teachers and guardians can give them.

According to a study about reading habits of kids from kindergarten to 12th grade, just six extra minutes of reading daily can turn a struggling reader into one who is on par with his peers. In fact kids are exposed to 50% more words while reading as compared to watching prime time television.

Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States once said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” And history is witness to this timeless truth. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon Bonaparte – no matter which country they belonged to, no matter which century they lived in, each and every one of them valued books and the habit of reading every day. That is what widened their horizons and made them the extraordinary leaders they were.

Let us also begin our children’s reading journey today. Remember, every kindergartener wants to read. All they need is a parent/teacher/ guardian who cares to nurture this eagerness and open a world of possibilities for them. Margaret Fuller said it all when she wrote, “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.”

The Power Of A Parent

The depth of a parent’s love for its child can seldom be measured. With so much love comes so much power. Where a kind word can make their confidence, a harsh one can break it. Read on to find out how much power you possess:

Emotional lives

Children often have extreme mood swings. From gurgling giggles a minute to tumbling tears the next. It is upto us as parents to create a supportive environment and reset the equilibrium. To ensure that kids grow into emotionally healthy people it is essential to encourage them to talk about how they feel, to provide them with a positive feedback and  to be good role models of healthy behaviour and interactions.

It is said that the way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice. Let that inner voice be calm, positive and encouraging.

Academia

Most learning happens outside school. Parents play a critical role in instilling a love of learning in their kids. Make it a part of your routine to spend some time with the kid asking them what they did at school, singing rhymes with them, reading with them and listening to what they have to say. If we as parents value education and show an active interest in learning new things ourselves, our kids will follow in our footsteps and achieve success at school.

Food habits

As a parent, we play a pivotal role in shaping our children’s eating habits. Does eating time synchronise with screen time? Do they eat enough portions of fruits and veggies? What about snacking? If we emphasise and practice healthy eating habits, our kids will learn them too. Let’s eat together as a family  and keep lots of healthy foods at home.

Physical health

What we do has a huge effect on what our kids will learn to do. If we are a couch potato, we may pass that trait on to our children. On the other hand, if kids grow up in a family where taking regular walks, hiking, or going for bike rides is part of the routine, they will emulate that behaviour. 

Problem solving skills

Let us be the kind of parents who enable their kids for life. Let’s allow them to confront problems, even be stumped by them.  Let kids try out different scenarios of trying to solve a problem. This way children learn that problems are a temporary roadblock. And they learn to think beyond the problem and arriving at a solution.  They feel empowered and therefore more confident.

Attitude in life

According to a study by the Stanford Research Institute, success is comprised of 88% attitude and only 12% education. Does that mean that the value of  education is any less? No, but it shows the importance of attitude in regards to a person’s success. If our kids have the right attitude, then pat yourselves on the back for you have set the ball rolling for a successful life ahead for them.

Spiritual life

As parents we hold a special kind of influence. The choices we make each day, for ourselves and for our children, have decidedly profound implications. If they see us praying, meditating, contemplating and aspiring to lead a moral life, they will learn by example.

Remember we are the tree they nestle in, the mountain they climb to reach for the sky, the grass that softens their fall, the ocean of love that encompasses them. We are building our kids future, one thoughtful parenting practice at a time. Being an enlightened parent – that’s our superpower!

Why Telling Kids About Family History Matters

Ask a child about themselves and they will confidently rattle off their names, their parents names and profession, the school they go to, their class teacher’s name and all about their siblings and friends. But dig deeper about their parents and grandparents, where did they grow up, what was their childhood like, what were the milestones in their life and they will come up blank.

But research suggests that kids who know intimate details about their family history are more rooted and posses a better understanding of the world than their counterparts who don’t. Here are 5 reasons why we as parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts should share anecdotes from our life with kids:

Sense of belonging 

Nothing enriches our perspective of life like history. History is one of the deepest treasure troves of insights, observations, understanding and wisdom.

And when we share our life’s stories with kids, some funny, some brave, some tragic and some quirky, a child’s sense of belonging and their self esteem are heightened.

Stronger sense of control

No life is lived without overcoming its fair share of difficulties. Sharing these stories of bravery, courage, compassion, passion or even foolhardiness with our kids teaches them important life lessons and more importantly gives them a sense of control over life events.

More resilience

Nelson Mandela once said, “Difficulties break some men but make others!”

All of us know someone who had all the odds stacked against them and still managed to overcome them with sheer resilience. As enlightened parents, let us also share those family stories of resilience with our kids. Those stories will become the guiding light for kids when they are facing some tough times in life.

More bonding

There is no stronger adhesive in the world than sharing family history. I love listening to my husband talk about his childhood and adolescent days. My daughter loves it when her grandma talks about her own school days. She also loves to listen to stories of the cows her great-grandfather used to have as a kid and how they milked the cows and how each cow had a distinct personality.

Go ahead, bring out those decades old stories and share, share, share!

Inspiring need to continue the legacy

Last but not the least, kids feel they are a part of something bigger when they continually listen to stories of grit and sheer determination or patience and compassion. They understand how their family advanced generation after generation – academically, financially and socially. Their desire to replicate the glorious moments of their ancestors in their own lives is awakened. They are inspired to continue the legacy. What better outcome than a grandchild wanting to prove his or her mettle by replicating their family’s values and taking its legacy forward.

Go ahead, fortify your child’s emotional health and self esteem by sharing your family history with them. Nothing is as fulfilling as starring in one’s family’s chronicle and

 

Let’s Raise Kids Who Feel Positively Entitled

How many of us have read Charles Dickens’ legendary quote from his novel “A Tale of Two Cities”:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..

.it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,

we had everything before us, we had nothing before us”

and found it relevant to our times? Guess what? It is even relevant to our parenting styles.

 

In an age where our kids get the best of everything…from crib to toys to food to education to gadgets – replacing the “I want blah, and I want it Now!” attitude and the danger it posits for the future generation with positive entitlements of Respect, Humility, Gratitude and Generosity is essential. Here’s why raising positively entitled kids is a good idea:

 

Respect:

The dictionary meaning of Respect is the feeling of deep admiration for someone or something evoked by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. So we respect our boss, our teachers, doctors, a sportsperson, a particular philosophy, a national leader. But history is witness to the disrespect of millions on the basis of nationality, gender, race, economic or social status, disrespect to the environment, and disrespect to Mother Earth.

But as enlightened parents, we have the power to change the course of history. Let’s inculcate the correlation between responsibility and respect in our kids from the time they take their first steps and they will be better inheritors of the earth. Let’s instill in them that the more responsible students, siblings, citizens and netizens they are, the more respect they will gain.

 

Humility:

Each child is unique. It is what makes them special. There’s no doubt about that. But while we make our child realise how special they are, it is also essential to make them realise that in the larger scheme of things, what a minuscule part of the universe we are. An intrinsic part of humility is the ability to consider the needs and feelings of others ahead of oneself. If a child is taught humility and being sensitive to other’s needs and feelings from a young age, the result will be a child who can think beyond herself and believes in team effort. One who understands the value of the contribution other people make in achieving a goal.

 

Gratitude:

The most important life skill, ‘Gratitude’ shifts one’s focus from what we don’t have or desire – to all the things that we already possess. It opens our eyes to our blessings. An attitude of gratitude is paramount to happiness in life. If we instill gratitude in kids from the very beginning, they will grow up to be better adults who find peaceful solutions to problems. They will cherish the rights they enjoy and nurture the freedom they possess.

 

Generosity:

One of the most powerful principals we can instill in our children is to be generous. In order to live a life of generosity, one does not have to be limited by one’s income. Being generous with our belongings, being willing to go the extra mile, sharing and giving unconditionally to someone else are all cornerstones of generosity. When we are generous with our time, our attitudes towards others, our possessions and our encouragement to others, it is far more valuable and long lasting than being generous with our money. Let’s teach our children that the more generous they are, the more empowered they become!

All of us lead busy lives. But we are better than the sum of our to-do lists. Let’s put the gadgets away for a little while every now and then and spend time together as a family. Remember, it is “the best of times” if we spend it together and can be “the worst of times” if spent apart. Let’s choose well and raise a positively entitled generation!

This post was originally published on BabyChakra – India’s leading parenting app https://www.babychakra.com/learn/5202-lets-raise-kids-who-feel-positively-entitled

As a parent you are a life maker. What you choose to allow and restrict has a great impact on the kind of person you are raising. Is he going to be a kind and thoughtful person or rude and insensitive? Is she going to be a confident and witty woman or whining and needy? You are the one to instill values in them, you shape their attitude, you lay down a blueprint of their future. And it’s a tough job. Here are 7 signs that you are doing a tremendous job:

 

1. You limit your kid’s screen time: 

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Kids and adults alike are charmed by the allure of the screen. But studies show that the unproductive hours spent in front of a screen (it may be TV, computer, mobile or tablet) in unprofound pleasure does more harm to our kid’s mental, emotional and physical well -being than we would like to acknowledge.

But if you have been consistently limiting your kids screen time and making sure that the content they consume is safe and rich in quality, then give yourselves a pat on the back. You are doing a good job!  Encourage them to read, write, and play instead. I find it best to stick to the 80/20 rule, i.e. 80% of their time is spent on non-screen related activities and only 20% on screen.

 

2. You talk to your kids one-on-one

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Lives are hectic. Our to-do lists far exceed our liking. But amidst the pandemonium it is important to take the time and talk to our kids every day, to make eye contact and to connect with them. Their problems may seem trivial to us and our problems insurmountable for them. But no matter how tricky the problem may be, a heartfelt talk and a cuddle have always worked for my family.

If you too connect with your child at the end of each day and get to know what is going on in their life, and how they are feeling then you are on course to raising a happy, contented child.

 

3. You laugh and play together

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Guess what? If you laugh and play together with your kids, you are not just bonding and creating happy memories with your kids, you are also building their resilience, self-esteem and critical thinking skills for life.

Kids learn more about thinking, feeling and expressing from us in such a relaxed atmosphere than in formal educational environment. Besides, a good sense of humour in children ensures a leap in their cognitive development as well as boosts their creativity and imagination. They learn to look at things from different angles, to look for the funny in the monotony. So go ahead, indulge your kids’ funny bone. Treasure these moments of innocence and carefree fun with them.

 

4. You read to them

 

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I cannot emphasise enough about the importance of reading to kids. For starters, they love to listen to the sound of your voice. Yes, it’s true! It also helps build their vocabulary. And a good vocabulary and success in school often go hand-in-hand.

What’s more, it gives them an opportunity to experience things they wouldn’t otherwise experience in our busy urban lives. Alice sliding down the rabbit hole and meeting The Hatter, the Cheshire Cat and the others and leading the war to defeat the cruel Red Queen and end her reign of terror can only be savoured in a book. Or Lucy hiding in the wardrobe and reaching the mythical land of Narnia won’t happen in our day and age.

A child who has been read to from a young age will look forward to learning to read herself. So if you regularly read to your kids and enter the magical world of books with them, you are a great mum!

 

5. You give them a hug or a loving touch at the drop of a hat

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Kids need a minimum of 9 loving touches in a day. They are our primary language of compassion. It may be as simple as putting a strand of her hair behind her ear or it may be a tight bear hug.  A loving touch fosters safety, trust and a sense of well being in children. It boosts their immunity and encourages co-operation. So if you have created family traditions of hugging good morning, good bye and good night and giving high fives or a pat on her back for a job well done, or cuddle while watching TV, you are a great mum. Remember, “You cannot wrap love in a box. That’s why God made hugs!”

 

6. You set boundaries

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Each of us loves to indulge our kids from time to time. As fun as it is, it is equally important to set boundaries for our children.  A balance of freedom and boundaries ensures that kids grow and develop to their full potential. Parenting is like pottery, the final results depend on how we mould and shape the clay all along. So if you are a mum who says “No TV at bedtime!” and holds her ground, not giving in to the tantrums and wheedling, you are a great mom!

 

7. You teach them gratitude

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Most kids today have their own bedrooms, easy access to a screen, an abundance of toys and books and many more luxuries that they take for granted. But as parents it is our biggest responsibility to instill a sense of gratitude in our children if we want them to be responsible, happy individuals when they grow up. Studies show that gratitude in children not only leads to significantly more satisfied lives, it also fosters greater levels of self-esteem, hope, empathy and optimism. Kids who practice grateful thinking look forward to coming to school, visiting the library or even a friend’s birthday party. If you are a mum who takes the time and makes the diligent effort to instill gratitude in your kids, take a bow, because we think you are a great mum!

 

Parenting is a little bit like attending a Zen state of mind. You have to have an over abundance of love, understanding and patience and complete absence of ego and anger. If all your parenting decisions come from a place of positivity and love, you are a great mum raising happy, responsible and level-headed kids. Three cheers to your parenting style, Hip, Hip Hurray, Hip Hip Hurray, Hip Hip Hurray!

This post was originally published on BabyChakra – India’s leading parenting app https://www.babychakra.com/learn/4662-you-are-a-great-mum-if