Managing Change With Kids

Joy of Learning-Imagin8ors Sometimes, I think change has been the one constant in our lives. By the time our younger fella was three, we’d moved across continents, homes and switched careers at least as many times. We were living out of suitcases. Family and friends floated in and out of the kids’ lives, depending on where we were. “Routine is important for kids”, people pointed out. I looked at two mopey little faces seeing their dad off, as he went away on yet another work trip and I worried. We had to get better at coping with change and fast. Put a date on it: We made count down calendars. As neither kid could read at the time, we made a poster that showed them what mum and dad were doing and how long they would be gone. I drew pictures of who would be around and of all the fun stuff they could do together. When it was time for me to move back home with them, I made another calendar- “In how many days is mum coming back? Isn’t that going to be fun?” Joy of Learning-Imagin8ors List everything: We had schedules of tasks for the nanny to supervise, lists of medicines and dosages that we updated as the kids grew, emergency numbers and, finally, instructions for grandparents to keep in mind as they kindly and generously took care of the kids. Breaking a big undertaking into bite-sized lists of tasks to accomplish,  made it less daunting. Acknowledge emotions: For our last big move, the kids were old enough to worry. Our four-year-old later confided in me, that at the time he had been convinced, his grandma would die if he moved away. “It’s been a year now and she is OK. So nothing bad happened when we left, right?” he asked. So we talked about feelings and that it’s okay to be anxious or sad or even angry. Take control: We prepared for our big move to Singapore with reconnaissance visits. The kids picked out stuff for the new house and more importantly, their room. On one such short visit, our older guy decided of his own volition to map out all the bridges on the Singapore river and walk across them. The younger one declared the evening we flew out, “Tonight is going to be Singapore night.” That became our mantra. Stretch yourself and commit: Raising kids takes a village and we needed to build one for ourselves each time we moved to a new place. It takes effort and time. We try to volunteer, give time and effort towards various causes and community events. It is rewarding to contribute and help others. It also helps forge genuine connections with like-minded people. So go ahead and participate in that neighborhood event, join that runners group, enroll your children in that Imagin8ors workshop or a football camp. Joy of Learning-Imagin8ors Face your anxieties: Along the way, we have made it a practice to talk to the kids in detail about upcoming changes- big or small and involve them as much as possible so that they feel in control. Mom/Dad have to travel for work- let’s look at the map and see where they are going. How many days till they return? Let’s learn the names and phone numbers to contact in case of emergencies. Let’s learn our address so that we always know how to get back home, if we are lost. Let’s have a family emergency plan. What time each day shall we facetime/skype? Best friend at school is relocating to another country- travails of being part of an expat community. Where are they moving to- what language do they speak in that country? Let’s learn a few words so we can use them with the friend. Do we have their email address so we can stay in touch? Let’s have play dates with new classmates. Start new traditions: We miss how grandma would feed us at mealtimes or tell stories at bedtime. Let us begin new traditions. Xmas tree! Bedtime music and reading! How about Friday night family cuddles? Movie nights and popcorn! Joy of Learning-Imagin8ors It has been a learning curve but seeing happy little faces tucked up in their beds safe at night, gives us a measure of peace. The munchkins now aged eight and six, make friends easily. They have happy memories and great friends from different countries. They are curious about the world and are confident in new settings. An on-going dialogue with our children and robust preparation helped us manage change. Learning from fellow expats and working parents has been invaluable. Have you had to handle big changes with your kids? Do you have any tips on how to help them cope? Kaumudi Goda is a mum, former attorney, current corp desk jockey, full time bookworm and pop-culture enthusiast. She has been a fan and supporter of Imagin8ors from inception. With her crew of three goofy boys (two munchkins and one overgrown football fanatic), KG has traveled extensively and lived in several places. She is happy to share her family’s hilarious adventures with the Imagin8ors community.  

Battleships & The Captain’s Boys – How Board Games can be a great way to impart Life Lessons.

Like the music he creates there is a beautiful symphony in all that he does. Father, musician, writer, maker and a fantastic mind, he reminds you of all that is good and pure in life. A curious and adventurous child Ragavan Manian, from Team Imagin8ors, explores and seeks new things with an infectious enthusiasm and zest. 

  My two little boys Karun (8 years) and Sunaad (5 years) play board games, whenever they are, well, bored! There are a host of games to choose from, with their interest area ranging from Myth and Mythology to Mickey Mouse! But the one game that has found a lot of favour recently is Battleships. According to Wikipedia, the Battleships board game has World War I origins, starting out as a paper and pencil game.
Picture courtesy Creative Commons/Wikipedia

Picture courtesy Creative Commons/Wikipedia

To me and a host of adults out there who grew up on a steady diet of Herge’s famous  characters, a more apt reference would be the Tintin comic, Flight 714. If you haven’t read the pages where the sullen, stingy and scruple-free multi-billionaire Carreidas repeatedly flummoxes Capt. Haddock, then you’re missing something hilarious! But even as I enjoyed the comic and was intrigued by Battleships, I never got a chance to actually play the game, and it faded from my memory – that is, until it made a grand appearance in our household in the guise of my son’s birthday gift. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly both my little boys picked up this game. They are nearly three years apart, and in the early years, “three” represents a significant cognitive gap, separated by numerous cognitive milestones. Some examples:

Data source: www.understood.org

Their board games therefore tend to be divided into two neat piles. In line with his age and interests, the younger one prefers the motto of “have dice, will play”. He loves rolling the dice, driven by the sincere belief that he’s the “luckiest person in the family”. His cries of elation when he leads the board on the perennial family favourite “Snakes and Ladders”, or his shrieks of despair when he falls behind, have earned him the nickname of “Mr. Noisy” in our neighbourhood. The older one prefers intrigue (Scotland Yard, anyone?). He feels let down when “dumb luck” plays a significant part in a game, where he cannot ‘outsmart’ his opponent. Like many great board games “Battleships” tends to straddle the space between luck and logic. Yes there is a good deal of chance in the game, but it also requires strategic thinking. Children delight in shouting out the words, “a miss!”, “a hit!” and “a sink!”. There is implicit confrontation in those words; however no actual violence is inflicted. The vessels on the board don’t even sink when they’re sunk – they just end up looking more dressed up! The power of their thought processes in affecting the opponent’s fleet is a revelation – almost like a spooky action-at-a-distance effect. Abstraction and Generalization – Computational Thinking concepts that even adults have difficulty wrapping their heads around, form part and parcel of this game. The moments of silence and strategic thinking add to its old-world charm. Open Mic Imagin8ors Above all, this game demands that the players be principled – a facet of the Collaboration, that we need in dollops in the global citizens of a brave new world, in a time when the planet is ridden by the damage done by the collective greed of the past generations. The temptation to gain strategic advantage surreptitiously (a.k.a. Through peeking!) was initially so strong in the children that, during the first few rounds I had to step in and act as the Captain of the boys, to enforce ground rules and stringent penalties against ‘cheating’. But eventually they understand that it is a lot more fun and engaging to follow the rules. A fair game of  Battleships seems to teach long-term lessons that stick in more ways than one. Open Mic-imagin8ors Carreidas in Flight 714 was driven by the desire to win the game of Battleships at all costs against his opponent, the poor, sincere Captain Haddock. This may have helped the former win the game, but in the end his guile was exposed and the Captain’s Boys won the day! What board games rule your household? What life lessons have you been able to share through them? We would love to hear from you…

Mama See How I Grow!!!!

Amusing pic Children absorb a lot of things and bring out this knowledge in the most remarkable ways. Here is  the story of Nirmay and his amazing learning from nature, telling his mother “Mama See How I Grow!” As Bharti was watering the plants she noticed her four-year- old son Nirmay crouch down next to the flower pots. “Mom, I am a plant too, water me too”, he cooed. In an indulgent mood Bharti gently sprinkled some water on Nirmay. As the water fell on him, he slowly started straightening up “Mom see I am growing too”. Stories my dear friend Bharti shares about Nirmay always make me smile. But after the initial laugh, I am quite intrigued by the boy’s ability to apply his knowledge to his endearing antics. This is the concept of growth demonstrated in the simplest and most effective way. Has your child ever demonstrated a science concept or principle like this? Do share…

Learnings from the Kitchen Garden

open mic picture   Rachna Singh, a Singapore based mother of two daughters who are like chalk and cheese. A collector, a writer, a gardener,a mother and a terrific friend; she is indeed a force of nature. Picking up each new thing in life with such enthusiasm and energy she is a constant source of  inspiration to everyone around her. MAAAA….. I am bored. Oh dear Lord!!!….she is bored. AGAIN!!! And thus began the holidays for my five-year-old Eesha. A sack full of untapped energy, who needed to be positively and constructively challenged every waking hour. Ignoring her, I went about tending to my plants lovingly. “Can I do that please?” Eesha asked and I indulged her. This set the Sumerian wheel of gardening on the roll. In went the whole jug of water in a single plant and water spilled all over the place. It was time for her first lesson – “water conservation”. How to use water, a  scarce natural resource, without wasting it. When Eesha accidentally plucked out few healthy saplings along with the weeds, I told her about deforestation and imbalances in our ecological system. She absorbed all this new information not deterred by the big words thrown at her. An organic fertilizer made of egg shells, vegetable and fruit peels was our next project .She learnt about being cost effective and recycling. I did make a passing reference to soil pollution and how our fertilizer was more eco-friendly. She was struck by the term “eco-friendly”. “Ma, I think I‘ll call my next doll eco-friendly. Now that made me smile. In some mason jars we put layers of coloured pebbles and compost mixed soil and planted cacti plants with tiny red and yellow flowers. Forever the artist Eesha wrapped a dainty little green ribbon around the bottle. And our lovely glass garden terrarium was born. As I was snipping away some mint leaves, for my tea, I was tempted to start an herb garden and I shared this with Eesha. Jubilant at the idea we painted and decorated the cans. We personalised it with ladyfinger imprint patterns. Basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, alfalfa sprouts, cherry tomatoes and oriental capsicum all found a little can of their own. In the process, Eesha learnt the names and spellings of different herbs and understood the difference between herbs, fruits and vegetables. I also helped her understand the nutritional benefits of eating different coloured fresh produce. But would she have the patience to wait? I was in for an unexpected surprise. For the next two months, Eesha meticulously and lovingly looked after her plants. Few times, I also caught her spray bottle in hand talking sweet nothings to her baby plants. In August, my baby’s birthday month our herb garden was in full bloom, and what a sight. In a moment of pure genius Eesha suggested a gardening themed birthday party. I sure was impressed. Off we went to the market to collect our supplies. At her birthday party each kid was handed a clean empty can to decorate and plant herbs of their choice. Once they were done it was time to make their own vegetable pizzas. Oh the excitement of trimming fresh herbs and scattering it over their pizzas. We further topped it with colourful cherry tomatoes and capsicums. Everything from the kitchen garden. The kids polished off the pizzas in minutes. Amazed I mused, an activity meant to keep my kid busy in her holidays had reaped such rewards. I saw a more patient, knowledgeable, responsible and happy kid running around in the house. That night, she hugged me and said that this was her best birthday ever, I couldn’t help beaming and hugging her back. I knew she really meant it. Have you done something recently with your child which has reaped unexpected rewards? Do tell.  

 Mapping It Out

open mic pic- Imagin8ors     Sia Mitra blogger, painter, needlework artist, mother – a woman with fingers in many pies. Living a busy life juggling numerous interests and responsibilities, but her daughter always comes first. Doing many projects together is how this mother-daughter duo bond and have fun together. Hear this Delhi based powerhouse speak about one such holiday project. Rummaging through some old documents, one manic Sunday, I stumbled upon some old maps. They were detailed, familiar and drawn with exclusively me in mind, by my husband. Gazing at the yellowing paper, I wistfully recalled, how they used to be my sole guide before the smart phone. Peeping over my shoulder my seven–year-old daughter was intrigued, “What is that?” “It is a map, dear. “ As Darling Daughter ogled it, a fabulous idea germinated in my mind. “Would you like to make some maps?” My query was met with an enthusiastic affirmative. Cartography, the art of charting maps, initiated by the Greeks and Arabs, has been around for centuries and now it was time for the mother-daughter duo to get busy too. But first a quick lesson before we ventured into unchartered territories. “Listen,” I explained “A map is a pictorial representation of an area, with certain predefined symbols used to show the various objects. For example a box with a red cross depicts a hospital. Most of the symbols used in the map are defined and are called legend. Another important aspect of a map is the direction.” Next morning to understand directions better we stepped out in the garden. “Now which side is the sun?” I queried. Darling Daughter dutifully pointed towards the East. “Let us stand facing the sun. The direction you are facing now is East. Your back is towards the West. Your left hand depicts North and the Right depicts South.” This is the simplest way to get the hang of directions. Of course you can use an instrument called the compass to know the directions. The needle of the compass always points towards the North. In a map, it is customary to depict the orientation with the help of a North arrow. map pic 4 Armed with this knowledge we set off for a short stroll from Darling Daughter’s school (My School) to a nearby school (ABC School). As we walked, I asked her to make a note of the major landmarks we passed. After a leisurely stroll, we sat down on a park bench and drew a picture of the route, marking the landmarks. I encouraged her to draw as many items as she could. At this juncture we were not making maps to scale. After she finished, the following picture emerged. open mic imagin8ors -1 This was still a drawing and not a map. To achieve that we had to replace objects with symbols. I introduced her to some of the standard symbols used for map making. She designed the rest of the symbols herself. After some hectic designing these are the symbols we settled on. map pic 2 Now we inserted the symbols in our original picture. The general paths remaining the same. Now it looked more like a representative map :-

map pic 3

We both grinned ear to ear as we marched back clutching the map like a trophy.  Definitely a fun fruitful morning. Sadly before I could bask for two minutes in the glory of it all, I was bombarded with questions about distances and shortest route. Well what can I say, parenting and learning go hand in hand, so the lessons continue. Have you ever gotten your child to create a map? What was your experience like? Do share…  

Sid the Curious Kid. A case of the “Terrific Threes!”

Sid the curious kid Balaji is the Co-Founder of Imagin8ors and a parent of two boys, Sid (five and a half) and Ved (three months). Here he kicks off our blog sharing his personal journey with Imagin8ors, and talks about the need for parents to be active custodians of their child’s creative development. As a parent, I am sure, you would have revelled in the wonder of the “Terrific Threes!” That exciting stage and age in a child’s development when they are propelled by a boundless energy to understand the world around them. When every moment is a time for exploration. When you are bombarded with those incessant, tough-to-answer questions “Why?” “How?” “What?” When they have no fear of making mistakes, of stumbling, of falling, of getting hands deep in dirt. When learning is all about play, a sense of wonder, just pure un-adulterated joy! My journey with Imagin8ors has its origin in the ‘Terrific Threes” that our son Sid and I enjoyed together. I marvelled at his fluid imagination, at his drive to create, and the zest with which he approached every new twist and turn. I googled, talked to experts and parents, sought out answers to what I could do to fuel this spark.  To understand at a deeper level what he is really learning and to provide the right environment and experiences for him. As I fell deeper into the rabbit hole, a few things became really clear: 1. Children are born creative geniuses and natural self-directed learners, but our education systems, in-spite of their best intentions, end up stifling creative development. There is a punchy TED talk (“Do Schools Kill Creativity?”) by Sir Ken Robinson, a world renowned education reformer that brings this to life with substance and wit. Our society chases standardised test outcomes over deeper, more meaningful learning. The bulk of teaching emphasises instruction and rote. Children are caught in an arms race of building more impressive resumes to filter through to the top universities. Free, creative, play time is weeded out systematically. There is much to change … and very little time to do it in. 2. The irony is that Imagination and Creativity are potentially the attributes most critical to our childrens’ success in a rapidly-changing, technology amplified world. Content knowledge has become a commodity. What you can do with what you know, already matters more than the knowledge per se. The increasing automation of jobs, puts additional pressure to apply the knowledge in original, novel ways. 3. Parents have a critical role to play in being the custodians of their child’s creativity. Schools are not structured to take charge of developing each child’s creative potential. Parents, the first teachers at an age when the child is at their most creative, are uniquely placed to assume this responsibility. Research shows that regular active engagement with the child like reading together, playing together, supporting their interests, encouraging them to question, etc. actually helps with deeper learning and creative development. My childhood and their attendant dreams came back to me. I had always wanted to study English Literature, to be a journalist and a writer; but I ended up studying Computer Science and Business. I struggled to stay in touch with my creativity in spite of going to the best colleges and working for Fortune 100 companies. The conviction grew that I did not want this cycle to repeat with Sid, and if it could be helped, with children in general. A compelling catalyst for me to take the plunge together with Sampath Pudhukottai, a fellow parent of young children and a dear friend from college days, to begin the journey that has today become Imagin8ors. Along the way, we have been fortunate to get together a team of innovators, educators, technologists, makers, artists who passionately believe in the cause of nurturing the inherent creativity in each child. Our team is not alone, we have been inspired by countless parents, like yourselves, who echo similar sentiments and are doing all in your power to help children enjoy learning, to stay creative, to find their passions. We are kicking off this blog to serve as a space for all of us to connect and share knowledge, ideas, anecdotes, and support. We hope that this space can foster a dialogue, one that deserves to be amplified, and followed through to positively impact the most important resource the world has – our next generation; and to prepare them to be successful and happy in a world we cannot even fathom today. And we hope to do this together with you, exactly like a “Terrific Three” year old would approach it. With optimism, zest, insatiable curiosity, mischief, fearlessness and joy! Come! Let’s play! 🙂

Explore Technology this weekend in Singapore

Kids having a hands on fun experience with technology.

Explore technology with your kids

Daya from team Imagin8ors  just had a mind-blowing experience with his daughters at the Future World, ArtScience Museum. The exhibit has 15  interactive all immersive experiences designed to spark your child’s imagination. After our chat I am all geared to step into this digital interactive space with my son. How about you? MOSH Sentosa, is a brilliant amalgam of technology and creativity where kids can experience imagination come to life in an innovative manner. MOSH! has  five technological experiences divided into– Air: Paper Plane Adventure; Space: Fireworks Party; Sea: Doodle Aquarium; Land: Hide-and-Seek Table; and Fantasy: World of Wonder.  A perfect place to unleash your creative juices and let technology take it forward. So how about giving the usual stuff on the island a miss and trying out some digital media edutainment?

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