3 Parenting Tips I Learnt from Friends

Parenting is an ongoing, lifelong learning process. Just as your child makes mistakes while stumbling along, we as parents do too and quite frequently. As long as we step back and learn from them, these minor hurdles do their bit to make us better at parenting with time.

I consider myself lucky to have a large number of parent friends whom I meet quite frequently, thanks to the playing sessions of my little ones. On these occasions of dropping and picking up, we tend to get chatting for a few minutes every now and then over a cup of coffee (now who can say no to a weakness like that!). On these cuppa conversations, here are three bits of ‘learning from experience’ – parenting tips I would like to call them – which I gained from like-minded parents of kids like mine.

  1. Keep it simple and focus on what matters – simple, but significant.Image 1

    American canning” by johnny_automatic is licensed under CC by 2.0

    It lies in the everyday tasks and activities that you do with your kids. Playing ball, washing the laundry and hanging it up to dry, watching a sport together, ordering in pizza or even making a messy homemade pizza in your own kitchen – these are simple and yet significant activities that can be a wonderful way to spend time together with your kids. Come to think of it, I have fond recollections of most of these back from my own childhood.

    1. Your children will follow your example, not your advice.

    Parents will be parents; we’ll keep telling our kids to do a certain thing in a certain way and repeat ourselves not once, not twice, but zillions of times! Nothing wrong, especially since it comes naturally to us in front of our kids. But it helps to remember that kids learn best by example. When we are wrong or have messed it up, we should own up to our mistake and apologize. They will do it too. Reading before bedtime is for parents as well as kids. Mom has work on her computer but he shuts it down when bedtime is near; the kids will then also know they have a fixed duration of time for their online games and need to switch off the tablet once time is up. Dad cleans up the kitchen after meals; kids do their own share and clean up the dining table. The easiest way to reinforce good behavior in your kids is to show them the way to behave yourself.

    1. Let them be.

    Image 2

    Gardening scene” by Firkin is licensed under CC by 2.0

    I know this particular point is easier said than done, but it tends to become very important especially in the younger years. One of the world’s leading child psychologists, Alison Gopnik has penned down a wonderful book called The Gardener and the Carpenter.  To quote her: ‘The human mind is more like a hand than a Swiss Army knife. A human hand isn’t designed to do any one thing in particular. But it is an exceptionally flexible and effective device for doing many things, including things we might never have imagined.’ The key is to allow your kids to mold themselves into what they want to be, rather than us chiseling them into what we feel is right. Guide them along the way, definitely; but let them be what they want to, eventually.

    Food for thought!


Toilet Rolls, Easter Chicks & Bunnies


Easter Nest” by suju is licensed under CC by 2.0

Weird-sounding title to my post, eh? Well, I’m into one of my ‘temporary phases’, as my wife likes to call it. This time it’s all to do with recycling. So in my daily reading time when I came across some ideas for crafts fashioned out of discarded toilet paper rolls, I jumped at the opportunity.

Here’s how it goes. You need pretty much the same supplies for both the chicks as well as the bunnies – toilet paper rolls (equal to the number of chicks/bunnies you want), buttons (if you can’t lay your hands on googly eyes), some paint or crayons, glue and orange/yellow colored cardboard along with a pair of scissors.

The first step is a messy one (and hence, your kids will love it). Ask them to paint the outer curved surface area of the rolls in the shade they want; yellow works for chicks but it is up to them. Once the paint is dry, stick on the buttons and an orange-colored triangular beak, stuff in some colored tissue/toilet paper haphazardly onto the open top of the roll as feathers and you’ll find your bright little cheerful chick staring back at you.

Easter bunnies are a bit more elaborate to work with. You need to cut out long, bunny rabbit ears to stick on to the top open end of the roll, black colored whiskers (three on either side should do) and a buttony nose, with eyes made of different colored buttons to differentiate. There’s your cuddly little bunny all done up!

Happy Easter, folks!

3 Interesting Handwriting Activities for Kids

‘I don’t have a bad handwriting. I have my own font’.

I was thrilled when I came across this piece of writing the other day. This was so me! Now I have this really witty one-liner to say to any random soul who goes so far as to comment on my own ‘font’ of writing. Not that people get a fair chance to do that too much in present times, thanks to us typing away on a computer keyboard rather than weaving magic with pen and paper, like the yesteryears gone by.

For those of you not in the know (I was also a part of this group until today), January 23 is observed as National Handwriting Day. There is something known as the WIMA, short for the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association, that was set up back in the year 1943. Its mission: ‘To bring together the voices of the pen, marker and mechanical pencil industries’. It is this WIMA which came up with the idea of what we know today as the ‘National Handwriting Day’.

Why not use the occasion as an excuse to introduce our kids to some interesting handwriting activities? Here goes.

Handmade Cards


Day” by DWilliams is licensed under CC by 2.0

A clever way to get kids to do a bit of writing, sans writing worksheets or actual cursive writing practice – handmade cards. Simply ask the kids to do a bit of art corresponding to their ages – multicolored thumbprints or handprints for younger kids, or a paper pumpkin craft for an occasion like Halloween (our kids’ grandparents are absolutely ecstatic when it comes to anything handmade they receive from their grandchildren) for older kids who are adept enough to handle a pair of scissors. Now where does the handwriting part come in? In the messages that accompany or form a part of the art/drawing! Kids who are still learning their words can copy out messages whereas older ones can get to work composing their own greetings and wishes, making sure they write it out in neat cursive handwriting. We made handmade New Year kids this year and sent them out to loved ones.

Typing and Copying

Most young kids love tapping around on the keyboard and watching the characters appear on the computer screen. Ask them to copy out a fun short story word by word on a Word document. Then, after checking for any spelling errors, get a printout of the same and ask the kids to draw pictures alongside and copy out the typed story on a lined sheet of paper. This way, the little ones will get all of the below – computer keyboard typing practice, reading and drawing practice, as well as handwriting practice too.

A New Way to Write


Office” by stux is licensed under CC by 2.0

The key here is to do something different from what your child usually does. For instance, if he generally uses a pencil to write, hand him a bright colored sketch pen; if she usually writes sitting down at a table on a lined sheet of paper, try handing her some post-it notes to be put up on the refrigerator for the menu for each day of the coming week; if she has always written in notebooks, hand her a spiral bound diary with speech bubbles (see how you can make them in a Word document here) drawn on pages to pen down her thoughts at the end of a day (I did that at home and now it has become my daughter’s prized possession). Try your hand at coming up with a handmade calendar with your kids, with the days of the week and the months of the year listed down in neat cursive letters with markers or sketch pens on each page of the calendar. The ultimate aim should be to get the kids to pen down text neatly, copied or otherwise, and eventually they’ll learn to form their alphabets the correct way with constant practice.

Do share your handwriting activity ideas too, would love to try them out as well.


Virtual Reality versus Augmented Reality

Before we finish marveling at the newest innovation in the field of science and technology, yet another more fascinating element or feature comes up that we just cannot ignore. It is like this ever oncoming wave of e-transformations; no doubt we live in extremely exciting times! What is the latest innovation that is about to take the world by storm? AR, short for Augmented Reality.

Image 1

Virtual Reality” by ijmaki is licensed under CC by 2.0

What is Augmented Reality (AR)?

Wikipedia defines AR thus:

‘Augmented Reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented} by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.’

 Picture this: You are sitting in your favorite Italian restaurant. You take your phone out of your pocket and scan the yellow mustard sauce bottle placed beside the pizza in front of you on the table. Voila! No sooner did you click the picture that an entire elaborate recipe book shows up on your phone screen, replete with suggestions for dinner using the particular mustard sauce in question as an ingredient. Sounds too good to be true? Well, with augmented reality apps like Blippar in the market, this is but the reality.

As things are going, it won’t be long before almost everyone you see walking around the streets going about their daily lives will be perpetually plugged in to their Virtual Reality (VR) headsets. In addition to other virtual games in the market, take the instance of the immense popularity of a game like Pokemon Go, which has brought together virtual reality as well as brick and mortar businesses on the same page.

The Difference between AR and VR

Talk about virtual reality and you envision a world that is virtual in effect, a world that users can interact with. Effective virtual worlds are designed in such a way that users would find it difficult to distinguish between real world and virtual world objects.

On the other hand, augmented reality goes a step further – it blends together real life and virtual reality, thus having the upper hand over VR. Apps in AR are set with the real world as a backdrop, and virtual contents are blended in within that. Hence, the difference between real and virtual is pretty clear in AR, unlike VR.

Toys and Games go Hi-Tech

Online game and app designers for kids are trying their best to cash in on the growing popularity of AR. Here are three examples:

  1. QR Code Storybooks: This is all about fairy tales coming alive and talking to kids. Hidden videos in the form of Quick Response (QR) codes are activated by kids while reading – this is akin to using a touchscreen device.
  2. AR Jigsaw Puzzles: Move over the board game type jigsaw puzzles we pieced together in our own childhood; they are passé now. New AR jigsaw puzzles are all set to enthrall the kids. Say your child has just put together a jungle safari jigsaw puzzle; with AR, you could actually make your way virtually through the said safari riding on the back of an elephant!
  3. AR Coloring Apps: No points for guessing how this works… The page one colors virtually comes alive! The perfect mix of a physical coloring experience with the latest augmented reality technology.

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Image courtesy: An Eccentric Life

Coming from a person like Mark Zuckerberg, the day being talked about sure isn’t too far. What do you think?


‘Welcome to Jupiter!’

This is what flashed on screens at mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in California two days ago when the Juno spacecraft successfully started orbiting the largest planet of our solar system, Jupiter.


Juno” by WikiImages is licensed under CC by 2.0

Juno was launched from the earth on August 5, 2011 and has traveled 2.8 billion kilometers since then to complete its almost 5-year-long journey. It carries nine scientific instruments on board which will automatically switch on as programmed earlier by the end of this week, in order to start sending back scientific observations by and by. What’s more, once it is done with its work by early 2018, scientists have its end all planned out too – like its predecessor Galileo, it will be reduced to ashes in the highly radiative atmosphere of the planet generally referred to as the ‘gas giant’.

Wondering why I’m suddenly spouting so much info about Juno and Jupiter? Well, back in my childhood days, I remember having a big hard-covered picture and fact book (like an encyclopedia) that talked about space, galaxies and solar systems. Each time the book was opened, I would be fascinated – the unknown wonders of space, the possibility of life out there and my imagination would wander far and wide. News about space travel or anything to do with it transfixed me back then, and it transfixes me now. So when my daughter caught the news about Juno on TV, I decided to bring out the same ‘space book’ and pore over it, like we did in the olden days. And we spent a successful ninety minutes or so learning about the same, almost akin to a science lesson.

By the way, did you know that the name ‘Juno’ has its roots in Greek and Roman mythology? Legend has it that the mythical God Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself in order to hide his mischievousness,  and his wife – the Goddess Juno – had the power to peer through the clouds and unveil his true nature.

I heard my wife give a chuckle from the next room when I read this out. But obviously.


How April Fools’ Day Came into Being


What is known about April Fools’ Day is this: It falls every year on April 1. It is officially a day to play pranks. What is not known about the day is: How it came into being; meaning thereby that there are several tales about the origin of the day, and yet we don’t know which of those (if any) are true.

Here are some of the probable origins of the history of April Fools’ Day.

  • Hilaria, a Greco-Roman festival celebrated every year on March 25, was known for its parades, jokes and masquerades. It was thought of as the beginning of the year of the Julian calendar. The term ‘hilaria’ reminds one of the word ‘hilarity’ in the English language, which means boisterous merriment or extreme amusement.
  • Back in the year 1582, France decided to move from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. In the former, April 1 was New Year’s Day while in the latter, it was January 1. Those folks who didn’t realize this change soon enough continued to celebrate New Year’s Day on April 1 and became the butt of all jokes.
  • Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the Canterbury Tales in 1392. In the story, a fox tricks a rooster into becoming his meal, but then the rooster in turn tricks him back into letting him go. ‘Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two’ were the opening words of the story, which was considered to be a joke because there was no March 32, and hence misunderstood to mean April 1.

And hence, April Fools’ Day came into being.


Fun Ways to Learn Coding

Literacy is no longer confined to reading and writing; joining this duo is coding. In a world driven by technology where channels of engagement have changed, to learn or to at least understand coding and how it works is necessary. It will help children navigate different digital channels and even create new ones!

Coding drives most digital creations and the way they function, from games to websites. So where do children learn about coding? Naturally, the place where it all happens. This is what makes learning how to code fun. Imagine playing pet games and then the next thing you know you are learning to code as you go about creating pages for your virtual pets!

Fall 2011 Student Hackathon CodingFall 2011 Student Hackathon Coding” by hackNY.org is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Benefits of Coding

Children with an interest in technology-oriented careers are not the only ones who need to learn coding. There are several ways in which coding benefits kids. Here are a few –

  • Coding encourages logical thinking.
  • Children can work on problem solving by simplifying a complex issue into smaller steps.
  • There are opportunities aplenty for creative thinking as kids try to come up with solutions to get past hurdles.
  • It allows kids to create apps, games, websites and more on the digital platform, and turn ideas into reality.

Sublime WowSublime WoW: Website Code over 1000!” by Lord James… is licensed under CC BY 2.0


Learning to Code

Children can learn to code via games, online tutorials and courses. Here’s a list of resources that teach basic concepts.

  • Lightbot Jr. – Ideal for kids between 4-8 years. Teaches concepts like writing instructions, debugging and loops.
  • Code Monkey Island – This is a popular board game that teaches kids concepts in computer science.
  • Kodable – Through mazes and Fuzzes, this app teaches kids between five and seven the basics of programming.
  • Code Combat – It is a multiplayer fantasy game that teaches programming languages like Python and JavaScript for beginners.

 App Kodable

app – Kodable” by auladetecnologia is licensed under CC BY 2.0

  • Machineers – This is a puzzle game that is said to help users learn the way a programmer thinks as they solve the puzzles.
  • Bee-Bot – Based on the Bee-Bot floor robot, this app teaches directional language and programming.
  • Scratch – Created by MIT, Scratch is a platform where kids can learn to program stories, games and animations.
  • Hour of Code – An initiative by Codeacademy, this is an iPhone app that teaches kids to create and run a program within an hour.

Smart Game CodingSmart Game Coding” by Harris County Public Library is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Coding is a behind-the-scenes task master who drives the way we engage digitally. With a growing reliance and demand for digital products, knowing even the basics of coding can help kids grow more comfortable with the digital medium as consumers or creators.