Hug and Kiss ‘em & Hold ‘em close to you!

From the moment I conceived, it was my fantasy to have a super tactile bond with my child after he/she would be born (for the longest possible time, I felt it would be a girl!). After my son was born, things became different and the first three months were extremely painful feeding him or holding him thanks to my C-section stitches. So all maternal feelings vanished into thin air and all I could think was sleep or having “me-time”. There was hardly a chance to cuddle up with him! Post partum depression had hit me big time and me not being able to calm down a screaming infant had dipped my morale too. Motherhood was nothing like I had imagined it would be! Besides I was terrified that my son would not accept me if I didn’t develop a bond early on. Of course, that did not happen. It was a mom’s fear that had spoken.

After he entered the infamous toddler phase, I became the quintessential “villain” for my son – the usual don’t do this and that. Yet again, my dreams of becoming my son’s best buddy were vanishing into thin air! I used to look at my calm and cool friends and envy their tactile bond with their children. I often wondered what it would take to bond like that with my baby.

The toddler phase, trust me, isn’t an easy one, especially when it becomes a power struggle between you and your child. I traversed this phase of feeling triumphant when I managed to make my son do exactly what I wanted, to him feeling triumphant after he threw a tantrum and got what he wanted. One day, I broke down in front of my best friends. After speaking to them, I recognized the vicious cycle that I had entered. They made me realize that using force isn’t going to help my cause. I simply failed to communicate to my son that harmony was what I wanted. He was getting more distanced from me.

Finally I changed my approach and touch was the first thing I started focusing on. I realized I needed to assure him that I will be with him no matter what! Another major change I brought in my outlook is to calm down and take three deep breaths the moment I knew I was going to lose my cool. The next was to go hug him tight and hold him close to me when he was screaming his lungs out.

Exactly at this time, I had purchased Carlos Gonzales’ book “Kiss Me”. This book completely transformed my approach with my son. I began to look at him like another adult who has feelings, emotions and thoughts of his own vis a vis a stubborn, angry and disobedient toddler. It was rather fascinating to see how hugging him, holding him close to me helped connect with him better. Of course, constantly talking to him became a cherry on the cake.

Very few understand the importance of touch.  According to the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, School of Medicine, positive touch stimulates pressure receptors under the skin, lowering the heart rate, slowing the breath, decreasing stress hormones and boosts the immune system.

I also started following the gentle parenting principles where I decided to put the “ball in his court” for everything; putting him in charge of everything important to him – his toys, books and rest of his paraphernalia. Slowly, I extended this approach to eating too — asking him what he wanted to eat or even where he wanted to go or what game he wanted to play. Today at 4.5 years, he feels a lot more responsible for the tasks assigned to him.  Our power struggles have reduced a lot too!

I also keep sharing my thoughts and feelings with my son daily. It is extremely important to let your child know that you are in perfect sync with his thoughts and feelings too. Over a period of time, he will also feel the onus to express himself in normal tones (sans yelling) to you. He will cease to look at you as an “authoritarian” figure in his life and make you his buddy too.

It is important to let go at some points of time, to ignore some things that he or she does. Most importantly, your child must know you are trying to correct his behaviour and not him; you are not going to judge him or label him for life for his behaviour. For this, the more you hug him, hold him close to you, the more he will be emotionally assured that you will be there with him!

So what are you waiting for? Go cuddle your angry baby now!!

Review | Sringeri Srinivas’s Cow must MOO!

Author: Rohini Nilekani
Illustrators: Angie & Upesh
Publication: Pratham
Age: Level 2 (3+)

This is a part of a series of stories about a banana farmer named Sringeri Srinivas. The series surrounds this banana farmer and quirky tales on his smartness and common sense while dealing with problems in the village. None of them are interconnected but the characters appear throughout the series.

As the title suggests, the farmer has a unique problem. His new cow has started making an unusual sound. The other cows, children and the villagers around are getting intimidated by their new neighbour. The farmer is totally at his wits ends and must do something soon to solve this serious problem. And there is a cat too in the picture, to add to the melee and chaos!

This Level 2 book from Pratham is a great read aloud book for children aged 2 years and above, and for children above 4 years, who recognize familiar words and can read new words with help. Simple, short sentences interspersed with small words keep children connected to the story.

Bright colours and amazing caricatures of all the characters by the illustrators make it easy for younger kids to understand the whole story even minus the words – including the various expressions. It makes for great picture talk exercises for preschoolers too, who can easily describe a village scene simply by looking at the visuals as well as the emotions in the story.

Overall, it is a fun read!

Review | Kottavi Raja and his Sleepy Kingdom

Author: Yasasvini Sampathkumar
Illustrator: Henu Mehtani
Publication: Pratham Books
Age: Level 3 (7-10 years)

How many of you have trouble sleeping at night? Yawning through the day and feeling fresh like a daisy at night? If you answered yes to the above questions, then it is likely that you will relate to Kottavi Raja too!

Meet this insomniac king and enter his sleepy kingdom where the king is forever awake at night and keeping his kingdom awake too. Kottavi Raja’s wife, ministers and all the subjects in the kingdom are exasperated, exhausted and annoyed at the king’s lack of sleep as all their efforts to put him to sleep are in vain.

This Level 3 book by Pratham is an entertaining read. The language is simple and can be easily understood by kids above 4 years and kids above 7 years who read books independently.

The story has been woven beautifully through visual imagery created jointly by the author and illustrator.

Reading this book aloud to younger ones is equal fun!

Review | Fly, Little Fish!

Author: Lavanya Karthik
Illustrators: Satwik Gade & Ashwathy P.S.
Publication: Karadi Tales
Age: 4-7 years

This book in hardcover format is appropriate for preschoolers. As the title and the book cover suggests, it is the fantasy of a little fish in the vast ocean. The ocean has marine life of all kinds; biggest and the smallest fauna co-exist peacefully.

The story is about the will and determination of this little fish who aspires to fly, something that we as kids did too. Most of us as kids always wanted to achieve the “impossible” as labelled by adults. Similarly, this fish wants to fly.

The book captures his journey very beautifully through wonderful illustrations. The book paves way for widening the imagination of children who aspire to touch higher limits. The adage “Nothing is impossible” is perfect in this story!

Just like other Karadi Tales books, this one also sends a powerful message to kids and even adults who somehow restrict themselves or limit their skills in tiny boxes!

Children above the age of 4 will enjoy this book the most!

Happy Reading!

Early Reader becomes a Bookworm

I have borrowed the above statement from a famous adage: “The early bird gets the worm”. We all learned this proverb in school. It applies to every walk of life. In case of children, this adage gains more significance as they cross various milestones in life. There are some habits or values which we want our kids to imbibe early. They are called modeled habits.

This is the main reason why we introduce certain habits early. For instance, right from brushing teeth twice a day to three meals a day (differs in every culture and community), we do this in front of our kids so that they imbibe it.

Similarly, book reading is also a modeled habit. If we read books or newspapers in front of our kids or set a routine of reading out newspapers or story books aloud (depending on the age), then it will ensure they will enjoy reading a lot more than we imagined.

Books are great to enhance imagination and also engage a child constructively. Most of the time kids these days would prefer the screen. But what a visual medium does, is to kill the imagination of a child. Whilst reading a book, the same child will be forced to imagine the scene, the plot, characters, seasons and sometimes even a piece of music mentioned by the author.

Reading helps in writing and developing other fine arts at a later stage. As you read each word, it gets embedded in the memory and helps in word-picture association at a later stage. The child will be able to do his projects effectively and without help. He will use these early associations (from his or her early reading sessions) during his learning sessions at home/or school. In effect, it helps in enriching vocabulary – pictorial, verbal and wriitten.

The earlier you take to reading, the more it will help during your early learning years as well as professional life. You cannot develop love for books overnight especially after you have become adults. If you notice some people around you say that they do not like books, one of the main reasons is that they were never encouraged to read when they were small or they were pushed into academics by parents saying reading books is a waste of time! I am sure most of you reading this will be able to relate to this.

So begin as early as possible – as early as when your child is curious to explore coloured flyers/newspapers/books or magazines. Do not kill that curiosity with your concern that they will tear the book to pieces. Slowly inculcate the habit by showing pictures, sitting with your children and eventually they will understand why books are lovely and they should not damage them.

Reading is a life-long gift that you can gift your child!

Review | Tap Tap Tapak (Hindi)

Author: Amar Goswami
Illustrator: Partho Sengupta
Publisher: Pratham
Language: Hindi

This review has been long overdue. But I felt it is appropriate time to talk about this book – it is the rainy season now, and kids love the rains!

Paper boats are out floating in the water and crazy dancing in the rains ensues. But what exactly does it mean for the animals in this jungle?

The title of this Hindi book from Pratham publications itself suggests it is a sound and the various interpretations by the residents of the jungle. So what does this sound stand for? This is exactly what the jungle animals do. They set out to find out the source of the sound they hear on a rainy day.

The author and illustrator have both done a great job in maintaining suspense, enough to hold a child’s interest in finding out more about the sound mentioned.

This Level 2 book by Pratham is a picture-rich story book appropriate for kids aged 3+.

Review | Nat Geo Kids’ Little Kids First Big Book series

Type: Hardcover
Age group: 4+
Language: English
Author/Publisher: Nat Geo Kids

If you are wondering what to gift your toddler who has turned 4, then here is the perfect series for them. I recommend this as a parent whose toddler is enjoying every page of the three-book set!

The set comprises of The Little Kids First Book of Animals, The Little Kids First Book of Why and The Little Kids First Book of Space. Each book has the power to raise the curiosity of young minds. All these books whet the curiosity and answers all the questions that kids get at this age.

The first book is all about animals living in the Grassland, Ocean, Desert, Forest and Polar animals. It contains more than 200 incredible fun photos and facts on animals. The best part are the questions at the end of each chapter and a few tips for parents while reading the book.

The second book is an amazing trip into space. Kids get transported to their Universe and solar system. Nearly 100 beautiful illustrations and photographs interspersed with simple read-it-aloud text helps engage a rather busy toddler.  Each chapter has questions that invoke curiosity in every young mind.

The third book aptly named Why answers the smallest questions arising in children’s minds, ranging from “why are some animals so big and so small?’ to “why does my skin wrinkle in the tub?” and a myriad others.

The best part about these books is that they are a treasure chest of knowledge compiled at the most basic level by the Nat Geo Kids team who painstakingly put together all illustrations and photographs. This is one collection to be cherished forever!

All in all, a perfect gift for kids aged 4+.

Book Review | Mera Parivaar (Hindi)

Author(s): Arshi Naaz, Kuldeep Sandhu and Susheela
Illustrator: Rajeev Verma ‘Banjara’

A Level 1 book in Hindi by Pratham Publications, Mera Parivaar or my family is about the various members of a family in India. As a level 1 book, it is a perfect book for children to begin reading books with the help of elders – more importantly to improve listening and comprehension skills.

Mera Parivaar is about a small girl called Tuktuk who introduces her not-so-small, yet big family. Her family comprises of her mother, father, brother, sister, maternal and paternal grandparents, aunts and uncles, younger cousins and a small pet dog Bujo.

Authors Arshi Naaz, Kuldeep Sandhu and Susheela have kept up the narration alive through the main character Tuktuk. Illustrator Rajeev Verma has sketched all the members of a typical joint family in India quite well.

All of us have at some point grown up in a joint family at some point of time. Annual family reunions used to be a ritual every summer vacation for most growing up in the 80s and 90s, and even until recent. This book is great for tiny tots to understand each relationship quite well.

Apt for kids aged 3+.

Book Review | Gajapati Kulapati Chapaakkk Dadhomm (Hindi)

After his big sneeze in Gajapati Kulapati (http://thebookmark.in/home/3880-gajapati-kulapati-hindi.html)
and his booming gurrburroomm in Gajapati Kulapati Gurrburroomm (http://thebookmark.in/home/1449-gajapati-kulapati-gurrburrrrooom-english.html) after consuming tonnes of food, it is now time to see a playful Gajapati leap and splash around in water in the third book Gajapati Kulapati Kalabalooosh/ Gajapati Kulapati Chapaakkk Dadhomm (Hindi). The book has been translated into simple-to-understand Hindi. So what happens when a jumbo takes that giant leap into the water? A comical scene describing where all the animals and kids (who come to cool off in the village pond) land right after the naughty jumbo decides to take a plunge in the cool waters.

Tiny tots will fall in love with the cute illustrations by Ashok Rajagopalan. His narrative’s repetitive and rhythmic format helps take the story forward, describing each character’s reactions in detail. One can almost imagine oneself as a character in the story. He has made narration extremely simple for kids to understand and narrate the story on their own too.

Apt for kids aged 2+, this book is perfect to read aloud to tiny tots!

Book Review | Amma Tell Me About Krishna

Author: Bhakti Mathur
Illustrator: Maulshree Somani

This is the part 1 in the Krishna Trilogy written by Bhakti Mathur. Amma Tell Me About Krishna is a part of the Amma Tell Me series of books where a boy called Klaka loves hearing stories on every Indian culture and festival celebrated in India. In this trilogy too, the author has chosen Klaka as a listener and his mom as a narrator of this age old mythological tales from Krishna’s birth to his adulthood.

Illustrator Maulshree Somani’s beautifully sketched story of Krishna’s birth, supported by Bhakti Mathur’s excellent yet simple narration of this age-old mythological tale, is sure to touch your child’s heart.

It is the Janmashtami festival and Klaka has enjoyed watching preparations in the temple for the birth of Krishna. He has witnessed the traditional dahi handi – a sport played by boys who form a pyramid and compete to break a mud pot hung at a height.

The revelry and colours splashed across his community has left little Klaka enthralled and curious. He wants to know more about why Janmashtami is celebrated and Krishna. So Amma begins to narrate the story of Krishna to Klaka and his sister.

A lovely book to read aloud by kids aged 3 years and above.