Our Empty Bags !!

Our Pre- Nursery & Playgroup session has just started. A fortnight has passed and yet everyday, their bags have gone home pretty much empty.

 

​If our parents didn’t know us well, they might think that their child isn’t learning anything.

The reason why the bags are empty is, that it’s extremely hard to send home anything that they are learning as what they have learnt is far  too big to fit in their bags.

 

How do we send home that the children have learnt to stay for 5 minutes on the learning center? How do we send home that the children are exploring new food? We can’t send home how the children are getting more comfortable and confident in our daily routines every single day.

 

How do we send home how the child learnt to wait for his/her turn? How do we send home how the child learnt how to use a shovel while sand play? However, we are surely sending home some dirty t-shirts which have food stains to remind you that they are becoming independent eaters. We are sending sending home some sand particles that got hidden in their pockets while sand play.

 

We are surely sending home some dance steps children learnt this week and some rhymes that being sung in the class.

 

Surely, if you looked inside their bags, it would seem like kids haven’t been learning but if you look outside, you will see cooperation, friendship, independence, discovery, testing, questioning, trial and error, confidence, exploration, and play. And believe us, that is our real learning!!

 

 

-Divya Joshi

 

Ironic- No Play in Playschool

Running a playschool gets me to meeting parents looking for a playschool for various reasons. A very common category of parents that I come across is the one desperately looking to enrich the life of their two-year child in every possible way. The whole reason for this is so that the child gets an edge before reaching a formal school.

There is a sudden shift in the concept of a playschool and what a parent expects from a playschool. With playschools mushrooming everywhere, the playschool structure has suddenly changed so as to cater to the demands of the parents, not the children.  It’s ironic that the play is diminishing from a playschool.

Playschool’s now are becoming extremely academic in nature, with a focus only on pre-writing, pre-reading, mathematical skills etc. Last Saturday I happen to meet a friend of mine with her four-and-a-half-year-old son. On asking where they were heading, she told me she was taking her son to his playschool for an extra class. I was just too curious to know what the extra class was for. She appraised me that her son wasn’t up to the mark in reading, so the teacher had called him on a Saturday for extra classes. Mind you it’s one of the very prestigious playschool in the vicinity.

I was simply flabbergasted by this.
What are we doing with our children? 
Why are we getting obsessed with Academic Success? 
Are we realizing that while making the child above average in academic skills, we are missing out on important life skills? 

I see kids around having issues in basic social skills like sharing and taking turns. They have trouble in controlling their emotions. These are the skills children need to learn and focus on in a playschool.

Research points out that children learn best through meaningful play. Many playschools are transitioning from play based teaching to becoming more academic in nature. However, while choosing a playschool for your child please remember that preschool years are not only optimal for children to learn through play, but also a critical developmental period. If children are not given enough play experiences, they start their academic career with a disadvantage. They are more likely to have difficulty in focusing, trouble controlling their emotions, poor problem-solving skills and show difficulties in social interaction.

Please remember that children just need the time, the space & the permission to be kids! Choose a playschool which focuses on PLAY!

 

-Divya Joshi

What does a Playschool offer for my child who I have already taught everything?

The new generation parent is always enthusiastic about making their child learn more and more. Many a times I have come across parents who have walked in for admission at my school and have given me a list of what their child already knows: how to recite or recognize alphabets, all of the colors, all shapes, how to count till 10 and so on. The next question asked to me is, “What does my school curriculum have, that can be offered to their child?”
As an early childcare educator as well as a founder of a playschool I want the parent to know that our playschool, Niño & Niña, which has a particular vision, would not really be interested in this, as I know that these concepts would come easily to anyone in due time. What I would rather hear is a little more about the child’s interests, self-confidence, and the child’s ability to cooperate with peer or adults.
The truth is that a playschool is not the parents yardstick of measuring their child’s academic growth. The playschool is always for a scheduled time, ( 3 or 4 hours), however the child’s learning is happening all the time. It’s a continuous process, be it in the classroom, at home, or when at the park.
So when a child starts a playschool, the child is learning more than just concepts.
  • Firstly, the child is adjusting to doing things in a space where there are other kids of the same age and at the same time learning how to follow the rules.
  • Secondly, the child is learning to take directions from their teacher who unlike their parent is not always pampering them.
  • Third most important thing is that the child is learning how to figure out where they fit in with an entirely new group of people.
So I really get surprised when some parents, during feedback sessions ask me to list any five things that my playschool has taught their child.
For some, the bench mark is that the child is able to write alphabets. However, there are lot of other things that the child has to learn before they learn how to write letters or to make patterns. The child needs to learn the exact grip of holding a pencil, how much pressure to apply on the paper in order to get that perfect impression. More so the child needs to learn that perfect posture needed for writing.
This is what each of my child at Niño & Niña is aware about. They are confident about their existence and extremely aware of their surroundings. This is exactly what our yardstick is at Niño & Niña when it comes to measuring what we have taught a child at OUR PLAYSCHOOL.
-Divya Joshi

Nursery At A Formal School Versus A Playschool

The new trend nowadays is to secure a nursery admission in a good formal school. Come the month of July, parents start striving for admissions. For most kids it’s been just one or maximum two years of exposure to a playschool. They are used to being in a very protective environment with just a 12:1 student teacher ratio. Some parents who have availed live CCTV feed on their mobile have the satisfaction of seeing their little one. The playschool environment is very comforting as the educator is not just easily available for the students but also for the parents. Most parents have an opinion that a two to three year old kid should go to a playschool, specially a one that is closest to their house and then go to a formal school.
Till very recently I too was of the same opinion. However it is rightly said that you never understand a problem until it happens to you. My twin nephews, both very smart in communication as well as expressing their views, joined a formal school after graduating from Pre nursery at my co-founded playschool (Niño & Niña Preschool, Noida) as we didn’t have Nursery that year at our playschool. There was a conflict at home in deciding for their nursery admission. My brother (thankfully not very academically ambitious for toddlers) was of the opinion that the kids should go to a playschool for nursery as well. I on the other hand, having experienced the crazy nursery admission race advocated for a formal school.
Since I happen to be in the education line, my case was stronger and well heard. The kids were admitted to a reputed formal school. Obviously we did our homework well. We ensured the student teacher ratio wasn’t too big. I really amazed myself as I felt that my three and a half old nephews (just because they are extremely expressive and adjusting) would be comfortable in an environment with the student teacher ratio of 25:1. Well, this ratio is low as compared to many formal school but is just the double, compared to a playschool.
The boys were very happy going to school. We had absolutely no settling issues. However I realized that there are very small things which are never taken into consideration.
The school bus had more than 25 toddlers and just one nanny to handle. It surprised me that as a parent of a formal school, no parent objected to this. As when in a playschool we have experienced parents objecting if we have more than 10 kids in a van and this is when the van has two adults, a teacher and a nanny in the cab.
Parents whom we met on Parent Teacher Meeting’s were fine if they were not getting daily feedback from the the teacher or  live CCTV feed of the formal school where the number of kids is huge and the kid is only three years plus.
My nephews, many a days, got their untouched lunch boxes back. Even being very verbose they never would tell the reason, neither would we get a call from the teacher updating the parents on it. One day when my sister in law called up the teacher, she very casually told her to keep some biscuit packets in the bag which she could give the kids if they didn’t eat their lunch. In my playschool, it is a norm that we give breakfast feedback everyday to the parent as we find it essential.
Somewhere down the line I realized what a fool I had been. A three and a half year old kid, no matter how smart or expressive he is, gets somewhat lost in a formal school where everything is big, be it the infrastructure, the class size, the bus etc. The kids needs complete one on one attention, the parent should be given a complete one on one feedback of the smallest of things. I realized this is only possible in a playschool, where the infrastructure might be small, the class size smaller and the gap between the teacher and parent, the smallest.
This is one of the reasons why we decided to have Nursery in our playschool from the next academic session with equivalent curriculum, if not more than a formal school, with a low student teacher ratio filling all gaps of parent & teacher feedback. It was a heartening sight to see half of our kids’ parents deciding to stay with us for Nursery.
Utmost Care & Lot of Attention is what these little ones still need !!!
-Divya Joshi

The Extinct Word- “NO”

An extremely rare word found in the vocabulary of today’s parents is “No”. This two letter word has been used extensively by us in our lives, however it seems to be disappearing while we raise our kids.
Some parents give in to avoid a conflict, others feel just too guilty in disappointing their little ones. It amazes me how we are raising a generation who isn’t use to hearing a “NO”.
Isn’t that the reason why our kids are becoming aggressive, show tantrums at a drop of a hat & don’t know how to behave when out with friends, shopping or at restaurants.
Just the other day my mother and me were sitting at a restaurant for dinner. On the other table came a couple with a three year old boy. As soon as the trio were settled on their table the little fellow started exploring the table. I guess the boy imagined the cutlery to be weapons of mass destruction as he started aiming the waiters with it. The parent’s however kept chatting and kept acknowledging the battle scene with a smile. I was surprised that the parents never got upset or said the word “No” to the kid. The kid however seemed to get bolder and bolder as he spilled water on the ground & then mopped the floor with the nicely ironed white cloth napkin kept on the table.
I was simply shocked by this behavior. I wasn’t shocked with the kid’s behavior but what amazed me was how parents were behaving to this misbehavior of the innocent kid. I overheard the parent saying “sorry” to the restaurant staff while leaving and justifying the little fellows behavior by saying, “Actually he’s our only child, so a bit pampered”. I felt like telling the parents that in the present generation of nuclear families & thank god for family planning,  generally everyone has one child. So how could that justify the child’s hooliganism.
Instead of saying that “Sorry” it was more important to say “No” to the child when he was displaying inappropriate behavior.  Saying no is an important responsibility of a parent.
Hearing the word “NO” for the child at times is important.
Saying no to your child helps with setting boundaries and limits, which would aid in their development, emotionally, physically and mentally. The problem is that sometimes we just see the short term gratification of the child. We want to avoid unpleasant episodes, and want them to be happy NOW, so we say YES to everything,  and in the process spoil them in the long term.
While saying NO once in a while is a good thing for your kid, it doesn’t mean that you have to say no all the time.
There is no set formula to the ratios of your “Yes” and “No”, however it’s just about you being fair and reasonable with your kid.
And it’s you who is going to decide everyday about what is reasonable, about where to draw the line, where to set the limits.
It’s not easy & there are no set manual available when and how to say “NO”!
In the beginning expect lots of tantrum throwing, lots of crying when you say “No”. This is the real test of courage for the parents; whether you have the discipline and will power to stick to what you want to achieve.
You need to be strong. Giving in to their tantrum will just encourage child to do it again. They know our weak spots. Kids are extremely smart and it takes no time for them to realize that sometimes you give in if they’re loud, or if they cry, or if they embarrass you in front of others.
Just don’t give in, be fair but firm. After a few times, kids realise that no tantrums will not change your mind about what is reasonable and fair. They will then learn to regulate their own emotional reaction to the “No” and over time learn how to handle it.
It’s hard, but who said Parenting is an easy job!!
-Divya Joshi

The Rat Race of Nursery Admissions

Being a business school graduate, one is very well versed with the scenario of mock interviews. In running a playschool I never thought I would be using my HR skills until very recently when the hoo hulla of Nursery Admissions started.

Nursery admission aspirants are these cute , innocent and at times very submissive two and a half year old who have just begun to enjoy their playschool. These little ones are required to not only carry themselves independently in a new school environment but also answer questions to strangers.

In trying to live up to the formal school admission procedure we too as a playschool sent a list of questions that would be asked to the child as well as parents. If you’d think the list of questions for little kids was a bit tricky then you just require to get a glimpse of the parent questionnaire (reminds me totally of the movie Hindi Medium).

Makes me seriously wonder how a mock campus recruitment interview is different from the nursery mock interactions. Believe you me, it is just the same!

While organizing one such session at my playschool I realized the similarities. However, we at Niño n Niña have made it a fun experience for our kids. Our kids were pretty anxious the first time but started enjoying it from the second session. They rather look forward now for a new face in the school to ask them questions, and all enjoy flaunting their cuteness.

Every cloud does have a silver lining !

At Niño & Niña we strive to make that silver lining broader n broader!

 

-Divya Joshi

The Difficult Task of Parenting 

The Difficult Task of Parenting 

It is believed that a child learns about the outer world even when in the mother’s womb. I was told about this my by my grandmother, according to the Hindu epic, Mahabharata, there was a warrior named Abhimanyu (Arjun’s son) who had learnt a war skill when he was in the womb of his mother. Till very lately I had found this story very hard & hilarious to believe.

Last week I went for my cousin’s daughter’s first birthday. The girl didn’t seem very people friendly and was in her mother’s arms most of the time. After a little while the girl started crying as she’s was hungry. She refused to have her milk until she was handed a mobile in her hand. I was flabbergasted to see the 12 month girl moving her fingers on the mobile. All I could remember was dear “Abhimanyu”. My grandmother indeed was right in telling me the story, otherwise how else could you justify an infant using a mobile so effortlessly.

To my surprise, not only did my cousin enjoy flaunting the birthday girl’s tech savvy skills but I could see a sense of achievement in her grandparent’s face. They all started discussing how smart the little one was.  They also added with pride that the girl could not only identify the YouTube icon but also knew how to play her favourite video. I guess it was the same pride which my parents would have felt on my first identification of alphabets.

So has the ideology of parents of this generation changed?

Children learn by imitation and they learn very fast.  Today’s parents are on the mobile most of the time so why do they crib if their kids want to do the same. Reading a story to your child seems to be time consuming, however giving your child the mobile to watch the same story is less time consuming and lets you do some other activity while keeping your child occupied on the mobile.

So why are we blaming our kids for mobile addiction? Rather than just sit and blame today’s lifestyle, let’s try and breed a better generation. 

Being a correct role model for your child is extremely important.

Minimal use of mobile in front of kids is a small way to start this. 

Never give a mobile, tab or laptop to a kid for playing or just holding.

Get up and go to the other room to use your mobile for chatting or watching some forward videos. 

Reduce watching television if you have a toddler at home. Screen time in any form is not good for you kid.

Sit and eat meals together with your kid rather than putting a video in front of them while eating.

Engage your kid in productive activities and always give them toys which require manual use rather than battery operated toys.

Read a story every day to your child before sleeping. Inculcate the habit of storytelling rather than story viewing in your kid.

It is a bit difficult to follow but then who said parenting was an easy job!

 

-Divya Joshi

Smart Devices Raise Smart Kids ???

Just the other weekend my mother and I went to the club to have dinner. As we sat waiting for our soup to arrive we began catching up with the week that had passed by.
I casually happened to look around the adjacent table where again a mother and daughter duo were sitting. The mother must have been in her 30’s and the daughter a teenager. I was surprised to see that as they waited for their food to arrive, both were engaged on their so called “Smart Phones”. Their food arrived and the teenager ate while continuing on the phone, with the mother cribbing at regular intervals that the girl was inseparable with the phone.
Further down two tables I saw a young couple sitting with their three year old daughter. Their food had arrived and the young girl was getting extremely restless and cranky. In order to pacify her, the smart mother opened a YouTube link for the daughter on the tab. The gadget did the trick, the young girl glued her eyes on the tab and the couple enjoyed a peaceful meal. As their meal got over the mother tried taking the tab away from the kid and the kid started throwing massive tantrums. I overheard the father commenting that the toddler was addicted to YouTube.
Both these instances give us some food for thought.
How did these kids, both the teenager and the toddler got hooked on to the smart device?
Was it not the parents who had very causally exposed this monster to their kids?
Do the parents then have a right to complain that their kids have become slaves of technology?
Everyone in our generation knows the harmful affects of these gadgets, still we knowingly introduce our tender minds to these electromagnetic radiations.
It amazes me that most parents while choosing a preschool don’t check for this hazard. They get bowled over by the concept of a smart class and fancy audio visual labs.
Very recently we had a parent arguing with us as to why our playschool in Noida (near sector 77) had no screen time. I bet she graded us as a fossil regarding use of technology (it hardly matters that I am into web n graphic designing too).
It was ironical that I had to actually explain the parent that if as a school we choose not to have any screen time for the kids, it wasn’t a matter of cost cutting but a very conscious decision, as we didn’t want their kids to be exposed to electromagnetic radiations. 
As a playschool it is so easy for me to put a new crying child in front of the television with cartoon or rhymes to pacify him/ her. Our playschool however chooses the longer n more difficult path to settle the child. We build a relationship with the child by the childcare expert constantly talking and engaging the child in meaningful and innovative activities. 
Indeed it takes our childcare experts a little longer but believe us you are one who benefits from it as your child learns how to build a relationship rather than become a slave of technology & gadgets.
Let’s very consciously take a pledge today and keep away our kids from technology. Sooner or later they are bound to use technology, let’s strive to make is LATER!
-Divya Joshi

Ssshhhh……. Your Kid is Listening !!!!

Children are like sponge, they soak whatever (age appropriate or not) is around them. We need to be extremely careful as to how we behave or talk in front of them.

Sitting and enjoying a cup of coffee on the swing of my balcony I was surprised hearing my nephews make conversation with each other. The younger one had touched my mobile and the older one was trying to stop him saying, “Don’t touch Bua’s phone”. I was impressed by his responsible behavior and got a sense of pride that I had done well teaching him about not touching others things until I heard him complete his sentence by adding in an assertive tone, “don’t touch it, you understand… you better understand”.

My sense of pride evaporated completely as reality hit me real hard that he was actually imitating my exact dialog. That is when I realized the importance of speaking the proper words in front of kids.

The words, the tone and actions we use in front of them are their learning aids. Hence, it’s extremely important to use the age appropriate vocabulary in front of them. Children learn a great deal by imitation and it’s extremely difficult to make them unlearn something that they have learnt imitating their loved ones.

Children constantly learn and increase their vocabulary from people around them, things they hear on television or any other audio medium. It’s very important that kids watch television or use tabs (that is, if it is extremely important to watch the idiot box) only and only under parent supervision.

We forget and fight in front of our kids. We tend to ignore or at times even find it very cute when our children imitate some of our dialogues. At times we even take pride and ask our little ones to repeat these dialogues in front of people without realizing that we are confusing a blooming brain. I was only surprised the other day when my friend asked her two and a half daughter, “tell Aunty how Mummy scolds Daddy.” To my horror the girl gave a verbatim of the whole husband bashing episode. I was further petrified when everyone applauded at her performance.

After a couple of years this same cute behavior turns to our so called ill-mannered behavior. The same performance which we applauded to becomes humiliating when the four-year-old does this in a party without being asked to.

Who is to blame here? A question that we need to seriously think about.

So let’s be very very careful and make a conscious effort in using proper vocabulary with them. We need to behave in the way we way want them to behave with all.

Parenting hence is a full-time job where we are unfortunately or fortunately constantly reviewed by our child’s behavior in public.

-Divya Joshi

 

Read a story today to your kid…

Reading is one of the most important skill of any language.  In today’s technology driven environment when we take refuge to visual aid of the likes of youtube, it is extremy important for parents to take out time to read out stories to their children.  Research states that,”Reading books aloud to children stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. It helps them develop language and listening skills and prepares them to understand the written word.”
Reading also plays a very important role in developing a strong relationship with your child. As your child grows older, he’ll be constantly exploring his environment. Sitting with your child to read a book will let the two of you slow down and recapture the old moments.
So instead of treating reading a bedtime story as a chore or a task, try and nurture the reading activity and discover its magic as it will bring the two of you closer together.
Numerous studies have shown that children who are exposed to reading during preschool are more likely to do well in all facets of formal education. Early reading for toddlers helps them view books as an indulgence, not a chore. Kids who are exposed to reading are much more likely to choose books over video games, television, and other forms of entertainment as they grow older.
So let’s take a pledge today and take out a little bit of time to read to our children.
-Divya Joshi