Family – A Gift that Lasts Forever

‘Our dreams are made of real things, like a shoebox full of photographs.’

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Iphone” by DariuszSankowski is licensed under CC by 2.0

Not many know that April 10 every year is observed as National Siblings Day in many parts of the United States. This year, it luckily happened to fall on a Sunday. And hence, it gave me the perfect opportunity to do something which I had been putting off since a long while.

Our home is pretty simply done up, without too much fancy stuff. Every nook and corner holds something dear to us – a gift from my kids’ grandparents, fresh flowers from our garden in the vase my mom-in-law gifted us for our first wedding anniversary, the vintage grandfather’s clock still (touch wood) ticking away quietly in the corner.

The only thing missing was – family photographs on the walls. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been preparing a collage of our pictures – of our wedding, when my daughter was born, their birthday parties and the like. My ‘grand’ project, however, always seemed to be taking forever to get completed and therefore never got put up on the living room wall. This Siblings Day, I sat myself down and created a special section of ‘sibling photos’ of my son and daughter together. And this was the culmination of years of my modest photography skills.

Once it was up, I was left wonder-struck; here were the best moments of my life in front of me. I realized once again that the most beautiful things in my life were hardly things at all. They were memories of the glow on my kids’ faces when they got their first puppy; the cake smeared on my first-born’s face on his first birthday party; the whole family celebrating Christmas together.

Life is but a collection of moments, do make them count.

3 Ways to a Healthy Lifestyle for Kids

The World Health Organization (WHO), a specialized agency of the United Nations concerned with international public health, held the first World Health Assembly in the year 1948. It was then decided that April 7 every year would be celebrated as World Health Day, a day to spread global awareness on issues of health the world over.

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World Health Day” by geralt is licensed under CC by 2.0

It is never too early to start inculcating healthy habits in children. Right from their toddler years, kids need to learn basic healthy habits – such as washing their hands thoroughly before every meal, having a shower daily, keeping their nails clean and the like. The best way to do it? Parents that lead by example. One must remember that happy, healthy parents make happy, healthy children. And as habits die hard, what the kids learn at a young age will hopefully stay with them all through their adult lives, doing them good in the long run.

This World Health Day, here are three simple ways we can help our kids lead a healthier and happier lifestyle.

Get up, get out, get moving.

Once a couch potato, always a couch potato. My kids are like that too – give them a choice between staying indoors and playing their favorite virtual games on the tablet or going outdoors to play tag with the neighborhood kids and more often than not, they’ll end up choosing the former over the latter. But the rule at home is that every evening, at least one hour is to be spent outdoors at all costs. So come what may, they find their ‘evil’ mom shooing them out of the house every single evening – barring the days when it is pouring outside (not surprisingly, those are the days they themselves want to get wet and muddy outdoors!). Dancing, walking, ball games, jumping a rope, running, hiking, swimming, roller blading, bike riding – the list is endless. One just needs to find where a kid’s interest lies and then there’s no looking back. Nothing beats the glow on the face after a good, tiring game of even simply chasing each other.

Good night, sleep tight. Wake up bright, in the morning light.

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Teddy Bear” by RyanMcGuire is licensed under CC by 2.0

A majority of the kids I know (including, of course, my own) absolutely detest anything to do with bed. Kids between the ages of 5 and 12 need at least 10 hours of sleep every night, so the researchers say. But tucking in kids early so that they wake up fresh and nicely rested is easier said than done (I’m sure most of the parents reading this will be vigorously nodding their heads in approval). It is best to set regular sleeping and waking up times for individuals of the family, which is followed (as far as possible) even on weekends. Consistent bedtime routines also help in setting up an atmosphere of bedtime. Ours is the simple tried-and-tested bath and story time ritual. Earlier me or their dad used to read out stories to the two kids when they were snugly in their beds, but now our daughter takes the initiative and begins reading out loud, while one of us parents take it up once the first story is done. Pajama Time by Sandra Boynton is my son’s latest favorite bedtime book.

Dinnertime is family time.

Okay, so probably the only scientifically ‘healthy’ aspect of eating the main meal of the day together as a family is that kids would probably tend to eat less of junk food and more of healthy stuff, so as to say. But the main motive of eating together is spending quality family bonding time. Of course, there are bound to be tiffs every now and then, but then that’s part and parcel of the process. From trying out and experimenting with new foods together to de-stressing and having a few hearty laughs can be therapeutic after a long day at work. You get to know what’s going on in your kids’ lives, they get to know how your day went; it works both ways. What’s more, researchers on the subject have this to say: ‘Sharing a family meal is good for the spirit, the brain and the health of all family members.’ So there. And if you haven’t already heard about something called The Family Dinner Project, do read more about it here.

Paul Walker made this gem of a quote once: “You know, all that really matters is that the people you love are happy and healthy. Everything else is just sprinkles on the sundae.”

Stay happy, stay healthy!

Easter Month Family Fun

Fluffy Easter bunnies, colorful chocolate Easter eggs, hot cross buns, overflowing candy baskets – my kids relate all these with Easter. They know for a fact that it is a Christian religious holiday but are naturally oblivious to the concept of Resurrection Sunday and the history associated with it. Also, at our place, the Easter festival doesn’t just mean a single Easter Sunday; it’s about an entire week or more of fun and festivities, goodies and cheer at home. Here’s what all we did together as a family this Easter month.

We attended church together.

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Communion Candles” by Antranias is licensed under CC by 2.0

Frankly speaking, ours is a family that doesn’t attend church on a regular basis. Every now and then we do try to make a visit, otherwise we believe that God resides in each one of us and hence just remember the Almighty in our bedtime prayers, thanking Him for all that He has bestowed upon us. This Easter, my husband and I decided that we would enroll our children for the Sunday school classes going on in the neighborhood church in the weeks preceding Easter. The kids enjoyed the one hour they spent at church every Sunday and would come back with all sorts of stories that talked about the significance of Easter. Also, all four of us attended the service at sunrise on Easter Sunday. The candles, the readings, the Easter hymns – all this made for a peaceful, pleasant start to the day.

We played Easter games together.

A couple of kids from the neighborhood came over to our place in the evening and we set up some fun games for them. One was that each child had to draw a colorful Easter bunny and then everyone voted for whichever bunny they thought was the best. Then of course there was the egg and spoon racing game in our backyard. We had a gala time. Once the kids left for their respective homes, my two little ones caught their breath by reclining on their bean bags and playing virtual games on the tablet which involved collecting gaming Easter eggs and the like, all the while nibbling on some homemade chocolate eggs I had made for the occasion.

We watched family movies together.

Winnie the Pooh – Springtime with Roo and the live action animation flick Hop were the two movies we watched back to back. While the former talked about springtime, spring cleaning and Easter bunnies, the latter was all about candy-coated worlds, drumming and Hollywood. And of course, it was accompanied with caramel popcorn and celebration brownies fresh from the oven.

The coloring of eggs, the warm sunshine,

The treasure hunts, the parties & the fun to dine,

The Bunny, the cakes and the fragrant air,

Tells us, ho! Easter is here.

Till next year, adios to this festival of springtime and cheer.

Cake pops, Heart relay & Fun

Cake pops

We’re having a party at our place over the coming weekend. Nope, neither of my kids have their birthdays, nor is it me or my husband’s birthday or wedding anniversary. Our home is known in the immediate neighborhood to throw small yet fun parties for the kids every now and then, be it any occasion. And with Valentine’s Day falling this weekend, most of the kids will be making a beeline towards our place.

I chanced upon this very interesting conversational relay game the other day which I think the kids will enjoy. It works well in a group (and ours is bound to be around 15 odd kids so a pretty big group at that). All you’ve got to do is divide the entire group into, say, three teams. One child at a time, from each of the three teams, will carry cardboard conversation hearts (with messages written on them) from one bucket on one side of the room to another bucket at the other end of the room – the catch here is they need to be sucking up the hearts with a straw – no touching allowed. If a heart unfortunately falls along the way, bad luck; you have to start all over again. The team that finishes this task of transferring all their ‘hearts’ first wins.

There’ll be mini chocolate doughnuts and strawberry milkshake, cake pops and marshmallows too. Wish to drop in? Happy Valentine’s Day! :)

Mathematician of the Month – Somerville

Mary Somerville, a Scottish science writer and polymath, was nominated to jointly be the first female member of the Royal Astronomical Society at the same time as Caroline Herschel (the great German British astronomer). And coming at a time when women’s participation in science and math was discouraged, this accomplishment was highly praiseworthy on her part.

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The young girl whose favorite pastime once used to be looking after the family chickens and hunting for starfish and crabs on the beach once unexpectedly encountered an algebraic puzzle with X’s and Y’s in a magazine. Our budding mathematician was very intrigued and eager to learn more on the subject. But unfortunately, her parents were of the belief that a woman’s constitution could not handle much intellectual effort without causing damage to her physical and mental health and so discontinued her studies.

But our enterprising lady would not accept defeat. She began by sneaking in on her brother’s math tutorials to learn more about algebra. She also creeped into her father’s study every now and then and read his books on navigation. She taught herself the Latin language so that she could learn more about Euclid and his geometry. Her parents eventually came to know that she was spending her evenings studying and so they confiscated her candles. But Mary found another way around this roadblock – she started memorizing mathematical problems and then solved them in her head in the dark!

An outstanding mathematician, astronomer, geographer as well as scientist of the Victorian period, Mary Somerville has not only the Somerville College in Oxford University named after her, but also an Arctic island by her last name. On her demise, she was rightfully dubbed ‘The Queen of Nineteenth Century Science’ by a newspaper.

5 Back-to-School Classroom Activities for Kids

It’s the festive time of the year again! Back in those days when I used to teach, I remember that kids coming back from the Christmas and New Year vacations would mean that they were in no mood to get back to their books. As a result, homework also suffered during the first week of the New Year or so. And hence, I always used to try my best to come up with a few fun activities to carry out in the classroom with the kids to get them back on track.

Preparing lesson plans and looking for fun ideas for classroom activities is a never-ending process for most teachers. Group activities can build rapport, encourage the class to connect with each other, and produce better quality work if planned well. So what can a teacher do to help her students get to know one another better and foster a healthy community environment? Here are a few fun classroom activity ideas to help your class have fun and become more active.

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New Classroom” by Bart Everson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Classroom activity #1 – The Line of Silence

Ask the students to get into a line based on any criterion such as height, shirt color, shoe color, etc. The challenge is not to talk to each other while they get themselves arranged in a line. Play a couple of rounds of this classroom activity with a different criterion in each round.

Classroom activity #2 – The Color Coded Chits

Fold small chits of paper and write a color from the following on each of them – red, orange, yellow, blue, brown, and green. Next, write the names of the colors on a whiteboard followed by these actions next to them. Below is an example.

Red – Who’s your favorite singer/actor?

Orange – Tell us something you learned last month.

Yellow – What do you think you are really good at, like a pro?

Blue – What is the one thing that you fondly remember from yesterday?

Brown – Tell us a special memory from your childhood.

Green – What is that one thing (not a person) that you can’t live without?

Have the students choose a chit and answer the question corresponding to the color that’s written on the chit.

Classroom activity #3 – The Bookmark Game

This is a great icebreaker activity perfect for the start of a new academic year. You will need to prepare well in advance for this classroom activity before the session begins. Make simple yet colorful bookmarks for the whole class and write the name of a student on each bookmark. Along with the names, write a question that will help you to get to know them better, examples being “name your favorite hangout”, “name your best friend”, “name a food you love to eat”, “what do you love to do when you’re not playing”, etc. Place the bookmarks question side down on a tray and pass the tray along the class for each student to choose a bookmark. Have the students read out the name on his/her bookmark and address the question along with it to the name he/she just got.

Classroom activity #4 – The Friendship Band Activity

Have each student braid a friendship band and tuck in a small piece of paper with his/her name in one of the layers of the band. Distribute the friendship bands among the whole class. If A got the band made by C and D got the band made by A, A will tie the band around C’s wrist and D will tie the band around A’s wrist.

Classroom activity #5 – Truth vs Lie

Each student says aloud three statements about herself/himself to the entire class. Of the 3 statements, 2 are true and 1 is a lie. Any one student from the class will raise his/her hand and volunteer to guess which of the three statements the lie is. This game is a great way for the kids to find out how well they know their friends!

Classroom activities can be a great way to build camaraderie and promote friendship in the class. Feel free to tweak and modify the classroom activities I’ve listed to suit the grade you teach.

Mathematician of the Month – Ramanujan

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The fact that Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar has a feature film on his life called The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan speaks volumes about the greatness of this Indian-born mathematician. The downside to his great intellect? He was so far ahead of his time and his work was so unorthodox, that even the most celebrated scholars of his times couldn’t really understand him! It is only now, more than 80 years after he passed away that we are beginning to comprehend his work and apply it to computing and complicated physics.

Thanks to the English mathematician G H Hardy, Ramanujan came to England. But he was known for certain quirks. For instance, he refused point blank to wear shoes or socks. People started referring to him as a nutcase as he was in the habit of lying face down in a cot while working on mathematical problems, and that too on a slate with chalk rather than using pen and paper. The most infuriating habit of all – especially to his fellow mathematicians – was that Ramanujan would rub out all his complicated workings with his elbow once he solved a mathematical problem and just leave behind the solutions on his slate! As a result of which mathematicians, even today, are still in the process of figuring out how exactly this mastermind worked them all out so correctly.

The most popular story about Ramanujan comes from a visit G H Hardy made to him when he was on his deathbed. Hardy didn’t know what to say to cheer him up, so he commented on the boring number of his taxi – 1729. Our genius, even in that ill state, was instantly inspired and sat up: “1729 is a fascinating number! It is the smallest number that can be expressed as the sum of two cubes in two different ways!”

In his short yet extremely fruitful life, this mathematical prodigy rediscovered previously known theorems, produced new theorems of his own accord, independently compiled nearly 4000 results of identities and equations and made remarkable contributions to the fields of mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series and continued fractions.

G H Hardy summed it up perfectly when he said: “Here was a man who could work out modular equations and theorems to orders unheard of, and whose mastery of continued fraction was beyond that of any mathematician in the world.” Undoubtedly, he was one of a kind, the only one in his league.