When I was a child, my mother would wake me up very early in the morning and send me to the terrace with my books. That early morning breeze, freshness after a good night’s sleep coupled with the healthy and healing effects of sunlight may have built up my immune system, and helped develop a habit that I am benefited with even today. The chirrup of birds, the flowers in the pots of the adjoining house and some plants we had planted ourselves up there, the cloud that floated seemingly at an arm’s distance, the view of the busy road in front getting cleaned by roadside vendors, the nests awaiting life on the large neem tree in front, occupied my wandering eyes when they refused to stay locked into my text books. But they helped me to appreciate and value nature, and interpret in my own way the vastness that surrounds us.
It is important for every child to experience this vastness around her. Many of us, as parents, try to bring to our children the best of the toys and stuff them with various learning devices. We forget, that an exposure to Mother Nature can teach way beyond what the books and toys can offer. Treat this article as my personal call out to everyone reading it. Please stop crowding your place with too many objects. A small child needs space to move around freely. Provide her that uninterrupted vision so that she feels the freedom of being in a vast space. If you have a garden in your society or around your home, take her there regularly. Teach her to value the green, because there lies life that supports life. Show her the flowers and allow her to experience the beauty they spell when they bloom. Tell her never to pluck; rather lead her to develop a relationship with the plants. Introduce to her the colours, shapes and the concept of opposites (tall-short, dark-light, dull-bright etc.) with examples available in the garden. If there’s a gardener then ask him to take you and her through the names of the plants. If there’s no garden around, then create one for yourself. Bring pots of plants, preferably with flowers. Let the child experience that transformation from a bud to a flower and the happiness of being involved with the production. Nature can teach what human beings can’t. While it brings lots of oxygen for her lungs, it also toughens her system as she is in direct touch with natural elements; simultaneously, she understands that relationships nurture and grow when treated with tenderness!
The beauty of being also reflects in the kind of lifestyle we believe in. At that age when the child looks up to her parents, she comprehends everything practiced by the parents as perfect. I have seen parents using abusive language in front of their children. I have stopped parents from discussing in front of the child, their displeasure with the babysitters or relatives or school. You can’t be filling them with your personal grievances against people or institutions around and expect them to detox by themselves! They will not respect those whom we don’t respect and complain about. Rather give them a clean, positive environment and ambiance, so that they comprehend it to be a way of life. And for heaven’s sake, stop discussing politics, religion and other such burning ongoing issues in front of the child, if you are doing that already. In fact one of these days I was watching a well known television show where the anchor was shouting on top of his voice. I was horrified to find my little one suddenly imitating the anchor and he even used the words that the anchor frequently used! He shouted at me exactly copying the mannerisms when I abruptly shut down the idiot box.
This brings me to another very relevant point that goes down as a part of their learning. The world is a good place and a bad place, both in its own way. Let us not force our children to pick up our political or other sentiments and ideologies. Give them the freedom to pick up their own, as they grow up, interact with a greater world, and develop their own logic towards whatever is happening around. Let’s guide them towards the right path and never dominate their spirits. When a child makes friends, they don’t ask names. They just play around. That is the most beautiful path of co-existence. By trying to inflict their minds with thoughts we are passionate about, we only tend to curb the flexibilities and warmth of those beautiful minds they are born with! We need to learn and adopt that flexibility from them rather than working it the other way round.
I was pleasantly surprised one day when I was trying to teach alphabets to my child. He said “P for painting”! He loves to play with colours and paint. He had applied his mind and related the “P” sound with something he enjoys. Then on, I encouraged him to learn the alphabets with words that make better sense to him rather than the regular A-for-apple B-for-ball pattern. It’s A for aeroplane for him, G for grapes and L for light and so on. He picked up the words much faster this way. I too find it to be a fantastic way to encourage application based learning right from the beginning. It is certainly much better than mugging up things like a parrot and suspending logic for a more opportune date! Let there be logic right from Day One.
My last suggestion to the parents is, if you have people speaking different languages at your home, please do expose the child to all the languages. An ex-colleague of mine told me that his daughter is multi-lingual as her Gujrati father, Bengali mother, Tamil grandmother spoke to her only in their mother-tongue; from school she obviously picked up Marathi, Hindi and English! When I started practising this with my son, many relatives had warned me that I am putting undue pressure on his tender brain. But research says that at early stages, children possess huge energy and capacity to absorb and that is the best time to give them as many inputs as you want. My child started talking late. But today he speaks Hindi, Bengali and English; off and on he surprises us with bouts of Marathi and Bhojpuri, thanks to the staff in his school.
Planning out “learning” for our children is ever debatable and is subject to endless experiments. Whatever suits and offers the correct path, is perfect. I, like everyone else, am open to receive more inputs in this area. Feel free to let me know your thoughts and innovative ideas, which may have worked for your child, so that we can all benefit from the collective pool of advises. Happy learning, for the child and with the child!