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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Help the child to pause in his daily routine


Often parents, in the haste to make their children super achievers, offer children learning kits and options one after another. They take their children to 'activity centers'. They buy 'learning kits' like travel kits from websites and give them to children to 'occupy' their time. They take their children to ' Art Clubs'. They take their children to 'Language classes'. What can this lead to? 

Unknowingly all these 'activities' take the child to the one extreme end of the learning spectrum. Children use Brain's Executive Attention Network ( EAN) to learn from their activities. But children also have to use brain's Default Mode Network (DMN) to help them reflect, pause, process and imagine the data they have culled from doing the activities. 

Without using enough DMN, child just moves from one activity to another. The child may become hyperactive. Without DMN, the child does not develop the patience to do the activity again when he/she encounters failure. Without DMN, the child does not process the information 'mentally' in the background which is so critical in learning.  

Instead of pushing your child to do new activities all the time, if you allow the child to pause and reflect, it will help your child retain what he has learnt, but also use it further. Here are 4 ideas to help your child , between the age of 2.5 to 4, to help him become better learner.

1. Tell Stories to the children 

Children imagine themselves in the character of stories. This imagination helps them pause and reflect. At this age, use picture books to tell the story, because the child finds it easier to utilise his limited imagination to understand the story. Because picture book stories available in the market are not well designed, use one of the two options. Either use the picture books available in the market, but create your own stories. Or click your own pictures and make your own picture book. 

To make the story interesting, follow these 5 guidelines at the minimum. 1> Dramatise the story by acting the feelings or actions. If the child cannot understand that 'there is a bird behind the curtain' narrated in the story, show him the curtain. 2> Make the story short, not more than 5-10 minutes at a time. 3> Ask questions while narrating the story. For instance, if the story is about a child going in a 'mall', ask the child if he has gone to the mall. Wait and let the child talk about the mall before continuing the story further. 4> The story should have relevance in the child's life. Do not, for instance, tell stories about going to the jungle, because the child cannot relate to it. Instead tell him about going to the 'garden' or 'farm'. 5> Try to have a 'mystery' component in the story. Mystery component is a component which the child is struggling to understand. For instance, children cannot express their fear about dark or of big sound. Weave the story around 'dark'. Or children are scared of missing mom. Or children have questions that make them worry about 'insects biting'. Weave stories around those themes.

2. Slow the pace of the child's daily routine

Often the child is busy doing one activity of another during the day. We feed his 'activity-ness' by constantly offering him new activities. Instead do the reverse. Pause the button of the child by using some of these ideas.

For instance, play instrumental music in the background in the morning. Show the child insects and talk to him about insects. Involve the child in activities that promote introspection like colors or painting. Or making mud sculpting. Or gardening. Or cleaning cars and vehicles. Or, very simply, find a group of playing children, and let him play with them. 

3. Involve the child in 'real' activities 

Do not give him 'game activities'. The child knows that these activities are meant to 'test' him.

Instead involve the child in house-hold activities like cutting vegetables, sifting grains, peeling beans, cleaning utensils, arranging mattress, replacing bed sheets, cleaning crockery and so on. Take care to give him items which are non-breakable. Give him items which are small in size and weight.Give him separate material to do his work which should be according to his size. For instance, if you want your child to broom, use broom of small size. 

4. Design activities with 'constraints'

For instance, if you want to give your child mop to clean, design the full activity. Mark the space where he can use mop, put a small bucket of water and fill it with appropriate amount, have a mop of small size to mop, show him how to dry the mop before using it again. Only after this entire activity is designed , demonstrate it to him before giving it to him.

Or for instance, while telling him to water the plants, do not give him carte blanche. Give him a specific instruction like 'Please water only rose plants'. Or 'Please water hibiscus plant'. Please request him to pour water at the trunks and not leaves. If he asks why, tell him the reason.


Please do not get misled by the child's constant desire of seeking new activities. His large number of neurons wants constant stimulation. But if you want your child to learn, not just remember items by rote, it is better to help him pause and reflect on 'what he is doing'.


  1. great very helpful...will try out giving kuhu activities what r used to her in school so that her steardyness will come.......thanks lots things opened up for me from this mail as i was not able to attend meeting coz kuhu had fever last three days

  2. I forgot to mention one important activity that you can use to help your child pause. If you are doing Yoga or meditation, involve the child in it. Do not teach him. Just let him see what you are doing. If you and spouse both do, it is even better. Child will try to disturb you a lot. But just do not answer. Tell him through gestures that it is a 'Silent' time.