Category: Encouraging kids to enjoy Nature

Walks and conversations

Walks and conversations

The children had two days of mid-week holidays – a parting gift from Ganapati as he is taken off for visarjan. We had more peace in the house than we’ve seen in some time. More than one person commented on how relaxed I looked!

Despite exams being just a few weeks away we managed some fun together-time. Remember I wrote about N’s interest in photography? Each time we go out for a walk she comes armed with her camera and clicks anything that catches her fancy. We chanced upon this tree.

‘It looks rather sad and lonely’, I remarked, ‘with it’s leaves and flowers all gone’.

‘I think it looks great fun – like a giant catapult’, said N, ‘imagine how far a huge ball would go if I were big enough to string it.’

She had a point, of course. And all of a sudden the tree didn’t look quite as sad any longer. It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

Children do come up with interesting ideas, which is why I love walking with them. The only hitch is, we don’t actually walk, as in the walk-for-exercise kind of walk. Or, since N has put me in a positive frame of mind, we do much more than walk – we talk and discuss and observe. We look at the flowers and trees – how the Amaltas hangs down like a chandelier or how  Peepul leaves twirl in the wind. We stop to smell and pick flowers. N is fascinated by the Harshringar we find strewn in a cream and orange carpet. She wonders, a little disappointed, why a tree with such delicate blooms should have such rough sandpaper leaves. I have no clue, I really am not much of a Botany person. I do want to tell her that beauty is never perfect but I stop the cynic in me – time enough for her to discover all of that on her own.

Soon enough H will want to sit and tell me about Greek Gods, yeah he’s still going strong with Rick Riordan. So while he and I will find a bench, N, definitely the more active one, will  continue with her jog around the park.

We’ll pick up dry pieces of branches to be used for craft projects, which may or may not happen, but my bag will look like this.

While N is the one doing the running, H is the one who gets thirsty and will drag us all to get him a drink. ‘Any juice will do,’ he says accommodatingly. And though I’m not a fan of packaged drinks I’ll indulge them just this once, and we’ll walk back home to begin the day.

Joining Parul for #ThursdayTreeLove.



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Gift your child a hobby

Gift your child a hobby

Since when N was a child looking out for rainbows in oil spills , or watching butterflies and picking flowers, she has had a special connect with nature. She’s more outdoorsy than the rest of us and is always ready for a walk.

I might grudge the times she has dragged me out of the bed on a weekend but thanks to her I do step out more often. Once the waking up is out of the way, mornings are my favourite time of the day.

A few years back she started clicking pictures on my phone. I used one of her’s for this post and that had her thrilled. Finally, for her eleventh birthday this year, we gifted her a camera. It’s the smallest most inexpensive one we could find, but it has proved to be  the best gift we could have given her. She carries it along everywhere and has been clicking everything in sight. We are hoping this is beginning of a lifelong affair with pictures.

With stress levels what they are, a hobby is important for children as well as adults. Click To Tweet

When we were kids we had plenty of spare time and that gave us the luxury of trying out and picking up hobbies on our own. ‘What is your hobby?’ used to be such a common conversation starter whether we were meeting someone for the first time or at job interviews. I don’t hear it so much any longer.

Oh the children now are way more accomplished and are doing more things than we ever did. But the important thing is – are they doing it for fun or is it just another task? Are they doing it for no reward? For no marks or medals? Simply for the pleasure it gives them without the thought of excelling at it? Are they doing it even though they may not be super good at it? Expertise might follow, of course, but it is no pre-condition for having a hobby.

That is what makes our task as parents that much harder. Did you know that people with no hobbies are more prone to ailments such as depression? Doctors ‘prescribe’ cultivating a hobby for them. And rightly so. Nothing is more relaxing than indulging in something purely for the fun of it. Here are a few more reasons why everyone should have a hobby.

The best bit is, it starts paying off even when the kids are small and goes on to yield richer dividends as they grow.

That is why I am glad N has taken to her camera. Meanwhile, she has decided she should be paid if and when I use her pictures. Yeah she’s already turning her hobby into a profession and we’ve been bargaining about the rates. This could well be the most expensive post on the blog, since I am including some of her pictures. Here they are:

Also  she has been brainstorming names her photography ‘company’ more or less settling on Peacock Pictures :-). What do you think of it?

10 things to do with tweens during vacations

10 things to do with tweens during vacations


With the first excitement of vacations wearing off I find the children flitting between the pool and their tabs. It’s as if they have nothing else to do. The moment I try to restrict their screen time they come up with “What shall we do?” – the question that is the dread of all mums. If you’re a mum in the same boat as I, here’s a list to help you out.

1. Master a recipe 
Learn to make at least one dish completely on your own – a salad, a raita, french toast, no bake cookies, cake in a mug. If you find that you enjoy cooking you could work on making your own recipe book. That reminds me to get N to work on hers. She started one during the exams and never got back to it.

This Marie biscuit cake is one of the easiest ever.

2. Read books
Duh! Obviously. Most of you would be reading books, a few at least. How about trying out a short review after you’ve read it? That way you can keep a record of all the books you read and what you thought of them.

3. Make a summer holiday diary
You could write about
Things you did: Played scrabble with cousins, Made french toast, Made friends with your aunt’s pug (N is dead scared of dogs and this last one is high on her list).
Places you visited: A relative’s place, Historical monuments, the Science centre
Foods you ate: Shared mangoes with grandpa, Pain puri at the roadside stall, Kulfi  and falooda, a new flavour of ice-cream.

4. Make a family news collage
How about turning a journalist this summer? Collect ‘news’ about family members. A cousin who graduated from high school, an aunt who got a promotion, a relative who went on a holiday, your achievement in school, a dance you performed or a skill you picked up – all of that is news. If you have pictures that’s like the icing on the cake. If not, no problem. Make small write-ups on pieces of paper and stick them onto a chart paper like a collage. We made one for our apartment complex. We typed out the news items and cut them out but hand written is good too.

4. Learn a funny poem or maybe two
They’re fun to recite. Here’s one to get you started.

5. Plant a plant and learn how to take care of it
Does it need a special kind of soil? How much and how often should you water it? Google it or get an adult to help if you don’t have access to the Internet. Don’t worry if you don’t have a green thumb. I have a black one too. Go for the easy ones first. You could simply begin with a money plant in a glass or a bottle. They almost never die on you.

6. Learn the names and know how to recognise at least five new flowers/trees that you see around you
Watch out for the regulars. Can you tell a Neem tree from an Ashoka tree? Or a Banyan from a Peepal? You couldn’t possibly miss the Gulmohur or the tall Eucalyptus. Try smelling a eucalyptus leaf. Does it seem familiar?

7. Take responsibility for one household chore and make sure you do it every single day
You could try folding your sheet, making your bed, folding dried clothes, watering plants, wiping the table after lunch/dinner. Helps to have mum on your side since you’re home all day 🙂 and she’s the one in charge of doing up the cakes and the shakes.

8. Talk to your parents/grandparents and ask them how they spent their summer vacations
Can you try any of those things? How about writing out a small piece comparing their vacations and yours?

9. Make handmade gifts for friends for school reopening day.
You could try photo frames or pen holders. I loved these easy pencil toppers made from duct tape at Atop Serenity Hill. Take a look.


10. Make your own school labels
Even if you’re not very crafty you could have a go. Cut out plain white paper labels and border them with Washi tape. That shouldn’t be too tough. Oh and before you do this, don’t forget to ensure it is allowed in your school.

I’ll be trying out all of these with the twins over the next month and sharing what we did. So watch out for detailed ‘How Tos’. I’d love it if you shared yours too.


Picture credits: Pixabay and Shutterstock


Stop! Look! Discover!

Stop! Look! Discover!

This past week we made a momentous discovery – a forest some five minutes from where we live. 

A friend had once mentioned it but I dismissed it as one of the many parks or gardens that abound here. Anyway, so last week one morning with plenty of time and little to occupy us, the kids and I walked down a back road which we thought was dead end. We crossed a few slum houses, clambered up a slope and there it was! The forest – wild and unkempt – just lots of trees with tracks running through.
As it turned out our ‘discovery’ was as misguided as that of Christopher Columbus. The forest had already been discovered and christened too. Anandvan – The Forest of Happiness. 

As we walked around we spotted a bunch of people hard at work. A gentleman approached us and introduced himself as Kumar. Before we knew it he had handed the kids plastic containers and they were following him around watering plants, looking at birding ‘nests’  hung up on trees and listening intently as he chatted on about afforestation and the need to spend time with trees.

“We need more people, more children to pitch in here”, he said and added, “It is a huge area”.
“How often can you come here?” he persisted.

I was a little taken aback because I had not planned on making this a regular affair at all. “Once a week,” I offered tentatively. 
“Twice,” he said. “Make it twice and see the difference in the children, in their eating habits, sleeping habits and in the way they perceive nature”. 

It made sense. At least the kids were out in the open, away from the dangerously addictive gadgets and having a good time in the best way possible.

Done with the ‘work’ they were left to look around. 

They found a tiny man-made pool….

…climbed trees..
… and collected interesting bits of rocks, which were photographed and sent off to geologist nanu for identification.

They also found a water reservoir and tried their hand at pumping water from a hand pump. Finally, they had to be dragged back with the lure of breakfast at their favourite joint. Quite the perfect weekend morning.

We intend to keep going there. Twice a week remains our aim. With Diwali vacations round the corner it’ll be a regular haunt.

NOTE TO SELF: Look around more often. Explore the ‘dead ends’. Step out more. Look for the greens – a garden, a park or (if I’m lucky) a forest. There just may be more green treasures waiting to be discovered.

N is for Nature love

N is for Nature love

Taking forward my resolution of letting ‘Fun Mum’ take over this summer and the kids having sufficiently recovered from their respective illnesses, I decided to renew their friendship with nature. 

As a child I was fortunate to have been brought up in a house with a large garden. We had a list of rose varieties at our finger tips. We knew our verbena from phlox. We knew when the seasonals would arrive in all their colourful glory and when they’d be gone leaving behind the zinnias and the cosmos.

We watched our parents preparing flower beds and then budding and grafting. We were brave enough to occasionally go and stir up the absolutely foul smelling compost pot in the far corner of the garden. We were fine with chameleons and lizards roaming around and didn’t have a fit if a spider crawled too close. It is rather sad then, that I have a daughter who upsets the entire dinner table if a moth flies by – a moth for goodness sake – it hardly even likes to be noticed!

Ah well, this is one friendship that just might never happen but I would definitely like my children to see what I see when I’m out among the greens. And so it was, that we set out, drawing kits in hand to get to know Nature. It was already mid morning, way too sunny for much running around but pleasantly cool to sit in the shade. I am glad the kids are at the age when sitting down is a real possibility. They planned to draw but got off to a slow start as they sat around with a ‘What should we draw?’. Soon however they picked out their spots and settled down.

I sat enjoying the quiet (a rare thing with both of them around) with the odd call of the bird or the sound of a wind chime in the breeze. That was one moment I locked away as my ‘happy memory’ to be cherished many times over. It is at moments such as these that I’m glad I am a SAHM and have the flexibility to plan my leisure. 

As I watched them I realised they enjoyed walking out with me. It is I who do not make time often enough. We don’t even need to go anywhere fancy – just around our apartment complex is enough. Occasionally we go to a park and that’s a big treat. H manages to find silly stuff like sticks or weirdly shaped twigs or befriends stray cats while N enjoys picking stones (some of which aren’t stones at all but broken bits of glass or coloured tiles), flowers and pretty fruit. Once H even dug up a butterfly pupa. Here are some pictures from one such trip last year.

After we’d done with the drawing, we collected interesting looking twigs and fashioned a family tree putting up different coloured leaves for different generations.

And we pressed some leaves to be made into cards later on.

N also picked flowers that we floated in a bowl.

Being close to nature works wonderfully for the kids. Here’s why..

– They stay away from mind-numbing TV and endless gaming.

– They learn to listen to silence and enjoy it too.

– Since there are no clear ‘instructions’ on what they are supposed to do, being out in the open comes with all the benefits of free play. They use their imagination and work out what they can do. Believe me they have plenty of ideas.

– They learn to observe and ask questions.

– It helps them grow up into responsible nature loving adults.

So do make time to step out with the kids. Talk about the trees, deconstruct a flower, study a leaf, follow a ladybug, watch the night sky. Don’t have kids? Well go out on your own. Skip the gym and go walk or jog. Take deep breaths, feel the breeze, enjoy the sunshine. It’s fun… and just a few days to go before summer comes by in all her glory.

Linking to ABC Wednesday for the letter N.