Friday, 26 July 2013

Poison in your child’s creative materials

Be it crayons, pencils, felt pens, play dough, paints or scissors it is very essential to select those that not only fit in your budget but more importantly are child friendly and safe. Young children are susceptible to toxins in paints or lead poisoning through cheap paints and plastics. This can lead to allergies, asthma, and severe problems like attention disorders and behaviour issues due to high content of lead.

While selecting crayons-

  • For very young toddlers select those that are thick and round and fit in the palm as young toddlers use the ‘palmer’ grip to hold a crayon.
  • Then the child can progress to thick crayons, also called Jumbo crayons.
  • As the child slowly masters the skill of colouring you can now give 3 sided crayons, so that it automatically teaches the child the right way to hold the crayon and this will later help him in holding a pencil.
  • Crayons should be such that they do not break easily, as this can be frustrating for the child.
  • Children tend to put everything in their mouth and may even bite it and swallow-so always select crayons made from food grade colours and avoid those made from textile dyes-as these are dangerous for children when swallowed.
  • The wrapper should be of the same colour as the tip as this helps your child select the colour all by himself and hence develops independence and self esteem.
  • After colouring the colour should not stain the other pages.
  • When colouring the child should be able to get an even flow and not a patchy print.

While selecting scissors-

It is very important to give cutting with scissors as a pre-writing activity as the same three fingers that are used in holding a pencil are used for holding the scissor and hence this helps develop them.
  • The concept of scissoring is to develop the ‘writing fingers’ (thumb, fore finger and middle finger) so the finger holes should be such that they can comfortably accommodate the thumb on one side and both the fore and middle finger in the other.
  • It should be sharp enough for cutting and blunt enough not to hurt the child.
  • Try rubbing the blades on your palms to check if they hurt.
  • It should not twist or get stuck while using as this frustrates the child.

While selecting a felt pen-

  • Do not go on the size or thickness of the pen, check the length of the inside ink holder.
  • It should use food grade ink so that it is safe even if children put it in their mouth.
  • The cap should be ventilated as this will help the child breathe in case he swallows it.
  • The tip should be comfortable-not too short or too thin.
  • The ink should be such that it can be washed off easily from the child’s hands.

While choosing pencils-

  • Check the cantering of the lead-it should be exactly in the centre or else the pencil point will keep breaking while writing and while sharpening.
  • So avoid those pencils where the back of the pencil is covered with paint. The back of the pencil should be showing the lead point.
  • Go more for utility rather than its colour or price.
  • Safe lead or non lead pencils are the best.

While choosing an eraser-
·         Avoid those with aromas as many kids may be allergic to them. Some cheap varieties have strong aromas.
·         ‘Dust free’ erasers are best for young kids.
·         Ensure that the eraser does not smudge or leave dark marks every time the child uses it.
·         The eraser should be the right size for the young fingers to hold and move.
·         The eraser quality should be such that with the slightest of movement across the paper it should be able to erase, so that kids do not need to put pressure.

While choosing play dough/clay-
·         The play clay should be soft and malleable for young fingers.
·         It should not have any sticky oil etc on its surface.
·         When kids use it there should be no residue on their fingers.
·         It should not stain or bleed colours.
·         It should be soft so that it does not crack or dry up when stored.
·         It should be of a high grade so that it does not catch fungus when stored.
·         It should be non toxic for kids. Check for lead content.

While choosing paints-
·         Avoid paints that give a strong chemical smell.
·         Paints that leave stains on the fingers are of low grade quality, best avoided.
·         Buy larger containers so that it lasts longer.
·         Paints should be non toxic, check for lead content.

Monday, 15 July 2013

The Navratnas of Parenting

Stress has become an integral part of our lives. Parents particularly are stressed out and frazzled! 

Why? A parent has plenty to deal with- house work, office, targets, household staff, children, husband/wife, the whole family and friends who ridicule you for becoming ant-social due to lack of time and the constant stress of raising a child who is exposed to multifarious activities and also a successful one. To top it all it’s an age of wanting to do your finest, but it becomes a challenge when you have a tough and express way of life, like nowadays. Although parents do have more conveniences to support their lifestyles with the washing machine, the refrigerator, the microwave, school buses, technologies, house help, chauffeurs - but these come with their own share of nuisances!

As you realise now, one indeed needs to be a ‘super parent’ to be able to bring up a happy, confident kid and yet remain fit, sane and happy themselves. A little imbalance and it will throw a parent off, causing stress. So, what is the ‘stress’ in parenting? Well, there is the typical and common stress that is part of the role, such as homework, the school bus, the cold and cough, the stains and tears and all the office work on top of it all. But, that’s what every parent signed up for, isn’t it!

On the other hand, stress that parents need to watch out for and weed out is the ‘negative stress’. For this, parents need to remove ‘guilt’ from their parenting style. Guilt gives rise to an imbalance in the mind and forcing you to make wrong decisions unknowingly such as bribing and bartering with children or end up battering them.

The antidote for cognisant and wise parenting is to ‘keep the guilt and bad stress away’! How do we do that? It’s simple. Believe, enjoy and understand the hidden secret of parenting- The secret of the Navratnas of parenting.

The government of New Zealand has a policy document called Te Whariki, which has nine aspects that needs to be involved in the care, growth, nurturing and education of children. I have adapted these for parenting and called them the ‘Navratnas of Parenting’. Practise these and watch the stress of parenting dissolve into an art and parenting will be pleasurable not painful.

1.     Empowerment

For Your Kids - Empower children by letting them to talk, discuss and logically argue. It is healthy, encourage it. Teaching them to keep quiet is only bottling their emotions.

For You - Parents should empower themselves first by not getting caught in mindless competition with other parents and then empower children with the confidence that I am with you, come what may. This will give children a sense of trust and abundance.

2.     Holistic development

For Your Kids - Children need you to take care of their life skills and not only academic skills. They need, love, food, understanding, attention, patience, rules and sometimes a friend in you. When you are stressed about one, take a deep breath and focus on the other.

For You - Parents should focus on all needs. Their interactions with children should not only be limited to conversations about marks and exams. Be firm about food rules and sleep rules.

3.     Family and community

For Your Kids - Family, neighbours, friends, teachers are all part of your child’s family and community. Let your child see you interacting with them, children learn from what they see, they imitate what you do.

For You - Involve family and community and take help when necessary. No grand parents? Well take a favour from a good neighbour and ask them to baby sit while you take a break. A good break rejuvenates the mind

4.      Relationships

For Your Kids - Your child will have a different relationship with siblings, grand parents, friends etc. Don’t define or control these. Don’t be the point of contact for your child, don’t micro manage your child’s relationships. When you do that you are inviting stress. Accept your child’s relationship with others. Don’t feel insecure if your child is closer to a grandparent or someone else. When a parent is secure, it brings a sense of security within a child.

For You - Parents must have good relations with each other and the family as this will reflect on the child. Nurture relationships. Family ties decide the emotional strength of an individual.

5.     Well being

For your kids - Kids need to be safe and secure and should know that they can approach you about their fears. They should know that they will not be shouted at, ridiculed or laughed at about their fears.

For you - Your duty is not just to give them the latest, technology and fashion but also the safety and security of their overall well being. Look out for your child.

6.     Belonging

For Your Kids - When we belong, we care, when we care, we love and when we love, we can protect and defend and stand up for or fight for what we love.  Let children belong to themselves first. Don’t try and control every emotion. Don’t micro-manage your kids. Give them the freedom to take decisions.

For You- Bring belonging in your parenting. Discuss with your spouse or partner, make decisions for your kids together. Never argue or differ in front of the kids, do it in private. Belong to your kids, even in rough times. Don’t give up on yourself or them.

7.     Contribution

For Your Kids - Teach children about what they can give and not only about what they can get. Consciously teach kids that contribution can be in the form of a smile, a hug or some help. It does not have to be a materialistic contribution.

For You- Don’t only contribute laptops or holidays abroad for your children. Contribute your time and effort, so that kids can have the right development and learning. Quality time can be just 20 minutes a day, spent fully focussed on your child, no distractions.

8.     Communication
For Your Kids - Teach children that there are many ways to communicate their feelings and needs. Be open to your child’s way of communication, each child is unique. Teach your child which communication style will get your attention the most. Which means positive styles of communication will be nurtured in your child.

For You - Learn to laugh, smile, giggle tell stories, make gestures, wiggle your eyebrows, furrow your brow or hug. Learn ways to communicate with your child. Be a fun parent!

9.     Exploration

For your kids - Children are born explorers and they love exploring your limits! Set boundaries, set limits, but at the same time ensure that you give them choices too. This will help them explore their potential.

For you - Explore different ways of dealing with your child. One size never fits all! Try different approaches in stressful situations and yes, change your parenting style as per the age of your child. Trying being in a child’s shoes, after all we were all their once!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Liver for Life

The liver is one of the most important organs of the human body but no special care is taken for it. So what does the liver do? Situated in the upper right hand portion of the abdominal cavity, beneath the diaphragm and on top of the stomach, right kidney and intestines. It is dark reddish brown in colour and has multiple functions.
At any given point 13% of the body’s blood supply is found in the liver. Simply put the liver regulates blood chemistry and secretes bile to the pancreas and intestine. To simplify further all the blood that leaves the stomach or intestines passes through the liver and the liver processes the nutrients in this blood for use of the entire body.
Some important functions of the liver-
1.    Production of bile that helps break down fats
2.    Production of protein for blood plasma
3.    Production of cholesterol
4.    Conversion of excess glucose into glycogen which can be stored and later converted back into glucose
5.    Clearing of blood from poisonous substances
6.    Removing bacteria from the blood
Simple facts for parents to help them keep their kids liver healthy-
1.    The liver stores glucose for 4 hours so ensure that your kids eat every four hours.
2.    Breakfast is called so because the body breaks its fast after a night’s sleep, skipping breakfast is not helping the liver as it then has to use its stored glycogen to keep body healthy. Slowly if this continues then the liver is trained to store more and process less. So make breakfast a healthy habit.
3.    Avoid giving hard boiled sweets to kids as digestion of hard sugar bypasses the liver and so the more hard boiled sugar in your child’s diet, the more the liver is bypassed and it becomes sluggish.
4.    Drink enough water. Ensure that your kids drink water even while in school
5.    Eat healthy. Junk food is not helping the liver.
6.    Exercise for the liver so that your body is healthy and happy.
Love your liver and it will help you live longer.