The five W-s of toddler learning

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This happened about three months back. It was a Saturday, I was trying to get ready for the rest of the week, grinding dosa batter, doing laundry, making chapathi dough, prepping and cutting my veggies…etc. Toddler was pestering me for attention. She wanted me to sit next to her and show her pictures of Bharathiyar, M.S, Gandhi thatha* from google images. I did it a couple of times, but I had to get back to my chores. So the next time she came and asked me for Bharathiyar’s pictures, I told her that Bharathiyar is sleeping and we can’t see him. Then she asked me for M.S, I said that M.S amma I sleeping and we can’t disturb her now. After a few minutes she came back and asked for Gandhi thatha. I said that Gandhi thatha is sleeping, and we will see him later. This routine went on for another hour and then she eventually gave up. I finished my chores and went to check on her. After a few minutes I asked her if she wants to do penguin, penguin for me(she keeps her hands next to her hips and does a cute dance singing “penguin, penguin what do you see?” ). She tells me, “Amma, penguin is sleeping. No dislulb**”.

I was going to post this is on my blog and categorize it under “Humor For The Day”. Then I stopped to think. I did tell my friends and hubby about this, but I never analyzed my toddler’s thought process at that particular moment. Was she trying to get back to me? ‘Amma, you were so busy that you couldn’t spend some time with me. Now I am giving you a flavor of your own medicine. Eat it woman’. Naahhh. A typical two year old is very fickle. They have very short memory. They are very trusting, especially towards parents. On top of all this their brain is not capable of forming the required correlation between (I want some thing) -> (mom gives me the run around) -> (Now she wants something) -> (I give her the run around) ->(Message sent: Mom don’t mess with me)

Then I realized that my toddler was learning. This is a typical example for how children learn. I could analyze the five W-s of learning from this example.

What, Where, When, Why, (From) Whom does a child learn?

What – They learn what they see.
Where – At a non threatening environment. Most of the children feel the most ‘at home’ at home. So they learn a lot at home. You can send them to the best school, still they learn A LOT at home.
When – All the time.
Why – Why not?? They learn because they can! They are good at it.
(From) Whom – At a tender age nearly every thing from parents. After they grow up, from the people who inspire them.

(Just for the heck of it I will throw a H in to the theory)
How do they learn? At this age, quite a bit from repetition.

At the end of this analysis I was happy that I got an article for my portfolio on child development, but it also scared me. It is tough being a role model and do the right things at all times. So a big cheer for all of us parents!

*thatha – grandfather
** dislulb – that toddler for “disturb”


Revenge is sweet

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We have a battery operated doggie toy. When switched on, it barks and does flips. It is a gift from my friend’s MIL to my infant. Both infant and toddler like playing with it. Toddler likes the toy, but is scared of real dogs. Our neighbor across the street has a Daschund named Padget. Padget hangs out a lot in their front porch. So toddler peeps out of the house, checks if Padget is within eye sight before she ventures out. Though Padget is leashed all times, she is scared. If she sees Padget, she thinks Padget is also looking at her and is out to get her, that her logic.

For the past two days toddler was abusing the toy dog, generally pushing the dog, kicking it like a foot ball, pulling it by the ear and throwing the toy half way across the room..etc.
When ever she abuses her toys I tell her that she has to treat her toys well. Otherwise the toy will break and when she really needs it she can’t play with it. I keep repeating it but she acts as if she has never heard me.

Today, when she threw the dog, I started my usual advice, but stopped and said, “Do you know who this dog is? Its Padget’s friend. If you don’t treat her well, she will tell Padget and Padget will come to our house and ask you why you did this? So be nice to the toy dog”. She immediately stopped what she was doing, picked up the toy, kissed it and said, “Sorry tog*, hele** Amma, put it in my toy box”. It was pretty funny. 👿

Who all thinks me is mean?!!? Come on, I have to some how get back for this folks.

*tog – Dog
** hele – here


God give me strength

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It was a tiring day yesterday. Infant is down with chicken pox. Though toddler was cleared by the doctor, I decided to have her at home and not send her to day care for a week. So for the past 4 days it has been crazy, I haven’t even peeped out of the window to see how the world looks. Yesterday was extra stressful. Scrubbing the house, 7 loads of laundry, cooking, infant is throwing up water/snack/food/anything/everything, fought with hubby(what’s new?!!), was carrying around infant like a mama kangaroo, dealing with toddler’s jealousy(“I want Amma carry. Amma carry baby, amma carry me”). I was looking forward to sitting down and putting my feet up for a minute, just a minute. At last infant had gone to sleep and I had convinced toddler to go out with her father. After lots of fuss toddler agreed, (she was still skeptical that I am sending her out of the house so that I was going to do some special bonding with the infant), so this was my window, my few minutes of peace and quite…yippe yippee yeah yeah. Toddler wore her shoes, before I realized ran in to the room where infant was sleeping and yelled, “Bye, I will see ya later. Have fun”, woke up the baby and stormed out of the house. Baby started screaming, extra special screaming because she was woken up abruptly. Now God, should I laugh at your sense of humor or start crying. What the heck, I did both. Did I tell you?, it was a tiring day yesterday. Infant is down with chicken pox. Though toddler was cleared by the doctor……….. :(


XX vs XY

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I have two girls, they are 15 months apart. I had always wanted two kids, initially I had no preference as to the sex of the baby, at least that’s what I thought. But thinking back I now feel that I have always imagined having a boy and a girl. Well balanced picture perfect family right? Not that girls are any inferior or it is easy on parents if they have boys. I still have memories of my mom being ridiculed that she had a girl (I am an only child and hence the preconceived idea that I will have two children, one boy and one girl). I was just shooting for perfection…or what I thought to be perfect.

When we found out the first one was being a girl, we didn’t give any second thoughts about the sex of the baby. We had lots of other issues to think about. Even though the baby was doing great and I had a dream pregnancy and a picture perfect delivery, getting to the point of conceiving a baby was very tough on hubby and self. So all we wanted was a healthy baby in our hands. Or may be I had it in the back of my mind that I have second chance, so I didn’t care about the sex of the baby this time. The rest of the family must have felt the same thing, so they were very supportive, but kept dropping comments that it is good to have the girl first because later when the baby brother comes along she will be responsible(for the baby brother).

When I was pregnant with my second child we found out that we are having another girl. My picture of perfection was shattered. But I never voiced it out till this moment, because 4 years back, I was desperate for a baby, it seemed so wrong and ungrateful to be choosy. Plus I have a history of longing for the things I cannot or do not have. But my parents were disappointed because they feared that I might be pushed in to a spot where I might be forced to have babies till we have a boy. Others were disappointed because…well it is another girl.

Every time some one asked me if we knew if the second one was going to be a boy or a girl and when I said that it is another girl, these were the response I got:
Okay better luck next time.
Oh…(the tone, ahhhhh the tone bothered me)
Poor you…
That’s okay. In our family we always have three girl and then a boy, so don’t worry the fourth one will be a boy (why the hell will I have four babies)

A Caucasian dude who came home to fix some termite damage said, “For your own good I wish that this one must be a boy.” I didn’t share with him that we already know that we are having another girl.

I felt irritated and dreaded the question when ever I went out. Partly because I was nursing a secret longing for a boy and since this was my last chance I was disappointed. I hated myself for this thought but couldn’t help thinking this way.

Now my baby girl is 11 months old, she is so precious. My daughters look at me and smile I forget all my troubles. I see a drop of tear rolling out of their eyes it tears me up. When they reach for me and hug me…..oh man it is so divine. Who cares if I have two girls, I am happy, hubby is happy.

We go to India with both the children, immediately it starts,
“Oh, both the girls look like the father, so the boy will look like you”.(Okay sick people when is the next flight back ? I came all the way for this????)
“The first child’s ear piercing was in 2005, the second one’s ear piercing is in 2007, in 2009 we will have your boy’s ear piercing” (Can you come closer, I feel like piercing something else.)
“I will worry only if you have five girls. Till that point I will not worry”(Yep, it is not your responsibility, then why will you worry?)
“Did you get the operation done already? You will get it done only after the boy right?”(They want to know if my tubes are tied or not. This question was posed to me by three different people, whom I have met only 6-7 times through out my life, in a family function, while others were starring. Come on people how much more personal can you get?)
The house help tells me with lots of self amassed liberty that, the next trip I make I must come with a boy otherwise I need not make any trip to India. (Good God that would be so perfect.)

Seriously how big is this in this time and age? Boy or a girl, you still have to put them through college, take care of them and there is no guarantee that they will be taking care of you in your old age. I am not worried that I will not go to heaven after I die because…people…have you seen my daughters smile?…I ALREADY AM IN HEAVEN.


IS #1 = #2?

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Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with potty training. I am just trying to analyze if a mother treats all her children the same way.

When I was pregnant with my toddler I had the visions of the perfect mother I was going to be. I took plenty of rest, listened to classical Mozart and Beethoven, I used to strap on a head phone to my pregnant tummy and played music for the baby every chance I got. After she was born I would nurse her till she turned one, nothing other than breast milk for the first six months, I will play classical music when she slept, she would be this angel who spent the first three months of her life feeding and sleeping, she would do great with all her milestones (rolling over, crawling etc just like they say in baby center). Have you seen kids who yell and throw tantrums at public places? My angel would never be one of them. Any new scenario or change of schedule I would calmly explain to her once and she would quickly understand and follow my directions. I would be her best friend and she would be mine. My expectations could go on for pages.

Out came the baby with plans of her own. She was one of those colicky babies who cried and cried and cried. I had to start supplementing because she was hardly gaining any weight. I had to stop breast feeding after 8 weeks and switch her to hypoallergenic formula because her pediatrician thought that it would help with her colic. I have never felt more of a failure in my life.As she grew, she never rolled over, never crawled, never sat up, never moved on her own till she was 11 months. I never played classical music when she slept. She did not like her routine to be disturbed when we took her out, so she threw tantrums in restaurants and other public places. After 5 months she did not want to drink any more milk. Till she was a year old she threw up at least once a day.

All my expectations were shattered and I was not handling it well. Parenting was new to me, this one was not a text book baby, I wasn’t abusive, but I used to force her to drink milk, was in tears every time she threw up (try cleaning throw up from the carpet at least once a day and the laundry…oh God). I was embarrassed with her tantrums, so stayed at home and kept to a few familiar places and was getting depressed because I felt I missed out on lot of things.

When I got pregnant the second time, my elder one was barely 7 months. It was a whole new experience. I was sleep deprived most of the time. I was running around all the time, I hardly put on any weight, my OB was worried. I never listened to classical music, I never had the time to play music for my pregnant tummy. Sometimes I would even forget that I was pregnant. I would look at a nice maternity top and would think, may be during my second pregnancy I must get something nice like that and then it would hit me, “I ALREADY AM PREGNANT WITH MY SECOND CHILD!” I was prepared to supplement or for that matter put her entirely on formula.

When my younger daughter arrived, she was a screamer, who never slept, just like her elder sister. But luckily the new pediatrician diagnosed that the baby had acid reflux and hence the non-stop crying. She was prescribed antacids and I was able to breast feed her exclusively for the first four months, and kept at it for three more months.

After a rather long rambling, the point I am trying to make is, I saw so much difference in my attitude even when the baby was in the womb. With the first one, I thought of nothing other than this precious little thing that was inside me. Every action I did, every morsel of food I ate was targeted towards the baby’s welfare. With the second one, things were different, I had to take care of my elder one plus you are no longer a novice. You realize that it is perfectly okay if you don’t get your 4 servings of dairy for a day, it is not going to affect the big picture.

After the child is born the differences just keeps growing. My elder one started day care only when she was 22 months, but my younger one had to start day care when she was just 8 months. I force fed my elder child milk till she was 20 months, with the younger one, I gave up in 7 months (yes, both my kids are milk-o-phobic). Now the guilt starts, who am I being unfair to? My elder one (because I forced her and now she hates milk with a vengeance) or the younger one (by depriving the younger one of the nutrition). When my toddler asks me to carry her, I sometimes give her the, “You are a big girl” speech, the guilt just kills me that I am forcing her to grow up and be the big sister. Again I look at my baby, hey she didn’t ask to be born, I feel even guiltier. I end up carrying both the kids at the same time. I have a whole bunch of picture of my toddler, I have probably a tenth of that for the baby. My toddler was not allowed to watch TV till she turned one. The baby started watching TV when she was 6 months. And the list goes on…

So if any one tells me that she treats both her kids the exact same way, I don’t believe it. Every one makes mistakes the first time and corrects it the second time. So either the person still hasn’t learnt from the previous mistakes or is under some kind of an illusion. Plus every baby has his/her personality. How you interact with them depends entirely on their personality and their personality gets formed depending on the way you interact with them. It is a feed back loop.

In a nutshell the minute we sign up to have kids, we sign up for a never ending guilt trip. Even people who have just one kid sometimes feel guilty that they are depriving their child of the joy of growing up with a sibling don’t they?! Guess all we can do is assess the situation and do what we think is fair.


Minor stomach upsets

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Both my children suffer from loose stools every time they cut a tooth. They just have frequent BM, but are active in general.

If your baby is having loose stools, more frequent than normal, but is not in any major pain or discomfort there are a few traditional cures for the problem.

What to give

    Tapioca Stew(Javvarisi kanji in Tamil)
  • If the tapioca is small, then you can use it directly. Otherwise soak them for an hour or so.
  • Boil two cups of water.
  • Add ¼ cup of tapioca pearls.
  • Let tapioca cook completely. By now the tapioca must be translucent.
  • Add salt as required and remove from heat.
  • Drink as is or dilute it as required.
    • Ajwain(Omam) tea
  • Boil 1 cup of water.
  • Add ½ omam to the water.
  • Let boil for 5 more minutes.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Let cool, filter and drink it.
  • If possible drink it first thing in the morning. My toddler kept insisting, “Amma I want white water. No yellow water amma.” So I had to sneak it in.
  • Don’t do this for more than three days. Omam heats up the body, might result in dry cough/irritation while urinating or dry, red eyes.
  • Limit the use of omam for kids younger than a year.
    • Roasted channa daal
  • Eat as is.
  • What to avoid
    Spinach or any iron rich food.
    Excess of dairy


    Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?

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    brownbearThis book is recommended for 3-5 year old children.
    But don’t be put off by the age limit.
    It is simple enough for a two year old.
    My toddler loves it.
    Though she know knows the book by heart, she insists that I read, re-read, re-re-read it to her!
    Available as a board book, so perfect for toddler’s rough and tough ways of handling.
    Teaches the child about the different animals and also about colors. Must read for beginner readers.

    Other favs from the same author and illustrator
    The Very Hungry Caterpillar
    Polar Bear Polar Bear What Do You Hear?
    Panda Bear Panda Bear What Do You See?
    The Mixed Up Chameleon

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    Check out the link from Parenting magazine.

    When I was sitting in the doctor’s office waiting for the pediatrician, I picked up PARENTING magazine, partly because the title caught my attention and partly because I had to divert myself from typical Seinfeld-ian thoughts like, “Oh, what does that child have? Is it okay to let my kids touch this book? May be we must move to the other chair”. I gave it a quick browse and rated myself on their scale of 1-9, before our name was called. I liked it. By the way I am big sucker for these kinds of things. Hubby is pretty happy that motherhood has diverted me from taking and forcing him to take the Cosmo kind of quizzes! “Are you leading a happy life” quiz always ends up creating havoc in our household :)

    Sense of humor – To name a few scenarios, Scenario I: At eleven in the night baby gets from sleep, throws up and cries her heart out. I ask hubby to clean up. He is willing but asks a stupid question, “Clean up what?” Scenario II: Toddler is being very clingy on the day when I have my plate too full. So I say, go play ABC games and come to me when you are done from A to Z. Toddler hits A, then Z and says, “Amma Iam done.” It is sense of humor that keeps me sane!

    Creativity – I am pretty creative. For the sake of modesty, I leave it at that!

    Type B personality – Serious problem here. I am a typical type A. I always have a schedule at hand and pain the rest of the family. Rest of the family is made up of typical ‘don’t-care-about-your-schedules’ personalities.

    Stamina – Boy, oh boy. I have plenty of that! Some times my body runs for days together on 4 hrs/day sleep schedules. I am used to carrying a diaper bag on one shoulder, my infant on the sling and my toddler, who has declared, “Amma carry baby, amma carry me”. I am petite, I am 5 feet tall and weigh less than a hundred pounds. How I do it sometimes even amazes even me.

    Immodesty – I choose to let my looks go partly because of the lack of time and partly beacuse I am lazy. I am always envious of the ‘not a hair out of the place moms’.

    Tool skills – I officially am the tool woman in the house. Every single furniture in the house is assembled by me, me, me. I get inspiration from Pottery Barn catalogues and used to wander in the aisles of Home Depot trying to put together something by myself. Yep, ‘used to’, past tense. My Saturday morning trips to Home Depot ended for couple of reasons – lack of time after the second baby arrived, irritated employees at Home Depot. I ended up irritating one of the employees that he once told me, “Well mam, if something like that is readily available in Pottery Barn, have considered purchasing it from Pottery Barn itself?”

    Ability to relax – I can relax…at times…when every other work is done…after I have made my list of to-dos for the next few days…

    Love of song – I do this all the time. My toddler loves it. My versions of “Brown bear Brown bear what do you see?”, “Are you sleeping” are super hits at home. There is absolutely no tune or rhyme or rhythm, but they smile such a blissful smile when I sing(if one call it so)!!

    ESP – Every mom has this. I call this the invisible umbilical cord. No doctor can cut this off! I diagnose an ear infection or a chicken pox even before the doctor does. I never let any one talk me out of my instincts. We were recently in India, hubby and self put the kids in bed, made sure that they were fast asleep and went for late night movie(Paruthiveeran, tamil movie). Something kept gnawing at me all through the movie. We get home and the kids were up and crying! They had woken up a few minutes after we left and were screaming.

    Looks like I have a 7/9, not bad at all!
    (I need constant validation for what I do. So please do leave comments! :) )

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    Hubby and self believe in introducing things that we value most dearly to our kids. Bringing up the kids in pardes, exposure to kids from families with different value systems, eating foods other than Indian food, celebrating typical American holidays, all this scared us that kids might loose their roots. We decided to start introduction to Indian Mythology, you know Gods, stories, slokhas…etc.

    Our older child, who is only 2 years and four months, can already identify life letters in tamil, count till 50 in tamil, recite a few tamil rhymes, tell the names of the months in tamil, identify most of the Gods, recite a few slokhas and religiously puts viboodhi (the holy ash) and kum kum (sindoor) on her fore head every evening after she comes back from day care. As parents we are very proud of it, but hubby and self decide to take things to the next level.

    So on our recent trip to India we picked up few amar chitra kathas, few animation movies that tells the stories of Hanuman, Shiva, Ganesha and Krishna. We started with the amar chitra katha about Krishna. This is how things proceeded.

    Hubby started telling “Kamsa was a king, Kamsa’s baby sister Devaki and Vasudeva got married. At that time a voice told Kamsa that Devaki’s babies will kill Kamsa. So, Kamsa decides to kill all the babies”. At this point of time hubby realized that he had to use kill at least twice and he was still in the first page.He didn’t feel like telling a two year old about killing, that too killing of babies.So he decided to take a little poetic license and tells the child that Kamsa is giving all the babies a time out. Hubby and self look at each other and smile that we have evaded an uncomfortable reality of life for the time being. Then comes the part where Boothagi comes to Aayarpadi to nurse Krishna and kill him. This part, considering the fact that my children regard me as the Boothagi of Kaliyug, they have no problems relating to! When hubby tells child that Boothagi is trying to give Krishna milk, her eyes automatically turn in my direction and I can see that she is quite relieved that I don’t have anything edible in my possession or within my arms reach. We try telling her about Kalinga Nardhanam(how Krishna danced on a snake) and Govardhanagiri(How Krishna protected Aayarpadi by holding Govardhanagiri as an umbrella). We see bursts of interest as she hears familiar words like Aayarpadi, mountain, snake, dance, but we realize that we are slowly loosing her.

    On another day we started with the story of Ganesha. She was quite enthused at the beginning. She was quite discouraged when we explained that Lord Shiva is not carrying a mop, but it is a thirisoolam (weapon with three sharp edges). When we showed her a picture of Ganesha with a normal human head as opposed to the elephant’s head, she refused to sit and listen any more. Anyways the story was already quite uninteresting because Parvathy was giving Shiva a time out and Shiva was giving Parvathy a double time out, then all the ganas jumped in to the scene and were giving each other time outs of their life times. We lost her again.

    But we are very persistent parents. We introduced Hanuman. When a talking, flying monkey is the hero all other minor glitches are forgotten. After becoming familiar with Hanuman’s story, she started pointing to the characters and identifying them. All was fine, Hanuman was a super hit, but one day she pointed to Kesari (the monkey prince Anjani married) and said “Hanuman’s appa”, then she looked at Lord Pavan (the wind God) thought for a second and said, “Hanuman’s another appa”. Then she looked at hubby and said, “My appa. Where is another appa?”. We refrained from telling her that Hanuman is also considered as Shiva’s son as he was born with Lord Shiva’s blessings, because we didn’t want her to go looking in the garage for her third father.

    More than the child we as parents were very confused how to tell her a mythological story without worrying too much about peripheral details. You all know what I mean right? When grand moms and aunts told us that Krishna stole butter, we some how accepted it because Krishna was a God, he can do anything he wants to do. We didn’t interpret that stealing is good because even Gods do it or Krishna cannot be considered as God because he steals. Now that I think about it I am not sure when that enlightenment came, but growing up in a place like India with grandparents and aunts, doing pooja every day, where every Tuesday and Friday was celebrated like a festival, where every day temple visits were a very common thing, listening to stories of Krishna or Rama while amma feeds her rasam sadham( rice and rasam ) and urulai kizhangu kari ( potato curry ), that enlightment, kind of enters your heart pretty quickly!

    Here we are sitting in a foreign country or for that matter even in India where every day is becoming a rat race, I am really skeptical how long will it take for the enlightment to come?! In the mean while there are going to be lots of confusions and questions in the minds of our children. If we want our children to always remember their roots and if we want them to be proud of their lineage these are the few things I think we must do(at least this is what Iam doing right now. Whether it worked…we will know by 2020! ):

    • Talk to the children about your childhood and how you did things as a family.
    • Celebrate every small and big festival. India’s independence, diwali, ramajayanthi, hanuman jayanthi, (or what ever religiously appropriate festival there is, you know what I mean), don’t leave out anything. Celebration doesn’t have to be a grand affair. Plan it out in the weekend and do something small that signifies the occasion. Typically in our house hold we celebrate even ammavasai (no moon) day and karthigai every month. Though they are young to understand, I keep telling my kids that in India typically we go to the temple, we don’t eat leftovers and we do pooja at home. Though I don’t follow everything to the dot, due to practical difficulties, I make sure that I keep at least a couple of bananas or a small glass of milk and do a small pooja.
    • Take time to pray together. Make a time, for instance, get up in the morning and convene before a deity’s picture and some heart felt prayer, “Dear God, make my day a great day. Make every around me happy”.
    • Talk to your children’s teachers. Explain to the teachers the significance of a festival like diwali, holi, rakhi…etc. Ask them if a few moms can join together and make a small presentation about the festival. This gives the other children in the class to understand what our culture is all about. That is a big validation to our children.
    • Call India and make the children get the blessings of the elders in the family on the day of festivals.

    In a nut shell make the effort. Remember if you don’t take things to heart neither will the kids.


    More suggestions are welcome.
    I am a Hindu and I have given my perspective. Iam sure people from other religions face similar problems. I would love your comments on the issue.



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