Nature and Nurture!

How often do we find ourselves stopping our children from jumping in that muddy puddle, getting wet in the rain and filling their pockets with the little things they find on the street?
We often worry they are getting their hands ‘dirty’ and clothes ‘wet’.
But the next time we think that way, maybe it’s time we pause and remember, our children need and feel most alive when close to nature. Just as birds are happiest when they fly freely, our children too are happiest when they are outdoors!

Continue reading “Nature and Nurture!”

नन्हा बच्चा

नन्हा बच्चा
ना समझो तुम मुझको छोटा,
मैं हूँ सबसे ज़्यादा तगड़ा!
चलता हूँ मैं हिलडुल हिलडुल,
पर दिमाग़ हैं मेरा चुलबुल!
अगर तुम समझोगे मेरी बातें,
तो बनना चाहोगे मेरे अपने!
मैं हूँ छोटा, मैं हूँ भोला,
मैं हूँ इस दुनियाका शोला!
बनना चाहता हूँ तुम जैसा,
मगर हूँ अपनी मर्ज़ी का राजा!

– रितु शाह

Ritu Shah, Toddler Program Babulnath

Coping with Separation Anxiety

NAMC montessori preschool separation anxiety tips for parents teachers happy high five

Coping with Separation Anxiety: Tips for Montessori Parents

    • Make the goodbye prompt and positive. This sounds easy, but can often be one of the most difficult things to do. Giving your child “one more minute” or staying to work on a puzzle together simply prolongs the inevitable. As a parent, the best thing you can do is give your child a hug and kiss, say, “I love you” and reassure him/her that you will be back soon.

Continue reading “Coping with Separation Anxiety”

How you talk to your child changes their brain

Eleven-month old toddler Vianne plays with a phone and a calculator as she sits on a traders desk in front of the German share price index DAX board at the German stock exchange in Frankfurt, February 20, 2009. Vianne and her mother visited a friend working as share trader at Frankfurt's stock exchange. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach (GERMANY) - BM2E52K1AUZ01

“It’s not just about dumping language into your child’s brain.”

Most parents know that talking to their child helps them develop. But a new study has revealed that it’s how you talk to your child that really matters for their brain growth. Rather than just spewing complex words at them, or showing flashcards in the hope of enriching their vocabulary, the key is to engage them in “conversational turns” – in other words, a good old chat.


In a study of children between the ages of 4 and 6, cognitive scientists at MIT found that such back-and-forth conversation changes the child’s brain. Specifically, it can boost the child’s brain development and language skills, as measured both by a range of tests and MRI brain scans. This was the case regardless of parental income or education.


“The important thing is not just to talk to your child, but to talk with your child. It’s not just about dumping language into your child’s brain, but to actually carry on a conversation with them,” said Rachel Romeo, a graduate student at Harvard and MIT and the lead author of the paper.


The finding adds an important twist to what we know about language and development. In 1995, a seminal study established that children from the wealthiest families hear about 30 million more words by age three than children from the poorest families. The authors of that study argued that the “30-million-word gap” set the children off on fundamentally different developmental trajectories that affected their experiences later on.


Today, there are countless educational apps and toys devoted to filling that word gap and expanding children’s vocabulary from day one. However, trying to inundate children with millions of words may be missing a crucial factor in development: human relationships, and social interaction.

In fact, the MIT study suggests that parents should perhaps talk less, and listen more.

“The number of adult words didn’t seem to matter at all for the brain function. What mattered was the number of conversational turns,” Romeo said.


The children in the study wore recorders at home that registered each word they spoke or heard. Scientists then analyzed these recordings for “conversational turns”, or back-and-forth exchanges between an adult and the child. They found that the number of conversational turns correlated strongly with the children’s scores in a range of language tests. It also correlated with more activity in the area of Broca’s area, the area of the brain involved in speech production and language processing, when the children listened to stories while their brains were being scanned. These correlations were much stronger than between the number of words heard, and test scores or brain activity.


“The really novel thing about our paper is that it provides the first evidence that family conversation at home is associated with brain development in children. It’s almost magical how parental conversation appears to influence the biological growth of the brain,” says John Gabrieli, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT and the senior author of the study.


The study noted that while children from wealthier families were exposed to more language on average, children from poor but chatty families had language skills and brain activity similar to those wealthier children. This was an important finding that prompted researchers to encourage parents from all backgrounds to engage with their children – including interactive chatting with babies, for example by making sounds back and forth or copying faces.


“One of the things we’re excited about is that it feels like a relatively actionable thing because it’s specific,” Gabrielli said. “That doesn’t mean it’s easy for less educated families, under greater economic stress, to have more conversation with their child. But at the same time, it’s a targeted, specific action, and there may be ways to promote or encourage that.”


The idea of learning through social engagement and emotional bonding chimes with other research on how infants learn language. Babies tend to learn by watching and copying the adults they are most attached to, which is why singing and cuddling are much more effective than high-tech educational tools when it comes to development. Later, children learn most effectively through play, for example imaginary role play with friends or adults.


Chatting also requires more complex cognitive skills than only listening, or only talking. According to the MIT researchers, having a conversation allows children to practice understanding what the other person is trying to say, and how to respond appropriately. This is very different from merely having to listen.


Roberta Golinkoff, a professor of education at the University of Delaware School of Education who was not involved in the study, said the study added to evidence that language development went far beyond filling the word gap.


“You can talk to a child until you’re blue in the face, but if you’re not engaging with the child and having a conversational duet about what the child is interested in, you’re not going to give the child the language processing skills that they need,” said Golinkoff.


The above article was written by Sophie Hardach  for World Economic Forum

Parental Pressure

As a parent, there are few pleasures greater than your child succeeding at school. But in attaining that ‘pleasure’ how much ‘pressure’ do they put on the child is something to be pondered upon.

Often we come across children feeling bogged down due to the pressure of expectations from their parents. Children are made to understand that they are required to attain good grades whatever it may take. This enhances the exam stress. Besides that parents persistently compare their child’s grades with their peers. This ‘peer pressure’ or ‘fear of comparison’ also can create stress and anxiety in children. Continue reading “Parental Pressure”

Brains need plenty of quiet time

A sign in my father’s office read, ”Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.”

Ungrammatical, but it captured the essence of my father. My dad spent a lot of time thinking and planning, but he didn’t hesitate to take the down time of ”just” sitting and doing nothing. Dad understood what was good for him, as well as for all the grandchildren that loved to sit on his lap, and just sit.

Children need opportunities to simply sit, rest, observe, quietly explore and be. My dad understood a child’s need for this quiet time. With our children we need to balance activity with tranquil and undisturbed time.

Continue reading “Brains need plenty of quiet time”

Notes from my Observation, 4th August 2017, Babulnath

Its 9:15am and Aarav and Isha have decided to work with the ‘The Square of the Decanomial’. They seem happy both to be working together and to be working on this particular material.

As I sit down next to them, they explain to me, “Two people need to work on this, one person cannot do it”. They have already laid down two mats. Aarav brings the large board which acts as a base for the exercise and Isha brings the heavy box with the material.

Continue reading “Notes from my Observation, 4th August 2017, Babulnath”

In Class Observation, 6th July 2017, Marine Drive

Today was my designated day to observe in the Marine Drive classroom. I sat down with my book in a corner looking forward to the next hour or two. Classroom observations can be so eye opening and sometime very entertaining too.


A new child – Karan, who joint just last week was upset. He was walking around following one teacher who had now become his secure net. He was continuously calling out to go to his mama when the teacher asked him to get a mat and brought out some wild animal cards. As soon as the envelope came out the boys eyes lit up. The teacher laid out the cards one by one and the child started naming the animals. “Lion. I have a thick mane of hair.” “Tiger. Grrr…” The child knew the names of every animal in the pack and talked on about each animal. The teacher was happy to see his enthusiasm and added on more interesting facts about the animals they saw. Now it was time for the adult to move on and direct another child who was working with subtraction material. She told Karan to look at the cards and that she would come back after sometime. She asked Jian to help him. However Jian was quite happy polishing a stool and didn’t want to be disturbed. However, Aman who was pouring Rajma next to Karan was happy to be of help. Karan showed each animal one by one and Aman proudly gave every name. Karan looked at the cards a few more times and seemed done; he walked over to aunty and asked her to come back but aunty was busy. Sia who had just put away her work, noticed Karan’s plight. She sat down and showed Karan how to put each card back in the case. She showed one and then told Karan, “Now you put it away like I did.” Karan slowly put the cards back. He was upset again. Sia was next to him and told Karan to roll his mat but Karan did not want to. Seeing this Sia, barely 3.5 years, rolled the mat for Karan and told him to put it back. Karan put the mat away.


Aman who had been working on pouring Rajma had a spill. Sia who was now tracing the sandpaper sounds was near by. Sia and Karan both reached out to help Aman with the spill. The teacher encouraged Sia to go back to her work and Karan and Aman were happy to clear up together.


The stories from the classroom are endless. Today’s observation just showed my how beautifully the mixed age group works. How children even without being asked, reach out to a classmate – to pacify him, help him and guide him.

-Ashani Hirway

(Names of children have been changed)

Sharing can only be Inspired


I watch as a little girl grabs a shovel, which lays near a little boy playing contentedly in the sand.  Both children look around the age of two or three, struggling still to navigate their bodies or express themselves in words.  The little boy looks up at her with big eyes and bursts into loud tears, reaching out to grab for it.  She clutches it defiantly to her chest.  Two mothers scramble for how to respond.

“You have to share,” they say in unison to their respective children.  They both know there are plenty of sand toys to go around.

The tears are not assuaged.  The little girl is not convinced and the little boy has no intention of being persuaded that this is not a catastrophe.  The girl bursts into tears now, threatened by the idea that she might lose the precious shovel.  Two children are crying loudly.

What do you do when all of a sudden 2 kids want the same toy? Forcing them to share is not the answer. Find out why and how to inspire sharing in your child.

The mother of the boy tries to give another shovel to her son while the girl’s mother tries to convince her to give the shovel in question in exchange for something else.  The wailing continues.  The mothers squirm with discomfort, frustration written on their faces.  There’s embarrassment there, and worry, too.  “We need to share,” they both repeat, in desperation.  But written on their faces, the struggle is real: what do we do??

If they both grabbed up their phones and started voraciously googling “get your kid to share,” they would come across hundreds of websites all suggesting different things.  Some discuss rewards, others discuss consequences, and still others will talk about how to avoid the situation in the first place.  And yes, there are many ways to handle this situation.  But first, it helps to really understand what sharing is all about.

Sharing is a prosocial behavior, meaning that it is an action intended to help another person.  It requires empathy, altruism, and most importantly, must be volunteered (in order to genuinely be considered as “sharing”).  If these sound like complicated terms for a toddler, you’re right.  Sharing takes a level of cognitive ability and understanding of the concept of fairness, which most young children are still in the process of developing.  This means that sharing is a developmental process, and it takes time.

It’s not that you won’t see toddlers share; these prosocial behaviors begin to emerge as empathy begins to develop.  Your child may offer you a bite of their food or a hug when you are sad.  They might offer a toy to a friend.  These offers may not be consistent or timely, but as they grow, you will notice them more and more.  Between the ages of six and twelve, empathy will grow dramatically and these prosocial behaviors will become a part of your child’s skill set as they begin to value fairness.  Children grow to be more likely to not only voluntarily share, but even go out of their way to make sure others have a fair amount.

Given that sharing behavior is predictive of success, it’s easy to understand why parents might feel compelled to make their children share.  The problem is that “making” children share does not actually reflect the natural development of the skill, nor does it make them more likely to share in the future.  If making children share becomes associated with you taking away their toy and giving it to someone else, you may find that forced sharing actually leads to defensive and angry feelings about sharing, causing children to focus more on possessiveness.

So, if sharing is so important, how can we encourage it?

First and foremost, you have to be a model of sharing

Prosocial behaviors are best learned from the environment; meaning, if you want children to share then they need to see you sharing.  Sharing your meal, your ice cream cone, your blanket, your seat…these are all ways for children to see you demonstrate this behavior.  Sharing with people other than your child holds importance as well.  You can share household items with your neighbor or share your snacks with other families at the playground.  The more your child witnesses sharing, the more likely they will share.

Use the language of “share” while you are sharing

When you demonstrate sharing behaviors, explain to your child that you are “sharing.”  If they ask for something of yours, respond “I would love to share with you.”  If you are sharing with others, express to your child that you are sharing and discuss why you have made that choice (“I’m going to share my recipe with Grandma because I know that will make her happy”).  The more often that you use this language, the more children will categorize these behaviors as sharing and understand what you mean when you talk about it.

Give children a choice

Research demonstrates that children are more likely to share when they are given a choice about sharing.  In other words, instead of making children share, we can let them decide if they would like to share.  While this may not yield the response we’d like in every situation, it goes a long way in encouraging kids to share.

Let’s take the above scenario.  The mother of the little girl might have pointed out the little boy’s emotions: “oh, no, that little boy is so sad, I bet that he was really hoping to play with that; would you like to share that shovel with him and I’ll help you find another one?”  Giving your child a choice to make this difficult decision will become an exercise in sharing, and the more often they choose to share, the more likely they will choose to share again.

Catch them sharing

If you see your child sharing, acknowledge that they have shared (“oh, look, how wonderful of you to share with your friend”).  Express to your child how their action had a positive impact on another person (“I can see your friend is so happy that you shared with him…look how happy you have made him”).  Let your child see how sharing has made you feel as well (“it makes my heart so happy when I see you share”).  This encouragement will help your child view sharing as a positive act to be repeated.

Relax, and remember that the skills for sharing take time

Your children may share, and sometimes they may not.  And that’s okay.  If your children are not ready to share their toys, it’s okay to give them the language to say “no, thank you, I don’t want to share right now.”   Sometimes children have strong reasons for not wanting to share in a given moment (like that little girl and boy above), and those feelings are legitimate, just as adults don’t always choose to share either.  Give them the space to make those decisions and grow.

Children learn what they live…if you are a caring and sharing person, they will learn all they need from your example.