Keep 'em busy

Deepa Ballal
Filed on March 18, 2021

These days, kids seem to be spending more time in front of a screen than outside. These moms have devised innovative ideas to encourage their children to put down the phone and pick up a new hobby

An age-old adage is 'Never educate your kids on how to be rich rather on how to be happy in life'. Yes, the truth that happiness is a choice we deliberately need to make each day of our lives, is something we often overlook. The pandemic taught us that one could be happy even baking a simple muffin at home. A short trip from the kitchen to the bedroom can be equally adventurous if we wanted it to be. But when things were slowly limping back to normal, we found kids fixated on gadgets more than before. With hormones surging, boredom kicking in, and screens raising dopamine, homes have now become the new battlegrounds for tantrums and fights. But not ones to accept defeat, mothers are trying their best to steer their child's interests to something creative, something off-screen.

Nathalie Martins a mother of two has a timetable to regulate her children's screen time. Coming from France, where sports and outdoor activities are extremely popular, she is glad that her two kids, Ely (10) and Max (14), love to bike, trek and pursue their passions. Her daughter is an avid gymnast, and her son loves to play the guitar. "To find an activity that interests them is essential, above all something different from social media. It is excellent for building their self-esteem, confidence and, most importantly, to build a strong personality," she says.

Adroitly running a house or juggling a career with raising children, mothers hardly find time for themselves. Dr Sonia Bhat proves otherwise. Completing her fellowship from an American university, working part-time as a prosthodontist and pursuing her hobby in singing, her kids have a lot to imbibe from her. "With devices at their disposal, it is all the more essential that they learn to manage time effectively. I make sure they do something creative every day during the holidays," says Sonia. If sketching and playing the guitar keeps Tanmay (13) busy; baking, Bharatnatyam and crochet keep Aarya (9) occupied. They even attend online classes where they learn how to read and write in their mother tongue. With well-assigned household chores being part of their daily routine, she strongly believes that a child has to learn to feed their stomach, given pandemic like situations in the future, "they need to be well equipped," she says.

When Sapna Singh, artist and faculty of art animation at a well-known university in Dubai, saw that her son's craze for Legos is unsurpassable, she had to introduce Lego technic to keep this six-year-old occupied. "He doesn't watch too many cartoons but loves to read books on dinosaurs, and yearns to be a palaeontologist," says an elated Sapna. She is glad that her son enjoys gardening, doing household chores, chopping vegetables or indulging in photography. She hopes that these skills will one day help him become a well-rounded person.

Research shows that taking time out for any enjoyable activity, like a hobby, stimulates parts of the brain associated with creative and positive thinking. Mothers have known this for a long time, haven't they? Vineeta Punjabi, a WFPB Facilitator for Sharan, an organisation devoted to spreading awareness about holistic health and an ecologically sustainable compassionate lifestyle, tries to engage her children Neev (9) and Prisha (5) in different activities. "Last summer break, Neev joined a nature writing class with Sharan and is still on it. It's a very unique class where you not only learn creative writing but also become more connected with nature and learn ways to protect it. He also learnt about making a gratitude jar where he writes something that he is grateful for and puts it in the jar. My little one now writes a gratitude journal too, watching him," she says. Though Neev loves reading Harry Potter, skateboarding, ice skating and photography, the maximum bonding happens when he decides to cook. "He picks a recipe, and we get all the ingredients out. He loves to do the chopping, and Prisha loves to mix. I also involve them in making rotis (flatbreads), of course, it is not perfect, but they love rolling the dough and getting messy," says Vineeta.

Yamini Maria, an electronics and communication engineer and a mom of three, who found her passion for watercolours, feels the pandemic was a great teacher. "We've learnt to rely on ourselves as a family to be happy. My kids enjoy outdoor activities so we usually spend a lot of time in parks or beaches just working up a sweat and burning some calories with a quick run or workout," she says. Though each one of them pursues different hobbies, what brings them together is music. "Like any mother, I just want to see my children happy. And hobbies truly do keep them happy. I've seen them transform into calmer, less stressed out individuals when they give time to their hobbies regularly. And it's always great to have the creative windows of your brain constantly stimulated and I think children who have hobbies, will always have an edge in that aspect," she affirms.

They also say caring for a pet instils a sense of responsibility and helps one focus better. Little did Sushmitha Mahesh realise that Noushka, the Maltese would be the best companion for her 12-year-old triplets during the pandemic. Apart from their online classes, they have a separate schedule as to who will feed, bathe and walk the dog. "They take turns and treat her like their younger sister," says Sushmita. When not busy with the canine, Trisha loves to attend her ballet classes online while Anikait and Eashan attend personality development classes. "During holidays they even make their own breakfast and help keep the house clean," she adds.

Though devices have solved many a problem, they have created more than one to solve. Raising a child in these times is a challenge, and mothers are up for it.

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