Gru, Dru & The Minions

Critics are of the view that the Despicable Me movies are ideal for kids aged 4 and above. Well, if you ask me, I feel that this series of films resonates with all age groups – after all, I ended up enjoying both parts 1 and 2 as much as my kids!

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Minions” by leovalente is licensed under CC by 2.0

Good news – Despicable 3 is scheduled for release this June. The first two flicks were simply wonderful and a complete package of sorts. There was ample shooting (but all for fun since no one got hurt), a supervillain who ended up with a heart of gold and three very cute kids along with lots of laughable moments thanks to the fun-loving minions.

Why do kids love it? Funny, quirky characters, hilarious minions plus ‘the dog’ and parts that would make both you and your little ones laugh out loud. In short, a perfect movie for family night. What with Gru discovering he has a twin brother Dru who lives in a huge mansion, the story looks even more promising than before. Here’s a sneak peek of their exciting, roller-coaster journey.

June, ahoy!

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3 Ways Poems & Rhymes Help Kids in Learning

When I try to recall my earliest memory, this is what comes up – me as a four-year-old, standing on the school stage amongst a group of kids all belonging to my age group, with all of us acting out the nursery rhyme Twinkle Twinkle Little Star playing backstage with music. I vividly remember the simple steps even today. I also recall that we were all dressed in blue – girls in sky blue dresses and boys in sky blue shirts and dark blue trousers.

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Stars” by Clker-Free-Vector-Images is licensed under CC by 2.0

So today, when I came across an article on the importance of nursery rhymes and poems in the overall development of a child starting from as young as preschool, I realized I had never looked at it from that perspective. Hence, it seemed an interesting subject to share with like-minded parents here. Leave alone just worksheets, studies and online games that are educational, here is how poems and nursery rhymes too are helpful for our children.

Nursery rhymes narrate a story with rhythm

Mary had a little lamb, little lamb,
little lamb, Mary had a little lamb
whose fleece was white as snow.
And everywhere that Mary went
Mary went, Mary went, everywhere
that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go.

Remember this evergreen rhyme which talks about Mary and her little lamb? It has a musical lilt to it, with several words being repeated time and again to aid in the child’s memory development, and the story progressing to how her little white lamb follows her to school and makes the children laugh and play. This is a tale in itself which is sure to capture a young kid’s imagination. Add to it actions or motions and it becomes a fun activity for kids to incorporate movement into the musical story. Preschoolers may not understand each word of a poem, but they will definitely take to the musical beat and sing or act along.

Poems help to build vocabulary

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Boy” by Clker-Free-Vector-Images is licensed under CC by 2.0

Chubby cheeks, dimple chin
Rosy lips, teeth within
Curly hair, very fair
Eyes are blue – lovely too.
Teachers pet, is that you?
Yes, Yes, Yes!

Not many preschoolers will know what ‘chubby’ or ‘dimple’ means. However, if you act out the above verses with them, pointing to each part of the body mentioned in the lines, it serves a double purpose – one, kids get to learn about the different parts of their body; two, new words are introduced into their world, which they have not come across earlier. They are very unlikely to forget these easily, since the nursery rhymes learnt in the early years more often than not manage to stay with us throughout our lives. A catchy rhyme does the trick in helping kids remember words easily, thus helping them develop memorization skills too.

Rhymes make dry facts colorful

One, two
Buckle my shoe,
Three, four
Open on the door,
Five, six
Pick up sticks,
Seven, eight
Lay them straight,
Nine, ten
A good fat hen,
Eleven, twelve
Dig and delve,
Thirteen, fourteen
Maids a-courting,
Fifteen, sixteen
Maids in the kitchen,
Seventeen, eighteen
Maids a-waiting,
Nineteen, twenty
My plate’s empty.

Simply counting down from 1 to 20 can be a pretty dry exercise. Making that same counting turn into a nursery rhyme will have kids captivated, especially if they act it out, as in One Two Buckle My Shoe. Another similar instance is the traditional poem called Thirty Days Hath September to remember the number of days in the months of the Gregorian calendar. This way it’s a win-win situation all along, with children learning new words, important facts and having fun all the while too.

Feeling a sense of nostalgia after all these years? Just hum along with these popular nursery rhymes all of us sang and danced to as kids. Each one of them brought a smile to my face!

Napping May Help Preschoolers Learn

A nap is always a good idea. At least, as adults we swear by it. However, taking a nap in the middle of the day is now a luxury. I always end up with a sense of accomplishment if I manage to get some shut-eye in the middle of the day! However, obviously, my kids seem to think otherwise and consider nap-time as a sense of punishment *sigh*

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Baby” by fujikama is licensed under CC by 2.0

Now, there is actual scientific evidence to prove what we parents knew all along about naps being good for kids. The University of Arizona recently carried out a study which they studied verb learning in preschoolers (3-year-olds). The study was laid out thus: 39 preschoolers in the said age group were divided into two separate groups – habitual nappers (used to napping 4 or more days in a week) and non-habitual nappers (used to napping 3 or less days in a week). To put the findings in a nutshell, kids who took a nap after learning the new verbs taught to them had a better understanding of the words even 24 hours later as compared to the kids who did not nap.

Study co-author Rebecca Gomez said this to sum up: “We know that when children don’t get enough sleep it can have long-term consequences. It’s important to create opportunities for children to nap – to have a regular time in their schedule that they could do that.”

Alas, I know what parents like me out there would be thinking; easier said than done, isn’t it?

Fun January Activities for Preschoolers

Okay, so the New Year is upon us and we’re more than halfway through January already. Most of us have probably already given up on our New Year resolutions too. Down in the doldrums? Well, apparently, it’s not all your fault. January 17 is (officially) celebrated as ‘Ditch New Year Resolutions Day’. So there.

Well, talking about days to celebrate in January, I ran a search and found some pretty fascinating results. Here’s how you can find several excuses to make January one of the most enjoyable months of the year, both for you and your little ones. Talk about beginning the New Year with a bang!

‘We didn’t realize we were making memories. We just knew we were having fun.’

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Pooh” by Wetmount is licensed under CC by 2.0

Come January 18 and cartoon lovers the world over celebrate ‘National Winnie the Pooh day’. Celebrated author A.A. Milne’s birthday falls on this day. My daughter absolutely adores her lovable Pooh bear, so much so that she’s been sleeping with a cuddly, stuffed toy version of it from as far back as I can remember! How to celebrate the occasion? Well, add a bit of honey to every meal to make it sweeter; Pooh loves honey. The more adventurous ones can whip up a honey-sweetened dessert or two (read: scrumptious honey cupcakes). Read aloud Winnie the Pooh stories to your preschooler from colorful story books. Or else, if you don’t already have one, buy a Winnie the Pooh soft toy for your home. It sure adds color and cheer to the room!

‘Winter – you’ll miss it when it’s gone.’

No one knows how and why this day came into being, but January 22 has its own name – ‘Come in from the Cold Day. I feel there are both pros and cons of the winter with the pros far outweighing the cons; the only con being it’s difficult to go out of the front door. Apart from that, it’s all pros – hot chocolate at any time of the day and night is acceptable, the best feeling in the world is snuggling in front of the fireplace with your favorite book or in my kids’ case, with their favorite virtual games on the tablet, and the aromas of hot sauces simmering on the stove accompanied with chicken lasagna, sausages and apple pie. A win-win situation for kids and adults alike!

‘It’s always the small pieces that make the big picture.’

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Puzzle” by LeoNeoBoy is licensed under CC by 2.0

Puzzles are for everyone, irrespective of age. Right from basic jigsaw puzzles for young children to their advanced versions for adults, putting together a jigsaw puzzle can be an engrossing activity. What’s more, the earlier kids get into the habit of solving jigsaw puzzles, the better. From developing hand-eye coordination at a young age to fine-tuning their fine as well as gross motor skills, from getting to recognize basic shapes and colors to learning how to be patient while solving a problem, a jigsaw puzzle does wonders to young, inquisitive minds. Not into jigsaw puzzles yourself? Try your hand at crossword puzzles in the newspaper instead, or number Sudoku puzzles. Oh, and we’re talking about puzzles here since January 29 is designated as National Puzzle Day.

To put it in a nutshell, January is much more than just about making and keeping resolutions – it’s about friendly, cuddly, honey-loving bears which give you a whole lot of good advice from time to time; it’s about sugar and spice and everything hot and nice in the wintry weather; it’s about spending quality time together as a family poring over a jigsaw puzzle with the crackling sound from the fireplace that keeps you warm. Have a wonderful start to the New Year!

A New Year Resolution for Preschoolers

‘Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.’

These are the words of Emilie Buchwald, an award-winning author of children’s novels. I couldn’t agree more with her words. A simple ritual like reading out bedtime stories to your kids from colorful picture books to help them relate to the story better can go a long way in inculcating the joys of reading in them at a later age.

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Learning” by PublicDomainPictures is licensed under CC by 2.0

Speaking from personal experience, here are 2 wonderful books for preschoolers. These may not be figured as classics in any list but they are ideal to introduce your kids to the world of books.

Lost and Found (by Oliver Jeffers): A lost penguin shows up at a little boy’s door. Now the little boy must help by taking the penguin on a journey back to its home at the South Pole. On the way, there are delightful stories to be told. A warm tale of friendship narrated in the form of a picture book.

My Teacher is a Monster! No, I am not. (by Peter Brown): Teachers are actually normal people and not monsters. But kids seem to think otherwise at times. Bobby is also one such child who considers his teacher to be a monster. But he changes his mind when he runs into his teacher outside of school.

So why not make a New Year resolution on behalf of your preschoolers and read aloud a story to them every night before tucking them into bed? After all, it’s never too early to make a reading resolution.

Happy New Year!

3 Fun Things to Do With Your Preschooler This Christmas

Though there is no dearth of Christmas activities, crafts and games that can prove to be enjoyable for kids, holiday season calls for something that can be done ‘together’ – together as a family. Because that’s how the joy of the festive season multiplies manifold, doesn’t it? This article from The Queensland Times seems to be talking about precisely that.

Here are 3 fun things you can do together with your preschooler as a family this Christmas.

Sing Christmas Carols together

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Jingle Bells” by geralt is licensed under CC by 2.0

Happy, upbeat and simple Christmas songs that have a musical lilt to them will be a hit with preschoolers. Here are some extremely popular ones which are tried-and-tested with kids the preschool age: Frosty the Snowman about how a bunch of young kids bring their cheerful old snowman to life (the ‘thumpety thump, thumpety thump’ part is especially enjoyable for children), then there’s the traditional carol handed down to us since time immemorial that goes I Wish You A Merry Christmas followed by wishes for a Happy New Year (it has repetition of lines in the stanzas and talks about milk and cookies too, easily relatable to young minds) and last but not the least how can we not talk about the all-time favorite and most melodious Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle All The Way!

Play Christmas-themed Games together

Naughty or nice… Christmas games add the much needed spice!

Christmas time means family time and playing games themed around Christmas is the best way to spend some quality time as a family together. In fact, it would be a good idea if kids look forward to the entire week starting from Christmas up to the New Year as a holiday, with each evening devoted to a new game altogether. If you’re expecting some of your kids’ friends to come over from the neighborhood too, then a good idea would be something along the lines of Pin the Nose on the Reindeer with red circles cut out for the cardboard reindeer, similar to Pin the Tail on the Donkey. If your child is someone who loves tinkering on the laptop and tablet, then virtual games like these can be pretty entertaining with special Santa suit gift box mystery capsules on offer. Or else, simply bake a large number of whole wheat cookies in the days leading up to Christmas and New Year and have a fun yet messy time decorating them together with colorful toppings.

Decorate the Christmas tree together

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Christmas Decorations” by markusspiske is licensed under CC by 2.0

The perfect Christmas tree? All Christmas trees are perfect!

The baubles on a Christmas tree are what make it look all the more special. What better way to add a touch of original flair to your tree than by making handmade ornaments for it that glitter in the firelight! It’s an easy enough activity even for preschool hands, provided you keep away the scissors part of it and of course, forbid anything at all to be put into the mouth. Get hold of assorted beads lying around the house, or better still, cover polystyrene balls with glittery wrapping paper and add string loops to them to be hung on to the tree. Allow your kids to give wings to their ideas and let their creative juices flow – the more colorful the Xmas tree, the better it will turn out to be! The best part about this activity? Your tree will have more decorations every successive year, if you start storing them away in a yearly marked box. After all, this is what memories are made of!

Spread the happiness all around you… It’s Christmas! Merry Christmas to you and your family!

The Festive Season

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Thanksgiving” by Archbob is licensed under CC by 2.0

We were just clearing the remains of our Thanksgiving feast from the table once family and friends left and hadn’t even taken down the decorations put up on the walls yet when my little one loudly exclaimed: “Now it’s time for Christmas! Let’s get the Christmas tree out and do it up!

Me and the wife stared at each other in disbelief for a moment. Alright, in a way the little tyke was right; November and December are meant to be holiday season for this precise reason that Thanksgiving and Christmas come one after the other. But then, when you’re literally bursting at the seams with perfectly roasted turkey and sweet potato casserole, corn pudding and pumpkin pie, it does become very difficult to conjure up visions of cold ham and roast chicken, Christmas cake and gingerbread. (Please don’t ask me why I relate any and every festival with food. I have no clue.)

So it was a firm ‘No’ for the disappointed boy. We will do up the Christmas tree in a couple of days from now, but not at the moment. No way. For right now, all I need is a siesta for a few hours after the exquisite food on the occasion.

Festive times at their best!

Mickey Mouse turns 88

Just last month we talked about our favorite cartoon pair Tom and Jerry turning 76 years old. It seems to be the season of birthdays since the much-loved official mascot of The Walt Disney Company – Mickey Mouse – also turned 88 this November 18! His cheerful countenance doesn’t look a tad older than it did 88 years ago, does it?

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Mickey” by Skitterphoto is licensed under CC by 2.0

What would you think of Mortimer Mouse as a name? Because Walt Disney had initially decided on this name for his creation, that is before his wife stepped in and suggested Mickey Mouse that ‘sounded more fun’.  The immense popularity of this fun guy can easily be gauged from the fact that he can boast of his very own star on the prestigious Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The little mouse which is believed to ‘represent the world of animation’ has a fascinating story to tell of its initial years – greater than 10,000 drawings which took almost up to two years to complete made up a Mickey Mouse cartoon back when it started, and that too for a short seven and a half minute of film screen time! What’s more, I was very surprised to learn that Charlie Chaplin acted as an inspiration for the character of the jolly mouse. In Walt Disney’s own words:

“We wanted something appealing, and we thought of a tiny bit of a mouse that would have something of the wistfulness of Chaplin… a little fellow trying to do the best he could.”

And thus our dashing and heroic little mouse was born, and how!

3 Fun Homemade Halloween Costume Ideas for Kids

What makes Halloween super exciting for kids is undoubtedly their Halloween costumes. Right from dressing up as a pizza delivery guy to a firefighter, an ambulance to a garbage man, the possibilities are endless and hence kids (as well as their parents!) usually end up having a particularly baffling time coming up with the perfect costume.

Here are 3 fun Halloween costume ideas for young kids which are easy to make yourself at home.

Viking costume

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Image courtesy: Celebrations

This one can have quite a dramatic effect! My son is a die-hard fan of the Vikings and dragon games based on the How to Train Your Dragon movie series and hence has decided to become a grand Viking this Halloween. Here’s what we plan to do. We have a nice brown furry towel at home which can be used as a poncho of sorts – a slit in the middle for the head – resting on the shoulders, with the bottom part cut into a border with ragged edges. Any light plain color full-sleeved t-shirt would do under that. For the helmet, two strips of cardboard taped together into a ring about one inch larger than the size of his head would be the beginning. For the dome part, similar cardboard strips curved over to the opposite side at right angles – around 3-4 such – should do the trick. We will then cover this entire dome with tin foil and tape cardboard horns colored a dark red to the sides. The helmet is done! A tin foil cardboard shield and sword plus knee-length wellington boots will transform the son into a true-blue, sword-wielding Viking!

Chocolate chip cookie costume

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Image courtesy: Etsy

One of the best things in life – chocolate chip cookies straight out of the oven! Needless to say, both kids as well as adults will readily vouch for this. So why not dress up your little tyke as a scrumptious chocolate chip cookie this Halloween? Here’s what you need: 4 pieces of cardboard (just big enough to cover the torso of your child), cotton to be used as filling, glue, light brown fabric (for the cookie part) and dark brown fabric (to denote the chocolate chips in the cookie). Start by cutting out four circles from the cardboard, to cover the trunk part of the costume. Now cut out four equal shapes of the light brown fabric and stick it onto the four pieces of cardboard. Next, stuff small bits of cotton filling into the dark fabric to stick on as chocolate chips in a random manner, both for the front and back. Finally, use some of the fabric itself to make two straps for the shoulders and you’re done with your DIY chocolate chip cookie costume!

Bat costume

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Image courtesy: Pinterest

This one is especially useful if you’re short on time and need a last-minute Halloween costume that is as good as any other. If your kid has a black leotard, nothing like it; if not, a full-sleeved black t-shirt and black tights will work equally well. Get hold of a black umbrella and carefully remove the entire handle and all the spokes in it. Cut a triangle (the shape between two spokes) up to the center from one side and then cut another one in a similar fashion right opposite to it. Tape the ends after removing all the spines on the outer end and then use some cotton wool for extra padding at the corners. Watch this tutorial to get a better idea of the sequence of steps. Some black paint on the nose and chin would add the final touch to your spooky bat ready to swoop down on unsuspecting victims!

Have a spooky and fun Halloween, with your little ghosts!