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Toy Review: Super Shapes by ToyKraft

{Alert: This is a product review where the ToyKraft sent us a few products for review. This is not a sponsored post and our review is not affected by external factors.}

V got his first puzzle when he was a little over 2.5 years old. The puzzle box came with a set of 3 puzzles, each having 4-6 pieces to fit into a picture frame. The box said it was for children above 3 and so even though the milestone was a few months away, I said, “Why not? Let’s see what he makes of it!”

Puzzles, as they should intrigue V and so I have carefully gathered age appropriate puzzles that challenge and occupy him. And like is practice with many of our toys and games, we rope in a story element. For example in a colour matching puzzle set, we talk about the images and objects and try to recall a story in which it appeared. If we can’t figure out a story where we have seen it, then we try and makeup a situation where the object can be used.

Puzzles by now are our favourite playmates. Puzzles for a toddler are great for concentration, logic, hand and eye coordination and memory. And over a period of time we have graduated from wooden puzzle boards, to simple puzzles and memory games. And I am always on the lookout for some thing new and exciting.

When ToyKraft approached me for a toy review I asked for products that explore the creativity in a child and have applied storytelling.

Here is what they sent me!

SUPER SHAPES from TOYKRAFT

What is it about?
At the heart of it, Super Shapes is a puzzle set about shapes. With 20 shapes ranging from basic to innovative, the shapes contain 2 pieces each. So besides the square, circle, rectangle and triangle, there is the leaf, shell shaped, organic, 5-point star & 6-point star besides others.

Learning Shapes is Fun!

Learning Shapes is Fun!

What We Did With It

The shapes are colour-coordinated and pretty easy for a child to sort and put together. The upper part of the puzzle piece has eyes and the lower piece has the mouth, making the whole puzzle look like a face with the connector in between becoming the nose. With both pieces put together, the face shows up quite a unique expression! We used this to discuss expressions, trying to make them ourselves!

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20150111-133452.jpgBut then that’s about learning shapes! Over a period of time, V transformed it into a memory game of sorts by turning the shapes overleaf, such that all looked white (so there was no colour matching for him anymore) and now he really had to match shapes objectively.

What happens next is the best part. By putting together two disparate shapes, one can come up with a third figure that looks like a quirky face!

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V loved the quirky face game, mixing up the square with a circle, a star top with a triangle, an organic head with a leaf shape. The set comes with a manual showing some of the 380 possibilities! Yes…there are 380 possibilities of faces!

And really he has not tired of it!

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Super Shapes is great for kids starting 3 and above and can be used by children, well, up to even 10! Ask an older child to make up quirky faces and write a story around the character. There are 380 possibilities…there are 380 stories waiting to be written.

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Here is how we rate Super Shapes from ToyKraft on a scale of 1-5:

Looks: 3
(A puzzle is hardly judged by looks, but in this one I appreciate the creativity when it comes to teaching innovative shapes.

Purpose: 5
(This one teaches shapes and creativity!)

Durability: 4
(Puzzles are made of cardboard and unless you get them wet and /or start ripping them apart, they ought to last. No guarantee on pieces getting lost though!)

Utlility: 5
(Super Shapes has a very strong utility when it comes to making up characters and storytelling. Highly recommended!)

Price: 5
(At Rs 175, this is a very good buy!)

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What learning toys do you like to buy for your kids? Do you let them pick their own toys? What do you think of puzzles as toys for children? Do you buys toys that let a child improvise and use imagination in his play?

Did you find this review useful? Please share your thoughts.

We consider our toys very precious. They are our Playmatesand we pick our friends very carefully. Our reviews are borne out of our experiences and are completely unbiased, even when they are sponsored.

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Rhyme – Rewind – Recollections – Ruminations – Review

Rhyme – Rewind – Recollections – Ruminations – Review

My earliest memories of a nursery rhyme goes back to teacher Collins in Lower KG ferrying us into a classroom and having us listen to “How Much Is That Doggie At The Window?”

How much Is that doggie at the window?

Bow – Bow…

The one with the waggley tail…

How much is that doggie at the window?

I do hope that doggie’s for sale!

Okay I got carried away in that! I have faint fading memories of a classroom full of wooden benches and toys, a rocking horse and a very strict Teacher Collins who we grew up to fear even in high school. Back in the day Convent education started early and even as Teacher Collins magically transformed into Santa Claus every Christmas riding us toffees on a bike, her persona through the rest of the year scared me to death and back!

I must have learnt the usual bunch of Mother Goose Rhymes but then as the ‘Little Blue Song Book’ took over, most of my growing up tunes comprised of 5 Hundred Miles & Colours in the Rainbow. Rhymes receded into the unknown folds of kindergarten memories, never to be visited again until the moment when I became a mother!

Three decades later, I found myself at a loss of tunes as I tried to nurse, soothe and put my new born to sleep. Having been the voracious reader that I was, I had already started talking to the baby after the 17th week, knowing well that the Googly (the baby as we called him in the womb) was listening to his mum’s voice. But singing? What could I possibly sing? I hummed old Hindi film songs, the ones my father put me to sleep with. They worked! So the song list became a huge hit! While the bedtime songs worked, I worked on putting together another play list of songs to keep the boy awake. Having a new born doze off to sleep in the middle of a feed, or have less playful hours or cranky bath sessions meant I had to reinvent the wheel and come up with new distractions. And that is when the world of nursery rhymes came rushing back into my life once again!

However, like with everything else that came with motherhood, my sense of research and studies on rhymes and children’s songs took a diametric turn towards discovery and revelation! For example, did you know that Humpty Dumpty has several interpretations and allusions through history and literature? Popular perception attributes the anthropomorphic egg to King Richard III who had a humpback and lost a battle despite having an army. Another reference is to the city wall of the British town Colchester. The wall that was called Humpty Dumpty that crumbled under the heavy weight of its own cannon. Despite having men and armies, the wall could never be resurrected. At another point I discovered that Ringa-Ringa-Roses referred to the London Plague of 1665 that caused many deaths, particularly children. And so suddenly one day, from a young mother buried under excessive research, I decided to keep things simple.

Peppy, animated and easy to sing (with complete abandon & no regard for pitch or scale), nursery rhymes soon took over my preferred choice of music for varied activities. I would hum, sing and animate rhymes with actions and movement for my infant to watch with is eyes open wide. His tel maalish before his bath would be exactly five minutes and in all that massaging, tugging and squeezing I would sing One, Two, Buckle My Shoe. Bedtime rituals included Go to Sleep My Baby followed by the classic Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

As V grew up, we brought home our first iPad and while the father and mother customized the shared device with apps of our choice, we also looked at justifying the purchase by saying it would be so useful for the child! And that was the beginning of a terrible mistake that we made early on. V was only about a year old when we showed him his first experiential nursery rhyme on an app. Touch and tap and the stars moved, tap the cow and its moo-ed, tap the garbage can and the cat peeped out! To a little boy this was nothing less than magic. And then began the tantrums! Much to our horror, V would throw a fit if we didn’t show him the iPad and we were at a loss of ideas. All it took was a firm NO and an immediate disappearance of the gadget from all our lives. We used it only when V was asleep and removed it from his universe completely!

Did he miss out on rhymes then?

Oh no! For his humour and our play I downloaded songs from YouTube and put them on a pen drive to play on the television. With most of them being action based songs, every day we had a gala time putting our hands, feet and bodies moving.

The YouTube is an exhaustive resource of songs, rhymes and animated stories for children. I usually have a host of international channels subscriptions and downloads for the now rationed digital experiences that V has. Unfortunately, I have found very few Indian productions that meet the basic levels of quality. With poor pronunciation, music production and uninspiring animation, I have mostly stayed away from indigenous playlists and channels.

Breaking the clutter is a new, fresh and vibrant YouTube Channel called KidsHut with a host of Nursery Rhymes, Bedtime Stories and Things You Want to Know.

First as a parent and now as a storyteller I work very closely with children of all ages. With my own being a 3 year old bubbling toddler, I continue to work with young children. My Busy Bubs Happy Program is meant for the younglings, with toddlers as young 18 months attending my sessions with their mums. Children have a keen sense of music and it is always the one thing that perks up every session. Between a story and rhyme, songs and activities each session has a carefully knitted experience for the child. So if I read the book Goodnight Moon, we do the Twinkle Twinkle song with actions. Resources like Kids Hut then act as a complementary aid taking the experience to the next level of audio-visual stimulation where the child sees something familiar and learns to make connections. Now imagine explaining to a child why the moon shines!

V and I spent our morning going over the Kids Hut playlist in detail. We went over the rhymes that we all so love, with Wheels On The Bus inspiring us to sing it with actions.

Head and Shoulders is another ditty that inspires us to get up and flex our muscles. Try raising the tempo of the song and it will have all the adults huffing and puffing!

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Old MacDonald is a favourite that has been passed down almost like a family heirloom to us, with each generation loving the song as much. So no matter how many versions we have heard, there is always a fresh one at disposal.

I am still very traditional when it comes to bedtime stories, so as a rule I always refrain from any digital experience at bedtime. My stories are audio-visual all right, but that includes reading a book and me animating it with my telling. I always advise parents that videos like these are great teaching aids to pick and learn how to tell a story. So maybe, you can take cue and show these stories anytime in the day and just restrain it to simple telling at bedtime. J

What I really like about the Kids Hut stories is that they have created the lovely brother-sister characters of Tofu & Tia where the latter being the older sister very gently weaves in stories to explain simple concepts and morals.  After all, that’s what stories do?

Take the 3 Little Pigs for example. The story is a classic that almost everyone has heard of. Tia explains the concept of resourcefulness through the story of 3 Little Pigs and how finding a solution is not always tough!

If I were to weave in a lesson in the story, I would also try and teach a child about objects and weights. Making stories experiential have a better connect with children.

It was only very recently that I told V the story of Red Riding Hood. He also happened to hear a version of the story in school. In my telling I had the wolf lock up the old grandmother in a wooden cupboard. The thought of an animal wolfing down a grandmother could be a potential source of nightmare and so I changed it. In the school V heard the other version and the Kids Hut story has the same mention.

When I asked V to retell the story, his wolf ate up the grandmother too! There is just as much as we can tell our children!

Most of what we browsed in the channel is fairly good, especially the Tia & Tofu series of stories and ‘Things you want to know’. Some videos disappoint in terms of music and animation, falling into the trap of unimaginative and repetitive animation. Every Wednesday and Friday there would be new videos up on the channel. So pick and choose what you and your child like.

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Kids Hut gets a satisfied 3-thumbs up from V and his Amma.

 We would like to know what you thought of the Kids Hut YouTube Channel. Which are the videos that you liked and what did you think of the stories?

Thank you BlogAdda and Kids Hut bringing this opportunity to bloggers.

This post is a part of Kids Hut activity at BlogAdda.com

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Notes on Freedom

Freedom and Independence often go together. Don’t they? Between all the patriotic flavour, tricoloured clothes, fancy dress competition and rehashed history lessons and “Mera Karma Tu, Mera Dharma Tu” playing on loop, August 15th becomes a signifier of the Indian in each one of us.

As a parent to a toddler, this was our first Independence Day when we sowed the seeds of the Indian identity on V. In a fun exercise of dress up and role play I told him about Bhagat Singh. With a hat and felt moustache in tow, the little boy quite felt like a man!

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“I am Bhagat Singh.
Simon go back.
British go back”

At school he went on stage said the lines. His Principal said he was excellent…his teacher attached a note for the parents. In what was his first elocution day, it added a pretty memory for all of us.

Thanks to his school he now knows the national anthem as something Devyani Ma’ am sings and guess what Mum-um knows it too! He identifies the cluster of saffron , green and white as a flag. And takes great pride in throwing his tiny fist in the air saying “Jai Hind”.

The Indian identity is a complex thing…and no amount of deshbhakti sermons can rouse a thoughtful countryman. Let’s hope V grows up to understand the history of this country, love it and do his bit in making it a better place.

I also hope he grows up to appreciate the true spirit of freedom and independence as a human being. As parents, we can only give him the playing field to experience freedom. What he makes of it will be his own doing.

*fingers crossed*

Freedom from Expectations
It’s easier said than done. I promise to not impose my expectations on him. Does that mean I give up on him? Surely no, but I would rather equip him with the tools to set his own expectations of himself. I would rather have him set his own targets and goals in life. I would rather have him set his own standards than follow his peers.

Freedom to Choose
His books. His toys. His clothes. His hobbies. His passions. His love. His profession. His life.

Freedom to Live His Dream
I hope he has the craziest dreams in the world. More important, I want to have the nerve to see him live his dreams! Is it always about the acceptable pursuits in life? I have to be ready for the unexpected…I hope bungee jumping and moto-racing aren’t in them!

Freedom to Fail
Failure teaches more than success and winning. Why does failure have to be a negative word? Why is it feared? Why does it not motivate? I will let him fail. Fall. Bruise. Wound. And rise again.

Freedom to Express
As parents what we say is not the Holy Grail. We are humans too, prone to weaknesses and failings. We can go wrong too…and we will at some point of time. It is then we will need a son who won’t mince his words and tell us what we must do.

Freedom to be Different
‘Is he walking yet?’ ‘Is he talking yet?’ ‘He is 2.5 years, why isn’t he in playschool yet?’ V has a crazy set of parents who care a zilch for what the world says…so all he needs to do is go ahead and have the courage to be different!

Go on and shine, my boy!

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Gifts For Life

Oh we submit easily now! Yes, we avoid those obvious pressure spots (read toy stores). We have buried the iPad indefinitely inside our cupboard. We don’t leave home in front of you (yes, we have to devise new ways to dupe you every day). We have learnt to read your tastes in clothes, notice how we give in to your fashion policing every day. And we play along with your midnight antics, no matter how urgent is Baba’s meeting in the morning the next day, or how pressing is Mum-um’s need to read or write after you sleep.

We have learnt to give in. In each of your little demands. In each of your timely-untimely meltdowns. In each of your ‘I want you attention’ moments. We have learnt to adapt. We have learnt to humour you and be a child like you are, no matter how silly we look.

But between your little demands and our giving in, we hope you will learn to pick the good lessons that we tuck in. Like those little moments that make me sleep better. And for a child who grows up to be a parent, I will always try to make your growing up special, with little nuggets of learning and pretty memories that will be your companion all your life.

While you cradle your swanky new Spiderman toy, we want you to believe that Baba and I are all your superheroes rolled into one…but really…we are just like you, kids who have grown up with life’s beautiful gifts.
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It’s Okay To Not Have It All

We didn’t have an iPad or all the pretty contraptions that you have today. Let’s not even get started about your grandparents’ growing up! But we found happiness in whatever we had. It’s okay to not have it all, my boy. Just because we have an iPad doesn’t mean you will get to use it. Just because we can afford it, you needn’t take a flight every time we go on a holiday. Just because we can, its okay to not have that big remote-operated car. It’s okay to prefer Mum-um’s small Nano over Baba’s big SUV. It’s okay to look silly. It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to try again. It’s okay if you don’t reach your dream. It’s okay to take a new route. It’s okay to fail again. Yes, it’s perfectly okay to not have it all!

Tolerance & A World For All

Religion, race, nationality. Gender, class, prejudice. There will be enough reasons for you to grow intolerant. You may see the world throw up images and examples very different from what we tell you. Don’t believe them all. God made us all different and for a better world, you have to learn to embrace every one. So don’t make your religion a war cry. Don’t assume you are a superior sex because you are a man. Stand up to another’s prejudice and never bend and bow for what you are against.

For The Love of A Good Story

I imagine you growing up into a reader. While my insistence on reading may be juvenile, but you know I don’t want to be pushy. What I would like you to do is always look for a good story. Look for inspiration around you. Discover new places. Travel and make new friends. Gather experiences and add a world view which is different from what we would have given you. Find your own inspiration. Your own leader. An icon, who makes you believe that you can achieve it by yourself. Above all…write your own story, like no one else can.

H for Health, Honesty & Humour

Health, not just for you but us too. I know the price for having old parents whose health worries you to death. For you my boy, I promise to take care of my health. So that I can live long to see you grow up into a beautiful human being. I promise to swim the seas with you. Race up the mountains. Walk the length of life, right behind you as long as I last.

There are many lies that we tell you. Like when I say that Baba has gone to buy chicken when he has really gone to work. Or that the green lizard with pink eyes is waiting for you in the balcony. Oh yes, we are dishonest with you at times. I hope you grow to forgive us. Never pick these leaves of dishonesty. There will come a day when you will know that a lie can take you nowhere. Like the day when you will see through the stories that we tell you.

Keep laughing. Keep a thread of humour in your life. Learn to smile through your tears. Find a reason to laugh. Find a reason to make another laugh. Just like your baby babble that throws us into fits of laughter…or your childish antics that makes a child of us everyday. Never lose it in your life.

Money Can’t Buy You Happiness, For Everything Else There Are Your Parents

We don’t promise you the stars. We won’t promise you a ‘Stanford education’. We don’t promise to fulfil your every demand. Because honestly, baby, we don’t want you to know that money can buy you happiness. You have to find happiness. And we will help you find happiness and every thing else, everything else that money cannot buy. Love. Cuddles. Family. Sharing. Warmth. Security. Education. Smiles. Respect. Dignity. Yes, you will know there is a lot more than that.

 

This post is a part of the 1001 Gifts Activity by HDFC Life in association with BlogAdda

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Colours, Shapes & The Christmas Tree

What good is Christmas without a Christmas Tree?

With the  toddler at two, it is the right time to introduce to him the wonderful, wonderful, fuzzy celebration of Christmas. And what better way to celebrate than put together a Christmas Tree? Since this will be V’s first year, I decided to wait around till we put together the real Christmas Tree. The riot that he is, I doubt the tree will survive him until Christmas. So, the real decoration will have to wait till a day before 25th.

But then what stops us from making one of our own! Today, I put together the first of our Christmas Crafts – A Christmas Tree that taught us colours and shapes.

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I brought the crunchy, glittery, amazing-to-feel-on-the-fingertips shimmer foam sheets. V’s blocks of shapes worked well to make the star, circle, triangle and square…a bit of mix and match here and there, one for every colour and I put together an activity that was fun to do.

Here is what you need:

1) Coloured sheets of paper – You could pick of any kind. I chose the glitter foam sheets, because they add the extra-sensory magic of touch.

2) Different shape blocks – Every toddler will have a shape sorter. It’s a perfect baby toy that can be beautifully adapted as the child grows up to form various activities. This for example is one!

3) Scissors – If you have an older kid, you can use craft scissors. V is just too young for them. 🙂

4) Ice-Cream stick – For the stem of the tree. We could have coloured it…I noticed it only after we finished the activity.

5) Glue – Use with parental guidance

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What Next? 

Here is what I did. I explained to V that a Christmas Tree is a magical tree under which Santa Dadu (Yes, I made him a Grandpa) will bring him lovely toys. But there is a lot that goes into a tree. We must make it look pretty and nice. Let’s put in some of our favourite shapes?

V instantly liked the idea!

So the big green triangle was instantly recognised. Next came the star and the other shapes. V went over the colours, which he identifies very easily now. He mixes up his shapes here and there…but that is perfectly okay! 🙂 He likes to call the diamond barfi, because you know why. 🙂

I let V choose where he wants to put the shapes. All I had to do was put some glue on the reverse, which he for some reason chose to call ‘medicine’. So with a bit of adhesive medicine under the shapes, V’s baby fingers worked on the tree lovingly.

The entire activity held us in place for close to 20 minutes. Which was a win, win situation for both of us.

There is more to Christmas than just a tree…so watch this space as we share with you our countdown to Christmas.

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“Maa, I have a headache!”

It’s 10:30 in the night and the toddler suddenly announces, “It’s hurting Maa,” pointing to his head.

Shocked!

A 2 year old complaining of a headache? Too much tv? Lack of sleep? Hunger? I mull over my options in a nanosecond.

I look at the father as he quickly gets up from his position. He pulls the son close and ask, “Where does it hurt you baby, show me…”

The son pinches his temples and says, “here”.

The father panics. “Oh! His head’s paining. Why? Where is it hurting baby…show me again.”

The boy points to his knee this time.

“Arrey!” comes the response from an exasperated father.

The next minute the toddler turns to me and says, “Maa give me a medicine.”

The father and I look at each other
Our jaws drop open.

Flashback 30 minutes. 10 pm. Bedtime.

The father hurries us to bed. He has to wake up at 6.

“I have a headache ya…I want to sleep. Give me a Saridon na,” he says pinching his temples.

I give him one.

The toddler wants to eat a medicine too. The father makes a charade of popping a pill into his mouth and even gets him to gulp it down with a sip of water.

The matter is soon forgotten. Over the next 30 minutes we play our usual bedtime games. Rolling over, reading Old Mc Donald, fake punches and jumping. Yes, we’ve recently learnt to jump on both our legs!

30 minutes of mindless fun and then the boy fakes a headache.

I pop in a small homepathy pill into his mouth. He makes a huge charade of washing it down with water.

“Feeling better?” I ask.

In reply comes a nod and a flash of his dimples.

Five minutes later, “Maa I want more medicine!”

“Lights Out” I holler out.

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Memories That Money Can’t Buy

Someday you will chase money…of yes, we all do. Between your passion and your purse will come clinking the tiny coins that will always remind you that money is important. But before all that, remember the thrill and pride you showed when I handed you coins for your little pocket. I was bargaining in the haat and you were giving me memories that I will remember all my life.

Someday…you will also remember this. Maybe…

The Little Things That Matter...

Maa tells me that when she was a kid petrol was 40 p / litre. Baba earned 800 bucks a month. Their first dish of lobsters in Taj Mahal, Mumbai costed Rs 350. It was an extravagance, but they weren’t paying for it. My parents’ childhood sounds idyllic to me. Gosh, really, how inexpensive was life then!

My own childhood was not extravagant either. Once a week, Maa would be give me 5 bucks so that I could buy dosa for lunch at school. Or pepsicola like we called in those days…iced colas squeezed in plastic pipes.

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Or a round of kala chana salad that I called ‘Vitamin’. The thrill of handling money was of great joy. At once empowering and full of responsibility. With a small amount given to me on certain days, I felt I had to account for every penny spent, or saved.

As I grew up…

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