Mumbai for Kids – Times of India Articles

Since last month, Times of India Mumbai edition has a section called “Mumbai for Kids”.I found them very interesting and shared them on twitter and facebook, but I think I should post them here regularly since they are not easily accessible on TOI website (like some are only on epaper format, mobile format etc.) So I guess I will make up posts with these contents and it will be useful to all….

Mumbai for Kids – Times of India 23 Jul 2010 –

Wet, wild and wonderful
Is there a world for kids beyond malls and TV in this stressful city? TOI launches a new series with some nifty options
Meher Marfatia

She calls it Rain Storming. Every monsoon unleashes waves of bright ideas in Erika Cunha. Her natural science workshops brim with curious questions and an array of cutouts or pop-up models of frogs, earthworms and peacock habitats. After which her young brood marches downstairs, where little hands touch bushes gingerly and muddy feet stomp through garden shrubbery for botany lessons—all between bouts of leaping into puddle pools. “This is the perfect weather to introduce new worlds to children,’’ says Cunha, who puts kids aged between three and six through what she calls enrichment and empowerment programmes. Rain Storming aims to develop a wider descriptive vocabulary and general knowledge, improve eyehand coordination and hone motor skills. Children create exciting desert landscapes, mould creatures of the Savannah, discuss the effects of too little or too much rain and trace the path rainwater takes from open fall to pipes in people’s homes.

Across the city, there’s a lot that kids could do instead of becoming couch potatoes glued to the idiot-box. And the monsoons are the ideal time for this. These are the months to visit Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivli, listen to new bird calls at Karnala sanctuary and trail through wooded havens like Phansad. And one can actually shut out the world with a relaxed weekend amid the ripple and surge of waterfalls cascading at Hemant and Sangeeta Chhabra’s organic Hide-Out Farm.
Then there are Kumkum Somani’s Little Gardener sessions where exulting kids splashing in the rain are a familiar sight. Somani’s pupils seed vegetable creepers like local lauki, turai and doodhi with gusto. Drizzle turning to downpour, they settle down to sketch the scene, meld music to mood with encouraging strains of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, dance to raga Malhar and even cook out, “because it’s great to eat what you grow’’.

Naturalist Sunjoy Monga recommends spaces like gardens and groves for kids to enjoy watching squirrels frolic and jungle fowl scurry on the forest floor. As the ponds fill, children can see dragonflies flit in to lay eggs and frogs go dating, with comically puffed-up cheek glands to blow out melodious mating calls.Damp, dank or dark, it’s pure rain gain all the way.

Erika Cunha (Rain Storming): 98210-26287 Kumkum Somani (Little Gardener): 98925-82794 Hemant & Sangeeta Chhabra (Hide-Out Farm): 98201-49022

Mumbai for Kids – Times of India 30 Jul 2010

Here’s where children are booked for life
Book Clubs For Kids Spread Their Magic Across The City

Young bookworms had better be warned. The excitement might rocket way too high for them to return home. After all, the sky’s the limit when they’re asked to re-think favourite fiction heroes differently. Conceptualise a changed story climax. Design an alternative book jacket. Or play Dumb Charades based on key words from the book of the week in lively readand-enact games. These and other creative freedoms are theirs to explore and enjoy for members of children’s book clubs. One such cosy hub is Reading Magic in Colaba. With content devised by child development specialist Alefia Poonawala, this programme keeps kids hooked to the habit. Authors like Roald Dahl, Leela Lopez and Manjula Padmanabhan help Poonawala to pick books which are simple and entertain kids but relevant to their life.

Once they’ve flipped through the pages of new books, Poonawala offers interesting facts about their writers before sitting the group down to solve wordsearch puzzles and anagrams related to the story or a quick quiz on its characters. After Gerald Durrell’s My Family And Other Animals, the gang visits the Parel animal hospital. Anne Holm’s I Am David becomes a springboard to discuss the emotional as much as physical landscape of the world wars, complete with Winston Churchill’s speeches. A neighbourhood treasure hunt romp follows a mystery novel read together.

Tucked in a lane off Breach Candy, there is Creative Reading, conducted by Rupal Patel who also holds Active Parenting workshops. Dividing children into age groups from six to 12, her sessions gently nudge eager participants beyond mere oral reviews of selected titles. “I like it.. I don’t is not enough,’’ Patel urges, encouraging them to write on wider ranging themes hinged around each book. She is rewarded with scrawled piles of imaginative exercises like poems or one-act plays scripted around a pivotal part of the narrative. Sometimes, even original passages which will foretell what the characters could be doing five years from when the story ends.

Kids enrolled in Creative Reading also take home non-fiction books in order to expose them to different genres. Pointing out the psychological plusses of intelligently guided reading, Patel rates boosted self-esteem as a logical benefit of the loose flow of laterally expressed ideas.

Further north, in suburban Juhu, journalist and book critic Sonya Dutta Chowdhury calls her monthly club Talking Volumes. On some afternoons, bug-eyed kids gawp excitedly at an author invited to share the personal experience of writing the book with them. On other days, members swap notes about what each is currently reading besides the club-prescribed book.
Continuing to keep older kids gripped by the printed word is challenging. But Dutta Chowdhury has discovered they connect well with contemporary references. If it’s Shakespeare to appreciate, she hunts for modern, preferably Indian, parallels. They have pieced links using Vishal Bhardwaj’s film Maqbool, inspired by Macbeth, which then got kids engrossed in that classic play. “We’ve had post-Macbeth discussions of the notions of challenger and king, of accepting or rejecting authority, with kids talking about the Kashmir problem,’’ she says.

Yet, reality kicks in. With so many seductive technological stimuli vying for young attention, not losing readership of books is, frankly, a miracle. “If you don’t take care to actually dangle interesting books in front of them, even reading kids drop off in the teen years. In books you give every child a friend for life,’’ Dutta Chowdhury says, adding that reading develops vocabulary, comprehension and communication—three highly rated skills critical to negotiate a complex world.

Sonya Dutta Choudhury (Talking Volumes):
Rupal Patel (Creative Reading): 98211-74471
Alefia Poonawala (Reading Magic): 98201-02849

Mumbai for Kids – Times of India 06 Aug 2010

Perfect pitch, happy harmony
Children’s choirs in the city aim not only to train budding singers but also to teach them the art of merging acceptingly with other voices instead of trying to grab the limelight
Meher Marfatia

When the smooth strains of Bach, Bacharach and Bernstein fill concert halls thanks to choirs like The Singing Tree and Junior Stop-Gaps, you know music has a healthy future in the city. Getting youngsters to pucker up in happy huddles, the Mehli Mehta Music Foundation (MMMF) now offers five Singing Tree choirs agewise from five years upward. Chirping peppy ditties with action moves to match lisped lilts, the youngest warblers warm to appealingly structured lessons. These present basic theory with innovative parallels bound to win approval from Beatrix Potter. So the strength of notes, in bird family terms, has a duckling represent a quaver (a musical note having the time value of an eight of a whole note) and its mother duck becomes a crotchet (time value of a quarter of a whole note), while duck dad slips in between as a semibreve (note with the longest time value).

Priming those vocal buds to sing busts stress besides reaping untold added benefits. Choir practice is as much about knowing how closely to listen as it is about how wide to open one’s mouth. Sound and silence join hands amicably. “Choral arrangements teach children the art of merging acceptingly with other voices. Even the restless learn to harmonise, not out-shout each other just to be heard,’’ says Kamal Sidhwa Taraporevala, honorary director of the MMMF’s education programmes.

For those children who are eager to burst into full-throated song but unsure of making the grade, there’s good news. Almost no choir holds trials. “I never turn away any child,’’ says Alfred J D’Souza, conductor of The Junior Stop-Gaps Choral Ensemble. “No one need come in pitchperfect. Ability helps, but there is extreme receptivity as long as they’re caught young.’’ D’Souza believes in a few musts for trilling kids: smart body language, correct breathing techniques and singing as confidently without music.

Every choir goes beyond merely segueing across soprano, alto, tenor and bass together. It equally trains kids from different backgrounds to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in acceptance. Ask Freny Paghdiwala, who has groomed budding singers of The Crystal Choral for 35 years. “The smallest child soon knows the value of listening attentively at sensitive moments when one’s own voice must stay still,’’ she observes. “Taking your place in a choir is about realising when to be quiet and when to jump in.’’ Paghdiwala sees choir singing working well for handicapped children, especially those with learning disabilities. She started with a couple of challenged kids, whose initially off-key tones and listless responses were significantly enhanced as they sang in rounds and grew familiar with lines they kept hearing and reacting to.

Inclusive by nature, children understand the joy and power of group singing. “They quickly grasp that it is more a melodic exchange than a contest,’’ says Celeste Cordo, former music teacher at Fort Convent and St Aloysius School. Her choir, The Glee Hive, probably the earliest such informal group for children, lays out the welcome mat for aspirants without screening them.

If teachers like Cordo are positive that all children are tuneful, competitive parents have been known to muscle in to spoil spontaneous progress. Those who think it’s encouraging to gush, “You were the best, I heard your voice loud and clear,’’ need to know that solo booming is the last thing teachers want. The choir is all about adjusting to varying levels of music skills in an atmosphere of friendship and fun rather than showcasing individual talent. Sidhwa Taraporevala finds herself fielding questions like “When will my child finish learning with your choir?’’ We hope they’re convinced when she replies, “There is no end. It’s a journey begun, because music is a way of life.’’

Alfred D’Souza (The Junior Stop-Gaps Choral Ensemble): 92232-23856/
Jennie Khambatta (The Singing Tree, MMMF): 2380-1379
Celeste Cordo (The Glee Hive):
Freny Paghdiwala (The Crystal Choral): 2380-6564

Mumbai for Kids – Times of India 13 Aug 2010

Adding sparkle TO SCIENCE
Science clubs for children put the excitement back into subjects taught in a ho-hum way
Meher Marfatia

So it’s Friday the 13th. What better weekend to turn to solid science, chasing away illogic and mumbo-jumbo? Sadly, ‘yuck’—or similarly damning words—is often children’s reaction to formally taught biology, physics and chemistry. However, there’s help beyond dull school classes: a host of science clubs in the city are attempting to add sparkle to the subject.
For starters, there’s the fourth annual Asian Science Camp coming up next week. Earlier held in Taipei, Bali and Japan, the Mumbai effort envisages round table discussions, student-master dialogue, poster competitions and excursions. Kids can also ditch that TV remote at least one Sunday morning every month and head for the stimulating ‘Chai And Why’ sessions held by Prithvi Theatre in conjunction with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. Loosely based on the format of the popular Cafe Scientifique in Europe and Science Cafes of the US, this platform sparks debate on issues from global warming and space exploration to nanotechnology and stem cell research. The idea is to foster a comfortable meeting point for science, shorn of jargon and intimidating mystique.

In her funky Children’s Technology Workshop, Asha Sundararajan passes on a passion for the structural magic of basic robotics to pupils. The centres in Juhu and Babulnath run on three levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced. “Growing minds quickly grasp spatial reasoning if well guided through mechanical and sensorial components in the process of building,’’ says Sundararajan. Her mechatronics courses work with a customised set of Lego blocks which include sensors, motor gears and a graphic environment. Once a robot is constructed, students use NXT-G to write programmes providing the brain for their robot. They encounter daily challenges as they make from scratch cars that race and reverse, rattlesnakes fighting scorpions and Sumo wrestler champs.

Little Scientist and Mad Science are other clubs for juniors where do-it-yourself dynamics groom ingenious lateral thinking through simple experiments, demos with kits, special effects and optical illusions, all engineered by children. The premise of the clubs: hands-on experiences have better recall value than textbook notes.

National Science Day on February 28 in honour of Nobel Prize-winning scientist C V Raman, is celebrated by both the Nehru Science Centre at Mahalaxmi and the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE) in Mankhurd. But both have continuing science programmes through the year—Nehru Centre invites families to walk in to apply academic concepts in practical life. Young minds are fired by imaginative modules on the human body, principles of electricity, energy, heat and creative machines. HBCSE organises walk-in Open House days, Meet The Scientist sessions and botanical garden tours to round off a full day’s fun with interactive exhibits.

An integrated National Steering Committee for Science and Astronomy Olympiads trains aspiring Einsteins in higher physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy and junior science, in five stages for each subject separately. The first stage is overseen by the Indian Association of Physics Teachers, the rest are handled by HBCSE. The man in whose memory our premier centre was instituted would approve. It was Homi Bhabha’s lifelong contention that it’s never too early to teach science.

Asha Sundararajan (Children’s Technology Workshop): 99675-83355/
Nehru Science Centre: 2493-4520/2667
Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education: 2555-5242/
Little Scientist: 98210-26287
Mad Science: 2285-0381/99201-82607
TIFR/Prithvi Theatre (Chai And Why): 2614-9546

Mumbai for Kids – Times of India 20 Aug 2010

THE ART OF getting crafty
Children can learn everything from paper quilling to Warli painting at these nifty city workshops
Rachel Rickard Straus

As the incessant rain patters down on window panes, heralding another wet afternoon indoors, a point comes when getting out the colouring pencils again is just not enough to distract children. If you’ve run out of ideas, if your furnishings can’t take another afternoon of finger-painting or if you just want to introduce your child to something new, there are many solutions on offer in the city. Splashed around Mumbai is a plethora of craft workshops painting the town red, blue, yellow and every colour in between. Besides nurturing kids’ creative talents, many of these venues promise to sneak in some cultural lessons and history and even help turn youngsters into better citizens through play. Not bad going for the occasional afternoon. For new painting ideas, Bhairari Malkani could provide the answer. Part of the Maharashtrian Warli tribe, Bhairari enjoys teaching children about the art of her people. “We paint scenes of daily life—the village, forest, wedding scenes and so on in the style of Warli artists,’’ she says. Kids can also try their hand at spray painting, glasswork and sand art at her classes. Or recycled art. “We use empty boxes, old tissue rolls or wooden spoons or lentil jars or anything that has outlived its use,’’ she says. With Bhairari, an old jar can become a beautifully decorated vase, a pile of cardboard waste is given new life as a painted sculpture. She gives individual tuitions or teaches children and adults, only two at a time, so that her pupils can really benefit from her knowledge.

For children who want to pick up glass painting, clay modelling, paper craft, parchment work or ‘paper quilling’—stripping, curling and contouring paper into different shapes—Hobby Ideas at Malad’s Inorbit Mall is the place to go. The store also offers workshops in using a new synthetic material called iclay, which allows young artists to make very delicate and intricate designs. “You can attend a workshop any afternoon and don’t need to book in advance—which is great if you find yourself at a loose end,’’ says store manager Leslie Mendosa.

For something more traditional, Bombay Paperie offers workshops in an ancient form of paper-making. Here, children can make items such as potli gift bags and puffed animals out of the traditionally made paper while learning some history as well. “Children touch the paper and are taught about its history and how it’s made so that they really understand what they are holding in their hands,’’ explains course conductor Sangita Wadhwani.

Meanwhile over at the NCPA, story-making and crafts are combined in theatre group No License Yet’s latest offering, Puppet Shuppet. Here, children make their own finger and hand puppets from recycled materials such as old mittens, brown paper bags and shoelaces. They then jazz them up, use a dollop of imagination to create characters which they then weave into stories. Organiser and director Shivani Tibrewala says the theatre group has a holistic approach to learning and creativity.

“We use stories with a message, such as fables and fairytales,’’ she says. “No License Yet aims to mould young minds into tomorrow’s conscientious citizens as well as igniting their imagination.’’

Bhairari Malkani (Creative Box Workshop, Andheri West): 9833548881
Hobby Ideas (Inorbit Mall, Malad West): 66490239
Bombay Paperie (Bombay Samachar Marg): Contact Sangita Wadhwani :2266358171/72
Puppet Shuppet (NCPA, Tata Theatre Building) Saturday, August 21, 10 am to 2pm. Contact Shivani Tibrewala: 932029115

Mumbai for Kids – Times of India 27 Aug 2010

Vocabulary classes can be fun in letter and spirit
Sharmila Ganesan-Ram

I don’t want to talk to you right now,’’ the eightyear-old warned his mother on the phone. “The situation is combustible,’’ he added, strangely pleased with himself. His choice of adjective made Shobha Math, who was within earshot, break into a confused smile. “Why is it combustible?’’ she smilingly probed the boy whose mother had called from the workplace to check on her kids. “He confessed to have had a fist fight with his younger brother earlier that day,’’ reveals Math, a psychology major, who immediately equipped him with not just the right perspective but also the right epithet—‘volatile’. At her periodic vocabulary-building workshops, which started off with the idea of helping ‘latch-key’ kids (kids of working parents) overcome their verbal paucity, Math, now a freelance script-writer, has stumbled upon many such moments. Five years ago, it was her constant quest for alternative ways of imparting education, that inspired the writer to come up with the idea of an activity-based, vocab workshop for such children, whose language was confined to learning from textbooks.

These workshops, replete with activities like crosswordsolving, mask-making and umbrella-painting “ensure great recall’’ reveals Math, who now happily answers questions like “Why can’t we use ‘vibrant’ to describe all colours and not ‘verdant’?’’ and, if it is indeed possible for coffee cups to be “inundated’’. In her ‘Monsoon Magic’ sessions, kids are taught monsoon-related words in the course of painting umbrellas while the mask-making workshops coax children to come up with stories “based on the characters that their masks represent,’’ reveals Math. Such activities also eliminate stage fear, says the scriptwriter who rejoices when the younger kids surprise her with sentences like, “When the fury of the rain god abated, my mother and I ventured out shopping’’.

Team-based exercises are another useful way to build the foundations of language, says Preeti Gupta of Vocaboom, a nine-month competitive game-based programme that focuses on vocab-building for children in the age group of four to 12. “In our weekly sessions we divide the class into teams and ask them to read from story books,’’ says Gupta, who runs the Kandivali franchise. “We mark out ten difficult words, explain the meaning and then ask them use them in a sentence in our sentence formation rounds,’’ she says. The reading material varies according to the age group. “Older kids are given newspapers. They can challenge the rival team into coming up with the meaning, spelling and correct application of five difficult words they may have marked anywhere in the paper,’’ Gupta goes on. Other effective tools include story-telling (ideally revolving around familiar settings like birthday parties, for instance) and even puppet shows. “We use puppet shows and voice modulation to explain words to young kids,’’ says Sangeeta Gupta of Podar Happy Kids centre in Kandivali, adding that it has been scientifically proven that the ability of the mind to grasp language is at its peak between the age of three and six years.

So, it becomes imperative for classes and workshops to seek out fun ways to feed these hungry minds during this fertile period. “Once we even asked them to wear their favourite dress to class and describe it,’’ says Gupta, whose course costs Rs 500 to 600 per month. In the process of picking up words, she reveals, kids are invariably also taught manners and etiquette, like how to greet elders. This results in dramatic changes in introverted children, observes Gupta. “They start participating in extra-curricular activities and don’t hesitate when asked to give an impromptu speech on occasions like Independence Day,’’ she reveals.

However, not all transitions are smooth. The way up the linguistic ladder can be tough for some students, and in turn, their teachers. During one of Shobha Math’s workshops, for instance, participants were asked to write about their imaginary experience of ‘taking charge of their neighbour’s dog when they were away’. So one of the kids, a vegetarian who has yet to master the art of spelling and boasts a fairly self-important handwriting, started by describing his aversion for animals. This is what he attempted: ‘The neighbour had brought along his dog that was tied to leash. He had to go to a argent mision and he apprised me that the dog shelters were fool’ he wrote. And after grudgingly assuming the dreaded responsibility of the hound, “the worst part’’, continued the kid, “was to clean up after he would call the nature.’’
The next Monsoon Magic workshop starts at 9:30 am on Sunday (August 29) at Mahim Nature Park. Tel: 24051674

Source for Text & Images : Times of India Epaper Website

I guess these options will be of lot of use homeschoolers in Mumbai as well as other kids too. I hope to continue these posts regularly and eagerly await Fridays for this column. 🙂

6 thoughts on “Mumbai for Kids – Times of India Articles

  1. Hi,,,I have been looking for the collection of these articles and I couldn’t believe my luck when I stumbled upon your blog. THanks a million times for this workKeep doing the good work

  2. Pingback: Children – Treks & Workshops – Mumbai for Kids – TOI 3 Sep 2010 « Homeschooling in India – An Education called Life

  3. I was looking for the article ” The Garden Whisperer” that appeared in today’s ( Feb 5, 2011) issue of ‘The Bombay Times’ under Flaunt it : Nature Nature.

  4. hi
    you are doing a great job . i was looking for monsoon magic for a long time and was very happy to see your collection.

    keep it up.


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