The recent demise of Dr APJ Kalam who was India’s most celebrated President, popular scientist, loved human being and source of inspiration to loads of young minds shocked me as well as the whole nation.
There was something so lovable about him for sure. Having had the fortune to listen to one of his lectures during my research days in TIFR (Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai) I remember being in awe the whole 2 hours that he spoke. His personality and humbleness despite having such high level of knowledge and intellect infused such energy in you that you were transformed to another state. It was a trance!
All mothers want their kids to be brainy students (in India at least!). The number of “brain development” classes packed with little kids everywhere is a readout of this wish!
NO, nothing wrong in sending your kid to a brain gym. No knowledge is ever a waste!
However, what we are forgetting in this rat race is that instead of transforming your toddler into a brainy student wish that he has a scientific bent of mind!
Scoring high is way different from having a scientific outlook.
I have seen many of my colleagues in my alma mater D.P.S R.K Puram who managed a cool 85% (in those days this was great. I realize the cutoff has reached 100.6% now!!). But sadly they had no actual knowledge or love of any of those subjects they were scoring in.
Parents were happy to show off their report card but were really not building a child who had something to show off for himself!
DO YOU WANT YOUR KID TO SCORE OR TO EXCEL??
Being a 90 percenter might get him into good schools and colleges, but his report card will not come to his rescue in his professional or personal life ever after that. A scientific bent of mind, on the other hand, will. It will be like the best friend who guides him, broadens his horizons and gives him the real meaning of having a brain- i.e logical thinking!
So how do you inculcate a scientific bent of mind in your child? And I ask mothers of toddlers to listen even more intently because this is the best age to infuse scientific thinking as a way of life in your child.
- Don’t correct your kid all the time:
Being creative is the top most building block of a scientific thinking.
Once my daughter Parneet was trying to draw a triangle which was the new shape recently introduced in her playschool. It was not any homework or anything. She was just trying to show off to me something that she had learnt. So she kept saying, “Mumma do you know what a triangle is…I shall show you.” And in her brave attempt to draw a triangle at the age of 3, she ended up with something entirely different. Knowing that she had not drawn the triangle that she had seen in class, she cleverly came up to me and said “Look ma, a diamond!”
Now that’s scientific thinking! Creativity at its best. On the spot thinking!
If I would have told her, “It’s ok let me show you how a triangle is drawn.” I would have squashed many things in her- her bravery to attempt to draw something she had just seen for the first time, her wit in transforming a triangle into a diamond and her confidence in showing that she was actually trying to draw a diamond all this while.
So don’t correct your kid all the time. Unless he is physically hurting himself or anybody else, let him believe that all his messing is just part of the game.
- Don’t make him conform to all rules and regulations:
Restriction and rules are the biggest foes of a free thinking scientific mind. As adults we are so conditioned, that some rules of the society have seeped into our subconscious deeply. They have become part of our natural reactions and instinct.
But not a toddler. He is a clean slate. And I would advise you to let him be that for as long as possible.
After a few months in playschool, I realized that too much information was being given to my daughter that it was curbing her own thinking and creativity. Of course, a toddler needs to know what is red and blue. But it was being delivered so mechanically that there was no scope of free thinking left for her.
That’s when I decided to have half an hour everyday of what I call “Lie time”. In this half hour we played a game of forgetting names and what something is “supposed” to be called and we could use any adjective. So red can be called blue, mom can be called a tree and so on.
It might sound a bit weird to you, but think of it from a child’s point of view. He is calling red as red because he was told that it was so. Why? Why should red be red? Why did it not have any other name? I understand there are certain norms to make your life easy in society. If everyone called every color by their own whim and fancy it would be impossible to have a conversation or live in the society. However, through this game you are letting her exercise those creativity neurons in her brain that will slowly become silent by the overdose of conditioning she is going to receive in the coming years. So let her have her half hour of “no rules” time.
A lil secret? I still give myself this time!!! It’s just so liberating! Try it out sometime!
- Introduce bi/multilingualism in him as soon as possible:
With a rise of inter-caste and inter-religion marriages in India our kids have a great benefit that we didn’t- the power of knowing and listening to different languages early on. My husband speaks Punjabi with his father, I speak in Hindi with my parents and we both speak in English with each other (dunno where that developed, but somehow since our dating days we ended up conversing in English, so it continues till date).
I am a fan of languages. There can be no bigger patron of learning languages than I am! I have basic command of Bengali, Spanish and German and have learnt to write English, Hindi, Bengali and Punjabi- all entirely different scripts.
Languages not only are the best way to be introduced to a new culture but also the best way to open up your brain. Immense research going on states that learning a new language is the best way to avoid getting neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimers etc.
However in India nowadays there is a rampant albeit sad trend of forcing English onto your kid. Why tell your kid that one language is better than the other. Whenever told to converse in English in school I tell my daughter that you should tell your teacher that why only English, we should learn and converse in all the languages that we know and learn many more later!
If you are robbing your kid from the mix of your native languages that you can impart to him as parents and pushing him only towards English stop right away! Make him bi-lingual or multi-lingual. It’s an edge that will show up later but very strongly!
- Don’t complete his tasks for him:
If we see our baby climbing on a stool to reach out for something, we rush to his help. Be patient and assess the real danger level of his act. Once you determine that its not a life threatening situation, let him be. Let him climb on the stool and explore. Let him walk barefoot in the park for a while.
If he is trying to draw a straight line and failing miserably, let him.
Let him explore. Let him learn. On his own. The more he does things without you there to complete it for him, the more he will learn and enjoy.
- You don’t need to tell him exactly how things work in the real world:
I was once reading a story of a toddler in a park. He saw a spider flying in between two flowers. He was so amused to see this wonder! He rushed to get his father and show him the miracle he had just witnessed. When he got his father to kneel down to see the flying spider, the father smiled and explained to him that the spider was not flying. He told his son to look carefully and see the thin spider web and how the spider was actually walking on it. And he ended his truth revelation by confirming the fact- kid, spiders don’t fly!
Though the father was doing his duty of explaining the world mechanisms to his baby, he had squashed the joy of an awestruck elated boy with a huge blow of reality!
For a toddler, there is nothing more exciting than the world around him. Don’t rob his daydreaming and stories with the dullness of rules and reality.
If Neil Armstrong’s father had laughed at his wish to set foot on the moon, he would not have been able to make that giant leap for mankind.
I am not saying to let your child live in ignorance. But when he is just a toddler, let him weave his own stories around what he sees and not limit him with reality.
- Let him learn through example:
Creativity and exploration without caring for reality and world boundaries will widen your toddlers’ horizons and level of thinking turning him into an individual with a scientific temperament.
The easiest, fastest and surest way to make him learn that is by setting him an example through you.
When he sees you read a book or watch a documentary on something new he will know that there is a never ending Pandora box of knowledge out there.
When he sees you set up an ant farm for him or learn the magic of making new colors by mixing two colors, he will know that observation and experimentation can be applied to everyday life and not reserved for Masters level education.
So for your kid to be a Kalam, you have to be one too.
The fact that I learnt in my research days about the love and quest of knowledge and the joy I hence received in learning and exploring is a fact that should be inculcated as early on as possible. Don’t blame the school or system. Give your child the environment in his home. He will learn much better and for life.
Then even if he scores 80% in the subject but he will love his subjects.
And having a command over a subject is way more important that coming first in class- That’s what Kalam has been trying to teach all young minds!
So young mothers, do your bit for your kid- make him love knowledge not marks!
You might be barraged with a stream of questions and thoughts by your tiny one, but knowing that your kid has a creative and broad scientific mindset will surely make you NIRVANA-MA!