NIGHT IN THE COUNTRY: By Cynthia Rylant


Author: Cynthia Rylant is an American author, she has written more than 100 children’s books, many of Rylant’s books are about her childhood in Appalachia.

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Book: NIGHT IN THE COUNTRY

Genre: Children’s literature

Story by Cynthia Rylant

Pictures by Mary Szilagyi

Aladdin Paperbacks

An imprint of Simon & Schuster

First Aladdin Paperbacks edition 1991

 

Book Review: Night in the Country, is a story on describing the countryside at night with emphasis on the sound of some common night creatures, animals and things in the tranquil of night; the pictures give the impression of being colour pencil art – comprising of many darker tones of colours and are of blurry styles, it is like a visual narrative with few lines of the short story printed on the pages of the book.

 

Academic Use: This narrative is especially appropriate for teaching auditory readiness/discrimination in the age group of 4 to 6 years; the teacher can narrate the story along with the aid of an audio player for sound recordings of some of the creatures and things mentioned in the story.

As per my perspective, this story is best suited in audio visual format than in a book format for teaching auditory discrimination in preschool children.

This book is a good reading material for children of 6 to 8 years – with mentions of auditory words for vocabulary development, for encouraging nature sensitivity; and also a good resource book of art-works for children who are inclined towards creative-work of painting


Amazon link: Night in the Country by Cynthia Rylant


Facebook.com/MyOfficialDiary  – A creative space to display the post from my blogs mirandavoice.com masalahealth.wordpress.com, and my pick of interesting post of my fellow bloggers.

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The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher: By MOLLY BANG

Book Review

This book is a prime example to express how art can be used as a medium for education or for children’s healthy entertainment in an exceptional style.

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Book: The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher

Genre: Children’s Book

Author: MOLLY BANG

Aladdin Paperbacks

An imprint of Simon & Schuster

First Aladdin Paperbacks edition May 1996

Book Review: The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher is a picture story book of 24 pages with two central characters – one is the Strawberry Snatcher who is drawn as having a blue coloured, thin body with long limbs wrapped in a clothing of bright green with base of red and wearing an awkward purple hat, the entire figure of the strawberry snatcher is uncanny still amusing; and the other is the Grey Lady with a big body and with grey hair, wearing a fully covered grey coat, this figure resembles a clever, gratified grandma.

This book is a set of painting art-works with loud colours, the pictures are in rapid sequence; a few drawings combine  to  express two or more sequence of the story at one instance, a few others is fascinating mix of similar colours where the observer of the story has to search to spot one of the characters in the picture – and this is done with matching the background colour of the picture with the colour of the clothing of one of the central characters.

 

Yes, the story is about the peculiar looking strawberry snatcher who follows the grey lady to snatch her basket full of strawberries — this is a witty story and an intellectual  piece of art which makes it more appropriate for children of 7 years and above to appreciate – more so for visual learners or for children who have an aptitude  for creative skill like painting.

 

Academic Use: This book can be  valuable  as a conversation piece for children of 8 to 10 years; two children  can give voice-over to the two characters, the dialogues between the characters will vary according to the individuality of the children yet the conversation has to inflexibly be within the picture description of the story, this activity can also mark the growth of children’s intellectual and language ability.

 

Author: Molly Garrett Bang is an American illustrator. For her illustration of children’s books she has been a runner-up for the American Caldecott Medal three times and for the British Greenaway Medal once.


Amazon link: The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher by Molly Bang


Twitter: @mirandapresence

No Talking – By Andrew Clements

Book Review

Author: Andrew Clements has written more than fifty books for children, including the award-winning, multimillion-copy bestseller Frindle.

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Book – No Talking

Genre – Children’s Literature

Author – Andrew Clements

Atheneum Books for Young Readers

An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division

First paperback edition June 2009

Book Review: Dave Packer had to prepare a report on the history of India to give a presentation for five minutes or less for his social studies class, just some basic facts on anything related to India, he found the most interesting section on India was about how it became independent and thought the most interesting person in the story of India’s independence was Mahatma Gandhi – in one of the books, he read this about Gandhi:

For many years, one day each week Gandhi did not speak at all. Gandhi believed this was a way to bring order to his mind.

Dave wondered what that meant, “to bring order to his mind”, could something as simple as not talking change the way your mind worked? … this belief seemed to have been good for Gandhi; would not talking make him smarter?  So Dave decided to give this philosophy a try, to effort to keep his mouth shut all day on Monday, but giving this report in his social studies class on Monday would ruin his experiment … How would he cope with his experiment of “No Talking” for a day? How could this philosophy help Dave of fifth grade?

The story develops to discover the influence of Dave’s experiment – first as a personal goal of Dave which later transpires as a contest for two days between the students of the fifth grade as Boys vs. Girls, with a set of rules to follow; how the teachers deal with the peculiar situation on the first day of the contest, how the teachers involve themselves in this contest on the second day to appreciate the concept’s novel approach in the teaching and learning process.

 

As per my grasp of the story, the source of this story is founded on research discoveries of the concept – “No Talking”, executed in a school; the scheme of the narrative is purposely kept entertaining so as to captivate the curious mind of a child – which expresses about the author’s commendable story telling ability with a challenging storyline to narrate specifically to children. The concept and the clever narration  of the story is more appropriate  for children of 10 years and above to comprehend and appreciate, and at a leisurely pace a child probably  will take less than a week’s time to finish reading this book. The theme of the story is essentially based in a school background thus incudes a lot of names of students and teachers which could bring a trace of confusion in a young mind while reading.

 

 “No Talking” as an activity in school is a practical concept with many constructive benefits towards a child’s holistic development, as revealed in the book – this activity can be carried out in schools for 1 day, for at least 2 times in an academic year, for children above 10 years; for teachers this book caters as an useful resource book for planning this activity.


Amazon link: No Talking by Andrew Clements


The Dolphins & Bella

Bella sprang in excitement, clapping her hands in glee with her aquiline nose soaking and her little ponytail winging in the crispness of the marine-breeze …

“Papa, see the Dolphins leaping out of the water!” eight year old Bella sprang in excitement, clapping her hands in glee with her aquiline nose soaking and her little ponytail winging in the crispness of the marine-breeze. She sat gripping her dad’s sturdy hand, to enthusiastically watch the beaked nose dolphins, as the outboard motor boat cruised in the azure water of the sea – parallel to the dolphin’s course with a slow and steady speed, in the early flawless morning.

“Do you want to know about dolphins?”  The young, fine-looking tour guide in a bright demeanour asked her; she smiled ecstatically and shook her head. 

A group of dolphins is called a school or a pod”.  

“What? … A school … A pod”, she interrupted to giggle noisily.   

“Male dolphins are called bulls, females are called cows and young dolphins are called calves”.

“Hahaha …”, her laughter rippled in the air.

Dolphins are considered as one of Earth’s most intelligent animals”, the guide remarked with a smile.

“These are humpback dolphins and they use their conical shaped teeth to capture fast moving prey”, the guide animated by opening his mouth wide to amuse her and chuckled mischievously before stating, “and they feed on fish”.

“Humpback dolphins?” she enquired hilariously and her laughter wafted through the air.

Humpback dolphin has a hump ahead of its semi-circular upper side fin”, he specified.

“Yes!” she exclaimed in delight as she observed some dolphins rise up vertically from the water, exposing the upper half of their bodies.

“Look Papa, they are off-white from the tail to the snout … and their flanks are dark grey … and their stomachs are a lighter grey”, she energetically stated pointing towards the dolphins, when she suddenly witnessed the rare sighting of two dolphins leaping completely out of the water.

“They have a pair of protruding eyes which allows them to see clearly in both air and water”, commented the guide and quickly photographed the dolphins.

“And they have well-developed hearing too, which is adapted for both air and water”, said Bella’s dad.

“Papa, you too know about the dolphins?” Bella enquired in astonishment.

“Yes, I read an article about them which also mentioned about the declining population of dolphins mainly because of pollution”, stated her dad and covered Bella’s head with a sturdy white sunhat adorned with a pink bow, to shade her from the heat of the sun.

Capture Pratapgad – (Travel Tale)

AT a gauging distant Pratapgad fort intimidates like a lion’s presence atop a hillock. The fluttering of the flag, elevated over the fort, signifies the roar – of Swaraj

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AT a gauging distant Pratapgad fort intimidates like a lion’s presence atop a hillock.  The fluttering of the flag, elevated over the fort, signifies the roar – of Swaraj (freedom). This historic fort is best remembered for the ‘Battle of Pratapgad’, which provided a revolutionary breakthrough for the Maratha Empire to flourish. The journey to Pratapgad deals for a glimpse in the incredible life of Shivaji Maharaj (King).

 

The drive to the fort is an awesome trek on wheels. The road leading is smooth but Mother Nature lends it a leaner and meaner look, twirled with blindfold curves and surrounded by breath-taking views – perilous slopes, soaring peaks and opulent trees carving caves upon the road.  It is a drive of 22 km from Mahabaleshwar – a hill station in Maharashtra, India.  

 

The purpose behind building this fort was its strategic location. Shivaji’s prime minster, Moropant Trimbak Pingle, was appointed for the task and the fortress was completed in 1656. Dominant at the highest point of the mountain range – at 1,080 m above sea level, this fort is surrounded by  wild inaccessible masses of gigantic cliffs towards its north and west borders, and thick forest slopes towards its south and east edges.

 

Finally the car covered the tactical stretch to catch the glimpse of the fort and was applied to brakes sighting the hand wave to stop by a tax collecting official. Probing look of my face primed him to clarify, “Money is charged for road maintenance and not for sightseeing of the fort, that’s for free” – my curiosity disappeared for contentment, for this well maintained route deserves a reward. 

 

Historical approach to the fort was an undulating ride but the location of the fort provided an advantage for Shivaji’s army, who were accomplished with mountainous guerrilla warfare. When Adilshahi forces commanded by Afzal Khan were heading for a battle with Shivaji, he started by destroying temples to incite Shivaji out to the plain grounds.

 

An incline march leads to the fort premises. The intensifying spectacle of the fort from close quarters established that the survey of this fort was at its humble beginnings and a guide’s company is must.  My guide, a local guy residing in the adjacent area of the fort, started off the narration very hurriedly – which gave rise to a weird assumption, ‘Is a speedometer attached in his throat?’  Putting my speculations to rest, I requested him to slow down (the gauge) for a proper understanding.

 

“This fort is now owned by Udayanraje Bhonsale, the successor of the Satara princely state”, the guide affirmed.  Then, hastily directing towards a cave at the base of the fort he continued speaking, without a break for a breath, “During the battle of Pratapgad, this cave was a hideout for 30 to 40 of Shivaji’s solider for a surprise attack on the enemy.”

 

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History reveals that when Shivaji expressed his desire for peace, Afzal Khan and Shivaji decided to meet at Pratapgad on 10th November’ 1659. They met in a shamiyana (tent) at the base of the fort.  They both agreed on meeting unarmed however both were armed for treachery – the tall and hefty Afzal Khan embraced him, he stabbed Shivaji in the back with his hidden dagger but the attack was deflected by Shivaji’s armour, Shivaji responded by attacking Khan with a single stroke of a sharp weapon called wagh nakha (tiger-claws) which he had cleverly masked on his hand.

 

The severely injured Afzal Khan managed to reach his palanquin but one of Shivaji’s lieutenants, Sambhaji Kavji Kondhalkar, along with an accompanying guard gave pursuit and beheaded Afzal Khan. Immediately, cannons were fired form the fortress as a signal for the Maratha infantry to attack Adilshahi forces. The victory in the battle of Pratapgad led to the establishment of Maratha Empire.

 

“Today, I am here to explore its presence”, I thought while inspecting the depth of the cave. The young guide soon plunged to take the topic forward, pointing out towards two huge overlapping walls – He said, “The main entrance to the fort is between these two walls”, leading the climb on the fort’s stairs, he elongated the narration to state the motive – “It was designed to put the enemy into confusion as the walls cleverly conceals the entrance of the fort, moreover the sudden curve of the staircase at the top near its entrance was on purpose, in case of an attack by the enemy, its elephants would find it difficult to alter its speed at the abrupt turn”.

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The entrance of the fort is quite narrow and extended with a roofed, short passage which is defended by doors at both ends.  To the left of the passage is an antique stone structure of a torch stand and an old canon is displayed to its opposite end.  

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“Madam, turn around towards the entrance!” … My gaze was interrupted by a hasty but by now familiar voice of the guide. “There are towers and a strong peripheral fort surrounding and guarding the main entrance. You will also notice fissures at equal distance all through its walls, they are called Janga (window) and it served the purpose of spotting enemies near the entrance of fort, to aim canon at the enemy or shoot them or harm them by pouring hot oil”.

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On passing the passage the guide in his rustic manner stated aloud, “The whole fort can be divided into two parts, Lower fort and Upper fort”. Soon, I was introduced to the lower part of the fort which lies towards the south-east direction, rectangular in its structure, stretching around 320 m in length and 110 m in its width and defended by towers ten to twelve meters high. “It has the symbolic saffron colour flag elevated on top, this part of the fort is visible on approach towards the fort and looks like a round tipped hill”, specified the guide.  

 

The fort is an exploration by trail through its stairs. Its stair initiates the journey and succeeds to flow up to the top of the hill. As we proceeded ahead I noticed an isolated narrow passage, my gaze was noticed by the guide and he mentioned – “This entrance was the route for Shivaji’s palanquin”.  Further on the way up, he stood waiting near a water reservoir for I was still on my way – far down the stairs. Sweating and exhausted I reached and stood taking sips of water from the water bottle as he continued, “There are four lakes here, the stones and rocks used to build this fort was excavated from here … this lake is about 25 feet deep.” After a thoughtful pause he added, “At present, the water in these lakes is not safe for drinking.”

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After a short break for refreshment at a kiosk we headed towards the eastern side of the fort, to the Temple of Goddess Bhavani. An arcade with wooden pillars surrounds the shrine, some parts of old canons and a very thick iron rod shaped like a spade at one of its corner (which was used to dig the ground) are exhibited near the entrance of the arcade. The shrine is made of stones; over the shrine is a small shikhar (spire), its roof is flat on the inside and covered with lead covering. Placed inside is the idol of Goddess Bhavani – a sculpture carved on Shaligram stone which were imported from the Gand River of Nepal.  An original portrait of Shivaji is placed inside the shrine.

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Slowly pacing away from the unceasing rhythm of the temple bell, played harmoniously at short uneven intervals by its unending tide of tourists, we left the shrine. Continuous climb on its stairs leads to the Upper fort; it is built upon the crest of the hill and is approximately 180 m long on each of its sides.  Here is a shrine of Lord Mahadev, it is situated towards the northwest section of the fort. Its structure is made of stones; chip of sunlight enters only through its door which gives its interior an enigmatic feel.

 

My guide enthusiastically led me near the wrecked parapet wall of the fort near the Temple. The location of this temple is nerve-racking; it is near the edge of the hill surrounded with cliffs on its three sides. My shriek got stuck in my throat at the distinctive sight, which engulfs with a terrifying view of vertical drop of over 800 ft. but cherishes an overall sight of the lower fort in a miniature form. I could also spot Afzal Burz which is located to the south-east on the foothills of Pratapgad, the site marks the original approach to the fort which is a steep and rugged pathway leading towards the entrance of the fort. From this scanning peak, the ruin of one of the lakes is also spotted which is situated near the Shrine of Goddess Bhavani.

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Taking a break from the tiresome climb, I happened to sit opposite to the Shrine of Lord Mahadev – on a corner of a slight raised area that seemed like a base of a missing structure. Quickly my very eager guide commented, “This place was a small Darbar (court), here Shivaji would meet his very loyal minsters to discuss important issues”.

 

The last structure is the symbolic statue of Shivaji Maharaja, on the horse back with a risen sword in hand. This bronze statue was unveiled by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the First Prime Minister of India, in the year 1957. At this juncture, an interesting revelation was made by the guide, “The climb up the fort counts for around 450 steps”.

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I believe this fort has lot more to offer in exploration to unveil all the mysteries it appears to be hiding in its ruins.

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Blackboard Diaries

THE blackboard, an orthodox requisite in schools is effective learning equipment in homes too. This conventional thing encourages learning through trial and error method and develops your child’s fine-motor and cognitive skills. Install a smaller form of it and witness its wonders …

THE blackboard, an orthodox requisite in schools is effective learning equipment in homes too. This conventional thing encourages learning through trial and error method and develops your child’s fine-motor and cognitive skills. Install a smaller form of it and witness its wonders …

Toddlers are aggressive scribblers; they go on a rage of random scribbling. “That’s mischievous!”, if that’s your outburst, then hold back. Well exactly… if you could ask their view they would blush to murmur, “Oh Mommy, I really like scribbling.”  Toddlers are at a grasping stage of development. Scribbling helps in achieving wrist and hand muscle control, and eye – hand co-ordination. Scribbling on the blackboard, your child can use chalk according to preference in colour, wipe off the marks then choose to use another colour. It gives them the freedom to manipulate without parental guidance.

After your child overcomes the scribbling saga, it’s the onset stage of forming patterns.  You can train your child to form patterns – circles, standing lines, sleeping lines, slanting lines, squares, rectangles, curves, triangles etc. which is the base to learn writing. At first write a pattern on the board, teasingly challenge your kid saying, “Can you write like me? Copy and write the same.” When the child is trying to copy the same, back your child’s performance with praise.

It’s easier to grip a chalk than a pencil at the initial stage of writing. The writing of alphabet and numerals becomes easier because your pre-schooler does not have to brother about the size of the script; it can as be as gigantic as possible or as minute as an ant. They can choose to write on the corner of the board or the centre. Their concentration is only on the formation of alphabet and numerals.  This helps your child to withdraw their apprehensions, if any, towards writing and leads for a smooth transition on writing in books.

Through observation, kids discover new words and numerals. A blackboard lends this exploration a means to exhibit. Foremost they observe the letters in their own name and will copy the same. They come across popular words usually displayed on TV e.g. ‘BHEEM’ or ‘DOREMON’ which they copy on the blackboard. By this exploration your child develops vocabulary and learns pronunciation of words with ease.

Children can be taught to draw simple things e.g. shapes, ball, apple, flower, cat, hut etc. to create interest towards sketches. If your child is drawn towards creativity they may build on to it and progress to draw complex sketches.

A blackboard is like a playground for your kid to reveal the details of what they have learnt or found interesting in school. They will draw objects; write alphabet, numerals and words which will give you a good glimpse into their growing world of knowledge.

Kids declare their ownership on the blackboard; they allow themself to make mistakes while writing on it. They play pretend games (the target – their Teacher, of course!) and it keeps kids engaged in free play. Older kids may set their own mini question paper and may even write answers to it. Kids study free willingly which further develops their interest towards studies. For young children, blackboards are a better option than whiteboards because chalks provide better grip and marker-pens are unsafe.

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Learn the potter’s craft (…to develop positive self-concept in children)

Self-concept or self-image is knowledge about self. Developing positive self-concept in a child can be compared to a potter’s craft. A potter uses clay; the soft pliable mud is transformed into a viable object with the skill of his hands and the mechanism of a wheel.

Self-concept or self-image is knowledge about self. Developing positive self-concept in a child can be compared to a potter’s craft. A potter uses clay; the soft pliable mud is transformed into a viable object with the skill of his hands and the mechanism of a wheel.

Self-concept is mainly a product of parents’ role in a child’s life. Here the potter are the parents, the clay is the child. The skill of hands signifies parents’ attitude and responses towards a child. And the mechanism of the wheel refers to the surrounding, a child is raised in – all these factors contribute towards developing self-concept in a child.

Alike a potter, who kneads the clay to work on its consistency; a mother influences her fetus’s well-being by taking care of her physical, mental and emotional health during pregnancy.

It requires the tactful knack of the potter’s hands to gradually shape up the pliable clay into a worthwhile object. To build positive self-concept in a child – a thoughtful approach should be adopted towards childcare:-

  • At birth, taking care of your baby’s needs is of prime importance. The calmness and warmth of the mother’s body while breast feeding…the gentleness of her hands while changing the clothing advances for a secure emotional bond between the baby and the mother.

Talk to your little one in a soft and a bubbly tone. Sing songs in a soothing pitch or play soft music.  Hang colourful toys on top of the cradle. Pay attention to their cries and respond by talking and caring for their wants.

At about two months, your baby will respond by smiling so smile back at them – this reflective positive response will stimulate their sense of self-worth.

  • Your baby will slowly progress to crawl, to sit and to walk and will simultaneously explore their immediate environment by touch and taste. Contribute in their expedition by offering them colourful and movable toys to manipulate. Carry your little-one around and talk about the different objects in the house.  Initiate taking along your baby for social events or family get-together and visit a nearby park as often as possible, this will increase your child’s awareness on the immediate surroundings.

Your child begins to understand verbal communication so avoid using harsh language or criticism because usage of offensive language influences the feeling of shame. Their curiosity and mobility will help them to imitate your words and actions. They will shut doors or open them, open or close lids of containers and will also pull down things which are within their reach. Big plastic blocks to build towers, being in small water pool with floating toys, big light-weight plastic balls to throw and pick are plays that your child will thoroughly enjoy.

  • As two year old, your child’s exploration will grow with some use of language to their aid.  Providing a safe environment for their adventurous pursuits is a must. They verbally express their preferences towards food, play and people. As parent we should portray a flexible attitude towards their demands. If a child insists on eating chocolates during lunch time, gently reason them by maintaining that they should eat the lunch first to eat the chocolate. Children of this age will express curiosity to handle some of the household products because of its colourful packaging; give box wrappers of these products and keep the product out of their reach.

Just when your child begins his journey as a two year old, gradual process of toilet training should begin. This advances his sense of autonomy with a forward leap towards forming a positive self-concept.

  • Three to four years of age, is a period for rapid development in gross motor and language skills. An environment to explore their physical capability should be provided e.g. climbing the jungle gym, cycling etc. They should also play with children of the same age group. As their language skills soars up high, your child should be encouraged to express their interpretations regarding the day to day happenings in school and at home.  Stories should be narrated; especially stories related with moral values and socially accepted behaviours.

This age marks the onset of fine motor skills.  Some activities to develop fine motor muscles are threading beads, colouring and paper crumbling.

Permit your child to do small tasks related to self-care, for instance… selecting clothes for oneself, clothing oneself, taking care of toys and books. They should also be given easy household tasks to carry out; this initiates the spirit of usefulness.

At this age, self-concept slowly shapes to take a concrete form. The mechanism of the wheel i.e. the outside influence also begins to set in, the performance at school marks this – they might express it by saying, ‘Teacher gave me two stars … for writing neatly’ or ‘Teacher scolded me… for not writing’ or may complain to you that one of his classmates pinched him.  As parents, we should motivate our kids with praise and by hugs.

  • At the age of 5 to 6 years, children become effective communicators and will express their feelings and thoughts without any inhibition. Encourage your child by asking their opinions on matters concerning them, if the child answers in affirmative or not, tie-in the question by asking the reason for the same. This enables a child to realise that his views are important and also encourages them to voice-out inner conflicts.

They will participate in group games wherein they will learn to wait for their turn, cooperate in play and obey the rules of a game.  It is during group games, children begin to recognise their acceptance among friends. Some children find it difficult to adjust in group games and this defiance may reflect when all of a sudden they become attention-seekers.  Help your child by playing indoor board game e.g. Snakes and Ladders, Ludo etc. which will help them understand that while playing games with friends, they have to follow a set of rules in order to enjoy a game.

Children’s cognitive ability will mark a big boost. To encourage, parents can provide age-appropriate books to read and to observe. They will also be well-aware of their emotional needs and will also be sensitive towards the needs of others. They will recognize that they are a part of a society and will label themselves and others as ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ in terms of moral conduct.

Early years of life are the formative years in development of self-concept. While employing these ideas try not to compare children, to show dominance or to curb free thinking.

When the clay is moulded into a pot – using a stiff wire the potter pulls it  separate from the wheel and later bakes it, for it become a worthwhile object. Similarly, children who are moulded to have a positive self-concept develop in society as individuals portraying a strong sense of self- respect and they instil the same sense in others.

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