Monday, December 15, 2008

A little apologia

If anyone is following this, and has received report of a recent post - I apologize. It was as yet a draft, not completed, and accidentally published. The revised one follows. Soon. :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Just books

If I sit still, I can hear the leaves shivering gently in chill puffs of wind.

If I sit still, I can see the moth flutter faintly in the darkness.

If I sit still, I can feel the moon beams leave dewdrops on my skin.

If I sit still, I can remember. Remember nights from my life, sharp as starpoints, soft as moon haloes, nights of beauty and joy and contentment. And so I try to return to the time before I learned to read, to the time when bedtime meant snuggling up to mother for stories and security and comfort. Ah those days! A blink of the eye and night returns, warmer from those heavy quilts , those stories told softly, that cozy embrace...

Isn't it strange then that I should have no recollection of those stories? I know that I heard countless stories - but I don't remember! It is a loss I feel all the more now that it is my turn to tell the stories. In a strange way, it is my love of books that has perhaps led to this state of affairs: because I read my books so many times, I lost the ones I had only heard but not revisited later. It is a loss I deeply regret.

Neverthless, books are an abiding love that I can not give up on. And today's post is - as an exception - going to be solely about books. A bit of a hotch potch too, let me warn you, because at this time of the night I can't really think straight, certainly not enough to unravel the subconscious threads that may join one memory with another. Or to formulate meaningful links between two topics. Take it as a basket of old books at a garage sale, if you will. Rummage and you will find a treasure or two - but only if you love books enough to go through them in the first place!

'Vintage books my kid loves' is a blog I have but recently discovered, and much though I envy all these book blogs which talk of books I don't have, I still have to read them! And share! I am not particularly partial to vintage books, but that is because I am partial to books of any vintage, any form. As long as there is printed paper, I am hungry for it. The only two things which keep me from buying all the books in the world are price, and space. (Pity that both are so severly limited...) But old books have a charm all their own. I like to have books with history, to hold in my hand something printed in the last century and feel awed at the number of people who might have read and enjoyed that book. Perhaps it also gives me a feeling of being connected to all those bibliophiles before me who so lovingly preserved that book. So I especially enjoyed reading about the old kid books on this blog and looking at the photos posted.

Similar little squeals of joy emanated when I discovered 'Golden gems' - the blog which has high quality scans of these 'little golden books' and other illustrations. What a beauty! It is so much fun to look at these paintings/drawings - and sometimes you can almost read the whole book! The only drawback, of course, is that clicking each photo is a rather slow process...

Eklayva is a NGO, based in Bhopal, 'that develops and field tests innovative educational programmes and trains resource people to implement these programmes. It functions through a network of education resource centres located in Madhya Pradesh.' I could summarize more - but as I said, the labour laws of my brain require it to be shut down now, so you'd have to go to their site to check out more. But I have been meaning to write about Eklavya for a long time now because of the children's books they publish. We met them in a book fair, and liked the four little books we got for about Rs. 15 each I think. Unfortunately, although they do have an online order form, and a list of publications, I haven't bought any more because I like to actually look at a book before I buy, and they don't have any outlet outside of Madhya Pradesh... Today I find that they have a hindi flip book online - great! Hope there are more to follow. Even detailed descriptions and a one page sample from each book would suffice to encourage more buyers online though.

There are more where this lot came from - but nope, my mind has totally packed up, and as I have to be up in another three hours, it is time to call it a day! To make up for my ramblings, here is something you might enjoy -

A TRAGIC STORY
William Makepeace Thackeray

There lived a sage in days of yore,
And she a handsome pigtail wore;
But wondered much, and sorrowed more
Because it hung behind her.

Se mused upon this serious case,
And swore she'd change the pigtail's place
And have it hanging at her face,
Not dangling there behind her.

At length "Eureka!" was the sound,
Said she, "The mystery I've found --
I'll turn me round!" She turned her round;
But still it hung behind her.

Then round and round, and out and in,
All day the puzzled sage did spin;
In vain -- it mattered not a pin --
The pigtail hung behind her.

And though her efforts never slack,
And though she twist, and twirl, and tack,
Alas! still faithful to her back,
The pigtail hangs behind her.
Smile, and keep reading - books!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Almost defeated by an idea, and Clifford at Scholastic****

Some ideas are clear; smooth and free is their sailing over the screen, words tripping in their hurry to get formed in black. Others are equally recalcitrant, and stand obstructive in my path, declaring with cool passion, "No other way save through me". For a week, ever since the Bombay bombing, I have tried to get around one, and failed. I have approached it from all angles, rejected and re-approached, and gotten nowhere. I have started thrice, changed my mind, moved the posts to Alternate/Parallel, and still not posted them. And yet, the idea is simple really. How do you talk of a tragedy like the Bombay attack? Or any other - take your pick, for there are so many of them in recent times. There is terrible mindlessness, innocents die, thousands suffer directly or indirectly. Tragedy? Of course. Horrifying, sombre, mind-numbing tragedy. What do you feel? Do you feel the pain like I do, the overwhelming shearing sensation with each news of a world grinding carcasses in daily turning? Each day, each little report - theft, violence, rape, corruption, rage, political divisiveness, riots, jail breaks, delayed justice, terror attacks - each and all of these hurt me daily. Each of these I have learnt to avoid since I became aware, as a teenager, of a world beyond my home, because I couldn't handle the pointlessness of it all. Because I couldn't do anything about any of it, anything at all. And so began my attachment to the only part of the paper I do read carefully - the cartoons! For the rest, when was there ever good news? Rare the athletic prowess to be inspired by, lessening with increasing years anyway. Rarer still the news of a man who could inspire. And yet, we all are hungry for that, as was obvious by the amount of interest Obama generated worldwide. For a brief moment, democracy seemed actually meaningful, each vote a choice... But something like this happens, or the last blasts in Delhi, or the tsunami in Indonesia or the floods in Bihar - and your life gets dwarfed once more by calamities far beyond your control. So, how do you talk about these? Can you find words to really talk of it, or do you deal in cliches, safe passages through these turbulent waters? A friend from US asked me of - folks in Bombay - and I didn't know how to respond. I can write, and search for words chiselled to fit the thought and feeling, yet I'd feel bombastic and utterly false using those in my daily talk. Just at the time of the event, yes, possibly, overawed by the magnitude of it all, when we stand small and baby-nude with each other, putting arms out to be hugged, I might let my heart show. But later, when the tragedy is in the realm of conversation?

How do you deal with it?

Today, because we were watching a Clifford video lately, it is Clifford at Scholastic Inc., the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books. One of those 'leaf' posts by my classification, for Scholastic is a huge site. As a matter of fact, the link I am starting with is the wrong end of the candy cane - it is Clifford at the teachers' site at Scholastic, rather than Clifford games per se, educational though they may be. And just to make matters more complicated, the teachers' site itself and the games section of Scholastic both deserve a separate mention. Not to speak of various Clifford games at other sites... Oh, what the heck, we'll simply stick to Clifford at Scholastic, the name I have bookmarked the site as, simply because Clifford is a favourite :)

If you follow the link here, you'll find four games and four English/Spanish interactive story books. And a teachers' guide about using them - introducing the child to consonants and so on. Not being a Montessori mama, nor a gifted teacher, I have simply been using these as games with random and occassional comments re consonants and vowels and so on, and hoping that some of it will simply soak in...



The concentration game here has a slight twist - kids have to name aloud the object in the photos displayed, and then find the ones with the same beginning, middle or ending sound. Quite useful to get them used to breaking down words into phonic components.



The word making game is a variant of the paper slider used to fill vowels in words at kindergarten. Drag a letter to the middle of a word - if it is right, it is read aloud by the computer; if not, the vowel slides back.



A letter match game teaches children to differentiate between letters that they often have difficulty identifying eg. p and b, d and p, i and j.



Sound match has kids picking out words starting from the same sound as a given word given images which are read out by the computer on clicking. Stories are simply worded, each frame with three sentences, the last of which needs to be filled in with one of three choices. The choices don't impact the story line much, however they are good for learning how to read.



At the bottom of the page is a link to 'Clifford's website' - which is the actual Clifford site on Scholastic. And on that page are more games and other goodies which I can't write about now because I have to vacate the computer so they can be played... Maybe later, editing this post?

The url - http://teacher.scholastic.com/clifford1/index.htm

P.S. As and when I do post more about the above - whether it is Bombay, or Clifford, I will update here :)

P.P.S. At the bottom of the page, there is a Scholastic Word Wizard box powered by Wordsmyth, which claims it'll look up any word you double click on the page. Trouble is, almost every written word is a link...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

List of sites covered August to November 2008

List of sites covered to date - these are only the game sites; any others are not included though half the post may be dedicated to them :) Use the tags to search for sites by age group - here they are, on the right :)

ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) kids playground**** - toddler, preschooler, kindergarten
Ambulance service of New South Wales** - preschooler, kindergarten, tween
Animaland*** - preschooler, kindergarten, tween, teen
Artpad*** - preschooler, kindergarten, adult
Babloo - preschooler, kindergarten, tween
Baby tv**** - infant, toddler, preschooler
BBC Family time (including mummy's pregnant)*** - toddler, preschooler, kindergarten, parent assist
Bembo's zoo*** - preschooler, kindergarten, tween, teen
British Council**** - toddler, preschooler, kindergarten, tween
Caillou**** - toddler, preschooler, kindergarten
Cbeebies***** - toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarten, tweens (note: this link is to the part IV of th post about cbeebies, but they are linked serial fashion)
Children's museum of Indianapolis*** - preschooler, kindergarten, tweens, teen
Coloring.com*** - toddler, preschooler, kindergarten, tween
Dr. Seuss*** - kindergarten, tween
Faces in places*** - preschooler, kindergarten, tween, adults
Fifi*** - preschooler, kindergarten, tween
Faust and Hubert*** - infant, toddler
Fireman Sam*** -
preschooler, kindergarten
Fisher-Price**** - infant, toddler, preschooler
Fun baby games online*** - infant, toddler
Funbrain mom and kids playground***** - favourite, toddler, preschooler, kindergarten
H.I.P.(History in your pocket) pocket change**** - preschooler, kindergarten, tween, teen
I heart wavs*** - infant, toddler, preschooler, kindergarten, tween
International Digital Children's Library***** - preschooler, kindergarten, tween, teen
Kiddonet*** - toddler, preschooler, kindergarten
Kipper** - toddler, preschooler, kindergarten
Kneebouncers***** - infants, toddlers
M.A.D. paintball*** - toddler, preschooler, kindergarten
Mauki*** - infant
Mr. Picassohead**** - preschooler, kindergarten, tween, adult
My life as an elk***(National museum of wildlife art) - preschooler, kindergarten, tween
Netsmartzkids*** - kindergarten, tween, teens
Nursery rhymes lyrics and origins** - toddler, preschooler, kindergarten
Orange** - preschooler, kindergarten, tween
Orisinal*** - kindergarten, tween, teen, adults
Peep and the big wide world***** - toddler, preschooler, kindergarten
Pocoyo*** -infant, toddler
Poisson rouge***** (Red fish) - infants, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarten
Poisson rouge***** revisited - (more details here than before)
Rosetta project**** - books, kindergarten, tween, teen
Scribbler*** - preschooler, kindergarten, adult
Spectratone*** - toddler, tween, teen
Starfall**** - toddler, preschooler, kindergarten
Storyplace***** - toddler, preschooler, kindergarten, tween
The mouse club*** - toddler, preschooler, kindergarten
Thomas the tank engine*** - toddler, preschooler, kindergarten
Tumblebooks***** - kindergarten, tween, teen

tygh**** - preschooler, kindergarten, tween, teen, adult
Up to ten***** - infant, toddler, preschooler, kindergarten, tween
Visible body**** - preschooler, kindergarten, tween, teen, adult
Wild republic* - preschooler, kindergarten

MCQ II and Family time*** (Including mummy's pregnant)

Time for MCQ part II.

When your kid asks about pregnancy - yours or somebody else's, in a public place, what do you do?

a. shush, tell her 'will talk later'
b. distract her
c. answer the question in brief
d. remind her of an earlier similar discussion eg. about digestion, and promise more for later
e. apologize to the junta?

Seems to me that lately the only reason I sign on to blogger is to check the dashboard for blogs I am following. By the time I have finished reading them, (and commenting), I don't have any time left over to do my own blog. So today, when Christina asked how to answer her son's "how did the baby get inside your tummy" question, and I couldn't remember the site just then, I figured I could do make a post about this finally after months of planning, er, pondering, er, procastinating. Only, my memory is too much of a leaky sieve to be trusted. That I couldn't remember the site was bad enough, but that the site is not answering her question at all is worse! To tell the truth, we went through it all only once, and I had retained an impression of a 'really useful site'. Sorry Christina, but perhaps someone else will find this useful anyway!

Anyway, here we are at BBC's Family time. It is linked from cbeebies site (under grown ups), so if you have been there, perhaps you already know
about it. It is also linked from the BBC parenting site which you might have explored. I have not explored the site well enough to tell you all about it. And indeed it is hardly relevant for this blog, so we'll focus on the things that interest us. Or, well, kids.



First, the Mummy's pregnant animations. These are very short animation segments in a month by month format, explaining how the embyo is growing in mummy's body, culminating in birth. The narrator is supposed to be a small boy who is talking about his newborn sister. The details are accurate, and the summarization adequate. However, the information is rather too sketchy - most kids over 5 years of age will want to know more. Especially the how did it all begin part, on which it is prudently silent. Apart from that, it is a nice tool to use to help your kid feel involved in your pregnancy, and to keep them updated regarding progress...



There are a couple of games of course, and changing links to other games on the BBC site. Teatime racers is about picking the 'right' food to win in a race, as opposed to junk food. But it is slightly marred by the fact that unless you choose all the junk foods first, your child has a good chance of picking a mixed bag, thus leaving a mixed bag for you as well - and in that case, nobody is a clear winner, and there is no clear cut 'this food is right, and this is wrong' message for the child. Robot's recipes is to do with helping the robot make some recipes in the kitchen, with the idea that you and your kid can then make these very same things yourself :) Fun game.



Watch and learn section has some animations regarding food, and some real videos of kids talking of favourite foods etc. As at the cbeebies site, the videos are small and poor quality, and still take forever to load. That, coupled with the inference that I was trying to get some 'nutritional information' across, sent my kid scrambling to another site! Nevertheless, you may find it interesting.



There are also sections on 'learning activities' appropriate for your child and 'parties and charts': take a look.

The url - http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/grownups/familytime/

P.S. This is also for my friend B., who I hope is able to read this before the nine months are over :) Here is to you - health and happiness!

P.P.S. From BBC parenting, come these tips about talking to kids about sex -

How can I make it easier?

Many parents feel uncomfortable or embarrassed talking about sex, but there are some ways to make it easier:

  • Start early. You'll find it less awkward if you introduce the topic when your child is very young. Answer questions simply and naturally.
  • Use everyday situations to start conversations. TV programmes are often a good opportunity to talk about relationships, or talk when you're doing something like the washing up. This makes your child feel that sex is a normal part of family life and not a special subject.
  • Have books or leaflets for your child to read, or you to look at together. See below for our list of resources.
  • Have a line up your sleeve for difficult moments, such as: "That's a good question, let's talk about it when we get home." And make sure you do.
  • Ask your child what they think about these issues. This tells you how much they know and helps you give answers they understand.
  • Children notice the tone of what you say as much as what you say. So don't get cross or put them down.
  • If you don't know the answer, say so but find out later.
  • Try to be truthful as stories about storks and gooseberry bushes just confuse children.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Indian safety and Ambulance service of NSW**

Today, I am talking to Indians.

I wonder how many of you recall, or even are aware of the animated series 'Around the world in eighty days' based on the novel of the same name, which was made perhaps in late 70s, or early eighties? Each episode, if I remember correctly, ended with a saying or a rhyming catchphrase. One of these has stayed with me through all these years, despite having no remembrance of that particular episode: "The motto of the wise is, be prepared for surprises". The usefulness of this motto in daily living is in direct proportion to your tendency to hyperventilate in the face of a wrong morning paper, but as far as real emergencies go, there is no doubt that preparedness saves lives. Being prepared starts with being aware of the risks and limits of whatever you are doing or are involved in, even if it is simply living your life wherever you are, whichever way you are doing it. When you know of the things which can go wrong, and how they can go wrong, you have already started knitting the safety net, because you can then plan the appropriate response. It can mean leaving an earthquake prone area to live in. Or putting up fresh light bulbs in the long corridor of your office. Or wearing helmets. Or government's flood control plan. Or the triage practice at the trauma centre. Or having an emergency evacuation drill in your home every now and then. Anything that either reduces the risks of the unforeseen happening or gets you ready to face it when it does happen in a panic free way.

Unfortunately, on an individual level, and as a community and nation, we are prone to believing ourselves immortal, infallible. Perhaps the blinkers we need to get through the business of daily living without giving in to the invariable tearing apart of our hearts are too large, and they prevent us from looking around, taking responsibility, being pro-active. Instead, we drive on the wrong side of the road, walk in the middle of traffic, hang on from trains, postpone visits to doctors but not to faith healers, break safety rules whenever we can, refuse to subscribe to the notion that our safety is our own concern. Everything that is wrong is to be blamed on another community - of politics, caste, religion, locality, creed - any thread which unites the non us.

Oh well, that is us. "Sau mein se ninyanve beyimaan, phir bhi mera Bharat mahan." But it explains, for instance, how is it that the best of our play-schools run in converted residences without any adequate child protection devices or practices in place. Lack of adequate fire escape pathways, of fire extinguishers, of smoke and fire alarms can perhaps be attributed to the expense. Lack of knowledge of what to do in case of a fire, of how to extinguish it, of how to give first aid to a burns victim; lack of discussion or policy of fire escape, or practice runs, or apportioning of responsibility; lack of basic safety knowledge - these are not excusable. But there they are. I challenge you to find me one school in India that is safety conscious, has these (among others) safeguards in place. In fact, I challenge you to tell me that your household is prepared. That you have - since we are already talking of fire - a response plan, that your toddler knows what to do, that you have the requisite prevention and remedial measures in place.

I don't. Despite knowing and agonizing and theorizing.

I rest my case.

And now, the antidote - knowledge. A very simple site for today, and I must warn you, not really tailored for us, since it is the Ambulance service of New South Wales, Australia. But as a beginning, it will do. Their kid section has simple one pane messages about what an ambulance does, or how to make an emergency call, with voice over but no animation. In itself the site is not enticing enough to hold a child's attention, but if they are young, and looking out for something new, go over this with them and discuss, explain, and guide. Even little children as young as three can save their own lives, and that of others if they know the correct response in emergency situations.



The two games included here are actually quizzes, so suitable only for older kids, unless you are also explaining and translating at the same time. The one about big or little accident is a good starting point to teach them about the seriousness of a situation.



Check it out, and if you know of other sites which are cuter - let me know!

The url - http://www.ambulance.nsw.gov.au/kids/games/

P.S. Another old phrase which has stayed with me is 'savdhanin hati, durghtana ghati'. I don't recall if it was a governmental campaign or something else related to the government, but it was official alright! And god, so true. Especially for the household and industrial accidents!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Of sleep, and about ABC**** (part I)

A long time ago, someone told me that those who need more than eight hours of sleep or less than four are geniuses.

Or prone to schizophrenia.

I added the myth/factoid to my list of things I don't feel modest about. And happily ignored the rider. I mean, be reasonable, wouldn't you? But seriously, ever since motherhood happened, I find sleep is what makes the world go around. Regular, full, uninterrupted sleep on my own terms. I need sleep, always have. When occupied by various colds and other such viruses, all I want is sleep, and things get better. When I am too stressed out, a book to unwind and put me in a different land helps before a long long nap, but sleep is essential. Heck, even my labour pains were not as troublesome as the fact that I just wanted to sleep some after 24 hours of contractions! So that is my problem nowadays - how do I get around to writing here when I have more 'important' things to do - and sleep?

ABC kids playground, the site for young children from Australian Broadcasting Corporation is admittedly smaller than the BBC one, but it is still large enough to require two posts. Today we shall talk only about the games visible directly on this page -



Its a simple layout, and enticing too. The characters on the game board, however, lead to other pages of games - or a single one, from where you have to use the back button on your browser to return. There are a couple of broken links, and some game pages are, by their own admission, old. When you hover over a character, a little note next to it informs you of the name and age range for which suitable.

Save-ums have some six or seven games, for which you need to download Axel player in addition to Quicktime with flash - a simple and short download but installation of course requires browser windows to be closed. None of the games are extra special but the animation is fair. Mixy and Joe's games are a mixed bag, with some games like Joe's maze being fairly interesting, and some falling a little short of expectations. 'Petals' have a single jigsaw puzzle.

Billycart racing and Space mission are meant for age group 5-12, but can be handled at a younger level as well; to watch if not to try. Both are based on using arrow keys for navigating the vehicle out of the way of obstacles to reach a goal. However, using a rocket is a first for this kind of game for us, so it was well liked :)



Rattus down the dunny is a game meant to appeal to the, er, base humour of older kids by means of a rat which has to be moved in the sewer pipes so as to retrieve his jacket which went down the lavatory... The mouse movement required can be handled by 4 year olds, and the animation/drawing quality is poor.

Bananas in pyjamas shares its colour game with Mixy and a direct link on the home page itself - and it has very basic limited garish colours and four or five pictures to paint. However, my kid still liked it so I guess my opinion doesn't count. The matching memory game, dress-up (mix and match), puzzle are average. What does make it stand out is the incredibly addicting tune of its title song in 'song time'. Also, you can select one of four instruments to accompany the song or a couple of other rhymes in 'sing-a-long'. Check 'animal sounds' - I should at least give some homework!



The best of all is the Jakers site, better than the link from BBC if I recall. Jakers, if you haven't watched it, is about 'the imaginative world of Piggley Winks. Grandpa Piggley Winks, the elder family member in a typical contemporary, chaotic household of American city-dwellers, (who) entertains and educates his grandchildren with tales of his childhood on Raloo Farm in the village of Tara in Ireland.' Although the size of the game window is not large, it is sufficient, and the games are well designed and innovative.



See-saw hee haws is one of our favourites, and it helped in introducing the concept of two weights being equal even if looking different. It is fun to balance the various animals on the see-saw, and if you succeed, the others jump up in celebration. As you progress up the game, the number of options for balancing increases. However, it doesn't take into account the distance from the fulcrum, which is just as well I think. If you do want that, go to the big wide world of Peep for 'bunny balance'.



Jamming with Wiley is for the older kids - my pre-schooler still can't handle more than the beginning, but is delighted to watch the sheep dance. Its a nice game for getting the hang of beat and rhythm.



Fix-it is a one of a kind favourite of ours. Unlike other puzzles, this is a three dimensional one in which you get to 'glue' together many pieces of increasing complexity broken by the unfortunate pig! Just add your own voice over to the effect of 'Not again! Oh now what do we do?' and the kids will be giggling as they finish repairing things they - for a change - have not broken!



The egg collector and farm escape are some of the other favourites, but all games are likeable at Jakers.

Hickory dickory clock used to be a nice game for introducing the clock, but sadly the link is broken now. I have a feeling that the site is being revamped, and soon I shall be having to re-do this post. In any case, for the newer games and for the five minute more games, some other post, for they are flash intensive and cause my laptop to over heat and shut down...

The url - http://www.abc.net.au/children/games/default.htm

P.S. "And do you know what it's like to go for days on end without sleep, for weeks with only two or three hours out of the twenty-four? Do you know the sensation? That fine-drawn feeling with every nerve in your body and cell in your brain stretched taut to breaking point, pushing you over the screaming edge of madness. Do you know it? It's the most exquisite agony in the world, and you'd sell your friends, your family, your hopes of immortality for the blessed priviledge of closing your eyes and just letting go."

Excerpted, with minor changes from Mr. Maclean's book H.M.Ulysses.

P.P.S. I hope that you have read this book? Please do if you haven't. If I were to say it eulogizes the human spirit while condemning the incredible and incredibly stupid waste of human endeavour in wars, you may be put off. But it is not a serious tome, just a very moving, very well crafted work of fiction in the special style of Alistair Maclean. I never can read it without breaking down once at least, and also without wondering how shallow his other novels seem in comparison... But it redeems them all, if they were ever in the need for it!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Nursery rhyme lyrics and origins**

While on nursery rhymes, here is another little site which is of some help when you are looking for answers to your child's questions about what a runcible spoon is, and exactly how can the London bridge be made of gold and silver...



While 'Nursery rhymes - lyrics and origins' doesn't have answers for every question you can think of, it does have a lot of information you never thought of asking. Check it out for lost lyrics, history of rhymes and some more trivia!

The url - http://www.rhymes.org.uk/

P.S. This site has some pop up ads (always so annoying I feel), so be ready for them :)

First MCQ + I heart wavs**

More than a week has gone by without any entries whatsoever; what should be the appropriate emotion for me here?

a. guilt for being so irregular when there are people hanging on to my insignificant words?
(Er, someone other than me reads it? Gosh, I didn't know! Thanks folks - do drop in a line some time to let everyone know I am not delusional.)

b. guilt for lacking the self discipline to post daily?

c. anger at the world in general for conspiring against me - festival season, rush of responsibilities, school holidays ensuring lack of time, flu?

d. relief that at least today I can - and guilt at doing so because it means I am taking time off from other important and urgent stuff?

Have you searched the net for nursery rhymes or songs, especially animated ones? If you have been successful, please do share the sites with us! I haven't yet found any one truly great site, though there are several which are useful. So, today, on a slight tangent, as I am short on time, here is a little site which has quite a few nursery rhymes in downloadable .wav format -



I 'heart' wavs has quite a little collection of songs for little children. It also has birthday, Christmas, halloween, 4th July, new year, Valentine's; songs from cartoon shows, commercials, soap operas, movies; computer events and other sound effects - a nice assortment of music in fact for children interested in setting up their own sound show! A useful site to bookmark :)

The url - http://www.ilovewavs.com/ForKids/Nursery/KidsNurseryRhymes.htm

P.S. Today as I attempt to access the site, a warning appears that its security certificate is actually assigned to hostgator.com rather than ilovewavs. I suspect it is only something to do with the name of the site - but could it be something else? Will someone knowledgeable help please?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The mouse club***

The mouse club is a site for young children created by the publishing division of d2 Digital by Design Ltd., U.K. They also produce "a range of educational resources for 3-19 year olds using media including print, video, CD-ROM and web."



To begin, click on the clubhouse on the home page. It opens the mouse club in a new window, full screen (or nearly), from where you have a choice of games, activities, mouse tales, secret club, and joining the club (free). There are no ads.

Secret club, when loading will show the mice sliding down a dirt tunnel to their 'secret' location, where you have to click on the right shape Roly mouse is thinking of to gain entrance. As that is prominently featured in a thought bubble, it is easy but kids love the 'secret' part of it! The club has four games - bits and bobs, which is basically like gluing four stickers on to a scene and printing it out; mouse olympics, which is the one game I do not recommend for it involves repeatedly and very rapidly pressing two keys to win, and which can injury little fingers; mouse hockey - ice hockey actually, which involves mouse movements to hit the puck; and snakes and ladders. As you just have to click the dice on your turn, it can get a bit tedious watching the counters move slowly by themselves. On the other hand, you could always count aloud and teach counting or addition.



There are also Roly's recipes, a tiny personalized story book which uses kid's name, town and school name, and Blue's scrap book containing downloadable activities like making a card or helping Roly shop.

Mouse tales has six stories at this time, not all feature the mice. Worth a look in case you find something you like.

Activities includes a couple of games as well. Mouse control is a grid of squares which light up in different colours by rolling over and produce sounds when clicked. Good for younger kids. Mouse music, the only game I persistently have trouble loading on my connection, has three instruments and a couple of rhymes (only the music of course). Surprisingly the piano, which can be played using the keyboard as well, sounds different, harsher when you play it than when the computer plays its melodies! Its been a while since we tried the other two instruments though, chiefly because they don't seem to be loading up no matter how long you wait - and waiting is tough for kids!



You can also, in that section, write to Roly, print a card or gift tag. I haven't tried the last, but there is no 'back' button apparently when making a card. You have to exit, and re-enter the clubhouse.

There are only five games essentially although divided into sections. For instance, hide and seek may be at the beach, garden or shop. Or a maze en route to school, at a birthday party or in a garden. In addition, find tic tac toe, join the dots and mouse keepy uppy - clicking on a ball to keep it in air. This is the only game which is not as easy as it sounds! The others are all pretty simple and designed to improve mouse and keyboard skills of young children.



When you are done with the clubhouse, return to the home page for a scribbler e-card, kid jokes and a slider puzzle. Grown ups can find downloadables, activity sheets, lesson plans, party ideas and the like.

The url - http://www.themouseclub.co.uk/

P.S. The back button when you are in the games section doesn't work - at least just now. Click on games again to go back.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Funbrain Mom and Kids Playground*****

I am busy! Too busy to write!

Terribly so? Well, I suppose I could always take the time out to write, but then other things like kid, house and home, festivals, school etc etc. will have to go, so I am forcefully and rather unwillingly curtailing my natural tendency to ramble and letting you have these posts undiluted. Will this trend remain? I hope not! But on the other hand, who knows? Wait and watch!

The aptly named Mom and Kids Playground is the page for young children from Pearson Education, Inc. - one among their many excellent free resources on the net. This is actually an offshoot from their Funbrain page but that deserves a full post separately - so more on that later.

The home page is attractive, featuring weird but ultra cute and friendly looking oddities, which invite kids to play with them. The game frames are small sized, but there is never any feeling of being short of space because they are designed so well. There is usually an ad from the family education network on the right, but it disappears when you start playing. Each game is different; if there is any repetition of style or theme, it is well camouflaged. The games are simple to master, and do not pressurize the kid to play to any unreasonable deadlines or results. Each successful operation - achieving whatever the game needs you to do - is rewarded with a star though. In some games, a mistake the next time will erase all the stars but they are always easy to regain. Three or five stars end the game. I am so tempted to feature nearly all the games here but no, you ought to be given the pleasure of discovery with your child...



Star climber has this little cute thing in overalls trying to climb up and gather three stars. Unfortunately wandering satellites get in the way (oh the junk in space!) and down he goes to begin again. While the idea is that kids learn to predict where the satellite will be and take evasive action, sometimes it is so much more fun to deliberately bang into them and hear the character go 'Gaaaaaaah'!



In the same vein, the Vine Time game is supposed to teach counting, with the round blobby thing with incredibly elastic arms picking up fruit from trees (and berries from bushes below) counting aloud the number of fruits you help it gather. But did you know that you can click on both hands and it lets go and falls, with appropriate sound effects? There you go, much more fun! Especially when mama is knocking her head in mock despair and pressing you to not do so!



One of the very first games we had tried was Simon See which has a finger shaped - monster? with three eyes admiring himself in the mirror. His eyes of his reflection in the mirror open and close in a random fashion and you have to click on the real eyes to match the image. Each time you succeed, he gives a satisfactory grunt and smiles, but in a moment the reflection changes and he is like 'uh-huh?' while the corners of his mouth turn down. As it was the first encounter of my toddler with a 'monster' I was wondering it it would be scary. I needn't have worried - it was a hit from the first! Try it; it is addicting for the tots!



There are, also, a bubble popping game, a feed the crocodile game (judge the parabola from the angle of fish loaded canon), a change the pattern game (five shapes in a row), a simple colouring game, a dig out the worms and money game (to increase click rate - not for the really tiny ones), and more! The girl in the swing in the top row, and the boy standing in the last, lead to stories, not games. The only thing to avoid perhaps - and its a recent addition - is the squirrel or monkey to the left of the middle tree in the top row. That is a card matching game, and has images from LeapFrog's touch reading system covers. Well enough if you have them, but as it is, the small size makes them unclear (and unlike all the other games here).

The url - http://www.funbrain.com/brain/SweepsBrain/sweepsbrain.html?origin=null

P.S. Just one thing - use the playground button on the left of the game to return rather than clicking on done, and then going back - too long a process! Also, there is no option of playing again, so choose reload in the browser and you are set.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Coloring.com***

Coloring.com is the site to go to when your kid is bored with the colouring games on all the other sites you have been regularly visiting. The layout may not be promising but they have a multitude of choices, grouped by theme.



The line drawings are beautiful, you get more range of colours than at most other sites, and there are even a few textures to add.



If your net speed is low, you may find a little delay in colour picking as well as colouring.



Once done, the site generates a code meant for your 'my space' profile - but which can be used elsewhere as well :)

The url - http://www.coloring.com/pictures/choose.cdc

P.S. You can register at the site, though it is not essential. To do so, use the url - http://www.coloring.com

Scribbler***

Scribbler is a 'toy' from zefrank.com (a site to be covered later as a full post for the cute little things it has). At least that is how he describes it, and really I can find no other use for this fun game. You start by drawing on the canvas -



then you start the scribbler, which will scribble over the drawing on its own -



and play with its settings.



Thats all it is, and I really don't know how this can be called art by any definition, but it sure is fun to play with!

The url - http://www.zefrank.com/scribbler

P.S. Do try it once - even if it feels darn silly right now!

Mr. Picassohead****

While I haven't abandoned the book related posts (a couple more left), I have been meaning to do a set of posts about online colouring or painting sites as well. This is the first of these, and I am deliberately refraining from my usual chatter today to ensure that I do post all that I intend to. (Ain't I noble?)

Mr. Picassohead is a work of Ruder Finn Interactive, a "boutique interactive agency embedded within an independently owned & operated Global Communication Company" as they describe themselves. A standalone site, this has a small blank canvas to which you can add from a set of Picasso-esque facial features, scaling or rotating them as you deem fit, to create your own Picassohead. Once you are finished, you have the option of saving the pic in their gallery or emailing as an e-card. The concept is not new, but the presentation is sleek and cool, and it can get quite addicting!



The url - http://www.mrpicassohead.com/create.html

P.S.
You can browse the gallery randomly or search by title or artist name, and have the option of sending any of the gallery images link to friends. To go directly to the gallery, use the url http://www.mrpicassohead.com


Monday, October 20, 2008

Sharad madness and MAD paintball***

This month Delhi has been waking up to cool Sharad mornings, sleeping to increasingly smoggy moonlit nights. Day by day the dark hours lengthen, overlapping the boundaries of our wakeful time. Rains have stopped; the clouds are white, fleecy, and beautiful. Its the month of festivals, tempered this year by the sadness, and perhaps more pertinently, the prudence brought on by the recent blasts. It is also the time when a section of Delhi populace begins to wring hands, wallets, answers from strangers and their children, confessions from school doormen... The time for nursery admissions. Parents of mercifully unaware three year olds are losing nights, and days, searching for schools; getting forms; getting drafts, photos, photocopies (attested!); filling and delivering forms; accosting neighbourhood kids about details of their schools; haunting schools claimed to be the best and those which are not so choosy; networking, questioning, wondering, worrying.... For there is no easy solution to this now or never situation. A panic prevails, perhaps half imagined, half real. Parents scramble to place forms in as many schools as possible on the premise that something is better than nothing - for you can not choose a school for your child any more...

Most annoyingly, my laptop is in secret sympathy with the much rushed parents, and to protest their lamentable condition, has decided to stop allowing me to take screenshots. As I don't like to endlessly grab and pull many photos down the length of a post - although I have done it many a time, I am going to stick to a simple game for today. Hopefully I will be able to post a picture soon!

So, here is M.A.D. paintball, the funny paint game from the funny guys over at Music/Art/Dance show on Pogo tv. Its a simple game, but loads of fun, as anything involving splattering colour all over has to be! Aim and shoot at mischievous art supplies by moving the mouse and clicking. If you don't get them, they will get you and the screen gets more and more full of splotches of colour all over, so you have to get it washed from time to time. With appropriate commentary, even toddlers who can't handle a mouse will enjoy watching it. Have fun!



The url - http://www.pogo.tv/mad/paint_ball/index.html

P.S. For more about Sharad ritu, a term which describes our Indian postmonsoon season much much better than the western 'autumn', check out Srinivasa Rao's blog at sulekha.com.

All yours! Fireman Sam***



there lived a little boy? little girl? a gnome? a princess? a frog? an alien? Here is to you today - you complete the story and this post's chit chat is yours, with compliments :) Write to me!

If your child likes firemen in general, or Fireman Sam in particular, this is the site you'd visit with great expectations. After all, the series itself is fun, and the site is bound to be full of nice games relating to fire safety. Well, Fireman Sam both lives up to expectations and disappoints in equal measure.



The home page in red, blue and yellow is attractive, and instantly recalls fire stations. Follow the safety button from the menu on the left to reach a page which has sheets about fire safety and hazards. The language and content is chosen to be easily understood by children. However, the 'fun' part is missing. Perhaps the series itself takes a heavy load on the imagination of the artists, so they have none to spare for an online animation here! That said, it is nonetheless valuable to have Fireman Sam endorse the safety tips you may be talking about without making much headway.

Click on the fun section to find recipes (!), downloadables and printing activities, and online games. There are twenty odd games, and although they are related to the series in one way or the other, none are specifically designed to teach children or reinforce the message of fire safety.

The quality of the games seems to decrease somewhat as you go down the line - the games in the beginning often open in separate windows, and are, if not large, of sufficient size. The ones towards the end are tiny in comparison, so that even if the concept is great - as in the one involving logical deduction to find out who likes which drink - the actual visualization is so poor that young kids lose interest. Also, the appearance of the games changes from polished to beginner-learning-flash. Most games rely on mouse movement or keyboard arrows; the difficulty level is not very high, so they are not likely to be challenging enough for tweens or the older kindergarten children, with a few exceptions. Here are a few games we like -



The parcel drop game here involves moving the helicopter to the postoffice, picking up a parcel and delivering it to the right person within a time limit. Interesting, especially for the younger tots.



The 'making a splash' game has the kids experimenting with a new kind of water canon - which throws balloons! Aim by positioning mouse at the window concerned, and click to shoot. With increasing level of difficulty, more and more windows get involved simultaneously and so it becomes the kind of fast game slightly older children enjoy.


This plumbing game involves logical reasoning, and is easily the best in the section in my opinion. Clicking on a tile changes the direction of the pipe and the aim is to provide a direct connection from left to right. Makes the child think about what is meant by continuity, and how it may be attained, and is as good as any jigsaw. (They also have jigsaws, and muddled up pictures to be sorted out by the way.)



The bug game is one of those whose size has decreased, but is still playable. Move the bucket by using the arrow keys to catch the ladybirds before they get your tomatoes. Remember that prolonged pressure on a key here will not lead to increased speed or even sustained movement, contrary to intuition, so you have to teach the child to press repeatedly. A child of three therefore should be encouraged to stick to the first level itself rather than trying hard to push keys fast and risk finger injury at this age. Their maize maze game is easier for younger children, with a large maze and easier navigation.

The url - http://www.firemansam.co.uk/home.php
The site is run by HIT entertainment company (we discussed this earlier in the Fifi post). The series itself I think is developed by S4/C of which all I know is that it is Irish - I just can't get the site to open right!

P.S. If your story is too long to be posted in the comment section, post only one para there, and use the contactify form from the links on the right to mail the rest to me. Would love to see what you come up with!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Relax. Check out tygh****

Leisure, by W.H. Davies -

What is this life, if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like stars at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Finish the smile her eyes began.

A poor life this, if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Geoff Dellow of U.K. has a site named - for some reason not mentioned on the site itself, tygh. Actually, coming to think of it, this is the url; the site doesn't appear to have a name! I wonder if the pronunciation is like tiger or dig or something else altogether? Oh well, some things in life remain mysteries. Which should not prevent you from going to this site and checking the fun math it offers! Geoff is a flash enthusiast, which means that basically his site is a way of showcasing how much fun flash can be, and how it can be used as an educational tool. For a flash based site, it doesn't take any time to load whatsoever. While it is loading - you can skip this though - you read the poem I have also quoted here :)



Try the various links to explore. They are easy, and fun to watch and use for teaching. Like the tangrams. I have amalgamated three screenshots below to make a composite, but the original is actually one figure morphing into another position, another figure playing football in a fast animation sequence. A little - too little animation, but nice intro to tangrams and what you can do with those magic seven pieces...



Check out the halves section for ideas on how many ways can you halve an object - in this case, a square. Perfect to use when you have introduced the subject of fractions, and the child has understood it well.



The tiles game is great maths - and for silly people like me who left their maths in school, it is still great! Kids enjoy this, because the premise of the game is click and see what happens, and that is what childhood is about.



The animated sequence of various geometrical figures tumbling down a straight line, drawing curves, is truly more than a thousand words, conveying the entire idea so simply. Ask a child what might happen if you marked a point on a square and tumbled it down the table - what would the point do in space - and it will be a difficult thing to grasp. But show him or her this, and you have planted ideas that will germinate and branch and grow roots.



That leaves us with just a couple of other links on the page - don't be lazy! Go check those out :)

The url - http://www.tygh.co.uk/

P.S. I don't think I remember seeing this song - might have done, but who in India hasn't heard it? As a child, all it meant to me was the melody, and the first two lines extolling the loss of the rainy season worth millions, to a job paying two cents. Being a nature lover, I could totally empathize with someone not wanting to be in a stuffy office when it was raining outside... It was only a few years back when it suddenly hit me that the lady is talking more of passion and romance than of the season! Talk of naivety! Oh well. The seductive undertones not withstanding, it was still the song that came to mind when I read the poem above, so here it is -



P.P.S. 19th Oct. 08 edit -
I have received word from Geoff Dellow about the story behind tygh. I quote from his mail -
"Why tygh -

because it doesn't mean anything and therefore can be used for anything - I use it all the time for email so not meaning anything is handy.
secondly it's dead easy to type
third it was one of the few interesting four letter combinations available at the time

As for my site you've discovered one small part of it !

http://www.tygh.co.uk/students is by far the more important to me and believe it or not , to the mathematics experts like Prof Celia Hoyle of the London Institute of education.

Using Flash as kids have done develops mathematical thinking because it explores the use of logic in everything you do - what's more it's fun, which is important. "

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A noise is annoying me + Orange**

Phones ring insistently, door bells shrilly, horns honk annoyingly - have you noticed that the things which make us do something are always associated with a negative adjective? The ringtone may be most soothing, the door bell chime sweet as a cuckoo, the horn merely the minimal polite 'please could you move?' Yet, because these sounds are the advance guard of a change in our tempo we ourselves didn't initiate, we view them as intrusive, irritating. Unless of course, you have been waiting for that call from the office informing you of your raise, waiting for your child to be brought home from the hospital, all healed, waiting for your lover to turn up in his new car... :)

Today featuring Michael's second site - the fun page of the communication company Orange. Orange has a site made up specially to illustrate its tagline - Good things should never end!



It is a flash animation, so it will take a while to load up - but the bees ferrying honey from hive to jar are pretty cute to watch in the interim :) Once it is loaded, it is quite literally, an endless page, repeating whimsical animations, some with a shareable code, some without. (See below for three examples - you can click and play in them!) It is fun to explore initially, scrolling down to see what else is there...



You do have to be careful about scrolling - better use the keyboard arrows else you will find yourself sliding down more rapidly than planned! Not that it matters, because after a while you begin to see repetitions, or slight variations thereof, and don't really bother to visit the end of the page at all. So you could just as easily start off in the middle and not lose out anything :)



Each animation generally has its own sounds which remain as long as it is visible. Some are interactive, others just show repetitive movement (not included in these examples here). It is a dream page for the little someone who will insist on using the computer "all on my own, mamma" - endless scrolling and clicking! But kids also are quite likely to get totally bored by the absence of new things to see after a few tries.



There are a few games which involve guessing which word - relating to, say a place, or a transport, is in the 'mind' of a character. Some more in which you hold nonsensical conversations with an 'artificial intelligence'. Both kinds are good for tweens who are able to appreciate this kind of humour. And then there is an ice-cream game, which is different enough from others of its ilk for me to tell you about it. There are three components to the ice-cream, of which you can hold two at a time, ie they will not change when you click the ice-cream man. If you don't 'hold', they will all change, randomly, much in the nature of those lottery machines. So the trick is to hold two, and keep changing the third till you like it, and then repeat the process with the others. Kind of cumbersome, but not really once you get the hang of it.



The url - http://unlimited.orange.co.uk/flash/go

P.S. Yes, I have been pretty much annoyed by the phone today which just is not stopping its ringing - you can make out, can't you?

P.P.S. Which sounds are the most irritating for you? Just curious!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Have fun! Find Faces in places***


No words required!

I am privileged to feature the first guest suggestion on this blog today! Michael Balmaceda (thanks!) has these two great sites for kids of any age - and I mean any! To keep things simple in the post title, I am featuring them separately.

The first find is this imaginative blog called Faces in Places. A true collective effort, this showcases photographs of objects or object collections that resemble faces. Go through the archives with your children, and have fun imagining what that face is saying, or trying to see who is it among your acquaintances who has a face like that. Little ones get fascinated just by the positioning of 'eyes' and 'mouth', and whether there is a nose or not. Plus, it fosters imagination offline as well - encourage them to look for faces in all places, and who knows what you will find? Open your eyes to something new today, a new way of looking at things, a new way of finding smileys :)







If you have a photo that fits, upload it to the faces in places flickr group or contact the blog owner via her flickr account - links on the blog.

The url - http://facesinplaces.blogspot.com/

P.S. I am not quite able to figure out if it is Jody or Amy who is blogging, but it is one of them from the old travel blog of theirs they have linked to.

P.P.S. Please do not copy any of these photographs without contacting the owner of the photo for permission.