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Curious Comets The Cozy Indoors

Bring Nature Home: 8 Indoor Activities for Nature-Loving Kids

My pre-schooler loved going to the park every day. Not for the slides and swings. Not necessarily to play and interact with other kids. He loved picking up fallen flowers, talking to (and unintentionally startling) the pigeons, and looking at the different colors in the evening sky.

When the mandatory lockdown started, it was easy to keep him occupied at home but it got me thinking – do I really want him to lose that ability to find happiness in nature? And lose that connection he has with it? Of course not.

There’s a reason why children (and even adults) are drawn to natural environments – the sights, sounds, scents, and textures of the outdoors are the perfect gateway for boundless exploration while promoting creativity, and increasing attention span while reduces stress. This high level of curiosity doesn’t last forever – so if we don’t let our kids experience nature while they are young, it might just become an invisible backdrop.

With the pandemic, letting children play outside is risky for them and scary for you. So here are some indoor activities for kids at a time when we have to be careful about the time we spend outdoors.

Indoor Gardening

Help your child create a kitchen garden or grow some microgreens. Just grab a handful of any of seeds from your kitchen (fenugreek, mustard, coriander), soak them and sow them in a container. Let your child sprinkle water every day and watch its progress. There’s something magical about watching a seed grow into a plant and it’s even more magical seeing your child’s face light up when they experience it.

Make Nature Faces

Thinking of outdoor activities for children is easier than coming up with engaging indoor activities, but you can blend the two with this one. If you do take the kids out for a walk – have them collect twigs, leaves, pebbles, etc., and use them later to make faces, animals, and other drawings on the floor at home.

Match the Rock

Trace the outlines of a few rocks and pebbles on paper and have your child match the rock to its outline. Once you start with this activity, you can encourage your child to pick up a different rock during every outing, and soon you’ll have your very own rock collection.

Scent Jars

This is one of my favorites, and it’s a great sensory activity for children. Have them close their eyes (or you can blindfold them) and let them guess what spices and herbs you present before them – one by one. I usually include basil leaves, a stick of cinnamon, some pods of cardamom, a few cloves, and even a slice of lime. You can talk about each after they smell it and tell them the names of the spices in different languages and how they’re used.

Paint with Nature

Remember those flowers, leaves, and twigs we collected earlier? Here’s another use for them. Tie some of these leaves and flowers to the ends of strong twigs and let your child use them as paintbrushes.

Leaf Threading

Tie a piece of twine to a thin twig and have your child thread some leaves with it. It’s a great gross motor skill activity and the outcome looks very pretty!

Stone Balancing

Lay out stones of different shapes and sizes and see how many they can carefully stack up before they all come tumbling down. This activity helps improve concentration and focus, hand-eye coordination, patience, and creative processing.

Bonus Benefit – it will also help them become champion lagori (or seven stones) players!

Float or Sink – Water Sensory Bin

Yes, this one involves water, which means there probably will be a little mess, but it’s definitely going to be a lot of fun. Just fill a little tub with water and leave some light and heavy items out for them to experiment with. You can include leaves, dried orange or lemon slices, pebbles, shells, etc. Have them feel the object and guess beforehand if it will float or sink and then let them find out for themselves.

A Few Tips

Nature stories: Pick storybooks books about animals, nature, and the great outdoors

Relive experiences: Keep talking about certain trips or experiences like the last visit to the zoo or the beach

Nature on TV: Instead of just cartoons, let TV time include some nature and animal documentaries

Get a pet: Having a pet is always great for a child to develop non-verbal communication, compassion, and empathy. Give that it’s a lot of responsibility, you can consider something small to begin with – like a fish or a hamster

These tips will come in handy (even in the years to come) when it’s not always possible to take the children outside or let them participate in outdoor activities. If your child is already an outdoor-enthusiast, these fun nature activities will help nurture that connection, and if your child isn’t particularly fond of the outdoors yet, hopefully, some of these suggestions will help foster a love for nature!

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Diet & Nutrition Sparkling Stars

How to Add Healthy Stuff to Your Fussy Eater’s Diet

It is said that children need to eat foods from all five healthy food groups, which also includes about 1-2 cups of fruit and 1-2 cups of vegetables a day. If you’re parenting a fussy eater – we know what you’re thinking when you hear advice like that – easier said than fed! Well, here are some smart ways to include fruits and veggies into your picky eater’s daily diet.

Fruits

Shakes and smoothies

To get your child used to smoothies or shakes, keep it really simple at first. Just blend their favorite fruit with some milk or yogurt. Then you can add another fruit and a veggie, some nuts and maybe some honey. Some vegetables can be easily disguised this way – like spinach in an apple-banana smoothie. Look for interesting recipes here.

Popsicles

When it comes to food ideas for fussy toddlers, this one has a high success rate. All you need are some popsicle moulds or even just ice cream sticks and an ice tray. You can puree naturally sweetened fruits with a bit of lime for some acidity and reduce the icy texture. Juices of fruits like oranges, mosambi, kiwi, watermelon, mango, grape, or apple work great. You can also try a combination of puree and juice. To add texture and make it visually appealing, add slices or tiny bits of fruits as well. Freeze them overnight or for about 6 hours.

Dips

Children love to dip stuff. Maybe because of the sensory experience or it makes them feel independent – whatever the reason, let’s use it to our advantage to create some healthy food for a picky eater. You can make a simple one with cream cheese, blended strawberry, fresh cream and brown sugar, or try any of these interesting dip recipes.

Custard

If your little one is old enough to have custard, then just add chopped (or blended) fruits and nuts. Fruits that are great for custard are banana, apple, grapes, pomegranate, papaya and mango. Avoid citrus fruits and melons.

Vegetables

Dosa Pizza

Try this the next time you make dosa. First sauté some vegetables like onion, capsicum and carrot in butter or ghee and add some rock salt and coriander leaves. After roasting the dosa (while it’s still on the pan), add the vegetables and grate some cheese on top. Fold the dosa or leave it open when you serve it.

Stick & Dip!

There’s that word again – dip. Only this time, it’s accompanied by vegetables! Serve sticks of carrot, cucumber or even celery with some interesting dips like homemade mayonnaise, guacamole, hummus or even flavored butter.

Soup

An easy way to get healthy food into your child is through soups. They are especially great foods for picky toddlers. Single veggies soups like spinach soup or broccoli soup are easy and nutritious. Combinations like apple and carrot soup work great as well.

A few extra tips…

We’re in this together

Take the children along when you shop for fruits and vegetables. Tell them how you check and pick the right produce. This helps them connect with what they are eating. Also, let them into the kitchen when you’re cooking and allow them to participate in safe tasks, like shelling peas, picking the curry leaves from the stem, etc.

In plain sight

Keep fresh fruits on hand and on display. Have a fruit bowl on your kitchen counter or dining table. Include some standard fruits like bananas and apples and also a few seasonal fruits.

Set an example

It’s no secret that children love to imitate. Let them see you eating (and enjoying) a fruit now and then.

It’s all about the presentation

Serve the food on colorful plates or arrange the food to look like animals or their favorite cartoon characters.

Covert mission

Some foods (like cauliflower or spinach) can be easily hidden into others. So if your child likes scrambled eggs (for example), just grate some steamed cauliflower into it. If there are certain dishes that are favorites in the house – pasta, sandwiches, or noodles, increase the number of vegetables that go into it. Remember that herbs are rich in antioxidants too – so add basil, oregano, or thyme to simple dishes to make them healthier.

Thinking up healthy foods for picky eaters can seem like a daunting task, but remember – if children adopt healthy eating habits at a young age, it will have a positive influence on their dietary habits later in life. It is important for children to have a balanced diet so along with vegetables and fruit, they need some grain foods, dairy, and protein.

Categories
Sparkling Stars Tech Talk

9 Tips to Navigate the World of Kids E-Learning

Among the many things the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, it showed us that our life can very easily come to a standstill. It also showed us that we can (and must) figure out ways to carry on with our routines. Thanks to technology, everything was made available online, from groceries and medications to workout plans and even education. Children everywhere were suddenly required to learn from home and it wasn’t easy. After all, nothing can replace the experience of a real classroom and being face-to-face with your teacher. So naturally, distance-learning takes some getting used to – for the children and the parents. But since it’s something we have to embrace, here are some tips to help prepare your child for virtual classes or online learning at home. If your child has already been attending classes online this year, these suggestions will help ensure a more successful e-learning experience.

Set up a special spot

If your child is older, they probably already have a dedicated space where they study or do their homework. If so, just make sure the spot is clean and clutter-free during classes. If you have a little one who is starting with online preschool, even if the classes are just some rhymes and concepts, it is important that they have a specific spot for their classes.

It might seem easy to have them attend classes on the bed, but this also makes them get a little too comfortable or a little too restless. If you don’t have a designated area, you can convert any corner into a learning corner. Just remember to clear it up for classes and make sure it’s not the same place where they play or watch TV. For example, if you want them to sit at the dining table for class, remove all other distractions and clutter till classes and schoolwork are done.

Stick to a schedule

With no school bus to pick them up or any time needed to get ready and travel to school, children might feel like sleeping in. This mostly means they wake up just in time for class so they’ll be groggy and not ready to learn and participate. It also sends them the signal that online classes aren’t as important as physical school. Come up with a schedule to ensure the children are up, ready, and fed before class, which also including breaks, exercise or outdoor time, homework (or craft) time, etc. Once the schedule is set and followed, it’ll be easier for everyone.

Remove distractions

Without being right under the teacher’s nose, children can easily welcome distractions at home, and let’s face it – there are far more distractions here than in the classroom. Children can glance at their phones, chat with friends, watch videos, check their social media accounts, and even play games while attending class. It might help to keep away some of these devices during class hours and checking in on them from time to time. For younger kids, just limit the distractions around them. Keep their favorite toys out of sight and also the house pet or anything else that might make them lose focus.

Be present -as much as you can

Engage in activities with your children

With younger children, a parent needs to be around for obvious reasons – to unmute the call, keep reminding the child to pay attention, etc. While older kids can attend the classes on their own, studies show that children benefit from discussions about class and school-related topics with their parents. When parents show interest, it also makes these classes a priority.

Screen breaks

With online learning, children are getting a lot more screen time than they need! This is especially true for children who watch a lot of TV or play video games or spend time online. Vary your child’s TV time according to the hours of class they have. For example, they can watch more TV on weekends or days when they don’t have long classes. Having some form of exercise between classes will also improve their attention and give them the break they need. They can throw the ball around with their sibling or do some stretches. For children in preschool, time online is usually shorter because it might be difficult for them to stay on a task for more than 25 minutes. Some need more breaks than others and while the teachers usually know to include this in their session, you can see that they get up to jump around or just do some breathing exercises in between classes.

Posture

We don’t want our children to get the same aches and pains we have from working in front of a computer all day. So, have them follow the same rules that adults are supposed to follow. Tell them to sit with their elbows, knees, and hips all bent at a 90-degree angle. See that their feet are reaching the ground or for younger kids, the feet should be propped up on a firm surface. The screen should be in front of them, about an arm’s length away and at eye level. However, young children don’t usually sit in the same position (or place) for too long. So, if they need to fold their legs, stand up for a while or stretch their legs out in front of them – don’t stop them.

Positive feedback

Remember that feeling of your teacher appreciating your work in front of the entire class? Or seeing a gold sticker on your notebook? Well with online classes, a lot of the reassurance and reinforcement has reduced or does not carry the same sense of gratification as it did within a classroom. Consider praising your child after they complete a task or lesson or even answer a question correctly. A simple ‘good job’ or a high five can maintain motivation.

Foster friendships

One thing we might not realize (as much) is that our children miss their friends a lot more than the learning and the teachers! Help them stay in touch with friends. Reach out to the other parents and set up regular video calls or video playdates just so the kids feel connected. Older children will want to text their friends but you can encourage occasional video chats as they are the closest thing to meeting in person.

Schedule in some fun!

Although these might be regular school days or weekdays, remember that the children are going through so much. Being indoors and not understanding what’s going on can be really stressful for a small child. Plan movie nights, play games with them, and take walks together.

For online classes for kids to work smoothly and successfully, the teachers need parental guidance. And for the children not to feel stressed and anxious, they need their parents’ support. We hope these tips will help you navigate the world of online learning.

Categories
happy reads

A Pizza Cooked on a Volcano!

The volcano of Guatemala, South America named Pacaya has been active since February 2021. It is being looked upon closely by the officials and people living nearby. 

However, for a man named David Garcia, this volcano has become his kitchen. He serves up ‘Pacaya Pizza’ that is cooked on the hot volcanic rock to surprise tourists and locals.

Let’s find out how Garcia has turned this volcano into his kitchen:

  • He uses the hot volcanic rock to cook pizzas
  • Davis wears special clothes to protect himself from the heat while he cooks the pizzas
  • He makes them with lots of cheese, tomato sauce and meat too

David’s pizzas have become quite famous, especially among tourists. Visitors enjoy the amazing experience of seeing the pizza cook on the smouldering volcano rock. 

Did you know?

Pizza was first made in Naples, Italy.

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happy reads

Why Do We Celebrate World Biodiversity Day?

The International Day for Biological Diversity is celebrated on the 22nd of May every year to raise global awareness about the need to protect biological resources. It is a part of the UN’s Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.

According to the UN, around 1.6 billion people depend on forests, and more than 3 billion depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. Hence, the conservation of the Earth’s species is the need of the hour and extremely vital to ensuring our own survival.

What is biodiversity?

  • Biodiversity or biotic diversity refers to the variety of life (plant and animal) found in a particular habitat on Earth
  • A common measure of this variety is the count of species in an area (called species richness)
  • For example, the forests of Colombia and Kenya have more than 1,000 species of birds. On the other hand, the forests of Great Britain and eastern North America are home to fewer than 200

Why is biodiversity important?

  • Biodiversity is the foundation upon  which humans build civilizations
  • All animals and plants depend on one another to survive 
  • All of us are a part of one big circle. If any part of that circle is broken, it affects everyone
  • Without biodiversity, humans would have no food, air, water, medicines and so much more

The theme for the day this year is “We’re part of the solution“, which focuses on the importance of our role to ensure that we save biodiversity.

‘When biodiversity has a problem, humanity has a problem’ – UN

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happy reads

This Photo Won the International Wildlife Photography Award

Thomas Vijayan’s spectacular photo of an orangutan clinging to a tree has won him the prestigious International Wildlife Photography Award. The picture is called The World is Going Upside Down.

To capture this amazing shot, Vijayan waited for hours in the island of Borneo. 

To get the sky’s reflection and create the upside-down effect, Vijayan selected a tree that was half immersed in water.

This photo was selected from over 8,000 other photos.

Vijayan’s photo also won first place in the ‘Animals in Their Habitat’ category.

Here are some facts about orangutans:

  • Orangutans are great apes found in the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia
  • They have long arms and short legs
  • They also have reddish-brown hair covering their bodies
  • These apes are known to be extremely intelligent

But the sad truth is that there are very few of them alive today. So, as responsible citizens, we must do our bit to protect these great apes. 

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happy reads

Do Facebook and Google need to Pay for News?

A few months back, Australia had passed a new law in the interest of the publishers of news content! According to this law, technology-based companies like Facebook and Google need to pay for news that they publish on their platform. 

Tech companies were using news content for free so far. The News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, which was passed recently, would save the news biz by ensuring fair remuneration for them. 

The Australian government has asked Facebook and Google to settle a price with news publishers whose content they use. 

Both these social media heavyweights have pushed back from the law.

Google said that it would remove the “search” button on Google Chrome in Australia, whereas Facebook shut down news pages in Australia last week.

Despite the retaliation by tech companies, news publishers can now look forward to monetizing their news flow.

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happy reads

Why Do We Celebrate National Mathematics Day?

National Mathematics Day (India) is celebrated on 22 December to raise awareness about Mathematics. The day aims to motivate students to learn maths.

Why is it celebrated on 22 December?

  • It is celebrated to commemorate the birth anniversary of the renowned Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. He was born on 22 December 1887
  • On the occasion of his 125th birth anniversary, Dr Manmohan Singh, in 2012, had declared this day as National Mathematics Day
  • Additionally, 2012 was announced as the National Mathematics Year

Generally, competitions, rapid fires, maths quizzes are conducted in schools, colleges, and universities to celebrate this day.

DID YOU KNOW?

Srinivasa Ramanujan is also known as the ‘man who knew infinity’.

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daily buzz

Sunil Chhetri Beats Messi

Did you know that Indian footballer Sunil Chhetri has become the second-highest goalscorer in international football? He is currently the captain of the Indian men’s football team. 

Let’s look into the highlights of his latest match:

  • Chhetri scored two goals against Bangladesh in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers and defeated Bangladesh by 2-0
  • This was India’s first win in a World Cup qualifier in 20 years

With this, India has qualified for the Asian Cup in China in 2023.

Let’s have an insight into the records of the top goal scorers:

  • Chhetri has 74 goals in international football and is only behind Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (103 goals) in the active international goal-scorers list
  • Ali Mabkhout of the UAE (United Arab Emirates) is third on the list with 73 goals to his name
  • In the fourth position, we have Argentina’s Lionel Messi (72 goals)

So, the all-time top goalscorer of the Indian national football team, Sunil Chhetri, is now just a goal away from entering the top-10!

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daily buzz

Blue Origin’s Rocket Ready to Take Off

Did you know Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world?

The founder of the famous e-commerce company Amazon, Jeff Bezos, started an aerospace company in 2000. This company was named Blue Origin.

Let’s get to know more about Blue Origin and its first flight:

  • On 20 July 2021, Blue Origin is launching its first flight to space that will carry passengers. including Jeff Bezos himself
  • Jeff Bezos’s brother, Mark, will also be on the flight
  • The rocket for the space mission is called New Shepard, and it will be a reusable spacecraft with six seats
  • This flight aims to reach almost 100 km above the Earth in 11 minutes 

Apart from this, Blur Origin is developing another rocket that will send satellites into space and beyond.

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happy reads

Midwinter Joy at China’s Harbin Ice Festival

Harbin, a city in northeastern China, hosts the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival every year. It started in the year 1985 and is believed to be the world’s largest winter festival.

Let’s know more about this exciting festival:

  • It originated from Harbin’s traditional ice lantern show and garden party (popular in the 1960s) and Heilongjiang’s International Ski Festival
  • The festival starts on 5 January every year and lasts for about a month
  • More than 12-15 countries participate in this annual competition
  •  Artists create sculptures from the snow of the Songhua River and exhibit them. They use various types of tools to create these sculptures. Deionized water makes the sculptures transparent. They also add multicolor lights for the evening shows.
  • The highlights of this festival are grand sculptures, ice lantern exhibitions at night, skiing and winter swimming in the Songhua River.

The theme this year was ‘Magical Harbin, Ice Snow Charming China‘. 

Categories
happy reads

Two Female Scientists Jointly Awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Emmanuelle Charpentier (of France) and Jennifer A. Doudna (of the US) won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their groundbreaking work in developing a tool for genome editing

genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) structures. DNA contains the biological and genetic code of organisms required to make each species unique from the other. 

Charpentier and Doudna have made history as this is the first time two female scientists have shared the Nobel prize in science without a male copartner.

They have been working on this project for nearly nine years. Their discovery, Crispr-Cas9 or genetic scissors, will help scientists worldwide to make changes to the DNA sequence or modify gene function. This new genetic scissor is capable of cutting strands of DNA and correcting congenital disabilities. 

This technology could be used even to treat cancer and cure other illnesses as well.

Categories
daily buzz

Who Became the 76th President of the UN?

Did you know that the United Nations General Assembly is one of the six organs of the United Nations?

Let’s read up on the functions of the UNGA:

  • Oversees the UN budget
  • Appoints the Secretary-General of the UN as well as other non-permanent members of the Security Council 

Every year, a new President is elected for the United Nations General Assembly. It is the first time that someone from the Maldives has been selected for this post.

Let’s read more about the newly-elected UNGA President:

  • Abdulla Shahid has been elected as the new President of the UNGA
  • He is currently the foreign minister of the Maldives
  • Shahid will take over from the current President, Volkan Bozkır of Turkey
  • He won the election with an overwhelming three-fourths majority

The post of UNGA President is rotated amongst different regional groupings. This time, it was the turn of the Asia-Pacific group, which includes the Maldives.