Humans are perhaps the most adaptive species on earth and this unique aspect has allowed us to survive. We as parents, teachers, and friends, therefore, need to seek inspiration from this adaptive nature and convert this phase into an opportunity. Especially for our children. While we all believe that the current lockdowns have disrupted conventional pedagogy, we also need to see the other side of the coin and explore the opportunities it has presented. It continues to be imperative for parents to help children learn and engage in this environment as well. The current situation, while being unprecedented and testing, is really like gold dust. We may not get another such time with our children once the offices open and there is a feeling of ‘normalcy’ again.
So, can we make our kids ‘atmanirbhar’ or self-reliant?
A few months back, when our Prime Minister promoted the concept of self-sufficient India, it focused not only on a self-dependent economy but towards self-reliance overall. I have always felt passionate about making kids resilient and independent and the lockdown presents opportunities to do just that. The key to achieving this, as I have learned as a mother of two children, is to find fun and playful activities that ensure learning without making it obvious. These typically help children stay engaged and be ahead of the curve.
Little did I fathom that the topics I was passionate about, could help other parents who are also striving to keep their children engaged. This topic drove me to my first venture and interestingly is now an actively discussed topic two years hence. Since I always felt strongly about my children not being dependent on television screens or on someone to walk them to the park, I wanted them to also sit and learn by themselves. I saw the benefits with my own children and so did my elder sisters. We realized that we should find relevant activities for kids and give them not just entertainment, but life skills. Together, we conceived our venture in after-school education – which amongst other things aims to make children ‘atmanirbhar.’
Our belief, as sisters but more so as parents, was that interesting experiences can give kids a broader framework whereby they relate the experience with everything around. What started as my son’s love for Lego®, presented itself as a tool which allows children and parents to patiently sit and develop STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills, starting from 2 years of age. So, could we do more with Lego®? We felt that there was a gap in what children were doing at home and what the skill was being taught in other countries.
We looked around to find global pioneers in using Lego® as a pedagogy enabler. And we did find an American corporation trying to just that, and we partnered with them to share it with other parents. My journey from motherhood to entrepreneurship slowly took shape. Starting with a two-room center we started activities and children started coming to learn and enjoy the world of bricks. Seeing those few kids build around us gave us the confidence that we were on to something. We then started collaborating with schools and preschools as well which was an immense pleasure. Not only our reach increased it also gave us fulfillment. We saw more and more of our class participants, from 3 years to 10 years old, have a lot of fun without realizing they were learning… and become ‘atmanirbhar’.
We taught them Lego® models like cars, dinosaurs, superheroes, and satellites depending upon their age group. These interactions give them basic learning like being more versatile, interactive development, boost their creativity and STEM concepts, concentration, etc. These experiences develop and shape young children’s identity as readers, writers, coding experts, artists, sportspersons, etc. as much as formal schooling does.
Continuing with the theme of adapting ourselves, we went online this lockdown and children are also excited about virtual classes, but also about using software to create 3D online models. There is a lot of hidden creativity and talent which educators have and to make our future generation ‘atmanirbhar’ these educators need to come out and showcase their talent. On the other hand, parents need to broaden their outlook to not only put the focus on school learning but on giving children some lifelong skills.
Extra co-curricular has done that in the past, doing in present and in the future as well. It gives them the confidence to deal with many situations.
With the hope that the COVID-19 storm would pass the world would have become a new place. New skillsets and learnings would be needed. One thing that will remain is a resilient attitude. So, let’s build that in our children right from today. Family support and the right educator can emphasize the importance of reading and writing, build confidence, influence literacy habits, and encourage children to seek out ways to engage in literate activities.
Through a renewed push for extra activities on all levels, both families and community members have diverse opportunities in which they can impact the skills of young minds for the future. My sisters and I strongly believe in ‘atmanirbhar’ kids and our venture Bricks4Kidz® Gurgaon (in partnership with Bricks4Kidz®, Florida, USA) is based on this concept.
This has been authored by :
Neha Khanna Handa: Bricks 4 Kids Gurgaon