Childen’s Discovery Museum: An oasis of indoor fun

When the weather forecast for this weekend included both a frost warning and a freeze warning, I knew it was time to search for some indoor fun for A. There’s been one place on my list for months now, and that is Children’s Discovery Museum. Today we decided to tick CDM off our list, especially when A woke up after a night of semi-sleep with a bundle of energy. And what a day it was!

CDM is a glorious celebration of young curiosity. With two floors full of exhibits that promote learning in an environment of play, there’s something for children of all ages. And when I say all ages, I’m not kidding! My 16-month-old daughter, who until now has been too young for most museums and the like, was overjoyed! In fact, I saw tiny tots even younger than her! There is even a CrawlSpace, an area safe for the little ones who aren’t walking yet.


We started off with A clinging to me, curious yet cautious, not knowing where to start. After wandering around the first floor briefly, we landed in the Rainbow Market, an area where children learn about fruits, vegetables and are allowed to pretend-play all aspects of food – choosing vegetables, cooking, and eating. After tentatively venturing out of my arms, one of the volunteers handed A a pretend-slide of apple and then something clicked in her, and she was off! The vegetables and fruits were arranged by color, allowing kids to learn both colors as well as the names of fruits and veggies. The area has a pretend kitchen, with a stove, microwave, refrigerator, sink and table.

pretend-cooking


There are also separate sections celebrating foods from all over the world, including China, India, Mexico, Phillipines and more. The display from the Phillipines included a particularly nice coconut grater with a pretend-coconut that could actually be grated by way of cotton  straps attached by velcro!


Of course, this section would be incomplete without a mention of the display from India!


After a lunch of real food, we went up the musical staircase (a different note on each step!) moved on to the Wonder Cabinet, an area on the second floor exclusively for kids aged 0-4. This area was packed to the brim with at least ten different displays, including an Enchanted Forest with a wonderful story time, a super-cool craft area and numerous displays to pique the young mind. Kiddo started off at the very first display, where she gathered a bunch of blue balls and sent them down a chute.

There was also a maze of pipes with an upward blower that would send balls upwards and into the pipes, something that A loved  once she figured out how to use. The balls were to be inserted in the red circle where they would be sent upwards and then back down through the maze.


She also discovered a lovely area celebrating light  and shadow. An ingenious arrangement of horse cutouts, mirrors and red,green and blue lights on a turntable causing a melange of color and light. This had her gazing in wonder for several minutes, trying to identify the source of the beauty.

Speaking of sound and light,the Enchanted Forest housed one of my personal favorites, a grid of lighted rods that children could use to create their own displays. Once again, I found that it was easier for A to pull OUT the rid than put it IN. Pushing it back in required A to push the rod in a specific angle, which had her briefly puzzled. But the beauty of the pushed right lighting up encouraged her!


There were also displays where we could smell and guess aromas such as chocolate, strawberry and other foods. This made me realize that we haven’t done a whole lot of sensory play involving smells yet! There was also an area of huge but safe foam blocks, and the aforementioned crawl space too. 

When we were done here, we headed back to the first floor where she now discovered the Street display of traffic lights, vehicles and even a model plane. She even got to drive a car!


There was also a mammoth display and a display of fossils, a play area made entirely of cellophane tape, a display of bubbles bigger than A, and much more. 

Located in the heart of downtown San Jose, CDM is closeby enough to reach quickly on a lazy Saturday morning, making it a total win in my book. Public parking is available right behind, and with A toddling around, we could comfortably leave the stroller behind for a change. Healthy lunches and snacks are available at the FoodShed. There are sufficient changing stations (in both men’s and women’s rooms!) and a nursing area as well. Head on over for a wonderful day of indoor fun, and you won’t regret it! I believe I can safely say this was A’s happiest day ever! 

 

Travel recipes, Part 2: Instant oats idly mix

I distinctly remember that as a child, I did not like the taste of anything sweet anytime of the day, but especially during breakfast. I hated cereal, bread with jam, pastries, etc. To be honest, I still hate all those for breakfast. For me, breakfast has to be savory and preferably Indian. I can’t imagine how hard it must’ve been for my mom that I didn’t eat the most ubiquitous of foods!

However, it all comes back – my daughter now has almost same food preferences! She hates sweets and prefers a savory Indian breakfast. Her favorite is dosa, and idly comes in a close second. I’ve been experimenting with different varieties of idly and dosa, in order to balance her nutrition. One of my favorites has been oats idly.

Coming back to our trip and planning out A’s meals, I decided I would make some instant idly and dosa mixes which could be mixed with water / yoghurt and used to prepare idly or dosa quickly at our AirBnB accommodation. I have a microwave idly plate similar to this one. While I’ve not had great success with idlies made from the standard fermented urad dal + rice batter, I have been quite satisfied with rava idlies. Oats idlies are similar to rava idlies in principle and lend themselves well to instant formulae, so I figured why not. There are two stages to this recipe: making the mix, and then making the idlies. In this post, I’ve shared both stages. I’ve shared the stove-top method for making the idlies here, plus a guideline for the microwave method. The microwave method may vary across microwaves due to differing powers, differing sizes of microwave idly plate, etc. Anyway, on to the recipe. It is inspired by Veg Recipes of India.

Mix:

Ingredients (makes 4 cups of mix):

Oats (rolled or quick-cooking) – 2.5 cups
Semolina / rava / sooji – 1.5 cups
Oil – 2 tsp
Dry Red chillies – 5
Urad dal – 2 tsp
Cumin seeds / jeera – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Green chillies – 6 -8 or to taste
Ginger – 1 inch, grated fine
Asafoetida / hing – 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste (I used 2 tsp)
Dehydrated coriander leaves (optional) [*]

Method:

  1. Powder oats, keep aside.
  2. Heat oil. When oil is hot, add mustard seeds.
  3. When mustard seeds splutter, add cumin seeds, urad dal, dried red chillies broken in half and asafoetida.
  4. When the above ingredients turn brown, lower the heat to a minimum. Add the green chillies and ginger. Fry these until the green chillies and ginger are both crisp and all the moisture has been cooked out. This is important as we want the idly mix to last for a few weeks and for that, the mix shouldn’t have any excess moisture.
  5. Add the powdered oats and the rava. Roast until the entire mix is golden.
  6. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Add salt and dehydrated coriander leaves [*].
  7. Store in an airtight jar and use as per need following the method below.

[*] If you love coriander in your food as much as I do, you can add dehydrated coriander leaves to your mix! Here’s what you do. Heat the oven to the lowest temperature you can. Finely chop a couple of tbsp of coriander leaves and spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (important – the leaves shouldn’t be in direct contact with the baking sheets). Leave in the oven until dried out completely. I turned off my oven after 10 minutes, and then left the leaves in there for 6 hours until they were dehydrated.

To make idlies from mix:

Ingredients:

Instant idly mix – 1/2 cup (makes 6 idlies)
Plain yoghurt – 1/2 cup
Eno fruit salt – 1/2 tsp
Water – 1 tbsp if required

Method:

  1. Beat yoghurt and idly mix together. Leave aside for 5 minutes.
  2. Grease idly plates.
  3. Add water if the batter has thickened too much.
  4. Add Eno fruit salt.
  5. Stovetop method: cook for 15 minutes and allow to cool for 5.
  6. Microwave method: cook on high for 1 minute, flip, cook on high for another 30 seconds.
  7. Serve hot with condiment of choice.

 

First blocks!

We got blocks for kiddo today! She got Lego Duplo, nice and big blocks so she can’t put it in her mouth. She was fascinated from the first moment she laid eyes on the box! First she was excited by the rattling in the box. Then she opened her eyes wide at the bright colors! Her dad showed her how to join two blocks together, and she was amazed! She was thrilled to make a small plane and watch him fly it.

All in all, a great buy! She’s only played with it for ten minutes so far and we’re already very excited. Bring on the Lego, bring on the creative learning!

Favorite songs!

When all else fails, music usually doesn’t. Of course, as with anything else, A is very particular about the songs she listens to / watches. She has “her music” and we have “our music” and we can’t mix those. She loves nursery rhymes and the typical kiddie songs. Personally, I love the songs that teach her little things, like movements, direction and so on. I love how these songs develop her cognitive and psychomotor skills in a really fun way! They keep us occupied in the best way possible – through learning! These are our favorites:

  1. One little finger
  2. If you’re happy
  3. Wheels on the bus
  4. Old McDonald
  5. Skidamarink
  6. Grandparents are special

#5 and #6 are really my favorites more than hers – I just think they’re the sweetest songs and animations ever! In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re rather partial to the YouTube channel Super Simple Songs. A also likes Little Baby Bum, but her dad and I prefer Super Simple Songs for the simpler animations and because A seems to learn more from it.

What are your kids favorite songs? What are your favorite songs for them?

An achievement to remember!

This week, A learnt to traverse the entire slide structure independently! She can walk with support to the steps of the slide structure, climb up the steps, cross the bridge leading to the slide, maneuver herself onto the slide, slide face-down, stop herself at the end, get down, and begin making her way back to the steps!

Wow, is my little baby growing up fast or what!

Sensory Play & Development, Part 4: Sand play

Although sand play as a sensory play has been touched upon time and time again, I still wanted to bring it up on this blog because it’s very easily accessible to most of us, cheap and such a a great part of a healthy sensory diet. Your child is typically ready to play in sand between the age of 12-18 months (of course, bear in mind that every child is different, sooner or later is just as fine too!)

My criteria for allowing A to play in the sand pit at the neighborhood park was a crucial one to me: I allowed her to get her hands dirty when I saw that she had (for the most part) understood the distinction between playing and eating. It is important to note that mouthing is how children at this age explore things. If your kid is trying to eat dirt, or sand, it is because that’s part of their process of exploring. Not that I’m justifying eating the sand! I bring it up because once you understand why they do it, it may make it easier to deal with it!

As A learnt to eat different kinds of solids, she also learnt about taste, developing tastes of her own, she also learnt what doesn’t taste good. While I did not let her enter the sand pit for many months, she always knew the texture and feel of sand from here and there – on the steps of the slide, the slide itself, etc. For many months, she also tried to eat it. One fine day, I realized that she was just playing with it and not eating it. The very next day I decided she was ready to play in the sand pit, with her sand toys!

Eating or not, sand is a wonderfully sensory toy. You could start off by making a non-toxic sand pit at home using edible items such as roasted semolina (rava / sooji), or cornmeal. That way, even if your ever-curious child tries to mouth some, it isn’t the worst thing. Eventually, they will learn that there are way more fun things to do with the sand than eat it!

We also introduced sand toys at this stage. They don’t have to be fancy or sophisticated toys! sand toys can be as simple as empty plastic containers and extra ladles from your kitchen. Your little one will love trying to scoop out sand from the pit and pour it in the bucket! Of course, she may try to pour some on herself too. My little one pretty much needs a wash and a new set of clothes by the time she’s home, but so what! You could also take an old sieve and pour sand through it, or use a mould of some sort and wet sand to make sand sculptures. Using sand toys in the park has also introduced the practice of sharing to A, as she learns to share some of her toys with her friends at the park.

Sand play has become her favorite new addition to her long list of park activities. It’s a great form of independent play – of course, a huge plus in my book, giving us time to catch up on some reading or with some friends. I’m so happy she’s learnt how to play with sand. Do try it out !

 

 

The real shock of the election…

On the outset, let me just say that I do not know much about politics. I have made no pretense of understanding much about political matters, nor do I try to feign an opinion.

But living in US during what appears to be one of the most hard-fought presidential campaigns ever, one can’t help opining peripherally. I think, for me, the real shock is not that Donald Trump is the next President of the United States. Sure, I understand, we all live in our social bubbles and social media had me convinced that Clinton would win. I was all-for a female leader, but that still wasn’t the biggest disappointment.

No, the real shock is that he has enough supporters for this to happen. It is one thing that his values are far from ideal, and his treatment of women sub-par to say the least. But the fact that he had more than half the voting population support said values? As women, we want to see the world move towards equality, and respect to womenkind. We do not want to see ourselves regress. As a woman, I am sad to see this regression. As a mother to a baby girl, I shudder to think that society can regress further.

Is this what we want for our kids? Is this the world we want them to grow up in? Isn’t this world, that we work towards building, all for them? Aren’t we supposed to progress, and not regress? These are just some of the issues that shock me about yesterday’s outcome. I hope and pray that things get better, moving forward, and that the people on either side of the divide in this country are able to overcome their differences, and understand that they are all here for the same important reasons – to make a better society, for all mankind.

A day of shocks!

We started the day with finding out that Rs 500 & 1000 rupee notes had been banned overnight in India! It’s election day in USA, and creative juices of the WhatsApp literati started flowing. “USA is counting votes, India is counting notes!” “TV channels were prepared to cover Trump vs Clinton, Modi came out of syllabus!”

I must say, it was fun reading the variety of messages that poured in!

And then the counting for president of USA commenced. For weeks, months, even, the polls have all been pointing towards Clinton. Long story short, America’s new president will be Trump!

A very surprising day. While I promised to blog about my toddler, the turn of events affects all of us, especially the people of tomorrow – our children. I just wanted to record this day, this time, this very memorable day of shocks.