Creative Learning for Kids

Creativity1Admire your child learning in his early years
Soon after the birth of my child, I started thinking of the most creative ways to make my little child learn. I tried some techniques that proved to be a major success; and hence, I wish to share these with all the mothers who can do wonders by using them.

Exposure to lively objects
Show the child some rotating, and moving toys with lights. The toys that work by pushing the string may help the child learn the trial and error method- as well as- to understand cause and effect of actions.

Building patterns
Build weird patterns using the toys of all shapes and colour. You may stack or make a line or any pattern you want. This will improve the child’s creativity skills as he may think of different ways of using objects.

Interacting while managing simple task
When working in the kitchen and doing a simple task, use appropriate vocabulary to define what you are trying do to. Like while making a milkshake, tell them how to add milk, sugar, and cream and allow them to press the button of the blender. This will enhance their vocabulary and they will become expressive.

Show and tell
Describe everything in front of them using action. If you are usingtoothpaste then show them how to apply it over the brush, and how to brush- that will enhance their recognition and recalling abilities.

What can you see………?
While you are on road or a garden, play this little game, “What can you see?” You will marvel later on how well they will describe the place.

Developing thematic pictures
Collect pictures relating to different themes like family or a market, and jumble them. Sort out to make a thematic picture, widening their mental capacities.

Guess who is who?
Give them simple hints with action, and allow them to guess who you are referring to like flap your arms, glide and make the sounds of the bird and they will guess. Start with simple ones developing their cognitive abilities.

Let’s map out
Hide the object and then tell them to find it by drawing the simple maps. Amazingly they will learn to read maps so early.
Hope you will find these techniques valuable. Insha’Allah.

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Ask the Savvy Parent: Positively Handle a Child’s Negative Emotions

muslim-motherMy 5-year-old son is a bit hyperactive. He can’t wait to get something done. He shouts and screams most of the time. He gets angry very quickly. Now, he’s fighting with the younger one too. When he plays with the other children, he is happy; but he can’t tolerate even small arguments. On the other hand, he is a fast learner, interested in learning new things, hearing stories, asking questions, and is also very sensitive. His teachers also say he is naughty but excellent in academics.

He loves books – the only way to keep him sit silently is with books but it is not possible always.

About me, I really enjoy teaching new things to him and clearing all his doubts scientifically. Also, I tell stories whenever he asks. I used to advice him according to Quran and Sunnah. I love him soooo much but the problem comes when he starts irritating me for silly things: crying and crying. I lose my control; then he starts to apologize. He says sorry and starts crying again; then I also feel sad. This happens daily 2-3 times.

I need your help very badly.

Dear Parent,
It sounds like you have a wonderful, active and bright child who just needs a little help with dealing with his emotions, Insha’Allah.

Losses and disappointments can feel like the end of the world to a child, and kids will do anything to fend off these intolerable feelings. So they cry and rage and lash out.

Many parents may be tempted to send an angry child to his or her room to ‘calm down’. It’s important to remember that we can’t reason with them when they are furious. It’s not the right time to teach lessons or ask for an apology. He needs to calm down. Remember tantrums are nature’s way of helping children let off steam. Their brains are still developing and they don’t yet have the neural pathways to control themselves as we do. (And please note that we don’t always regulate our anger very well, even as adults!)

Some parents, not knowing what to do or how to deal with their children, send the child to his or her room. The problem with this is that he will calm down eventually but unfortunately he will also learn that his anger is unacceptable, and that he is on his own when it comes to managing his feelings. No wonder so many adults develop anger-management issues, whether it is yelling at kids, arguing with the spouse, or overreacting to avoid acknowledging angry feelings.

Here are some simple tips and things to remember and will help your child manage his anger.
If kids feel safe expressing their anger, and we meet that anger with compassion, their anger will begin to melt. That’s when they can access the more upsetting feelings underneath:

1.      Take a Deep Breath. If your child is angry, it is even more imperative that you stay calm. If you are one of those people who get angry yourself, take a few deep breaths to calm down before attending to your child. Not only are you modeling emotion regulation, but by remaining calm he too will become calm. I have even taught children to take a deep breath and count to 10 when they feel angry. Counting gives them something else to focus on while their heart rate settles down.

2.      Set limits on actions not feelings. For example: “You’re so angry! You wish you could get what you want right now. I’m so sorry, but you can’t have that. You can be as mad as you want, but hitting is not OK, no matter how upset you are. You can pout or stamp your feet to show how mad you are, but you may not hit”.

It is also important for your son to understand that what is acceptable behaviour for him may not be the same as for his younger sibling.

3.      Empathize. Don’t try to reason or explain. When his emotions and adrenaline is high, it is not the time to explain why he can’t have what he wants. Acknowledge the fact that he is upset and reassure him that you will talk to him when he has calmed down.

 For example: “You really wanted that; I’m so sorry.” or “I’m so sorry you can’t have the _____ you want. I know this is so hard.”

Once you recognize the feelings under the anger, he will probably pause and get calmer. When you empathize and understand his anger, he collapses into your arms for a good cry. And all those upset feelings just evaporate.

Gradually, your child will internalize the ability to deal with disappointments, and learn that while he can’t always get what he wants, he can always get what he needs: someone who loves him, all of him, even including the unpleasant parts like rage and disappointment. You’ll have taught him how to manage his emotions. He’ll be more resilient over time. And you’ll have strengthened your relationship with him. Remember, you won’t always be able to pull it off. But every time you do, you’ll be one step closer to helping him handle his emotion.

Now about the other part about him bothering you for small things and needing you to be with him and keep him busy. Find activities that he can do independently on his own. Sometimes the problem arises because children don’t know what to do with themselves and look to the parent or another adult to help relieve their “boredom”. As parents, it’s important to spend time with your children but at the same time, children need to understand that you may be busy or need time for yourself and aren’t always able to keep them engaged in activities.

If your son loves books and being read to, designate a time during the day for book reading. If he wants you to play with him, set a time in the day for that too. As you have two children make sure you set times to spend with your other child too. Create a schedule and hang it up

Have a go-to basket with activities that he can go to when he doesn’t know what to do. Another option would be to have a “Busy Box”. Sit together with your child and come up with activities that he likes to do and most importantly can do without you. Write each idea on a strip of paper, fold it so that what is written cannot be seen and place it in the box. When the time arises that he’s unsure what to do and comes to you, direct him to “The Busy Box”. This helps him figure out what to do and at the same time frees you from the responsibility of entertaining him.

Insha’Allah, I hope this helps.

Happy parenting!

The Savvy Parent

Debate Activities in the Classroom

debateEach and every student possesses his or her own opinion. Classroom debates enable students to voice their opinions. A debate provides you with an opportunity to conduct yourself in a professional manner. According to the International Debate Education Association, “Debate is, above all, a way for those who hold opposing views to discuss controversial issues without descending to insult, emotional appeals or personal bias. A key trademark of debate is that it rarely ends in agreement, but rather allows for a robust analysis of the question at hand.”

 

Successful Classroom Debate Activities
In order to make debate activities successful, the teacher must ensure that each and every student is well-acquainted with the topic beforehand. Give them enough time to prepare and get motivated for the big day! You can play some games in the classroom leading up to the debate, and allow the competing teams to play against each other building a productive rivalry through words. Some of the classroom debate games are as follows:

1. A Four Corners Game

This debate game uses four corners of the classroom to get students moving.

Steps to follow
• Write the following opinions on four separate signs:
Strongly Agree, Somewhat Agree, Somewhat Disagree and Strongly Disagree
• Place each sign in each corner of the classroom.
• Various topics for students should be posed in the classroom. Decide on a topic based on the students’ age group and level of interest. For instance, in the elementary school, invite students to debate on statements such as, “It is important to eat from all the four food groups daily.” High school students might prefer a debate on “Should schools adopt a dress code?”
• Tell students to walk to the corner that best explains about how they feel about the topic. Give the groups a few minutes to talk about the topic and write down the reasons for their decision.
• Invite students to share their answers with the class. This debate game can be repeated with any other topic as well.

2. Card Game

This game will help students think carefully before they make an argument or rebuttal.

Steps to follow:
• Pull together a large number of index cards and write “Comment” on half and “Question” on the other half.
• Give out one of each card to the entire class.
• On the board, put up a debate topic or a resolution. Students must raise their hand and cash in the appropriate card to make a comment or question.
• Students will learn to keep their cards for when they have a very important point to make so you can reward players with extra cards for making excellent points or asking important questions.

3. Quick Debates/ Hat Debates

A hat debate requires the teacher to break the class into two teams: “For” and “Against”. The “For” team should sit in an outward-facing circle. The “Against” team should sit in a larger inward-facing circle with each member facing a member of the opposite team. A variety of debate topics are to be written on small slips of paper and placed in a hat. Often, such debates take place with just one speaker “for” and one speaker “against” the topic. It’s just a one-minute argument. One circle should rotate and then the teacher draws a new topic from the hat. Participants in this kind of debate have a minimal (or even no) time to prepare, so it’s a great practice for spontaneous thinking and arguments.

4. Inner Circle/Outer Circle Debate Strategy

This debate strategy centres on listening to the views of others and responding to them. It is a very good pre-writing debate strategy.

Steps to follow
• Arrange the students into four groups of equal size.
• Assemble the students of Group 1 in a circle and sit on chairs facing outward, away from the circle. Arrange students in Group 2 into a circle of chairs around Group 1, facing the students in Group 1. Groups 3 and 4 gather around the perimeter of the circle, facing the circle.
• Choose an issue that the students will be motivated to discuss/debate.
• Now, give students in the inner circle 10-15 minutes to discuss the topic. For this duration, all other students focus their attention on the students in the inner circle. Other students are not allowed to speak.
• Students in the outer circle take notes about points those students bring up; notes are used in a follow-up classroom discussion and/or for writing an editorial opinion expressing a point of view on the issue at hand.

5. Role Play Debate

In a role play debate, students scrutinize different points of view or perspectives related to an issue. For example, a debate about the question “Should students be required to wear uniforms at school?” might yield a range of opinions. Those might include views expressed by a student (or perhaps two students – one representing each side of the issue), a parent, a school principal, a police officer, a teacher, the owner of a clothing store, and others.

Steps to follow
• Whatever the issue is for debate in your classroom, decide in advance or ask students to help you identify the stakeholders in the debate.
• Then gather the index cards – one card for each student.
• Note down the roles of the stakeholders on the index cards, one stakeholder per card. Be sure you have at least three index cards for each stakeholder role.
• When it is time to debate, each stakeholder presents his or her point of view.
• After the presentations, the entire class can join in by asking questions of the individual stakeholders. When it ends, students decide which side of the debate — the Affirmative or Negative — presented the strongest case.

6. National and International Topics

National and international topics persuade children to think globally about the struggles, irrespective of the state or country boundaries.
In this context, some topics to be considered are:
• Is the government performing well?
• Should guaranteed health care be provided to all?
• What should be the response to global warming?
• What should be the function of the United Nations?

7. School and Local Issues

Children are most likely to be well- aware about local issues and issues affecting their school. For an exciting debate project, discuss an issue that kids are already experiencing or offer them an alternative as to how things are going currently. Children can debate on the following topics:
• Whether their class should have a field trip during the school year and where should they go.
• Whether they should be permitted to leave school premises during lunch.
• Whether the school cafeteria should only serve healthy food
• Whether kids should be able to attend school online.
• For younger grades, children can debate on whether there should be homework each night or whether the school day should be longer or shorter.

8. Creative Debate

Creative debate is a role-playing exercise. Students assume a specific point of view on a topic and debate a controversial topic from this perspective. Creative debates promote both critical thinking and tolerance of opposing views.

Steps to follow
• Divide the class into three groups. Select two groups to participate in the debate. The third group acts as an observer.
• Rearrange the classroom so that the opposing groups face one another and the observers are seated at one side.
• Present a reading selection that states one of the positions on the debate topic. Assign one group to argue for the selection; the other group argues against.
• Each student chooses a character from the past or present that signifies their position in the debate. (To speed up the process teachers may also suggest a list of characters.)
• Make each student introduce himself as a character to the class and then argue the topic from the perspective of this character. Encourage your students to ‘act out’ the character’s personality (speech patterns, mannerisms, etc.).
• Allocate ten minutes for each group to present their positons. Allow extra time for rebuttals.
• Next, ask the student teams to change their positions and argue the opposing viewpoint. (Perhaps the group of observers might change places with one of the other groups.)
• Repeat the debate and rebuttal process.
• At the end of the debate, ask students to reflect on their experiences.

Debates foster a great classroom environment by encouraging teamwork and friendly competition. Students tend to think analytically and express themselves clearly.

Hence, debates as an activity, help reach multiple classroom objectives: they not only practice speaking and listening skills, but also motivate students, develop their argumentation strategies, and encourage learner autonomy. Debates foster a great classroom environment by encouraging teamwork and friendly competition. Students tend to think analytically and express themselves clearly. Elementary, junior high (sometimes called middle school) and high schools use debates in the classroom, and the process becomes more sophisticated as the children get older. The maturity level of the students manipulates the debate style and expectations of the teacher. At the end of the day, every debate yields fruitful results!

Need for Meaningful Activities for Youth

runSixteen-year-old Ahmed has great inspiration and passion for writing stories, drawing cartoons and making landscape. “That’s what I love to do!” he says, while making a sketch of a village life. He expresses his feelings in form of art and story writing. He engages himself in such activities to make his life exciting and meaningful.

Meaningful activities are often done for enjoyment, pleasure and fun. Simultaneously, it is imperative that these leisure time activities must be meaningful and enjoyable. The scholars of Islam have emphasized the importance of lawful recreation to the healthy development of a person’s character. Al-Ghazali writes:

If the child is forbidden to engage in play and forced to spend his time in perpetual study, this will result in his heart dying, his intelligence waning and his manner of living becoming so wretched that he will seek from it any escape he can find.”

“After completing his bookwork, a child should be allowed to play in a nice manner, so that he can relax from the fatigue of his studies. His play should not tire him out. If the child is forbidden to engage in play and forced to spend his time in perpetual study, this will result in his heart dying, his intelligence waning and his manner of living becoming so wretched that he will seek from it any escape he can find.”

Our youth is lagging behind in knowledge, enterprise and productivity. Teenagers are not making fruitful use of their time – due to unproductive habits, they are suffering from such psychological disorders as anxiety, depression, insecurity, fear, anger and aggression. These anti- social behaviours compel a frustrated person either to commit suicide or engage in violent acts.  Furthermore, the increasing immorality and vulgarity of youth is pushing them towards anarchy and darkness.

The question is: how can a frustrated person relieve his stress? What kind of activities will facilitate mental and physical health and improving the quality of life?

Engaging in recreational activities not only helps in staying healthy but also relieves psychological stress and develops a bright and healthy personality.

Effective and Revitalizing Activities:

  • Morning walk and exercise help to relax, give a soothing effect to nerves and reduce stress. These are the best activities which refresh one’s senses and make one feel light again.
  • Good reading habits include reading newspapers, magazines and books. Reading an interesting book motivates a teenager to develop reading habit and enhances their learning and vocabulary.
  • Through writing articles, stories and diary entries, one can convey his emotions and sentiments.
  • Both indoor and outdoor games and sports, such as swimming, skating, cricket, football, hockey, volleyball, squash, tennis and badminton, help to maintain physical health as well as emotional and psychological stability of an individual.                      In the Sunnah, we see the companions of Prophet Muhammad (sa) participating in many different forms of activities. They engaged in such sports as running races, horse racing, wrestling and archery. They spent time in telling jokes and enjoyed lighthearted conversations. This helps to build up an active, positive personality and improve interpersonal relations.
  • Many teenagers are engaged in arts and crafts activities. Hobbies, such as drawing, sketching, painting, knitting, making artificial jewelry and other items from clay, are excellent for utilizing time effectively. Arts and crafts activities also enhance the self-confidence of a young person.
  • Teenagers in emotional distress should take an adult education class or a course at any institution. Participation in education classes motivates and inspires them to be optimistic and to adopt a positive way of thinking. These types of social gatherings give them opportunities to relieve stress and build new relationships.
  • Young people can engage in long and short term training for honing their skills. They will not only learn but also gain motivation for utilizing their skills.
  • Gardening has many benefits – it can ease stress for people, who have been diagnosed with depression and persistent low mood. Being surrounded by fresh flowers and plants helps in achieving peace of mind.

There is a dire need for young people to stop engaging in unproductive habits, which waste their time. Engaging in recreational activities not only helps in staying healthy but also relieves psychological stress and develops a bright and healthy personality.

What’s Wrong with These Men?

men

Men on Vacations

You are on your dream getaway to the end of the Earth. Hand in hand with your husband, you board the plane and land on Kankoon islands. Once on the beach, you swing in a hammock, rocking gently. The palm trees above sway in the breeze. The calm blue ocean stretches before you as far as the sight can gaze. The warm white sand beneath nestles wondrous shells. You can feel a smile on your face, as you quietly hear the sounds of the waves rolling on to the shore. Such serenity, such tranquility, such peace! Ah! Just the time and place for romance.

And, suddenly, you hear a snort, a snore and a growl. As you flip around, your better half is fast asleep with his mouth wide open. The romance that was to ensue is obviously not going to take place. Frustrated and frowning, you wonder how anyone can bother to kill time sleeping in this paradise? After spending millions and travelling for miles away from the crazy mayhem at home, he chooses to doze off, instead of romancing me? Guess what? You shot in your own foot and gave him no other choice.

In order to understand a man’s behaviour, one needs to step into his world. For most of them, in the 8 to 10 hours that they spend at work, regardless of their profession, the day is filled with action and challenges. Planning, executing, leading, deciding, meeting, multi-tasking, directing and taking orders – this is usually a man’s day at work. This is a demand that he needs to meet every day. In our modern day and age, because of an over-competitive culture, less people are hired to tackle more work. Hence, this man generally has to take care of demands that require him to stretch his coping ability. If he succeeds, he feels pleasure and elation and a good type of stress called eustress. But if his coping ability fails to meet the demands, he feels low and disappointed, which gives him negative stress called distress.

Now, when such individuals are exposed to a non-challenging environment, where their perceived coping abilities outweigh the perceived demand created, boredom and frustration occurs. For such active individuals, it is best to opt for more adventurous holidays, such as trekking, bungee jumping, scuba diving, sky diving, driving into wilderness, camping or rafting. Chances are that such engaging vacations will thrill them. You will catch them smiling often and cracking jokes, as they feel decisive, confident, understanding and euphoric. This state depicts eustress: the good stress, under which you perform your very best. This is when the chemical messenger/hormone noradrenaline increases. Physically, one can feel goose bumps rise. Pupils dilate, hearing is acute, palms and feet become sweaty and a feeling of excitement engulfs without anger and hostility.

Thus, no matter how much you love the calm of coconut beaches, that’s not the place for your romantic retreat.

Even at home, Sundays for many families are miserable. Wives bitterly complain that their husbands either choose to plant themselves before a machine (laptop, television, etc.) or snooze every now and then. The best way to get them to their feet is to excite them with some action that challenges their perceived coping abilities. It could be building something, playing sport or cooking barbeque outdoors, in other words, anything that requires alertness, thinking and decision making. Otherwise, if you leave them lounging about at home, you will find them curled in a corner sleeping away most definitely, as they are bored out of their mind and find little to sink in their teeth into.

Men after Retirement

Now that you have an understanding of how a man’s work life generally is, you can very well imagine how he feels when he is given a golden handshake, retires or is asked to leave. Most men suffer from multiple disorders and serious health conditions after their retirement and not during their active work tenure. Why? They undergo strokes, heart attacks and other such fatal illnesses, when they are resting in peace at home, not while they were active in service. It’s because it is distressful for them to be of no use to anyone, while they most probably still could have been. They have enjoyed their moments in the limelight, raked in many badges of honour and have been the best workers on force like the salt of the Earth. For this reason, we often hear several embellished versions of their active employment days long after they have retired.

When this man is sent home after years of meeting challenges, his perceived coping abilities are still high but the perceived demand is very low. He is expected to rest, sleep, play with his grandchildren or read books, when he still could have been doing far more. It is a world they have a hard time being part of. We often hear our mothers and mothers-in-law complaining about our fathers and fathers-in-law that they have transformed into grumpy old goats and throw volcanic temper tantrums.

In Islam, there is no logic of retirement. Our beloved Prophet (sa) died at the age of 63 years and was working until then. The concept of retirement is the capitalist society’s need to replace old ideas with new ones, less vigour with more and old with new, in order to serve their demands. And, as a lollipop, they hand over some package or finances to console their lifelong servant, who has given the best of his years and ability to them. In reality, these corporations have made far more profits, while this man was employed with them, than what they offer him at the end of his service. They still get the better deal.

Hence, a Muslim man should keep this in view and gradually taper off, rather than sit at home and wait for death to catch him in his rocking chair. His family should facilitate this important transition and find value in his remaining energy, experiences and capabilities. Otherwise, the person, who experiences depression and loss of control, also produces large amount of cortisol: a chemical messenger/hormone that suppresses the immune system, if it exceeds its normal range. Prolonged effects of cortisol can lead to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, chronic anxiety and depression.

The crux of it all is that every believer has to engage in activities that offer him situations to control and excel at. In cases of retired men, learning new technology could be interesting. Offering consultancy based on their experiences could be another area to explore. Offering services to philanthropic organizations free of charge or at nominal cost can be very motivating and gratifying.

Women play a very significant role in this. Get the men moving, when they find themselves redundant and useless. But refrain from nagging or overdoing it, as it may backfire. Hikmah (wisdom), pure Neeyah (intention) to help them and Dua (prayer) are very important. They all need situations worth exploring, glimmering with excitement, taking chances and making mistakes just like children do.