Surprise Your Child with an Academic Gift

Image Credit: Sandpiper / CC0

Helping hands are always welcomed in times of difficulty. Especially during these Coronavirus closures, when many of us are working/studying from home. Although we are functioning out of our homes, the cycle of birthdays does not pause. As kids lose the opportunity of enjoying a semester of togetherness, it’s a good opportunity to gift them something they will appreciate in these times.

It’s next to impossible to find a young person without a gadget these days. From smartphones to smart cards to smart wearables, technology has changed lives and it has gone even deeper in the life of a college student. Along with open courseware and online testing, technology advances other important aspects such as connectivity, networking, safety, communication, etc. It’s interesting to witness how the dawn of technologies like mobile applications, MOOCS and AI enhanced education has changed the lives of the average college-goer. Class schedules, syllabi, textbooks, assignments, teaching assistants – everything now has a digital avatar. 

Academic Gifts

As many colleges are gearing up for the next semester to continue from home, perhaps it is time to get older kids some academic gifts. If your child is a tad lost at college with the academic requirements, help them. Frequently kids might hesitate to buy textbooks to keep their debt down which might result in lower grades. Perhaps you could give them an innovative gift which will help them with their academics, and not feel like you are questioning their decisions. With 95% of teens either having one or at least having access to a smartphone, technology in education is here to stay. Clothes, shoes, speakers, and trips as gifts are passé. It might sound pedestrian, but a discerning child will appreciate the academic advantage they get from gifts. Here are three useful gifts for your college going kids:

  1. Dragon Dictation: If you’re behind schedule on a project and the last thing you want to do is spend time on typing study notes, this is the app you need. Talk to this app and it’ll digitally convert voice to text, which you can paste into others apps. Easy-peasy! 
  1. Bartleby Subscription: Students need help with homework, writing essays, and answers for tough questions. What could be better than a subscription which helps out with all this? Easy to access and with millions of answers, this is the ideal academic help a parent can gift.  
  1. Memrise: Does your child love languages? Wants to spend a sem studying abroad immersed in a new language and culture? Get your kid a paid version and watch your child take wings. 

Technology in Education

Not only do students use technology, they also design and write code to solve everyday problems. Mapyst is an app designed by students of Carnegie Mellon University which shows the fastest route between two places on campus. In a 143 acres campus with 60 buildings, this could save a lot of time for innumerable students, not to mention the fact that it’s comforting for new students to know that they are not lost.

Different eras call for different measures, and keeping up with the times is perhaps one of the best measures that can benefit students. iOS, Android, or Windows, no matter which OS a student uses, there is a whole gamut of applications to suit varied needs. In fact the education market has become a jungle and newer pieces of edtech find it hard to be original. 

The Internet has captured people’s imaginations by bringing interactive technology to the fore. Combining such technology with educational resources has resulted in productive faculty members, students, and immersive learning in classrooms. Interestingly, it is all the data that is collected from these students that drives the building of newer conveniences, especially suitable for the cost-conscious parent in these years of high student debt. 

While on the subject of helpful digitization, there are sites and apps which help like the ones listed above, and then there are other apps which offer immersive learning. Take your time, ask around and then choose one, you think your child would find most useful. It’s time for the parents to give their kids a technological and academic advantage. Go on, surprise the kids. 

3 Great Lists of Kids Activities for Covid Times

The Coronavirus closures have been tough all around.

On kids.

On parents.

Kids have to study from home while parents have to work from home.

Kids cannot go away and burn energy and parents cannot go away to cool off.

Homes go from small to large.

Small homes = Easy cleaning but might feel a tad tight as all inhabitants are at home all the time!

Large homes = Hard to clean and find the kids, but everyone has the luxury of space.

Coping with being cooped up

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Kids hate being cooped up and parents hate handling kids who are cranky. This can lead to a lot of irritability and unnecessary exchange of words. In these Covid times, some STEM activities might not work, because of the protocols that have to be followed. Here are 3 websites with terrific activities for cooped up kids:

  1. Commonsense Media
  2. Cincinnati Children’s
  3. NYT – Getting Kids to Move More

Look around in the world

As parents and caretakers, a lot of us have had to be inventive while keeping our kids entertained and busy. Occasionally it’s good to get them to wonder how people live in small spaces – in densely populated cities like Tokyo, on the International Space Station or intentionally because of various reasons(check this out).

Wrapping up

These are difficult and uncertain times, but it’s also a good time to pause and look around this world we live in.

Life Looping Along

In these times of keeping social distance, when families are spending a lot of time together, I have slowly realized that life chugs along no matter what. The Sun sets and it promptly rises whether I have had enough sleep or not. It was the same before the Corona closings, but now I dwell upon it. I lie in bed and give it some thought. Am I becoming a case for psychology textbooks? No. I just have the luxury of time, for I don’t have to rush off.

On a loop

As the days pass, I sometimes feel it’s the same day, but then the food I ate helps me tell the days apart! Yesterday was pasta and the day before that was gazpacho and the awful homemade bread!

On breaking down my days, I came up with these 4 things I do everyday without fail:

  • Eat
  • Perform ablutions(sounds nice and formal like I am lady of the manor, but then the elbow grease involved is a good reality check!)
  • Work
  • Lie on my Hammock

We have office meetings where, to entertain ourselves we sit in various parts of the house. Sometimes I just change the direction of my chair, and the viewer’s view (so to say) changes. Colleagues add plants and sun-catchers. We chit chat about the day and then share Corona stories before getting to work related talk. Why are we doing all this? To keep ourselves engaged I think. This keeps us involved in keeping alive the office vibe at home. For many this helps keep loneliness at bay. It is that human touch, without the actual physicality, which would otherwise disappear in our virtual work.

The hammock is definitely an unexpected treat. I had bought a hammock for a friend. Once I got marooned at home, instead of an office vibe, I decided on getting a holiday vibe. It’s all rigged up(with some difficulty I must say). I wanted it set so I could lie on it and watch TV, but now I have settled for the laptop on my stomach. Well my mother can’t tick me off for my lifestyle. She hasn’t see it yet and I am keeping it that way.

Stories to tell

Well, will I have wonderful tales to tell my grand-kids about when I was marooned at home? Would a tale about eating awful homemade bread count? I don’t know. Too early to tell. Over time, my memory might add some spices to the tale. Would I color the truth about my awful bread? I might, but would I make it taste fantastic? Nah.


Do we color our memories?

I think we do. My mother and I do not see eye to eye about certain incidents which involved the two of us – that’s proof I think! Funnily we watched a bunch of Ted talks on memory once. Understanding the brain and memories is still a work in progress for us human beings. I hope we can recall these strange isolating times with wonderful tales – tell me what you do everyday?

Helping Hands

Wait! Do the hands on my watch convey that Apr 6th is over and the prompt ‘Hands’ is from yesterday? Perhaps yes, but my hands seemed to have a mind of their own.

Okay, so hands it is.

“Oh…your little hand” by spongebabyalwaysfull is licensed under CC0 1.0

My hands tie up my hair and get to work.

Where do I start? My hands pick up my mug of chamomile tea for a sip.

Are my thoughts flowing? Nope. My hands give the back of my neck a good rub.

They help prop up my chin as I close my eyes and think.

Hands are companions. They go from soft to rough over time. Smooth to wrinkly. Dry to sweaty. Hot to cold. They help us in unimaginable ways.

Hands are companions when they come up to cover mouths in a complete expression of joy and wonder. Its just enchanting to hear little kids use their hands to stifle a giggle, and then hear it escape.

In these days of self isolation, the same hand could pick up things and fling. Occasionally.

I have seen the same small hand wipe my mother’s onion-cutting-tears with giggles.

My mother’s hands have reached out to braid my daughter’s hair. They have also changed my daughter’s diaper. Mine too for that matter. Her mother’s too. Sigh.

They also taught me and my daughter to plant seeds. Water them gently and watch as they sprouted. In these ‘at home’ days, little hands need such everyday science to keep busy.

We place faith in people we cannot see to maintain social distance in their everyday lives; so we can collectively overcome this difficulty. Like us, they keep their hands and minds busy within their homes.

As an invisible virus fills us with fear, put your hands together for those invisible folks who fill us with hope – the medical fraternity, lab technicians, transportation staff, sanitation staff, farmers, carers, govt. and private workers (and others I missed); their industrious hands keep our world chugging along in these coronavirused time.

Social Distance in times of Corona Virus

I wrote about ways to avoid social distance just a few days ago. Yes, it was an article where I wrote about how social distance was a problem for the emotional and psychological well being of people. Today we are in times where social distance is a good thing to help stop the spread of the coronavirus!

As everyone who is keeping tabs on the virus knows coronavirus closings have helped stem the increase in cases. Now that we have people and kids in self isolation at home, there are innumerable worries.

Will jobs be waiting for them when people return to their normal routine?

How to work from home effectively when kids are around all the time?

Has concentration become a thing of the past with constant disturbances?!

Can communication between teams be kept at the same level as when people came into work?

Will productivity be affected?

Will we run short of things?

How do we get kids to enjoy their school work in remote classes?

Being alone and happy is a wonderful state of mind. It’s about enjoying solitude and exploring interests. But in these times when kids are studying via remote classes, we have to find ways of keeping the kids engaged. During school hours, kids take their classes via Zoom or MS-Team or any of the other such applications. They send in their submissions over the internet. Many college kids who miss the facilities available of campuses are opting for some help from online writing tools. Professors and TAs are also available over email or chat to help kids cope with online classes.

Bill Branson (Photographer) / Public domain

As the days pass, families are finding it hard to keep themselves occupied. Homes get to feel small. Kids are fretting to go play with their friends. Parents and caretakers need to improvise to keep the kids occupied. Here are 4 family activities:

  1. Design word games: We all like playing word games. Simple ones. Oral ones. Online ones. Old ones. New ones. Hangman. How about designing a new one? It could take some of the rules from an existing game. Or come up with a new one. It could be a mix of two games. Some things you could try: Play scrabble. In every round, the winner gets to pick what the other players should do; get the losers to do sit ups, or running around the sofa ‘pet dog’ style!

2. Enjoy a creative project: Got some origami paper? No? That’s okay…just go ahead and use any old paper available at home and try these origami ideas. Some of these projects can be great to be virtually shared with grandparents too who are far away. Don’t have the chance to go out to pick up a birthday gift? Get creative – make your own. This might become a treasured hand made gift!

3. Explore a new topic everyday: Everyone gets the opportunity to pick a topic of their interest. Find something of interest about the topic and share it with the others. Younger kids could draw or take the help of an adult to gather information.

4. Design home cleaning around physical exercise: Everyone knows that chores can be boring. But they have to be done. Especially when everyone is home. Maybe people can take turns to do dishes, wipe/stack them. After every dish wiped, maybe hop 3 times! While dusting objects people could jump around their home (make sure your downstairs neighbors won’t get annoyed). Do a push up after every two clothes are folded. Get creative.

Times are uncertain and worrisome, but the circumstances are such that many families are together. This is important. Make the most of it. Keep your worries at bay. Stay busy. Enjoy each other’s company.

This too shall pass.

3 Women of Substance

March 8th is International Women’s Day, and one of the best ways to celebrate this is to know more about women of substance. The theme for this year is ‘I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights’. Societal changes do not come about by telling girls that the sky is the limit for them to grow. It comes from educating every member of society, and coaxing them along to realize a goal of an egalitarian, equal and just society. This is by no means an easy task, but it gets easier if we start making changes in the young, but that’s for another post!

By Attributed to Meliacin Master – This file has been provided by the British Library from its digital collections.Catalogue entry: Burney 275, Public Domain,

Today, it’s about knowing and celebrating three wonderful and interesting women. They come from varied background. Not all are with us any longer. The contributions are very important and varied.

Jane Goodall

Dr. Jane Goodall is many things – foremost among them is a scientist whose discovery in 1960 that chimpanzees make and use tools is considered one of the greatest achievements of twentieth-century scholarship. She was brave enough to enter the jungles of Tanzania at the young age of 26, in the 1960s. She helped us humans understand, some of our closest living relatives. From scientist she became a conservationist who has traveled the world meeting and mentoring young people. No one knows it better than her the importance of ensuring that our kids are ecologically aware.

Joy Mangano

I didn’t know about this inventor until I saw the movie Joy. I recognized the mop, but then watching the movie revealed the struggles of this woman in a complicated living situation; how she beat the odds with her inventiveness and resilience is something young people need to know. They need to understand that coming up with an idea is not enough. To take it and make it marketable is remarkably challenging. Perseverance is key.

Eva Ekeblad

The first woman admitted into the Royal Academy of Sciences, Eva Ekeblad was the first person to make a flour out of cooked potato which saved the Swedish nation from starvation during famines. Potato an import from south America became popular in northern Europe. She went on to invent a method to make vodka from potatoes. Although she was born into a wealthy family, she never stayed idle. She was a lady of high society, went on to manage her estates, kids, and also became a celebrated scientist and inventor.

These are just three wonderful women of substance. Get the kids to explore women and their accomplishments. This will enrich their lives.