Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The magic of playdoh

Shankar finally arrived yesterday late night after 6 weeks in the US. Watching him and the kids interact reminded me of Santa Claus. They were desperate to know what he had bought for them and he was very pleased with himself to have got the bag of goodies. He opened the suitcase himself and then started weaving magic infront of the kids . This is where the guys always clearly win. They go away for days together and then make up for all that absence with a few goodies. After that its like the mom never existed..I secretly wish I could do that sometimes!!! Go away for a long time and then come back to impress the hell out of the kids.:))
With each purchase the children's eyes widened...and the winner was clearly PLAYDOH!! Shankar had got several playdoh related role play toys. An icecream shop, a pizza shop , automobiles what not..the girls were brimming with enthusiasm..Its like their hands were itching to start playing with the playdoh. And ofcourse they did...they played the entire day with playdoh.

It was like nothing in the world could distract them. During one session Chellu sat straight for an hour today. She used all the instruments in the set and made every possible type of icecream, sundae etc...She wasn't interested in food or sleep. All she wanted to do was play with the playdoh. She was mesmerized with it. Same thing with kunju in the evening. It was funny how the sisters kept creeping up behind each other's backs to have lone time with the playdoh!;))

I've always wondered whats with playdoh that amazes children so much. Or for that matter atta or clay . I used to love playing with clay when I was in Salem. My friends always knew that the claypit is where Sangeetha would be playing after school. I loved the way the clay would flex according to my wishes. And I am sure this is the same reason for my kids too. In an adult world where children are constantly at the receiving end of the adults in terms of rules and expectations and what not, it must be so liberating for them to dictate the terms for once. And they can do this playdoh. They can make it into whatever is it that THEY wish to. There are no rules and regulations here. Just the child's mind , her fingers and the doh. It slips in between their fingers beautifully and takes any form...It's like magic. They are the magician and the playdoh the object of their magic - the playdoh's flexibility, its acceptance of the child ( it allows the child to do what he/she wants to) and the wonderful shapes that form as a result of this interaction.

We incorporate playdoh in our HSing activities & more often in our daily lives. During Ganpati we carved out an entire Ganpati from atta on a sheet of thermocol. Chellu then proceeded to decorate it with grains and the result was stunning. While the rest of the world looked forward to visarjan of their Ganpati idols, we stored ours carefully in the freezer for a long time. We used to joke around then that Ganpati himself must be thinking that of the millions of homes that he has visited over the ages , no one must have ever put HIM in the freezer before! ;))

On days when I am busy with something or need to rest, I will generally bring out two belans( chapatti rollers), two platforms for rolling out the chappatis ,lotsa maida ka atta , two butter knives..The sisters take over and can go for hours..Once they clocked like 1.5 hours at a stretch..They will roll the chappatis with fury, cut it into all sorts of shapes, knead them all together and start all over again..Their focus and engagement with the object of play is really really worth noticing and learning a lot from. I am sure this is true of other children too. The only difference might be the object of interest. I absolutely adore in kids their ability to shut out everything in the world and become obsessed with their interest! It's so hard for us adults to do the same..I can never be that focussed with anything. I am constantly jumping between the past and the future and even if I am let alone I can never have the same focus as the kids do when they become interested in something!!! And as a HSing mom I sincerely hope that as adults my kids will find that something "special" in their lives that will keep them obsessed forever. That will truly be a success for me!!

We have had many wonderful creations from playdoh. In NJ Chellu had once made jewellery of all sorts- chains, bracelets, anklets , earring etc...Kunju was obsessed with it some time back. All she day the whole day was to cut the doh into thin slices. One day just before starting the HSing routine I was busy cooking. The girls hid themselves below the jhoola and were busy for like 45 mins or so. I didn't bother to check but was intrigued by the lack of fighting , crying, arguing etc...When I finally went to check they were busy with each other and themselves ..they had neatly divided the playdoh amongst themselves and were lost in their own worlds. Chellu had created an entire man with a head, eyes, nose, hands etc..Kunju had found a bowl of water and was experimenting with the doh and water. Dipping small balls in the bowl and then cutting it into thin slices..Dropping the balls in the bowl and then transferrring water from one bowl to another. The girls had also picked up several leaves and had made impressions of the leaves on the doh. They had made a beautiful rangoli of sorts with the leaves , stones, twigs and ofcourse doh! And the best part was the modaks they had made. Several of them- then they quickly got a plate, arranged it beautifully and served it to me. Im not sure how they learned to make modaks..probably by observing us during Ganpati!

Another time while playing with the doh, we started playing "pizza restaurant". Chellu is the chef and kunju the assistant. I have to call to place the order, then I visit the restaurant. The girls do the entire routine of serving me with the pizza..It was very interesting to see some of the toppings including fruits and nuts!! :))The game started getting more complicated with greetings/communication between the customer and the business owner , delivery service and finally money. We have used the playdoh in serious HSing too- learning the alphabets, numbers and making animal and other shapes.

Playdoh can unlease the artist in a child or for that matter in all of us like none other. Its willingess to "become" anything that the creator wants it to with no resistance makes it ideal. Real art is the process not the product. The associations, the memories that crop up, the feelings/emotions that cross our minds in any form of art is what makes its true worth. Art is therapeutic in the truest sense. When a child splashes paint all over paper she is infact really getting in touch with herself. There has been a study that proves that children paint with different colors and strokes depending on whether they are happy or not, angry or sad, loving or hateful at that moment. It is indeed sad to see children being asked to color within lines, draw perfect images, use the "right colors" etc. I find it really ridiculous. When we dictate that something needs to be drawn/painted in such and such a way, we are projecting onto the child our extremely limited experience/ notion of this world. I am always reminded of how amazed I was during the first fall of NJ. I was stunned to see sooooooooooo many colors of leaves. Before that while in India I always associated "leaf" with "green". But I was so wrong. So if I dictate that the leaf should be colored in green am I not being really narrow-minded and actually projecting that onto that child?

Last year during Ganpati celebrations in Magarpatta City Chellu participated in the drawing competition. She chose to draw flowers and the colors she chose! She painted the flower green and the leaves purple. When I asked her the reason behind her choice of colors she quickly replied.." Ofcourse there are flowers that are green. Haven't you seen any?" All I could do was smile ..cause I am very sure that in this whole , wide, wonderful world there is a green flower somewhere out there. And even if there isn't one, this green flower was the product of Chellu's mind- her creation and not reality!

I strongly belive that children learn best from play. For us it might be time-pass but they are making so many observations , so many conclusions, trying to replicate the adult world, learning about social behavior etc...Having grown in the system I too have to remind myself many times that learning the alphabet or numbers or other such academic stuff alone does not constitue serious learning. God made play so that children can learn very seriously without the interruption of the adults!!

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