Keeping kids entertained and busy in India usually means shelling a good chunk of money as free activities are few and hard to find. Most apartment buildings have a small playground, but that gets boring for both the kiddos and parents very fast, plus in Mumbai that means that a solid chunk of the year it’s usable only in the evenings when the temperature become somewhat bearable. There are few public gardens in in some area, but the problem is the same as above when it comes to heat, with the added burden of being constantly harassed by hawkers in some places.
If you want to keep a kid occupied, or you end up in shopping malls, which have kids play areas, or go to a entertainment center which is anyway or near a mall or inside a mall. I end up taking Ishita to the mall on a mommy-daughter date once or twice a month on these Saturdays that DH spend in office, it never fails, it cost 60 rupees to get there by auto, it cost us 200 bucks to go on the electric train circling an entire floor (the latest addition to mall entertainment), then we spend about 300-400 bucks on lunch, and while we went all the way to the mall we might as well go buy something (most of the time it’s books which I have no objection spending money on), then stop for coffee and cake which sets use another 150-200 bucks, and then it’s back home in the auto and another 60 rupees…you do the math. The idea is to at least be out of the house and away from the idiot box, which sadly is pretty much the only free thing kids around here can get busy with on a hot day and by far my absolute least favourite.
In Switzerland, it’s not really Summer that is a problem climate wise, so we do go out to the lake, on picnics and to the park then, it’s the rest of the year that is punctuated by too many wet days (it rains a lot back home, year round) and Winter is the most boring of all season where kids need as much entertainment as possible to prevent them from going hyper inside. Libraries are always a good option, not just to borrow books which by the way is possible in India, but because most libraries in Switzerland are free, and the kid zone has comfy sofas, toys and often a library hour story telling time. Then there are kids friendly exhibits in museums that could keep them entertained for an hour. Then if the sun decides to be nice and peak through the fog, the park and playground is still an option with a ritual stop into one of the many independently owned cafes where the kiddos will drink a hot chocolate while the parents find comfort in a cup of tea or coffee (Switzerland is not hot on franchise coffee chains and people never heard of a latte until Starbucks came after I left for India, and is still not hugely popular). And if one must stay at home, then there are many board games, and craft supplies stores to remedy to pending boredom.
Board games for toddlers is tricky in India, there isn’t as much as what I remember from back home, though thanks to Flipkart there is a change in this department. you can’t get a toddler to stay focus on a board game more than 15 minutes or so, so these games need to be fun, quick and enticing. Big size pieces jigsaw puzzles will work, but you better have more than one because you are as a parent likely to get bored doing the airplane puzzle over and over before your tot thinks it’s dull. Memory games are fine too, but don’t start with the whole set, especially if your little hurricane is not the super patient type, they will want to win, and if they spend too much time flipping cards to find the match they will loose their attention span. Then there are more action-y type games like tumbling Monkeys and Hungry Hippos, these are sure to keep your active toddler happy, as long as you do not try to enforce the rule to the T, because in Tumbling monkey it’s preventing the monkeys to fall that is stated as the rule with the one making them fall being the looser, except that the fun part to a 3 year old is PRECISELY to get them to fall.
Craft projects for kids is a bit more tricky in India, very few stores sell all the craft supplies you need in one place, so it’s better to keep a stash at home and buy as you find them rather than as you need them. Aim for well stocked stationary shops for all your cardboard, glue, and paint, and check regularly for things such as glitter, googly eyes, speciality paint and paper. Again Flipkart comes to the rescue for a lot of things. Then you need the inspiration, craft project magazines haven’t made an entry there yet that I know of, so sign up to Pinterest and start browsing and pinning ideas to get you inspired.
Yesterday was a school day off for Ishita, and that meant I had the lovely task of keeping her busy at home as we went to the mall as a family on Saturday and there was no way I would want to do that again so soon. And the idea of having her glued to the TV the whole day was really irking me. We ended up lining the dining table with newspapers, taking the pain out and pulling one pinterest pinned idea as our craft project of the day, and this is what the final product looked like :
Egg cartons turned into boats, now the original craft picture I pinned on my pinterest board was a fancy one with little flags and all, but or the project had been made by a grown up, or by an older kid. When you get a 3.5 year old to do it you end up with a funky looking one and you keep the flag ornaments away, Ishita was far more interested in painting the bottom of her boat than the inside which is why hers looks so plain on the picture, then we made sails out of coloured paper and pasted it to a drinking straw and planted them in the boat shells and voila we have two mighty boats that kept her busy for an hour, and then some more when she put her plastic figurine toys in them and the plastic fishes she has around them, turning my coffee table into an ocean. A nap, a few stories read from books and a trip to the playground completed the program of the day. With TV being just a early morning and evening thing.
I have fishes made out of all CD and coiled snakes out of kitchen paper roll lined up as the next craft projects for a day spent at home, since the weather is still nice we still try to go to the playground as long as possible after school these days, but Summer is fast approaching and I will need to stock up on ideas that do not break the bank.