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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Play-based experiences to teach your kids about your cultural festival

Dress-ups. Craft. Songs. Stories. Food. Teachable moments galore!

Reading Time: 4 minutes 

When you think about celebrating festivals, what is the fondest memory that comes to your mind immediately?

For me, it’s definitely the fun, frolic and food associated with the festival.

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Similarly, if you want to introduce your cultural festivals to your child and you want them to enjoy it, do it via play.

Play is “the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul.” So said Friedrich Froebel, the inventor of Kindergarten. In play, whether it is storytelling, playing games, and music and movement, your child can explore, imagine and make decisions, whilst having fun and enjoying themselves.

Here are three ways to use play during festivals to make it an engaging experience for our children.

GAMES

Games have an instant ability to connect on an entertaining level with our children. A great play-based activity, games can be a great way to help connect kids to the festivals that you are celebrating. What are some of the games that you played in your childhood during festivals that you could teach your children?

Hiding ladoos for treasure hunt: a sweet surprise. Source: Canva
Hiding ladoos for treasure hunt: a sweet surprise. Source: Canva

I can distinctly remember playing card games with my family during Diwali and it is definitely a tradition that I will continue with my little one. Another example of a game that you could play with your child is doing a treasure hunt with them for Janmashtami involving makhan or a treasure hunt for Ganesh Chaturthi finding laddoos. Tambola is another great game to play on Diwali with your children.

ACTIVITIES

Use play-based activities that your child is interested in – such as art, music and movement, drama, storytelling – to relate them to the festival. If your child likes dress-up games, then there’s no limit to the fun that can be had at festivals. Dressing them – and yourself, why not – as Ganesh or Krishna or Radha will be exciting for you and the extended family, translating into a beautiful memory. (Keep that camera handy!) Dress-ups promote role-play, so this can be a great way to teach stories relating to the god of the day.

Dressing up for Janmashtami Source: Canva
Dressing up for Janmashtami Source: Canva

If music is more your child’s thing, bring out the dandiya sticks for Navratri and tap away, or pick a particularly tuneful bhajan to sing along with them.

All children connect to stories, so reading them tales about the characters or gods relevant to the festival could also be instructive.

At my own home, art is a favourite activity – drawing, crafting and colouring make my little one very excited. Painting a handi for Janmashtami or making diya crafts for Diwali will be great ways to spend our play time.

Creative art activity examples. Source: Supplied
Creative art activity examples. Source: Supplied

What is something that your child enjoys doing (playing) and how could you connect it to the festival you are celebrating?

FOOD

Cooking is an activity that allows imagination and exploration and so can be a wonderful avenue for play. So you could cook with your child, or you could let your child make something for the festival you are celebrating. Play dough laddoos for Ganesh Chaturthi – hey, even adults will enjoy this activity!

 

Play dough laddoos for Ganesh Chaturthi Source: Supplied
Play dough laddoos for Ganesh Chaturthi Source: Supplied

Play dough laddoos. Photo: Pallavi Tiwari
Wonder if Ganesha would like them blue… Photo: Pallavi Tiwari

Older children can join you in the kitchen as your roll your real laddoos. Laddoo time at Ganesh Chaturthi is filled with teachable moments. Use other sweet treats for the different festivals.  Turn the music on, get the kids in the kitchen, and start creating some delicious memories together.

Modak for Ganesh Chaturthi. Source: Canva
Modak for Ganesh Chaturthi. Source: Canva

At Janmashtami this year, which we celebrated with our little one for the first time, we created some fun-filled traditions based in play. We made handis (clay pots) and a mor pankh (peacock crown), listened to stories about Krishna, helped to make some makhan (butter) and mithai (sweets) and lastly learnt and sang some Krishan bhajans (hymns) all whilst having loads of fun.

The more the fun-filled memories that you can make with your child when celebrating your festival, the better the connection of your child with the festival being celebrated, and the greater the joy.

Introduce play through games, play-based activities and cooking whilst celebrating your festivals with your children. Then, watch how the festivals transform from the usual humdrum to the most exciting and memorable times for your family.

READ ALSO: It’s modak time as we celebrate Ganesha


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Neha Jain
Neha is an educator and a mum based in Sydney. She writes on parenting and lifestyle.

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