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Brighten up Diwali for the kids
Kanchan Maslekar
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October 13, 2006

While Diwali is a stressful, hectic time for adults, it's an exciting time for children. They have a chance to enjoy firecrackers and binge on their favourite sweets. 

However, while many of you are busy redecorating your house, making sweets and entertaining guests, you tend to put your child's comfort and needs on the backbench. Take this as an opportunity to spend more time with your children. What's more, make Diwali a safe, educational as well as entertaining time for them. Here are some fun ideas.

Get the kids, involved

Rope in your child's help right from cleaning up around the house to decorating. You can let him/her get involved in  festive activities like creating rangoli, arranging flowers, or even serving guests; it adds a traditional flavour to your child's upbringing.

To make your decorations unique and personalised (unlike the stuff that is readily available in the markets) take some time out to make paper lanterns, paint diyas, etc. Buy a few oil paints in bright colours, paint the diyas and stick some decorative mirrors, to make your diyas look truly unique.

"I asked my daughters Neha, 5, and Neena, 3, to crumple colourful crepe paper into balls and string them together to hang them up in their rooms," says accounts executive Meghana Mirne, from Bangalore.

You can also make personalised greeting cards for your friends and relatives with the help of your child.
"Last year, we got terracotta trays and painted them in bright colours. We then packed sweets in them and decorated them with satin and golden ribbons," adds Kirti Chandram, mother of four-year old Ashana. "Our hampers were a major success," she adds proudly.

Slightly older children can be given the liberty to decorate their rooms. Let them choose from traditional fare like ethnic prints on the drapes, bedspreads, table covers, cushion covers. You can also buy traditional handicrafts from the exhibitions, which are organised specially during the Diwali season.

Diwali stories

"Rapunzel, Cinderella and Puss in Boots are ousted and these popular bedtime stories are replaced by mythological stories related to Diwali in our home," says Meghana.

The return of Rama, King of Ayodhya after 14 years of exile in the forest, and the demon king Ravana's defeat is an all-time favourite with five-year old Ashana, says her mother Kirti. Other popular stories also include the victory of lord Krishna over demon Narakaasura and other stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

It's also a great time to explain how you celebrated Diwali when you were a child.

"Though we are switching more and more to electrical lamps, it's a nice practice to light small oil lamps (diyas) and place them around the home, in courtyards, gardens, balconies and the terrace," says Nandan Patil, 32, a software professional.

"For most in our generation, Diwali was the only time we shopped and prepared special sweets. Children today, get new clothes, toys and sweets all round the year, so I think it'ss necessary to make them aware of how we lived as children. I see Diwali as a good opportunity," he adds. 

Safety first

To avoid turning the festival of lights into the festival of nightmares, educate the children to avoid using crackers, which are too noisy or create too much pollution.

It's also a good idea to get together with the neighbours or relatives and light crackers collectively in an open ground.
Burn crackers in an open-air compound away from the building wall. 

Make the kids wear simple clothes for cracker time, preferably made from cotton. Reserve flowing ghagra cholis or dupattas, for family visits and pujas. At least one adult must supervise all the cracker activities.

After the cracker session, get the children to clear up the mess.

Diet dos

Sweets are an important part of the festival, so keep an eye on what the kids are gobbling up.

Prepare healthy sweets and other eatables. For instance, use less oil in your chivdas and namkeens, use nuts and dals in you ladoos, which will make them more nutritious. In Go low-cal this Diwali, we offer some great tips on how to cut calories while whipping up festival sweets.

If you are buying them, make sure you purchase them from shops where there's a fresh stock everyday.

Spare a thought for the deprived

Take your child to an orphanage, blind school or an old age homes along with some sweets, greeting cards and lots of time. Tell your child about these people and how you can help.

Books on Diwali

~Here Comes Diwali: The Festival of Lights

A story-cum-activity book by Laxmi Jain and Meenal Pandya seen through the eyes of a young boy. It brings alive the mood of festivity during Diwali and the activities surrounding the festival. It also includes recipes, crafts, a glossary, and a word-search game. A good read-aloud book for pre-school or nursery children.

~Lighting a Lamp: A Diwali Story

Here is a simple and delightful introduction to Diwali, suitable for the very youngest child, from the Festival Time Books series by Jonny Zucker, Jan Barger Cohen (Iilustrator).

~Diwali by Chris Deshpande

A colourful book for pre-school kids on how to prepare for and celebrate Diwali.

~Diwali by Christina Mia Gardeski

An introductory book for children between four and seven years of age, this has simple prose in bold typefaces explaining the basics of Diwali.

~Diwali by Denise M Jordan
A simple introduction to the customs and traditions connected with the Hindu celebration of Diwali.

~Lights For Gita

This full-colour illustrated book by Rachna Gilmore and Alice Priestley (illustrator) is a wonderful picture-book for children above the age of five years. It is a story of how Gita an immigrant child from India celebrates Diwali for the first time in her new home in the West.

~Diwali: Hindu Festival of Lights

This book by Dianne M MacMillan is an excellent resource for school children on the history, culture, beliefs, practices, and people of India and gives young readers a well-rounded picture of the real meaning of Diwali.

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