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In today's world it's well understood that kids learn better when they are having fun doing it. Technology, a wide range of colorful books, craft activities, science experiments, robotics and such help our kids have a more hands-on, practical, application-based learning experience. But what I'm realizing along the way is that all of it comes with a price. A literal price tag.

When I trained as an occupational therapist, I trained in community-based rehabilitation. We learnt to make aids and toys and therapy materials out of things that were low-cost and available in the community. We were challenged to provide high-quality therapy at a low cost. I've done a little bit of that, and a lot more of other types of education where I've tried to make it work when we had very little resources or finances, but at the end of the day, I've realized- without financial resources, it's very hard to bring play-based learning to kids. Even if you manage to create low-cost resources, this type of learning requires a high student-teacher ratio that adds cost to education.

I'm not saying it's impossible. I know a of homeschooling moms and innovative schools who bring a really high standard of education to their kids at a low cost. As part of Project Kalpana, my team and I use a range of hands-on activities as we teach literacy. But what I am asking us to consider is this- great education, needs investment.

If we want to raise a generation of kids who are leaders in technology, communication, innovation and science- we have to be willing to put our money there. If you want your child to be challenged and excited to learn- buy them colorful books, science experiment kits, and give them plenty of art supplies. For creativity and innovation to thrive, children need materials to work with.

So invest in education- of your own kids if you have any. Make it a priority. It's more important than an expensive outfit or a fancy meal out. Also, let's invest in the education of the underprivileged. So many kids are missing out on education right now because they don't have a smartphone or a tablet. So many kids don't have art supplies or extra notebooks if they want to do something creative. When your kids are done with their books and toys- pass them on to someone who can't afford them. Let's recognize that play-based learning is a luxury in our country, and those of us who have that privilege can make an effort to share it a little more.

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It's one of those traditions that well meaning Indians have been doing for ages... We take our child to an orphanage, distribute candy and snacks to the kids there. Have the kids sing happy birthday, and feel really good that we brought joy and happiness to 30-odd kids while celebrating our child's birthday in a meaningful way.

Really? Put yourself in the shoes of a child in the orphanage. Maybe they don't even know their birthday. If they do, it's probably not celebrated. They don't have parents either who buy them a beautiful dress and make them feel loved and celebrated. When we celebrate our child's birthday in an orphanage we are reminding that child of everything that they don't have- a family who loves them and celebrates them. A family who's excited about their birthday and is showering gifts and cutting cake and taking pictures.

I do appreciate the heart behind it all. The heart to think about the underprivileged on a birthday, and not be selfish. So here are 5 alternate things that you can do, that can really make a difference to a life, and sometimes even a generation.

#1 Contribute towards someone's business: If you start asking around, there are many people who want to start a small business- a vegetable stall, selling clothes in the village, buying a cow and selling milk. Sometimes a contribution of 5000 Rs to 8000 Rs is enough to help someone start a business that will support an entire family. Or you might know someone who works really hard and really needs to upgrade their equipment- an auto rickshaw driver with a vehicle that's falling apart, or a cobbler who could use an umbrella as they sit in the heat everyday. Donating towards a person's livelihood can change their whole life. I know, cause we wouldn't have started our cafe without people who helped us by giving us loans.

#2 Contribute towards education: Maybe it's school fees, maybe its books. Maybe it's admission into open school for a young man or woman who dropped out of school. Maybe its for extra classes for a child who's struggling. Contributing to education helps make sure the next generation has a better life.

# 3 Contribute towards the health of pregnant women: If you see or know of an underprivileged pregnant woman, contribute towards prenatal vitamins or supplementary health drinks. Most women working as maids, laborers, and such don't eat well and a lack of good nutrition in turn effects the brain development of the baby in the womb. Ensuring that these women eat well makes sure the baby is not only healthy physically, but also smart and able to learn and develop well.

#4 Contribute towards training: If there's a course that someone wants to do that will help them pick up work in the future- like a tailoring course, or a computer course. That's a great contribution that will change their future.

#5 Contribute towards the start of a bank account: A lot of people who are uneducated don't have a bank account, and don't have any savings. Help them create one and put a little bit of money in it. It will give them the motivation to start saving and watch their savings grow. Some day, when there's an emergency- they will thank you for it.

We need to look beyond traditional ways of helping those in need, and looking at our own neighborhoods, apartment complexes and streets. I'm sure you will find a person to help and a cause that's meaningful to you, your family, and will change a life.

Follow my blog on Facebook @sharonscreativecornerblog

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Social media is a stage. And every parent loves to watch their child perform. It's just normal that we want our kids to show what they can do best. When we have relatives or friends over, we might ask them to show their art, or sing a song, or share a poem they learned in school. Is that the same as letting them create a YouTube channel?

Although the motivations may be the same, the impact is very different. Here's what happens if your child has their own YouTube Channel....

They become 24/7 performers: Learning to be performers is great, but what happens when your entire life is a performance? What happens when every game they play is a performance, every place they go to is all about performing and sharing? You start living less and performing more. Now, they are going to do that anyway when they hit their teens, but are you sure you want them to start right now? What about learning to be friends and kind and loving when no one is looking. What about learning to do things just because you love them, and not to show yourself to be happy? I'm concerned that if children start performing all the time when they are so young, they may not get a chance to learn to be happy and content when there is no audience.

The world is watching them: When your friends come over, and your child performs- you have control of who's watching them, what they say, and you trust that even if they take a picture or a video- they will not misuse it. This is not true of the online world. Strangers, criminals, and pedophiles have access to YouTube channels. They can misuse content from it, or they can post mean comments. Dangerous people can even try to meet your child and hurt them. The more followers your child has, the more likelihood that dangerous people are also following them.

They can feel like they are an expert even when they are not: All humans have a tendency to have pride, and our kids too. But when they put a video of themselves singing and they get a 100 likes, they may think they are an exceptional singer. That may not be true at all. It's great that they feel appreciated, but it can become harmful when they start to feel that they know-it-all because they are a YouTube influencer or celebrity. They may feel like they know everything there is to know about that topic, or skill, and not work towards growing their skills. They start focusing their time on creating content instead of growing in the skill itself.

So is it a hard no? I don't think we can live in a bubble and protect our kids from social media forever. And when our kids show the desire to create their own videos and perform, I think we must use our wisdom as parents and see what is best for them. You may feel that your child is too young to be performing, or that you want them to focus on their friendships and school for now. That is fine.

But in case you feel like your child is very talented in an area, and you need to give them a chance to perform, here are some suggestions:

- Avoid letting kids under 13 have their own YouTube channel. If you want to share their videos, use your own social media platforms like Facebook, or Whatsapp where you are connected to people that you know. If you want to create a YouTube channel, or use any other platform where their videos will be open to the public- try your best to protect personal info like their name and location. You can give your child a screen name and create a channel name that does not have their name on it.

- Make sure that your child learns to work hard on the content that they are producing. Ask them to learn, research, practice, do retakes and work on producing high-quality content. Even if they produce only one video in a week, or even in a month- that's fine. Make sure they learn the discipline of producing good content.

- Connect with mentors (adults) who are skilled in the area that your child is talented in. Help your child get guidance on how they can grow in their skills, what they can learn, and what mistakes they can avoid. Get involved in the process and learn together with your child. Help arrange courses, coaching, classes to help them learn. Use the motivation to create a sharable video as an opportunity for your child to grow in specific skills.

- Turn off comments and monitor all interactions. Even if your child's videos are being posted on a YouTube channel, make sure that your child can't directly connect with their followers. Turning off comments helps avoid a lot of cyberbullying, and other unpleasant activity online. Manage the channel for them even if they know how to do it, so that you know that your child is safe online. Your child's safety is most important always.

Find ways for your child to perform in front of trusted people that love and will appreciate them. Create videos and share them on family groups. Plan talent nights for kids of friends to perform. Let's provide every opportunity for our child to grow in their gifts and talents. But let's do that wisely and in a way that's appropriate for their age.

Follow my Instagram page @homeschoolmomnoida for more ideas related to homeschooling, parenting and education.

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