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Making Diwali Cards and Dia with Pulses and Learning Geography!

For this Diwali, I wanted Pari to explore some of the meaning behind our traditions and rituals – but of course in a fun and playful way.

Hence, when making Diwali cards for her friends and family, I wanted her to try decorating with rice, pulses and beans. The different colourful pulses are a fun substitute for paint. For a child of Pari’s age (5-6), identifying them during or after the art activity is a great lesson in itself.

For a toddler, it turns out to be a nice activity for sorting, gluing etc.

Grains – rice and wheat – and pulses are ‘ingrained’ in the Indian way of life. Not just in terms of our staple food, but also how we use them for art, rituals, festivals and a dozen other things.

Rice, also called Akshat in Sanskrit, is used in the powdered form as well as coloured form to make ‘rangolis’. Rangoli, which is a sanskrit word comes from two words – ‘Rang’, meaning colour and ‘Avali’ meaning ‘row’. So, it basically means – rows of colours.

As a kid, I loved making real big rangolis with the rice paste and another paste I used to make with powdered brick – for the rust coloured red. The combination of these colours made very eye catching art.

Going back to Pari’s rangoli cards, she loved sketching the patterns first and then gluing them with the different types of pulses and beans. Being a avid Pasta lover, those spiral pasta had to find a place on her tray! Well, so be it. It’s an integrated world, after all. (smiles)

The activity was not over at just making the cards. After that we decided to sit at my laptop to find out where those Pulses are grown – In India and elsewhere across the world. In the process, she learnt the concepts of ‘import’ and ‘export’.

These concepts fascinated her and led to a series of questions. First of all, she asked – when Canada is so much smaller than India in size (after looking at the map), how is it able to ‘export’?

To this, I explained in as simple a way as possible – that Canada has fewer people than India and hence it has surplus or extra food that it can sell to other countries.

She then wanted to write down the names of the pulses in Hindi as well as in English.

Finally, she wanted to know if the chickpeas she had used on the card were the same as those we used for making Hummus the other day? I said, she was bang on. After which, she racked her brain some more to figure out which pulse did I use to make our dal. Which one for the Sambhar etc. etc.

Isn’t it amazing how an art activity can lead to such interesting lessons in geography and language and cuisine and who knows what else? I absolutely love this kind of learning where each subject is effortlessly connected with the other. The child does not learn each subject in isolation.

And why should she, when everything that we do is invariably interwoven. Why should learning be in compartments and siloes?

This is the philosophy Waldorf education is based on too.

Coming back to Indian festive art, here is a Dia or Deepak (clay lamp) as we call in Hindi/Sanskrit that I had made using beans and wheat grain. I tried shaping it like the lotus flower by sticking petals cut out from thick paper and shaded the paper petals in hues of pink. Pari contributed by decorating with acrylic paint on the inside.

I would love to know how you will be celebrating this Diwali.

Any special art, craft, food, decor?

Update on Nov 9 2012:

More Diwali Art, DIY, Activities to do with Kids

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Phyllis at All Things Beautiful October 21, 2011, 1:37 pm

    I LOVE these lessons. Learning done well. I planned to make the salt-dough candleholders this week…perhaps I still have time to fit it in.

    • Rashmie Jaaju October 21, 2011, 7:51 pm

      Phyllis – thank you for being here and glad you liked this post.
      I would love to see your salt dough candle holders.

  • shalini October 22, 2011, 4:21 am

    Hi Rashmi,
    Great to see Pari engaged in activities of the ‘world’. If you ever get your hands on the book ‘Hanna’s Surprise’ you must read it with her. Wonderful book on friendship, culture of Africa (although i feel she might have crossed that age group for that book- anyway)
    Also a point of observation, to make children conscious about the world we live in, we suggest that pulses and food products not be used in art as it is a matter of conservation and awareness that others don’t get food to eat. Anyway i’m sure at home, you would (as a wonderful alert mommy) discuss this with her over other experiences.
    Just thought would post this so others are also made alert of it while working with children in schools.

    • Rashmie Jaaju November 3, 2011, 7:39 am

      That’s a great thought – about not wasting Pulses and grains. I’ll always keep that in mind.
      Though, I always give just enough for a small art. I appreciate your concern and sharing it here.
      The book on Africa that you mentioned, let me check it out. Sounds like something Pari will enjoy.

  • Moitreyee Chowdhury October 24, 2011, 4:31 pm

    MMM, this just brings me back to my years in school, where we used to do so much with our range of dals. Thanks for posting this. I am going to try this out with my Maya.

    • Rashmie Jaaju November 3, 2011, 7:33 am

      Welcome to Mommy Labs, my friend :)
      Isn’t it amazing that when we are doing such things with our children, it transports us back to our own childhood?
      I love that such art projects with Pari helps me be a child for a while and see things from her perspective!
      I’m happy you’ll be trying this with your daughter Maya :)

  • Ellen October 24, 2011, 7:15 pm

    i couldn’t stay home with my son, when he was young, but he went to a waldorf school, and it was exactly your type of teaching. i totally love your education style! your daughter has to feel lucky to have such a great teacher like you! learning with sensing, touching, playing… i wish i could have gone to a school like these today…

    • Rashmie Jaaju November 3, 2011, 7:30 am

      So glad to ‘meet’ you :) Welcome, my dear.
      I really admire and am inspired by the Waldorf philosophy. I love how it endorses learning through life and environment.
      I too wish, Ellen, that I had gone to a school like that…
      But then, am glad I’m able to educate my girl in this manner.
      Thanks for being here :)

  • Natalie October 24, 2011, 10:28 pm

    I wish schools were going more for integrated teaching rather than trying to sort everything out into subjects. Thanks for teaching us all more about Indian traditions!

    • Rashmie Jaaju November 3, 2011, 7:28 am

      Sorry about the delayed reply. Now that Diwali is over and guests have left, I am going through all the comments and replying one by one.
      Integrated learning, yeah, I think that’s the way to go, especially for young children. This way, they can relate those learning with their everyday experiences at home and outside.
      I’ll be dropping by your blog soon :)

  • Manish October 30, 2011, 7:59 pm

    What an interesting way to teach a number of inter-connected subjects! What you have shared here is such a practical way of teaching the kids – replete with fun, creativity and learning.

    On a side note, let me make a confession here! I’m yet to recognize all the different kinds of pulses by their names! Wish someone had taught those to me in an interesting manner so I could retain them in my memory!

    • Rashmie Jaaju November 3, 2011, 7:19 am

      Mannu – my dear bro – what a pleasant surprise to see your here after ages!
      Glad you liked Pari’s art project and her inter-related learning.

      About your wish to have learnt like this – yeah, when I’m doing such things with Pari, I often feel the teaching methods back then during our childhood were not so ‘teaching’ oriented. I wish we had learnt in a more hands-on manner than we did….

      But, then, along with Pari, I too am learning a lot. Really. This is another reason I LOVE homeschooling her ;)

  • maggy,red ted art November 4, 2011, 1:54 pm

    What a great post on Diwali! And great as a resource for us as my son’s “homework” this week is all about Diwali. Love your craft too!

    Thanks for sharing on Kids Get Crafty!


  • Emma @sciencesparks November 6, 2011, 10:52 pm

    What a great idea. I love the way activities with children lead to so many questions also.

    Thanks for linking to Fun sparks.


    • Rashmie Jaaju November 7, 2011, 7:59 am

      True. Activities with children spark questions and observations in a way that it gives new perspectives to us adults!
      Thank you for being here!

  • Sharon November 10, 2012, 8:24 am

    Terrific ideas! I enjoyed reading your blog and seeing your ideas. We follow a Waldorf curriculum in our home. This week we are celebrating Martinmas with a lantern walk tomorrow evening( we are doing this a week early I believe so that we can celebrate Diwali next week). My youngest son is already thinking in his head of how he is going to make his Dia this year.

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