The monsoons are here and Nikki's daily trips to the park have become few and far between what with the weather playing truant on most days. In order to keep boredom at bay I decided to try some of the myriad 'fun activities to try with your toddler' I keep reading about on various websites and in the gazillion newsletters I subscribe to. Besides Nikki seems to enjoy similar activities at the mother toddler group, and so last week, bursting with the naive enthusiasm of the uninitiated, I decided to try some new stuff with her myself. First up was messy play, having gone through a detailed newsletter extolling the numerous benefits of the same. "We're going to make some play dough!" I announced cheerfully as I marched into the kitchen, startling S out of one of her daydreams. The newsletter had conveniently included some do-it-yourself playdough recipes and it sounded reasonably simple. All I needed was some flour and water and voila! Stir them well together and your very own simple playdough is ready. Easy peasy. I helped myself to some flour and water from the kitchen and trotted off to find Nikki, with a curious S in tow. "Let's make some playdough Nikki!" I screeched excitedly, catching sight of Nikki in the balcony and setting my supplies down. Nikki looked up briefly from her detailed perusal of the drain pipe and marched off in the opposite direction. "Look, WHITE, POWDERY flour!!" I persisted, not one to be discouraged easily. "See how nice it feels?" Nikki poked an uninterested finger in the proffered bowl, yawned and turned away to the unexplored delights to the drain pipe. "Okay, fine. Let's make the playdough, that should be fun!" I made a great show of pouring water slowly into the flour, while simultaneously stirring it into the flour. Nikki didn't budge from the drainpipe. No matter! She would probably perk up once she saw what fun it was to play with the playdough after it was ready. I stirred vigorously for a couple of minutes and poked an experimental finger into what should have been some super soft, pliable playdough. What I got instead was a stringy, gooey mess that clung to my fingers like there was no going back. "Kya didi!" smirked S, who had been lurking in the corner all this time "Aapko to atta goondna bhi nahi aata!" "The recipe must have been messed up" I informed S coldly. Just who did she think she was with her superior atta goond-oing skills? Bah! "I will make the rotis for today evening's dinner" I continued with the best cold hauteur I could muster. I would show her too! Just how difficult could it be?! Besides I had kneaded dough and made rotis in the past, even if my efforts hadn't exactly yielded rotis that you would put up on Kitchen Champions. Still they were edible and that's what mattered. I mean its not like rotis needed to pass any tests on aesthetic appeal. S just shrugged and went off to the kitchen and came back with some atta leftover from the morning. "Here Nikki play with this!" she said making a big show of handing the atta to Nikki. Hmph, the little show off! Much to my chagrin, Nikki displayed an interest in the atta too, took it from S's hands and began rolling it around and squishing it. Regaining my enthusiasm I quickly got out the little rolling board and pin my mom had got for Nikki some time back and gave it to her, but she kicked it away and then proceeded to plaster the atta all over the sofa at supersonic speed. By the time we were done scraping it all off, nobody had any energy left for any more activities so we decided to call it a day.
The next day I decided to try a different activity: painting. After carefully assembling Nikki's new, non toxic paints, some brushes and water for fun and large sheets of white paper, Her Highness was summoned to the venue and I eagerly tried to show her the many wonders of color. She seemed a bit bored with the whole thing at first, making me look like a bit of an ass as I finger painted circles and squiggly lines with loud and exaggerated enthusiasm while she looked on disdainfully from a corner. Oh and did I mention that this spectacle was taking part in our generously open-to-public view balcony (we have to do most messy play type activities here, since it is very convenient- great play area and easy to clean afterward) , with a bit of an audience in the other balconies? No, it was not one of my finer moments. Mercifully, after about ten minutes of "Oh look Nikki! A RED circle! Look! The blue line goes up and down, up and down, side to side, wheeeeee!", she did get a bit interested and came up and started dabbling in some painting herself. My happiness lasted for precisely three and a quarter minutes after which Nikki decided that all this smearing of color on paper was b.o.r.i.n.g and paint could be put to other uses as well. One paint smeared hand promptly went into her mouth followed just as swiftly by the other one. After my various and multiple attempts at dissuading her were met with a swift but firm rejection and after I managed to dislodge her brightly purple colored foot from her mouth, I finally gave up and the painting activity came to an end as well.
"Maybe you're pushing her to try things she's not ready for" advised The Papa Man later that day. "Why don't you try something simpler? Like crayons?"
Crayons! Now why hadn't I thought of that before?! Sure she was ready for crayons! In fact if her previous artistic escapades were anything to go by she was a regular Da Vinci in the making. The following day saw me in the balcony, yet again, with some more sheets of paper and crayons. In my new, non pushy avatar I made sure Nikki was around first before casually getting on my with my crayoning and pretending I was having great fun. Luckily for me Nikki took one look at the crayons and came scampering up right away. She let out a squeal of delight and heading straight for the crayons, picked them up and began examining them with a happy look on her face. I let out a sigh of relief and was just about to discreetly edge a sheet of paper her way when she swiftly went up to the balcony railing and speedily tossed out the crayons one by one like a stealth bomber on a final combat mission. The next several minutes consisted of one very angry security guard, several displeased passers by and a few tickled-to-death neighboring balcony viewers.
We have now unanimously decided that we will a) no longer conduct activities in the balcony and b) leave the more adventurous of the activity lot for the experienced beings at playschool. However in my indefatigable enthusiasm I will continue in my attempts at engaging Nikki in more such educational and fun activities. That is, as soon as I emerge from my self imposed hibernation after recovering from the twin attacks of the Crayon Missiles and the Angry Bystanders.
P.S. And for those of you observant readers who were wondering, yes I did make the rotis that day and two things happened. First, I discovered that a roti can actually be a very useful educational tool. Especially when it come to rotis. Map of Africa anyone? I can roll it out for you! Secondly, even though some rotis may not be edible, after allowing for a couple of hours of hardening they can be very useful Weapons Of Self Defense. I can put those Pepper Spray guys out of business, I tell you.