Life & Style

Time for your bath, my little idli: Children’s book on healthy life

Who said bath time was not fun? Or that brushing the teeth was tiresome? Books show children the ABCs of healthy living

Writer Meera Ganapathi’s brother Arjun was fussy about food when he was a little boy. He’d spit out his boiled eggs every other day, sending them flying into the tulsi plant of their neighbour downstairs. “Much to our shock, they asked us one day, ‘We hope you’re aware that you’re dropping eggs on our plant every day?’,” she laughs. “He played with his food a lot, so did my cousin.” They were the inspiration for Meera’s Uma Versus Upma (Pratham Books).

Time for your bath, my little idli: Children’s book on healthy life

In the book, Uma prefers to play with her breakfast rather than eat it. The dosa is her hanky; vadais are finger-rings; idlis are her cushions that she stuffs into her pockets. Until one day, she discovers how tasty the upma can be, if actually eaten. The book gently nudges its readers to enjoy their food and not waste it.

Children’s books that slip in ideas pertaining to one’s physical well-being, are as important as those that impart life lessons. Meera says that the idea behind her book was to help children “understand and enjoy what they eat”. To bite into the carrots like Uma does and munch on the ginger and ghee-fried cashews in her meal.

Time for your bath, my little idli: Children’s book on healthy life

Penguin has an interesting series of boardbooks called ‘How to’. The series talks about the daily routines that are part of a toddler’s life, such as bathing, brushing teeth, eating, and sleeping. In How to Brush Your Teeth with Snappy Croc, that’s part of the series, author Jane Clarke, supported by illustrator Georgie Birkett’s pictures, tells readers that ‘Every crocodile needs a nice white smile’, going on to show how to go about the important business of brushing the croc’s teeth: ‘Up down, up down, up down; in and out, and round…’

While there are plenty of titles to encourage children to try out various foods and show the bath-hating toddler how important bathing is, some, like Pratham Books’ A Cloud Of Trash, encourage readers to keep their surroundings clean for their own good. Cheekoo is forever followed by a ‘cloud of trash’ hanging over her head. She’s smelly, and as a result, no one wants to play with her. Author Karanjeet Kaur introduces the idea of a clean environment by showing how the ‘cloud’ about Cheekoo disappears once she encourages those around her to not litter, and reuse old plastic bags.

For your bookshelf
  • I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato (Candlewick Press) Urges readers to try out various foods by giving them a new identity.
  • How to Tuck In Your Sleepy Lion (Penguin) Takes readers through the sleep-time routine of the protagonist, who wants to keep playing.
  • The Pigeon Needs a Bath! (Hyperion Books for Children) Talks about Pigeon, who is smelly, but who one day, discovers how wonderful a bath can be.

Ideas conveyed by an adult through a book, will “have more weight, rather than simply speaking about it,” feels Coimbatore-based psychiatrist Dr Ponni Muralidharan. “Pictures have a huge impact on the developing brain,” she says. So books with colourful pictures “stimulate both sides of the brain”. They help inculcate clean habits in not just infants and toddlers, but children of all ages, she adds.

As a mother to a toddler, I know what she’s talking about. In one of our many re-readings of Dear Zoo, a lift-the-flap book by Rod Campbell, my banana-hating toddler marched into the kitchen saying he wanted to eat a banana. He ended up doing it too. Why? Because the monkey in the book was eating one.

(This is the fourth in a series on children’s books that deal with complex issues.)

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 9:42:09 AM |

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