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Nanganallur resident spreads the joy of gadget-free childhood

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Deepika Arun, a resident of Nanganallur, would feel a twinge of pain whenever she saw children hunched over smartphones and thumbing away text messages, oblivious to their physical environment.

“A three-year-old turning on the Bluetooth to transfer images. Two eight-year-olds in a class playing with each other virtually, on the sly. Such sights disturb me,” she says.

In Deepika’s ideal word, gadgets were out of children’s hands. She went ahead and created such a world, in a small way.

She established Jhoola Activity Centre with the objective of promoting a “gadget-free childhood”.

From engineer

to teacher

With a Bachelor of Technology degree, Deepika was absorbed into software multi-national company through campus recruitment.

Her career graph was impressive when she bowed out of the software industry. She had found her calling in teaching. In June 2012, she began to teach at a primary school, but the stint was short.

“The curriculum left no room for children to develop their social and life skills. Morever, my work involved administrative tasks, leaving me with little time to focus on teaching.”

Jhoola Activity Centre addessed these two issues, besides gadget addiction.

Located in Nanganallur, the centre offers after-school classes, where children engage in a host of activities, including reading and playing board games.

“Beyond developing social and life skills, these sessions help spend time away from gadgets,” she says.

The centre has a library of 1,000 books, a game room with 120 board games and a space for an art and craft work.

The students are divided into five different batches. Each batch sits for one session every week.

“There are classes offering weekend activities and hobby-based activities. We make sure the activities are not repeated. Over the last two years, we have conducted 84 unique classes,” says the 30-year-old innovative educator.

Gadget-free parenting

Deepika believes parents should create and share gadget-free time with their children.

She included parents in the weekend workshops, where they share activities with their wards.

Besides organising simple two-hour activity games such as lemon juice challenge and aeroplane-making, Deepika is currently running a 30-day gadget-free challenge for parents.

“Every day, I task parents with one challenge: Spending one-hour with their children, away from television and other gadgets. Parents and children could take up activities as simple as star-gazing on the terrace, a nature walk or cleaning the cupboard. I send the activity for the day on my blog or Facebook page,” says Deepika, who started the challenge on April 14.

Though the change is slow and gradual, Deepika says reinforcing the concept in class has generated noticeable results.

“Fortunately, some parents cooperate. One parent removed television from the main room and another has been successful in getting the the child to give up a 30-minute gadget time. Surprisingly, children stopped throwing tantrums. Since we give them some material (like artwork or games) to take back home, they have found ways to engage themselves meaningfully.”

For more details, visit www.jhoola.in/blog/gadget-free-parenting-challenge/ or www.facebook.com/notes/jhoola-activity-centre. Deepika can be contacted at 9176583618.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 9:44:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/nanganallur-resident-spreads-the-joy-of-gadget-free-childhood/article23697942.ece

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