The UN estimates that as of 20 March, 124 countries have closed down all pre-primary to higher-education institutions – impacting almost 1.25 billion children and young learners globally. In India, it’s been more than a month since children have been home and away from schools. Thankfully, technology has brought the schools to our homes, and the learning happily continues. Online classes are gaining much popularity with schools and learning centres, pulling out all the stops to ensure that students keep the tempo going.
From online music classes to learning foreign languages – everything is possible at the click of a button.
Off the mainstream-learning path, several people – storytellers, artists, and creative groups have come online to engage with homebound children through stories, performances and interactive activities.
In this article, we have put together a few enriching and fun online activities that your child can be a part of during this COVID-19 lockdown phase. These hidden gems are sure to light up your little ones or teenager’s day.
1. Tales Unlimited – Golpo
Janaki Sabesh, the brain behind Golpo is a storyteller, an actor, a voice-over artist. Speaking to The Better India (TBI), she says, “On 17 March I got to know that the schools were going to be closed for some time to come, and that was what pushed me into finding ways of keeping them engaged meaningfully.”
She confesses that her biggest apprehension was using the online platform for storytelling given that the reaction of the children can never be gauged. “We feed off the energy of the children, and that is what keeps the sessions alive,” shares Janaki.
So how did she adapt to online storytelling? She answers, “It was a little push that I got from Rajavel Sundar and Avanti Natarajan of Lil Trails, that led to this.”
Lil Trails is an initiative to create a community of domain experts, parents, and children who share and exchange ideas ranging across different topics.
Speaking about how the first storytelling session happened, Janaki informs, “At 9.30 AM Avanti and I spoke, we had a poster prepared two hours later, and at 5.00 PM I was live on-air.” Janaki says that the response was overwhelming and that was all the encouragement that she needed to continue.”
“The video got more than 8k views and had almost 300 live viewers, says Janaki.
What this led to was an online storytelling festival, where Janaki narrates a story and Lil Trails follow it up with a hands-on activity for the children to do at home. If you would like to listen in to the stories that Janaki weaves, you could follow her on Instagram here, via her website here, or her YouTube channel here.
2. Mogly’s Gurukul
Based in Delhi, Mogly’s Gurukul conducts events in the Delhi/NCR region. Due to advisories and precautions for COVID-19, many of their regular events and community gatherings had to be shut down. Shweta Shangari, one of the facilitators at the centre, says, “The only way to contain the virus is to limit contact and practice social distancing. This, however, did not mean that we discontinued what we were doing.”
Shweta believes that storytelling has the power to heal and brings a lot of joy to the children. “We have been conducting free online storytelling sessions every alternate day on our YouTube channel.” Having started these sessions on 20 March 2020, the subscription base is now at 1,000 plus.
Seher, one of the parents whose child is part of these sessions, says, “At times like these, one of the things keeping us sane and entertained are the Mogly’s Gurukul online storytelling sessions. They were one of the first ones to start these sessions for free and created the most entertaining and engaging storytelling experience for kids.”
WonderLab is a company established in 2014 by Nitika Dial Sharma, to make learning science a fun activity for kids of all age groups. In a conversation with TBI, Nitika said, “It was around mid-March that the company stopped conducting any physical events. It led to the launch of simple DIY science kits for the children.”
The first online activity that WonderLab conducted was on 20 March, which was a soapmaking online tutorial. “Given the importance of washing hands frequently, we saw that the kids had a lot of fun in making their soap,” says Nitika.
WonderLab then started conducting a new experiment-based one-hour session each day for kids of two different age groups.
While some of the activities are free of charge, the others are priced at Rs 250 per session, per child. The materials needed for these sessions are usually all easily available at home. “You will be amazed at what all we can do with just watercolours, oil, salt, and water,” smiles Nitika.
If you are keen to know more and enrol your children, you can click here.
4. Karadi Tales
Who wouldn’t like to sit through a dramatic storytelling session? I, for one, enjoy it immensely. Katha with Karadi brings you an exciting story every evening on their Facebook page. Different storytellers tell familiar stories that we have read or heard.
Some of the sessions also incorporate some activities for the children. One popular session featured Chetan Sharma, an illustrator and animator, who explained the nuances of illustrations and how he creates the Karadi tales characters. Karadi tales have also collaborated with other artists like Anuradha Sriram, Soha Ali Khan, and Malavika PC who are part of the storytelling sessions.
Attakkalari is the culmination of the coming together of artists from various kinds of performing arts. Since the COVID-19 lockdown, Attakkalari has been offering free online sessions for kids to enable people to get some exercise within the limited space available in their homes.
“All one needs is an exercise mat,” says Alisha Ajit. Attakkalari is also offering parents the chance to enroll their children in online classes for different dance forms. The online sessions cut across all kinds of barriers and reach people of all ages. Attakkalari offers the first session for free, and those interested can then opt for their classes as per their choice and convenience. If you wish to get more information or enroll for the classes, you can click here.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)