Parents are eager to make their kids super achievers. But, how beneficial are the programmes
PHOTO: K. ANANTHAN
BRAIN POWER THROUGH BEADS But children should not miss out on playtime
Once upon a time, there was a
happy world for children
with just school to go to, and
the streets to play in after
school. Formal learning ended at
school, period. Life was simple,
for kids at least.
Today, kids too are ensnared in
the rat race. All parents want their
kids to be super-achievers, and
put them through abacus, speed
math, vedic math, mental math,
brain gyms, and whatever else.
Whew! With so much on offer,
parents are racking their brains
trying to decide the right enhancement
course for their kids. How
does one make sense of it all? And
do these programmes really
"Our programmes facilitate
multiple intelligence development,"
says K. Swaminathan, Aspire,
which has programmes not
just for kids, but even for newborn
babies! Huh? "Whether we work
towards it or not, babies are constantly
learning different things,"
he says. True enough. After all,
babies learn their mother tongue
(language), identify faces (visual),
etc. "By giving more inputs in a
structured way, we enhance the
process so that learning even
arithmetic becomes easy for the
Consider the many abacus programmes.
The premise is, during
the mental arithmetic computation
stage in abacus, the child uses
both his left and right brain. "This
gets the whole brain working at a
great speed and activates the
brain cells such that all the brain
faculties would be at high performance
levels," claims Basheer
Ahmed, CMD, UCMAS.
"The abacus harnesses a different
set of brain cells to achieve the
same function - it uses visual
ability to achieve mathematic
function," agrees E.S. Krishnamoorthy,
Director, Institute of
Neurological Sciences, VHS Hospital,
Chennai. "By learning any
new skill, a child stocks up on his
cognitive reserve, which is great
for mental health," he adds.
But while cognitive ability (theory,
language, arithmetic ability,
abstract and visual understanding,
etc) can be enhanced by programmes,
one should not go
overboard. "Parents need to make
a balanced decision," insists Dr.
Krishnamoorthy. A smart child
may get smarter and an average
child may become better, only if
the child enjoys the process. "On
the other hand, if the child doesn't
gel with it, but is compelled to go
through it, it becomes drudgery.
The pile of extra homework, the
consequent missed-out playtime,
and peer pressure to perform
would actually cause the process
to backfire," he warns.
So, watch how your child reacts
to a programme, and do not overload
a child. And remember, children
don't learn from formal
classes alone. "A lot of informal
learning happens through social
interaction and just hanging out
with friends," says Dr. Krishnamoorthy.
For normal and healthy
emotional development, this is
absolutely crucial. So, do not sacrifice
your kid's playtime.
There are many ways of enhancing
a child's mental faculties.
"If a child is reasonably intelligent
and quick-witted, it makes
more sense for him to take up a
game like chess, or puzzle solving
which would increase his problem-
solving ability. This is more
important than just speed in calculation,"
suggests S. Anand, who
holds a double engineering degree
from BITS Pilani and an M.S.
from the University of Connecticut,
and now tutors aspirants to
the IITs and intellectual Olympiads.
And finally, we might also create
casual and natural opportunities
for a child. For instance, if a
child is curious and approaches
you with a question on how electricity
works, explore the question
with him, perhaps set up a
simple experiment; or if you feel
inadequate in exploring the concept,
get him access to a person
who can explain it. Likewise, if
your child likes stories, encourage
him to create his own story; keep
books within his reach and he will
gravitate to them, and perhaps become
a great writer.
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