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8. Physical Education
by Aruna Raghavan
can be seen as a sum total of four parts : the physical, the mental, the
emotional, and the spiritual. Of them all, the physical is the youngest and the
most basic. Physical education is also perhaps the most neglected.
So today, I take up two aspects of physical education : hygiene and health.
Contrary to belief, a mother can ‘food’ and
‘toilet’ train a baby. This is especially true of babies brought up on mother’s
milk. If the mother follows a very bland though nutritious diet through the
lactating stage, the baby will have the best chance of developing a perfect
digestive tract. A perfect
digestive tract is indicated by the regularity, colour, and quantity of wastes
thrown out. Such babies ‘coo’ and ‘bill’ all day. All babies evacuate quarter to
half hour after liquids. Taking them to toilet at such time would ‘train’ them.
Mothers can begin the training at 4
weeks! And perfect by 10 –12 months when the babies can indicate their needs!
Of the worst practices that we have happily
borrowed from the West is the practice of nappies . They are harmful on many
counts. First, the hygiene. To a new born, the sense organs are highly
sensitive. To leave the baby smell ‘itself’ is to deaden the sense of smell.
Second, the baby’s skin is far more sensitive than product sellers will allow
for. To leave the baby wet is to make it uncomfortable. Third, babies who are
always in nappies find it difficult to sit well. They are like rocking dolls. Or
they always sit in the ‘vajraasan’ pose giving rise to ‘knock knees’. Finally,
they cannot balance themselves when they run because they are ‘bottom heavy’! If
at all nappies have to be used because the baby is in a ‘public’ place it is
essential that the nappies be changed each time. To toilet train the baby is the
best. In many play schools in the West, charges are heavier for ‘untrained’
children. The idea appeals!
the time a baby is one and a half he is normally on what we call an adult diet.
By that I mean, he is eating vegetables, fruits, cereals and may be even meat
and fish. At this age, food is fascinating. There is the joy of discovering
tastes. But by three, a child feels he has finished learning all that he needs
to about food. Children between the ages of three and six rarely eat. They get
their energy from the atmosphere, as it were. That is the time to begin with
teaching the nutritive value of things he eats. You could make charts like
these: Chart 1 : Do you want bright eyes? Eat carrots, cabbage and papaya, drink
milk and have cod liver oil [for those who are not vegetarians.] Chart 2: want
to play in the water for 10 minutes every day and yet not catch cold? Then eat
oranges, grapes, cucumber, gooseberry [amla]. Drink lime juice, tomato juice and
have spinach soup. Chart 3: Do you wish to have white strong teeth? And strong
bones? Drink milk, butter your bread / chappaties; play in the early morning
sun. You could make as many such charts as you wish. You could stick relevant
pictures or draw and hang the charts in the dining area. And as you feed your
baby you could talk of the nutritive value. It takes away the child’s boredom
and obstinacy and also makes for intelligent conversation!
Yet, the true value of these charts is to help
the child at age eight or ten years
understand that food is essentially an energy giver. It is a medicine
that we take to keep ourselves ‘balanced’. To choose food according to what
the body requires is to be aware of
energy levels. That comes from observing oneself and children can be taught this
very basic discipline. It is not to say that we deny the fun of an ice cream. On
the contrary, this is to ensure
that we eat what we need, when we need and as much as we need. And that
is the real joy of eating.