Let’s face it- the opportunities to introduce stories of mythology and folk tales to our children are not as many as what we had when we were growing up. We do not visit native spaces as often. I do not follow religious occasions as much as my parents. I certainly was uncomfortable explaining stories of politics and war to my toddler. But the disconnect makes it even more important to introduce cultural stories to our children. Here is a simple list on how we go about it in our family and a round up of my favourite resources. I hope this helps you.
For the sake of simplicity, I have included ithihaasas like Ramayana and Mahabharata in this discussion along with mythological stories.
I myself am not very religious or ritualistic. We spend time finding out the meaning of rituals and making it accessible to our children.
For example, the focus is more on related mythology stories and food for us, every festival.
The same goes for any religious song we sing. (Tales of Gannu by Anchal Sandeep really helped us here) .
V has an altar in her room where we create an idol with clay. She is encouraged to do the aarti and keep it clean. Every time, the idol comes out differently and we are reminded that although our representation differs, the faith and entity remain the same.
Age-appropriate mythology stories
We have some rich stories that can be introduced to children, right from the beginning. These stories will always evolve with age. Instead of shying away from concepts like polygamy or violence or even magic, we present it in an age appropriate, logical manner.
For us, the emphasis is always on karma and kindness. And how all people are good ( but may display undesirable or hurtful behaviour).
We also ensure that every time we encounter unpleasant elements in a story, we draw attention to how it is not relevant now, or how it can hurt others.
This is also a fabulous chance to talk about perspective. How we see the world may be starkly different from another. What is right to one may not be, to another. Relating these stories to our real life in funny as well as serious contexts helps too.
The amazing thing about listening to or reading about the different gods in one religious culture, is that it opens your mind to all the others. V, at 4, now knows that although we have different gods for different elements, they are all the same.
It goes without saying that we read about and celebrate festivals of different religions and cultures. This again helps us appreciate the richness of these cultures, as well as the similarities and differences.
Below, I list some of our favourite books and toys for children in this category.
Infants to toddlers
We enjoy using our sensory book from Batani Kids . The crinkles, soft cloth, squeaker toy along with the child friendly illustrations, make for great sensory exploration.
I also recommend the Gods and Goddesses series of cutout board books from Om books..
And more recently, we have been enjoying the Gods and Goddesses Indsight cards.
Toddlers and preschoolers
We also enjoy our festival cards and Discovery cards from Saffron Stories. (You can inbox them with the code “AmmaToday” for a neat discount)
Activity books: Our quiet book is from Batani Kids, in association with Creative Puppetz . It is great for having conversations around symbolism in a concrete and kinesthetic way.
Grade schooler upwards
I enjoyed this version of the Ramayana by Arshiya Sattar and this version of the Mahabharata. Would also recommend the Fun in Devlok, or anything written by Devdutt Pattanaik. This version of Ponniyin Selvan is extremely grade schooler- friendly and has been a favourite gifting option. Amar Chitra Kathas are what I grew up with, and I would recommend them to children over 6 years.
I hope to keep adding to these resources as and when I find something worth recommending.
Meanwhile, if your child has already read a version of mythology, do expose them to other versions as well. V asks us interesting questions like why a particular image of a deity is drawn differently or why a story is slightly different. It becomes a teachable moment to reinforce perspectives.