The A-Z of India – Playtime with Indigrow

I love being an ABCD (American Born Confused Desi). Why? Because our children today have SO many more options to blend their mixed heritages and learn about them in creative ways than we ever did.

30 years ago I never had cool matching cards or puzzles or even beautiful hard bound books to learn about India, Hindi, Gujarati and religion. If you are Generation Xennial, you know what I am talking about.

This generation is the South Asian renaissance. Our immigrant parents have firmly planted themselves into the diasporas, the children (us) have grown up as American and Desi, and now our children live multicultural lives on all levels.

Today I’m super excited to introduce you to indigrow, a small business publishing company based in Singapore serving the global community.

They have created their first collection of learning and play materials for children 0-5. Each of their products ties into the A to Z alphabet yet in different ways. There is a book, a memory match game, on the go flash cards, and a floor puzzle.

Indigrow was sweet and sent me their launch collection to play with. Our children loved them!

The puzzle was the most popular with my 3.5 year old. We did it once together and then he did it on his own. There is a mini poster of the puzzle in completion and it *really* helped us know how to place the pieces (yay!).

Little missy, who is 1.5 years old, was crazy over the matching card coins. I like how they are round instead square, it’s something unusual and fun to hold. I will admit Little Missy did not get the concept of matching but she love looking at the watercolor drawings and asking, “what’s dis? what’s dis? what’s dis”… “OHHHHHHH”

What I love about indigrow’s products are the paper quality, drawings, and diversity. The drawings are watercolor style yet so detailed and exquisite. The card stock for the matching coins and puzzle pieces are thick and heavy – perfect for little, destructive hands!

And, the alphabet takes inspiration from ALL over India, not just the well known cities and things. I even learned about different areas of India, like Nagaland.

Photograph on right: Retlaw Snellac Photograph

Did you know the outfit above is traditional to the Nagas? Me either. I ended up doing some fascinating reading on the state, which was enlightening. Turns out, we adults have plenty to learn from A to Z too!

Thank you indigrow for growing our curiosity and knowledge. Visit Indigrow on Instagram and their website. Shipping is easy and they send anywhere in the world.

6 Tips for a Successful Holi with Little Kids

It was a busy weekend at our house! First, I’ve been getting over a 3 month cold/cough/fever that resulted in beginning a massive antibiotic dose. The meds pretty much wiped me of energy. Second, we got over a week of solo parenting (though neighborette saved my butt one night by cleaning my kitchen). If she believes in heaven, there’s a very special place for her!

Third and fourth, we had plenty of celebrations! We celebrated Holi and Våffeldagen – a smörgåsbord of Indian-Swedish festivities.

Holi is the super fun holiday that celebrates spring equinox and the victory of good over evil.


Våffeldagen celebrates waffles. No joke. Swedes take their food and their puns seriously. Hop over to my post about how våffeldagen got its name along with a recipe!

Back to Holi, with little kids abound, we opted not to attend one of the larger Indian community events. Lots of people, lots of color throwing, it can easily become overwhelming and scary for toddlers and babies.

Instead, we invited our neighbors over and turned our backyard into funfetti of colors. I was planning on making my own colors but didn’t have time, so I bought them from Jai Jai Hooray. The colors are vibrant, non-toxic and made in the USA.

Tips and Rules for a Successful Holi with Little Kids
1. Wear light/white colored clothes – Holi colors show up best on white. It’s important that you wear clothes that are OK to take some staining. I washed our clothes twice in laundry (and pre-soaked them) and they have a slight pink hue to them.

Whatever you do, AIR DRY the clothes. Using the dryer is the best way to set a stain in; if you want the chance to scrub out the stain, air dry the clothes. Also, the sun is a natural bleacher. Once the sunny weather I’ll be line drying them and probably running the clothes again in the laundry.

2. No throwing powder at the eyes. Never fun to get stuff in your eyes especially when you are little.

3. Keep a box of wet wipes out. Wet wipes to the rescue! Got powder in your mouth or eyes? Use one to get it out.

4. Give each child a bowl and a color. Bamboo bowls work great and are easy to hold. Let each child choose a color and fill them up halfway only. You know they will want refills!

We used 14 Jai Jai Hooray packets for 4 adults and 4 children. Gave us more than an hour of coloring, plus “painting” the ground. Winning!

5. If someone doesn’t want color on their hair or face, respect them. Little children are especially emotional and events like Holi can ramp up their feelings. Help a little one out and listen to them.

6. Babies and toddlers may do their own thing and that is A-OK! Our 17 month old was happily chilling with her color bowl as everyone ran around yelling and screaming. All she wanted to do was feel the powder. She eventually joined us and was seriously into the rubbing colors on people in her own way.

Holi is a winning combo for many different learning elements: fine and gross motor skills, colors, listening to rules, open ended play, and cooperative play.

We had so much at our Holi, we’re going to do another one when the weather warms and we can pull out the kiddie pool and water balloons!

PS – If you haven’t downloaded my free Holi printables, make sure you do it!

10 Fun Holi Projects to do with Kids

Spring is here! Flowers are blooming. Pollen is attacking us (I can’t be certain I will survive this season of allergies) and kids everywhere are waiting for the Easter Bunny.

But there is something more exciting than the Easter Bunny. And that’s Holi! होली!

Photograph: Steven Gerner, Flickr, wikipedia

Holi is the celebration of the end of winter and the beginning of spring – the beginning of new things to come. Like many other Hindu holidays, Holi is also the celebration of good over evil. On the eve of Holi, known as Holika Dahan, we lit bonfires. The bonfire represents the demon goddess Holika who is burned with the help of God Vishnu. By lighting a bonfire and making prayers, we cleanse our own souls of the internal demons battling inside.

On the next day, Holi, we celebrate by throwing powdered colors (gulal) in the forms of water guns (pichkaris), balloons, or by hands. It’s a way for little children and adults to have fun and be little again.

In some communities, it’s a day to unwind by doing bhaang, a marijuana drink or getting high. Seriously!

Either way, Holi is loads of fun and is celebrated in many different ways across India. Both Hindus, and non-Hindus, mainly Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists take part in the fun.

On all good holidays, Holi is full of food as well. Lots of sweets and goodies.

To celebrate Holi with little kids, I’ve put together a list of fun projects and books to enjoy with them.


Holi Cookies

Love, Laugh, Mirch – has super cute splatter sugar cookies your kids will love to make.

Sketchy Desi made colored sugared cookes with crystallized sugar over on brown girl mag.

Download and Printables
The Playful Indian – has two sheets to print out for the kids. The color by numbers is great for older kids, but no matter, all ages can enjoying coloring in.

I created a few printables on my Holi downloads page. It’s the first time I’m making them, so be nice!

Arts and Craftsy Mom made a few printables along with other craft suggestions for the younger kids.

What better way to celebrate Holi than with splatter paint!

Make Your Own Holi Powder
Essentially you can make a type of sidewalk paint that can wash off from your garden and yard.

You have two ways of making sidewalk paint:

1. Cornstarch and food coloring – You’ll need a few large containers of cornstarch and food coloring. Mix a few drops of coloring into 2 cups of cornstarch. If you mix this with water, you get “paint” which the kids can do on the sidewalk or driveway.
Fair warning, this mixture may not come out easily from concrete pavers because of their porous surface. Test it out first before letting the kids go wild.

2. Smashed Chalk – Grab a few crayola chalk boxes (I recommend at least 4 color boxes), smash them up, and the let the kids go wild. Since these chalks have already been tested on just about every surface a small child can find, they will wash out easily.

To make it more, give you kids small mallets and let them smash the chalk. Then move the powder to bowls. To make it easy to transfer, lay down paper on the ground (do it outside!), then let the kids smash the chalk on the paper. You can then lift the paper and easily transfer to a bowl.

Again, if you add water to the chalk powder, you get “paint”, a second win for the little ones to go wild.

Books
Let’s Celebrate Holi! Book 3 of the series, Let’s Celebrate Holi is a fun introduction to the holiday.

Festival of Colors – Created by mother/son duo Surishtha Sehgal and Kabir Sehgal.

Amma Tell Me About Holi! – Also available in Hindi, this illustrious book is another good read for young children. The rhyming is a bit forced, and sometimes awkward in places, so you may need to find your own substitutions.

Holi Hai!

Hinduism, Swastikas, and Children

It’s a symbol that we find daily in our lives as Hindus, Jains, and even secular Indians. Thousands of years old, spanning cultures and continents, the swastika has been a symbol of goodness, wishing evil away, and inviting the good spirits.

The irony then, one of our most auspicious and defining symbols as a Hindu was STOLEN, PILLAGED, and RAPED by a group of people bent on waging total war to eradicate an entire religion, groups of people, and anyone in their way.

I don’t remember when I first learned about the swastika, but I remember when I mentioned in grade school that it was a holy symbol, I was a called “Nazi”, an anti-Semite, and was nearly outcasted by classmates. It was the 1990s when the first generation of Indians in America were growing and attending public schools and learning to balance their lives as American Desis.

For a community of people that stays relativity out of the limelight in the US, and being known as doctors and engineers, we were on the front lines. We were targeted, we were screamed at and we were confused. How could an entire country not even know that while the swastika was used by the Nazis, it is also the defining symbol of Hinduism? As it turned out, Americans possessed zero education on world religions, let alone poor education on the geographic location of India itself.

My son is only three years old and his religious awareness is limited because both my husband and I are secular. However, we have a toran on our door where swastikas can be found, occasionally attend temple, and read books on the Hindu gods (cute stories) that all have the swastika. He hasn’t asked me yet, but when he does, what do I say? When he does he become old enough to learn of the evils in the world that stole our precious symbol and attempted to destroy another civilization at the same time?

It’s all rhetorical right now, but I would love to hear your thoughts on how you educated your children on the swastika and how they can effectively deal with ignorance and anger around them.

The Ultimate Resource List of South Asian Toys, Books & Inspiration for Children

Sneak peek draft! Looking for books or toys that celebrate being South Asian? Whether you are Indian or Pakistani or Sri Lankan, the market for high quality products for our children is exploding.

This is my resource list of books, publishers, and educational toys for the desi baby. If you have a recommendation or a brand, comment or email me.

FTC Disclosure: These are some affiliate links and I make a small commission if you buy through them (and it does not affect your price!). Buying through them means you help support this blog to continue to produce fabulous content. Namaskar.

Books & Publishers:
Twinkle Twinkle, Diwali Lights
Meet My Hindu Gods
My First Indian Coloring book
Krishna & Friends puzzle
10 Noisy Rickshaws
Indian truck and rickshaw stickers

Desi Babies

Twinkle Twinkle, Diwali Lights
Meet My Hindu Gods
My First Indian Coloring book
Krishna & Friends puzzle
10 Noisy Rickshaws
Indian truck and rickshaw stickers

Bharat Books
Always Anjali
Sarla in the Sky
Ganesh and the Little Mouse
Indian Alphabet

Studio Yali
A Puzzling Tour of India – Studio Yali
Take a bewildering trip through India that will have you winding your way through Assam’s tea estates, putting together a snake boat race in Kerala, and hunting for antiques at Mumbai’s Chor Bazaar. Just don’t get lost along the way!
Auge: 6 years+

Wanderlust: A Coloring Journal – Studio Yali
A Coloring Journal features 25 gorgeous scenes from lesser-known regions in India with travel notes by the artist, making this book an unforgettable tour of one of the most colorful places in the world.
Age: 10 years+

Hena Khan
Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns, I had no idea how big she was, I was just fueling my desi obsession. She has a new book on shapes, Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets, as well as books on Ramadan and holidays, Night of the Moon, It’s Ramadan, Curious George

Meenal Patel Studio – Illustrator and author Meenal does prints and books. Local to San Francisco Bay Area.
Neela Goes to San Francisco.

Diwali, Celebrate the World Series – Board Book

My Diwali Coloring Book
Age: 4+, 24 pages

Education & Toys:
Toka Box – Curated education boxes for older toddlers and young children.
Age: 3-5 years old, 5-7 years old

Modi Toys

Jai Jai Hooray

Language learning:

Sanskar Teaching – Learn Gujarati online with live and recorded classes. For children to adults.

Bolo Bolo Baby – Gujarati and Hindi Montessori inspired learning for children three years and up.

Hindi alphabet blocks – Uncle Goose

Gnaana alphabet blocks – Gnaana

A is for Anaar: My First Hindi Alphabet Book – Gnaana

More to come!

Best Ways to Learn Gujarati For Parents & Children

My life has always been a linguistic mess. My parents spoke English to me, to each other they spoke Marathi and my mother spoke Gujarati, English, Marathi, and Hindi.

Not to mention my years of learning French and living in Sweden speaking Swedish, it’s a giant language mess!

Flash forward to today where we speak Swedish and English at home. I have never been a fluent, or even high level speaker of my native Indian language (regrets abound there), which means my children have limited exposure.

The last few months though I have been looking around for ways to improve my Gujarati, my mother’s language. Googling didn’t get me anywhere and the few books I have on hand are boring, pedantic, and literally not-colorful. I began searching on Instagram. Not by hashtags, but by following friends of friends.

Yes, that’s how desperate I was to find a way to learn Gujarati as a foreigner.

And this led me to the jackpot. First, I found Sanskar Teaching. Vaishali is India born and moved to the US while in high school. This is important because she understands how we learn in the US (not by route memorization) and can pull from creative teaching styles.

She offers live online classes for children (and adults!) as well as, go at your pace Gujarati classes. To supplement there are flash cards and games (see my review on them) and digital downloads. You can also join the email newsletter and receive loads of freebies. Currently available are bhajans for children!

The second person I met on Instagram, whom I don’t know personally but am in complete awe of her, is Sage_ness. Sejal is a Indian American Gujarati mom of four children and raises them in a fully immersed Montessori Gujarati life.

Yes, Montessori teaching in Gujarati. She focuses on how have a Montessori home through the eyes of an Indian family. You can find Hindi and Gujarati sandpaper letters, color wheel, and even a make your own Diwali rangoli.

Both Sanskar Teaching and Sage-Ness are a great place to start your language immersion into Gujarati. Find them on Instagram and their websites to get started on your Gujarati language journey.

Gujarati Alphabet Flashcards & Memory Games

In my endeavor to learn Gujarati and introduce the kids to my mother’s mother tongue, I stumbled upon Sanskar Learning on Instagram.

It was serendipitous that I found Vaishali on Insta – she has short videos, word of the day, and easy ways to access Gujarati as a non-speaker.


After following her, we began chatting. She was so much fun to talk with. Vaishali took my mailing address and a week later I received a surprise package from her!

In it was a flashcard set of the Gujarati alphabet and a memory game card set. They were beautifully made, durable, AND useful!

My son (3 years old) and I have started playing memory matching, card side up, since he is learning the words and matching. Once he masters this part, we can play the memory game with the cards face down.

As for the alphabet, we do that at the dining table with the kids. Even my husband is learning words. (PS – I will post a video working on the Gujarati alphabet with the kids)

Both these cards are both educational and fun. They are perfect from 3 years to adult, like myself or even my husband. The only part that is missing is having a video access online to know the pronunciation. I know how to pronounce most of the words, but I do want to double check that I am teaching the correct with the kids.

Either way, it’s exciting to see products for Indians on the market! Stay tuned as we continue our exploration into being Indian as Americans.

My Pop of Color Indian Maternity Photo Shoot

I am excited to share with you my maternity part II photo shoot! We did the first maternity photo shoot two years ago at The Lighthouse at Glen Cove. It’s this secret historic house on the water in Benicia/Vallejo, California, right in the East Bay.

Because we are one part determined and one part crazy, we had a smash cake first birthday photo shoot at the SAME beautiful venue a year later. We wore the same clothes and had similar look to the first session.

And two years after the baby #1, wed planned and executed another photo shoot, for baby #2!
I have some amazing friends and wedding professional colleagues which most definitely helps. Together we put together an elegant and uncomplicated maternity session.

Let me tell you doing a three year time base photo shoot is crazy but absolutely worth it. I wrote about how to plan a time series of family photos successfully here if you want to know more.

Tami Weis of Fancy Fig Photography photographed us for the second year in a row. She is a San Francisco Marin county based wedding and family photographer – and oomph, dare I saw her photos are stunning.

When it comes yearly photo shoots, simple elegance is your best friend. For decor, Nicole at Lifted Balloons (based in Martinez, California) provided the happy and large bubble balloons with tassels. She matched the balloons to my lehenga outfit – magenta and navy blue. Her work is lovely and durable because the streamers today hang in my children’s room.


To glam up – because you’re a mom-to-be and deserve professional care love, I worked with my good friend Timsi Malhotra. She’s a professional wedding makeup artist and just is darling. So lovely, you want to just squeeze her.


We wanted the light and airy makeup look, but not overly traditional maternity style. That is Timsi to the T! She can give you ethereal look but still have the Indian desi glam.

For mehendi I worked with Sabreena at Ritual by Design in San Francisco. You cannot go wrong with her artistry.

I’m going to stop talking and let you fall in love with the photos. Be sure to see our photos from baby #1 and the smash cake. You’re going to love our same same outfits!

Desi Baby Books & Toys to Get in Touch with Your Indian Culture

I have been meaning to write this post forever. Just forever. Every time I’m on Instagram (which, face it, is all the time), I see Indian Desi inspired books, art, and projects for Indian babies and children.

Growing up, there were hardly any books for me to read and feel more connected to my culture. What was around were tiny newspaper print black and white books that just lacked quality and creativity.

I’m so glad those days are gone. Even though we don’t have a huge selection of books for South Asian children, we have a *growing* collection.

Here’s my list of go-to baby and toddler along with activities and a couple toys from small business Indians and Pakistanis. This is THE list if you’re looking for a gift or to enrich your child’s life.

The books can be bought direct from the website, Etsy, or Amazon. Some links below are affiliate and I may make a small commission (at no cost to you) if you purchase through it. Purchasing through these links also keep me going and pays the coffee and diaper bills! Thank you. <3 Desi Babies – Get your baby started off with Indian culture. From the adorable counting book, 10 Noisy Rickshaws, to My First Hindu Gods, these are perfect board board to introduce your little ones.

For toddlers, grab some stickers, the Indian coloring book, or the Eid coloring book. I can’t wait for my toddler to draw to his heart’s content!

Gnaana – Alphabet baby blocks in languages that’s not just Hindi! Tamil is sadly no longer available, but you can still buy blocks in Gujarati, Kannada, Telugu and Hindi. They haven’t been posting much on social media in the past months, so I’m not sure if they are in full production still, but I own both the Hindi and Gujarati block sets through their Indigogo campaign a couple years ago. Even used them in my maternity photo shoot!

Bharat Babies – Based in Massachusetts, Bharat Babies is a South Asian publisher. Creating books for toddlers and children, these are the books that make you feel like you belong. We all know what’s it like to have a different name. We know what it’s like to be the only Indian in your class. These stories will help Indian children know that they belong, they have company. Check out Always Anjali, Sarla in the Sky, Ganesh and the Little Mouse, and Indian Alphabet.

Toka Box – A monthly subscription box inspired by South Asia. Toka Junior focuses on children ages 3-5, while Toka Explorer is for kids 5-8. Each month comes with a book and activity.

Jai Jai Hooray – Not books, but lovely learning toys from Rupa Parekh. The stacking Hindu Goddess tower stands tall and powerful for any Indian toddler to feel empowered. She also stunning flash cards on Hindi gods and goddesses, perfect for those little hands to learn.

The Playful Indian – Need to send a funny card to an Indian friend? Or you love pins and hilarious coasters? You need The Playful Indian from Dina Mistry. The coloring book and greeting cards for mom, dad, siblings are most suited for older children.

Nidhi Chanani – Her Everyday Love website and shop are by far the CUTEST illustrations ever. Oh my gosh so cute. If I had all the wall space in the world, I’d probably buy everything of hers (and my son would go nuts for the elephant drawings!).

Her stories are beautiful, the artwork is inspiration, and she’s one of the few desi artists who have cards for same sex parents.

Studio Yali – For the older children who love to paint or for the kid inside you, Studio Yali has beautiful prints and peg dolls inspired by goddesses and dancers. Older children will love the coloring books and DIY peg dolls.

Hena Khan – If you don’t know Hena, you’re missing out on some of the most intricate illustrations. Her books about Muslim life jump out of their pages and into your hearts. When I bought her Muslim inspired color book, Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns, I had no idea how big she was, I was just fueling my desi obsession. She has a new book on shapes, Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets, as well as books on Ramadan and holidays, Night of the Moon, It’s Ramadan, Curious George. All are available online at Amazon and even in retailers.

Meenal Patel Studio – Illustrator and author Meenal does prints (and has a fab instagram) and the adorable book Neela Goes to San Francisco. As a Bay Area girl, I highly recommend this book.

Sanjay Patel – Pixar illustrator and film creator, Sanjay has several books just for the Indian soul. Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth, the Ramayana, The Big Poster Book of Hindu Deities: 12 Removable Prints, and The Little Book of Hindu Deities are bright, pop colored books for both younger and older children. From learning about Hindu gods and goddesses to reading an abbreviated version of a classic, Patel’s drawings are modern and beautiful. I framed some of the removable prints from the Big Poster Book of Indian Deities. They are adorable! You can purchase all the books on Amazon (links above).

Do you make a South Asian inspired toy or have a book for desi children? Drop me an email at chotipreeti @ gmail . com!

My Indian Maternity Milk Bath Photo Shoot

Like most of my friends, my friend Liza is a wedding photographer. But she is also a lifestyle photographer who does milk baths. Every time I would see one of these milk bath photos in my Facebook feed, I told myself, “one day I am doing them!”


It’s called milk bath because you fill a tub or pool with water and then milk. I know, the Indian in me is saying, “don’t waste food,” but you only need a gallon to provide the wispy effect.

When I was pregnant I realized this was the perfect opportunity to have a maternity milk bath photo shoot. And being a bit crazy (I’ll blame the hormones), I wanted to do something out of the box. Way outside the box.

Why not wear a sari? How pretty would that be?!

I messaged Liza, who lives on the other side of the Bay Area, San Jose, and told her of my crazy idea. Her instant response: YASSSSSSS.

I pulled out a pink crystal chiffon saree because it has a translucent glimmer in the water. If you recognize the saree, I used for my first maternity photo shoot three years ago.

After making the trek across the Bay to Liza’s place, we had a busy day. The photo shoot took six hours from start to finish from makeup and washing down.

Being 36 weeks pregnant, I was a giant whale floating in the water. Seriously. Between the sciatica pain and hip pain, I couldn’t even turn over by myself! Liza’s assistant would help move me. Honestly, I never felt so old and incapacitated in life.

Note to self, get a message the next day because your body will be dead.

One of the highlights of the shoot was being beautified by the makeup artist. Having someone else do your makeup really makes you feel like a princess. Kim, our MUA, does not specialize in Indian style makeup, which I loved.

I wanted something light and eternal, but glittery. You know you’re Indian when you keep saying, “more glitter, more glitter, MORE glitter! There’s never too much!”

I am sure she thought Liza and I were insane, but you don’t often get to do an Indian maternity shoot. It’s an opportunity to push the boundaries – you can only have photos you dream of if you make it happen in reality.


Overall I couldn’t be happier to celebrate a part of me, being Indian, and a special moment in my life of being pregnant. Even though I was exhausted after, these are the kind of photos you print and place on the walls. No pain, no gain, right?

Thanks to Liza Head of Juniper Springs Photography, Kimberly Brown for the makeup, and Liza’s assistant for rolling me around in the water.