Children are the epitome of purity and divinity. An uncontaminated mind and an unprejudiced intellect make the child really divine. The child grows through the societal interaction he or she receives from peers and seniors.
Kashyapa divides the child’s life into three stages :
- Fetal stage (Garbhastham) – 9 months
- Infancy and early childhood (Balyam) – 0 to 3 years
- Childhood (Kumaram) :
- Drinks only milk – 0 to 1 year
- Takes milk and solids – 1 to 3 years
- Takes mainly solids – 3 to 10 years
These different stages show the intrinsic differences in the metabolic features of infants as understood by our acharyas. The scientific division of early infancy helps to plan food and nutrition for infants in a systematic manner. The great thinker, political strategist and philosopher, Chanakya has written a beautiful verse on grooming the child. “The child should be reared like a king till the age of five. All her/his needs must be met with great care and attention. For the next 10 years, the child should work with self- discipline and serve at home. When the child attains the age of 16, she/he should be considered a friend and their opinion should be respected and taken into consideration.”
Food is for physical growth. Training is for mental and intellectual growth.
The infant must be fed breast milk for one year as it promotes healthy growth. The nursing mother should sit facing east, take the baby on her lap, wash the right breast, and start feeding the baby. Food for the infant should be easily digestible and bland. The food should have six tastes with sweet being predominant. Rice mashed with tur dal and ghee is a good combination for protein and starch. Cooked bananas, fruits and steamed vegetables are good for children. The child should be fed frequently and not two or three times a day. The child’s stomach is equivalent to his/her folded fist. So not much food can be stored. A small quantity of food given frequently is the best way to feed the child.
Application of pure coconut oil made from fresh coconut milk is the best oil for the baby’s massage. A daily massage helps the baby to grow faster and without pain. The body becomes more flexible, circulation improves and nerve endings get smoothened. Apart from massage, no exercise is needed for the child. From the age one, the child should be given smooth, non-sharp, light toys to play with which are non-toxic and do not have any adverse effect on his/her mental attitude.