Celebrated by most Indians, this festival of lights is an occasion I wait for every year. Growing up in India you can not miss the vibes Diwali brings along. From waking up in the morning to the sounds of firecrackers to smells of homemade treats, to going shopping with my mother, to bustling markets full of flowers, décor, door hangings, and coming home with more stuff than my then little hands could hold, memories of Diwali as a child always manages to bring a nostalgic smile on my face.
As much as I enjoy my life as an expat in Bangkok, “this time of year” always pulls me back to my roots (and all the hustle and bustle that comes along with it), more so now that I have kids who have been missing away from sheer bliss of midnight shopping of firecrackers just because you ran out of stock that was supposed to last all 5 days.
If you too are feeling blue over missing neighbor aunty’s ladoo and moreover worry your kid is missing out on the opportunity of learning and living this wonderful festival, read along to find how I have involved my kids in celebrating Diwali this year.
What is Diwali?: Simple Diwali facts for kids
If you aren’t Indian, your kids may still have Indian friends who celebrate Diwali and you would like them to learn more about their friends. Diwali is essentially a celebration of victory of good over evil, truth over falsehood. Different traditions come from different parts of the country:
- Lighting lamps to celebrate the homecoming of Lord Ram (Godly prince) after defeating Raavan (evil king)
- Lord Krishna defeating Naarkasur (devil)
- Goddess Kali killing Mahishasur (devil)
- In honor of Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth) by lighting candles/lamps and praying for good health and prosperity.
These folk tales are not only connected to culture and heritage but also carry moral values and teachings like truth and goodwill win over evil. They also symbolize a new and fresh beginning, keeping all sorrows and negativity in the past and welcoming happiness and positivity in life.
Diwali for kids: How to celebrate Diwali (outside India)
You can’t recreate the fireworks smell without getting notice from your neighbor or your local police station but there are certain legal and legit means of introducing tradition, culture, and fun to your kids that Diwali brings.
I adopted few tricks to get them involved and interested in the brightest festival. From Diwali décor ideas and Diwali crafts for kids to festive stories and food everything’s covered:
There’s nothing a good book can’t fix. To get them interested in Diwali I started introducing these stories in their bedtime routine—one story at a time. Stories spark curiosity and kids tend to ask questions which increases their interest.
A quick Google search will open a plethora of kid-friendly, easy-to-understand story links which kids would love to watch or read. Some of the books easily available on Amazon are:
- The Story of Diwali: Rama & Sita. The Ramayana Adapted for Children
- Peppa Pig: Peppa’s Diwali
- Let’s Celebrate 5 Days of Diwali!
A mandatory task in the Diwali checklist is deep cleaning as it is believed any kind of clutter attracts negativity (isn’t it true? A pile of dirty laundry does attract more laundry!)
Ask kids to sort out the toys, books, or clothes they don’t need anymore and make room for new ones. I inspired mine by cleaning a pair of skinny jeans that I’ve saved in hope of fitting in it again.
3. Pick a theme this Diwali
Decorating your home is the next main task on the checklist. No party is complete without themes these days then why should desi Diwali shy away? Let your kids choose a theme; be prepared for a radical one like Avengers or Disney.
Roll with it and try to plan home-décor around the theme. This encourages kids to participate in festive decoration. If it makes you feel better: Ours is Unicorn and rainbows this year, just what 2021 needs.
4. Plan activities with Diwali themes
Some of the activities and Diwali crafts you can engage kids in are:
- Use simple flour dough or clay dough and make small diya (lamps). Use glitter and stickers to decorate them and make sure you light the diyas on Diwali.
- You can also use an old plastic jar or empty Play Doh boxes and let your kids go Picasso with colors, glitter, and stickers. Light a plastic jar by placing LED candles inside.
- Ask kids to help you make rangoli. Children love playing with colors and what can be more colorful than rangoli (literally translated to design in colors). Be prepared for a color riot.
- A safer, rather tidier version would be paper rangoli. Give them small cut paper in all colors and shapes and let them use their creative juices to come up with their rangolis.
- Make a puzzle or questionnaire around Diwali and let kids solve these puzzles to earn a Diwali cookie.
5. Exchanging gifts
Every kid (and adult too) loves gifts. Take them shopping and let them pick a gift for their friends, siblings, or family.
It doesn’t need to be something expensive. Something as simple as a chocolate or a small book would work. The whole idea is to make them look forward to Diwali.
6. Cook with kids
I try to recreate a few of my mom and grandmom’s recipes in their simpler kid-friendly version where my girls over-enthusiastically help me. Call in your little sous-chefs and let them help you cook simpler Diwali treats.
Go for simpler recipes like coconut ladoo/balls or kulfi. Here are a few of the recipes I cook with my kids.
If you (or your little one) are not into cooking, you can also go for decorating Diwali theme cookies. Make your own cookies or use store-bought and using royal icing to decorate cookies with traditional designs like diya or rangoli.
Get clear on what you wish to impart, intention should not be forcing traditional rituals on kids without explaining any questions but to make kids more aware of their culture and long-established traditions and take pride in their rich heritage. Open bits and pieces of traditions and values to kids by taking the above ideas. Let them ask questions, answer patiently. Put old wisdom to use and take the help of grandparents to find answers to their questions. Diwali is all about family after all.
Here’s wishing you all a very happy and prosperous Diwali! Diwali falls on 4 November 2021 this year.