Monday, October 22, 2007

The hardest books to read

Here is my list of the three hardest books to read to your children:
  • Fox in Socks: Dr Seuss went crazy with the tongue twisters
  • Where did I come from?: Explicit, awkward, yet informative
  • Sadako: You'll know what I mean if you attempt to read it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Data driving

Stephen Dubner outlines ways of getting the kiddies interested in data.
First, the kids will vote on their favorite and least favorite playgrounds in the park. Then they will collect data on a variety of metrics: number of swings, amount of open space, shady vs. sunny areas, etc. Then they will try to figure out the factors that make a good playground good and a bad playground bad. They will also consider the safety of each playground, and other measures.
That reminds me of our next planned school holiday activity: "does the law of large numbers really work? Let's toss a coin a thousand times and see."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007

Playtime attention

In Slate, Emily Brazelon looks at playing and parental attention. In the olden days, kids either worked or during a period in the 1950s, played outside. According to some that was an era of boredom until television came along.
Kids won a burst of autonomy in the first half of the 20th century, when there were still woods and parks at hand to roam, yet fewer chores than on the farms of yore. But parental fear and suburban development slammed the door shut again. Chudacoff cites findings from a recent survey showing that after school and on the weekends, kids on average spend only one half-hour a week in unstructured play outside, compared to 14.5 hours playing inside, and 12 more hours watching television.
Apparently, that is the issue. Experts want kids outside more and getting more interactive time from parents. Parents are busy or have some other things they would like to do. A typical conversation in my household goes like this:

"Dad, what can I D-O?" (my son likes to spell)

"How about playing with some toys?"

"Can I play with some electronic toys?"

"No, how about some lego."

"Will you play with me?"

"Well, I am busy writing my blog."

"What's it about?"

"How parents don't have time to play with children."

In reading the Slate article, all this seems like just another source of guilt. I am sure there is such a thing as parental neglect but when it comes down to it, there is only so much playtime we can take. When I lie down on the couch, apparently, the lack of an indoor trampoline becomes apparent.

The real way around this is not to view it as a zero-sum game. It is possible to find activities both you and your children enjoy. Of course, there is the electronic stuff but that has its own issues. For us, it is Lego. We build Lego. And let me tell you once you break the barrier on parental enjoyment of this stuff, there is no limit to how much you can purchase. Our house is ruled by Lego and it is a good sign. (And this is our latest project).

[PS: here is a fun activity.]

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The importance of pause

I have come to appreciate that most important button in an airplane is 'pause.' This is especially the case for long-haul flights. Whatever you are using to watch a video requires this. Not only can this allow you to go to the bathroom or sort out any food thrown your way, it is the only way to deal with the constant interruptions of children. It is the key to sanity.

This means you need a laptop, video iPod or video on demand system on the plane. Nothing else will cut it. All of the value lies in the 'pause' feature.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Disneyland Standard

So it has been a while between posts on this blog. We have been traveling around the world -- the US, Japan and Hong Kong -- for the past few weeks. It has been free of real complications and hence, there was little in my dismal mind to blog about.

Today is our last day away and we are at Disneyland Hong Kong. Why? Because it is there.

Anyhow, having been to the Anaheim version, I thought it would be interesting to compare the two. When you walk into the HK version, you are struck by the fact that everything is exactly the same. Main street is there, the castle, Tomorrowland (complete with Space Mountain and Autopia -- sponsored by Honda this time -- and not much emphasis on the 'vision of the motoring future' bit that was in LA), Fantasyland (complete with Dumbos, cups and Winnie the Pooh) and there is Adventureland too. All laid out much the same as in LA. The differences are minor at best.

The one differences is that HK is smaller (but give it time). It is also newer (give that time too). So it has a few attractions that make use of the latest IT. For instance, there was a Buzz Lightyear laser shooting ride that was great fun and a Stitch interactive show that was very cleverly done with an animated character clearly being controlled like a puppet.

The only other difference was the food. There was less of it and most of it was Chinese (which makes sense given where we are). But in a world that is otherwise so mainstream American, there is a Main Street for goodness sake, it was kind of surreal. On the other hand, it was a much cheaper day out than the US version. So no complaints there.

The kids wouldn't know the difference. Disneyland has a standard and they can go with it anywhere. I suspect we will see more of them around the world.