A kid has to start somewhere (before going full 3D printing)

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A few weeks before my son turned five, we were sitting at home, I enjoying some technical stuff on my laptop, he playing with his toys. You know when your kid is very silent, either something bad is happening, or, in rare cases, he’s up to something not so bad at all.

The cause of silence turned out to be the following representation of his favorite topic nowadays: dinosaurs.

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It reminded me of the days I had so much playing with similar material (though of definitely lower quality): Observing the physical universe around you, making generalizations, creating abstractions, forming concepts in your mind, then using those to create something physical, using your hands, guided by your brain. The joy, the pleasure, the satisfaction that follows it. Shaping a piece of elastic material, with not many constraints other than imposed by the molecular structure of it coupled with the one of your brain. More

Multilingual children: when worlds and words collide

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It is one thing reading academic papers and books about multilingual children, and a very different thing experiencing it yourself when having a conversation with your 4-year-old son.

For example, after a few years of exposure to Turkish and Dutch, he comes up with a sentence such as

Dinozor is nog büyüker dan kamyon.

Thinking about how he combines Dutch and Turkish grammar, it is not difficult at all to see how he arrives at such a funny-sounding but constrained-by-both-languages-therefore-predictable result:

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Playing the ancient game of Go with my son

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It was probably 1-1.5 years ago when my then-3-year-old son pointed at the Go board standing vertically at the topmost shelf of our library, and said something like “Dad, I want to play.” This was a curious moment for me because my son never saw me play Go before, and I doubt that he came across children playing Go in the cartoons he watched on TV or iPad; after all he was barely 3 years old! Therefore, I had no idea how he made a connection with an empty Go board standing very high up, almost touching the ceiling and the concept of ‘playing a game’. He also did not see me or his mother playing chess, or any other board game for that matter. (Interestingly enough, I think it was a few months before we lost the legendary player Go Seigen, and the year I watched the movie about his life, The Go Master.)

Our first try at a game of Go went as expected: His concentration did not last for more than 5-6 minutes, did not care for my warnings that he should only place one stone at a time, wait for me, wait for his turn, do not disturb the stones, etc. In other words, it was a very short experience, but a memorable one nevertheless. After that day, I have decided to never mention the game of Go again, just to see whether he’d be interested in the game again. A few months passed without his ever looking at the Go board, and he also never saw me playing Go. But one day, he pointed at that Go board again, and insisted that we ‘play’. Yet another brief experience with some frustration for both of us, together with some funny moments, ending with my saying “No! Slowly! Put the stones back in their bowls… according to their colors… please!” Then a few weeks without Go at all, and another brief, similar experience. I thought this was all there is to it, for at least few more years.


Fast forward to today: About 2 weeks ago, my son, now about 4.5 years old, pointed his finger at… Yes you guessed it. This time, I’ve decided to see if he was ready for the real thing; I wanted to stretch his limits, so I went for the full board, 19×19 game, a pseudo-game actually, where we placed the stones on the board, each of us waiting for his turn, and trying to make it as realistic as possible with my guidance. During some moves, I saw how excited he was, literally thrilled, shaking with enthusiasm as I was making comments such as “Aha! I see what you are planning there!”, “Hmm, I have to think for a while how to counter that!”. When my son looked at the almost full board, and asked “who won?”, I have realized that almost 45 minutes passed without any of us having realized! I still have no idea how he managed to stay concentrated for almost an hour (including putting stones back into their bowls, carrying the board back, etc.). The real surprise came the day after that, next evening he wanted to play Go again, but he said he wanted it to last shorter because it was almost dinner time. So we played on a 9×9 board, with the same enthusiasm. It lasted about 15 minutes. Next evening, another match. This continued without interruption every evening since then, up until we left home for some winter holidays. When we came back home, it was almost his bedtime but he did not want to go to sleep, because… “first, let’s play Go!”. More

How to listen to your baby’s heartbeat before birth: Pinard Horn, Zen, and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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Baby listenerIt was about 3.5 years ago, I still had a few months before my son was born, and I wanted to listen to him, maybe catch a few heartbeats while he was moving in his mother’s womb. I had a simple plan. I visited a medical store in Antwerp’s Brederodestraat and started to look for a stethoscope. The following dialog took place between me and one of the saleswomen:

– Hello, may I help you?

– Yes, I want a stethoscope please.

– Which type?

– (Not prepared for the question and startled) Well, it doesn’t matter, you know.

– Hmm, are you a doctor?

– No.

– A medical intern?

– No.

– Then why do you want a stethoscope? What will you do with it?

– I just want to hear the sounds my child makes. He’s not born yet. Why don’t you just sell me a stethoscope? More

Sometimes you wake up early on a Sunday morning and the reason is…

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Well, the reason is not because some strange life forms invaded your home but rather an energetic and a very familiar life form has decided that bringing kitchen utensils to the living room and making as much noise as possible with them is a lot of fun, in and of itself:

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The adventures of a father and son in a strange supermarket

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Well, Hanos is definitely a strange supermarket. In the sense that you don’t see models of Marilyn Monroe or copper distillers in your run-of-the-mill supermarkets. It can also play the role of huge and fantastic playground for a 1.5 year old toddler 😉

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An example of Chinese parenting style: what to do when your son is addicted to online games?

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My son is only 1.5 years old, so I believe there is still some time for me to get concerned about the games he plays, but a recent news made me consider the relationship of children and online computer games: “Father Hires In-Game “Hitmen” To Deter Son From Playing“:

Sick and tired of his son playing video games and not listening to him, a father in China decided to take matters into his own hands… well, sort of. Instead of sending his son off to addiction camp or stripping him of internet and gaming rights, Mr. Feng (冯先生) chose to hire an online “hitman” to school his son.

Father Hires In-Game “Hitmen” To Deter Son From Playing

Father Hires In-Game “Hitmen” To Deter Son From Playing

This may be an extreme or exaggerated example but it did not keep me from remembering my relationships with computer games in the past. The contrast is obvious: 20-25 years ago, back when I and my friends busy playing with computers such as Sinclair Spectrum 48K, Commodore 64, Amstrad or Amiga 500, the only social aspect of those games were close friends we already knew from school or the neighbourhood. There was no Internet, thus no online games. The other players were either the computer or your friends sitting next to you. Playing a realistic 3D combat game with someone who is a total stranger to you was unimaginable at all. And when we were bored with the games, we either sat down to create our own computer programs and games, or we read articles about programming, or how to hack the games.

It is very difficult for me to imagine what kind of technologies my son will be using in 2033, let alone the sort of games he will be playing. I can only hope that he grows to be not only a consumer of an alternate universe overloaded with not so original graphics, animations and sounds, but at least, also someone who can have a wider imagination to go beyond those, build his own universe and discover the complexity and beauty in wiser simplicities. I’ll try my best to make this happen; I really wouldn’t prefer to hire an online, digital ‘hitman’ character for a game 😉

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