A kid has to know his musical clocks and automata: Museum Speelklok in Utrecht

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A few years ago, I was in Utrecht for a project meeting, and I’ve seen signs of a “Museum Speelklok” (see its official web site in English). Even though I was curious about it, I didn’t have much time and had to head back to Belgium. Fast forward a few years: few weeks ago, April, 2016, we planned a short trip to the Netherlands, and Utrecht was part of the plan. So I said to my 4-year-old: Time to explore kiddo! More

A kid has to know his trains

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Trains have been humming and connecting the cities of Belgium since 1835, and today, we had the opportunity to witness this 180 years old history of trains in the wonderful museum of Train World in Schaarbeek.  The recently opened museum, right next to the beautiful Schaarbeek train station, turned out to be a delight to the eyes and minds of the visitors. Belgium, being the first country to run trains in continental Europe, had a lot of engineering and transportation treasures to show us.  Our 4-year-old son could not hide his excitement; running from one locomotive to another, exploring various types of train cars, jumping on some of them, observing many old clocks and gadgets, as well as being dazzled by one of the most beautiful and alive model train scenery,  he wanted to see more and more and until his little legs started to feel really tired.

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There are a lot of surprises, for children as well as for adults, nerds, and geeks alike, and I don’t want to spoil the fun by talking about all the details. Careful observers will need to be prepared for a time travel, and a lot of energy: even if you want to take a tour quickly, it’ll take you 1.5 to 2 hours to explore this big museum. Train enthusiasts will spend at least 3 to 4 hours, and will probably cherish every minute of it. You can even get your hands (and shirts, if you’re not very careful, but who can accuse you, after all that excitement anyway?) dirty, if you touch some parts of the trains. You might, just like I and my son did, carry that oily dirt as a badge of honor, and postpone washing your hands until you exit the museum, only to have a delicious break at the cafeteria of the train station, which, by the way, will continue to mesmerize you with its aesthetics, and keep the feeling of time travel to a great extent.

This was our first visit to this great museum, but I don’t think it will be our last.

Space Expo @ Brussels

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We had a great time at Space Expo in Brussels this weekend. I wish I was a kid again and run from one space artifact and simulator to another for hours (though I’ll never understand his being scared of Space Shuttle landing simulator (I had so much fun 🙂 )). We also considered going to German Aerospace Day at Cologne, but considering the tempo of a 4-year-old, decided to postpone it to his 6th year, that is 2017. But taking into account his enthusiasm, maybe our next stop will be Euro Space Center.

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Multilingual Families: Valuable online resources for families raising multi-lingual children

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Ton Koenraad, a former colleague of mine during PTVELL project, has recently informed me about a project whose website contains valuable resources for multilingual families. The project’s name is unsurprisingly “Multilingual Families”, and its website is located at http://www.multilingual-families.eu.

ml_families

As a father who is raising his child in a multi-lingual environment, such projects always draw my attention. For me, the most valuable and interesting parts of the project’s web site are “for parents” section, “self-access guide for parents“, and “29 activities to support multilingualism at home“.

I hope the project’s web site will also prove to be useful for other families that are trying to raise children in a multi-lingual environment.

Space Expo at Noordwijk, Netherlands: A wonderful space center for children

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A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the ESA center at Noordwijk. The biggest ESA site, namely ESTEC , is also very close to Space Expo, a great place where families can take their children to introduce them many interesting and exciting aspects of space research. My colleagues were kind enough to show me some parts of it and I was surprised by the things I have learned.

I definitely plan to take my son there, but I think I’ll have to wait a few years more.

If you are interested about similar activities for your children you should check out these, too:

SpaceExpoNL

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 😉

Yet another Scratch programming workshop for kids – TEDxYouth@Flanders 2012

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Long story short: The children were excited but I was probably more excited than them during the “Programming and creativity using Scratch” workshop series that took place at Koninklijk Atheneum Antwerpen as part of the TEDxYouth@Flanders 2012. Both the morning and the afternoon sessions went very well, and it was a unique experience exploring the fundamentals of computational thinking with children while helping them take their first steps into programming using Scratch. After this event, I have decied to publish my “Scratch Workshop Agenda” document under a Creative Commons license so that other people who would like to organize similar events could be able to take this as a starting point. It is also very nice to see that the previous version of this document had been used at the Devoxx4Kids events (held in Dutch and then French).

Programming and creativity using Scratch - 1

Programming and creativity using Scratch – 1

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