Kids and technology

It’s a topic that’s been in the news for a long time and almost always with negative connotations. Kids playing games with violence in them turning violent and becoming disobedient. But there are positive outcomes too.

I was watching in amazement at my youngest daughter, yesterday, as she was playing Mahjong Solitaire (not to be confused with the actual Mahjong game). But it’s just a pattern-matching game, you might say. Except there are quite a number of various patterns on the tiles, some look similar to others and in various colours, so not always so simple to find the matching tiles.

But it’s not only the fact that she can manage to finish some of the levels on her own but that she has already figured out how to navigate the various menus to start a new game or exit the game and start another one. I think we need to be worried once she figures out how to use Windows Explorer!

Oh, did I mention, she only turned 3 last month? Yup. Think back to when you were a kid at that age. Would we too have been able to so quickly grasp those concepts that some just can’t get. Remember it’s not just the fact that she manages to find the matching pairs but at the same time she’s moving the mouse around which in turn moves the mouse cursor to where she wants it to be as well as clicking the mouse button at the right time.

I’ve been working with computers for the last 24 years and pretty much take the act of using a keyboard without looking at the keys and using a mouse to navigate around a website or application for granted. But take two minutes and just think about all those neurons firing in your brain to be able to make all those connections and make us do the things we do and then think of all of that happening in a three year old’s brain.

Our eldest was also a semi-pro using the computer when she was her sister’s age. Now that she’s in grade 1 and quickly learning to read more and more her computer use is going to get better and most likely more frequent. Good thing I’ve been systematically keeping tabs on the various technologies out there which I will have to implement once the kids start using the computers more regularly. As technology advances I think too our kids are getting smarter and smarter. One of these days we’ll have a generation of toddlers that will be re-programming our VCRs (sheesh giving away my age there), erm, I mean PVRs and understanding what they’re doing not just randomly pressing buttons or hiding jam-sandwiches or keys where they shouldn’t go!

Kids in a tree

Two of my kids, sitting in a tree, s.. m.. i.. l.. i.. n.. g! They grow up so fast, don’t they?

kids_in_a_tree

Taken on Sunday, while celebrating Mother's Day at my brother's place.

 

Doodle 4 Google

Earlier this year Google invited kids from around the United States to submit their doodles using the Google logo with the following theme in mind “What I Wish For The World”. They received over 28,000 doodles from all 50 states. 

There are 40 regional winners (in their various age-group categories) which you can review and vote for online. Entries close at midnight on May 18th, 2009. The winner will be announced on May 20th with the winner’s doodle appearing on the Google home page.

Below are a few samples from the various age groups – but go on and take a look for yourself, and vote.  [via Google Blog]

google-doodle1

My wish for the world is that everyone would get along and treat one another in a nice and loving way. We could all be friends! - Miriam Elizabeth Lowery (5)

google-doodle2

What I wish for the world is that every child and every adult have a chance to go to school and learn. If every person in the world could have the opportunity to go to school, it would make the world a better place, not only for the world, but for the people in it. - Lauren Sarantopolos (12)

google-doodle3

What I wish for the world is unity. The theme is represented by connected paper clips in my doodle because they represent unity. Each clip is interconnected much of the way people are. - Abigail Kois (12)

google-doodle4

Flowers bring color and fragrance into our lives. Their beauty and diversity reflects that of people. They can be playful or serious and even remind us of the cycle of life and death. - Emily Dorsey (16)

End of April ramblings

So we’re in to the 5th month of 2009 – how did we get here so quickly? It was just the other day New Years day and look where we are now. People laugh at me when I say after January, six months of the year are gone!

April’s been a busy month, rushing to get my project at work launched (which we did last week) before going on leave. Perfectly timed, yes, since this week, in South Africa, this past Monday and tomorrow (erm, today), Friday, are public holidays – so a 9-days off for only 3 days worth of leave.

I’ve tried to do as little as possible on my time off, which includes sleeping in some mornings (after helping Dina with the kids) and just bumming about, checking my RSS feeds, posting a few blog posts and playing some CS.

Speaking of CS, you have the option to either play on a Counter Terrorist or Terrorist team – so, what does it say about me if I do better playing as a Terrorist (uh-oh, I said Terrorist 3 times already, make that 4, on my blog post – the FBI, CIA and Interpol will have a field day with me today)?

Rebecca, our youngest (almost 3) has been taking swimming lessons for a couple months now (they pick the kids up from the creche and take them for swimming lessons and bring them back) and I really wanted to see for myself what it was like and how she was handling it – she’s always excited about it when we ask her how it went. So I tagged along yesterday when they picked up the kids.

It’s quite an experience – but the kids all seem to thoroughly enjoy themselves. They all dash off to one end of the pool where the benches are and begin to strip – right down to their birthday-suits. Then they run off to the other side of the pool where two staff members help them get into their swimming costumes – shame has no place here! They then each wait their turn as 3 teachers in the pool take them for their lessons – the younger kids get individual attention and the older ones that can keep themselves afloat are taught in groups. It looked like so much fun, I found myself feeling a little envious. It’s a heated and indoor pool so they can teach the kids all year round, which makes for an excellent business. They teach the kids very early on what it’s like going completely underwater and getting to the side quickly to get out – in case they ever fall in – and it also helps getting rid of that fear of their head/face going in the water. Rebecca’s coming along nicely and we’re hoping to get a spot for Melissa our eldest (almost 7) soon as the space for the older kids was already full when we wanted to book her in too. For me, being able to swim is an important life-lesson, which I feel is a must for everyone.

Today I picked up Melissa after school and took her to her weekly ballroom/Latin dance classes and I was mighty impressed (and again a little envious). Melissa has taken to dancing just like she took to water when she first swam. She listens carefully to what her instructor, Andre says and she picks up the steps very quickly – that little sponge of a brain of hers absorbs almost everything and it amazes me at how many steps she remembers.

She went through a number of her dances (boogie, cha-cha, jive, tango, waltz, foxtrot, jazz, 2-step, box rumba)  today doing level 1 and 2 steps. She should be doing her level-2 exam in June or July and then she can start learning level 3 steps and work on her styling. We only got about half-way through level-3 steps when we gave up our contract so that Melissa could go and dance instead. Check out her previous match-dance if you’ve not seen it already which took place last year (and here were her results).

This evening I helped Dina with some “remodeling” in Rebecca’s room to make more practical cupboard space. Tomorrow should hopefully be a chilled and relaxing day since the grandparents picked up the kids this afternoon so at least we can sleep in tomorrow morning without worrying about the kids waking us up early. Saturday we’re going to do a little wine-tasting with friends, so we’re all looking forward to that which will be concluded with lunch at one of the wine-farms. Not sure yet what Sunday will bring. 

That is all 🙂

Do you know where your child is?

num8_gps_watchYou can now locate your child via GPS. What’s new you ask? That’s old news, my kid has a mobile phone that they can’t live without and it has GPS, I hear you say?

Well, kids being kids, they tend to lose things. So then how do you find them? Well a tech firm, Loc8U, is launching its GPS tracker wrist-watch for kids. It is activated as soon as it is securely fastened to the child’s wrist and is shock- an water-proof. If the child manages to remove it, it sends a text message to your mobile with their exact position and a Google maps image of their location. The company offering the service also allows geo-fencing, which allows you to mark an invisible boundary which if the child crosses will also alert you via a text message on your mobile.

Something similar was launched at CES in 2006 but it was more of a push technology, allowing kids to call home/mom/dad. Whereas this version allows for passive/active tracking by parents.

Here’s a sample video of the num8 in action ast CES-2009:

Is it too big-brotherly? Will kids feel like parolees with parents knowing their every move? I don’t know about you, but I’m not the type of parent to leave my kids unattended anywhere, but with kidnappings, maybe this might help? What do you think? [via news24]

[polldaddy poll=1268358]

Kids: 1st Graduation

We attended our kids’ creche’s graduation ceremony last night. It’s hard to believe how quicky the last 4+ years have gone. Melissa (now 6) is growing up quickly and next year she’ll be going to Grade 1.

Rebecca (2) received her certificate for the year. Lighting is terrible at the front of the stage.

The graduating class walked in pairs from the back of the hall towards the stage holding candles while Josh Grobin’s song “You Raise Me Up” was playing – perfectly selected to give you that lump in your throat.

We’re also very proud of Melissa and her best-friend, Elzaane, for sharing the floating trophy award for being the top performing students of their class. My wife’s sentiments can be read here.

Elzaane and Melissa

You can view the music video below of Josh Grobin performing “You Raise Me Up”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ou8vzy_2ho

Lice Shampoo – a severe warning to parents!

I was completely shocked when I just read this report in the local paper while having my lunch today:

Lachlan suddenly started coming out in bruises all over his body. 

Blood tests revealed that all his blood counts were low – platelets, haemoglobin and white cells – Lachlan’s bone marrow was in the process of shutting down, and a transplant was his only hope. 

“The products in South Africa contain no warnings on the packaging, and in fact recommend repeated treatment if the head lice are not completely cleared.

“Most parents are not aware that Gambex is actually a pesticide.”

Lice shampoos containing the chemical gamma benzene hexachloride on sale in South Africa are Gambex® and Quellada®; in most other countries it goes by the brand Lindane® or Kwell®.
– source IOL

A serious warning to anyone with children who are prone to contracting or may be in contact with other children at creche/school that may be infected with lice. We’ve used these products in the past and will definitely NOT be using them (or any other lice-shampoo product) in future. Washing the kids hair with vinegar and then combing out the lice and eggs with a fine-tooth comb will work just as effectively and will be completely harmless to the children.

Early Christmas Gift For The Kids

When I think back of the time that my brother and I were kids and what outdoor things we had to play with things like an old Fig tree and the garage roof come to mind. Well, that’s all we, as kids, had to climb up and down and on.

Well we’ve been thinking of what we can do with our 110sqm back garden for a while now, in fact *blush* 5 years now. Finally we decided what better than to get something for the kids to use outside. Kids today tend to be indoors most of the time, either watching TV, movies or playing video games. 

So what’s the early Christmas gift already? Okay, okay – it’s an outdoor gym for the kids. Needless to say, I’m jealous 🙂

Here’s a picture of one part of our back-garden as it was before (namely, yesterday afternoon when I got home from work):

And this is what it looks like this afternoon, what a transformation (I didn’t quite realise how big it would be based on the small drawing in the catalogue):

The entire system consists of the following:

  • Slide
  • Ladder
  • Cargo Net
  • 2 x Swings
  • A swinging tyre
  • Monkey bars
  • Climbing rope
  • Covered deck to play on

  

Special thanks to Donovan from Jungle Mania Stuctures – they did an awesome job and I’d definitely reccommend them to anyone else.