Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Get a glimpse of the future (weight and height)

Ever wondered what your kid's projected adult weight and height is? Here's a really easy way to do it without having to dig up & look at AAP charts and/or cross reference with CDC data. Just to go and type in your query. For example, I typed a sample query below (this is not real data, they're just random number I picked), and search for "projected adult height":

WolframAlpha is an amazing computational knowledge engine in the world! If you enjoy using it, here are 32 other tricks you can do with it. If you like this blog, please share it with your friends and follow me for more goodies in the future!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Hacking for Parents

I saw this site with a bunch of simple hacks that will make parenting a lot easier. It's pretty neat, check out the link!


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Terrible Twos - My Easy Fix

I can't remember a time when my 2.5 toddler doesn't scream and cry and toss stuff a couple of times a day. Actually it was probably last year, but with sleep deprivation and all the commotions that go on each day, that seemed so long ago. We've read books by psychologists and behavior experts and nothing really seem to help. While we await eagerly for the terrible two phase to pass, there are some things we did to provide immediate relief:

Use all plasticware. This seems obvious in retrospect, but you may be tricked into thinking that your cute calm little 1.5 year old baby that you have now will be well behaved in the future, and start using nice-ware. Then, one day, SURPRISE! Tantrum here, tantrum there, tossing of metal fork towards your face and breaking nice glass cup on the table. Lots of things WILL get broken. It's like Gremlins-- it's just a matter of time before terrible things happen, very fast, and you will feel overwhelmed.

No carpet. I'm renting a little 2 bedroom apartment now. I have no choice on flooring, but if I did, I would not opt for carpets. Anything that one can conceive of spilling on the carpet, WILL HAPPEN. In no time, your 2.5 year old will learn to open any drawer (even those with child-proof locks) and toss everything he can get on the floor. If you think spaghetti is hard to clean, imagine a toddler getting into the kitchen and pouring oil, soy sauce, vinegar, EVERYTHING. FUN FUN FUN! However you'll miss all the fun he just had because you passed out from a lack of sleep last night. If you have carpet, get good carpet cleaners (we use the Bissel cleaner, it cleans out 90% of the stains, 90% of the time-- that means you'll probably still see 100%-81% + 10%, or 29% of the stains. ARGH!!!)

Paint your room with a lot of colors. I'm renting a little apartment but if I actually owned a place, I would paint the entire place with colorful walls. This isn't so much as making it look child friendly, but more of serving the purpose of hiding mess. Just remember, anything that you can think of that can be on the wall, WILL BE ON THE WALL. Spaghetti sauce, check. Pen markings, check. Permanent marker, check. Oily, dirty, and muddy handprint-footprint-tongue print, check. If I had colored walls, I would save a lot of time by not having to spend so much time cleaning them. You need all the time you can get to rest/sleep/take a break from the terrible twos.

Wear glasses. My terrible two thinks it's funny to hit people in the face. I can't remember how many times I was doing something on the sofa/bed, and all of a sudden *WHAM* I see stars the next minute. At one time, my left cornea was scratched, leaving my eyes really red and inflamed and I had to go see a doctor who prescribed antibiotics. This happened TWICE. I've learned that wearing glasses around toddlers (especially ones that love to skip nap and get super cranky at night) is the best thing. My glasses makes me feel like a super Marines. I've taken many direct blows since then but haven't had to go to the optometrist. I love it.

Get a good gate and make sure to DRILL IT IN. A lot people simply rely on the friction/pressure of the gate to hold in place. It is just a matter of time before your toddler realizes that he has enough strength to rock them out of place. Also, there are fancy gates that you need to press/pull some special buttons/latches to open. FORGET IT! He will learn how to do these things by the time he is terrible. The only gate that works for my son, is the Dreambaby Gate, which requires a very subtle (imperceptible) upward pressure to open the gate. Even my parents think it's magical! However, I have a strange feeling that my son will figure it out by next week. Terrible babies tend to be clever.

Allocate an adult-only room. You may think you can place valuable and/or dangerous items out of reach by placing them high or by using gates or toddler locks or special toddler door locks (Monkey Door Lock). Forget it. He will learn to climb, get a box/ladder for height, and access anything and everything. My toddler shredded a bunch of really important family papers using the shredder and he thought it was fun. The only thing that kept him out of trouble was to just get a special No Calvin Room.

Get a good sitter before your kid turns terrible. It can feel draining at times to be with a terrible two, therefore you deserve to take a break. It takes time to find a good sitter. Do it early so the sitter can have some bonding time while your baby is still cute. That way, the sitter will more likely help you when your baby eventually turns terrible. If you don't do this early, you may find yourself going from one sitter to another. I mean, how many sitters are looking forward to baby sit newly minted terriblĂ©?

Past performance IS indicative of future results

If there is one thing that is tougher than having a baby, that would be raising a baby/kid. Almost everyone I've talked to has had a really rough time during the first 1-2 years of raising a kid. In many cases, I've seen people move closer to their family or even move parents closer so that they could get help more easily. We are very very thankful for some of our family members who helped us through everything. I can't imagine raising kids without help!

Is there is some correlation between people's past and future willingness to help? For me personally, the people who were able and willing to help with our dog (2007) and our wedding (2009) [as denoted by "pre-kid helpfulness score"] were also the same people who were willing to help taking care of my son Calvin (2010) [as denoted by "post-kid helpfulness score"]. Here are the scores, real names anonymized:

Scoring methodology: everyone in the column is able (e.g. they are capable of help and they have time) who are family members, and the score per row represents willingness to help. A score of 10 is that he/she has consistently and eagerly volunteered to help with chores even when not asked. A score of 7 is that he/she has occasionally volunteered to help with chores. A score of 5 is that he/she has occasionally helped after occasional requests for help. A score of 3 is that he/she has, in a few instances, helped with chores after being asked a few times. A score of 0 has never helped and comes up with excuses or runs away, even when asked repeatedly. I've split the chart in two sections: pre-kid chores (dog help, wedding help) and post-kid chores (diaper, feed, shower, ...).

Below I plotted pre-kid helpfulness score against post-kid helpfulness score. The size of the circle is relative to a person's age. Based on limited data points, one sees that those who are helpful pre-kid (helped with dog/wedding) also tend to be helpful post-kid (helped with baby/kid chores). There is no data point on either extreme side of the line as denoted by the orange text.

In summary, raising a kid is super tough and that is why many couples are desperate for  help. If you're counting on help from your family members, then based on my personal life and observations: 1) his/her past willingness to help IS indicative of future results 2) women tend to be better helpers  than men.

Do you observe the same thing in your personal life? Let's hear about it!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Good Ways to Encourage Children to Talk

I saw this article from io9 by Katharine Trendacosta that I really liked and now sharing with you guys. If you don't have time to read it, here is my summary. You still have to read the article for specifics:

  • You can start training children to have a conversation by asking the right questions and by responding "properly".
  • Try to ask open ended questions.
  • There are good and bad ways to ask open ended questions to children.
A few things struck me:
  • Children will actually respond to non-sensible/silly questions (e.g. "where do circles live?").
  • Children don't have a good grasp of time, try to avoid asking those.
If you have kid(s), how do you encourage him/her to have a conversation? Are you doing what the article suggests?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Plotting the Optimal Fun Age

My son is 2.5 years old. He is interacting a lot more with other kids than a year ago. Throughout year 2013, I've been taking notes on how much fun he has had with other kids during play dates. At each play date, I note the gender and age of the other kid, the duration of the play, the frequency of interactions, and subjective "fun-ness" (whether my son is copying, jumping, and/or laughing with the other kid). For each kid he played with, I compile these various numbers into a composite final value called Fun Score, and plotted against the age of the other kid. While data points are sparse and data is only gathered in a span of 4 months, a pattern emerges:

There is some correlation between the age of the other girls (pink circles) he played with and how high the Fun Score is.  In general, the older the girl he played with, the higher the Fun Score on that play date. For example, AA (girl) at age 7 scored a Fun  Score of 10, whereas LK (girl) at age 2 scored a Fun Score of only 4.5 (see the pink best fit line). He doesn't seem to have much interactions with a 3 month old MC and the Fun Score is nearly 0.

The same is true when my son plays with other boys, though the correlation isn't as strong (and also, there is lack of data points). For example, CK and CK2 (who are close in age)  only wanted to play with each other and ignored my son most of the time despite repeated attempts of getting them to play together. Then there is an outlier (EP) who was older and score a high Fun Score of 8. He was the most friendly and well-socialized boy of all the boys we've met to date and scored nearly as high as AA (girl).

Subjectively, I noticed that with my son, the boy-girl interactions tend to be a bit more constructive especially with older girls where she would often help or guide my son to do things. On the other hand, boy-boy interactions tend to be a bit more violent and more destructive, where they often throw things or destroy stuff (pull off legos, kicking block castle down, etc). Many times, they just ignored each other or simply co-played (defined as playing the same toys, but not interacting directly with each other via verbal or visual communications).

Note that my observation is subjective and that data points are sparse and self selected. Most importantly, my observations are mostly relevant for a 2.5 year old boy-- my own son. If you have [anti] anecdotal tales like "This report is flawed, I know this one particular case where x year girl/boy would score y", then feel free to email me personally. On the other hand if you have more data points (10+) that you'd like to share, then I'd really really really love to hear from you!