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Experiences

Inexpensive ways to keep kids Busy

It’s been over 2 and a half months, and the chirping of little kids has been eerily quiet in our gated community. Last week, my 3 year old son asked me, “Daddy, when will Conora-virus go? When will the playground be open?” and I had nothing but a sigh and an unsure “soon, Anik, soon…” to mutter. Sad, right? Don’t let the occasional memory of playground or his friends fool you though. Anik has been having a gala time since the Lockdown began and he’s been a very happy child. We will give him full credit for that. Let me share with you some inexpensive ways to keep kids busy. My spouse and I have facilitated a few playing and learning experiences for him that we would like to share.

Cardboard + imagination = unlimited fun as an inexpensive way to keep kids busy.

Weekends? no! They are craft days!!We ask Anik – What would you like to “make” today and the answers are as imaginative as they can be. Spaceship, Speedboat, A Car City, A Booster Rocket. Some spare things in the house, and a bit of stationary and we sit with him and craft our way to some really cool #makercraft. This is one of the great inexpensive ways to keep kids busy. Patience is key, so is participation – for sticking, colouring, marking and all kinds of stuff the kid may enjoy. We usually start with a plan on a whiteboard and then keep iterating our way. I will let the pictures do the talking. We hope Anik learns creativity, patience, and the love for building.

Pre-schoolers make great little chefs!

The entire world has been baking during the coronavirus pandemic and we are no exception. This surely is a proven way to keep your kid engaged. Helps Anik learn textures, tastes, dexterity, and again, making. This is another inexpensive ways to keep kids busy. We have gone a step further and given him some common ingredients and let his imagination take over. We have as a result, Grape and Potato wafer canapés, Apple Pie Made up of Apple and Coarse Sugar, and many other creative recipes you will not even find in a Michelin star restaurant. Take a look at some of these!!

Household chores + role play can turn pre-schoolers into happy little helpers.

Want to load your dishwasher? This is one of the great inexpensive ways to keep kids busy. You should ask your kid for help, Anik calls it a dishwashing Robot and he loves to help. Our cleaner bot is his robot friend too, he calls it Eva (from the Pixar movie Wall-e). Anik also loves on days to clean up and show us his superpowers! This doesn’t always work but when it does it’s great!

Your house spaces and furniture are your best friends!!

A bean bag, a hydraulic bed, sofa, simple mattress, can turn into amazing physical activities for kids. Balcony / Terrace can turn into yoga spaces. You don’t have to do a lot, just don’t interfere with creativity. This is one of the most amazing inexpensive ways to keep kids busy. There is a big safety issue here, so please exercise common sense. We turn our hydraulic bed into a slide, sofa with a bean bag turns into a bird’s nest, a mattress can turn into a ski slope. My kid for instance has conceived a fun pretend swimming pool – a bedsheet surrounded by pillows and a house ladder as a diving board, and there is pretend splashing too, and we have to be there with him. I’m sure all of us can relate to jumping on the bed, but with Anik we have taken it to a whole new level. We have also brought in aspects of simulation for instance we have built a car city replete with school, hospital, garage, emergency services, roads and everything!! Anik had blast building and playing.

Technology is a means to an end – it is NOT one of the inexpensive ways to keep kids busy.

Tech does NOT mean screens. Screens are okay, I am not averse to a couple hours of screen time a day, but it surely is passive and doesn’t engender or utilise creative ability at all. We try to harness tech to keep the kid engaged and curious, this could be simply be , communicating with his friends, or helping me repair a tap, or teaching how to replace batteries in toys, and then come the science experiments. For instance at 3 although not with a lot of expectations, me and Anik have created a DC generator prototype that generates electricity from another fan and a propeller wind mill. We have also created a water pumping station using siphon action. Anik’s grandfather has designed an aeroplane shuttle system based on a rope and a few straws. It’s brilliant. You can also experiment with Augmented reality fairly easily. Finally Lego! Lego is not tech but isn’t it? Using building blocks to create fascinating things… for me there is no better definition of tech.

I don’t pretend to be a super parent. These are humble efforts that are purely born out of necessity. Who knows, they might even inspire some parents and kids!!

Can you relate? Let us know in the comments below.

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Opinions

Anything but new normal – Coronavirus Pandemic

Make no mistake, this is turning out to be the greatest challenge of our generation or perhaps for many generations. What has hit us is not a one off event, it is a volley! The pandemic will be followed by a Series of crises. It is going to be anything but new normal. As a result I think we need a new strategy to deal with this incredible challenge, one that allows us to anticipate, prepare & adapt to this whole new world. Hang on, what whole new world?

The world is changing in profound ways we don’t understand yet

anything but new normal
We are at the precipice of cascading changes that will literally change everything

The world economy is already in a recession. Shortages of food are expected, especially in the lower income countries. The ripple effect of coronavirus on public health infrastructure is going to inevitably mean more suffering and death. As a result, many cities will suddenly find big companies moving their employees to “cloud”. Twitter, Facebook, and Shopify have already announced permanent work from home as an option. Some have announced they will become 100% remote.

What are the implications?

What happens to real estate? rentals in places like San Francisco? Also, why can’t companies like Shopify then hire a fully remote talented engineer in Manila? Or Dhaka? How will this change the Job Market? Will Bay Area remain lucrative? what about Bangalore? Will Harvard, and Stanford be the same they used to be? Will we as a generation accrue same amount of education debt? What about retail to e-commerce shift? Shift from television to streaming? What about shift towards cashless? Cryptocurrency? Remote education? Rest assured, many have already become mainstream and are here to stay. Everything is on hyper-drive. In conclusion, it is mind numbing and we won’t be able to stop it or slow it down!!

Prepare for anything but new normal

Many governments around the world fumbled, jumbled and simply didn’t get their head around what was coming. Many touted this just as a flu, others said we will acquire “herd immunity”, some were debating until it was too late. This is not the criticism of the governments, they have a tough job balancing precaution with overreaction. However, it underscores the nature of the challenge. It is completely unpredictable. Although some have done better than others, and there are lessons to be learnt. The unpredictability stems from the pandemic itself, for instance, it cannot be predicted whether therapeutics / vaccine will arrive in a month or in a year or in a few years. Although most of us have an optimism bias, it is a dangerous proposition if it does not prepare us for what is coming.

Anything but new normal presents opportunities as well

WHO’s chief scientist recently painted a bleak picture suggesting it will be 4-5 years before the COVID-19 pandemic is under control. We cannot assume that people in charge, or governments necessarily know what they are doing. You need to be in charge. Do what feels right, don’t let anyone tell you that they know better. The more original solutions and meaningful actions the more our chances of coming out stronger as a community. Especially, the younger generation has a massive responsibility to figure out what is wrong and fix it and also build a better future. If someone has an issue with how you are doing something, then let them do it their way and you let history decide who did it better. Remember, all crises come with great opportunities.

Adapt and build a community for what you believe in

We need to adapt to the changing landscape. Many small private label retailers and some big fashion brands are now partnering with Amazon to keep going. Some of my dear friends have completely changed their area of expertise and adopted to upcoming technologies such as Cloud, AIML among others. I have seen a massive push in areas such as group buying, where farmers sell their produce direct to the consumer – cheaper prices, fresher produce, and elimination of middlemen. No big tech involved, whatsapp and google sheets do the job just fine for these pandemic entrepreneurs. Many of our team have joined up with academia, and friends to help governments make policy decisions. All of these are heroes in my opinion.

Passion economy has become very big as well!

Passion economy is about celebrating individuality and sharing it with the world, and in return getting paid handsomely for it. As per the linked article, the top writer on the paid newsletter platform substack makes US $ 500,000 a year from reader subscriptions. All of us have hidden teachers, cooks, music tutors in us, and we too can make an opportunity from it. Turn to YouTube and start a v-log, open that Shopify storefront you always wanted to sell Socks, write a blog, create a private label on Amazon, start a podcast, help someone with parenting, pick up someone when they are feeling low, or help a stranger who needs a job. Do something you are passionate about, and who knows you may have the next million subscribers.

anything but new normal
Source – Social Media Credits Unknown

Good luck on your journey, it is going to be unique and challenging, but I promise you it will be worth it. After all we are in anything but new normal.

Categories
Opinions

Misinformation effect – workings of a trojan horse

Misinformation effect can be explained best via a metaphor. A Trojan horse – usually an eavesdropping kind of a computer virus, or as some of you may know the mythological wooden horse with hidden warriors inside used by the Greek to end the siege of city of Troy. I think the metaphor continues to evolve and its latest incarnation is social media! Specifically, the rampant misinformation effect on social media.

Don’t worry I am not asking you to give up your WhatsApp! However with great power comes great responsibility according to Voltaire or Spiderman 🙂 depending on whose philosophy you follow. I strongly believe that Social media is being used as a Trojan horse to manipulate and literally hack into the minds of billions of people. We need to do something about it.  Social media is probably as profound an invention as the internet itself. However, I believe it is a huge contributor to some crises of our times. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of world-wide-web, highlights these challenges in 3 parts. First, we have lost control of our personal data (huge topic, not for now). Second, it’s too easy to spread misinformation (a.k.a. Trojan horse 3.0) and third,  political advertising needs transparency and understanding. In this blog post, I share my perspectives.

People are the biggest subjects of mass internet adoption & social media

Arab spring is when we saw the first signs of this. People used social to rally public opinion and an uprising. We began to see fundamental impact in Tunisia and other places. Fast forward to today – Brexit is a reality, despite our utter disbelief. America elected Donald Trump on a super controversial and rather ingenious campaign.  Misinformation effect of social media has enabled this outcome. Can anyone predict what are the long-term consequences of these events? One thing is certain, the reductionist narratives are succeeding. Savvy people who know how to manipulate social media are grabbing power. Social capital is declining. The future, to say the least looks very much on an edge. How did we let this happen?

Majority of people do not verify facts, and are prone to misinformation effect. We need to acknowledge this, without an excuse

Most people look at a headline online and assume it must be true. People look at an internet meme negatively associating someone with a crime, and over time, they think it must be true. We are not the most logical creatures we think we are, we are prone to errors of judgement all the time. Information bias, confirmation bias, belief bias, ambiguity bias, conjunction fallacy and more are pitfalls of our own cognition. These make us an easy prey when we face complex social decisions. We favour simple looking options and complete information over complex options and incomplete information – often ignoring truth or facts in the process.

Ironically, real world is often full of complex options and incomplete information. Consider Brexit. People were given simple options (In or out), and total but apparently complete mis-information i.e. we go out of EU and we get back £350m a week, we keep single market access, and we are in control of free movement – sounds awesome, right? well except it was not a fact. This red-bus photo or similar ones were distributed and seen millions of times, thanks to social media.

brexit-bus
Courtesy : mojoworking.eu

Reality however, turned out far more complex. We have heard ridiculous red, blue or white Brexit, hard Brexit, a “deep and special” partnership. In conclusion, However people still voted leave.

There is no silver bullet to address the root cause of misinformation effect, however we can make a good start with a transparency movement, and a sufficiently strong industry response to this phenomenon

With billions of people X times the content, it is literally impossible to police everything. I have seen algorithms and AI tasked with identifying “bad” stuff, but it is also well known that algorithms are probably even more biased than human beings and are prone to manipulation. Perhaps, a good start would be to start with a transparency movement – Google has made a good start by including a fact checker on some of its content.

google_fact_check
Courtesy : Thisinsider.com 

At least it will act as a warning sign to not take information at the face value – others should follow suit. In fact, I believe with Google and Facebook pretty much controlling most of the products in question, there should be a strong industry response translating in explicit features such as the one describe above, online ads reminding people, awareness campaigns and TV commercials.

Ultimately though, we do not believe everything a stranger tells us in the real world, we use discretion. Why should the virtual world be an exception?!

Thanks for reading, please let me know what you think in the comments section.