How My Son’s Love of Chess “Infected” The Entire Family

When my son entered kindergarten, I didn’t want his afternoons to be idle at after-school care. Instead, I wanted him to be challenged both physically and intellectually. Fortunately, his elementary school had many enrichment programs, so I signed up for chess, along with flag football and LEGO engineering, at school.

“Chess for 5 year olds?“ My husband was quite suspicious when I first proposed it. I consulted a colleague, who was a former school teacher. She told me to always encourage my kids try something new but don’t push them to continue if they don’t like it. I took her advice and began my son’s love affair with chess.

In our home, chess has become a central theme in our day-to-day lives. A typical father-son evening would be spent watching game recaps of the defending champion Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen at the FIDE World Chess Championship in Chennai. My husband, in order to keep up with his constantly-improving son, has to watch chess videos over lunch breaks. On long road trips and late at night, I would solve chess puzzles. The most adorable moment came a few weeks ago when my 6 year-old son started teaching his 3-year-old brother on how different pieces move.

About once every 2 months, my husband takes our son to a tournament to compete with other kids. My son always has a great time where he can spend all day playing chess. I stay home with our younger son and rely on my husband’s iMessages to give me live blog-style updates. No matter if he wins or loses, he runs to his dad after each round with the biggest smile on his face.

I am grateful that my son has found a hobby that will hopefully turn into a lifelong passion. His chess instructor told me that he had the potential to be one of the greats. However, he’s only 6 and doesn’t like to memorize opening theories and jot down his moves, but he has that raw talent we can nurture! I can’t wait to see whether my 3-year-old shares his brother’s passion for the King’s Game.

Kids Music About Science That You’ll Also Love

theymightbegiants_scienceI am a big science geek.  When I was younger, I loved watching NOVA.  Now I am all grown up, I still love NOVA, watch Scientific American Frontiers with Alan Alda, and listen to NPR’s Science Friday.

When looking for music for my kids, I naturally gravitated toward those about science.

Here Comes Science is one of the best music CDs about science, by none other than They Might Be Giants.  I played in the car for the first time for my two boys, they both loved the songs.  With titles like “I Am A Paleontologist” or “How Many Planets”, I was drawn to the music myself.

For those who are fans of the Big Bang Theory, I am certain that you’d agree with me that the theme song by Barenaked Ladies is by far the best song about Science, ever!

Our whole universe was in a hot dense state,
Then nearly fourteen billion years ago expansion started–Wait!
The Earth began to cool,
The autotrophs began to drool,
Neanderthals developed tools,
We built a wall (we built the pyramids),
Math, science, history,
Unraveling the mystery,
That all started with the Big Bang! BANG!

Ladybug Girl And Pinkalicious

Back in college, I chuckled when my psychology professor talked about how she strived to raised her children in a gender-neutral way.  She had a girl and a boy.  One day, her son wanted to go to school with hair clips just like his sister.  Despite gentle discouragement, she wasn’t able to talk her son out of it, so off he went to school with hair clips.  Fortunately other kids thought it was so novel and did not tease him.

Now I have two sons, I found myself in a similar delightful dilemma.  Ever since I downloaded Pinkalicous the Musical to my Honda Odyssey’s hard drive, little E has been asking me to play it whenever we are in the car.  Periodically he’ll shout out, “I love pink”.  Even my kindergartner says, “Mommy, do you know my second favorite color is?  Pink!”

Children’s books really shouldn’t be about the gender of the main character.  It should be the interesting things the characters say or encounter.

I’d like to introduce two book series where the central characters are girls with strong personalities.

Ladybug Girl is about a girl with a red ladybug costume.  With a vivid imagination, she forms a bug squad with playground friends.

Pinkalicious is about a girl who obviously loves the color pink.  In fact, her obsession often leads to trouble, as she turned pink after consuming too many pink cupcakes.

What other young heroine book series do you recommend?

Yoga for kids

In the past few weeks, our little E’s teacher Chandrika started introducing yoga to kids at preschool.

When my 3-year-old boy came home and demonstrated “ice cream” and “airplane” poses, it was incredibly adorable.  I immediately purchased a copy of Bal Yoga for Kids book and DVD, the same material used at school.   Now it’s becoming our nightly routine. Before I put the kids to bed, we stretch and do a few poses.  We end the night with the Namaste pose (legs criss-crossed with thumbs and index fingers touching to make a circle).

One great thing about this collection of video is that it introduces 30+ poses, 26 of them (A-Z) are based on animals or everyday objectives, e.g. ice cream, umbrella.  Not only are kids mimicking animal postures, e.g. extending two arms to form an elephant trunk, they are also learning A, B, C at the same time.

Here’s A for Airplane pose.


I did yoga when I was pregnant with my first child.  While I appreciate the meditative aspect, I never quite appreciate it until recently.   This mother-and-son yoga time has given us another chance to bond.

Here’s a promotional video from the publisher:

I highly recommend this book/DVD/audio CD set!

Belly Button Books for Toddlers

Go up to any toddlers and say “Belly button!” and you will undoubtedly get a giggle or two!

My kids always chuckle when I read them these belly button books.

bellybuttonOne of my favorite children’s authors is Sandra Boynton. Her Belly Button Book has silly hippos singing praises of their “BEE BO”s.

My favorite lines from the book is

“It’s Belly Button Beach where tons of hippos stand around in bathing suits too little because they hope you will admire the button on their middle.”

bellybuttonfairyNot all fairies are young like Tinkerbell. The star of this beautifully illustrated book is a grandmother fairy. The accompanied audio track is simply delightful.

“Now I think this is real. Oh, I think this is true.
Yes, it happened to me and it happened to you.
Take a look in the mirror. Do you see something funny?
Is there a round hole right there on your tummy?”

flapFinally, for toddlers who simply can’t get enough peek-a-boo, Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? will surely entertain.

My kids and I love the folky and colorful illustrations in this book.  Though it’s a board book, my boys get so excited about the flaps that the book is fairly worn out after all these years!


Hope you will enjoy these belly button books!

LEGO Star Wars R2D2

starwars_legoAs a mother of 2 and wife of a Star Wars fan, our house is inundated with Star Wars themed LEGO kits. Even my sweet and “illiterate” 2yo boy recognizes the franchise’s logo from a mile away.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what to give my husband for this Valentine’s Day. I want a gift that enables him to play and have fun with our kids.

Serendipitously, I came across a LEGO kit for R2D2. It is possibly the most beloved character ever created within the series. I’ve read so many positive reviews. Now an order has been made and I simply can’t wait to see my family gather around the living room and the joy on their faces when all 2,127 pieces are all put together!


Construction toys for aspiring architects

Our home has countless containers of construction toys, ranging from wooden blocks to marble runs. These are 3 of our favorite construction toys.  The first two involve motors and the last one requires imagination only.

Quercetti Marble Run

We received it at our older son’s 4th birthday. It was a bit challenging but with Daddy’s help, our son spent hours connecting and re-arranging tubes and testing marble drops down ramps. Between Quercetti and Techno Gears, I would start out with one around 4 or 5 and then move on to Techno Gears.


Techno Gears Marble Mania Extreme

We picked this kit up at Costco a couple of years ago. The age range is 8 to 12 but even my husband found it a bit challenging. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most sophisticated and elaborate motorized marble runs we have in the house. Kids love it. You absolutely have to keep track of marbles that come in these kits as they are choking hazards for younger kids in the home.

Citiblocs Building Blocks
We were inspired of the possibilities of wooden blocks when we visited Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley. There was one room with 20,000 blocks for anyone to build.  Definitely inspiring!




I’d love to hear about constructions toys in your home!  Always looking for new toy recommendations for my boys.