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AI For Kids

Parent and child using AI

This time, a more fun post than usual - how to use AI with kids. Odd as it may sound, children and AI are an ideal pairing. A child's imagination far outstrips that of an adult, and when combined with AI, the duo can create truly enchanting results. But, just like teaching them to ride a bike safely, we need to show them how to use AI in a safe way. In this post, I'll share 3 fun ways I've played with AI with my kids. I'll also talk about why it's important to introduce your kids to AI and how to do so safely.

Why AI Matters for Kids

Introducing kids to AI isn't just about fun and games; it lays the foundation for understanding the technology of tomorrow. Children's inherent ability to think outside the box amplifies the potential of AI, making the outcomes even more delightful. As they grow, they'll undoubtedly encounter more advanced versions of today's technology. Familiarizing them with AI now sets a baseline, ensuring they're not left behind. Furthermore, these interactions provide a unique opportunity for discussions about responsible tech usage, emphasizing the balance between creativity and privacy, and ensuring they harness AI's power ethically.

3 Ways To Use AI With Your Kids

Bedtime Stories

Some nights, we turn to AI for bedtime stories. With almost Mad Libs style inputs, I let my kids pick their favorite characters, settings, writing styles, etc and let AI work its magic to write a one of a kind bedtime story. We’ve had stories about superheroes saving the day, recaps of past family trips we’ve taken, and educational anecdotes about upcoming holidays. Here's how to do it:

  1. Gather Inputs: Sit down with your child and ask them about their favorite characters, settings, and themes. Perhaps they're fascinated by dragons, interested in space, or fans of superheroes. Feel free to add your own little secret twists to the story. Also, consider any recent experiences or challenges they've faced that might be turned into a story, such as starting school or making a new friend.

  2. Define the Story Style: Decide on the tone and style of the story. This could range from a rhyming Dr. Seuss-style narrative to a classic fairytale setting. Determine the appropriate age level and desired length. I love the fact that I can generate a long story for when we have plenty of time and shorter ones when it’s getting late! I usually start with a story of 1,000 words, which takes about 5 minutes to read.

  3. Use an AI Tool for Story Generation: Experiment with different Large Language Models (LLMs). Each LLM has its own style and approach, and you might develop a preference for one over the other. My 7 year old is personally a Bard fan, while I prefer the tried and true chatGPT.

  4. Personalize and Review: Read through the generated story and ask the AI for revisions if needed. Add any personal touches or inside jokes that would delight your child and ensure the story aligns with your initial vision.

Here are a few stories we've enjoyed recently:

Visual Shopping Lists

Taking kids shopping can be a mix of fun and chaos. Taking them along to the store teaches many life lessons like navigating public spaces and comparing prices to understand the value of money. However, using a shopping list can be a challenge, especially when they're so eager to help but aren't reading fluently yet. I've recently introduced visual shopping lists, crafted by AI. These visual guides transform our shopping outings into small treasure hunts, ensuring we grab everything on our list and leave the rest on the shelves. Here's how to do it:

Visual Shopping list generated by AI
Costco List

  1. Choose the Right Tool: Open Bard, given its proficiency at generating images.

  2. Input Your List: Copy your shopping list into Bard and request corresponding images organized in a table format.

  3. Transfer to Document: Paste your visual table into a Google Doc.

  4. Print and Go: Print out your visual shopping list, turning shopping into an interactive quest.

Customized Story Books

There are moments when off-the-shelf children's books don't quite capture the unique curiosities of our little ones. Take my 4-year-old, for instance, who was firmly convinced that firefighters and pilots never pause for bathroom breaks. And honestly, he had a point! None of the books or TV shows he encountered included this important detail. Since I wanted to avoid making an awkward request at the fire station, I turned to AI. Using a mix of storytelling and visual generation, I quickly crafted a custom book about brave firefighters and helicopter pilots who, amidst their heroic endeavors, took short bathroom breaks just like the rest of us. This tale not only resolved his quirky curiosity but also instilled a sense of specialness, knowing he had a narrative made especially for him. Below is one way to do this.

  1. Identify the Unique Theme or Question: Start by pinpointing what specific idea or question your child has that isn't addressed in regular children's books. It might be something as unique as understanding the daily routines of their favorite professionals or exploring a particular fantasy world they've dreamt up.

  2. Draft the Story: Before diving into AI, sketch a rough outline of the story you want to create. It gives a structure to work with and ensures the AI-generated content aligns with your child's query.

  3. Use an AI Tool for Story Creation: Using your chosen LLM, generate the story. Input the theme, desired tone, and style. Remember to be specific with your prompts to get a narrative that fits your vision. For instance, "Create a story about brave firefighters and pilots who, amidst their heroic tasks, take a break to use the restroom, suitable for a 3-year-old."

  4. Generate Illustrations: For the visual aspect, utilize an AI image generation tool like Dall-E. Given that some AI tools might not produce ultra-realistic images, opt for styles like watercolor or sketches. Feed the tool with prompts based on your story, such as "Illustrate a firefighter in watercolor style using the bathroom."

  5. Compile and Review: Once you have the text and images, compile them in a way that each page of your book has the right balance of text and imagery. Review the flow, ensuring that the story progresses naturally and the illustrations align with the narrative.

  6. Print and Bind: Using services like Shutterfly, upload your pages and get them printed as a physical book. In a short time, you'll have a bespoke book that directly addresses your child's unique perspective, ready to be read and cherished.

Responsible AI Use with Kids

Incorporating AI with our kids is exciting but requires a sense of responsibility. It's vital to set boundaries, educate about privacy, and avoid oversharing. As we navigate their digital engagements, we instill values of ethical tech usage and teach the distinction between creation and plagiarism.

In today's interconnected world, children are more informed than ever. They inevitably catch snippets of news and discussions about emerging technologies, including AI. By introducing them to AI hands-on, we demystify this complex subject. So, when they encounter AI discussions in the future, they'll have a foundational understanding, allowing them to engage, form opinions, and connect with the evolving world.

Have you tried using AI with your kids? Any favorite tips, tricks, or horror stories to share?

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