My DataViz Kid

My DataViz Kid

Have you ever wanted to share your hobby, passion, or interests with your kids, but wondered when is the right time?

I wonder this all the time.  My two main interests are mountain biking and data visualization.  Unfortunately, my 5- and 7-year-olds are still working on kicking the training wheels so I am going to have to wait on mountain biking.

In the meantime, I thought I might try and expose them to data.  They are smart kids.  If they have a question, they just tell me to ask Siri.  If they don’t agree with what I say, they go ask their Mom.  They are pretty creative; finding new ways to challenge me just about every day.  I guess I could do without some of that!

I’ve seen some tweets of kids in the data community getting involved with things like #MakeoverMonday, #VisualizeNoMalaria, and Tableau Public.  I know mine are too young to start contributing to things like that, but is there really a barrier to data visualization in general?  I don’t think so.

When I am building a visualization at work, I find the best way to get people involved is to make them a part of the process.  Who is your audience?  What questions are you trying to answer?  How do you think we should measure performance?  The list goes on, but you get the point: make it about them!

I had the perfect opportunity to do this with my 5-year-old, Penny.  She just started kindergarten summer soccer.  Penny is a wonderful kid.  She is smart, fun-loving, kind, and good at anything she puts her mind to.  She is one of those kids you just don’t have to worry about.  Thanks DNA!

I took her to her first soccer game a few weeks ago.  I pulled up my lawn chair and was enjoying a few minutes to myself.  They practice for about 30 minutes and then play a little game (no goalies and no keeping score).

I know Penny is good at sports, but what happened next was amazing.  She played three shifts and buried ten goals.  These were like Wayne Gretzky end-to-end kind of goals.

These are the texts I sent to my wife who couldn’t be there.


I knew they weren’t keeping score, but I’m a data guy.  I can’t help it.

The best part of watching Penny was that she was very gracious after each goal.  She would kind of blush, smile, and then run right back to her team.  She wasn’t just scoring either, she was passing to her teammates and was playing crazy on defense.  I don’t think anyone got by her.

I decided to track her goals for the season and do a visualization.  I wanted to get her excited about the data, explain what she was looking at, and then ask her to draw her own.  Last night, we did just that.

click to see the interactive version

I showed her my dashboard and explained the axes.  Up is more goals and right is the date of the game.  I asked her to tell me how many goals she scored on a few of them.  She seemed to grasp this pretty easily.

I told her to draw the line chart and she did an amazing job.  I explained we needed to add a title and summarize the data. In true Penny fashion, all was going well.  She still had one more game to go at the time of her drawing.  I explained that she was scoring about 7 goals per game.  I asked her to guess how many she would score in the next game.  She said 7, so we had a forecast!  I told her to draw that one in a different color because it hasn’t happened yet.  She needed a little spelling help throughout, but she rocked it!

Here is her drawing.

click to enlarge
click to enlarge

Check out her labeling and annotations!  She’s got a future!

The best part of this whole experience was the next morning when Penny woke her Mom to show her the drawing she made.  She explained how she learned new things from Daddy and how much fun she had.  She also keeps asking me to pull up her viz so she can look at it.

There are not a lot of times I can claim a true victory as a parent, but this is one of them!  I hope there are more dataviz kidz out there.  Let me know if you have any advice on Penny’s next viz.

Maybe in a few years I can bring them along for the ride!

Warning – You cannot get back the 3:23 of your life if you watch this!

2 thoughts on “My DataViz Kid

  1. Debbie Crahen

    Nay nay! Proud of you, Penny!

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