Board Game Review: Mermaid Island

Cover of Mermaid Island board game

I was recently playing a game of Candyland with my youngest niece, who is 5. As her older sister and I both passed her on the board, she got more and more upset, before deciding that she was all done and angrily started putting the game away. Although learning to lose gracefully is a skill that is important for children to learn, it is also important for them to have fun activities that they can complete to feel a sense of skill and accomplishment.

Game board of Mermaid Island

As I was looking for a game that would be fun for her to play, I came across Mermaid Island. Mermaid Island is a board game created by Peaceable Kingdom, a company that makes several co-operative games. The difference between co-operative games and most other board games is that in a co-operative board game like Mermaid Island, the players are all working together to win. So instead of having one winner and one or more losers at the end of the game, the game ends with everyone either succeeding together or failing together.

Three mermaid game tokens

The point of Mermaid Island is to get three mermaids to the island before the Sea Witch gets there. There are 3 star wands that players can use to move the Sea Witch back a space, but careful- if the Sea Witch gets to the star wands first they can’t be used. Although players take turn spinning the spinner to see how many spaces they can move, they decide together when to see the star wands and can decide together which mermaid to move on each turn.

Sea Witch game tokenIt took my niece a couple of minutes to get used to the idea that we were not competing against each other, but one she did she really enjoyed playing together- none of the upset and stress of competition.

I really enjoyed this game, as an adult it can be hard to find games that kids like but that don’t bore adults to tears (I’m looking at you, Candy Land!). I enjoyed that I did not have to try not to win, in order to keep my niece happy and interested in the game. One of my favourite things about this game is that the instructions were printed on the inside of the lid. Why doesn’t every board game company do this?!? Goodbye to the frustration of lost instructions.

If you’re looking for a fun and non mind numbing game to play with kids 5 and up I highly recommend checking out Mermaid Island, perfectly themed for some summer fun!

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Sewing Leaves- Fall Fine Motor Skills Activity for Children

Sewing Leaves Fine Motor ActivityThis is such a fun yet simple activity to encourage children to develop their fine motor skills.

Materials needed:

  • Leaves
  • Plastic lacing needles (or regular sewing needles if you are doing this activity with children old enough to use them)
  • Coloured embroidery thread (or regular thread if using sewing needles)

Make sure you tie a knot in the end of the embroidery thread before you start sewing. If you are doing this activity with younger kids (or if the thread keeps slipping) you can tie the thread onto the eye of the needle after threading it.

 

Sewing Leaves Fine Motor Skills Activity 3Showing the kids how to do a simple straight stitch is an easy way to start. To help them grasp the concept you could draw dashes on the leaves with a pen or marker, but once they get the hang of it they can get creative!

Sewing Leaves Fine Motor Skills Activity 4This is a great process oriented activity, and the kids really get into it. I’ve done sewing with kids as young as three and it’s so wonderful to see how quickly they get the hang of it and how strongly they focus on it.

Sewing Leaves Fine Motor Skills Activity 2Have you ever tried sewing with children? How did it turn out?

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Foaming Frankenstein Heads: Fun Halloween Science Experiment

Reactions Science Experiment for Kids

A friend gifted me with a set of these fun Frankenstein head containers and I knew I needed to use them for a science experiment of some kind. They came from the dollar store so they should be pretty easy to find if you want the same or similar containers.

Ingredients for foaming Frankenstein experiment: Frankenstein container, baking soda, vinegar and food dye.For this experiment you will need baking soda (not baking powder!) and vinegar. Adding food colouring is fun but optional if you don’t have any, it won’t affect the reaction. I used about half a cup of vinegar, and added it to the container first, then mixed in a few drops of food dye. After it was mixed together I added in a heaping tablespoon of baking soda. If you are using a larger container, or just want a foamier reaction you could add in some dish washing soap too.

If you are doing this science experiment with younger children you can talk about the ingredients and ask them to predict what will happened when you mix the ingredients together. For older children you could have them repeat the experiment a few times, having them use a different set up each time. Have them try using a larger amount of vinegar with a smaller amount of baking soda, food dye versus no food dye, adding dish soap in, or have them come up with their own hypothesis to try out.

Baking soda and vinegar creating foam coming out of Frankenstein's headThe reaction happened quickly after adding in the baking soda!

Frankenstein head with foaming reactionIt was very difficult to get a photo of the reaction! I redid the experiment and made a video of the reaction, using a screenshot of the video for this photo. If you’re doing this experiment with older children, you could have one child act as the recorder, using photos, filming, notes or a combination.

Big reaction- Frankenstein head covered in foamI love this photo, such a fun picture of Frankenstein’s eye peeking out from the vinegar and baking soda reaction.

End of Foaming Frankenstein head reactionThe foam quickly fizzled back into liquid. Next time I try this, I’ll add some liquid dish soap in as well and see if it makes the reaction last longer.

Have you tried this? What’s your favourite science experiment or activity to do using baking soda and vinegar?

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Monster Slime Sensory Bag

Monster Eyes Sensory Bag

I love October! Halloween has always been one of my favourite holidays and when October hits I start looking at everything through a Halloween coloured lens. So when I saw these fun coloured googly eyes at the dollar store my first thought was that they look like monster eyes. I decided to create a monster eye sensory bag with them.

Ingredients for monster slime: hair gel, ziploc bag and googly eyes.

The ingredients you will need to create a monster eyes sensory bin is a ziploc bag, googly eyes, hair gel and tape. The cheapest hair gel I found was blue but if you have clear hair gel you can add food colouring or liquid water colours for colour.

Layering the hair gel and googly eyes in the ziploc bag.

I found that it was easiest to put in small amounts of the ingredients at a time, and to layer them to make it easier to mix them up. Once the bag is sealed you can have the kids help you mix the googly eyes into the hair gel by squeezing the bag with their hands.

Finished bag of monster slime

This is what the finished monster eyes sensory bag looked like once it was finished. You may want to tape the sensory bag shut with packing tape or duct tape, especially if you have younger children or extra curious children.

Monster slime sensory bag against sunlit window.

After squishing, squeezing and poking the sensory bag, we taped it to the window to see what it would look like. The monster eyes sensory bag would also be fun to use on top of a light box if you have one, but the window allowed light to come through the hair gel, making it “look like we were under water”.

Monster eyes sensory bag is a quick, cheap and easy way to explore texture and a fun open ended activity sensory activity as an alternative to a water or sand bin.

Have you made a similar sensory bag? Tell me in the comments!

 

 

 

 

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First Day of Fall Painting

As much as I will miss the fun of summer, I do really enjoy Fall (or Autumn as some may say). For the first day of Fall I thought I’d show how to do a tape resist painting in Fall colours.

This is a great activity because it is very process based, the child doing the activity can choose what paint to use, how much, where to put it, what types of brush strokes to use etc. At the end of it though, you also end up with a nice project that you can display.

Materials for Fall painting
Materials for the Fall painting

I used a handmade textured brush but you can use a regular paint brush, foam brush or even have the kids paint with their fingers.

Starting to tape the canvas.
Starting to tape the canvas.

Use tape to section off areas of the canvas. You can use masking tape or painters tape,  whichever you have on hand. Older kids can do this part themselves but younger kids may require you to give them pieces of pre cut tape or put the tape down for them for the youngest ones.

Finished taping the canvas.
Finished taping the canvas.

This is more or less what the canvas will look like when you’ve finished taping it. You can do a geometric pattern or make it more random. For a fall painting it would also be neat to create a tree trunk and branches out of the tape.

Starting to paint the canvas.
Starting to paint the canvas.

I chose red and yellow paint because they would mix to create orange. Using primary colours would also be good to teach colour mixing, or you could use favourite colours, colours to match a season or theme or whatever you have on hand 😉

Finished painting.
Finished painting.

Here’s the toddler completed painting. He was really interested in applying a lot of paint to one fairly circular area.

Completed painting.
Completed painting.

Here’s the end result! A Fall coloured tape resist painting for the first day of Fall 🙂

Snow Day!

There is something magical about waking up to find that school has been cancelled and you have a snow day. Or, if you’re like me, setting your alarm for a few minutes before the time that the decision to stay open or to close is to be made and then obsessively checking Twitter, Facebook and the news until it’s finally posted. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Snow day!

Person, Human, Female, Girl, Cap, Winter, Snow, Gloves
Snow Day!

If you’re a teacher or a child care provider a snow day can be a nice day to relax, or to get ahead on planning (or caught up on planning). If you’re a parent with little ones at home however, you have an unexpected day to fill with activities. 

Here are some fun activities to keep your kids engaged and having fun on a snow day.

Movie day. Stay in your pajamas, pop some popcorn and watch a family friendly movie like Inside Out or Minions.

Snuggle up and read. Whether you’re a kid or an adult, snuggling under a warm blanket and enjoying some hot chocolate with a favourite book is great way to spend some time indoors when it’s stormy outside. When the forecast is calling for snow I usually make sure I have time to head to the library to pick up a few books.

Active indoor games. If you have a Wii or Kinect for X Box it’s a good way to let your kids play some video games while still staying active. There’s a large variety of active games available for these systems like sports, carnival games or dance games. If you’re looking for some active indoor games that aren’t video games, you can try having a scavenger hunt indoors, playing games like volleyball or keep it up using a balloon instead of a ball, or competing to see how many bean bags or ball bags you can toss into a laundry basket or smaller container.

Baking. If you already have some supplies on hand, baking can be a fun way to keep your kids entertained while they’re inside. Plus you’ll have some delicious treats when you’re done! Here’s a link to my favourite brownie recipe. It’s a very simple recipe to follow, doubles well and the brownies it makes are fabulous. 

Crafts. Whether your children are older or younger, crafts are a good way to keep them engaged in an activity. From colouring or painting, to crafts that are a little more involved, there’s a craft for any age, skill level or interest. Here’s some links to fun kid’s crafts you can do on a snow day: Hand Print Penguin, Winter Tree Silhouette, Paper Plate Snowman.

Just because it’s a snow day though, doesn’t mean you have to stay inside all day if you don’t want to. Bundle up in some warm clothes and head outside to build a snowman, go sledding or make some snow paintings in your backyard using spray bottles filled with water and a little bit of food dye. Don’t forget the classics of building a snow fort and having a snowball fight!

Whatever you choose to do on a snow day, stay warm and safe, and enjoy it! What are your favourite things to do on a snow day?