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!



Countdown to Christmas With These Candy Free Advent Calendars for Children.

The anticipation of looking forward to Christmas has always been one of the best parts of Christmas for me. As a child, one of my favourite Christmas traditions that we had was putting a piece up each night on our felt board advent calendar. As Christmas got closer, the scene was filled out more and more with a palm tree, camels, the three Wise Men, etc. I remember arguing about putting up favourite pieces up, such as the star or the angel.

Today you can find Advent calendars of many kinds, but the easiest ones to find are the cardboard Advent calendars filled with chocolates. With many parents trying to limit the amount of candy that their children get, non candy Advent calendars are getting easier to find.

Here’s my round up of candy free Advent calendars.

Felt Advent Calendar Christmas Tree
Felt Advent Calendar from Felterrific on Etsy

I love this charming felt Advent calendar. Each day you add another ornament on the tree as you count down to Christmas!

Gingerbread Square Advent Calendar
Gingerbread Square Advent Calendar by Smart Art by Susie on Etsy

If you want an Advent calendar that you can fill with your own treats, surprises or notes the festive Gingerbread Square Advent calendar works as both a Christmas decoration and a calendar! Open a drawer each day to see what’s inside as you count down to Christmas. It would be really sweet to fill the drawers with notes written with holiday activities for the family, such as “Write a letter to Santa”, “bake cookies” and “wrap presents”

This “Dream Snow” by Eric Carle pop up Advent Calendar is absolutely gorgeous. Each day you open a window to find a decoration to put on the pop out cardboard tree. This would be an especially sweet Advent calendar paired with a copy of the picture book Dream Snow by Eric Carle as a Christmas gift!

Eric Carle 'sDream Snow Pop Up Advent calendar
Eric Carle’s Dream Snow Pop Up Advent calendar
Melissa and Doug Countdown to  Christmas calendar
Melissa and Doug Countdown to Christmas calendar

This Melissa and Doug Countdown to Christmas calendar is a great way to encourage children to identify numbers. Each days they can find the current day’s number on the tree and place a wooden ornament on it. This can be reused every year!

There are also lots of options out there if you would prefer to buy a pre-filled Advent calendar. This wooden Advent calendar is a really neat because it comes pre-filled, but you could save it for next year’s Christmas and refill the boxes yourself.

Wooden Advent Calendar
Wooden Advent Calendar by Built by Hendo on Etsy

Playmobil sells Advent calendars in different themes such as “Christmas on the Farm” or “Christmas in the Forest”. These include 24 different figures, animals etc that you can also use with Playmobil blocks your child already has. Playmobil has several other Advent calendars with different themes.

Playmobil Christmas on the Farm Advent Calendar
“Playmobil Christmas on the Farm” Advent calendar
Playmobil Christmas in the Forest Advent calendar
Playmobil “Christmas in the Forest” Advent calendar

If your children are more into Lego than Playmobil, there are multiple options to choose from, for both Lego Friends and Lego City fans. These are great accessories to add to your child’s current Lego!

Lego Friends Advent calendar
Lego Friends Advent calendar
Lego City Advent calendar
Lego City Advent calendar

If your children are too young for Lego, the Little People Advent calendar is a great option. Your child can count down to Christmas by opening one door each day to find a Little People figure or accessory.

Little People Advent Calendar
Little People Advent Calendar


Thomas the Train Advent Calendar
Thomas the Train Advent Calendar

This Thomas the Train Advent calendar is the perfect way for little Thomas fans to countdown to Christmas. Each calendar includes 24 mini trains from the Thomas and Friends collection.

If you have an artistic child, or you want an Advent calendar that will encourage creativity, you should check out these Advent calendars that include creative supplies:

Play Doh Advent calendar
Play Doh Advent calendar
Crayola Christmas Countdown calendar
Crayola Christmas Countdown calendar