Saturday, October 25, 2008

The mouse club***

The mouse club is a site for young children created by the publishing division of d2 Digital by Design Ltd., U.K. They also produce "a range of educational resources for 3-19 year olds using media including print, video, CD-ROM and web."

To begin, click on the clubhouse on the home page. It opens the mouse club in a new window, full screen (or nearly), from where you have a choice of games, activities, mouse tales, secret club, and joining the club (free). There are no ads.

Secret club, when loading will show the mice sliding down a dirt tunnel to their 'secret' location, where you have to click on the right shape Roly mouse is thinking of to gain entrance. As that is prominently featured in a thought bubble, it is easy but kids love the 'secret' part of it! The club has four games - bits and bobs, which is basically like gluing four stickers on to a scene and printing it out; mouse olympics, which is the one game I do not recommend for it involves repeatedly and very rapidly pressing two keys to win, and which can injury little fingers; mouse hockey - ice hockey actually, which involves mouse movements to hit the puck; and snakes and ladders. As you just have to click the dice on your turn, it can get a bit tedious watching the counters move slowly by themselves. On the other hand, you could always count aloud and teach counting or addition.

There are also Roly's recipes, a tiny personalized story book which uses kid's name, town and school name, and Blue's scrap book containing downloadable activities like making a card or helping Roly shop.

Mouse tales has six stories at this time, not all feature the mice. Worth a look in case you find something you like.

Activities includes a couple of games as well. Mouse control is a grid of squares which light up in different colours by rolling over and produce sounds when clicked. Good for younger kids. Mouse music, the only game I persistently have trouble loading on my connection, has three instruments and a couple of rhymes (only the music of course). Surprisingly the piano, which can be played using the keyboard as well, sounds different, harsher when you play it than when the computer plays its melodies! Its been a while since we tried the other two instruments though, chiefly because they don't seem to be loading up no matter how long you wait - and waiting is tough for kids!

You can also, in that section, write to Roly, print a card or gift tag. I haven't tried the last, but there is no 'back' button apparently when making a card. You have to exit, and re-enter the clubhouse.

There are only five games essentially although divided into sections. For instance, hide and seek may be at the beach, garden or shop. Or a maze en route to school, at a birthday party or in a garden. In addition, find tic tac toe, join the dots and mouse keepy uppy - clicking on a ball to keep it in air. This is the only game which is not as easy as it sounds! The others are all pretty simple and designed to improve mouse and keyboard skills of young children.

When you are done with the clubhouse, return to the home page for a scribbler e-card, kid jokes and a slider puzzle. Grown ups can find downloadables, activity sheets, lesson plans, party ideas and the like.

The url -

P.S. The back button when you are in the games section doesn't work - at least just now. Click on games again to go back.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Funbrain Mom and Kids Playground*****

I am busy! Too busy to write!

Terribly so? Well, I suppose I could always take the time out to write, but then other things like kid, house and home, festivals, school etc etc. will have to go, so I am forcefully and rather unwillingly curtailing my natural tendency to ramble and letting you have these posts undiluted. Will this trend remain? I hope not! But on the other hand, who knows? Wait and watch!

The aptly named Mom and Kids Playground is the page for young children from Pearson Education, Inc. - one among their many excellent free resources on the net. This is actually an offshoot from their Funbrain page but that deserves a full post separately - so more on that later.

The home page is attractive, featuring weird but ultra cute and friendly looking oddities, which invite kids to play with them. The game frames are small sized, but there is never any feeling of being short of space because they are designed so well. There is usually an ad from the family education network on the right, but it disappears when you start playing. Each game is different; if there is any repetition of style or theme, it is well camouflaged. The games are simple to master, and do not pressurize the kid to play to any unreasonable deadlines or results. Each successful operation - achieving whatever the game needs you to do - is rewarded with a star though. In some games, a mistake the next time will erase all the stars but they are always easy to regain. Three or five stars end the game. I am so tempted to feature nearly all the games here but no, you ought to be given the pleasure of discovery with your child...

Star climber has this little cute thing in overalls trying to climb up and gather three stars. Unfortunately wandering satellites get in the way (oh the junk in space!) and down he goes to begin again. While the idea is that kids learn to predict where the satellite will be and take evasive action, sometimes it is so much more fun to deliberately bang into them and hear the character go 'Gaaaaaaah'!

In the same vein, the Vine Time game is supposed to teach counting, with the round blobby thing with incredibly elastic arms picking up fruit from trees (and berries from bushes below) counting aloud the number of fruits you help it gather. But did you know that you can click on both hands and it lets go and falls, with appropriate sound effects? There you go, much more fun! Especially when mama is knocking her head in mock despair and pressing you to not do so!

One of the very first games we had tried was Simon See which has a finger shaped - monster? with three eyes admiring himself in the mirror. His eyes of his reflection in the mirror open and close in a random fashion and you have to click on the real eyes to match the image. Each time you succeed, he gives a satisfactory grunt and smiles, but in a moment the reflection changes and he is like 'uh-huh?' while the corners of his mouth turn down. As it was the first encounter of my toddler with a 'monster' I was wondering it it would be scary. I needn't have worried - it was a hit from the first! Try it; it is addicting for the tots!

There are, also, a bubble popping game, a feed the crocodile game (judge the parabola from the angle of fish loaded canon), a change the pattern game (five shapes in a row), a simple colouring game, a dig out the worms and money game (to increase click rate - not for the really tiny ones), and more! The girl in the swing in the top row, and the boy standing in the last, lead to stories, not games. The only thing to avoid perhaps - and its a recent addition - is the squirrel or monkey to the left of the middle tree in the top row. That is a card matching game, and has images from LeapFrog's touch reading system covers. Well enough if you have them, but as it is, the small size makes them unclear (and unlike all the other games here).

The url -

P.S. Just one thing - use the playground button on the left of the game to return rather than clicking on done, and then going back - too long a process! Also, there is no option of playing again, so choose reload in the browser and you are set.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008*** is the site to go to when your kid is bored with the colouring games on all the other sites you have been regularly visiting. The layout may not be promising but they have a multitude of choices, grouped by theme.

The line drawings are beautiful, you get more range of colours than at most other sites, and there are even a few textures to add.

If your net speed is low, you may find a little delay in colour picking as well as colouring.

Once done, the site generates a code meant for your 'my space' profile - but which can be used elsewhere as well :)

The url -

P.S. You can register at the site, though it is not essential. To do so, use the url -


Scribbler is a 'toy' from (a site to be covered later as a full post for the cute little things it has). At least that is how he describes it, and really I can find no other use for this fun game. You start by drawing on the canvas -

then you start the scribbler, which will scribble over the drawing on its own -

and play with its settings.

Thats all it is, and I really don't know how this can be called art by any definition, but it sure is fun to play with!

The url -

P.S. Do try it once - even if it feels darn silly right now!

Mr. Picassohead****

While I haven't abandoned the book related posts (a couple more left), I have been meaning to do a set of posts about online colouring or painting sites as well. This is the first of these, and I am deliberately refraining from my usual chatter today to ensure that I do post all that I intend to. (Ain't I noble?)

Mr. Picassohead is a work of Ruder Finn Interactive, a "boutique interactive agency embedded within an independently owned & operated Global Communication Company" as they describe themselves. A standalone site, this has a small blank canvas to which you can add from a set of Picasso-esque facial features, scaling or rotating them as you deem fit, to create your own Picassohead. Once you are finished, you have the option of saving the pic in their gallery or emailing as an e-card. The concept is not new, but the presentation is sleek and cool, and it can get quite addicting!

The url -

You can browse the gallery randomly or search by title or artist name, and have the option of sending any of the gallery images link to friends. To go directly to the gallery, use the url

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sharad madness and MAD paintball***

This month Delhi has been waking up to cool Sharad mornings, sleeping to increasingly smoggy moonlit nights. Day by day the dark hours lengthen, overlapping the boundaries of our wakeful time. Rains have stopped; the clouds are white, fleecy, and beautiful. Its the month of festivals, tempered this year by the sadness, and perhaps more pertinently, the prudence brought on by the recent blasts. It is also the time when a section of Delhi populace begins to wring hands, wallets, answers from strangers and their children, confessions from school doormen... The time for nursery admissions. Parents of mercifully unaware three year olds are losing nights, and days, searching for schools; getting forms; getting drafts, photos, photocopies (attested!); filling and delivering forms; accosting neighbourhood kids about details of their schools; haunting schools claimed to be the best and those which are not so choosy; networking, questioning, wondering, worrying.... For there is no easy solution to this now or never situation. A panic prevails, perhaps half imagined, half real. Parents scramble to place forms in as many schools as possible on the premise that something is better than nothing - for you can not choose a school for your child any more...

Most annoyingly, my laptop is in secret sympathy with the much rushed parents, and to protest their lamentable condition, has decided to stop allowing me to take screenshots. As I don't like to endlessly grab and pull many photos down the length of a post - although I have done it many a time, I am going to stick to a simple game for today. Hopefully I will be able to post a picture soon!

So, here is M.A.D. paintball, the funny paint game from the funny guys over at Music/Art/Dance show on Pogo tv. Its a simple game, but loads of fun, as anything involving splattering colour all over has to be! Aim and shoot at mischievous art supplies by moving the mouse and clicking. If you don't get them, they will get you and the screen gets more and more full of splotches of colour all over, so you have to get it washed from time to time. With appropriate commentary, even toddlers who can't handle a mouse will enjoy watching it. Have fun!

The url -

P.S. For more about Sharad ritu, a term which describes our Indian postmonsoon season much much better than the western 'autumn', check out Srinivasa Rao's blog at

All yours! Fireman Sam***

there lived a little boy? little girl? a gnome? a princess? a frog? an alien? Here is to you today - you complete the story and this post's chit chat is yours, with compliments :) Write to me!

If your child likes firemen in general, or Fireman Sam in particular, this is the site you'd visit with great expectations. After all, the series itself is fun, and the site is bound to be full of nice games relating to fire safety. Well, Fireman Sam both lives up to expectations and disappoints in equal measure.

The home page in red, blue and yellow is attractive, and instantly recalls fire stations. Follow the safety button from the menu on the left to reach a page which has sheets about fire safety and hazards. The language and content is chosen to be easily understood by children. However, the 'fun' part is missing. Perhaps the series itself takes a heavy load on the imagination of the artists, so they have none to spare for an online animation here! That said, it is nonetheless valuable to have Fireman Sam endorse the safety tips you may be talking about without making much headway.

Click on the fun section to find recipes (!), downloadables and printing activities, and online games. There are twenty odd games, and although they are related to the series in one way or the other, none are specifically designed to teach children or reinforce the message of fire safety.

The quality of the games seems to decrease somewhat as you go down the line - the games in the beginning often open in separate windows, and are, if not large, of sufficient size. The ones towards the end are tiny in comparison, so that even if the concept is great - as in the one involving logical deduction to find out who likes which drink - the actual visualization is so poor that young kids lose interest. Also, the appearance of the games changes from polished to beginner-learning-flash. Most games rely on mouse movement or keyboard arrows; the difficulty level is not very high, so they are not likely to be challenging enough for tweens or the older kindergarten children, with a few exceptions. Here are a few games we like -

The parcel drop game here involves moving the helicopter to the postoffice, picking up a parcel and delivering it to the right person within a time limit. Interesting, especially for the younger tots.

The 'making a splash' game has the kids experimenting with a new kind of water canon - which throws balloons! Aim by positioning mouse at the window concerned, and click to shoot. With increasing level of difficulty, more and more windows get involved simultaneously and so it becomes the kind of fast game slightly older children enjoy.

This plumbing game involves logical reasoning, and is easily the best in the section in my opinion. Clicking on a tile changes the direction of the pipe and the aim is to provide a direct connection from left to right. Makes the child think about what is meant by continuity, and how it may be attained, and is as good as any jigsaw. (They also have jigsaws, and muddled up pictures to be sorted out by the way.)

The bug game is one of those whose size has decreased, but is still playable. Move the bucket by using the arrow keys to catch the ladybirds before they get your tomatoes. Remember that prolonged pressure on a key here will not lead to increased speed or even sustained movement, contrary to intuition, so you have to teach the child to press repeatedly. A child of three therefore should be encouraged to stick to the first level itself rather than trying hard to push keys fast and risk finger injury at this age. Their maize maze game is easier for younger children, with a large maze and easier navigation.

The url -
The site is run by HIT entertainment company (we discussed this earlier in the Fifi post). The series itself I think is developed by S4/C of which all I know is that it is Irish - I just can't get the site to open right!

P.S. If your story is too long to be posted in the comment section, post only one para there, and use the contactify form from the links on the right to mail the rest to me. Would love to see what you come up with!