Two islands, many freaks

Is Thomas and Friends the vehicular version of The Island of Dr. Moreau? Let’s do a simple test.


1. Does it take place on an island?




Also Island



2. Are most of the inhabitants half-human, half–something else?

Half Animals

Half Trains



3. Is the island ruled by a heavyset, eccentric tyrant?


The Other Brando



4 and 5. Does the tyrant have a helper who is insane and a drug addict? Does the casting of this role in a film version make you exclaim, “What in Hell’s bells possessed him to do this movie!”?

Moreau's Little Helper

Hatt's Little Helper

Check, check. (Mr. Conductor from the Thomas stories travels from place to place using “gold magic dust.” Close enough.)

Nica’s current favorite “bored” games

Nica, 5, loves playing games of all kinds. She is especially into board games and card games lately. But having a toddler-age brother makes it difficult to play properly, especially when the game is something as tantalizing as Candy Land.




By the way, why are there so many versions of Candy Land? And each new version is more obnoxious-looking than the last. There’s Candy Land The World of Sweets, Candy Land The Kingdom of Sweets, Deluxe Candy Land, Super Deluxe Candy Land The Oligarchy of Sweets…. OK, I made up that last one.

Recently, Nica had a mild cold that kept her home from school for a few days. So, she got to play some games while Ham napped.

Pros of playing games:
-It’s a great way for kids to practice reading and counting.
-Kids learn to follow rules and to win and lose at least somewhat gracefully.

-It requires more than one player, which creates near-constant “Mommy, wanna play [a game that you can’t stand playing]?”
-Kids don’t always lose gracefully, not even somewhat.

Besides Candy Land, the two games that Nica kept wanting to play when she was home from school were Digging Up Sight Words and Mermaid Beach. The first was designed by Teacher Created Resources, the second by a 9-year-old girl.

Honestly, I am amazed that Nica enjoys playing Digging Up Sight Words. The object of the game is to collect bones by filling in the right sight word in sentences. Now, I think this game could be worthwhile for a kid who is just beginning to sound out words and learn their meanings, so the challenge would be to read the words and then figure out the right choice for the sentence. But if your kid can already read and converse, the game is way too easy, because the filling-in part is a no-brainer. I started to get the feeling that Nica liked the game only because she got all the questions right. And, not to toot my own horn, but I got them all right too. So, woo-hoo. Not very fun at all. I guess I’ll try it again with Ham, in a couple of years.



Meanwhile, Mermaid Beach is one of the few kid games that I can actually enjoy playing. It’s got elements of Go Fish, Old Maid, Uno and other card games. You can see how this was created by a kid. And it works! The art on the cards is fun, and after you learn the rules and different cards, game play is unpredictable and engaging. An extra plus is that kids practice addition and subtraction.



Hands down, the kid-designed game far surpasses the teacher-created one. They should let kids design games more often.

Don't make me play this.


But maybe not my kids.