Tag Archives: geeklife

happy anniversary, mayaland!

Today is mayaland’s one year anniversary! Woo hoo! I’m still here! One year ago I was getting a half dozen hits a day, and I knew all of those people (hi guys!). Now I’m getting over ten times that, still a tiny number in the blogging world, but still, wow! That’s so cool! It’s not like I’m marketing or anything, so I’m just as pleased as punch that y’all are here. Welcome!

So, in celebration of the year’s blogging, I thought I’d do a greatest hits post. These are some of the pages that seem to get the most page views, whether because they are in hitting some google sweet spot, or because people forward the link on to their friends. Either way, I’m thrilled to have folk interested in my little blog. Here are the top fifteen posts (in no particular order) of the year. Enjoy!

How to Recycle a Tiny House

In Which I Become a Redhead

Bikini Power vs. Ratty Sweater

Triple Chocolate Pudding Goop, or, this way lies madness

Easter Egg Chickens — I’m surprised at how many hits this little post gets.

How to Build a Yurt

Writing Without Pencil Sharpening

Incredible Hulk Invades the Yurt

Building the Tool Shed

Tux Paint, Kaleidoscopes, and Mazes, Oh My!

Screen Time for Fun and Profit

Late Night Gratitude and Some Pee

Solstice from inside a Sundial

The Emotional Insanity of Writing

A Superhero Origin Story, and some Hair

But what is the most popular, by hit count, page I’ve ever put up? How to Milk a Goat…. Surprised? I am.

And here is my favorite photo of the year… Flying Kids!

Thanks so much stopping by the anniversary party!

14 ipod touch / iphone games for little kids

We are all about the games around here. Board games, card games, yard games, video games, computer games, dice games, make believe games, you name it. We are an equal opportunity game household.

But I had no idea when I got my spiffy new ipod touch that I was buying a gaming machine. I think I was still in old school ipod thinking that classified the device as a player of music and books. I had in the back of my mind that playing games on an ipod was like playing that dim, black and white version of tetris on the 1.5 inch screen of the cellphones of ten years ago. But that is not the case. An ipod touch has a big, boldly colored touch screen, coupled with an accelerometer, and creative people the world over have figured out a lot of ways to put that combination together in fun, surprising ways.

Bottom line? My kids dig my ipod as much as I do.

But it’s tricky to find games for little people. Most of the games for the ipod are too hard, or move too fast. I looked and looked for a list of good kiddo games, but found very little. So I decided to make my ow list. So, here are 14 ipod touch / iphone games we’ve found that fit the criteria of being fascinating and fun, as well as providing enough scaffolding for little people, new to gaming, to latch onto. I’ve linked each to an App Beacon page, so if one of these sounds good and you want some screen shots, poof, you’ve got it.

Here we go!


Ancient Frog—This puzzle game is gorgeous and very engaging for me, as well as Sophie (5). Luc (3) likes to fiddle with it, but he’s a bit too small to actually play the puzzles. The game involves wallking a brilliantly rendered frog to a target location, by lifting his feet, one at time, in the fewest number of moves. When he gets there, he gets to eat a fly. Sophie is totally engrossed in this game right now, as I’m typing this.


Animatch—A memory match game, with animals (and animal sounds) on the cards. Luc loves this game. Sophie will play sometimes, or play partners with Luc, but it’s a bit easy for her.


Aqua Forest—This game is hard to to explain. It’s a physics engine, with puzzles. Or you can go into a freeplay mode and just fool around with the water, ice, explosive powder, gel, fire, earth and metal. Sophie calls this ‘doing experiments.’ You can draw with water, say, and then tilt the ipod to slosh the water around on the screen. Or add some fire and watch the water evaporate into steam. Or add some explosive powder and blow up the screen. Or…. The puzzles are fun, basically solving some situation in order to get water from here to there. This is probably Sophie’s favorite game of all of these.


Bejeweled 2—This game is famous. You get a screen full of colorful gems and you try to move them around to get three in a row. When you get three, those dissappear and more gems fall from the sky. Luc can’t really play this one yet, though he likes to fiddle with the pretty pictures for a minute or two sometimes. Sophie grooves on this one, though. She loves to play it in the car.


Create a cartoon face—This game makes them both giggle. Basically, you assemble a funny cartoon face from a bunch of components (heads, eyes, noses, etc.). They like to make the silliest faces they can come up with. This game would be improved by MORE options, especially silly ones. They like to play this one together.


Garf This is a sound memory game, just like the old Simon game where you press the buttons in the order they are played to you, one more tone each turn. The first dozen levels or so are doable for Sophie and she loves to play it with me. After that it starts to get a bit too hard for her.


Jigsawed This is a great jigsaw puzzle program that uses preloaded photos, or photos from downloadable sources like National Geographic, gorgeous shots. Luc really likes this game. It will cut the puzzle into as few as nine pieces, which is good for him. Sophie likes sixteen pieces, and loves picking out new pictures.


Knots This game is like twister for your fingers. One player or two. It’s called knots because you end up with your fingers all twisted together. Lots of giggling.


Kyodai involves clearing pairs of cute little figures, when there is a clear path between them. It took forever for us to figure out how to do this game. Use the ‘hint’ button liberally on the first few screens and watch the little sparkly line that zooms between the pairs when they clear to see what ‘clear path’ means. It’s a lot easier to see it, than to explain it. Sophie is very interested in this game.


Mazefinger—This game produces mazes, very simple at first, that you trace with your finger while lightening and special effects appear to burn the maze up behind you. You have a certain amount of time to complete the maze. Both the kids are into this, but the time factor makes it harder, and sometimes frustrating for them. If there was a ‘timeless’ mode, they would love it.


Sneezies This is a chain reaction game. You sprinkle sneezing powder on some cute little critters and they start sneezing, which makes the critters nearby sneeze, and so on. You try to clear as many sneezies as possible with a single dose of powder. Luc likes this game. Sophie played it for five minutes or so and then was done.


Tic Tac Toe—the old classic, a bit boring for me, but fun for Sophie when we have to wait, say, at a restaurant. Luc doesn’t quite get the three-in-a-row concept yet, but Sophie does and she plays a cutthroat game.


Towersmash—You build towers of any shape by dropping blocks out of the sky, and then you knock your towers down by firing marbles into them from the side of the screen. The physics of this games are surprisingly realistic and satisfying, with tipping blocks that slide or don’t, depending on how hard they get hit, etc. Both kids adore this game, squealing in happiness when they fire off the marbles. It doesn’t hold Sophie’s interest for very long, though. This is more for Luc.


Trace—They both like this game, though Sophie sticks with it a lot longer. This is a puzzle game, where you try to walk the little stick figure guy to the exit by drawing (with your finger) paths over varied terrain, chasms, cliffs, underwater, up plants, etc., while avoiding floating geometric shapes that send him back to the beginning. Very simple graphics. And maybe it sounds too simple, but both kids love to try to solve the problems, working on a level over and over, trying different solutions, until they get him through.

Okay, that’s it.

Some games we have tried that haven’t gone over as well because they were too hard, or required action too quickly, or under time pressure, are Rolando, DoodleJump, Brick Breaker Revolution 3d, Labyrinth, Enigmo, Cowabunga, and DizzyBee. Two games that we tried but the kids weren’t interested were Superpoke Pets, and Butterfly Catch.

I hear a lot of parents talk about electronic games being bad for kids, or how they struggle with limiting game time. That just makes no sense to me. I don’t limit games or limit the kinds of games, as long as everyone is having fun. Kids are built to learn. They suck in the world non-stop. And they do it through play. Just like every other mammal. Watching either Sophie or Luc engage with these puzzles games, I can just see their brains just bristling. And the giggle games are like medicine to my ears. If the kid was playing chess, I bet parent’s wouldn’t worry—but because these games are pixels instead of wood, they gets dissed. I just don’t agree.

Hmmm. Maybe I’ll do a post on that, but it will have to be later, because right now I’m being tapped for a game of Candyland, or ‘Candy Landy’ as they call it.

The chocolate swamp is my favorite.

ETA: for part two of this list, go here.  ETA again: for part three of this list, go here.

tux paint, kalidoscopes, and mazes, oh my!

I have mentioned before our love of the free, open source drawing program for kids, Tux Paint. Lately, Paul and Sophie invented a new game to play using Tux Paint: Supermaze!

But first, to give the non-initiated a quick tour of Tux Paint, here are some pictures, made by Luc, who is not yet three years old. He ADORES Tux Paint and plays it almost every day. I’m putting these here, not as, “Oh look at my amazing kid’s drawings” but rather, “Look at this amazing program that makes it so easy for little kids to express themselves by creating pictures that they really love.”

From his sea creature period:

From his barnyard series:

You can see that there is this awesome ‘stamp’ feature where you can select something from, I don’t know, maybe hundreds?, of images and click, click, click them anywhere you want, in any size, and then draw on the images, etc. Very cool.

Here are two picutres that Sophie, four and a half, has done.

First, another sea creature picture—she made this one for Luc when he was into sea life (it all started with a show on whales that we caught on the National Geographic channel that knocked all our socks off.)

And for something completely different:

Of course, you can just draw on the program, too. Here is a family portrait, by Sophie, of us all at the beach.

Okay. We’re getting to the mazes. But first I have to tell you about the kaleidoscope trick that Tux Paint can do, by taking a line and quadrupling it, in a kind of Turkish Rug pattern. Here are some of Sophie’s recent kaleidoscopes.

It’s computer art on acid!

Here’s one Paul did (yes, the grown ups play Tux Paint, too!):

And here is one I did:

It’s surprisingly satisfying! Like doodling.  On steroids.

Then, at some point, someone here had the idea that these fancy kaleidoscopes could easily become mazes, and poof, a new family pastime was born.


Here’s one Paul made for Sophie to solve:

She starts at the little dot and finds her way to the heart. Here is her on the way to solving the maze:

I don’t know if you can see it, but the ‘solving’ line is actually made up of running squirrels! When the curser changes direction, the squirrels change direction, too! Tux Paint is the bomb.

Here’s one Sophie made for Paul.

This one was solved by running white kittens!

A couple more:

And that’s Supermaze! Hours can pass, drawing, taking turns making mazes and solving them, making funny pictures….

I swear, it’s just about impossible not to have fun with this program. If only all software was this easy.