Category Archives: Kids

The Encyclopaedia Game

I saw a cool TED talk that explained “The Encyclopaedia Game”. It’s really simple:

  1. Pick a starting page on Wikipedia
  2. Read it
  3. Find a fact that you didn’t know before (“Preferably one that your Dad doesn’t know either”)
  4. Click on a link to another page, repeat from Step 2 until you get back to the original page.

I tried it. It was fun. I might see if I can get the kids interested in it.

Here the results of my first game:


The world’s largest frog is the Goliath frog. It is 30cm long and lives in Cameroon.

Molecular Clock

A Molecular clock uses the amount of protein changes in haemoglobin to estimate how old “evolutionarily” it is. Relative ages, approximate. You can date really old fossils.

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin didn’t like medical training and instead learned taxidermy from a freed slave.


Some people practise “Rouge Taxidermy”, combining animals to make mythical creatures like Griffins. There’s one in the Zoological Museum in Copenhagen.



Griffin breeding with a mare produces a Hippogriff.


There is a frog with claws; the African clawed frog.

African Clawed Frog

Several African clawed frogs were present on the space shuttle Endeavour (which was launched into space on September 12, 1992) so that scientists could test whether reproduction and development could occur normally in zero gravity.

Anura – Frog

Frogs absorb oxygen through blood vessels near their skin while underwater.

Zoe’s Birthday!

Zoe is 10.

This is what she looked like when she was zero. 

She’s bigger now. 

And more awesome. 

The mind boggles when you think how awesome she will be in another ten years. 

Zombie Portal: The Game

My son, Max, had some cool homework; to invent a board game. So we sat down and this is the game we came up with. We played a few versions and settled on these rules.

It’s called “Zombie Portal


Move all your Zombies into the opponent’s graveyard (the 3 squares where they start).


Using a normal chessboard, place 3 pawns each in opposite corners.

Mark 4 additional squares as portals with pieces of paper or checkers pieces as shown below..

Zombie Portal Setup

The board is rotated 45%.


The players take turns moving one of their Zombies one square in the direction of the opposite corner. The Zombies can only move one square as indicated by the arrows in the above diagram.


If a piece is on a portal, then it can move to any other portal, as well as the normal 2 squares that it can move to.

Killing the Other Zombies

If you move onto a square where an opponent’s Zombie is, it dies and returns to a starting square of your choice. Then it rises again.

You cannot move onto a square that already has one your own Zombies on it.

Pair Programming with an 8 Year Old

I read an interesting article by James Bach where he did some pair programming with his sister, who is not a programmer. It worked quite well.

This got me thinking that it might be fun to do with my son, Max, who is 8 years old. He’s been bugging me to make a computer game with him for ages. I thought it might be interesting if I did the programming and he “paired” me. The very act of explaining what I was doing should help make it interesting for both of us. Also, the challenge of getting him to understand what was going on would impose an interesting kind of discipline to the task.

So our initial attempt went ahead using Processing. We have made some solid progress so far. There were a few interesting things that I did a little differently because I was doing it with Max:

  1. We made very small iterative changes that produced a visible result. This meant that we often made small changes and then ran the code to see the result. Max loved this and it certainly discouraged the kind of development where you change the world then run it and try to fix 300 bugs at once.
  2. The first version was a hacked together mess with global variables and terrible architecture. Then as I needed to reuse code, I introduced the idea of a function and we did tiny bits of refactoring as we went.
  3. I did a lot more explaining that I would have done with another programmer. Understandable. He’s eight.

It’s early days, but it will interesting to see how much progress we’ll make.

Update: here is a link to an early version.

The Dragon and The Princess

Max (8) and Zoe (7) wrote a story by writing a sentence each…

The Dragon and The Princess

One day, there was a green smelly dragon. The dragon was guarding the princess. She was low down underneath the earth’s core. It was really hot under the earth’s core.

The dragon went down and checked for the princess. He was very mean and he said, “You’ll never get away!”.

The princess said .to herself “I do not like the dragon.” The dragon heard that and was very angry that she had tormented him. He said “you are going to be my servant instead of living in the dungeon”.

And he set her to work. She had to do the dishes, the washing, and make his bed. She even had to pull really heavy planks of wood to make the dragon’s fire.

One night, the princess escaped by breaking the window and getting out there. But she was not successful as the dragon heard her because she had tap shoes on, and roared after her.

The next night, she succeeded getting out the window without letting the dragon know. When she hit the ground, she had tap shoes on and woke the dragon up again, but she was too fast for the dragon and she got out, luckily.

She went to a little cottage with people in it. They said they could live there. The queen and king found her there, brought her back to the castle and the lived happily ever after.

No one knows what happened to the green smelly dragon of the underground prison.

The end.

By Max and Zoe