As most youth librarians will attest, a big part of the job is trying to lure the littlest chidlers off the computer in a seemingly casual, non-chalant way. "Oh, you're playing some Arthur games! He's great. You know, we have a whole bunch of books about Arthur. I bet we have almost a hundred! Would you like to see some?" If that fails, there is always the power of the digger stamp.
But sometimes kids, especially the three to sixers, just won't budge. Not for a book, not for a stamp, not even to go to the bathroom. And when they've exhausted Arthur or Franklin or whatever other CD-ROMs we have they'll give the plaintive mew, "Do you have any more games?" Parents will frequently ask the same question "Can you recommend any good computer games my daughter/son/monkey can play at home?"
There is tons out there of the Club Penguin variety, but finding free, high-quality computer games for the teeniest tots (that aren't filled with blinking ads) can be challenging. And, yes, while I'm Team Book (as opposed to Team Computer), a request is a request.
That is where Ferry Halim comes in. He is the Patron Saint of Amazing Free Flash Games for kids. Race over to his site right now.
[20 minutes later - because you will have likely spent at least that much time playing around]
As you will know by now, Halim's site offers over 50 beautifully designed, achingly simple games. I have never seen such an attractive, effective, wordless "Table of Contents:"
Clicking on one of the thumbnails takes you directly to the game (they load really quickly - even on an old clunker) and little ones can start playing immediately. This completely visual way of navigating a site is brilliant - very International Children's Digital Library-esque.
The games are so, so, so(!) wonderfully and cozily designed. Plus, many of them have lovely classical music in the background. I have many favourites, but have been playing "Hungry Spiders" to try and work on my arachnophobia.
I still can't play without letting out some little yelps every now and then. Baby steps.
I also love "A Dog For All Seasons," one of the simplest games on the site. Move the mouse and click on the ball. That's it, y'all.
The best part about the games is that they really don't require any reading. I'm sure some would argue this is actually a bad thing, but the absence of print means many things:
- little ones have to intuitively figure out how a games works (there are brief instructions at the beginning that can help if needed)
- the emphasis is on hand-eye coordination and using the mouse, not "Can you read this next set of instructions?"
- the games can be played by children (and adults) of all ages, regardless of their comfort with English
School Library Journal featured one of the games "Winter Bells," in their Extra Helping newsletter, but I think the uses of this site go beyond the seasonal. From little ones looking for entertainment to seniors learning the ropes of the mouse, these games are straight up great.
The mondo-est of thanks to Saara, my co-worker, for showing this to me. Saara went to library school in Montreal, which is the cool capital of Canada, so she knows many cool things.