Kids Videos

Sesame Street Milk Song

Design DIY Kids Making Projects

Lessons Learned from Designing an Escape Room

We’ve been hard at work polishing our portable escape room kit and have come up with a few tips for anyone trying to do the same thing.

#1: Febreze and ventilation

You want as much air flow as possible. When you have multiple people moving energetically in a small space, even the nicer-smelling ones will start to give off the aroma of human body. Air flow is your friend. Febreze is also your friend.

#2: Robust furniture

You don’t want to set up with grandma’s fine porcelain on display over the mantelpiece. Players will pick up and turn over and knock anything and everything they can while looking for clues. I’ve seen Ikea chairs completely dismantled. The corollary is that furniture and light fixtures that look like they can be easily taken apart become red herrings for the players, and a room full of red herrings becomes frustrating.

#3: Parallel threads should outnumber players by at least 1

A linear game has clue 1 lead to clue 2, which leads to clue 3, etc.

A parallel game has clues A, B, and C ready at the start, which lead to clues A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, etc.

A single player can play a completely linear game but it’s more satisfying when there is at least one other avenue available for the times when the current puzzle is too frustrating. A group of people can also play a linear game, and more linear games force more collaboration. However, ‘collaboration’ sometimes means the bossiest one of the group takes over the decision-making, so having at least one open puzzle for each player means everyone can try to solve something.

So a game designed for 5 players should have at least 6 open puzzles/clue hunts at any stage (other than the very end, which tends to close off)

#4 Players are forgiving of anachronisms

It’s easy to obsess over theme (we’ve tried pirate, 1920s gangster, space, and ‘egyptologist’ (aka Indiana Jones)) but what matters are the puzzles and if a player needs a UV flashlight to see the hidden hieroglyph, they won’t complain

#5 No food. No beverages

You can’t force people to not have water with them, but your set-pieces need to endure and food stains are the last thing you need to worry about. So if you can, schedule the game before or after snack-time, not during.

#6 Keep puzzles as self-contained as possible

Minimize inventory. Small pieces get lost (or stolen) so use locks with combinations rather than keys. There is a type of combo lock that uses letters instead of numbers and that lends itself well to anagram puzzles.

#7 Have a timer

This may be obvious, but some players will linger unless forced to keep moving. You can build this in to the narrative (e.g. the kidnappers will cut off her finger if you don’t deliver the package within an hour) or just have a simple wind-up kitchen timer. People understand that games have time limits but you need to be explicit about this.

#8 Have a hint system

Players want to win, and most would rather win with help than lose without help. The actual help can take many forms, from a straightforward book of answers left in the room, or a fixed number of ‘calls to the oracle’, but there needs to be some option for when a puzzle is too difficult for the players.

#9 Actual escape does not have to be the goal

The most practical place to set up may be a room with doors that need to stay open, or outside. So having the final objective be to open a locked door won’t always work. Easier and more transportable is having the final objective be something like a word written on a slip of paper in the final locked box.

A popular one for us was a small music box locked in a box. Clues referred to the tune played by the box, but only when it was found could players hear it and identify it. That was a satisfying conclusion.

Have fun designing and playing escape rooms. Please feel free to contact me at with questions.

Kids Videos

The Brady Bunch: Time to Change

Animation Kids Space Videos

Epp Opp Ork Ah Ah

The Jet Screamer classic “Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah” from The Jetsons, 1962

Animation Kids

Chrome Music Lab

Chrome Music Lab

“Chrome Music Lab is a collection of experiments that let anyone, at any age, explore how music works. They’re collaborations between musicians and coders, all built with the freely available Web Audio API.”

Design Kids

Ancient Board Games

TacoMcNacho has an IMGur link with pictures and descriptions of “39 Ancient board games from around the world”


The boards are for sale on etsy

Kids Videos

Andrew & Polly: Grapes

I don’t think this was the “Song of the Summer” for 2015 (was there a song of the summer this year?) but it has been played frequently at our house

The musicians are Andrew & Polly

Big Island Kids Nature Space Travel

‘Imiloa Astronomy and Hawaiian Cultural Center

The ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center pleasantly surprised us with the depth of their exhibits and the diversity of their collection, which includes astronomy and Hawaiian culture, as well as the overlap between the two. We watched projected videos of Hawaii, took a ride through space with a robot, played with wooden boat puzzles, learned new Hawaiian words, pushed a lot of buttons, and even enjoyed a 3D movie of the universe. A lot of love went into creating the exhibits and artwork throughout the space, including intricate paper flowers made from recycled paper that you notice first walking in the door. The space was very welcoming and opening for toddlers, and we will definitely plan a trip back to see a show in the planetarium and have lunch at the attached restaurant.

We also visited the Sagan Planet Walk on the grounds of ‘Imiloa, which is the worlds largest art exhibition extending from Hilo, HI to Ithaca, NY representing the solar system. The station in Hilo represents Alpha Centauri and is 5,000 miles from the models of the Sun and planets in Ithaca.

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Kids Stories

Kid Books

matchstick kidbooks: children’s literature, emphasizing books that promote child development

This is a list I began compiling years ago, when I knew several families with children ranging in age from 2 through mid-adolescence.

It’s essentially all the books that won at least one award.

The categories correspond to a range of children’s ages.
For younger ages, the higher number is the average age of child who would enjoy reading the book, while the lower number is the age of the child who would enjoy listening to the book being read.
Reading level is different for every child, so the numbers given for each category may be above or below your child’s level.

Book recommendations for 3 to 5 year olds


4 to 7

6 to 9

Books of pretend, with an element of the fantastic

8 to 11

More sophisticated fantasy and moving toward realism

9 to 12

More social interactions, more sophisticated vocabularies

Teenage and older

Animation Kids Stories Videos

The Road to Obion

Here it is, at long last – the synthesis of my interests in music, narrative, and visual arts:

Matt Slaybaugh – Spring 2005

An Online Animated Musical Adventure

The lessons of the past can be taught via a new kind of narrative.

  1. Mythology
  2. The Story
  3. Trailer
  4. The Animation
  5. The Music
  6. Online Distribution
  7. Production Objectives

Matt Slaybaugh – Spring 2005


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Matt Slaybaugh – Spring 2005

The Story

Primary Characters

Cathode Ray – The central hero, the voice of reason, always looking for ‘the middle way’

Paul Pecker – Ray’s closest companion, the skeptic, slacker

Regina – A former pirate, the most spirited of the group

Dr. Kilbert Saturday (Dr. K) – The villain, not quite pure evil

Secondary Characters

Aunt Jenny – Ray’s aunt, a nurturing figure and the cause of the first adventure

Johnny Valve – A robot fascinated and jealous of the human traits denied to him

Dr. Monday – The mentor, affable and loony

The Machine – Dr K’s main tool of destruction, a large walking robot

The Messenger – A flying black metal skull that delivers warnings by spitting out red ribbons with embroidered text

The Guardians – Two ghostly figures, one blind and one mute, who protect the entrance to Dr. K’s fortress

The Helping Hands – Two flying stone hands that do Dr. K’s bidding

The Other Doctors – Drs. Monday and Saturday were once part of a group of 7 engineers. These characters are the wizards of this world.

Other characters who appear infrequently: Keasto, McDuff, Rumlock, Quoin, Magrus, Ricker, Tyrus

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Matt Slaybaugh – Spring 2005


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Matt Slaybaugh – Spring 2005

The Animation

Visual style reflects ideas of recycling and conservation

Characters represented as anthropomorphized animals

Inspirations: Terry Gilliam, Ralph Bakshi

Animation Sketches:

Background for title – 133KB

Gatekeepers – 229KB

Laboratory – 532KB

Retalliation – 539KB

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Matt Slaybaugh – Spring 2005

The Music

Markov Chain analysis

Prevalence of intervals

Inspirations: Rodgers and Hart, Beatles, Nirvana

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Matt Slaybaugh – Spring 2005

Online Distribution

Name and Logo

Ascension from Ruin

Markov Chain, Albion, Zion, Oblivion, Tennessee

The animations will be produced in Flash and made available via the Web.


I plan to rely on the power of viral Internet marketing, by submitting new content to well-trafficked blogs.
This is a proven method for online games, short films, and cartoons.

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Matt Slaybaugh – Spring 2005

Production Objectives


To create one two-minute teaser trailer that introduces the characters and the visual and musical style


To draft scripts for about one dozen scenes, with one or two songs per scene, including music and lyrics

To complete animation for one five-minute scene, including recorded song and dialogue


To continue project with new one new episode each month

To continue developing characters and storyline

To generate revenue via sales of branded merchandise, sales of compilation DVD, or possibly seling as a package to a network

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