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Playing with Darwin

A few times as I've wandered through the bookstore with my kids, I've been hit in the face with the shelf full of Bible stories and children's bibles. I've glossed over references to God and Jesus in supposed mainstream kids books. Sure, there are lots of nice stories out there that have no reference to religion and we have bookcases full of those at home. We also have a few religious stories (like Noah's Ark) that we read and use for what they are: stories, nice stories, interesting stories.

But when it comes to the questions about where we come from, how we got here, and what all of this means, there aren't a lot of obvious choices for the atheist, agnostic or humanist family. So I was thrilled to learn about Charlie's Playhouse, a company that makes toys and games for kids that are inspired by Charles Darwin.

Their products include a Giant Timeline Floor Mat where kids can learn all about the evolution of life on earth by looking at pictures and reading about 67 creatures that have existed over the 600 million years of life on earth. The floor mat is nice and sturdy and rolls out over 18 feet. My kids love unfolding it in the hallway and running up and down an exploring the various creatures. We recently went to a reptile show at a local event and when my kids got home the first thing they wanted to do was to open the timeline and find the creatures that looked like the ones that they saw at the show. It was fabulous watching them connect these animals that live today with their ancestors on the mat and learning about the evolution of different species while they were at it. There is also smaller version of the timeline that can be hung up as a poster.

Charlie's Playhouse also has a set of Ancient Creature Cards. Each card has information about a creature including illustration, fun facts, size comparison figure, and more. My son loves looking through the deck, checking out the pictures, and finding ones that are still alive (some are extinct and some are living).

My son is 4 years old and obsessed with dinosaurs. That obsession, as well as the natural curiosity that develops at around that age about who we are and where we came from, made for ideal timing to introduce toys and games like this. It is fun and interesting, while at the same time giving us tools to help introduce our kids to science and make sense of the world.

To read more about Charlie's Playhouse you can also read the guest blog post by owner Kate Miller, Inside Charlie's Playhouse, over at one of my favourite blogs, The Meming of Life.

Disclosure: I was provided with a free copy of the floor mat and creature cards in exchange for doing a review. I always provide my own true opinion of products that I review and will not hesitate to name the positive and negative features of products.

More secular fun, games, books, and parenting resources:

Part of the Carnival of Play at PhD in Parenting. Hope you're having fun!
« Carnival of Play Extended to April 20 | Main | Sharing a Laugh »

Reader Comments (8)

Wow! Awesome! Thanks so much!

April 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Wilhelm

Wish I had known about some of these options when my kids were smaller. Thanks for posting about them. Good info to have to share with clients who are asking about alternative options.

April 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSam

yes! we found this book at the library the other day..."what darwin saw"


and i couple all this with our complete faith in the mystery of god...

April 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkristin

Thank you! I have struggled with the same thing - and these look really wonderful for my daughter, who is just getting to the age where she can understand this stuff (as well as anyone can!).

April 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJuliette

Yes, this is a cool company. We used the timeline for our Darwin Day event with our Humanist Families group. Her bibliography is also great. Glad to see you posted that link too. Our sons are named Darwin and Huxley, so we already had many of the books, but there are so many new ones that have come out recently. We purchased more from the list. While many duplicate information, we saw it as our economic stimulus, especially to support these types of authors and publishers!

April 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTamara

I am Christian and a spiritual person, and it absolutely baffles me why some religious people are so up in arms about and threatened by evolution. It makes no sense to me.

Thanks for another great post!

April 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjane

Thanks for the great post and resources!

April 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermilkmama

[...] Playing with Darwin: A review of some of the great products from Charlie’s Playhouse. [...]

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