Sunday, November 22, 2009

4 First Games

S received a fantastic gift for her birthday of a Ravensburger games set called "4 First Games". I love how colorful the boards and cards/pieces are, and they seem to be of a nice quality which is a bit of a change from most small children's games and products. Each game has an objective that is quite basic so even a very young toddler can grasp the concept, and there are "versions" of rules which you can apply based on how advanced/quickly bored your particular little one gets during activities with waiting and repetition.The great thing about board games (or any interactive activity w/objects like dice and cards, etc...) is that you can alter game play to suit yourselves, and during your interaction you can learn a lot about how your child picks up skills and social interaction.Simply placing the cards on the board to set up is a lot of fun for S (maybe the "activity-ness" of the whole project?), I think it's good for fine motor skills as well.

In this set of games there are no pieces requiring reading or counting so it is perfect for kids who do not yet have these skills down, and it lets them achieve goals and participate fully just by rolling a die with colored sides and moving pieces around the boards, or picking up cards with pictures or colors to indicate their use.

The Bird's Nest is the quickest game board to get to the "finish line" on, and though it can be frustrating if you don't roll the proper color to move each turn we have gotten around this easily by just moving to whatever space is the color you roll even if it is not toward the "nest", and by playing in a sort of "co-op" mode (which works in almost all instances like this) where we are all trying to help the other players move their pieces forward, or pick up cards, or what have you. Rolling the die without really slamming it across (and off!) the table took some practice, but after a while it wasn't a problem. In the interim it was helpful to place a barrier (stack of puzzle and game boxes strategically set up around game play area) to the edge of the table.

Garden Party is a nice co-op appropriate game set up because each player can choose their own "garden plot" in which to place colored flower cards as they roll the appropriate color, or we can give each other flowers as we roll for them and help fill up all the flower beds.We also allow a re-roll of the die if you get green instead of losing your turn b/c there are no green colored blossoms. S gets frustrated if she loses turns much or otherwise is not making progress like other players are. This is another pretty quick game, but it occurred to me that it could last longer if we were to make an extra row of flowers to add on to the bottom of each garden and make extra flower cutouts. you could even add an extra die with other colors and alternative flower card choices...

King of the Castle seems like a simple and straightforward game, but S definitely had some trouble maintaining "forward" (clockwise) motion around the spiral, often skipping to a block of the correct color but many places ahead or behind of the block that was "next" in line. I didn't come up with a simple fix for this so we just gently corrected her placement, and are pretty much waiting on playing this more often until she gets a bit older. We also immediately altered the "landing on another player's square bumps them off of it" rule so as not to keep the (already much more involved than previous games) longer play from becoming more frustrating than fun.

Sizzling Sausages is my personal favorite, but it is still a bit difficult for S to keep up with. I did find that by gently reminding her or giving visual cues (putting my finger on the rows that were appropriate to choose movement on) she had pretty much "gotten" it by the end of the game. I don't know how much she will have retained by the next time we play though. At least she didn't find it frustrating (I did just a bit, having to keep showing her which directions she could choose from though...) and actually she had much better luck picking up cards, so of course winning was probably a part of her glee with this particular set up. I think thee concept of "choice" can be difficult depending on how mature your child is, so this could be a quite useful game for developing certain directional (spacial?) concepts and making decisions with "next moves" in mind, though not necessary at all to playing successfully.  I was very touched when at the end of the game (S won of course!) she insisted on sharing some of her sausages with me. You could probably work out a co-op mode based on this "sausage collection" procedure going toward some sort of communal plate or something. (I like the competitive possibilities, but lots of kids are not ready for that much frustration.)

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