Can you get any smaller than a small, purple meeple? We found out when The Inquisitive Meeple looks at four different games that are geared towards toddlers in this Toddler Edition of Meeple-Sized Reviews.
You often hear from gamers with little kids that they cannot wait until their kids are a little bit older to be able to play games with them. Did you know that you can actually start teaching some of the basics to little gamers as young as 2 years-old? That is the focus of this edition of Meeple-Sized Reviews – we will be taking a look at a few board games for toddlers (ages 2 & 3 years-old).
Granted these games are not necessary fun or much of a game from an adult point-of-view, however to the toddler they are just happy to be playing a game like their mom or dad. As an added benefit it will start teaching some of those basics of gaming mentioned earlier. Things like how to take turns, deal with winning and losing, and how to follow the rules. Rolling dice or spinning spinners and reading the results. Of course they also learn life basics like hand eye coordination of picking up and moving pieces, cleaning up your game after you play, counting, colors and shapes. Learning through play.
Before we look at the games – let’s briefly touch on the question, “HOW do I know my toddler is ready for their own game?” I am not child expert, but I do have experience raising 5 kids, one of which is currently a toddler. My advice is to ask: do they try to get up to the game table when you are playing games? Do they want to play with game pieces or try to dig out games from the shelf? And of course the most obvious question is do they ask you to play a game with them (this may be more likely to happen if they have siblings you play with)? These are a few queues you can look for to see if your child is ready to start playing games.
Let’s take a look at a few possible games for your soon to be little gamer…
HABA My First Games: First Orchard (HABA Games, Ages 2+, 1-4 players)
First Orchard may be as simple as a cooperative “game” can get – players have a cardboard basket and 4 types of big chunky fruit (red apples, green apples, yellow pears and purple plums) that they are trying to save before the raven gets them. You roll a big chunky die with four color sides, a fruit basket, and a raven. If you roll a color, you place that corresponding fruit into the basket. If you roll a basket, it acts like a wild and you can place any fruit in the basket. When you roll a raven, you move the raven pawn down a small cardboard track. The very object of the game is to get all the fruit in the basket BEFORE the crow makes it to the end of his track. Granted there is not much game here, some may even object to the word “game” – however, remember this is for 2 and 3 year-olds. The game teaches color recognition, the concept of following rules and direction, some basic sorting, taking turns, working together, and of course winning and losing. The big chunky wooden fruit also encourage free play.
Unlike some of the games in this review – we actually bought this one (it wasn’t sent for review) for our toddler as her first game. When I was doing so research on toddler games, I felt like this is the one I kept seeing pop up. Overall, I am glad that we did, as our toddler loves this game. It does not take long to play and it makes her feel important to have her own game (she will say “Let’s play my game”). This is a game differently worth looking at if you have 2-year-old ready to play games.
HABA My First Games: Go, Go Little Penguin (HABA Games 2+ 1-3 players)
In Go, Go Little Penguins players each get their own penguin pair – a mommy and a baby. The player pieces are cut in a way that the mommy can stand over the baby. On your turn you roll a die – if it is small feet on the die move the baby that number of spaces, if it is big feet shown on the die move the mom. If the mom is over the baby or ever catches up with the baby (even if it is still moving forward) she takes the baby with her. The object of the game is to be the first to get both baby and mom to the other side of the lake to catch the fish.
Go, Go Little Penguin is the simplest roll and move you will ever play, but then again remember this is for 2 and 3-year-olds. It is also all luck, but hey what do you expect from a young children’s game and it actually gives them a fair chance at winning. It teaches counting as well as the concept of big and little. And of course this being a competitive game it teaches that their are winners and losers. This allows you, the parent, a way to start teaching what it means to be a gracious winner or a good loser. The pieces are super cute and good quality which means they are also good for play time. However, I will say if HABA made the game board a 2 piece snap together (puzzle pieces) – it could have fit in a box at least half the size – as it is there is a LOT of dead space. That said, the game is a charming one and plays extremely fast. Fast for the parent can be good because it is tolerable, but at the same time it can keep the toddler’s attention and they will just know they are playing a game with Mommy or Daddy.
Snug as a Bug in a Rug (Peaceable Kingdom, Ages 3-6, 2-4 Players)
Unlike with the above HABA games, here is a little video that will teach you all you need to know about how the game is played.
I have only played the 3 and 4-year-old level of this game, as this article is specifically about toddlers and I was playing with a 2 ½ year old. To recap in this version you are only placing bugs under the rug via colors. Once the first Stinkbug comes out because a color is all gone – then you are placing bugs under the rug by looking at big eyes or little eyes on the spinner. While the first game she didn’t understand, the more she played the game (with both her parents and even with big sister) the more she understood how the game was played. This game is a good one to teach colors, the concept of big and little and working together. I can actually seeing it would be more useful for the preschooler age group to teach not only the above things but also the shapes and numbers. That is one of the cool things about Snug as a Bug in a Rug unlike other games being reviewed today – it can grow with your child, giving you more “bang for your buck” – however at 2 ½ my daughter didn’t find this one as fun as the others in this article. However, this is one I think she will like when she is a little older and we can add more things to the game play.
Count Your Chickens (Peaceable Kingdom, Ages 3+ 2-4 players)
Instead of me droning on about gameplay, here is a little 72 second video that will teach you how the game is played:
While Count Your Chickens is rated for 3 and up, I will say that my 2-year old caught on pretty fast. I moved the
Mama Chicken, and we counted out loud, then I would give my daughter the chicks she needed (counting those out) and then she would place them in the chicken coop. She understood that the object of the game is to get the babies home before the Mama gets home and really seemed to enjoy this game quite a bit. Unlike Snug as a Bug in a Rug from Peaceable Kingdom this one doesn’t up-scale for older kids – and you will really only want to get this game from the 2 ½ to 4-year- old range. If you have a kid closer to 5 you may want to look at Peaceable Kingdom’s The Great Cheese Chase which if I recall correctly (it has been a while) is a slightly better co-op game – as there is at least some decision in what of the pawns you need to move to beat the cat.
As far what Count Your Chickens is teaching your toddler – it is teaching them to count, to recognize things on the spinner (cows, tractors, etc) where they have find the next one to place Mama Chicken on (again counting along the way). Even the Fox which takes away one chicken from the coop teaches the simplest of simple version of subtraction (“You are taking away 1 that is called subtracting”). I will say there are 40 chickens in the game and 40 spaces (some spaces if you land on them let you place an extra baby chick) so if you get too many foxes on the spinner there is no way to win. However the Fox only has a 1/6 chance of being spun. All this being said my daughter really liked this one. In fact after playing the first time – we played 1 (and half) more times – which for a 2 ½ year old is pretty good due to little attention spans.
The Indie Game Report & The Inquisitive Meeple Note: Three out of Four of these games was given to Ryan/TIGR for this review. Any positive opinions/feedback on the game are our own. They were not solicited by the publisher or by the designers.