When child #3 wanted to play Candy Land, my eyes glazed over at the thought of playing that preschool game for the umpteenth time.
Then I found two ways to spice up the fun.
“Mom, can we play Candy Land? Please?”
Tyler and Aimee had already worn out our first game box. It had fallen apart at the seams, and the brightly colored cards were bent and faded. As I had thrown it away, I’d muttered aloud that Elisa (then three) could surely live without it, couldn’t she?
However, Tyler’s fourteen-year-old friend heard me and said plaintively, “Every kid needs Candy Land!”
Do you know that Candy Land was introduced in 1949, created by a woman in San Diego California who wanted to entertain children afflicted with polio? See The History of Candy Land.
I reluctantly bought a fresh game for Elisa for Christmas.
Once again I found myself impatiently drumming my fingers on the board with the rainbow-colored trail, desperately hoping for a Queen Frostine card so I could race to the end and out of candy country. I’d already tried my trick of stacking the deck–putting the picture cards in the top one-third. But Elisa was getting the good ones, and I the duds.
What is it, I wondered, that makes this game so appealing to kids? The image of a sweet fantasyland is no doubt a big draw. Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory had similar appeal.
Candy Land makes preschoolers feel quite clever playing board game like their big siblings, Mom and Dad. It excites them to recognize colors and practice counting skills. And there’s the suspense: Will the next card send you all the way back to Plumpy, to start all over again?
For me, suspense had long ago given way to yawns. I decided to try a new version. At first this meant our little gingerbread place markers, when passing each other on the board, shook their plastic hand and had very fine, squeaky conversations with each other.
Then I invented Color-I-Spy. While playing the game, when drawing a new card we would also do this: find an object in the room containing the matching color–no repeating objects. (For purple and orange we looked on CD covers.)
This turned out to be a great way to play a table game with a wiggly child. Cruising the room for matching objects requires movement and imagination. It also offered vocabulary building: “Look, Mom! There’s some red on that globe in South America!”
A preschooler always learns a whole lot more from a table game than you know–how to sequence, match colors, count spaces, etc. In fact, any game is fun for parents to play when we pay attention to our child’s developmental milestones–perhaps with round one of the game your child can’t yet count spaces, and the next he can.
But also stimulating his imagination makes playing more fun. And it doesn’t hurt that it will make it a whole lot more fun–after endless repetitions of the game — for Mom (or Dad, or Grandma) too!
See this adorable video review of Candy Land: My 4-year-old’s favorite game. It really makes me miss it now and look forward to playing it as a Grandma someday!
[This story is an excerpt from The Power of Parent-Child Play, page 148. © 2003 Laurie Winslow Sargent, published by Tyndale House. For reprint permission, please contact the author.]
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