Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Joyful Mama's Favourite Finds: Co-operative Board games

When I joined Nucleus Toys a month or so ago, I was intrigued by a category in their catalogue called
Co-Operative games. I was given an already opened set to bring home and explore...and I am hooked!! These are the perfect entry-level board games for little ones who often struggle with the pressure of competition, or the disappointment of losing a traditional board game.

So here is what it is all about:

The players in a co-operative board game play together against the board, using strategy, logic and problem-solving. Yes, they still take turns, but since they are all on the same team, players have to work together to achieve a common goal. If they win, they win as a team, and the same goes for losing.

Although there are many of these games available to players of all ages, most readers of this blog are parents of toddlers and pre-schoolers, so I will use an example of a game perfect for this age group!

MAX is a lovely game by a company called Family Pastimes (click on the link to visit their web site and see my note at the bootom of this post) and is available in South Africa through Nucleus Toys. (You can  contact me for ordering information).

A fat old cat named Max finds his way out the door of his house. His owners have only so many treats to get him back inside, and Max is a quick treat-eater. Can you distract Max long enough for the woodland creatures to get safely home? Watch out-- Max is hungry!

The aim of the game is to help the chipmunk, bird and mouse to get home safely before Max catches them. This happens if Max lands on the same space as one of the little animals.

The game is played with a set of special dice, with only one dot on each side, either black or green. There are three possible results to each roll of the dice:
• Two black dots (this will let Max advance two spaces)
• Two green dots (This helps one small animal advance two spaces, or two of them can move one space each)
• One green and one black dot (this lets Max advance one space, and a small animal move one space)
Depending on the roll of the dice, the players have to consult with each other as to what the best strategy would be to keep the woodland animals out of harm's way. They have access to four treats which can be used once each during the game to lure Max back to his mat on the porch, and there are also short-cuts on the board - BUT...these can be used by the woodland animals and by Max, so players need to anticipate Max's next move!

The game helps children to understand the relationship between cats and other small animals (we try to help the small animals get to safety, but we also understand that Max is a natural hunter!), an encourages children to make meaningful decisions.

I found a lovely review of this game here, and the writer, Evelyn Saenz, gave the following suggestions for how the game of MAX  can be used to teach children a variety of skills:

LANGUAGE ARTS: Oral communication
MATHS: One to one correspondance, counting, probability, and strategies
SOCIAL STUDIES: Cooperation, taking turns, caring for and taking responsibility for pets
SCIENCE: Natural Selection, backyard habitat, animal behaviour
ART: How about drawing Max and the other creatures?
MUSIC: Could you make up a song about Max?
GROSS MOTOR SKILLS: How about going outside and reenacting the game of Max? Be sure to scurry, scamper and flap your wings!!

MAX is suitable for ages 3/4 - 10, and 1 to 8 players can play at a time.

There are 18 co-operative games from Family Pastimes in the Nucleus Toys range. You can view the online catalgoue by clicking here.

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