Monday, May 14th, 2007
Review: A Toddler’s First Board Game: Snail’s Pace Race
If you want to introduce your toddler to board games early, Snail’s Pace Race by Ravensburger is your game.
Three months ago I reviewed another good set of games by Ravensburger titled First Four Board Games, but hands down Snail’s Pace should be a toddler’s first board game. Ravensburger’s recommendation is for ages 3-and-up, although I suspect a thoughtful 2 or 2.5-year-old could play.
A 9"x19" folded board is illustrated with a garden scene filled with friendly bugs. Six straight racing lanes fill the center, each consisting of eight spaces or steps that the players’ pawns will traverse.
Six pawns take the shape of solid-color, solid-wood snails. The pawns are easy for small hands to grasp at 2" long and a half-inch wide.
Two wooden dice display a single color on each face instead of numbers. The colors correspond to the color of the snails and the six racing lanes on the game board.
Players are observing a race, rather than playing the part of any particular racer.
The six pawns are placed in starting positions at one end of the board. The first player rolls the dice and moves the snails ahead one space as indicated by the colors thrown. For example, if red and blue are thrown, the red and blue snails advance one space.
Each player continues to roll dice and advance the snails until all of the snails have completed the race.
During the game, players guess which snail will cross the finish line first and which one will arrive last. The players who guess correctly win the game. Alternately, you may play where only the first or only the last snail to arrive matters.
For impatient kids, end the game when the first snail finishes the race. As more snails finish, the frequency of die rolls where no snails can move increases, potentially increasing boredom.
I debate with my daughter about who will win and lose the race on every turn, rather than setting in stone her first guess. No one is deemed a winner, but correct guesses are congratulated. We also congratulate the snails.
Why This Game Rocks
- Kids have an action to take on every turn.
- Players join in a collaborative effort to get the snails through the race.
- The path the pawns take is simple. The entire game mechanics are simple.
- Kids are distanced from disappointment at losing because it’s the snails who win or lose, not the players directly.
What Kids Learn
- How to throw dice in a controlled manner instead of heaving them across the room.
- How to move pawns
- Color recognition
- Turn taking and the process of game mechanics. My daughter would move snails the wrong number of spaces or move the wrong snails when she tried to advance both snails at the same time. When I had her take each die one at a time, her pawn usage was flawless.
- Patience and cooperation
- Horse track betting (just kidding)
My daughter turns 3 next month and has fun playing Candy Land, Hi-Ho Cherry Oh!, First Four Board Games and Snail’s Pace Race to completion.
Last week, she tried to play Candy Land with a friend who is one month younger, a boy whose play is very physicalâ€”running, dancing, balls, cars. His first time playing Candy Land was a disaster in every respectâ€”unable to grasp turn taking, which way to go on the game’s weaving path, not turning over the playing cards, then pushing his cards around the board as if they were pawns.
Predictable yes, for a toddler who has never played such a game. Except, we tried Snail’s Pace next and he understood and enjoyed it with some corrective oversight.
Buy or Make Your Own Games
Snail’s Pace Race is about $16 at Kid Surplus and as much as $27 from some of the more ridiculous online retailers. I picked up a used copy in great condition for $2 from a preschool-closing sale.
I give Ravensburger high marks for quality game components. I might call them heirloom quality, insofar as a cardboard game board and wooden pawns can be considered heirloom.
A less expensive, more creative option would be to make your own game. Dice with colored sides can be had for 75 cents each plus shipping from GameStation.net.
A cheaper option would be to inquire with a local gaming store, the type that caters to role playing games (Dungeons and Dragons-type games). Ask if they can order the dice for you from an existing supplier. They might not pass the shipping cost on to you.
Once you have the dice, there are all sorts of board games you might create. Why use snails for pawns? Why not toy cars? Or make a larger scale game with doll house dolls or stuffed animals. If your game pawns don’t correspond to the dice colors, make a game where the dice colors correspond to the spaces being moved on the game board. For a large board, use butcher paper, or cut and tape together paper grocery bags.