A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to be sent three games from Imagination Gaming to try out and feedback on. My kids are now (just) 4 and 5 (and a half) and the games we were sent were tailored to their ages
The games we were sent were:
- Animo Dice by Djeco (4-10 years)
- Little Association by Djeco (2.5-5 years)
- The Colour Monster by Devir (4+ years)
This was the first one chosen by my daughter as she liked the animal dice pictured on the box; I should say at this point that my children are dice goblins! The components themselves are sturdy and well made; the wooden dice are chunky with sanded corners, and the cards are thick to withstand toddler handling. The cards are a unique shape, which shows a little thought has gone into the design rather than just go for standard round cards and the animals are colour coded for ease of recognition, as well as being distinctive shapes.
The rules are simple to understand: each player has three cards face up in front of them. On their turn each player rolls the dice and decides which dice they want to keep or roll again, to complete one of their cards. Dice can be rolled up to three times, and if a card is completed, it is turned over. The first person to turn over all of their cards wins!
We adapted the game slightly so that we put the dice onto the corresponding picture on the card, so it was clear to each player which animals they needed to roll still.
Both of my children enjoyed this game, and the adults enjoyed it too. This game requires turn taking but as the turns are quick (rolling maximum of three times per turn) there isn’t too much waiting between turns, even with four players. We played this game with three cards each, as my children are at the younger end of the recommended age range, and giving them too much choice of cards to match to would mean a lot of indecision during the game, but older children could easily have more cards to start off with.
With four players (two adults, two children) each game lasted approximately ten minutes, and because of the simple rules and set up, my children can now play it independently without adult involvement. The box is also a good size to take out and about, plus there are few components to keep track of, so this would suit families who travel a lot.
We already own another game in this series (Little Memo) and so knew that the animals would be really tactile to hold; my daughter loved the purple rabbit as purple is her favourite colour! The universe and element cards are really thick and chunky and would definitely survive long periods of toddler handling.
Before we even set up the game, I took five minutes to look carefully at the round universe cards with my children, identifying all of the different elements on them and discussing the different environments pictured, which helped when actually playing the game.
The rules are simple to understand: turn over an element card and grab the animal that belongs to the ‘universe’ that element is in e.g. if the milk churn is turned over, grab the cow, if the fish is turned over, grab the frog. Both children picked up the rules very quickly and were able to play independently after just one game.
There is a 16 month age gap between my children, which isn’t much, but did mean that this game caused lots of arguments as my youngest lost nearly every card (except when Thomas was feeling kind and deliberately let Katherine win one); with that in mind, I feel that this game is most suitable for children who are the same age as each other (perhaps in a preschool setting) rather than families with children of different ages, as the older child will tend to win otherwise. It is also a game that can be played solo though, and would be lovely for children at the younger end of the recommended age range (2.5 years) to play with adult support to promote early recognition and matching skills.
The Colour Monster Board Game
I saw this demoed briefly at the Games Expo a couple of years ago, but with my work colleague, so I was interested to see how it panned out with children playing.
The components are sturdy and well made and the design matches that of the original book by Anna Llenas. It took a while to get my head around the instructions, as the pink section on the board threw me, and I spent a few minutes looking for a pink token that doesn’t exist! Basically, roll the dice and move the monster / girl accordingly, taking time when landing on a colour to say when you felt that emotion (yellow = happiness, red = anger, and so on). Then try and find the matching coloured jar. I especially liked that the tokens slid into the jars. We played without the multicoloured jars as my children are younger, and that added extra complication in for us.
It was really interesting to hear what things made my children happy and calm as well as what scared and angered them; it was nice to focus on positive emotions as well as negative ones. The first time we played, just the children rolled and discussed their emotions, but when we play again, adults will play too, as I feel this could also be a fab way for parents to join in to show that they feel the same emotions.
My youngest is very emotional generally, so this game could be a good way to help her to verbalise the way she is feeling rather than getting upset; at the back of the book are suggestions for parents and professionals in how to use the game in a positive way. I also have friends who foster, and this would be an excellent addition to their resources as they deal with children with complex emotional needs on a daily basis.
This definitely isn’t a game that you can just set up and leave the kids to play independently, as a lot of adult participation is expected; it does lead to some lovely conversations and a deeper understanding of how each person playing feels, so it is worth the time investment.