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I bought my son this alphabet lotto game when his baby brother arrived in the hope that some new games would keep him occupied in those difficult few days after birth. He was fast developing an interest in game playing and demonstrating a real interest in letters so I felt that this game would be right up his street. It is also by Orchard Toys - a company whom we have several other games and puzzled by and we have always both enjoyed these and been impressed with their quality. The game is for children aged 3 years plus and costs around £10. It is currently priced at around £7.
The game comes in fairly large yellow cardboard box. On the front, it has various animals pictured and each hold a letter card that corresponds to the letter that their name begins with i.e. the elephant holds the letter 'e' and the dog holds 'd' and so on. On the back of the box, there is a picture of the actual gave, a list of contents and a rundown of the 'four different ways to play'.
Inside the box, there are 5 lotto boards, 30 picture cards and 30 letter cards as well as a sheet of instructions on how to play. Each lotto board is rectangular in shape and made of a thick cardboard. Around the border, each board has a different colour - purple, blue, green, yellow and red. On one side of the board, there are six squares with letters written in. There are five squares with a singular letter and the last square has two letters to make a common sound e.g. 'ch' or 'sh'. All the letters are small letters rather than capitals. On the other side of the board, there are six pictures - for example an apple or a penguin. Under the picture, the name of that object is written. This is written in white text, with the first letter of the name in blue.
The cards provided are all square in shape, with rounded corners, and also made of a thick cardboard. The letter cards all have a white background with the letter (or two letters) written in blue in small letters. The picture cards also have a white background with a coloured picture of an object on. The two sets of cards have different backings - the pictures have a dark blue backing with 'Orchard Toys' written in white and the letters have a white backing with 'Orchard Toys' written in blue. As you are provided with these all in one plastic bag, this enables you to separate them for gameplay relatively quickly and easily. I have put these in separate bags myself as it became a chore sorting them every time we played!
PLAYING THE GAME
As per the instructions, there are four ways that you can play the game. To set the game up, each player chooses a lotto board (2-5 players) and you place in picture or letter side up - depending on which version of the game you are playing. The relevant cards are then placed on the table, face down. The object of the game is simple, to be the first player to collect all the cards that are on their board.
The simplest way to play is with the picture boards and cards. The youngest player goes first and picks one of the cards from the table and turns it over so all players can see. If that picture appears on their board they can place it in it's relevant slot. If it is not on their board, it is returned face down to the table. The next player can then take a turn and, if that picture is on their board, they can remember where it is on the table and collect it. You can then play in a similar way with the letter side of the boards and the letter cards.
The other two ways to play are a little more challenging - you can play with the letter side of the board and the picture cards or the picture side of the board and the letter cards. The idea being that you match the picture with the letter the object begins with i.e. match the picture of the octopus with the letter 'o' and so on.
My son was around two and a half when he received this and was becoming familiar with his letters. He also understood how to play lotto as we already owned, and played, 'Old McDonalds Lotto' from the Orchard Toys range. This meant that he was able to pick up the game quickly. We started with the picture boards and picture cards as I think this is the easiest version. He was able to get to grips with this straight away, matching and observing well. We didn't play quite the version recommended as I didn't think my son was ready for the memory aspect of the game yet, so we would just keep a card if it was uncovered, no matter who turned it over. My son is very nearly three years old now and is beginning to understand the memory aspect - although with all the cards this is still too much for him. I simplify the game by removing all the 'excess' cards and just leaving those that are on our boards (so 12 cards in total) as this makes it more achievable (and reduces the game time!).
We now play both the letter and the picture card versions of the game. When playing with pictures we can discuss what letter each picture begins with (although having the word written directly below the picture on the board gives this away somewhat). When we play letters, we discuss what sounds they make and I ask my son for something beginning with that letter. It is a great, fun way to familiarise him with letters and very early reading skills.
The game is well made - the cardboard is suitably thick so that it doesn't bend and it hasn't peeled at the edges at all either. The boards and cards also have a glossy finish so they can be wiped clean easily if sticky marks etc are left.
I like the fact that there are four different ways to play the game, and that they vary in difficulty. The simpler games of matching the pictures or letters are ideal for my son at just under three. As he gets older and more familiar with letters and sounds, the other versions will be more challenging for him. Therefore I think we will get quite good longevity from the game and it will work out to be pretty good value for money. It also means we can play a few times in one session without my son getting bored as there is different variations of the game we can play.
The game also offers lots of learning benefits - turn taking as well as letter recognition and matching/observation skills. It is good fun too, so it is definitely learning in a fun way (which is the best way!). I think the simplicity of the game itself is ideal for younger children but not all young children will be interested in letters, so the suitability of the game is really down to the interests and likes of each individual child. For my son, it is ideal and he has had lots of enjoyment from it already - and I think that this will continue. For that reason, I give this game my full recommendation. It really is a lovely game.