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You can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread Man! Admittedly, I am a big child. I never outgrew fairy tales and children's games. The Gingerbread Man is one of our all time favourite stories. From the time my children were born I told them fairy tales. Often when they were very little - well under a year I simply told them stories instead of using books, with plenty of facial expressions and silly sounds. As they became older the phrase from this story became the cue for a chasing game, or when we have had trouble here, rather than frightening children, we would just sing this out as we ran for the house. Yes we look a bit mad, but sure that is no big secret anyway.
So when I heard about this game a couple of years back I just had to give it a try. The gingerbread man theme fit nicely with Christmas as well, and this was our Christmas Eve game 2 years ago, when my youngest child was only 2 and my oldest was 5. We have a tradition of giving the children a board game on Christmas Eve. I feel that Christmas Day is so busy with gifts, family, dinner and of course all the electronic toys and big gifts that a board game can often be left to the side, but on Christmas eve it's a lovely way to spend the evening as a family. Finding games a two year can play is quite difficult though - and I honestly wasn't sure if he would be able to join in, but it looked worth a try.
What's in the box?
7 large sturdy puzzle pieces that fit together to form a game board
16 gingerbread man puzzle pieces that form 4 coloured gingerbread men
4 coloured gingerbread man playing pieces with small plastic clips
A baker, a cow and horse playing piece also with plastic clips
A fox spinner
2 dice, one red and one brown.
Before playing the game you must first build the game board and assemble on gingerbread man puzzle for each player. How long this takes depends very much on the age of the players. My sons can knock them out in under 2 minutes now, but with a 2 year old it took much longer. This is part of the fun of the game in my opinion though so I didn't mind the time spent in set up - unlike some games like Mousetrap which I despise. Puzzles are very beneficial for young children and frequent play with puzzles when very young has been linked to higher scores in maths later, as these do utilise the same areas of the brain.
The youngest player is meant to go first, and this is the way we play, but if I had children very close in age - such as 1 year apart I would alter this. The bakery is the start of the game. Each player rolls the two dice and moves his gingerbread man the number of spaces shown on the brown die. He then moves his choice of the cow, the baker, or the horse the number of spaces shown on the red die. He can move them away from his gingerbread man - or use them to chase another player. If he is able to land on the same square as an opponent, the cow, baker, or horse eats one section of the opponents gingerbread man. You can lose up to three sections of gingerbread man and continue play as normal, but you must land on a mixing square and get your body parts back before crossing the river. If you lose all four parts, you must go back to the bakery to be baked again. The object of the game is to be the first to cross the river safely by getting 3 correct spins on the spinner. We play that if you spin across you get to go, but I have since learned this is wrong. It is meant to be that you must spin the water section to cross, but game play is basically the same either way.
The recommended age for this game is 4+. There are parts which would constitute a choking hazard, but I feel that as long as an adult is present and supervising this will not be an issue for most children.
My youngest was very young for this game, but he did catch on very quickly. At age two he did need a lot of help, and I would count the squares with him, and advise him which direction to go at times. He also was upset the first time his Gingerbread's man's legs were eaten, but he soon grew used to this part of the game. It is very easy to get the legs back, but I still remember him asking " Mommy - please don't eat my feet". As much as he wasn't thrilled with having his feet eaten - he delighted in gobbling up anyone else's Gingerbread Man - and we did take this to extremes with gobbling noises and screams of "ahhhh don't eat me!" There are very few quiet games in our house. We have now had this game for two years, and my youngest still loves this. My oldest very rarely chooses this game, but he is always happy to play as well. A normal game usually takes 15 minutes or less. A variation game can take much longer.
I look at game rules as guidelines made to be altered - or broken. If you want a really fun wild game rather than just having the gingerbread man's legs eaten, you can give the children a chance to run for it. Allow a certain amount of a head start for much younger or very old and slow players. The person whose gingerbread man is at risk must run as fast as he can to a designated safe spot with the other player snapping at heels. If he gets caught he loses his piece. If not he gets to keep it. This variation is great for rainy days when the children need to let of some steam.
I was rather surprised when I first learned that playing family board games is one of the three most important factors in a child's home in determining educational attainment. I do have some doubts about correlation equalling causation and believe there may be other factors involved - such as the fact that families who regularly play board games are more involved in general with their children's life, but some of the reasons cited do make sense. Many board games do teach certain skills and they also encourage conversation.
The product description says "Develops strategic thinking. Encourages personal and social skills. Links with National Curriculum Math"* I feel that this is useful for early childhood education because the puzzle build spatial awareness, the dice helps a child learn to count, and the gingerbread man puzzle teaches fractions : 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and whole. In may also encourage a child's interest in the story itself. Einstein once said:
"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Fairy tales are a special part of childhood, and one I think we need to hang on to as the modern digital age encourages many to send their little ones to bed with a dvd instead of a story. Board games as well are part of my way of holding back the tide of the electronics revolution. Not that I mind video games, but I do not want them to replace the more family friendly board games.
If you are looking for a fun way to spend Christmas Eve, and contain a bit of the excitement - I can not recommend this highly enough. I believe this is perfect for family games nights because it can be played by children with a wide age range. I also have to say that this is an exceptionally well made product. After two years of frequent use it is still in perfect condition, and even the box is still in excellent shape. So many of our game boxes have split and are held together with yards of tape. As an added bonus, this is made of 75% recycled material, and being cardboard could be recycled if it ever became to worn to play. And finally - this product is British made - so supports British workers and is made by adults - not child labour.
Update - a year on and this toy is still a favourite with boys now ages 5 and 8.
* Taken from Amazon.co.uk
I first discovered Orchard Toys when my son was three and received an incey wincey spider game for his birthday. I was impressed by the quality of the product as well as the educational aspects of the game and it was from then on that I began to always look for Orchard Toys products for gifts for my son's birthday or Christmas. One game that I bought for him for Christmas 2009 was the run, run, as fast as you can game and I shall review that today.
==what is it?==
The game is basically a race to the finish board game in which your gingerbread man must get safely across the river to avoid being eaten by various predators!
The game comes packaged in a sturdy cardboard box which has a carry handle on the top making it easily carried should you wish to take it somewhere with you. The box is bright and colourful and on the front we have pictures of a happy looking gingerbread man running away from a baker, a cow and a horse all of whom are licking their lips in anticipation of getting a taste of him! The back of the box shows the game set up so that you have an idea of what the game is like before purchasing it which I think is a good idea really. The box also carries the Orchard Toys logo, game name as well as information in various languages which tell us the game is suitable for children aged four years and above and that two to four children can play the game.
What I think is a lovely feature is on the side of the box we are told the story of the gingerbread man briefly so that children that may not be familiar with the story before playing the game have an idea why everyone is chasing the gingerbread man!
Inside the box you have various pieces of the game board in which you need to slot together much like a jigsaw to create the full board, four gingerbread men each with a different coloured outline and base, three characters whom chase the gingerbread man, four jigsaw gingerbread men each of which has three pieces and coordinates with the coloured outline of the gingerbread men which you move around the board, a spinner used to cross the river, two dice and a set of full instructions. All of the pieces fit well back in to the box and the box isn't particularly large so it is easily stored in between games.
==playing the game==
Once you have set up the game board and chosen which colour gingerbread man you would like to be you should then place the baker, horse and cow in their start positions on the board which are clearly marked. Each player should also take a gingerbread man jigsaw which corresponds to the gingerbread man that they are playing as and then you are ready to begin the game.
In our house my son always gets to go first as he is the youngest and this is normally the rules! There are two dice to roll and one is brown and one is red, we use the red dice to decide how many spaces to move our gingerbread man whilst the brown dice decides how many spaces you move either the baker, cow or horse. The idea is that you move your gingerbread man as far away from the predators as you can whilst moving the predators closer to your opponent. Should the baker, horse or cow land on your opponents space then your opponent needs to take away one of their jigsaw pieces and try and land on a mixing bowl space as it is only there where they can get their piece back.
When a player with a full jigsaw reaches the river they must spin the spinner and if they get a river space they can jump along a stepping stone but if they get a fox space they must stay put until their next go. The winner of the game is the first one across the river to the gingerbread house!
==what we think==
The game is very easy to set up despite the fact that you have to build the game board and the gingerbread man jigsaws. The whole set up process takes just a minute or two and my son and I always do it together as he likes to think he is helping and I also think it is important that he can do that, as well as put it away as it helps him to learn that in order to play something there must be some effort put in first.
The game is quite simple to play once you get going although my son and I can often forget which dice we are using for which characters but this is a minor niggle as it doesn't really matter which dice you use at the end of the day as long as you are consistent throughout that one game. What I love about this game is that it really helps develop strategic thinking as I can see my son thinking about which way is best to move his gingerbread man so that he is away from the predators as well as thinking which one is best to send after me! The game also has links to maths as do most board games as you are looking at numbers and moving spaces and so counting.
The game usually takes around twenty minutes to complete although it can take longer if you lose a lot of your jigsaw as you have to land on specific spaces to get those back. The game board is a decent size and there are a lot of spaces to land on and so it is something to be aware of that you should probably make sure you have plenty of time to play the game rather than look at it as a quick space filler before you go out or something.
All of the pieces in the game are made of a really high quality thick cardboard which has a shiny glossy finish. My experience of the quality of Orchard Toys is that they really are exceptional and this game is no different. There are no signs of damage on any of the pieces or the box and we have had this game for around eighteen months now and have played it pretty regularly.
My son really enjoys playing this game as he is amused by the fact that he can sometimes corner me with the baker, cow and horse. It is enjoyable for us both though as then when I get to roll the dice I can set one of them back off after him and we will often be found giggling especially if we are about to roll and know we need a certain number to take a piece of the other persons jigsaw.
I like that this game has clear educational benefits whilst also being fun for my son to do as that is something that I want for him-I don't want to bog him down with school type things when he gets home as I think that may deter him from wanting to learn but I know that in playing games like this he is developing or improving skills as well as having fun!
I bought the game from Boots in part of their three items for the price of two promotions that they have every year but you can buy the game on amazon for £10.99 which includes free super saver delivery and I would say it is well worth the money and would be an excellent birthday or Christmas time gift.
Thank you for reading my review!