At Monkey Bar, we love it when kids are game designers. One sunny day, my kids and I put our design twist on the classic game, Chutes and Ladders. The main change, we took the game outside and made it big. Really big! We drew our board with chalk on the driveway. It started with one square that we tested to make sure it was big enough for two boys to stand in. That square became the corner of our grid – ten squares wide by ten tall.
Next came the numbering. This was a bit tricky because we had to remember to step up with the next number at the end of the row. The numbers wrap around rather than start on the same side for each row. There were a couple of mistakes but we made it up to square 100.
Now it was time to add the chutes and ladders. This is where the kids’ game design skills started to shine. Ryan, who is four, put a ladder from square one to square 20. “So when you get a one on the first spin, you won’t be sad because you are really going to 20,” he explained. I never realized that starting on one was such a downer.
Henry, who is seven, added a never-ending loop. Up from 81 to 93 and right back down again from 93 to 81. If you land on either square and you have to run in a circle. But when you get tired you can start over again and go to square one. But don't be sad because it's really 20.
A chalk smudge in square 10 turned into the fire space. It's too hot to stand on so you go back to one. Which is sends you to 20 so you think it's a bad square but it really moved you ahead 10 spaces.
Finally we were ready to play. We used the spinner from the board game and passed it around. It worked great! We all landed on the super long ladder and no one got stuck in the loop. The board last a few days until a rainstorm washed it away. Some neighbors even joined in the fun. Get outside and give it a try.
- Color-code the board. We used yellow for the grid and numbers. Green is the ladders and red the chutes. The art gets smudged as you play so the colors helped us remember which lines are chutes and which ones are ladders.
- Use a broom to smudge/erase mistakes. The boys wanted to use the hose but chalk gets thick and gloppy when it gets wet. Try turning the mistakes into part of the game.
- Use a hand held spinner or other number selector. We thought about making big dice but rolling them would require running off of your square. Staying in place kept the game progressing.
- “Start” is off of the board so you can land on square one.
- Let little ones figure which number is higher to work out what direction to walk.
- Try getting older kids to do the math before moving. It worked a few times with my seven year old before he just rolled his eyes and started counting.
- Try adding squares that ask the player to do something physical such as standing on one foot, jumping as far as you can, or walking backwards.
- Don't have a lot of room? Draw a small board and use the chalk as game pieces.