Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Our son discovers Don't Spill the Beans

Years ago, I picked up a keychain version of Don't Spill the Beans on a road trip. Technically, it was fully playable but the tiny size made that impossible. (Connect 4 is the only game I've found that still works when shrunk down that small, unless you count playing Yahtzee with teeny dice) So it just became a curio in my junk drawer.

But when our toddler found that keychain, he became obsessed with getting the real game. Since I didn't grow up with Don't Spill the Beans, I wasn't that interested until my wife pointed out that this was a game that a two-year-old would be able handle playing by the rules.

So we picked it up.

For those of you who were like me and had a deprived childhood without any idea that this game existed (I've never played Hi Ho Cherrio either but I'm sure that will change), Don't Spill the Beans consists of a plastic kettle on two pivot arms. Players take turns dropping a bean on the top heavy kettle. When it inevitably tips over, whoever caused the spill gets all the beans. Whoever gets rid of all their beans first wins.

In other words, we're talking about a very simple game. Being a dexterity game, there isn't any reading or math that you have to worry about. And, for a dexterity game, the physical skill requirements are very low.

Which makes it perfect for a two-year-old, who still working on his hand eye coordination. It is a game that he can handle the playing requirements and understand what's going on.

The lesson that I was really hoping that he would take out of Don't Spill the Beans was taking turns. Personally, I've come to the conclusion that that is one of the first important things that the child needs to learn about gaming and one of the first valuable life lessons that gaming can teach a child. Good sportsmanship is a close second, of course. Other rules like this pawn belongs to you, counting spaces, don't over bid in auctions and never start a land war is Asia will follow.

And, much to my delight, our son does understand both how the game works and that Mommy and Daddy get a turn before he gets to put another bean on the kettle. While he has played with stacking Animal Upon Animal pieces and made matches with Spot It and Memory, Don't Spill the Beans is the first game he has actually played by the rules. 

Yes, sometimes he gets too excited about the beans spilling and forgets that not spilling them is the goal. And eventually, the toy factor wins over and the game ends. We do occasionally get through an entire game before that happens, though.

Still, I think that being able to follow the rules and being able to let other people take turns are really big steps.

Father Geek has recommended weighting for the kettle with coins when kids get older and the balancing becomes more of a legitimate skill activity. The number of coins can even let you create different difficult levels. We've already discussed using real dried beans in different sizes.

Don't Spill the Beans is clearly not one of the greatest games ever made. There will be no mistaking it for Agricola, even though they both have agricultural themes. However, the bean game is going to mean Don't Spill the Beans in our household for a while instead of Bohnanza.



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