I’m a Dad now. Yes, I’ve had offspring in the house for the past three years, but until recently I haven’t really felt like a Dad with a capital D. But now, I’m in that zone where pretty much everything I do involves finding ways to give my son and daughter fun and new experiences, and to try to get them excited about the things that I enjoy. And one of those things is, of course, board games.
Now, I wanted to do this “the right way” for my three year-old daughter. (Because there totally is such a thing.) I didn’t want to get a copy of Candy Land and just say, “Here’s a game! Let’s play!” (Though that is exactly what ended up happening because someone bought a copy for one of our baby showers.) I wanted to make sure that the game was appropriate for her age, that it was fun, but that it also was mechanically sound.
Start Them Off Right
So this year for her birthday, I finally put some HABA board games on her wishlist. Yes, it’s what I wanted other people to buy for her – that’s how it works when they’re little, right? Before I added them, I did my research, and I picked a few that seemed to be geared towards her age range and would utilize some cute, toy-like pieces that she would enjoy playing with.
When we got them to the table, she was so excited. She has seen Daddy play board games before, but she never really got to play (Well, except for the occasional round of Coconuts). We went through three different titles, and while she had fun with each one, the one that stood out the most to me was First Orchard.
In First Orchard, players are working to move four different types of fruit from their trees into the fruit basket. This is done by rolling a die. If you roll a color, you move one of those fruit from the tree to the basket. Roll a basket, and you get to pick any fruit to put in the basket. But roll that pesky bird, and he’ll move forward on his track. You play until either all the fruit is in the basket, and you win, or the bird makes it to the end of the lane, and you lose.
So it’s simple, right? It’s definitely easy enough for a three year-old to understand, as my daughter was good to go after just a few turns. And she loved it. We played three games in a row, and it took quite a bit of convincing (and a little bit of crying from her) to get her to stop playing and start getting ready for bed.
What was so captivating? Well, I think the components are a big part of it. The fruit pieces are huge and solid. They’re not going to break unless there’s some sort of terrible industrial accident. The die is also great, too, and it’s the perfect size for her little hand. The cardboard trees and path for the bird are also nice and thick, and the artwork is cute and very child friendly.
The Good Stuff
But what I like most about this game – and what sets it apart from the two other games – is the fact that you can LOSE. I didn’t realize how big of a deal this was, but it’s what made First Orchard a game, while the other ones just seemed like an activity.
It’s certainly a rare occurrence, but it happened in one of our first three times playing the game. At first, my daughter didn’t understand — why don’t we just keep playing? When I started to reset the game, she got upset. However, we ended up having a very teachable moment, and she was back to the table quickly.
I’m writing this about 4 months after we bought the game, and I think she’s played the game about 20 times. My daughter actually helped teach the game to some other kids her age today at our board game meetup. She still has a great time playing “the bird game!” And if she’s happy, I’m happy.