Orchard Toys have released another winning game which will be perfect to play to help build up the excitement in the run-up to Christmas. And the best thing is that there are two games in one box!
The two games in Christmas Surprises use the same game boards and are of the simple dice and collect a counter style; easy and inclusive for all family members over the festive periods. The box includes four double-sided game boards, a set of 24 shaped coloured bauble pieces, a set of 24 shaped (and double-sided) present pieces, a coloured dice, and a shaped dice.
Christmas Surprises is aimed at children from 3-6 years, although I think this could be extended either side depending upon your child's ability level and enjoyment (although as it contains small parts it is technically not suitable for younger children, so they should play it under close supervision), and focuses in two parts on both colour and shape recognition.
Orchard Toys Christmas Surprises: 'Colour Matching Game'
Very simply in this game, the coloured 'baubles' are laid out in the central playing area face up, with a game board in front of each player (2-4 players recommended). Players take it in turns to roll the coloured dice and collect the corresponding coloured bauble, placing it on their game board. Not only is this good practise for matching the colours between the dice and the baubles, but in theory it's good practise between the baubles and the board.
And I say in theory because unfortunately this is where I need to point out the only slight criticism I have ever made of any Orchard Toys product. The blue on the dice is the same shade as on the bauble counter, but unfortunately on the Christmas tree it is more of a purple shade. And a similar problem arises with the purple; the shade on the game board and the bauble counter is identical, but it's a slightly darker shade on the dice. Essentially the purple on the dice is nearly the same shade as the blue on the game board.
It is a minor issue, and once I explained to The Boy we haven't had any problems at all. But it could be a little confusing for younger children, so something to ensure is explained properly when playing. Nonetheless, we really enjoyed playing this game as it is simple, quick and very attractively designed.
Orchard Toys Christmas Surprises: 'Shape Matching Game'
The shape-matching game is a little more complicated than the colour-matching one, and therefore would be suitable for the older age in the range.
One the reverse of the game board is a picture of Father Christmas holding a sack with shaped spaces in it. The 24 shaped present counters are laid down on the central playing area with the picture side down and the wrapping paper side facing up. Players take it in turn to roll the shaped dice, identify the shape and select a shape counter to put on their board, each shape counter has a different 'present' on the back so it really is a surprise what Santa will have brought! The counters mustn't be peeked at but placed wrapping paper side up on the board. The winner is the first person to complete their board, and when all players have finished then the 'presents' can be turned over and revealed.
This is the aspect of the game that The Boy found most fun, we even had a little swapping of presents between contestants as he preferred the remote controlled car to the pull-along duck, and Mr. TBaM was most amused to see there was even a Shopping List game as one of the presents. Nice touch Orchard Toys!
The shape-matching game was far more fun to play with The Boy, it has a little more challenge to it than the colour-matching game and the whole concept of finding out the presents from Father Christmas was very enticing. We extended the game by referring to the diamond as a rhombus, and the rectangle as an oblong (did you know that 'rectangle' is the shape family name, and oblong is the specific shape? And that also a square is a rectangle? Trust me, I'm a teacher!)
The educational guide suggests the games develop:
- social and observational skills
- memory dexterity
- and link with Early Learning Goals.
I'd add to this:
- mathematical skills (colour recognition is first stage pre-school maths)
- language development (oracy through discussion of the presents)
- and it can also lead to Religious development (discussion of the ways different faiths celebrate major festivals, what is Christmas?)
Both of these games were so fun and simple to play with that they are the new favourite in our house at the moment. When I ask The Boy which he prefers he points to both. I try again and ask him to choose which he would play if he could only play one; he points to one first and then the other straight after. To him they are just as fun as each other, and surely that's the point of any educational game? If the child isn't enjoying them, then they aren't gaining anything from it.
Orchard Toys: Christmas Surprises is available exclusively through Tesco (not the OT site) for the price of £9.50. Excellent value for two games in one! (And don't forget to collect clubcard points on it too!)
I was sent this product for the purpose of this review, my opinion is honest and unbiased.