I love some friendly competition every once in a while, but lately, I’m beginning to see the value in collaborative games, especially for preschoolers. Collaborative, or cooperative, games get my children working together towards one common goal, rather than working against each other. In these early years while I’m trying to encourage strong bonds between my children, seeing them work together is really valuable to me.
We recently had the chance to try out several collaborative games from Mind Ware. These games were sent to me free of cost, so that I could write a review. I’ve included my honest opinions.
Mindware Aqua Maze Water Run
While I guess it could be debated on whether or not this qualifies as a game, we’ve had a lot of fun setting up and experimenting with Mind Ware’s newly released Aqua Maze. This is a twist on the classic marble maze: it is meant to be used with water. The special marbles (not water beads, but not as heavy as traditional marbles) need a little water propulsion to get them through the maze. Special turning wheels and bridges go back and forth to create a dream of a toy for any child who likes to build. Since my husband is an architect, he especially loves having these types of toys around for our kids!
The maze sits on top of a small, inflatable pool. A water cup and little water squeezer come with the set, and because transporting water is one of our favorite, brain building activities, this aspect of the water maze is by far the favorite.
Setting It Up
The instructions are a little lacking here. The actual directions miss entire pieces (for example, there are three parts to the base, and the directions tell you how to set up two of them). I gave up on assembly, and Nate set it up based on the picture. Of course, most of the fun of toys like these is constructing the maze however you want it, so the assembly directions aren’t really needed anyways. Miss H isn’t quite able to set it up on her own yet, but she likes to help and experiment with the different pieces.
Related: Schemas of Play in the Great Outdoors
The set up is definitely the most collaborative part. With direction, the kids get the pieces we need and attach them. After testing it out, they learn to make little adjustments on the set-up. I love the communication that this requires!
There are some big smiles when the water started flowing and the marbles start rolling. Sometimes the marbles get stuck, so it’s fun seeing them problem solve: how much water do I need to add? Where’s the best place to add the water?
We set this up indoors when we had three friends over recently. I thought it might be a big old mess, but it wasn’t too bad 🙂 All six kids worked together to assemble the maze, and then the older ones stepped aside to let the little ones play with the water and marbles.
Related: Easy Clean-Up for Messy Outdoor Play
(I’ve used affiliate links in this part of the post. You can read more about them in my policies.)
Lemonade Shake Up
Miss H currently LOVES all things lemonade related- not just the drink, but lemonade stands, lemon-inspired clothing, etc. She and her little brother had their first lemonade stand a couple of weeks ago, so the Lemonade Shake Up game was something from her dreams.
Right out of the box, this game was visually appealing. It has a recipe card, a “jar” for quarters, a card for each customer, cute little sour lemon faces, and a handful of 6-sided dice with different lemonade-related graphics on them. We started the set up, and Miss H quickly caught on.
We rolled the dice, and tried to get the same combination of ingredients that was listed on the recipe card. You get three chances to roll the combination, and can pull some of the dice out if you want to save those “ingredients.” If you don’t roll all of the ingredients for the recipe, you get a sour lemon. If you do, you get quarters for the money jar.
I know Miss H loved this game, but I also really enjoyed playing with her. There are no winners or losers; we both worked towards finishing each recipe and filling up the quarters jar. She kept asking to play again, and I kept saying, “Yes!” The age on the box says 4 and up, and even though I’m not a stickler for age recommendations like that, E (2.5) could not figure out how to play this game. He just wanted to hold the pretty dice and shake them in their cup. When he gets a little older, I know H and E will love playing together.
Related: The Complete Charlotte Mason Preschool Guide
Since E was too young for the other game, I was so excited to introduce Acorn Soup to him. The age recommendation on this box says 2+, and also, “A game for you and your 2-year-old.” Two seems like just the right age. Three-year-olds might also enjoy it, but a child any older than that most likely not be challenged by it.
Acorn Soup came in a pretty, round box. Inside were wooden pieces with nature items on them: acorns, pine cones, berries, leaves, etc. Just opening that lid, I knew that this game was right up our alley! Like Lemonade Shake Up, this game also entails putting together a recipe, but there were multiple cards with different numbers of ingredients. An adult guides as the little one stacks the ingredients on the spoon, puts them into the soup pot (round box that the game came in) and stirs up the ingredients.
Related: Why We Have “Learning Through Play” All Wrong
The idea is that it’s a counting game, but that’s not really what I like about it (the numbers only get up to three, although I guess you could count all of the ingredients in the recipe!) I love that this game activates those brain building schemas of play. I also appreciated that the directions said to let the child play with the pieces as they’d like, not just as directed. Especially for young children, play should be child-led, and the makers of this game recognized that!
E wanted to play this game while I was making dinner, so I asked his big sister to help him. She quickly got the gist, but then announced it was boring. Understandable, since it’s developmentally appropriate for a much younger child. But, I said, “Your brother wants to play, and he needs your help.” That turned on her sense of duty, and suddenly, she was brightly reading recipe cards and helping him gather the ingredients. This sweet moment is more than I could have asked for out of a collaborative preschool game!
Other Ideas for Acorn Soup
Since making up recipes from nature ingredients is one of our favorite ways to play, I think we will find lots of other fun ways to play with the Acorn Soup game. We can take the recipe cards outside and go on a little scavenger hunt (find two dandelions, three leaves, and two acorns, for example.) They would definitely love to make these recipes with real ingredients.
The pieces are so adorable, too, that I think they will be fun for indoor kitchen play. I’ve pretty much gotten rid of all of our play kitchen food because they mostly want to play in the mud kitchen these days. But these pieces serve multiple purposes, which any mom striving to have fewer toys in their home can appreciate!
These games will probably be our go-to birthday gifts for the next year (sorry to ruin the surprise, friends!) We are thoroughly enjoying them, and the bond that they’re helping us build.
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