Note: This review was originally written three years ago, when we were just trying to get into playing games with our then 3-year-old boy.
Recently, my son has developed a general dislike for board games. We have had two of them for him: Candy Land and The Dragon Tales Game. He was doing fine with them and they were not beyond his capabilities, but as soon as he would really learn how to play them he'd start misbehaving by pretending he couldn't play, couldn't count, refusing to go to certain spaces, etc. Basically my son has turned something that was supposed to be fun and educational into a distasteful experience.
Our method for dealing with this has been to play a board game every single day. We think if we just get him used to playing games and insist that he play fair and do his best, he'll get over this bad attitude more quickly than if we just let him cheat or if we just don't play games for awhile.
My mom sent me this Milton Bradley Row Row Row Your Boat Nursery Rhyme Game at the same time as the Dragon Tales Game, but I had put it away in my "stash". Tonight I decided to dig it out. And boy am I glad I did.
What You Get
~1 folding game board that looks like a river divided up into spaces
~4 5-piece puzzles
~1 (yes, only 1) plastic game piece. It's a bear in a rowboat
~1 spinner with 4 spaces
~1 Story Book with instructions.
Getting Ready to Play the First Time
Assembly for this game is pretty minimal. You unfold the board, remove the bear from his separate plastic bag, snap together the spinner, and break up the 5-piece puzzles.
You place the bear gamepiece on the START space and the youngest player spins the spinner. There are four spots on the spinner. One shows 1 bear in a rowboat, 1 space shows 3 bears in rowboats, and 2 spaces show 2 bears in rowboats. The player moves the number of spaces indicated on the spot. If you land on a spot that has a frog on it, you get to put one of your 5 puzzle pieces into your puzzle frame. If you land on an empty spot, you do not get to put a puzzle piece in. There is one spot labelled "Spin Again" where you put a puzzle piece in and then spin again. 2 to 4 players take turns moving the single bear around and around the board. The first player to complete his puzzle wins.
Hallelujah! For the first time in weeks, my son has had fun playing a board game. He absolutely loved the little bear figure, was intrigued by us using the same game piece together, and he thought the little frogs were really neat as well. But what really sold him on this game was there were no negative spaces to land, and there are only 3 neutral spaces (places that have no frog and you don't get a puzzle piece) on the whole board. Also, you don't have to draw your puzzle pieces from a big pile and hope you get yours. You simply have your pieces sitting right in front of you and you get to put them in. Please read my review of the Dragon Tales Game to learn about a game that is based on the same ideas as this one, but isn't as positive and fun. Finally, the game is over very quickly.
Not only did my son play his required one game tonight, but - at his request - we played this game 8 times before we (the parents) decided we'd had enough. At no point did he revert to his negative behavior, get stubborn, or try to cheat. And, around the 3rd game or so he started singing "Row Row Row Your Boat" while we played.
What We Like
The Game Piece
This little bear is just very cool. He's about the size of a Fisher Price Little People figure, and is of that same durable quality. It's really a nice change to have a sturdy game piece to play with, as opposed to flat plastic or cardboard. My son loves the bear so much that he's sleeping with him tonight.
I love that there are no nasty spots to land on with this game. There are no "lose a turn" spots. There is a "Spin Again" spot which is essentially the same thing for the other player, but without the negative connotation. There is no "Lose a Puzzle Piece" spot as there is in the Dragon Tales Game, and you don't have to pick your pieces from a big pile hoping you actually get your own. There is a "winner" at the end, but the way the game is structured, all players finish relatively close together.
It's Over Quickly
We all know toddlers have short attention spans. It's about time a company made board games that truly catered to this. This game does not drag.
This whole game is just plain attractive.
What We Don't Like
Assembling the Spinner
I almost broke this spinner before we even got to play. Be careful when you snap the spinner parts together because although the arrow part is quite durable, the underside is flimsy plastic and I almost broke it when I tried to put it through the little hole and attach the arrow to it. Now that it's together, though, it won't be a problem.
The Puzzle Frames
We've quickly discovered that these are just about worthless, and have elected to do the puzzles without the frames. These frames are very very thin, and were immediately getting bent up.
This puzzle says for ages 3 andup on it. I would say a child of 3 1/2 to 4 years old will probably already have outgrown this puzzle. It is incredibly simple and plays so very fast. I'm sure my just barely 3 year-old will be done with it in a matter of weeks or months and moved on to bigger and better things.
I wish we'd started out with this game, rather than the ones we did. Although Candy Land is a fine game, this game, with it's speedy play and lack of negatives and disappointments is really an ideal first game.
Seriously, turn off Facebook. You'll be happier.
A fine review -- thorough and paints a good picture of how it will be received by a small child. Details on components and their shortcomings is much appreciated. I'm curious if you considered substituting another puzzle for the one included in an attempt to stretch the age of the game. Might be an odd fit, but I'd be curious to see if your son would have kept interest longer.
As this review is three years old this information is a bit late -- but other folks with young kids reading this should also consider Kitty Bitty which is a fine choice for the same age, and Labyrinth which is a good game to move your child into as they reach age five or six. I recommend both highly. The first is a memory game, the second a geometric game and both have interesting mechanics that you won't find in other games for kids this age.
Kid Games don't get a lot of content on BGG, and every little bit helps. Thanks for spending the time to submit this.