This week I opened my "Naughty or Nice Board Game", part of the Elf on the Shelf product line. I purchased this, and several other games, while I was on vacation in October. I think I picked this one up from a Calendar Club store, but since I've been home I have seen it at Cole's (Indigo) bookstore in the Bay Centre mall and I just did a quick search and it looks like it is also available at Bolen Books, a locally owned bookstore in Victoria.
I must admit, I don't really know much about the Elf on the Shelf story, other than what I've seen my parent-friends post on Facebook and Pinterest. I bought this game because Elf on the Shelf seems to be pretty popular these days, it is for children 3-and up (it can be tricky to find games for younger children), and it is a nice change (for me and the kids) to have a seasonally appropriate and different game to use at work.
This game requires minimal assembly: assemble the spinner and put the Elf in the stand. On a side note, the spinner is very fast - by far the fastest spinner of all the games I've owned or used as a speech-language pathologist!
The premise of the game is that the Elf is hiding in different parts of the house. The players need to race (by spinning for a number and then moving the corresponding number of spaces) to be the first person to find the Elf, in order to get one of seven "gift" cards (these cards are how you accumulate points). Once a player has reached the Elf, and taken a "gift" card, they get to draw a card that will determine where in the house the Elf moves next. This continues until all seven gifts have been given and the player with the most points wins.
This past week, I played this game with five different children between the ages of 3 and 4. They were all very keen to play, however, I quickly realized that the game is too long. In order to shorten it, I played with just a few gifts and I found that this worked well to keep them engaged until the end of the game. Another alternative for really shortening game play would be to let the child draw the card for where to place the Elf and then have the first person to reach the Elf be the winner.
Another issue I had with the game is that the "gift" cards don't really represent gifts at all: the back is plain white and on the front there is a picture of the Elf with the number of points in a circle. I plan to add gift stickers to the backs of my "gift" cards so that they are more representative of gifts, as I felt that several of the children did not make the connection easily. I think a way to make it more fun would be to have "Santa's Sack" (you'll have to provide this yourself, but I have a lovely shiny red draw-string bag at my work that would be perfect for this). Once a player reaches the Elf, they could reach into "Santa's Sack" to get their gift.
Despite the issues that I mentioned, I would still recommend this game. In addition to this being a new game, the children were very excited to have a special game for Christmas. I think the game is probably too long for most 3 to 4 year-old children, however, with the modifications I suggested I think it will be more age-appropriate for that age group. I haven't had a chance to try it with older children yet, or with "Santa's Sack"; I will be sure to post a quick update once I have.
Here are some of my initial ideas for how to use this game to address speech-language targets:
- Word final /f/ (Elf, shelf)
- Word initial /f/ (find, follow)
- Word initial /g/ (gift)
- Word initial /sp-/ (spin)
- Word initial /n/ (naughty, nice)
- Vocabulary (around the house, Christmas)
- Counting and numbers
- Fluency (provide Lidcombe feedback during game play)
- Use game turn as a reinforcement for other speech targets
Download a printer-friendly version of the ideas and modifications here.
Have you heard of the Elf on the Shelf or used the Elf on the Shelf board game? What other speech-language targets could be addressed using this game?