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A wonderful place for a picnic

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Momma writes at The Casual Perfectionist, and just like the name indicates, she is an admitted perfectionist, but she’s trying to be casual about it. She and her husband have a 3-year-old girl named Claire. Momma is a firm believer in the fact that if you haven’t laughed today, you weren’t really paying attention.

Our little girl turned three at the end of November. Finally she’d reached the magical age printed on most toys. She’d officially graduated into the 3+ realm. Awesome!

One of my aunts sent Claire a birthday present, and I was so excited when Claire ripped open the paper to reveal a board game! It was Chutes and Ladders™! I hadn’t thought about that game for years, and I was so happy to realize that Claire had finally reached the age where we could start exploring board games together.

As cliché as it sounds, it is amazing how quickly time flies. My little girl is ready for board games? Who knew!?

Knowing how much of a perfectionist I am, the realistic part of my brain issued the rest of my body a warning: Yes, she’s only three. Yes, she just turned three. Yes, I know to be patient with her. Still, I couldn’t wait! I love board games! I love Chutes and Ladders™! Or, at least I thought I did. Who doesn’t like Chutes and Ladders™? This is going to be so much fun!

Later that day, Claire begged to get out her new game. She didn’t have to ask twice, because I was excited to open up the box and check out the blast from my past. As we were setting it up, I was wondering how this would go. Would she want to take turns? She doesn’t usually have a problem taking turns, so we’ll be fine. She loves counting things, so jumping her little cardboard person on each square should be fun for her, too! And, there’s the number wheel! Who doesn’t love spinning the spinner-dealie!?

I got all the plastic parts punched out of the packaging grid, and I let Claire choose her person. She wanted to set up all the characters, so I let her do that. Once all the little blue plastic bases were assembled, we’d be ready to go!

And it all went downhill from there.

Taking turns wasn’t an issue. Spinning the wheel wasn’t an issue. She loved hopping her little cardboard person onto the different squares, counting out each number. It was the entire concept of the board game that was lost on Claire. She didn’t want to climb a fake ladder with her cute little person, even if it meant she was winning. She wanted to have a conversation with her cute little person, on that square over there! And, look! That looks like a great place for the other cute little cardboard people to join her little cardboard person for a picnic!

In a matter of less than three minutes, I’d lost all control of the board game. I tried to remind myself that it was just a game. The point of the game was to have fun, right? She was a having a great time until I started pestering her about following silly little rules! But, if I don’t teach her the importance of rules, who will? But…she’s three! It’s a game! Let it go! I couldn’t.

I had to find a way out of this. Has Chutes and Ladders™ always had 100 squares!? Wait. Who says we have to make it to the end for one of us to win? Yay! You won! Now, it’s time to play with something else! Rather than have my head explode, I’d found a way to wrap up the game, and she helped me dismantle the little cardboard people, and we went onto another activity.

I’d fully intended to carefully hide that wonderful game until she was older. Maybe when she was five? Yep, two more years would be enough time. But, I didn’t put it out of sight quickly enough. The next day, she not only remembered the wonderful game we’d played the day before, she could see it up on the shelf.


So, I got it down for her. I helped her get the box open, and then I told her to go ahead and set up the pieces while I finished up what I was doing at my desk. She’d remembered how to put the little plastic bases on, and she put the spinner where I had set it the day before.

And, before I could get over there and start ruining things again, she’d started her own game. She danced her little people around the board, involving them in all sorts of conversations. A couple of them were having a picnic over by the Chute at Number 49, because there was a little girl who had cookies to share right there! And, another little cute cardboard person was going to play with the puppy at the top of Ladder 42. And when they were all done with that, they all started dancing together with the other one in the middle of the board.

Every few minutes she’d spin the spinner and shout out the number. “Momma, Chutes and Ladders™ is fun!” Claire said with the enthusiasm that only a 3-year old can possess.

“I know! It is…isn’t it!?” And, I realized that it was.

There will be plenty of time for her to learn the real rules to Chutes & Ladders™. Right now, the important part is that she has fun and gets to use her imagination. And, I’m learning to let the silly little things go. When she’s older, I’ll introduce games where following the rules is the fun part, but we’re years from that point…and I’m okay with that.

In the meantime, I’m toying with the idea of adding another game to our collection. Doesn’t Candyland™ sound like a wonderful place for a picnic?

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  • comment avatar Amber January 9, 2009

    I had to laugh at this. I think everyone who has a child has gone through this at one point or another. Just the other day, the kids brought out Chutes and Ladders. Did they want to play the actual game? Noooooo. Losing the game pieces around the house was much more fun. 🙂

  • comment avatar Lori January 9, 2009

    First YOU make my head explode and then AMBER does.

    The same exact thing happened this Christmas when my kids got the game Trouble. I clenched my teeth as they made up their own rules, clicked the ridiculously loud clicker endlessly, and scattered the pieces throughout the house.

    One thing I can’t abide is an incomplete game. Makes me cringe, my head pop.

    I’m quite certain I am casually perfectionistic, too.

  • comment avatar Kagey January 9, 2009

    My problem is the first child wants to play by the rules; the 2nd child wants to play with the first child’s piece. Chaos and much yelling ensues. Sigh.

  • comment avatar cribtales January 9, 2009

    I’ve had the exact same experience! My son only wanted to slide down the slides — THAT was the fun part for him . It was maddening to me. But like you, we, er, I mean I, learned to adapt to the way he wanted to play. Now at the age of 4.5 he’s all about playing by the rules. His 2.5 year old brother — well, not so much. BTW, another fun game is Candy Land. My boys both love it! And they actually follow the rules because there’s CANDY at the end! 🙂

  • comment avatar Born2Shop January 9, 2009

    That is just too cute and precious!! And yes…I think Candyland would be a great place for a picnic, right there by the Peanut Brittle House. Yum! 🙂

  • comment avatar imaginary binky January 13, 2009

    See, this makes me feel better. Ha! I’ve been frustrated with shopping for toys for an 18-month-old after seeing nothing but 3+ all over the toy shelves. Now I see that the frustration won’t end, it just becomes a bit more mature.

    Relatives sent Amos a train set that is for 3+. He was so excited about it as we set it up. But, he couldn’t care less about the train going around the tracks or the groovy water tower. No. He proceeded to stand in the middle of the set and pick up the tracks, throwing them around the room like Godzilla gone mad at a train station.

    In the process, I was slightly injured by a flying piece of wooden track. We promptly put away the train set for a day when 3+ is reached, or when I’ve recovered from the trauma.

    – Sarah, Imaginary Binky

  • comment avatar Catherine January 21, 2009

    This is a very sad yet totally true fact… I have never played Chutes and Ladders!

    But I do get your point and totally feel your pain. 🙂

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