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I’ve discovered a dynamic tool that teaches kids adding, subtracting, counting money, saving money, and making change. They learn a range of new vocabulary, practice reading, work on fine motor skills, and pick up some wisdom about life. The kids can’t get enough of it. No, it’s not some fancy computer game. It’s not a LeapPad, and it’s not a stuffed animal that talks to them. It’s a $10 Monopoly game from Wal-Mart.
Now, my mom warned me back when I was talking about getting the game for them that it would go over their heads. They took to it right away, but Mom was right insofar as playing Monopoly with a five-year-old and a seven-year-old is not like playing with my friends back when I was a pre-teen and young teenager. No, playing with these small opponents is a great deal more taxing. When you play Monopoly with young children, don’t be surprised if the following occur:
1.) You ask another player, the more literate of the two, to set up the board. When you return several minutes later, she has put out the board and carefully laid out Community Chest and Chance. You look for signs that she has begun to count out the money, but instead find out that she has been deeply absorbed in laying out tiny communities with the hotels and houses.
2.) Choosing your token is a big deal. Setting up the game is interrupted when the younger one arranges the tokens in a long line and asks you to select a token. Each of your opponents carefully picks out her favorite animal. Older one must continue to set up the game with dog token clutched in one hand, and thus cannot pass the money tray to you with a discussion about how she can’t do it one-handed.
3.) You start the game during what is to you very early in the evening, but the other players tire by 6:45, before anyone has even passed “Go” for the first time. You make a mental note to start at 10:00 am next time.
4.) The one who so eagerly volunteered to be the banker must be watched to make sure 1.) transactions don’t absent-mindedly end up in her own pot, and 2.) the money gets placed right-side up and in the right section.
5.) Someone could get upset if she goes to jail. And another player might even get upset if you yourself land on the policeman and try to reassure you that it’s going to be okay. (See #3.)
6.) You have to watch your opponents all the time to make sure they move their tokens the correct number of spaces. They have a tendency to start counting with the space they are already on.
7.) There are lots of pauses in the game while your opponents add up the numbers on their die.
8.) Your opponents might arbitrarily decide not to buy a piece of property they land on. Sometimes “it costs too much,” other times they’re just exercising the delicious power of choice the game gives them, and once in a while it’s simply, “I don’t want to use all my hundred dollar bills.”
9.) You struggle to give the children objective advice when you so want to buy Park Place yourself. It would be so easy not to tell her that she’ll pick up another $200 right away when she passes “Go” on her next turn . . .
10.) You find yourself explaining the obvious: “Two $500 bills are just like having ten $100 bills.” And you hear yourself saying this two, maybe three, times during the game.
11.) You praise your opponents every time they count out the correct amount of money.
12.) One or both of your opponents look confused when you mention giving or taking change. So you talk it through every time you do it. And you’re the only one who can do it, even though you’re not the banker.
13.) Eagle eyes for every turn, every transaction. You can never let down your guard.
14.) (First refer to #3) One opponent can’t stop moving, rocking back and forth, and doing somersaults. This is bad for a Monopoly setup on the floor of a small room.
15.) An opponent gloats over her property, counting it, laying it out, talking about it. When she lands on her own property, instead of proclaiming the turn boring, she says, “I’m camping on my own property tonight.”
16.) When someone has to pay rent, you delight the other players if you describe the amenities that go with a rented property. Baltic Avenue, for example, offers only RV hookups and hot showers, while something like Kentucky Ave. will have a game room with billiards, miniature golf, and free Disney channel. The other players get into it: “and a library,” they add. In case you’re interested, Marvin Gardens is a resort hotel with free movies, a pool, and a view of Disney Land.
17.) When you offer to move your opponents’ tokens because they’re at the opposite end of the board, they get a real bang out of it when you make neighing or barking sounds while you do so.
18.) Your opponents have a hard time reaching their tokens when they’re at the opposite end of the board.
19.) One of the other players might smuggle an extra token onto the board and either move it randomly around before it’s her turn or move it in tandem with her original token. You and the other player mostly ignore this.
20.) You cut the game short after about forty minutes, read your opponents a story, and send them to bed.