Trouble board game and other practice-and-play games

The Trouble board game has a very simple objective. Each player has four pieces, which are moved around the board and into the safety zone according to the roll of a single die with numbers one to six. If a player lands on another player’s piece, the opponent’s piece is returned to the starting point.

Manufacturer: Hasbro

Suggested Retail Price: $12.99 US

Availability: discount stores, toy and game stores, online

Number of players: 2-4

Recommended age: 5-9 years, but I’ve used it with older children

The basic concept in the Trouble Board Game—moving one’s pieces in a circuit around the board and back to the starting point—is very similar to a great many games such as Sorry and Parcheesi. Other games, such as Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders (Snakes and Ladders in Canada and the UK), are also similar, except that they involve moving from a starting point to an ending point at the opposite end of the line rather than making a circuit.

The selling gimmick that the manufacturer uses to differentiate the Trouble board game from all the other games on the market that are, in reality, the same game, is the plastic “Pop-o-matic” bubble/dome in the center of the board that contains the single die. When a player pushes down and releases the dome, the die pops up and lands displaying the number of spaces the player is to move. This feature, plus the plastic slots for the game pieces, make this a good travel game, as well as a good option for young children with less-developed fine motor coordination. The die never gets lost and you can accidentally bump the board without all the pieces scattering hither and yon. One drawback is that children with low strength may need some help depressing the bubble enough to make it pop. Otherwise, they may get frustrated and start pounding on it, which can end up scattering the game pieces.

While playing the Trouble board game involves the use of a number of speech and language skills, such as counting, turn-taking, and some very basic verbal reasoning, it does not really push the envelope on these skills for most children. For this reason, I generally use it as reinforcement during speech therapy, interspersed with more drill-like speech therapy activities --one or two practice items, then take a turn. You can do this with just about any game, so if you don’t already own a copy, you can do the same thing with Candyland, Sorry, Parcheesi, Chutes and Ladders, Connect Four, Operation, Battleship, etc. For that matter, you can use this ‘practice, then play’ pattern with a lot of games that you don’t even have to buy, like tic-tac-toe or paper football.

My own decision to use the Trouble board game in the speech therapy room was based largely on the physical features of the game. Because it is so self-contained, I could take it out and put it away in seconds, an important consideration when trying to accomplish as much as possible in a 20-minute session. In addition, I could move the board around on the table to place it within reach of the player whose turn it was and to discourage children from ‘fiddling’ with the board when it was not their turn. Ker Plunk and Jenga also work for ‘practice and play’ interaction, and kids really enjoy them, but they involve a lot of setup and clean-up time and can’t be moved around on the table without collapsing. Because of this, I don’t use them in short therapy sessions, but it should not be as much of a deterrent for home practice.

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