Build Your Own Amusement: Tiny Park
This post was written by guest contributor Chrissy Wissler.
Kids love amusement parks.
It’s been my experience that most kids love amusement parks (mine are particularly enthralled with Disneyland), so when I bring out a board game about making your own theme park the usual response is mouths dropping open and eyes going wide.
Honestly, most kids are sitting down at the table (or the grass) before I even ask, “Do you want to play?”
(In writing this article, I brought my notepad and Tiny Park to a lot of playgrounds—in hopes of getting some work done while my kids ran around. Well, my kids did run around, but I never got any writing done. Instead I often ended up teaching this game to every kid who saw it, which is probably the highest praise any game could ask for.)
How to Play
In Tiny Park, players take turns rolling dice, trying to get the images they need in order to claim an attraction a tile, which they will then add to their theme park. The first person to fill up their board wins the game.
These aren’t your typical dice. They’re wooden and large (meaning they’re good for smaller hands) and each side has a different image. These images represent the different types of attractions you will find at your theme park.
Players roll five dice and compare the results with what tiles are available.
Tiles come in a variety of shapes and sizes: from a single image to four images that make up a square. In general, the bigger the tile, the harder it is to get, but if you can roll the dice and get lucky enough you’ll be filling up space on your board faster than the other players.
Players also get to save some dice and re-roll the ones they don’t want.. So maybe your child rolls and gets two airplanes and now they need two slices for the pizza restaurant. They take the three dice they don’t want and roll those again. And then again. After the third roll, they select whatever tile they can get (if any) and then it’s the next player’s turn. Within this simple game play, Tiny Park just shines.
Decoding and Critical Thinking
Kids look at the dice they rolled, to decode the tiles and the pictures (this symbol on the dice matches that symbol on that tile, but not that one). There’s a lot of mental brainpower going on here. There’s a lot of stretching and thinking. They’re using discernment and critical thinking, intuitively figuring out the odds for a tile they really want compared to what they’ve rolled on the dice.
This is the kind of learning that’s so small it’s easy for us, as parents, to overlook. This is a tiny step forward with learning and yet at the same time it’s also profound and deep. This way of evaluating and thinking will carry into many areas of your child’s life and into the future—and they’re learning it while they’re having fun and playing a game, with you.
And can I just say Tiny Park also presents a great opportunity to support kids when it comes to emotional intelligence?
The first time Kate and I played this game, she was all about getting the candy rollercoaster. Didn’t matter that on her first roll she got no candy. Or the second. Or the third. She wanted that candy and boy was she upset when she didn’t get it.
That required her to work through the disappointment of not getting this candy rollercoaster she really wanted – because those were the rules of the game. (Eventually she succeeded, but on another turn). This game provided good practice for her (and I’ll bet for other kids too). Heck, it was good practice for me to be with her, allowing her to have these feelings, while at the same time gently encouraging her to let these big feelings go—but only when she was ready.
Because that’s how this game works. You roll dice and you see what happens. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t even collect any tiles at all on a particular round.
Tiny Park is a great game to practice letting go and moving on, trying and failing, to take a risk and see what happens next.
All those moments are perfect opportunities to help guide kids through their upsets and disappointments—and how to move on after they’ve been seen and been heard by us, their parents. The power of play is a huge motivator for kids to stick with these hard moments and these bigger, darker feelings. Most of the time they want to keep playing the game so they’ll sit there and work through these feelings instead of pushing them aside and ignoring them.
Who can play Tiny Park?
The game components in Tiny Park are perfect for kids and very much in line with what I expect from a HABA game. Large dice and bright colorful pictures lure in all the kids at the playground when they catch sight of this playful box. The tile pieces themselves are nice and chunky. Be forewarned that you need to put the stickers on the dice yourself. HABA provides a few extras, but if you’ve got a sticker-happy kid, you’ll want to set this up on your own the first time.
The recommended age is five, but I played this with a three year-old. While younger kids may not be able to play as competitively as older kids can, with help and guidance (and probably allowing extra dice rolls), I’d say Tiny Park is a game your younger kids can enjoy as well.
In fact, I’d say this is a great game for kids of all ages to play together. One caveat to this: if you have a child that likes to stick things in their mouth you probably want to wait until they’re a bit older.
Another big draw for kids is how quickly the game moves—and how quickly it ends. You’re not waiting a long time between turns and the game length itself isn’t long (incredibly important with young children).
Attractive Pieces Encourage Experimentation
Another thing I’ve noticed with my kids is how they just want to play with the pieces once we’re done. Kate wants to build her own park just how she wants, so I let her—I let her play when we’re done following the rules. My younger son isn’t ready for board games, but when I pulled this out at the playground, he was immediately sitting down on my lap, lining up tiles, and making the different shapes fit together.
All this is learning through play.
Both my kids were intrinsically motivated to play with these cool bits and tokens. I’m fairly certain it’s this kind of play that is a motivating factor for them to keep coming back. (That and if they’re looking to get my attention, they know “Let’s play a board game!” does the trick).
Tiny Park is a quick, easy-to-understand game and one I think works well across many ages. If you have a child who loves amusement parks, definitely give this game a try (or apparently come find me at a playground). You’ll be presenting math and logic and critical thinking in a way that doesn’t look like any of those. If you want to help teach a child who really likes to push their luck and see how far they can go (and maybe has big feelings of disappointment at the result), play Tiny Park with them.
Whatever you choose to do, just make sure to play with your kids… then watch them and see if you can discern all the learning that’s happening right under your nose.
Chrissy Wissler is a professional writer of fiction, parenting blogs and raising differently-wired kids, and also—a gamer. She runs the Homeschool Board Game Club in Torrance, California, sharing her love of games and supporting kids with the community. If you’d like to learn more, check out: facebook.com/chrissykidsboardgames and ChrissyWissler.com.
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