The following is a guest post written by Sara Tedrick Parikh.
Do you like getting your kids involved in sorting the recycling? Do you like board game companies with a mission? Perhaps most importantly, do you like games that clean themselves up? If you said yes to any of these questions, then Hungry Bins from Adventerra Games may be your next gamer parenting hack.
In Hungry Bins, players take round tokens showing recyclable or food waste items, then feed the tokens into the gaping mouths of one of four friendly bins (paper, plastic, glass, and compost). Players take tokens by matching them in a memory game step, but younger players may enjoy just grabbing a token from a pile (or adding a pull bag) and sorting it.
The components are all cardboard and seem environmentally friendly, which is within the mission of Adventerra Games. The shrink wrap around the game is biodegradable corn-based material.
My copy arrived with long pieces of shredded paper as packing material. My toddler and I had great fun playing with the packing material, both using it as a sensory bin with small toys hidden inside and just enjoying dumping and shaking it out, until I recycled it. I also kept the cardboard punchboards because he likes putting them back and punching them again, which is very easy with round tokens.
The physical game design is simple and effective: A cardboard divider props up the box-sized piece of cardboard with the “hungry bins.” This helps the tokens stay sorted into their four categories so they can be checked easily. As a minor quibble, the tokens sometimes get stuck in the holes due to the shallowness of the box. Thankfully, a gentle shake clears things up.
I found the art to be playful and gentle. Each bin has identifying characteristics (eyeglasses for glass, a box for paper). The tokens share a color with their matching bin. I sometimes had difficulty telling the glass items from the plastic ones. Thankfully the coded colors are quite distinct for the two items (pink and yellow).
On the other hand, I found the green (paper) and blue (composting) to be quite difficult to tell apart, especially in low light when we play it at bedtime. In this case, the items within the categories are quite distinct. Players with color blindness may struggle with the lack of patterns or other distinguishing features.
Age Ranges and Scaling
Young children make tricky targets for games. My own child, in the words of his aunt, “has no chill,” so playing even very simple and popular games designed for the 2-3 age range is a challenge. Hungry Bins worked well because we could focus on the activity of identifying the correct category, then putting it in the right bin. However, we had very little success with a matching or memory component. The memory portion of the game offers room for growth, which I’ll discuss more under “versatility” below.
The game helps children practice several developmental skills: manipulating tokens into slots, identifying common household objects like juice bottles and cardboard, matching colors, and following rules to sort items into categories.
It also reinforces taking an active role in family clean-up. This provides direct opportunities to talk about family values around recycling. The game comes with minimal rules and background information. It may be hard to make the most of it if it’s your first time gaming with kids, or if (like me) you don’t already know how to talk with your toddler about recycling. However, we did find an additional resource on Adventerra Games’ European website. This document gives tips for grown-ups on talking to kids about recycling and adapting gameplay to meet children’s developmental readiness. Check it out!
Adventerra Games rated the Hungry Bins components for ages three and up, and the 1.5″ round cardboard tokens could certainly fit in a toddler’s mouth. My child was a few months shy of three when we first played the game. He was ready to play with round tokens without putting them in his mouth, but I removed similar tokens from games when he was younger. In addition to any safety concerns, the tokens would not likely hold up well to being chomped by slobber monsters.
My favorite feature is that gameplay effectively cleans up after itself, with a clear end point signaled by running out of tokens to sort. This feature makes it a great bedtime game for us, but we did run into a few issues. I like to offer a bedtime game to substitute for one of my kiddo’s bedtime books, which means I’m looking for around five minutes of gameplay. With 32 tokens (four matched pairs for each bin), Hungry Bins is easy for a toddler to drag out, even when skipping the memory matching step. It can also be difficult to play in soft lighting.
The theme of sorting recyclables and compost is real-world, works on developmentally appropriate skills, and allows for conversations about environmentalism without feeling heavy-handed. When we first received the game, we actually had colored bins in our kitchen, and my then-2-year-old enjoyed helping by taking items to the correct bin for us.
As my kiddo grows into a preschooler, I plan to talk more about what recycling is, why we recycle, and what things we do to reduce, reuse, and recycle. I also hope to pair it with children’s show segments that visit recycling centers and show how material is processed. Adventerra Games’s website has some very cool resources for older kids, including activities that actually seem quite doable for home. In the future, I’d love to see Adventerra Games continue to develop games and resources for younger kids.
The game consists of two main parts (matching the tokens and then placing them in the correct recycling or composting bin), and each part could work on its own. My own child doesn’t engage with memory games yet, but matching tiles to bins can still hold his interest. Once he mastered the categories, however, he started enjoying purposely getting the matches wrong. He still enjoys the game that way, so I go along with it.
The tokens could all easily fit into a small bag and make a great on-the-go memory game, if you have table or floor space to spread them out. However, this on-the-go approach risks mutiny if your littles, like mine, live for putting things in slots. The total box is a bit large for “throw in your purse or daypack” status, but is lightweight enough to pack for longer trips. If you deconstruct the inner compartments, you could probably nest a few smaller games inside.
Hungry Bins remains on my kiddo’s night stand with our other bedtime-approved games. It’s not his very favorite sorting game, but it certainly had its day in the sun. We still pull it out sometimes. I do sometimes worry that he’ll ask me why we don’t have a composting bin, but overall the theme balances values, life skills, developmental abilities, and fun.
You can find Hungry Bins on Adventerra Games’ website for $19.99.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Hungry Bins from Adventerra Games for this review.
Number of Players: 1-4
Age Range: 3+
Playtime: 5-20 Minutes