Monza: Race Ahead with Sequencing
This is part 5 of a series on how HABA games support learning.
Chrissy has been telling us about all the ways that HABA games support learning (Part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4). Playing games is a fun way to teach all sorts of skills, from critical thinking and decoding to physics. They provide an environment to practice failure and emotional intelligence, too. I’m wrapping up our series with one more game from HABA that we’d recommend for kids of all ages.
This time, it’s all about racing. Vroom! My kids turn seemingly everything into a race. From biking down the street to who can get dressed fastest, racing is the way things get done.
My kids aren’t the only ones. How many games do you know that are basically just a race to the finish line? At first glance, Monza from HABA looks like any other racing game – six cars and a multi-colored track. But there’s more going on there than meets the eye.
How to Play
Turns are short and play moves fast, appropriate for a game for younger children. Even with the maximum of six players, an entire game takes little more than 15 minutes.
On your turn, you roll the six wooden dice. Match up colors on the dice to move your car forwards (either directly forwards or diagonally) along the track. As you move to a new space, set aside a die of the corresponding color. If you’re really lucky, you may be able to move six spaces – one for each die.
Be the first to reach the blue and white finish line and you’ll end the game. Finish the round so everyone gets the same number of turns; if more than one player reached the finish line, the winner is the one who used the fewest dice in the last round (don’t forget to keep track!)
The pieces in Monza are exactly what we’ve come to expect from HABA – chunky wooden dice and wooden cars that fit just right in the printed lanes.
The dice are just small enough to fit all six in little hands. I suggest using the box to corral them when rolling, unless you want to retrieve dice that bounce onto the floor or under furniture.
The racing theme is carried through the lovely illustrations, and the track invites little hands to zoom cars around it again and again.
What Kids Learn from Monza
The kids in our family are beyond the “let’s match colors” phase of learning to play games. However, Monza remains a great game to work on that with young children. There are six colors: red, green, blue, yellow, purple, and white.
But kids who play Monza will be practicing so much more than that. Every time they roll the six dice and anticipate how far they’ll move, they’re beginning to learn sequencing. Sequencing is an important foundational skill for both reading and math: putting things in order, and understanding that changing that order can change the meaning. Some orders “work” and some don’t.
Games always have some sort of sequencing built into the rules – first you do this, then you do that. But Monza uses sequencing as an integral part of the game play itself.
Players need to examine their six dice and match them up with the track to create a path forward. Playing with my five year old, we would set aside each die as it was used, and I could see his mind beginning to work at this – “I play green, then red, then yellow.”
Critical Thinking – Looking Ahead
As he got used to the game, he now understands enough to start making decisions on how to sequence the dice to get the best result. “I can play red or green to start moving forward – but if I play red now, I won’t be able to use that die later! I’ll start with green.”
See that? He learned sequencing, then begins to combine that skill with critical thinking to make decisions about what to do next.
A further step forward is learning that the actions you choose now may affect what happens later. Cars can move through an occupied space without affecting anything, but if they stop there, they push the previous occupant backwards! My kids are learning that they want to avoid finishing a turn in a bottleneck space, if possible, to avoid being bumped backwards.
For older kids and adults, Monza is a game that’s mostly luck. The optimal paths to use your dice will be obvious. But even for us old folks, there are at least a few decisions to be made, which is why we recommend Monza as a superior replacement for Candy Land.
Many thanks to HABA for providing us copies of their early learning games. If any of the games from our series (Animal Upon Animal, Brandon the Brave, and Tiny Park) sound interesting to you, you can find them on Amazon, buy directly from HABA, or at most stores that sell toys and games.