Learn Physics, Discernment, and More: Animal Upon Animal Crest Climbers

Animal upon Animal Crest Climbers stacking

Watch your kids learn while they play this

simple stacking game.

This post was written by guest contributor Chrissy Wissler.
Part 2 of series on how HABA games support learning. Read part 1 here.

Animal Upon Animal Crest Climbers is a game of animal stacking. You’re pretty much building an animal pyramid, doing your best to add the next animal (or two) to the growing mountain without knocking the whole thing over.

Sound interesting? It is. Sound like your kids might give you a run for your money? You bet, especially as they learn the ins-and-outs of the game, including some basic physics. (That’s right; I totally used the word ‘physics‘ while writing about a board game.)

But before we get into all the magic that happens when kids play a game like Animal Upon Animal Crest Climbers, let’s talk about how the game actually plays.

How to Play

Start with a mountain panorama in the center of the table. That’s your base, where you’ll be stacking your mountain goats and squirrels and pine trees and all the rest. Everyone gets one of each animal and you’ll be trying to stack all of your animals before anyone else—while doing your best not to knock the whole thing over.

Roll the dice and see what happens next.

Depending on your roll you can either: place one animal (or two), choose one of your animals to give to another player, another player chooses which animal you need to place, or you get to add to the growing mountain panorama base.

If you can place your animal without knocking any over, great! It’s now the next person’s turn, and you’re one step closer to winning. However, if your hand isn’t as steady or you picked the wrong placement and knock the mountain over, there’s a slight penalty.  You’ll have to take some of the animals that fell, and the next player begins again with whatever animals are left on the mountain.

The first person to place all their animals (and pine trees, of course) wins the game.

About Animal upon Animal Crest Climbers

Like all HABA titles, the game components in this are stunning. Big and chunky wooden animals, pine trees, and mountain. All are brightly painted, so your kids will want to grab the pieces and check them out.

The game is also quick. It plays in ten minutes or less, so it’s good for holding shorter attention spans. Also if you have a child who’s not the ‘sit down and focus’ type, who likes things in their hands, it might be a good fit for your family.

Learn physics by stacking the creatures and pine tree

Why Play Animal upon Animal?

This game is an absolute little charmer. You can play this with younger kids all the way to grandparents. Everyone can be competitive and have a good time—which in my mind is the hallmark of a great game.

The recommended age is four, but you can definitely play with younger kids and just change up the game as needed (and if you’ve got a kiddo who enjoys putting things in their mouth, definitely wait until that habit has passed).

Introducing Games to Little Kids

This is one of the first games I played with my kids when they were really little, but without the game rules. We’d just play with the pieces together. I’d stack the animals and let them knock the mountain over (because that’s super fun). After a bit, I’d offer them an animal to stack and we’d start taking turns (turn-taking is an important skill for young kids to learn). With my daughter and her anxiety, the knowledge that she might knock the whole thing over was too much stress for her, so I would simply offer that I’d stack the animals. I kept stacking until she felt comfortable with the process, that the mountain would eventually fall over, and she was ready to do this for herself.

(See what was happening there? That was one of the ‘soft’ skills, this emotional intelligence thing you’ve heard about. It’s not necessarily easy to teach, but kids can learn through our modeling.)

Playing Animal upon Animal
Chrissy’s five-year-old stacking the pieces

Learning Physics

Another time I played this game was at a pretty boring parent meeting with a four-year-old boy. The adults were chatting and he was doing his best to sit still (as the minutes passed this was harder and harder for him). So I asked if he wanted to play.

I was just some random parent with a board game and a smile (a stranger to him), so to help get him comfortable , I let him play with the pieces exactly as described above. I’d stack the animals and offer to let him stack as well (and make silly noises when everything fell over). After a few minutes, he was ready to play the game with all its rules. And that’s when I really saw his learning just shine.

This little boy wasn’t your typical four-year-old. He was focused, he was right there with me, learning and understanding, but he offered me insight into those tiny steps of learning that happen when kids play.

It didn’t take him long to realize that when you stack animals a certain way (bottom heavy, perhaps), they fall over. He’d start to add a pine tree and then he would pause. He would switch and change position right there, just a few inches above the cow or mountain goat. I could see his mind thinking:

“What would happen if I put it here? Or here?”

And not only was his mind asking the questions, but it was also his mind supplying the answers. I didn’t say anything. He just rotated the animal around and carefully placed it… and the whole mountain stayed standing. Or sometimes it didn’t.

Physics! He was straight-up learning physics right before my eyes.

Discernment and Critical Thinking

He was also practicing discernment, which looked like this: which animal was best to put on at this moment, before the mountain got taller, and couldn’t handle as much weight? (You can also call this skill by another fancy learning name: critical thinking.)

Did this boy and I talk about any of this? Did I need to sit down and teach him about the laws of physics?

Nope. We just played a game together.

Practicing Failure

We also got to practice trying and failing. What would happen if we put the Saint Bernard dog with his nose down and his feet in the air? Sometimes he fell but maybe, if we just put it just the right way… the mountain of animals stayed standing.

Learning at All Ages

To be clear, this isn’t a game just for younger kids. All this learning I described happens with older kids as well. And again, we don’t need to say anything or go out of our way to teach. All the learning is right there, designed into this game created by HABA. It’s a simple, silly game of stacking animals on each other… but also a game that offers so much opportunity for learning.

This is also a game that kids can play together, even without parents facilitating (so long as at least one child already knows how to play).

If any of this sounds intriguing, if you think your family would enjoy playing Animal Upon Animal Crest Climbers, definitely give it a try and see what learning comes out of it. It’s amazing what happens when you step back and really look at kids in play. Take the time to focus on what they’re doing, to allow yourself to wonder…

And, as I mentioned in part 1 of this series, board games offer a fantastic way for us to step into that place of learning, of wonder, with our kids.

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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