Publisher: Peaceable Kingdom
Year Published: 2014
Number of Players: 2 to 4
Play Time: 10 to 15 minutes
Set-up Time: 1 minute
Learning Curve: Low
Ages: Rated 3 and up, but suitable for some 2-year-olds
Table Size: Small
It’s been a long time since I’ve reviewed a board game around here, but one of the original purposes of this website was to talk about game accessibility. One aspect of accessibility is a game’s appeal to a variety of audiences, and Sunny Day Pond is one of those games that’s certainly accessible to young gamers.
Sunny Day Pond is a co-operative puzzle game for children. Its simple design has won multiple awards thanks to its nearly flawless presentation and execution. It teaches several great skills to toddlers and pre-schoolers, including: color matching, fine motor skills hand-eye coordination, visual-spatial awareness, and cooperation. Its simplistic mechanics are definitely no challenge for adults or school-aged children, but for a game that’s targeted at pre-schoolers that’s to be expected.
The following blurb is from the publisher’s website:
Kids work together, learn together and they help each other, while completing a puzzle! A cooperative game eliminates stress, builds self-esteem, and teaches kids that playing together can be fun! Plus, who doesn’t love a Sunny Day!
Sunny Day Pond’s game mechanics are simple: spin a spinner, draw a puzzle piece of the matching color from the box, and place it on the board. If you spin a Rainbo you get to choose which color you pick. If you spin a Rain Drop, you place a Rain Drop on the board. The goal is to draw and place all of the colored puzzle pieces before you place the six Rain Drops. If you build all the puzzles first, everyone wins. If you fill up the board with Rain Drops, everyone loses.
Each colored puzzle piece corresponds to one type of animal: a green frog, a purple fish, and an orange duck. These animals are all eager to play in the pond unless it gets too rainy, which scares them all away. (Even the fish? Yes, even the fish.) There are four puzzle pieces of each color, meaning you need to place a total of 12 pieces before you rack up 6 Rain Drops.
There’s also a discretionary rule regarding what to do if you spin a color and all of its pieces are already placed on the board–you’re supposed to act like the animal represented by that color. You can make duck noises, hop like a frog, glub like a fish, and so forth. Once the antics are over, you simply move on to the next player. We don’t do this with our 2-1/2 year old yet because we’ve found it tends to derail the game pretty quickly, but I imagine he’ll be able to handle it more when he gets older.
There isn’t a lot of nuance to the game mechanics, but its simple design is what makes it so accessible to young children. The game is entirely luck-based, but 3-year-olds hardly care; they get to spin a spinner, match colors, build puzzles, and make silly animal noises. What could be better?
As I mentioned earlier, the game is entirely luck-based and it’s up to the spinner to decide your fate. It’s segmented so the Rain Drops and Rainbow each take about a quarter of the spinner and the three colors fill the other half (so about 1/6 each), which weights the spins to be 75% non-Rain Drops. Even though the spinner seems to be weighted in favor of winning, there have been plenty of occasions where it turns against us and we lose within a few rounds. It’s a bummer, but it gives everyone an excuse to start over and try again.
From a learning and development standpoint, this game has a lot going for it. As mentioned above, it covers aspects of child development such as color recognition, fine manipulation, matching, puzzle solving, and co-operation. Of these skills, putting the puzzle pieces together is the only one which still challenges my 2-1/2 year old, so it may be a bit simple for children older than 3. Still, the fun colors and animal sounds should make it enjoyable for another year or so after that.
If you’re in the market for a board game for pre-schoolers, this one’s a great choice.
Peaceable Kingdom has put together a fantastic package for this game. All of the pieces are printed on durable chip board and are vibrantly colored. The spinner is one of the best I’ve ever used; its motion is smooth and one good flick will make it spin for several seconds before settling on a target.
The only complaint about the entire package is the flimsy paper pouch in which the Rain Drops are stored. It’s prone to easy tearing and probably won’t hold up over time unless you’re firm with your kids about respecting their toys.
As a game designed for very young children, this game has a fairly accessible design overall. Still, there are a few things to consider.
Fine Manipulation: One of the selling points of the game is that it helps improve childrens’ fine motor skills by giving them a spinner to spin and puzzle pieces to grab and place. With that said, it’s naturally going to pose some challenges for people who struggle with fine manipulation. On the plus side, the game is designed with little children in mind, so the puzle pieces are fairly large and easy to manage, and the fantastic spinner doesn’t take much convincing to spin properly. As a last resort, you can get one of the other players to help you arrange pieces–it’s a co-operative game, after all.
Use of Color: As a game designed to help children match colors, it’s obviously going to depend a lot on the ability to detect colors to begin with. The three main colors used are green, orange, and purple. I’m glad to see there isn’t a red color in addition to the green, which should alleviate some issues with red-green color blindness. Otherwise, the various shades of the colors may be enough to tell them apart on the spinner, and the puzzle pieces for the animals are distinct enough in shape and illustration that this may not be a problem. For a game about teaching color recognition, it sure offers a lot of ways to cope with color recognition issues.
In-Game Pictures: With no in-game text, the game is heavily dependent on pictures. By itself, the spinner doesn’t offer any tactile way to determine where the pointer landed. There isn’t any tactile way to know where you should arrange your puzzle pieces on the board either. Thankfully the puzzle pieces themselves are different enough in shape that, once you know where they are, it’s not difficult to arrange them.
For adults with limited to no vision, you may be able to get by with simply asking your children to do all the work. I find that my son is eager to oblige me when I ask him what color I landed on, ask him to fetch that piece from the box, and even ask him to arrange my pieces on the board. Basically, I sit back and spin while he does all the rest. My enjoyment comes mostly from watching him put everything together, and he absolutely loves to do it. If you’re more of a hands-on person, you may need to make some alterations or have your child tell you what you spun and fetch you a piece from the box. After that, you may be able to feel the simple puzzles well enough to arrange the pieces.
For children, this poses a bit more of a problem. They’re the target audience, and unless they’re the ones doing the work they’re not really getting much out of the game. You may be able to make some alterations to the spinner or tell them what they landed on, but you’ll certainly want to adapt the way you locate and draw puzzle pieces.
Overall, the game’s simplistic rules and elegant design make it accessible to most audiences with few to no alterations.