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Friends and Neighbors: The Helping Game Review by Karen Waide

(“A cooperative game for kids!”)
Peaceable Kingdom
950 Gilman Street, Suite 200
Berkeley, CA 94710

I had heard of the Peaceable Kingdom a while ago, and was intrigued by the idea of cooperative games.  So, when the opportunity arose for us to review one of their games, I was quite excited. We received the award-winning Friends and Neighbors: The Helping Game. This game is appropriate for children ages 3+. It can be played by 1-4 players.

The game comes in a square box with an attached lid. There are four 8 ½ inch square game boards, a stop sign, and 14 tokens, all made out of heavy board. Also included is a Helping Bag, a small booklet titled, “Let's Help Our Friends and Neighbors”, a parent guide and instructions.

The main object of this game is to have children learn compassion and empathy, while learning to identify emotions and help others. The children play together to complete the game board before filling up the stop sign. These game boards consist of 3x3 grids. On these grids you will find brightly colored pictures of children (or a dog) who are in need of help. You may come across a hungry pup, a boy who fell and has a boo-boo, a scared child lying in bed, a child caught in the rain, a girl whose balloon has floated away, or a number of other scenarios. At the top of each square, there is the beginning of a rhyme. It describes in three to six words the dilemma that is being faced. The tokens, which are kept in the Helping Bag, provide remedies for these problems. There is a spot in each grid square for these tokens. The images on the tokens match the images on the circle in the square. Additionally, there are words on the token that finish the rhyme.

Here are some of the completed rhymes:

  • “A hungry pup...needs some food to cheer up.”
  • “A slip and a squeal…here's a bandage to heal.”
  • “Feeling scared in the's a little nightlight.”

Game play is simple. Each child takes a turn reaching into the Helping Bag to draw a token. They look at the token to see if it matches any of the squares on the board in play. If it matches, the child places the token in the circle. The child or parent can then read the rhyme that is completed with the token. If the token doesn't match, the token is to be placed on one of the five circles on the stop sign. If the game board gets filled up first, the children have completed their task and won. However, if the stop sign fills up first, the game is lost and a new board is chosen.

While placing the tokens, you can talk with your children about what is happening in the pictures. You can ask your children what emotion would be felt in this instance. You can also discuss what you can do to fix it. This can be discussed before playing the game, or while placing the tokens.

Another way to get the children thinking about emotions, is to read the booklet to them. This little book measures about three inches square. The left side of each spread shows one of the pictures also found on the game boards. The picture on the right shows how the child/dog feels after receiving the required help. Included in these right-side pictures are the objects that were on the tokens. The words to be read are the exact rhymes that are found on the game board and tokens combined. The book also identifies the emotions involved.

Once the game has been played a couple of times, game play goes a bit faster, because the children already know what is going on in the pictures, and they just want to find and place the token. The instructions say that it will take ten minutes to play the game. This time must include the time it takes to talk about each of the pictures while playing. If you aren't discussing each picture, the game can be played in less than five minutes.

I did want to talk about the Parent Guide briefly. This guide covers the importance of helping children develop their EQ or emotional intelligence. There is a list of the qualities of emotional intelligence and a guide of ways to help your child develop empathy and compassion. It explains how cooperative games can help.

The idea behind cooperative games is for children to learn to work together, and also to avoid having issues with hurt feelings and frustration. I did just want to mention that we found that hurt feelings can still happen with this game as tokens are randomly chosen from the bag and five out of the 14 will not work on the board. So, of course, my middle daughter was the one who kept getting the wrong token, and didn't feel like she was helping as she was filling up the stop sign instead of the game board.

I still feel this is a great game for young children to learn about helping others. But, you do have to take the time to talk about what is going on in the pictures. Just reaching into the bag and matching the tokens will not have the same impact. I liked that all my children were able to play together, even though my 8 and 9 year old daughters do seem a bit old for it. They seemed to enjoy playing. Having older siblings play also gives them a chance to help by reading the rhymes for the younger children who can't read.

Friends and Neighbors: The Helping Game is a great tool to help children learn to recognize and name emotions. Children also get to be helpers, seeing what can be done to help those in need. They learn to cooperate. And an added bonus is that young beginning readers get to practice reading the rhymes, though reading isn't required to be able to play.

You can purchase Friends and Neighbors: The Helping Game for $15.99.

- Product review by Karen Waide, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2017