Both Mrs Thumbs and I are the oldest siblings in our family. As such, we’ve both had to learn to empathize with Little Bean’s plight as the youngest one in our home. Plenty of strong emotions bubble to the surface for her, when moments arise that make her feel weak, small, and unheard, both by her big sister, as well as ourselves as parents. Unfortunately, those attempts to make her voice heard sometimes lead to physicality in the form of hitting and throwing. Our responsibility is to model the behaviour we want to see out of our children, and give them all the tools they need to feel valued and understood. That includes helping Little Bean to find words to match the big feelings she experiences each day.
While hunting for Christmas games to gift to our children this past holiday, I came across The Color Monster from Devir Games. It was the box that first caught my eye – with its stark white background, contrasted with a monster covered with scribbled crayon, this game captured my attention and encouraged me to learn a bit more. As it turns out, The Color Monster was first a best selling children’s pop-up book authored and illustrated by Anna Llenas!
In the story, The Color Monster is overwhelmed with emotion and very confused. Fortunately, the monster has a friend in the form of a little girl who is going to help it sort these emotions, by colour, into several jars. Once the monster has sorted its happiness, sadness, fear, calm, and anger, it finds a new emotion – love!
Translating this story to a tabletop setting, The Color Monster is sorting out these same emotions, with the help of the little girl AND the players at the table! Each turn involves rolling a die and moving the monster to a different colour space. After each movement, the active player tells a story about the emotion colour they landed on. For instance, “I feel happy when I get a phone call from my mother!” By telling these stories, it helps the Color Monster to better understand these feelings. The emotion jars from the book also play an important part in the game, and the end of each turn involves looking at the back side of an emotion jar to see if it matches the emotion we just spoke about. If the colours match, that jar is filled with an emotion token. If not, the jar is flipped back over, with the hope that players will remember where that colour is hiding later in the game.
The game ends in collective victory if players can fill all five emotion jars with the correct colours. However, three of the jars have a scribbled mess of feelings on the back! If one of these confused jars is found, it remains facing out, and if three confusion jars are ever flipped over, the Color Monster is too confused and needs to take a nap. If this happens, players should reset the game, shuffle the emotion jars, and start again.
Little Bean and I recently posted a two-player game of The Color Monster to our YouTube channel, which you can check out here:
Everything included in the Color Monster game box is bulky and adorable, and manages to look and feel like we’re interacting with a pop-up book. The Color Monster and Little Girl tokens stand on their own easily, and feel great in our hands as they move around the board. Each emotion jar is made up of thick, multi-layered cardboard with an opening at the top for the emotion tokens to drop in, and even includes a little window to see which emotion has been dropped into which jar. The box even includes two racks to keep the jars upright, which is a lovely addition that also adds to the pop-up feel of the entire package.
LITTLE BIG THUMBS VERDICT
Little Bean has been asking to play The Color Monster several times per week since it arrived in our home, which is always the sign of a supremely popular game. She is capable of setting everything up on her own, and can even explain the basic turn structure with very little direction from us. Everyone has enjoyed telling stories about our emotions, and there are little moments of deeper understanding that have landed in several of our game plays. It’s almost like a gentle family therapy session!
On the other side of the coin, I’m not entirely sold on the dice being the best way to move the monster around the board, but it works well enough to not commit to a full criticism. Of course, this is a children’s game, and I don’t imagine it will be hitting any game tables after the little ones are asleep, but it packs so much value for us as a family experience that I’m happy to make room for it on our shelves for as long as my beans are wanting to play.
Although our little chaos demon will still occasionally resort to a bonk on the head to express her displeasure, we’re also hearing regular attempts to wrap words around those feelings of frustration. Who knew that “YOU ARE MAKING ME FEEL ANGRY” would be a phrase that inspires relief and celebration??
The Color Monster is a game we very strongly recommend with TWO LITTLE THUMBS UP! Any family with young children stands to benefit from having this game available to play, but let’s face it, we could all use a regular opportunity to voice our feelings in a safe and structured environment. So don’t just drop it on the table for the kids to play on their own – sit down and sort out your own inner Color Monster!
Originally posted to the Daily Worker Placement on February 3rd, 2021.