Monday, November 2, 2009

Review of the Rapelli Game

Using a giant piece of bamboo as the game board, Rapelli – manufactured by HaPe International – works on color matching, counting, and even rudimentary logic! It’s terrific for the youngest budding mathematicians (aged 3+). The list price is $29.99, but the game is currently on sale for $21.50 (a savings of almost 30%) on the Timberdoodle website.

The game comes in a sturdy cardboard box – complete with a bamboo handle for easy carrying. Included are: one large bamboo tube (the “game board”), eighteen caterpillars in six colors, one action die, and one color die. The Rapelli “game board” and pieces are made of eco-friendly bamboo with water-based paints. (Specific materials are listed in detail on the Timberdoodle website.)

My three and a half year old was immediately drawn to the colorful caterpillars. “They’re so cute!” Not until after we had placed the caterpillars in the bamboo tube and started playing, did I realize that this was Elizabeth’s first real opportunity to play a board game that involved rolling dice – and taking turns! She’s an avid little learner and caught on quickly.

When she saw the game box the very next day, she begged to play it again. Later that same evening, she was eager to show it to her Tío Matías and Tía Tini, who were visiting for the evening. She has asked to play it every day, and we’ve been enjoying it as our schedules allow.

Basically, depending on the number of players (from two to six), each one chooses one to three colors of caterpillars which start out with only their cute little smiling faces showing on the outside of the bamboo tube. The first player rolls both the color die and the action die to determine which color of caterpillar and how many sections of that caterpillar he will move either forward or backward. There is also a “wild card” allowing the lucky player to pull out the specified color of caterpillar completely! The winner is the first to collect all his caterpillars. We did end up making some additional rules as we went along. For example, if the color die specified a color not currently in play, that player got to roll again to try for another color option.

Basic addition skills can be developed as the youngest players realize that when the action die has three forward arrows, it means that three segments of the caterpillar must be advanced – in addition to however many segments of that caterpillar have already been emerged from the tube. For us, this new game is reinforcing basic mathematics Elizabeth is learning in K-3. “What do two and three make?” and so on. She’s enjoying the new learning adventure!

The Timberdoodle website states: “While Rapelli is a great game to review and reinforce colors and counting, the element of strategy makes it an engaging game for all ages.” And I agree. It quickly becomes apparent that the choice of color to advance will very probably not be your own! Consequently, if you get opportunity to move an opponent’s caterpillar backward, you’ll want to choose the one that has emerged the farthest from the tube. If you have to advance an opponent’s caterpillar, you’ll want to choose one that is just beginning to show rather than the one that is almost out of the tube, etc.

I think an added bonus is the fact that the instructions are in five languages, including Spanish and French – of great interest to our family! Here’s a tip for those learning and teaching foreign languages to children: Say the colors and numbers in the target language(s) as another way to reinforce that vocabulary!

We like educational games at our house – games that teach critical thinking skills to little ones – and we are pleased that Rapelli fits that bill. With Christmas less than two months away, I heartily recommend Rapelli as a great addition to any young family’s wish list. While I personally would not pay the list price for this game, I think the sale price (a savings of almost 30%) is a fair one, given the game’s high quality and educational value.

A complimentary game was provided by Timberdoodle to Mama Bzz reviewers in exchange for today’s blog tour.

I was very happy when I received the email stating that I had been selected by Timberdoodle to review Rapelli! My 3½ year old is an avid little learner who loves games, building things, and learning in general. Thank-you to the folks at Timberdoodle for the opportunity to review this great product!

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