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Request for ideas: Game mechanics for very young children.

10 replies [Last post]

Yes, this is my first real contribution/question to the forums, and yes, its all about poop.

My son is turning two this month, and its time for potty training very soon.

I have been toying with the idea of making a "poo-poo in the potty" game to gross out my wife, and have fun with my son, all at the same time.

The basic idea is to teach him the concept of pooping in the toilet, and that while accidents are ok, the real objective is making it to the toilet in time to poop there.

Im thinking the game board layout should resemble a house floorplan, with a bathroom and "Potty Bowl" of some sort in the middle. The idea is to get your player from random rooms to the bathroom before you have an "accident".

If you dont make it to the potty in time, you have to clean up the mess, which takes time.

I like the gross-factor of making counters as little poops that have to be put in the bowl, but I dont want kids to interpret this as actually handling the poop in real life. So... maybe not.

Before I sink much more time than just daydreaming a new way to make my wife question why she married me, Im concerned that any typical game mechanics, no matter how simple, might be beyond the capacity of kids young enough to appreciate the subject matter.

So, the real question is what sort of non competitve mechanics can I use to make it more of a fun play experience than a competition?

Candyland uses color matching, but even this might be beyond a 2 year old. Maybe I just need to wait another 6 months..

So... Any ideas? :)

Joined: 07/26/2008
Request for ideas: Game mechanics for very young children.

Firstly welcome,

And while a few years ago my first reaction to this might have been repulsion, I now find this a very high cause, perhaps even noble. Why yes I have been through that ... I have a three year old and more to the point my friend has a very stubborn 2.5yr old. Not to mention I also have a 4mos old who will be doing this soon enough.

OK, so on to the game. I love the general idea, but I'm not sure that 2 year olds really completely grasp the concept of locations on a board and moving about a board. I know there is more to say about this, perhaps what I'm getting at is that at 2 years old your whole life is really just about you, and what you have and what other people give you or take away from you and not so much going on in the planning realm, ie, to get to the potty on time I'll have to move from a to b on this turn and b to c on the next turn and c to pee on the nex turn. It seems to me that there has to be more instant feedback/accomplishment. I'm sure one could formulate a more substantial philosophy of games for young minds, so folks please add to these meager thoughts.

With all that being said, here's the first thougt that came to my mind. Perhaps you have a house/floorplan and the adult hides a bunch of poop all over the house and the goal is to find all of the poop and put it in the potty? I think a two year old would really get into this, and it would work with multiple little ones as they could just take turns finding excrement.

Though, there is a risk, perhaps you really don't want a 2yr old to be familiar with the concept of "hiding poop"

anyhow, that's my two cents, I'll have to lett that idea simmer for a little while. And again, welcome to the community.


Joined: 12/31/1969
Request for ideas: Game mechanics for very young children.

This looks like a parents who are in the 'poop zone' type thread.

I agree with nosissies about the level on 'thinking' that goes on in a 2-3 yr olds head (I've got a 3yr old and an 18mth old).

The idea of hiding things around your physical house and getting the kids to find them is a good one.

You could do something along the lines of 'Teddy wants to poop, but - oh no, where is he? can we get him to the potty in time? quick find him...'

You could do this with several favourite toys and it gets the 'idea' of going to loo before 'teddy has an accident' into a kids head.

This then translates into understanding as it keys into the development of roleplay in a toddlers mind.

Just a thought.

BTW you could still do something board game related for older minds with a high 'gross out' factor. 'Bodily functions' humour lasts for quite a few years (my wife would say forever in boys) so you could design a game around body functions.

Maybe there's some wind trapped in the body and you score points by getting it out of a humorous exit. Burping, farting (different sorts - SBD, pant ripper etc.) inflating the eyeballs cartoon stylie as the wind gets diffused internally - the list is endless.

It could be a great way of designing a biology education tool for kids - now that's got me thinking...


larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
Game for really young kid

I would have to say that kids does not understand the concept of a rule, especially at 2 years old.

I have some 1-3 year old game at my job which are all some sort of remake of popular game like domino and memory. The important detail they have is that they don't use numbers or letters since children can't read or count. They display like 1-4 carrots or other icons to identify the card.

I don't think moving on a board is also a good idea for a 2 years old. In fact, I don't think having a miniature or a pawn to move is a good idea at all msince they can always swallow it. Same thing goes for dice since they are small and they have numbers.

The card Idea might be a good idea. They have images so it is really visual.

Joined: 07/26/2008
Request for ideas: Game mechanics for very young children.

Following the natural stream of conciousness from English's post....
yeah, much better twist to be hiding teddy rather than hiding poop, so I was initially thinking that you'd want to have a timer that goes off indicating he's had an accident, but then what if he has a little bladder of water that leaked when the timer went off? alright, that's enough of that.

Addressing the other intersting portion of this thread, ie how to design games for the really young ones. Essentially we have to be careful of a couple of things 1) abstractness and 2)skill and implicitly 3)independant play.

Starting with 3) The way I play most games with 2-3 year old is as a team, either they are helping me, or I'm helping them. which leads to 2, the only way this age group could possibly play the game as an independant agent would be to insure that the skills required are well within the grasp of their age.

I think 2 and 3 are pretty obvious, but personally I think 1 contains the more interesting questions. Just what level of abstract thinking can the toddler be expected to engage in? How much can they relate the real world to an abstract board, or path on a board.

perhaps I'll even add another ... 4) planning. This is a huge part of many games and I think at some point kids can start to engage that aspect of the game, but not quite as early as we're talking.

One other question.... as we reduce the level of abstraction at what point does a game just become an "activity" ... is there a real difference? how can you create "activities" that build skills for "gaming"?

So, most of those are just the beginnings of thoughts, not sure I can complete many of them on a monday morning.


Request for ideas: Game mechanics for very young children.

Larienna wrote:
they don't use numbers or letters since children can't read or count. They display like 1-4 carrots or other icons to identify the card.

I can already picture the icons used in the potty game!

I like the idea of using images of stuffed animals and getting them to the potty before it's too late. You could have them in diapers, and if they don't make it, the diapers stay on and they can't go outside to play or something like that. Reinforce the positives of getting to the bathroom on time.

Good luck, keep us posted on your progress. I'm sure your game would be of interest to many in this forum!

Joined: 12/31/1969

for 2 year olds it needs to be simple-simple-simple
even matching is too difficult for them to grasp.

How about a big toilet bowl in the center of the board with tokens around. Some tokens could have pictures of toys or animals on them and some could have poo or pee on them. The child would choose the tokens with a poo or a pee on them and they would get to put those ones into the potty.

For 2 year olds just putting things into a container is reward enough and this would reinforce the idea that poo and pee go in the potty.

Joined: 04/23/2013
Not Sure

Not sure if anyone has mentioned this yet, but a matching/memory game might be your best bet. My 2 (3 in a week) year old is able to do matching, but I consider him (not bragging, really) to be of above average intelligence. The problem is that there is such a small window of opportunity for such a game to be applicable. Most kids potty train between ages 2 and 3. Unfortunately their stage of development at this age, including motor skills, attention span and raw comprehension, are just not up to the task of playing an actual board game in such a manner that it would aid them in potty training, IMHO. It may be helpful for older children who are having problems with the process though (especially if you're trying to get them trained before they start preschool or early kindergarten). It might be better to develop a toyset for potty training along with some suggested minigames (or rather structured play ideas) to go along with it.

Just my $.02. A noble effort indeed.

Joined: 12/31/1969
Request for ideas: Game mechanics for very young children.

Whether you use an actual board, some sort of memory mechanic or what I haven't really thought through. But here's a very basic game that could be played with a young child.

Conceivably you'd have a number of thing/people picture cards - for instance a baby, a little boy or girl, a dog, a mommy, a pig, gorilla, tree, rock, butterfly, car, horse, etc. (Although perhaps obvious, I've assumed here that an adult is playing the game along with the child and not a bunch of 2 year olds by themselves). There would also be "location" cards - like bathroom, diaper, outside, etc. The objective is to match the "animal" card with the "where do they poop?" card. Like I said this may or may not be conducive to an actual board, and could very likely be some sort of verbal game between a parent and child using picture cards. You could make it really simple and have a bunch of different "people" cards including lots of different babies and little children along with some animals and perhaps a few inanimate objects, yet only have 4 different "where do they poop?" cards - a bathroom, a diaper, outside, and nowhere - for those things that don't actually poop (like a rock). This would reinforce who poops and where is the appropriate place for the person or animal to poop. The trick is to get the little boy or girl playing the game to identify with the little boy or girl game cards and not the little baby cards.

How and whether you'd want to work in the idea of an "accident" is questionable. I'd have to think about this a bit more.


Joined: 12/31/1969
Request for ideas: Game mechanics for very young children.

For "Accidents" you could have a number on the card or tile, or whatever your using. This number is how long it takes before it has an accident. Every few minutes (or whatever you decide) you place a counter on every animal/baby in play. The max number would be 2, or 3, so you could keep the components low, and allow younger children learning to count up to 10 play.

I don't know if this would work well with the younger group, but it could work well with 3 or 4 year olds. This idea would allow children to get the whole scheme of adding.

There could some sort of basic and advanced play. The advanced adds in the counters/adding. While basic is just "get the object to the potty."

Mind you I am not a parent, so I don't know the whole child scheme, and how old they would have to be to count up to 2, or 3.

Good luck,

Hedge-o-Matic's picture
Joined: 07/30/2008
Request for ideas: Game mechanics for very young children.

Hmm. I was having similar problems when I was teaching my cats to use the toilet. 8O

There was a "Fleet bomber" sort of game out a while back, which had floating ships on them, to be floated in the toilet bowl, and the idea was to get kids to try to hit the target of their choice. Odd, but I seem to remember that it was popular. As to the larger message presented, who can say?

Hey, maybe I'll make a "King Tut's Lost Tomb" version for my cats, to reinforce the concept of using the litter box, since the toilet training didn't work so well...

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