Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Berry Patch Wisdom

The Strawberryland  game is not supposed to be complicated.  In it, Strawberry Shortcake and her friends--Ginger Snap, Angel Cake, and Orange Blossom--march a designated number of spaces around a board, hoping to land on a round cardboard circle with the picture of a particular goodie (basket of oranges, gingerbread man, ice cream cone, etc.) on the underside.  Each player tries to be the first to match these circles to their likenesses on her card. 

Each card is different; thus, this is essentially a memory game.  You have to watch when other players land on a circle and reveal the underside, because you might need that one.  Then, you have to remember where it was, maneuver yourself around to that spot on the board, and claim it for yourself.  The idea is to find your four goodies before your opponent does.

During Sooby's recent week-long visit to Googie's, we played this game until I could close my eyes at night and see strawberries.  In my utter lack of foresight, I thought it might afford a fun opportunity to teach Sooby about rules--you know, taking turns, not peeking, not taking the cardboard circle that someone else turns over, and so forth.

As it turns out, I was wrong.  Sooby, it seems, had very different ideas about how the game should be played.  Here is her modified version:
  1. Sooby spins; she moves Strawberry Shortcake the designated number of spaces, but some spaces are skipped in the process.
  2. If Sooby doesn't land on a circle she needs, she spins again.
  3. When she finds a match, it is Googie's turn.
  4. Googie's turn is over very quickly.
  5. Sooby repeats Steps 1-3.
  6. Sooby acquires her four matches first.
  7. Sooby insists that Googie play until she also finds her matches.
  8. Sooby is delighted with the outcome of the game and wants to play it over and over.
As you can see, in Sooby's variation of the game there is no drama, no competition to speak of, no nail-biting race to the finish, no stress.  You might think this would be boring (I had even entertained that notion myself, however briefly), but that is not the case.  Sooby's excitement at each new discovery was genuine.  The fact that she was having so much fun caused me to stop and re-evaluate the place of rules in the life of a four-year-old who sees them as arbitrary and unnecessary and can have quite a good time without them, thank you.

I am reminded of all those rules Robert Fulghum supposedly learned in kindergarten.  Should you re-read that list, you will find that they basically fall under several broad categories, none of which are violated by Sooby's revised Strawberryland rules:
  1. Don't hurt yourself.
  2. Don't hurt others.
  3. Don't destroy things of value.
A fourth category could include Fulghum's suggestions to look, appreciate, and "be aware of wonder."  Those may be a little abstract for a four-year-old.  A googie, however, should be able to handle them just fine.  Especially when looking across the game board at a little girl whose eyes sparkle with excitement when she sees that Custard the pink kitty is just the match she wanted.


  1. That is such a sweet, well-told story!

  2. I love this story! I totally understand her rules as we have them around here too. However, ours were learned on the Hi HO Cherry-O game. Yes, sometimes it's so much better to make rules work for you at the spur of the moment. :) Thanks for linking up with me on Say It Saturday!