I've been meaning to share this for a month now -- I took these pictures back in early December, but just haven't had a moment to sit down and write about it until now.
The Winter Game is something I dreamed up last fall, though it took me a couple of months to finish all of it. My inspiration came from three wooden peg dolls I bought from my friend Julie:
Their little hats and scarves are so sweet! And they each have a little snowflake burned onto them, see?
So I got these three pegs, and I thought, "What am I going to do with them?" I decided they should be game pieces, and over a couple of days, I dreamed up a winter-themed game that would encourage creative play by letting the players decide the layout of the board each time they play. Mercedes is working on counting and numbers, so I thought this could help her a bit with that as well.
I bought four green sheets of felt to make the playing "board," and also a sheet of felt that had this sort of rock pattern on it. I cut "stepping stones" from the rock felt and hand-sewed them on each piece of felt to form a path.
The kids can arrange these in any pattern they like. They do all fit together to make a loop if they want, but they can also make all sorts of other paths.
Once they set up their path, one person gets to decide where the Skating Pond goes. That's a big circle cut from white felt that has sparkles on one side.
Another player gets to decide where the little blue figure-eight goes -- if you land on that, you have to lose a turn because you go skating on the pond.
Then the third player gets to decide where the end of the game should be, and place the Hot Chocolate there. I cut that from red felt and sewed on a little brown dab of "cocoa" and a curl of steam. After all, when you're done playing outside in the snowy woods, you want to warm up with hot chocolate, right?
To play, you spin a little spinner I made from a heart-shaped piece of wood and a clock hand held on with a thumbtack, with numbers marked with a Sharpie.
There are two other parts of this game: snowmen and Christmas trees. The snowmen are just different-sized circles cut from the same sparkly white felt as the skating pond. Every time you spin a 3, you get to pick a piece for your snowman.
And every time you spin a 1, 2, or 4, you get to collect a small, medium, or large Christmas tree. I bought them in packs of 8 or 10 at a craft store, as I couldn't think of any good way to make ones that would stand up. Maybe by next winter, I'll have figured something out.
All the players get to place the trees and snowman pieces around the playing "board" before the game begins. There's not real "winning" to this game, as usually one person finishes their snowman first, another collects the most trees, and another gets to the Hot Chocolate first. I encourage my kids to make their playing pieces talk to each other about how much fun it is to play in the snow, what they want for Christmas, etc.
I used leftover felt from the hot chocolate mug to sew up a bag to put the little felt pieces and the peg dolls in.
Now that Christmas is over, I'm trying to think of ways to adapt this to work for other seasons too. I'm thinking a Spring Game could involve planting trees, picking flowers... we shall see!