There are plenty of variations on the ancient board game of Snakes and Ladders (or Chutes and Ladders), but this 150-year-old game with an American history theme is one of the most interesting I’ve seen. It dates back to the mid-1800s and was obviously designed as an educational toy as well as a statement of US patriotism.This tinted wood-cut image is now in the public domain – in the Prints and Photographs Division of the US Library of Congress – so it is free for anyone to download and print out the vintage picture to make a game board.
All you need to add is counters or tokens of some sort – player pieces from another game would do, or just use a few small stones, coins, or buttons – along with a pair of dice or single die to determine how far each player will move in their turn.
The rules are printed right on the board, so there’s no guessing about how it is meant to be played. Small pictures of historical figures, places and events are interspersed, a fun starting point for conversation about life in early North America.
I’d laminate the print-out (or sandwich it between two pieces of clear sticky-backed vinyl like that transparent sticky-back shelf protector stuff) to prevent rips and tears, and to keep the picture looking good for many hours of play.DOWNLOAD HERE
When I shared this find with my homeschooling-mom cousin, she was pretty excited about using this game to help teach her kids about the foundation of the United States and introduce them to the life stories of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other historical figures.
She was already thinking ahead to creating her own version of a “snake game” to teach other subjects as well – but there was just one hitch. It is against the beliefs of her husband’s family to play any games with dice.
No problem. Simple cardboard number spinners are a good alternative to dice, to play games the require players to draw random numbers to determine how far their pieces will move on the board. As a little bonus, you can use these spinners in place of flash cards to play math games with kids as well.