By Michael Hartley
When I was a kid, my family's hobby was collecting Monopoly sets. Still in the cupboard of the old house, you can find the traditional monopoly, as well as British, French, Chinese editions, and I remember not what else.
In recent years, though, there have been bazillions of Monopoly editions produced. Deluxe, Mega, Here-And-Now, Star Wars, Pixar, Nintendo, Transformers, Spiderman... Evidently the owners of the Monopoly brand are onto a real cash cow. We've abandoned our hobby - it doesn't seem so meaningful any more.
Then, my son received a Junior Monopoly set for Christmas. Naturally, I wondered...
- Will this "Junior" Monopoly be a fun game for my kid?
- Could it even help him, say, learn a bit of money math?
- Or is this just a money spinner for Parker Brothers?
What is Junior Monopoly?
Junior Monopoly is not just a different edition of Monopoly. It's simplified to a level that kids can relate to (Parker Brothers recommends it for Ages 5 to 8)
- Instead of a property market, the game takes place in an amusement park.
- Instead of building houses and collecting rent, players build ticket booths and charge admission.
- Players don't trade to form sets. Instead, there are chance cards that allow you to take ticket booths off other players.
- Instead of being forced to Go to Jail, players Catch the Bus to the Cafe.
- Instead of $200 salary, players collect $2 pocket money as they pass Go.
Is It Fun?
For kids aged 5 to 8 - well, for mine at least - a game isn't fun if he doesn't win, at least sometimes. Chess isn't fun, unless I let him win. One piece of good news about Junior Monopoly is that it's almost a game of chance.
- Sometimes, a player has to make a "strategic" decision. Should I knock down mom's, or dad's ticket booth? or Should I build on the Magic Show or the Puppet Show?
- However, mostly, it's just Roll the die, move, and do what the rules say.
- This means "junior" has as much chance as anyone else of winning.
In any case, it's one of my son's favored games at the moment.
Is It Educational?
Junior monopoly was not specifically designed to be an educational game. However, there are opportunities for a parent to help their kids learn a bit of math while they play.
When you land at your kids' ticket booths, you have to pay for a ticket to ride on the ride. This can be an opportunity to teach them the concept of giving change. Unfortunately, the designers of Junior Monopoly have tried to take away this opportunity - the bills have denominations $1, $2, $3, $4 and $5, so there's almost never an actual need to ask for change. Two ways to overcome this are
- Deliberately pay too much, and ask for change. Then explain how to work out how much change is needed. My son liked this so much, that he overpays me too, now, handing my big piles of cash, and demanding change! Of course, I make sure I ask him how much change I should give...
- The instructions say to start each player with a mix of all the different notes, adding up to $31. Instead, you could start them with just 3 $5's, 5 $2's and 6 $1's. This is still $31, but the $3 and $4 notes never enter the game.
If a player owns all the booths in a set, the ticket price is doubled. Here is an opportunity to teach your child the two times tables - at least up to 2x5=10... Just make sure you ask your child what is owed when someone lands there!
So, In Conclusion...
Junior Monopoly is a good fun game for kids aged 5 to 8. It's more complex than, say, Snakes and Ladders, so adults won't be completely bored. On the other hand, the children still have as much chance of winning as the grown-ups.
It's not very educational, but there are opportunities for kids to learn about money, about giving change, about simple addition and subtraction, and the first half of the two times tables.
If you are looking for a game, Junior Monopoly is a good choice. If you are looking for an educational game, you should probably mark it KIV and keep looking around. You can buy Junior Monopoly, or read more reviews, at Amazon.com.
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