"Candy Land" game still popular at 60

In between giggles and shouts of  “my turn,” the children continue playing a game of Candy Land. With its easy-to-grasp play, kids often learn to play Candy Land before they learn to read.   And as the board game turns 60 this year, a whole new generation is keeping Candy Land alive.

Candy Land came from the mind of Eleanor Abbott, a California woman who was recovering from Polio. Her idea was to provide an outlet for kids who were suffering from the disease. Candy Land hit store shelves in 1949. And according to Hasbro, the game’s manufacturer, more than 40 million copies of Candy Land have been sold since -- with no real sign of slowing.

“It’s as stable as rain,” says Robert Klenberg, owner of Richards Variety Store in Buckhead and midtown.

Klenberg stocks oodles of kiddie games in his stores. Among rainbow-hued boxes of Chutes and Ladders, Monopoly and Apples to Apples, you’ll find copies of Candy Land. In fact, Klenberg says his Buckhead location has carried Candy Land “pretty much the whole time” it has been open. The quirky mom-and-pop shop, open since 1958, sells about 200 copies per year.

When his son, Eli, 10, was younger, Klenberg often found himself on the losing end of a round of Candy Land. Now that daughter, Kaia, 7, has the Candy Land bug, Klenberg’s record hasn’t gotten any better.

“There’s something about how that game is played,” he says, “kids catch on to it very quickly.”

The game board opens up to reveal a path of different colored squares. Vibrant artwork featuring saccharine-drenched regions of Candy Land and its cartoonish denizens brighten up the board. There’s Gloppy, the smiley glob of fudge residing in Chocolate Swamp, and a host of other characters like Princess Frostine and Mr. Mint, a clownish character in a white and red striped outfit, who serves as the game’s mascot.

Players take turns choosing from a stack of cards. The face of each card contains a colored square, some cards contain two colored squares.  If a gamer draws a red card, for instance, the player moves their gingerbread man playing token to the nearest red space. If the card has two red squares, they get to move to the second red space.  The first player to reach King Kandy’s Candy Castle wins.

Mary Prather, 37, of Peachtree City, has been making that journey most of her life. As a young girl, she remembers breaking out a game of Candy Land each time her best friend would sleep over. Today she still owns that very same copy, which she shares with her own kids, Anna, 8, and Grant, 4. When Anna was younger, she’d beg her mom to read the Candy Land back story located inside the box. These days Grant can’t get enough of the game and its quick-change pace, Prather says.

“I think he also likes it a lot because we are all sitting together and playing and having fun,” she adds. “A lot of families don't just sit down to play a game these days.”

Reilly and Lindsey’s game of Candy Land is wrapping up. Lindsey is closing in as she draws an ice cream cone card and gets to move her token straight to Snow Flake Lake, located along rainbow path’s home stretch.

Reilly’s dad, Carl Tiegreen, watches the action. He chuckles at the friendly competition and enthusiasm he sees in the girls.

At 6, Reilly is beginning to grow out of Candy Land’s target age group, preschoolers.   But even as she discovers new board games, she always comes back to Candy Land, Carl says, something they share together.

“It’s a classic,” he adds.

OTHER POPULAR GAMES

A slew of other preschool games are currently available on toy store shelves. Here’s a sample of what’s out there, available at most major toy retailers and online at sites like Amazon.com. All prices are manufacturer’s suggested retail:

Mickey’s Mouse-ke-Tag ($24.99-$34.99; Wild Planet; ages 3 and older; one to six players)
A Disney-fied answer to last holiday season’s popular Hyper Dash and Animal Scramble games, it blends game play with physical activity. It comes with a hand-held device that’s shaped like mouse ears and four figurines, each featuring the likenesses of ’toons from the Disney Channel series, “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.”  Players arrange the figures around the room and listen to Goofy’s audio instructions, which blast from the hand-held tagger. Using his podunk twang, Goofy might call out a name of a character or use color or letter clues. The player, tagger in hand, runs and tags the corresponding figure. The tagger uses radio frequency identification technology to recognize Mickey and company. As the game progresses, the challenges become more difficult. If kids tire of the main game, they can switch to memory game or treasure hunt mode.

Candy Land: Sweet Celebration Game ($19.99; Hasbro; ages 3 and older; two to four players)
To ring in Candy Land’s big 6-0, Hasbro has created another version of the game. This time the premise is that King Kandy is hosting a sugar-fueled bash and players must travel the rainbow colored path and pick up treats along the way. The first one to the party wins. The big difference is the game board is customizable. Using linkable cardboard pieces, kids decide the shape of the rainbow path, which they can spread out across the floor. Players pick up the treats, in the form of cardboard tokens, at various sweet stops with names like Lollipop Park and Snow Flake Lake. These are 3D environments with colorful cardboard backdrops that attach to chunky plastic stands. New characters and locales like Captain Kidd Cone and Ice Cream Harbor help sweeten the deal.

UNO Moo! ($19.99; Mattel; ages 4 and older; two to four players)
Based on the popular card game with the shout-out-loud gimmick, preschoolers get their shot at an easier version. Instead of playing cards, gamers use farm animal figurines. It’s played the same way as Uno. Players take turns matching their figurines with the one that’s sitting on top of a toy barn. When a player makes a match, he or she sits their respective figure on top of the barn, which knocks the previous figure inside the barn. The first player to get all of their animals into the barn wins. The barn doubles as a carrying case, equipped with a handle, for playtime portability.

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