Playing the game, players develop important mental and physical skills.
For some children, counting steps is not necessarily an easy task. Being able to count correctly takes practice.
The players need to decide when to play resource cards and which resource cards to play. They get to try out different strategies. Some like to collect and hold. Some like to use the cards as soon as possible. Through experiencing the result of these strategies, they gradually learn to use the resource cards more wisely.
Unlike in Candy Land where no decision needs to be made, Puppy Trek let children practice decision making. At each of the four junctures on the trail, the players decide which way to go. Some children prefer to keep going even it means longer travel. Some children prefer to take the shortcut and receive protection from the helper spirits while potentially not moving forward for a turn. As they become more familiar with the game, they learn to be flexible and make the route decisions according to their current situation.
Although Puppy Trek is designed to be a competitive board game, none of the activities, when a player is unable to do, will result in penalties. When a player makes best effort but cannot answer a question, he or she will learn the answer from others. If no one knows the answer, players can figure it out together. Using a dictionary, looking it up in a book, and even searching on the Internet are allowed. When the answer is found, the player will receive the reward.
Asking and Answering Questions
All the questions in the game are originated from players themselves. For example, when a player lands on the Fox, which says "Fox asks you a question...", another player will provide a question. We find this to be much more flexible and fun than having a fix set of questions provided by the game.
Players tend to ask questions on subjects they are interested in. Someone who is interested in history may ask a history question. They can also get to know each other through asking questions, like, "what's your favorite cartoon character?" or "who would you like to take with you if you are going to live on an remote island?"
Because thinking of a question is a mental exercise itself, the player who is providing the question becomes involved in the activity. When children of different ages are playing together, the question-providing player can also try to make the question age appropriate, which is another exercise. If too hard a question is asked, there is no harm done, because there is no penalty for not being able to answer a question. Everyone ends up learning the answer together.
Math, Spelling, and General Knowledge
Because questions are player generated, there is no limit on the subjects. The game has a couple of activities that specify math or spelling, the two most basic skills. Besides that, any question can be asked and answers learned. When parents and children play together, parents can take the opportunity to expand the learning by explaining an answer or bringing up related information. Rest assured though, children have plenty to teach their parents on variety of subjects.
imitating an animal for others to guess (yes, Charades!)
Like the mental exercises, physical activities are on the best-effort basis. If a player is physically limited to perform an activity, a suitable alternative can be used. In one of our test plays, a young girl had a sore ankle. So her sister offered to do the jumping jacks for her!