Until your kids turn three, the most important lesson that board gamer parents can teach is how not to choke on dice. But once they’ve mastered that, it’s on to real games. Trouble is, there aren’t a lot of interesting games for kids that young. And, at least for mine, the thematic hooks of Candyland or Chutes and Ladders really didn’t take hold.
When he saw Rush Hour at our friendly local gaming store, though, he just about lost it. A game? About cars? All sorts of different colors? He had to have it. We noticed that the box indicated that it was for kids eight and up, though, and he’s four.
Normally I view toy age indications with a healthy dose of scrutiny, but a four year difference is a lot. So we told him that it might make a great Christmas gift, and left it at that. We didn’t say which Christmas.
Then, a few weeks later, we saw Rush Hour Jr. Same basic concept, said the store clerk, but simplified for younger kids, with a slightly more child-like theme (there’s an ice cream truck).
“He’s four,” I said. “It says for kids six and up. Think we’ll be good?”
The clerk shrugged. “Does he like puzzle games?”
“He plays a pretty mean Trainyard on my iPhone.”
“Yeah. He’ll be fine.”
And he was. The kid tore it open on Christmas and wanted to play right away.
The game works like this: you arrange a number of cars on a 6×6 grid. each car is one square wide, but range from two to three squares in length. There’s an ice cream truck on one row and it has to reach the other side of the grid to a small hole in the board, where it “escapes the traffic jam” and delivers its precious cargo without it melting.
The game comes with forty cards with four levels of play. I assembled one of the beginner puzzles and slid the board across the table. My son looked down, resting his chin on his hand. It was the moment of truth.
“They can only drive forward and backward,” I reminded him. “No moving them sideways. That’s cheating.” Cheating is a big deal in our household.
He stuck out his tongue, moved a few of the cars, and then pushed the ice cream truck off the board. “We saved the ice cream!”
It’s been a couple of weeks and Rush Hour Jr. is still a big hit. He’s setting up his own puzzles, and every once in a while, he likes to just play with the cars, but he’s progressed all the way up to the Advanced level. It’s been a real treat to watch him struggle and then overcome all the different puzzles.
The game comes with 16 cars, including the ice cream truck, a board, forty challenge cards, and a nice bag to carry it all in. We picked ours up for $15 and it sells at Amazon for a little cheaper.
Play Rush Hour online (beware… doesn’t seem to work in anything but Internet Explorer)