I've hated on Candyland before, but the more I think about it, Chutes and Ladders is worse. Not only does it offer zero choices, the board is difficult for a young kid to traverse since it changes direction on each row. It offers its own judgmental karmic rules by saying you deserved to fall down the chute (or in its more sinister version, snakes) because you broke the cookie jar, ran out in the rain, or pulled a dog's tail, none of which you actually had a choice in doing.
In my last post about Candyland and the ensuing discussion on hacker news, we came up with some ways to fix it. What could be done to Chutes and Ladders allowing for some choices, but leave the board as is? Here are three bad ideas, but hopefully they can spark some good ones.
1. Present the child with the choice - When they reach a square that shows a kid doing something bad or good, have them identify the behavior as such and only give them the bonus if they get it right. In the case of a slide, the bonus is not sliding down the slide. Even though most kids will figure out eventually that ladders = good, slides = bad, it might take a few turns.
2. "Get out of slide" cards - Offer them three of these cards at the start and the strategy becomes to know when to appropriately play vs save them for later.
3. Play a "chase" game instead - You start at the end and play backwards, they start at the beginning. You can only move in one direction (backwards), but they can move in both and their object is to try and catch you using the slides and ladders in whichever way suits them best.
These ideas aren't that great, so please someone save Chutes and Ladders.