Launching the HABA Learning Program

One project I started working on in 2021 is launching the HABA Learning Program in Malaysia together with a few partners. HABA is the German company well known for children games, toys and other products. If you see a children’s game with a bright yellow box, it’s probably a HABA game. This learning programme uses boardgames as a learning tool, and is designed for children ages 4 to 7. We had intended to work on this much earlier on, but COVID-19 disrupted our plans. 

I have been playing boardgames actively for almost 20 years. My two daughters grew up in a home where boardgames are regularly played. I witnessed myself the educational value of boardgames and how much they help in family bonding. So I am enthusiastic about this project. Through experiencing many different games, and expertly designed games, children learn many things not found in typical school curriculums. Encouraging parents to spend time playing games with their children is something meaningful to me. 

 
Our trial classes concluded successfully and we have now progressed to regular classes. In 2022, we will be training more teachers so that we can bring this programme to more children and parents. If you are in Malaysia and you are interested in the programme, whether you are a parent, a child, a teacher or a learning centre, visit us at https://playwithpurpose.com.my/
 
 
This is Lucky Pirates. You race to claim 5 gold coins. You roll a die and move your pirate along the islands. If you land at an island with a treasure chest, you get to claim a gold coin. If you land at your ship, you lose a gold coin. I assume you have to surrender it to your captain. If you happen to meet another pirate, you will have a duel, and whoever wins claims a gold coin. This is a 100% luck game, which will not be interesting for adults, but it is a fun experience for children. 
 
 
This is Hamster Clan, a cooperative game. As members of the hamster family, you need to work together to harvest all your food before winter arrives. At the top right corner, the lush tree is your countdown timer. Every round a leaf falls, and once the last one drops, autumn ends and so does the game. There are many rooms in your underground home, and specific storage rooms are dedicated to specific food types – clovers, carrots and grain. There are a few modes of transportation for you to move about. Some vehicles only fit one hamster. If multiple hamsters try to use the same vehicle, they will have to queue, resulting in a traffic jam. You should spread the work around to avoid such traffic jams. 
 
When the children I taught played this game, they didn’t think or plan much and just went for whichever food type they fancied. Now these are 5- and 6-year-olds, so don’t expect the kind of analysing and strategising like we seasoned gamers do. They only realised the traffic jam problem as they played. Eventually they could not harvest and store everything in time for winter, and lost the game. 
 
One of the parents Dith commented that the children should get a second chance, so that they could apply what they had learned in the first game and hopefully do better. This way they can learn better and see progress. The lesson plan only allowed playing the game once within the 1 hour session. However when I looked up the full programme plan, this game will actually be played three times, at different lessons. 
 

The game board is richly illustrated. Some elements are not relevant to gameplay, but they do add to the experience, invoking creativity in the children and helping them associate the game with real life. In this photo you can see one of the children have placed her pink hamster on the bed to rest. There is one particular room which is completely dark. When we played, the children were reluctant to stop there, being afraid of the dark. It was an opportunity to explore this topic and to explain why there is no need to be afraid of the dark. I am amazed how much heart goes into creating these games for children. 

If you are a teacher / educator and are interested to explore the HABA Learning Program which is centred around using board games in education, follow this link.

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