Roll & Play Review: A great game for toddler language skills

Feb 17, 2016

Today I’m reviewing Roll & Play, a ThinkFun game marketed at ages 18 months and up. It supports language learning in a fun, interactive way. This is the first time I’ve posted a review, so I want to point out that I bought this product myself and am not affiliated with it! On the blog from time to time I’ll share honest information about toys and books we use, which I’ve found to be great value and have been popular with my boys. Roll & Play is certainly a hit.

roll and play

The game consists of a large, soft cube, with different colored sides, and a set of 48 activity cards. To play, roll the cube, identify the color on the side facing up and pick a card with that color. The card shows an action, such as ‘Moo like a cow’ or ‘Make an angry face’. Everyone carries out the action, then the next player rolls.

The activities fall under categories that will be familiar to toddlers: animal sounds, body parts, actions (like jumping or dancing), counting, colors and emotions. They are fun and interactive, which is just right for learning at this age.

I would say that the game works better once a child already understands a fair proportion of the words involved, even if they aren’t yet saying them, so for many 18-month-olds it will be challenging. Plus, there are several steps to follow (roll dice, pick card, then do action). This is great practice for toddlers who can follow instructions, but for youngsters just starting to understand language it may be confusing. If you’re using this game and your little one gets frustrated, perhaps try putting it aside until he or she is ready a few months later. For us, my youngest really started to enjoy the game from about 21 months, when he could follow a sequence of directions, and could recognize the basic colors. Now it’s a fun way for us to combine a very physical, lively, movement activity with learning about turn-taking, following directions, and useful vocabulary and phrases.

One thing I love about this game is that it can be played with several children of different ages. There’s no competitive element, and everyone is involved throughout. My kids enjoy playing it together, and will stay focused on it a long time (30 minutes +). The three-year-old enjoys ‘reading’ the instructions on everyone’s cards. He quickly became familiar with the predictable format, and I guess he uses the pictures to prompt him. This is fantastic pre-reading practice, with zero effort from me!

I do have one minor reservation about the game, which is that it is heavily linked to color-recognition, and uses colors and numbers within the activities. This won’t suit all toddlers, as some pick up these academic skills later than others. In general, I feel it’s a pity so many toys for youngsters stress numbers, colors and ABCs, since these concepts are not much use for the under-3s. In particular, for kids who are struggling with language delays, these are not the best words to be targeting in play. However, with that said, I still think Roll & Play is a fun and developmentally well-designed toy. It’s been popular in our house for months with no signs of losing its appeal!

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