Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Life-Sized Candy Land

I read about the idea of a Life-Sized Candy Land board on ALSC's blog. Abby the Librarian wrote about how she created a candy wonderland in her library, and I instantly knew that I wanted to do this in my library.

So why do a Candy Land program? There's the obvious nostalgia factor; everyone loves Candy Land! But basic games like this also work on color recognition, patterns, following simple directions, how to have patience, turn-taking, and learning the basic math skill of one-to-one correspondence. How's that for Saturday afternoon fun?

The Board
I played with several ideas for the board. Many suggested using carpet squares or interlocking foam squares, which would stand up to rough use, but they are pricey (they would have cost about $200). If you're going to be doing the program again and have a place to store them, this would be the way to go.

A cheaper, yet less durable way, is to use construction paper. I chose to not laminate the paper beforehand, but it certainly could be done. 

The paper held up fairly well; there were a few rips and tears along the way, but we only had one complete casualty that required replacement. The big problem was keeping them fixed to the floor. I taped them down, but because we were on carpet, the tape kept slipping off. I had to reattach pieces fairly often.

The special spaces had their pictures attached to the pink paper and tablecloths using contact paper. The tablecloths were then taped to the carpet.
I chose six special spots from the board game and used those. Two of these spots, Gloppy Swamp and Licorice Lagoon, were "stuck" spaces, with black dots denoting that you lost a turn if you landed on one. Four spaces were Gummy Forest, Peppermint Place, Lollipop Land, and Ice Cream Island. A player could land on one of these spots if they drew a special card from the deck. The last space was the finish line, Candy Castle. Each special spot was noted with a sign and some type of decoration. I found plastic tablecloths quite handy for this purpose.

The Decorations
Gummy Forest: I placed a green plastic tablecloth on the floor.

Peppermint Place: a coworker of mine let me borrow some of her outdoor Christmas decorations. The candy canes were zip tied to the table and to each other. On the floor I used a peppermint striped tablecloth I had leftover from Christmas.

Licorice Lagoon: A red tile with a black dot. The same coworker also let me use red rope lights that look EXACTLY LIKE LICORICE. I wound them around a table.

Lollipop Land: a red tablecloth was taped to the floor.

Ice Cream Island: I had a snowflake tablecloth on the floor.

Candy Castle: I'm not an artist, but I managed to paint a simple castle to hang up on the wall for the finish.

Hard Candy: balloons wrapped up in cellophane. The ends were tied using pastel ribbons.

Candy Lights: another coworker of mine made these herself. She put craft stuffing into two plastic bowls, used the bowls to cover the lights, then wrapped it all in colored cellophane. I used these to decorate the check-in table.

The Process
The players were asked to check in first. They were greeted by my helper, Hailey, who wrote down how many people were playing (children/adults) and a name. If the board was full, we invited the families to make a crown craft and color the coloring sheets and word puzzles we provided.

We allowed four families to play at one time, staggering them so that they wouldn't overlap each other. Our check-in table was right next to the beginning of the board, in the hallway, so we were able to monitor who started when.

When it was a family's turn to play, we called their name and gave them a packet. They each picked out what color they'd like to be and we gave them the badge of that color with double-sided tape on the back so they could wear it. We briefly explained the rules, answered their questions, and let them play.

Hailey kept an eye on the desk while I ran between the desk, craft room, and the board. It worked best if she checked families in and hand them their packets, while I stood by the starting line, explained the rules, and told them when to start. When they were done playing, they turned in their packets and we gave them a sticker.

After everyone had had a turn, we allowed families to go through a second time. One family went through six times! Listening in at the door to the craft room, I heard one boy say, "This is the best thing EVER!"

The Rules
1. Spin the spinner. The color you land on is the color you move to.
2. If you spin pink, pick a card from the deck and follow the instructions on the card. You may have to move backwards.
3. If you spin MOVE 2 SPACES, spin the spinner again. Move to 2 spaces of that color.
4. If you land on a space with a black dot, you lose a turn.
5. When you’re finished, please turn in your badge, spinner, and cards at the check-in table.

The Packets
Each bag contained:
1 spinner (laminated cardstock with metal brad)
7 cards (cardstock)
6 badges (die-cut laminated construction paper)
1 rule sheet

Each item in the bag was labeled with the number bag it belonged in. We could easily tell at a glance if the bag had extra pieces or not enough.

What I Learned
1. I didn't want to use floor decorations for fear that the children would throw them around, people would trip, etc. Turns out I shouldn't have worried. The giant hard candy pieces I placed on the tables actually stayed on the tables and no one tampered with the placement of anything.

2. The badges didn't work. They kept falling off and they really didn't serve any purpose. Halfway through the program I took them out of the bags. Maybe next time we'll use hats, but it worked just fine without them.

3. It requires at least two people to run effectively. Three would have been ideal.

4. I'm glad I decided on using the spinner. A large deck of cards would have been too unwieldy for families with small children.

5. It's a lot easier to clean up than it is to set up. It took me two and a half hours to set it up on my own, but I would have spent more time on it if I could have.

For More Information
Use Pinterest for inspiration! Here's my Pinterest board for more ideas.

So You Think You're Crafty's post about how it was done was incredibly useful. This is where I got the idea to use the spinner instead of cards.

All of the documents I used can be found here in PDF form. They are available for you to use for educational and non-profit purposes. All images are from Open Clip Art or About.com and are available to use according to their terms of use.


  1. Wow, thanks for the detailed post and sources. We tried this once and it was meh. You have given me new motivation and I feel lots more confident!

  2. Thanks Marge! It was a lot of fun, but A LOT of work, too. Hopefully your next attempt will be successful!

  3. When you advertised this program, what ages did you say it was for?

  4. All ages. It was billed as a family event.

  5. Sounds like so much fun! I might have to see if anyone wants to put this on with me at my new library!! :)

  6. This is amazing Mollie! Thank you for being so detailed.

  7. Yay! I'm glad you guys had fun with Candyland! We've done it several times now at the library and had a lot of success with involving teen volunteers to help set up the room and to hand out candy during the game. (I wonder if I could get away with doing some kind of "healthy candyland" type game with healthier snacks... HMMM.)

  8. Great job this looks like so much fun.I might have to give this a try with my class.

  9. I did Life Size Candyland a couple of years ago, but on a smaller scale. I had a few decorations and used construction paper on the floor like you used, only in a smaller game. I used the cards from the game, but I love your idea of a spinner. And your decorations are adorable. I want to try it again and I love your set up!

  10. Did you think of trying velcro for the back of the floor pieces? Yes I know that's alot of velcro however you don't have to worry about constantly fixing it. We have carpet on our walls in our storytime room. For a Dr. Seuss program I had a giant 5 ft tall Cat in the Hat on the wall. I knew I couldn't tape it up. I didn't want to damage it with thumb tacks. I ended up using both sides of velcro. I put the soft side on the wall and the sticky side on the Cat in the Hat and it stayed up there the whole time.

  11. Hello! I am soo excited how awesome your candy land turned out. I was wondering about the 7 cards though, were they special cards from the game or different activities that were made up, like "Hop on one foot?"

    1. OOooops, I didn't look through your PDF's before asking. :-) Sorry.