General Overview: In A Pickle is an item-comparing party game designed for 2-6 players of ages 10 and up. Players take turns playing a card on top of one of the four piles with one rule – the newly played card must belong “in” the card it’s played on. This “inness” can be concrete (a toy goes in a box), conceptual (time goes in a clock), or outright bizarre (a galaxy goes in a sandbox – if the galaxy is the galaxy on the cat’s collar in Men In Black). If a play seems not to fit, the player has the opportunity to justify their answer before it is put to a table vote. Once a pile has four cards, each player has one more chance to “trump” the last played card before the player who completed the pile gets the set. At the end of the game, the player with the most sets is the winner.
- Item Description/Relationships – On the most concrete level, you can win at this game using what goes “in” something else in a containment sense.
- Literacy – This game features a significant amount of reading at the word level.
- Figurative Language – To excel at this game, a player needs to be able to use imagination, idioms, and figurative language to fit things inside other things.
- The game is simple: This is a game that can be played out of the box with less than five minutes of setup and rules explanation. Modeling game play is easy.
- Player Engagement/Interaction: Where many games have players only play on their turn, the voting on other players’ turns keeps all players engaged.
- Encourages Creativity: The use of comparative language (in this case, size comparisons) provides an easily understood framework in which students can play with language – figurative and otherwise – relatively safely.
- Literacy is required: All the cards have words, and none of the cards have pictures. Students who have difficulty decoding have a steeper learning curve and may need assistance knowing what’s in their hands.
- Designed for a slightly older audience: Designed for ages 10 and up means that some of the cards may be difficult for younger audiences to work with, especially ones like “straitjacket” that are misspelled as “straight jacket”. Students with street smarts and knowledge of multiple meanings may also have some interesting uses for terms – for example, “pot”.
- Specialized knowledge: Some of the cards contain terms that are (hopefully) outside the experience of many children, including ones that no child should know (“fox hole”) and ones that have some cultural variation in experience and exposure (“pinata”, “quicksand”).
- Narrow scope: In A Pickle engages logical-mathematical intelligence well, as well as visual-spatial intelligence well for students with good imaginations. However, without an visual point of reference or a kinesthetic element, students who have a hard time with auditory-only learning may need some reinforcement to enjoy the game.
- Visual representations of nouns: Using the rules of In A Pickle and cards with pictures from another game (including a couple already reviewed here), students who need visual representations of objects can participate (albeit on a more concrete and less figurative level).
- Therapist as arbiter: Sometimes, students have difficulty voting fairly. In those cases, using the therapist as a referee can be helpful or necessary.
- Support through drawing: For students who have difficulty conceptualizing “in”, using a SMART Board, tablet, or another game with a whiteboard or other drawing surface to sketch a picture of the comparison could be useful.
- While the game focuses on “in”, the cards and game rules can be used for a wide variety of prepositions, expanding the game’s utility. Each student could even use a different preposition or concept during the game to keep the game varied.
In terms of game rules and setup, this game targets prepositions really well at a fundamental level. However, the cards themselves need some work in order to be effectively used with younger audiences.
Has anyone else had experience using this game in therapy? How useful has it been? What other uses and modifications have you used?