Age level: Preschool, Early Elementary
Description: All Around Town is actually the very first game I ever bought for working with learners with autism. It’s a fantastic board game that allows learners to travel around town buying items from different stores. Players each select a pawn. Then players take turns drawing a card and following the instructions on that card. The goal is for each player to get one item from each store on the board.
Skills & Modifications: This is one of the first board games I play with young learners to introduce the basic actions in board games: moving a pawn from space to space, picking a card from a draw pile, and placing the card in a discard pile. There a wide range of skills you can teach using the game.
- One-to-one correspondence/Counting – For learners who are motivated by board games, I use this to practice counting by moving your pawn from space to space. It’s a functional use of the skill for playing with peers. There are a couple of modifications I make for learners who are motivated by the game, but aren’t yet ready to use one-to-one correspondence to move their pawn correctly. For some, I’ll use hand-over-hand to help them move their pawn while we count together. For others, I’ll remove the counting aspect when introducing the game, and we’ll just go to different stores. For example, I might say “What store should we go to next?” When the learner says “Grocery Store,” we’ll move the pawn on the sidewalk without counting.
- Categories – The stores included in the game sell clothing, furniture, art supplies, pets, groceries, and books. The game provides realistic practice of using categories. Each store has five cards that go along with it (for example, the furniture store has the cards shown below.)
- Intraverbals – Once a learner gets his/her pawn into a store, I ask them, “What do you think you might get?” before they draw a card from the store. They should be able to guess items that make sense for that category. (For example, I would prompt a learner to come up with a better guess if he/she guessed I might get a bunny at the grocery store.) I encourage conversation on each turn about what a player might find in each store.
- Peer Play/Taking Turns – For students who are motivated by the game, this is great for peer play because it allows for a lot of conversation aside from the typical “Your turn, my turn.” It’s also good for teaching taking turns with more than two players.
- Flexibility – There are several cards (pictured at right) that challenge players to be flexible. For example, some learners struggle greatly with the fact that another player can take one of their cards. Or if a learner has been making his/her way to the pet store, then draws the card instructing them to “Move to the Furniture Store” he/she may become very frustrated. For some learners, I remove these cards because my focus is on practicing 1:1 correspondence and categories. But for other learners, we play the game with these cards to introduce language, such as “It’s okay. Maybe I’ll get there on my next turn.” or “No big deal.”
- Strategy/Organization – When played as designed, this game requires each player to try to get one item from each store. For some learners, we focus on finding the best routes to each store or choosing which order to visit each store. This is a very challenging skill for many learners with autism and other developmental delays. I have used this game to teach this executive functioning skill in learners up to age 9.
Pros: There are few games for preschoolers and early elementary learners that have such a clear connection to the real world. I love that it provides lots of opportunity for conversation.
Cons: Some learners with autism struggle greatly with taking turns and/or with counting spaces on a gameboard, which makes it challenging for them to engage with this useful game. For these learners, there are other games you can introduce using the same materials. You can see instructions for these games here.
Ideas of extending the lesson: One activity I’ve done with several students is have them create additional cards for the game. They can either draw cards or cut out items from magazines or catalogues. This allows them to generate additional items for each category, and increases motivation in the game since they are excited to see if their own card is chosen.
Cost: $19.95 You should invest in this game if: you are looking for fun ways to generalize categorization skills, you are working to find games to encourage turn-taking, or you are seeking ways to introduce community skills.
ABLLS: C39, G17, G25, H36, H40, H47, K15, R3, R8
VB-MAPP: Mand 14, VP-MTS 14, Math 12, Math 13