Review – Team Digger Game
A fun, simple, board game for young kids that builds STEM skills? Sign me up! If you’re also a homeschooling parent who loves to incorporate hands-on learning in your school time, I bet this sounds pretty intriguing to you, too.
The following is my review of Team Digger, a cooperative game for 2-4 players, ages 6 and up, that promotes strategic thinking and early coding skills. Team Digger is a new game by SimplyFun, an award-winning company that specializes in games that promote academic and social skills. This review will “dig in” to Team Digger, exploring: what it’s like to play, practical and academic skills built during playtime, how to use it in your homeschool, and the fun factor, of course!
How to Play the Team Digger Game
The premise of this game is simple.2-4 players choose a dog figurine and take turns using 5 command cards to direct their dog around the board.
The commands are “Walk,” “Run,” “Dig,” “Turn Left,” and “Turn Right.” The goal is to find as many bones as possible by digging in different spots on the board. Players work together as a team to uncover as many bones in the dig sites as possible. Under the dig sites, there are also a few undesirable objects.
Players win the game together when they uncover 4 bones, losing if 5 undesirable objects are uncovered before that.
Because this is a cooperative game, players are encouraged to share the command cards they have in their hands, to strategize together, and to negotiate trades with each other to fulfill the overall strategy. This may sound complex for ages 6 and up, but it’s actually pretty simple to do as you play. Team Digger can be played by 2-4 players, ages 6+ in 30 minutes or less.
An adult player can help facilitate teamwork by helping to choose a leader for each round, or by making sure each younger player has a chance to say what he or she thinks the next play should be.
Adults can also help by simply reminding younger players that they are not in competition with each other. For example, players aren’t just allowed to show and share cards, but are encouraged to do so! This can be surprisingly easy to forget, since most games for young kids are competitive.
Physically, the game has several pieces to it, which are all colorful and attractive. Most kids would see it and be excited to play.
The cards were not as sturdy as others I have played with, but that wasn’t a big deal to me.
The little plastic dog figurines will steal the show for most young kids! They come in four different colors. The golden one is my daughter’s favorite because it reminds her of our dog.
How Easy Is It to Play the Team Digger Game?
The instructions for Team Digger made it easy to start playing right away. Since many people find it easier to “see” how a game is played, I appreciated that the instructions came with a video link. If you’re curious about what the game looks like in action and specific rules, you can watch the video instructions for Team Digger here. We started playing after just reading over the written instructions, and it only took a few minutes to set up and start our first game.
The instructions are easy to follow, and it is not hard or complicated to learn to play. However, there are also some open-ended choices for players to make. For example, there’s not a specific way that you are told to share or trade your cards, nor any specific rules about turn-taking other than that it must be decided as a team. There is the option to appoint a Team Leader, but this is not mandatory.
Skills Built in the Team Digger Game
After my first time playing this game with my 7-year-old, I was impressed by the way that such a simple premise can incorporate several valuable skills. Here are some of the specific skills involved in Team Digger:
- strategy and sequencing skills (the early coding element)
- visual/spatial skills, and
- teamwork/collaborative thinking!
So many games for young children involve luck, with maybe a dash of strategy and planning ahead. This game is the other way around!
Each time a player lays down a 5-step sequence, he or she has to carefully think through what the result of that sequence will be. If you lay out a sequence mentally and find, upon playing it out, that it doesn’t take your little doggie figurine where you thought it would, then that’s a consequence for you and your team. This adds some extra challenge and fun to the game!
Sequencing is probably the most specific “early coding” skill being built in this game, but it’s also an important life skill…one that is a struggle for many children.
Honestly, as an adult with too much on my plate and a dash of ADHD, sequencing is a struggle for me too sometimes! Team Digger emphasizes sequences by making it the most foundational aspect of the game.
Do your children know their left from their right? This is something that many kids struggle with, and it’s another skill being built when playing Team Digger. Two of the command cards feature directional turns (“Turn Left” and “Turn Right”), so knowing the difference is important every time a player builds a 5 step sequence. To help, each dog figurine is marked by an R (for Right) and L (for Left) to help players visualize these directions–no matter what direction the dog happens to be facing during the specific play.
Players also have to be able to mentally count how many steps their sequences will take them. Since each play is 5 steps, players have to keep all of these steps in mind for a single play! The visual and strategic skills needed in this game reminded me of chess, but at a level that is much easier for most kids to grasp.
As I stated earlier, collaboration is an aspect of the game that may take some kids a little bit of time to get used to. However, this is such a vital skill and one that most kids sorely need! I recently tried to facilitate a team of young homeschoolers building an engineering project, and it immediately became clear that no one was used to listening and collaborating.
Many adults struggle with this, too! The practices of listening to one another, making a plan, negotiating, and coming to agreements are important in life. However, they aren’t skills that many educational games really emphasize. I love that this game for young kids is cooperative in nature and encourages building communication skills.
Bonus Life Lesson: Mistakes Are Okay!
In addition to the above-mentioned skills for gameplay, I was unexpectedly tickled to find the following quote in the instructions for Team Digger:
“Did you turn the wrong way? Or not end on the square you thought you would? Mistakes happen; that’s okay. Your turn is still over, and you can try again on your next turn.”
It was so refreshing to see this mentality emphasized in a game for young kids. One of the main lessons of STEM subjects (and in life) is: “Mistakes are how we learn.” So often in games, mistakes are how we lose. By contrast, I love the perspective that this game encourages: “Things don’t go as planned? That’s okay! Remember it and learn from it!” As a parent and educator, I think that’s such a healthy way to approach mistakes/failures with our kids.
Incorporating Coding Skills
One of the unique things that this game offers is developing early coding skills. And I’m just being honest with you; “coding skills” aren’t something that I have intentionally worked into homeschooling before. I don’t think I’m alone in that–many of us might not be sure what “coding skills” mean at first!
In the context of Team Digger, “early coding skills” refer to creative problem solving and sequencing skills. The coding skills developed in this game are beneficial regardless of whether or not your child wants to pursue a career in coding (although many of the jobs in the future will likely involve this type of tech knowledge.) Why? Because sequencing, strategy, and collaboration are very much “real life” skills, too!
Furthermore, they are necessary life skills that are not naturally incorporated into much of our digital/immediate/individualistic culture. Today’s learners really do need mindful practice to develop sequencing skills and teamwork. Playing a game is a great way to get that practice!
How to Add the Code Digger Game to Your Homeschool or Classroom
Here are some ways I could see us using this in our homeschool:
- We incorporate STEM-based playtime into the week. Usually this involves blocks, LEGOs, or other types of building. Playing Team Digger could be another fun way to incorporate hands-on, critical thinking.
- This game could be incorporated into math too, especially when children are learning about multi-step math (adding multiple digits, PEMDAS, or anything else involving sequences).
- Team Digger could be used as a creative brain-break in the day.
- It could be played during family game night as a team-building exercise or to discuss communication/collaboration skills.
- This game would be a great addition to a fun-school or unschool, game-based day! (Pair it with a language-based game like Scrabble and some other strategy-heavy games like Sorry, Chess, or Clue!)
- The Team Digger game can easily be added to game day at co-op or in the classroom.
The big question about any game–was it fun?
Yes! It’s a fun game to play! I have played this game with my 7-year-old twice this week, and it’s one that I could see us playing for several years as a family. It’s simple to learn, but offers some fun challenges, too. This combination makes it a good choice for a variety of ages.
I knew this game was STEM-based going into it, but it didn’t feel strictly educational as much as fun. At the same time, I definitely can see how it develops the skills that it claims to. This is the whole point of educational games, so I think it is successful.
It was my daughter’s first time playing a cooperative game, and she said that her favorite thing about Team Digger was that it was “all about teamwork, and not about beating each other.” She also liked that it was about dogs digging up things because we have a crazy dog who likes to dig up the yard–something a lot of kids can relate to!
Ultimately, I liked Team Digger for several reasons. It’s fun to play and could be a great game for families with children of diverse ages, and even for use as part of your homeschool. It develops some valuable skills that are great for coding, STEM, critical thinking…and just basic life-skills!
Finally, it’s unique. We play a lot of games in our house, and this one is different in the way it combines teamwork, approaching mistakes, and critical thinking…all while keeping things fairly simple. Altogether, I loved the “mindset” of this game, and that makes it stand out the most for me!
Add Team Digger and Other STEM Related Games to Your Homeschool or Classroom
Want to know more about Team Digger or purchase for your family, co-op, or classroom? Visit the SimplyFun website.
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About the Author
Kathryn is a homeschooling mom of two. She loves adding new resources to their homeschool and writing about their experiences.