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Classic Chutes and Ladders

In 1943 the Milton Bradley Toy Company introduced a new board game called Chutes and Ladders to the American toy market.  The game was introduced after the Milton Bradley Company was in search of a new children’s board game to introduce to an aging toy market.  Chutes and Ladders quickly became a hit with American youngsters and has remained a classic board game ever since; it is still sold and found in many toy closets today.   

Chutes and Ladders came to America from England where English children had been playing a version of Chutes and Ladders called Snakes and Ladders, for years.  The board game is still sold in Canada and England under the name Snakes and Ladders.  In England the board game is played a little differently than in North America but the premise is still the same. 

Both versions of the game are off spin offs of a 16th century Indian game called Leela.  Leela was a Hindu game of morality.  It is believed that the game was invented by Hindu spiritual leaders as a way to teach young Indian children about good and bad deeds and their consequences.  Even today, the ladders on the board game are a reward for a good deed; the chutes and their rapid descent represent the consequences of bad deeds. 

The original Hindu version of the game was a way to teach Hindu children how to achieve eternal life.  Committing bad deeds, it was believed would cause them to be reborn into a lower caste.  Leela, or Snakes and Ladders as the game eventually became known, adopted more mature topics than the childhood game of Chutes and Ladders, as we know it.  Snakes and Ladders routinely covered the sins of adultery and murder; subjects that children of the western world aren’t normally introduced to because it is deemed inappropriate for young children to learn about such subjects. 

It wasn’t until the game was introduced to England in the late 19th century that it developed into more like the Chutes and Ladders board game that children know and love today.  The game hasn’t changed much since first being introduced to American children; even the board looks much the same.

Chutes and Ladders is for 2-4 players ages 3 and up.  The board is made up of 100 individual squares that players may land on by spinning a spinner.  Good deed spaces, like planting a garden are marked with ladders.  Bad deeds like stealing a cookie jar are marked with chutes.  If a player lands on a space with a ladder he may climb the ladder in order to get ahead in the game.  If a player lands on a chute he must fall down the chute essentially going backwards in the game.  The first player to space number 100 wins the game. 

The game is an excellent counting game for preschoolers.  It also teaches discipline and patience; two things that some preschoolers may have trouble learning.  Because Chutes and Ladders is designed for even the youngest children it may help bring an entire family together so that they may spend much needed time bonding and learning together. 

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