Hoot Owl Hoot – a perfect little cooperative preschool starter game

Hoot Owl Hoot was one of the first games we bought for N when he was just 3. It’s a cooperative game that’s perfect for introducing a little age appropriate nail biting tension without focusing on who wins or loses. This makes it particularly good for playing with kids who may be prone to falling out with eachother when they get overly competitive!

The game is playable from around 3 upwards (official age 4+) and you’ll get a good few years of game play out of it before the kids move on. It’s certainly worth getting it early just so you can get a break from the Orchard Toys collecting style games and the Hungry Hippo/Pop-up-Pirate types that dominate games for the preschool age group. Plus it’s amusing to think of Hoot Owl Hoot as training wheels for later co-op games such as Forbidden Island and Pandemic.

How it plays:

The aim of the game is to fly all the owls back home to the nest before the sun comes up. Moving the owl is simplified to choosing from one of three cards that has been dealt face up to your hand. On a player’s turn, they select a card with a coloured spot and move an owl to the corresponding coloured spot on the spiraling flight path to the nest. But hold up! If you have a sun in your hand you must play that card instead and move the sun token one place forward on its journey to sunrise. A new card is drawn and play moves on.

All the players are therefore working together to help get the owls home, but each is deciding how to play their own hand. Difficulty can be set by varying the number of owls to rescue from 4 to 6, and if you wanted to, the number of suns shuffled into the pack. If the sun reaches the sunrise spot before the owls get home the game is lost.

What we love about the game:

Observing children playing Hoot Owl Hoot can be quite satisfying as you get to watch them begin to grasp that there can be different strategies to try, such as racing to get one owl home first or trying to make sure one doesn’t get left too far behind. The game also provides a gentle introduction to becoming aware of multiple playing pieces, rather than just focusing on your own single piece moving around a board.

It’s not particularly challenging for adults to play but it’s great as a family game with preschoolers because unlike so many games, it’s not annoying to play. If playing with older siblings, there is enough of a challenge in figuring out which card and owl combos will get the owls moved furthest to keep them engaged. The difficulty can also be set a little higher. But, as with most co-ops, you might have to rein in older children if they start dictating what younger players should do with their hands too much.

The only downside is the quality of the game components. The boards is beautiful and sturdy but the cards are somewhat thin and would not stand up to repeated rough handling from boisterous kids. But most annoying is the tiny sun token. It’s a small piece of card that’s easy to loose! However, the game is made from green, earth friendly materials and inks so there is a plus side to the components.

Hoot Owl Hoot is a sweet little game that’s perfect for introducing preschoolers to the satisfaction of playing games as a family team. There are also other gentle co-op games in the Peaceable Kingdom range that are worth checking out for families looking for games that encourage working together and less arguments at game night.

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