I originally included my review of Clover Leap among my lengthy review of a number of SimplyFun games. However, Clover Leap has proven to be one of the most popular games with my grandchildren, so I decided to expand the review and give it a dedicated page. Clover Leap helps develop reading and sentence structure skills, but it is much more fun than many "educational" games.
Clover Leap, suggested for ages 5 and up, is beautifully constructed and should appeal to children up through about ages 10 or 11. With a sturdy game board and large playing pieces, it is easy for young children to handle.
Players move around the board by rolling dice with sheep, clovers, a dog, and a sun symbol. Each symbol requires a different type of move, making play complicated enough that five and six-year-old children probably need someone older playing with them. The complications, on the other hand, make Clover Leap fun for teens and adults playing along since there’s some thought and strategy involved.
Clover playing pieces are collected as players move their sheep. A sheep dog “herds” them away from certain places, adding one of a number of strategic elements to the game. Clover pieces each have one word, and each piece is color-coded to designate them as subjects (pronouns such as I, we, and they), verbs, adjectives, or direct-objects (nouns). Players try to collect groups of all four sentence elements to construct complete (and usually silly) sentences. They receive one point for each clover collected and five points for each completed sentence.
The game is really attractive. The board is a scalloped circle. Clovers are dye-cut and about one-eighth-inch thick. The sheep, dog, dice, and sun playing pieces are constructed from wood and colorfully painted. The dog adds another element of strategy and the sun moves one notch in the sky when rolled on a die. Play is over when the sun makes a complete rotation from morning to night or when all clovers are “eaten.” The player with the most points wins.
The game elements really make it fun, but significant learning happens as children play. Beginning readers practice sounding out the words since they want to be able to construct their own silly sentences and "play" with the words. Children also learn about the parts of a sentence as they work to assemble sentences. Critical thinking comes into play as children plan their moves to acquire pieces they need, and even more so as they ponder where to place the dog. Because of the complexity the game is different each time you play, so everyone is likely to enjoy playing it over and over again.