Chutes & Ladders: A Cheater’s Guide

I’m finding this really weird thing now in that I actually have to play with my kids. I can’t just turn on Mario Kart for the Wii, hand Thalia a steering wheel that’s not plugged in to anything in particular, and say “look, you’re driving, honey!” any more.

(Okay, I can. And we did last night. But sometimes we can’t. Man, kids – they’re so high maintenance.)

So when I spotted a copy of Chutes and Ladders on sale at Target, I figured I had deprived my child of some great American board game milestone long enough. The age thingie says four, she’s four…she’s ready.

As it turns out, I was not ready.

Good God, this game is tedious. How did I not remember this important detail from my childhood? I remembered fun chutes, I remembered fun ladders, I did not remember a second-grader year-old could finish Ulysses by the time someone lands on that damn final square.

So I cheated.

Oh look! This chute goes up instead of down, isn’t that crazy?

A 4? Really? I could have sworn you spun a 2…which lands you right on this huge ladder that shoots you right to the top, wow!

Hey look…over there…what’s that?

I was shameless.

Eventually she won. Which was actually a victory for both of us.

Then, in a shocking turn of events, Thalia asked me to play Chutes & Ladders with her again this morning.


As in, you mean I don’t just get to play it once, check it off the list and put it away forever?

I’m screwed.


42 thoughts on “Chutes & Ladders: A Cheater’s Guide”

  1. Oh I am so glad to hear I am not the only to cheat when a kids board game goes on forever and ever. My oldest (he’s just turned 7) wants to learn Monopoly, not Mononpoly jr, but the one that goes on for days and days and day, help me 🙂

  2. Dont ever everrrrrr everrrr get Dora Candyland then… picture it: 48 million tiny squares and you have to land on each… and much like chutes and latters you do land on squares that put you back… alot.

  3. My husband stacks the deck of cards so she gets to the long ladder first. The game is finished in about 3 minutes. I highly recommend trying this.

  4. For the love of your sanity, never ever play Clue Jr. The kids don’t even ask me to play anymore, it is so painful to me. And, one benefit to time speeding forward is that Sage will soon be old enough where you can say those magical words, “Ask your sister to play it with you”.

  5. Hi-Ho Cherry O goes pretty quickly and is painless. One of the *only* board games I could stand to play with my children when they were that age. Cranium also has some great games that are more bearable (albeit more expensive but totally worth it). Hullabaloo they can so play themselves (yay!). Balloon Lagoon is good too (but a little loud). Yes, I cheated too just to end the damn games sometimes. I never could do Candyland! Ugh.

  6. I gave away CandyLand after determining that a game could take 3 minutes…or 45.

    My 4 year old and I are on an Old Maid/Go Fish/Matching game kick.

    And I love that playing cards take up virtually no storage space.

  7. In my opinion, Candyland is even worse.

    Funny reading the comments from parents who stack the deck. I feel like a loser; I’ve never even tried that!

  8. My son can't STAND to lose at Chutes & Ladders, he is very competitive. So, he's currently cut-off for a while… Here's to hoping you only have to play twice today… ; )

  9. Hi. Longtime reader/lurker here. I finally have something to contribute! They make gazillions of awesome boardgames in Europe, including games that are actually fun for BOTH little kids and grown-ups. I can make 2 recommendations off the top of my head. “Snail’s Pace Race” and “Gulo Gulo.” There are several online retailers that sell them. I have a 15-month-old baby girl, and am actually looking forward to playing board games with her.

    Love the blog, btw.

  10. Ah, yes, the cheat to stay sane game 🙂 Chicky Chicky Baby seems to have it all figured out.

    I, on the other hand, have been known to “pass” on my turn multiple times (“It’s because I’m on the ‘naughty’ square, honey”) until my little friend wins. That’s a good one, too. Oh, and the “naughty” square moves around arbitrarily, surprisingly, children are immune to it.

  11. Tortfeasee I’m googling right now. Right. Now.

    And man there are some great suggestions here but Lumpyhead’s Mom? I think that one takes the cake.

  12. We got Chutes and Ladders and Candy Land for christmas. Let’s just say that we keep them under the bed for rainy days ONLY!

  13. We put Chutes and Ladders in the back of the closet. Instead, we usually do Candyland (which, incidentally can also take an eternity) or a really funny game called Don’t Wake Daddy. Those damn chutes…

  14. I fell victim to the same nostalgia for those games and regretted it.
    Which is exactly why I threw away our Chutes and Ladder game the first reasonable chance I got. And invented new rules for Candyland that involved only the double colored cards and no specialty cards.

  15. Oh I cheat constantly with those things! I’m laughing over Lisa’s comment @ Dora Candyland – been there as well.

    It’s harder know as Jake is almost 6, he needs to realize you can’t always win. But the two year old? She’s golden.

  16. Chutes and Ladders is “lost”. Now, I can stack the deck for Candy Land like nobody's business and have all the fun cards come at the beginning and all the purples towards the middle so someone will actually WIN quickly, but I cannot figure out how to “speed up” Chutes or, (cringe) Hi Ho Cherry O. Oh, for cherry goodness who the H*&& invented that game where tiny fingers have to put cherries BACK on the tree all the time? Oh my, how did it get lost too?

    We taught them UNO and Go Fish.

  17. I am SO with you that I didn’t realize I actually had to play w/our 4 yo. And Chutes and Ladders? Is the slowest game ever. I can’t stand it. We push Candyland like nobody’s business because it is short and sweet (ha ha).

  18. I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who does this. My SIL tricked my nieces into believing that only aunts play board games and while it seemed brilliant at the time – a sort of sick win-win because she didn’t have to play them and I’m only around a couple times a week – we’re a year into this arrangement and I’m not only a professional cheater, I’m also about ready to call it quits.

    All I can say is: DO NOT BUY CANDYLAND.

  19. Whatever you do, don’t buy HiHo Cherrio. God I hate kid board games.

    Luckily we are almost at the real game age in my house.

    ps. What’s wrong with handing them the wii remote? The wii is my favorite parenting tool.

  20. Ha! Lucas got TWO copies of this muther for his fourth birthday. We played a round and oh, midas, he landed on that magical giant ladder that scales half the board in one shot. And won. Why is it that I don’t mind playing Candyland nearly as much? Maybe because I get the munchies and we all get treats…

  21. My mother outlawed Chutes and Ladders and CandyLand in our house. I never knew why as a child. Just thought those games were like the “other cereals” Didn’t belong in our house. Now that I’m a mother I know why! When my kids were younger I found the Cranium games quite bearable.
    Good luck!

  22. CANDYLAND TIP: (cribbed from my best mom-friend) REMOVE the picture cards that send you back to the beginning of the game!

  23. Loathe the Chutes and Ladders. Always have, always will (yes, even as a kid). Oh the tedium.

    We get great mileage from a couple of very bearable games. You may have already heard of them: Zingo Bingo, Duck Duck Goose and Cariboo.

    And sometimes a bucket full of water is fun too.

  24. That’s hilarious! I’ve been amazed at how long Chutes and Ladders and Candy Land can last! I’ve been known to hide the “picture” cards in the latter.

  25. My son makes up his own rules to Chutes and Ladders and CandyLand, which generally make the games shorter, so I’m all about his rules. Kids’ games are just tedious, no two ways about it…. made moreso when the 18 month old decides to crawl across the game board.

  26. I love reading these comments! I thought I was the only horrible monther that refuses to play Candyland. I’ll even fold laundry instead of that game! ‘Sorry babe, I’ve gotta fold these 4 loads of laundry. If it’s not too late, we can try to squeeze in a game before bed time.’ It’s hellish. So glad I’m not alone on this one!!

  27. I f***ing hate Chutes and Ladders. I like Concentration. All you need is a deck of cards and it’s so obscenely easy. “Do the cards match or not?”

  28. I moved the little angel on to Monopoly, because between Chutes & Ladders, Candyland and that crap with the baskets of cherries, I thought I was going to stick a fork in my eye. Now at least she can play banker.

  29. I love that so many parents are not cheating to win, but cheating to end the freaking games! I’m sure I know why they take so long. It’s for when the kids can play together. It can last all day long and give the parents a good break. I remember my parents telling us to play a game so many times and we’d happily oblige. Now I know why they pushed it.

  30. You have to cheat on this game. Cheat to lose, so I’m pretty sure that counts as not bad parenting. So. Damn. Long.

    If you get Candyland here is the magic cheating trick. Get rid of all the “candy” cards for the ones at the beginning of the game that could take you backwards! Keep in the ones that advance you to the end!

  31. Count your blessings: Chutes and Ladders is WAY WAY better than Candyland. Dante had it wrong: the 9th ring of hell is filled entirely with Candyland and that freakin’ molasses swamp.

  32. I know exactly how you feel playing this with my niece was endless !! But she was so happy when she won.

  33. Yeah, Chutes and Ladders pretty much sucks. My husband can’t even get halfway through a game of it without cursing, so I’m usually the one stuck playing it.

    Luckily, since the introduction of Chutes and Ladders, I have also taught my son how to play Candy Land (with subtle deck-stacking by Mom, of course), Dominoes, Tic Tac Toe, War, that fishing game with the crazy mechanical plastic fish, I Spy Private Eye, Uno, Monopoly and Apples to Apples. So whenever he wants to play Chutes and Ladders now, I have a whole list of other games to suggest.

    (I’d definitely recommend Dominoes as a good game to start with for a beginning / non-reader. It’s really just a matching game.)

    (Yes, my five-year-old plays Apples to Apples. Disturbingly well, actually.)

  34. I hide CandyLand and Chutes&Ladders. If by some chance hey finds the game, then you gotta stack the cards in your favor.
    I know its cheating; but they have to win and win fast.

    When my eyes start to cross and all I see are little pink ice cream cones, then I suggest we play legos.

    That ususally does the trick. Good Luck.

  35. I play Chutes & Ladders all the time with my 4 year-old and it's tediously boring. Except she refuses to go down any of the chutes, so that does move the game along.

  36. Too funny! I so have done this with my 3 year old. Just like sometimes when he wants me to read those wonderful Curious George stories, you know the ones that are bajillion pages long (seriously they are like 80 pages!), I find myself helping George along a bit. Hey every monkey needs help once in a blue moon.

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