Poppo is what you might call “educational” and what you might even consider a “reading” game, and what you more than likely would classify as a “competitive” game for “little kids.” In all cases, you’d be absolutely correct, and, simultaneously, wrong.

Remember a game called “Trouble?” My guess is that what you remember best about it is the “Pop-o-matic” thingy in the middle of the board – a transparent capsule housing a die, that you’d press down, let go, and watch it pop the die to a new number. And that’s what you remember so well because popping the pop-o-matic was probably the most fun part of playing the game. Well, that’s what at the heart of Poppo. Only the die is 8-sided instead of 6. It has letters on it instead of numbers. And there are two sets of 4 different die-poppers, each with a different combination of letters.

In addition to the die-poppers of endless delight, you also get a a box of cards with 100 different 3- or 4-letter words (illustrated), and a one-minute sand timer. A card is drawn, the timer turned, and two players (or teams) race to be the first to get their Poppo-poppers to spell the word on the card. And that’s just about it. You can play it as a solitaire, you can play it cooperatively, you can play it with kids from 4 on up. You read me right, 4-years-old and up.

I first “tasted” it with a group of junior high school kids in a special education class. We evolved the “cooperative” approach together, because it was more fun. Some of the kids just wanted to keep popping – even after they managed to pop their Poppo-poppers to one of the letters in the word we were trying to spell. Others were frustrated by the time pressure. Others had trouble figuring out what letters were available in which Popper. (Each Popper has a different selection of letters, but here’s also a wild card on every Popper- so, even if you have the wrong Popper, you’ll eventually be able to spell the word anyway.) So we played it together, using all the Poppers, trying to see how many words we could spell before the timer ran out.

Aside from the multitude of instructional benefits that so clearly qualify this game for parental purchase, the important thing is that it’s something kids will want to play again and again. There may be faster ways to teach reading or spelling or word recognition, but I don’t think there’s a way that is more fun than playing Poppo.

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