Animal Upon Animal, which has now expanded into a whole series of games based around the balancing animal figures, is a game of dexterity and balancing. So how exactly does stacking up wooden animals fit into learning? One of the critical attributes of board games is that they can be designed to address multiple intelligences. Some games require players to be good at math, social/party games focus on interpersonal strengths, and Animal Upon Animal rewards strong bodily-kinesthetic abilities.
Theoretical work on multiple intelligences _ -- _ the idea that people are skilled in different types of interactions _ -- _ has been championed by Howard Gardner. Gardner identified eight areas of potential mastery: musical-rhythmic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_multiple_intelligences]. Animal Upon Animal highlights two of these areas _ -- _ bodily-kinesthetic for the actual manipulation of the animals when stacking them, and visual-spatial for identifying potential locations where the animals can be successfully balanced. In other words, this is a game where a players ability to perform complex math or write compelling arguments has no real impact. This is a chance for other skills to shine.
Games like Animal Upon Animal are also a great tool for physical therapy and helping students that need to develop better fine motor skills. The game can be deconstructed and used as a set of manipulatives for individual practice, or used in a group setting as a shared exercise. The animals are beautifully designed to feature ridges and curves that interlock to help create a more stable structure. There are also new variations of the game, such as My Very First Games: Animal Upon Animal with much larger figures suitable for two-year old players or those with some physical limitations.