The inspiration could have been "Alice in Wonderland," but actually it was the Pepsi machine downstairs.
After noticing that kids quickly mastered the instructions on the brightly lit vending machine, staff at the Cloisters Children's Museum invented "New Game on the Block," an innovative board game intended to make reading fun for kids in kindergarten through third grade. It will be unveiled this weekend as part of the museum's 13th anniversary.
Instead of moving pieces over a small board, players in the New Game are the pieces. They roll a large, foam-rubber die to see how many squares to advance through a "community" made up of a home, a grocery store, a doctor's office and a bank.
Colored squares give instructions, such as "Suppertime, go home," "Hungry? Buy food at the grocery store" and "Go to the next green space." Following directions, players hop, wiggle and stepthrough the game.
"It's part of the mayor's literacy project," Cloisters director Rosemary Fetter says of the game. "We want to show them reading is part of everyday life."
Museum exhibit coordinator David Berman, who devised the game with input from the staff, calls it a suggestive rather than an instructional game.
"The kids are free to go in and move around as they please," he explains. "Even though our exhibits are targeted for certain ages, we realize they're used by both older and younger kids and we make them accessible to everyone."
Another highlight of the Cloisters' birthday party will be the theatrical group Mystic Paper Beasts.
Hours at the Cloisters, at 10440 Falls Road in Brooklandville, are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and noon to 4 p.m. weekends. This weekend only, one child will be admitted free with each paying adult at $4 for non-members and $3 for members. Call 823-2550.