Let’s Make Games: Who’s Tops?

We started my new class "Let's Make Games" at HoLa charter school in Hoboken last week and it looks to be exciting. The students are mostly 1st and 2nd graders and they're ready to make some games. Our first project was "Who's Tops?" The game is played similar to darts; each player spins their top and tries to get it to stop on individual letters of the play arena. Each spin is documented on an index card and the first to reach every letter wins the game. Below is step-by-step instructions so you can try it at home with your kids.
I created a letter size document in Adobe Illustrator and filled it with one large and two small circles. The large circle is subdivided into six pie-shaped sections and a central hexagon to correspond to the divisions of a clear plastic takeout container lid. This is the game arena. The two smaller circles are to decorate the tops themselves. The page is then printed onto white card stock. Download the PDF here. In class we went through the pie pieces and filled each with a large letter, from A-G. Since the central hexagon is smaller than the pie pieces we used that for the letter "C". It was a bit of a challenge having the children create block letters, especially "G", but eventually everyone got their board colored and decorated the tops of their tops. Over the course of the past few weeks my daughters and I have been eating tons of Push Ups ice cream treats for their plastic, umbrella-shaped sticks. I trimmed the stick of each pop to about an inch and a half so the top wasn't too tall. I found it easiest to use cat claw clippers to keep the stick from slipping out, but regular scissors can also be used. I flipped the umbrella over and added double stick tape to the top. I poked a push pin through the center of the circle, then pushed the pin and the circle into the top of the plastic push up, fastening it to the tape. Once the large circles were cut out I attached them to the bottoms of the clear plastic lids using double sided tape. I had gotten the take-out containers from a dollar store and they were three for $1.09. The lids worked out well because ridges subdivide each section. This helps keep the top spinning on a specific letter. By affixing the large paper circle to the bottom of the lid we were able to have a nicely decorated and colorful game while keeping the plastic subdivisions. We then wrote our letters, A-G, in a column on an index card and placed the names of the two competitors on the top. Each player gets a turn to spin their top in the arena. Once the top stops spinning a mark is made on the index card indicating the letter the point of the top has stopped on. The players take turns spinning their tops until one player fills all seven letters. A more difficult variant of the game is to have each letter filled in alphabetical order. Have fun spinning! See more posts about this game design class →