CANDYLAND Compensations

March 19, 2010 at 8:12 am 5 comments

This weekend I’ll be giving a lecture on the origins and early history of the game CANDYLAND.

I have to confess, though, that I really can’t stand the game.

A couple of years ago, my little girl got a “Dora” version from her grandmother. She liked to get it out and play (cheat, really, she just took all the good cards). After a couple of weeks of this, I hid the thing under the bed. It was SO boring! Was this really the game I remembered so fondly from my childhood? But thinking about it a little more,  I realized that I remember nothing about playing the game as a child. All I remember was the CANDY. I wasn’t allowed much candy when I was little, and getting some was all I thought about. I wonder how many other kids filled their heads with visions of CANDYLAND to compensate for candy they couldn’t have.

The game came out in the 1950s; by the time I was a kid in the 1960s and 70s, me and my friends depended on adults to give us candy.  Earlier generations of children seem to have had a lot more freedom to buy and choose their own candy. So this is my theory: when you can’t have candy, CANDYLAND compensates. (Well, I have a lot of other theories about CANDYLAND; invite me to come give a talk at your school/house of worship/historical society/book group/bowling league and I’ll share them with you!)

Just about every adult I know remembers CANDYLAND. It certainly is a big hit today:  In the 60 years since its first release, Candy Land board game has sold more than 40 million copies. Current surveys reveal that 94 percent of mothers are aware of Candy Land, and over 60 percent of households with a five year old own a copy of the game. That’s a lot of CANDYLAND.

So, CANDYLAND is a safe alternative to too much candy. Of course, I’m just guessing. But I found an interesting study that suggests I might be on to something. Cindy Dell Clark studies the role of play in children’s ability to cope with chronic disease. She discovered that diabetic children, who aren’t allowed to have candy, love the game CANDYLAND. This is what Clark had to say:  “Through fantasy play about candy, diabetic children reverse (and reveal) their starvation for indulgence….they play at or imagine the indulgent eating they miss.”

By the way, did you know that people actually have very strong feelings about CANDYLAND, pro and con? Recent impassioned debates on the relative merits of Candy Land as a game experience can be found at

So how about it: do you have any CANDYLAND memories? Any stories of loving or hating CANDYLAND, when you were little or today as a parent? I’d love to hear about it!

Sources: Tim Walsh, Timeless Toys;; Cindy Dell Clark, In Sickness and in Play: Children Coping with Chronic Illness

Image: “Play With Me,” by h3ather on flikr

Entry filed under: Children and Candy, Current Candy News.

Candy Feeding Bags Early Toy Novelties: Kandyskope

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mark D.  |  March 19, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    I can see why Candyland is so popular. We purchased our game during a Christmas sale when all games were $5 I think. It was very inexpensive. I do not like the current board and how bright it is and how they modified the areas you can go to with special cards. I remember how much I liked our dull color old board from my childhood with what I remember as “real” candy areas you could land in. What a great game to study and lecture about.

  • 2. CandyProfessor  |  March 20, 2010 at 6:37 am

    I agree about the new graphic look. I like the less cluttered board, which was more about candy. The new boards have introduced all these characters, a whole different idea really.

  • 3. Katharine Weber  |  March 21, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    I always thought Candyland was very boring! As a child I preferred anything else — Parcheesi, Chutes & Ladders, Monopoly. Games of Candyland went on and on, and the only board game that was worse was Uncle Wiggly.

    • 4. CandyProfessor  |  March 21, 2010 at 9:03 pm

      Katharine, I couldn’t agree more. Here’s an interesting angle on the whole problem of Candyland and why it is so boring: Candyland was invented to entertain children in polio wards in the late 1940s. Those paralyzed children had NOTHING to do all day, they were there for months just waiting to get better. A game that never ends is the perfect solution to the tedium of the hospital. But who on earth thought that was a good idea for children who were perfectly well? The idea of children as convalescent, immobile, paralyzed, is just what Candyland is all about (IMHO, of course). How strange to realize that THIS idea of children is the underpinning of the most successful children’s game ever. Whew.

  • 5. Katharine Weber  |  March 23, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Utterly fascinating!


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Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

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Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

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