Candy Land and Pro-social Behavior

Candy Land and Pro-social Behavior

Activity Created By:
Tahirih Moffett
Kearisten Ketterer


  • Candy Land Board Game
  • Paper
  • Pencil/Pen

Target Population:

Children ages 4 through 8


This activity begins with the therapist introducing the child to the game by explaining the basic rules of Candy Land. Build rapport and a sense of self-efficacy in the child by allowing as much autonomy and choice as possible. This can be done by allowing the child to choose the color of their gingerbread playing piece and asking them who should have the first turn when starting the game. Once the game begins, the therapist deliberately observes the child’s capacity for what Marion (as cited in Preusse, 2008) stated are the three distinct pro-social behaviors: sharing (dividing up or bestowing), helping (acts of kindness, rescuing, and removing distress), and cooperation. Whenever the child shows any of these pro-social behaviors, the therapist provides positive reinforcement through verbal affirmations such as “great job!” “I know you could do it,” or “thank you, I really appreciate that.” Inevitably, the child will face barriers, disappointments and frustrations during the game like encountering the gooey gumdrops, getting lost in the lollipop woods, or stuck in the molasses swamp. When the child displays inappropriate social behaviors such as problems with taking turns, aggressive outbursts or quitting when angry or frustrated, not following the rules, the therapist intervenes and helps the child to problem-solve in a socially appropriate manner. This is an opportunity for the therapist to help the child articulate their emotional state and put words to their uncomfortable experience.

Expected Results and Troubleshooting:

Educators have long been asked and expected to teach young children the “rights” and “wrongs” of social behavior. The National Association for the Education of Young Children states that socialization is a key component to early childhood education. A child’s learning process takes place in a multitude of life experiences, including play. Play is an important part of a child’s world, and is also the medium in which they are first introduced to and learn about their own social, emotional and cognitive development. It is important to teach pro-social behaviors to children due to the fact that it teaches them to work towards a common goal with others. It also teaches them how to better understand and deal with their own anger and frustration in a positive way. The above activity aims at rewarding children for their pro-social behaviors, and helping them to understand why negative reactions are unwanted and are not as effective as using socially appropriate behaviors. This activity seeks to help children develop their social skills, and teach them what positive interactions look like between two human beings (Preusse, 2008). One limitation in this activity may be that the game only presents a few areas for the child to display pro-social behaviors. For this reason, trouble-shooting might involve expanding the child’s pro-social behavior repertoire through the use of social stories that the therapist creates based on the unique needs of the child. These social stories would be created after the therapist has the chance to observe areas where the child needs more focus on developing pro-social behaviors. The content of the social story can include alternative ways that the child can manage the frustrations that were observed while playing Candy Land and that were not able to be worked through during the game.

Related Works:
Groeben, M., Perren, S., Stadelmann, S., & Klitzing, K. (2011). Emotional symptoms from kindergarten to middle child: associations with self- and other-oriented social skills. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 20, 3-15.
Preusse, K. (2008). Fostering prosocial behavior in young children . Retrieved from

Originally posted on the Geek Therapy Wiki, hosted on the now-defunct Wikispaces platform, as part of Dr. Patrick O’Connor’s course Geek Culture in Therapy.

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