How to Play Candy Land: From Set-Up to Sweet Victory

Updated May 16, 2022
African American family playing Candyland board game together

Designed with preschoolers in mind, Candy Land is ideal for kids who don't yet know how to read or are just starting to learn. The game is recommended for kiddos as young as three, so it's often a child's first introduction to board games. Littles will delight in this fun quest to be the first to arrive at the candy castle. Once a youngster learns how to play Candy Land, they're likely to fall in love with the game. Who knows? Maybe they'll even develop a lifelong appreciation (or passion!) for board games.

General Rules: How to Play Candy Land

The Candy Land board game can be played with as few as two players and as many as four. It's generally recommended for children between the ages of three and six, though older kids and adults may enjoy playing the game along with their favorite littles. Kids can start playing this game as soon as they recognize the basic colors. Before children can start playing Candy Land, an adult or older child needs to explain the rules of the game and how to play.

Set Up the Candy Land Game

Candy Land is a simple game that involves drawing cards and moving along the game board in the hopes of being the first player to reach the candy castle. The game board is a linear track, which means that players move their game piece in a forward direction. The game box includes a game board, game cards, and gingerbread pawns (playing pieces). To set up the Candy Land board game, just follow the steps below:

  1. Place the game board on a flat surface that young players will easily be able to reach.
    • The game board has 140 brightly colored squares that players follow through the world of Candy Land.
    • It has fun destinations, such as the Peppermint Stick Forest, Gumdrop Mountain, and the Peanut Brittle House.
    • It also features special spaces, such as lose-a-turn (licorice) and shortcuts (indicated by arrows).
  2. Shuffle the Candy Land cards and place them face down in a single pile. Make sure all players can reach the game cards.
  3. Each player picks a gingerbread pawn to use as their playing piece and places it at the beginning of the path.

Explain Candy Land to the Players

The game instructions are provided in story form, which helps young children grasp and remember the rules. To explain how to play, an adult or older child will need to read The Legend of the Lost Candy Castle, which is printed inside the game box, to the players.

Determine Playing Order

The rules of Candy Land dictate that the youngest player gets to go first. The rest of the order will not be determined by age, but instead by seating position. After the youngest player takes a turn, the player seated to their left will go next. Play will continue to the left--which is counterclockwise--until there is a winner.

Take a Turn by Drawing a Card

To begin the game, the youngest player simply draws a card from the top of the stack, then moves their pawn based on what the card says.

  • One color - The player moves their gingerbread pawn to the next space on the game board that matches the color shown on the card.
  • Two colors - If there are two marks of the color on the card, the player will need to move their playing piece to the second-next space of that color.
  • Picture - The player moves their gingerbread pawn to the pink picture space on the game board that matches the image that appears on their card.
  • Location - The player moves their pawn forward (or backward in some versions) to the location on the game board that's indicated on the card.

After they have finished their move, the player places their card in a discard pile. Then the player to their left will go next. (Note: If all the cards get used before there is a winner, simply shuffle the cards in the discard pile and use them to continue the game.)

Lose a Turn by Landing on Licorice

There are three licorice spaces on the Candy Land game board. If a player lands on one of these spaces, that means that they must skip their next turn.

Follow Special Rules for Penalty Spaces

The fun and frustration really begin when a player lands on one of the three penalty spaces on the game board, as detailed below.

  • Gooey Gumdrops - The player cannot move from this space until they draw a card with one or two yellow blocks.
  • Lost in Lollipop Woods - In order to move from this space, the player must draw a card with one or two blue blocks.
  • Stuck in the Swamp - If the player lands in the molasses or chocolate swamp, they have to stay there until they draw a card with one or two red blocks.

Get Ahead by Landing on a Shortcut

There are two shortcut spaces on the board (Gummy Pass and Peppermint Pass). If a player is lucky enough to land on one of the shortcut spaces, they can move from the arrow at the beginning of the shortcut to the arrow at the end of the shortcut. This provides a significant advantage, as the player can advance quite a lot of spaces on just one move.

Sweet Victory: Win Candy Land

When a player reaches the candy castle at the end of the path, that person is the winner. The game is over once someone reaches the candy castle. Of course, there's no reason to stop with one game. The players just might want to challenge the lucky winner to a rematch!

Educational Aspects of Candy Land

The moves of each player are determined by the cards, so the game is based strictly on luck of the draw. There is no optimal strategy or decision-making required in Candy Land. Even so, the game does teach some important lessons. Candy Land helps preschoolers learn lessons like:

  • Taking turns
  • Learning the rules
  • Following the rules
  • Counting
  • Color recognition
  • How to be a good winner or loser

Candy Land Origin Story

Candy Land has been around since the 1940s. The game was designed by Eleanor Abbott, while she was in a San Diego hospital recovering from polio. She wanted to help entertain little girls in the hospital who were also polio victims. She decided to pitch the game to the Milton Bradley Company. They bought the rights to the game and first published it in 1949. In 2005, Candy Land was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at the Strong National Museum of Play.

Candy Land Versions

Several versions have been introduced over the decades. Some specialized versions are no longer in production but may be available via online auction sites or other resources for purchasing used items. Some of the more popular Candy Land versions include:

  • Disney Princess Edition: Play with the famous and beloved Disney princesses and visit their kingdoms.
  • Candy Land Castle: This 3-D version is a type of shape sorter that helps preschoolers to identify colors and shapes. The moving parts and matching make it extra fun.
  • Candy Land: My Little Pony the Movie Edition: You get pony figurines in this game along with a journey to the Canterlot Castle.
  • Candy Land Chocolate Edition: This version of the game comes with real chocolates that kids can eat after playing and a gold trophy.
  • Candy Land: Dora the Explorer: Much loved characters Dora and Boots are featured in this version of the game.

Set the Stage for a Family Game Night Tradition

Playing Candy Land has been a popular family tradition for decades. Even though the game is meant for young children, everyone can join in the fun. You and your child(ren) or sibling(s) are sure to love spending time playing Candy Land together. Getting in a family game night habit when the kids are little can set the stage for many years--or decades--of family fun and togetherness. Long after the youngest child has outgrown Candy Land, family members will still look forward to getting together and playing other games, all because of time spent together playing Candy Land when the kiddos were young.

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How to Play Candy Land: From Set-Up to Sweet Victory