Label a game as “educational” and it might just sit on a shelf gathering dust. Sometimes more covert tactics are necessary to get kids to put on their learning hat during playtime, perhaps by dangling a bunch of delicious-looking cherries from a tree. What youngster wouldn’t want to be a part of the picking action? Introduced in 1960 by Whitman Games, Hi Ho! Cherry-O was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a learning game for kids in the 3-6 range that flew in under the radar because it was so much fun to play.
One didn’t need to be able to read to play Hi Ho! Cherry-O, as everything was image-based. The board was laid out with four trees around the perimeter that each held a total of ten cherries within their grasp. After each of 2-4 players picked a tree, they would spin a wheel with a number of possible places to land. Some of these places contained a picture of 1-4 cherries and the player would pick the corresponding number of fruits off of their tree and put them into their individual basket. Land on a bird or a dog, however, and two of those cherries had to go back to the tree. Land on the dreaded spilled basket and ALL of the cherries had to go back to the tree. The first person with 10 cherries in their basket emerged victorious, not realizing for a moment that they were exercising plenty of preschool math muscle. They were too preoccupied with the fact that they could now proudly exclaim “Hi Ho! Cherry-O!” designating them the winner of the game. And then, more often than not, kids would put all the cherries back and start over again, and again, and again. Like eating potato chips, one game just wasn’t enough to get your fruit-pickin’ fix.
Today, Hi Ho! Cherry-O is produced by Milton Bradley and, while most educational games don’t always enjoy the most, shall we say, robust longevity, it continues to be the exception. Over 50 years after it’s original release, the game still resides on the shelves of most respectable toy departments. Parents like it for both its educational and nostalgic factors, and the kids remain drawn to the allure of harvesting a bright red cherry bounty of their very own.
If you harbor fond recollections of collecting your own baskets on cherries in your early years, we welcome your memories of Hi Ho! Cherry-O in our comments section, as we tip our hats a toy that continues to charm generations of kids.