Chutes and Ladders - Snakes and Ladders

Classic Children's Board Game Based on Ancient Indian Game

Chutes and Ladders
Brandi Jordan/Flickr

In Chutes and Ladders, players race to be the first to the top of the board. Along the way, they will find ladders to help them advance (representing good acts in the traditional Indian game of Snakes and Ladders), and chutes or slides which will cause them to move backward (representing slides toward evil in Snakes and Ladders).

The game is entirely determined by a random factor, either a spinner or the roll of a die; players make no decisions at all. It is a game appropriate for younger children.

Basics of Chutes and Ladders

  • Chutes and Ladders can be played by two to six players
  • It is appropriate for ages 3 and up, and is often one of the first board games introduced to young children.
  • It takes about 30 minutes to play the game.
chutes and ladders illustration
Illustration: The Spruce / Maritsa Patrinos 

History of Chutes and Ladders - Snakes and Ladders

This children's board game is based on the ancient game of Snakes and Ladders, which is believed to date back to India in the 2nd century B.C. The historic version was an allegory of the journey of life where you ascend due to destiny, or karma, represented by ladders, but are set back by kama, or desire, represented by snakes. There were more snakes than ladders, making it harder to ascend to Moksha — spiritual liberation.

The British adopted the game as the Victorians adapted it to their worldview of the effects of good deeds and bad deeds. The virtues correspond with the ladders and the vices correspond with the snakes. The number of snakes and ladders were made equal.

When the game was published in the United States by Milton Bradley in 1943, they redesigned it to eliminate the scary snakes and instead translate it to the playground. On the board, children climb ladders and slide down descending chutes. It maintains a little of the original morality lessons. At the bottom of each ladder, a child is performing a good deed. At the top of a chute, the child is doing something mischievous.


Chutes and Ladders was first published by Milton Bradley in 1943. At least two dozen other game publishers, including Jumbo, Ravensburger, Spear's Games and Transogram, have released versions of the game.

In Canada, it was produced as Snakes and Ladders by the Canada Games Company and some versions used toboggan runs rather than the chutes or snakes.

In the United Kingdom, the Spear's Games edition of Snakes and Ladders is the most common.

Related Games: In 1986, Milton Bradley published Chutes and Ladders VCR Game, a matching game. Hasbro released it as a PC game in 1999.​​

Why Chutes and Ladders Is a Significant All-Time Game

Chutes and Ladders, or Snakes and Ladders, is an all-time classic children's game, one of the most popular in the world. Here are the other games I believe are the most culturally and historically significant games published since 1800.

Researchers in developmental science found the game to be of value for pre-schoolers to practice learning numbers and counting.