The object of the game is simply to get one's playing piece to the final space on the board. A spinner or die indicates how many spaces a player moves his token during a turn. The novelty of the game is that if a player's token stops at the bottom of a ladder, the token can be moved up, or forward, to the top of the ladder (and thus, more spaces ahead in the game). Conversely, a token which lands on a space at the top of a chute (or open tube) must be moved down to the bottom of the tube, putting that player's token further behind.
The mechanics of the game are simple enough that even very small children can grasp the concept and play with enjoyment; also, since the play is basically random, small children have as much chance of winning as adults. This, along with the fact that younger kids like to make their pieces slide down the ladder or climb up the chute, makes the game a popular one for that age group.
Along with Candy Land, this board game has been entertaining smaller children for generations.