Children learn through play. As an occupational therapist who works with children and youth, I use games and toys almost every day to help develop important cognitive, visual perceptual, motor, sensory, social, play and leisure skills. While many different types of activities can be used in therapy, this blog focuses on off-the-shelf games and toys that are accessible to most. Whether you are a therapist, parent, teacher, or a game lover like me, I hope you discover something useful while you are here. Learn a different way to play a game you already own or discover a new game for your next family game night. Either way, just go play. It's good for you!

The OT Magazine named The Playful Otter one of the Top 5 Pediatric OT Blogs.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Invasion of the Cow Snatchers

Invasion of the Cow Snatchers
I'm going to blog about this game while I have it. However, I must tell you that I bought this game once and the magnet was not strong enough to pick up the pieces. I asked for a replacement and it was the same, unplayable. So I don't know if I just got unlucky twice, or if it is a flaw with the game. I'll let you decide.

You are an alien who has been sent to earth to study the most bizarre of all earth creatures - the cow. Invasion of the Cow Snatchers is a 1-person logic game with 60 challenges that fall into categories from easy to genius (think of the bragging rights - "I'm a genius!"). Using your magnetic UFO, hover over the farm and beam up unsuspecting cows while dodging obstacles. Grab the red bull last and exit the field to complete each challenge and head for home.

Above is an image of the game. It will be easier to describe if you have something to look at. The green base, the pasture, measures about 8.75" square. There is a clear plastic, removable cover that sits on top. The colored discs you see are the cows. Each disc has a cow head embossed on the top. There are five different color discs - 4 cows and a red bull. Each of the cows has a metal disc inside and the spaceship is a magnet. There are numerous other pieces of different heights that will be placed in your field before you begin each challenge. They include red barns, green crop rows, white fences, yellow hay bales, 1 silo and 5 crop circles.

After placing your cows and obstacles in the field, per the the challenge card, place the clear plastic on top. Then move your silver spaceship over the clear top and as you pass above cows they will jump up to meet your spaceship. The order that you pick up the cows will be important. As they jump up to meet your spaceship, the stack you will be carrying around will get taller. You will have to consider how many cows you can be holding to clear the different obstacles of different heights. No cows can be carried over the red barn, only 1 cow can be carried over the green crop row, two can be carried over the white fences and three over the hay bales. At no time may you ever pass over the silo, even if you are not carrying any cows. You cannot move diagonally.

Each challenge card will show one challenge on the front and the solution on the back. There are 10 each in the first four levels and 20 in the last level, genius. At the genius level you will always pick up the cows in a certain color order. At the genius level you will be using the crop circles in your field. You will end up needing to pick up a cow(s), drop it onto a crop circle, and then come back later for it to get the right color order. Here are the first and last challenges and solutions, plus one from medium and one from super hard.



If you are interested in reading more about games like these, check out my post on logic games.  

Try this:
  • Stress that this can be a process of trial and error. Model thoughtful perseverance.
  • Complete a challenge as the player looks on. Talk out loud as your solve the puzzle so the player can see how to apply logic and solve problems that arise. 
  • Then set the game up again and ask the player to complete the challenge.
  • Work the first few by giving the player the color order. Then let them repeat the games on their own.
  • Set up a challenge and then complete it by following the directions on the solution side. 
  • Set up a challenge card and give the instructions verbally, one step at a time, for completing the challenge. Use directional terms consistently.
If you are interested in purchasing this game or just want more information, click on the image below.


Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Make a Face With Ed Emberley

Make A Face with Ed Emberley drawing book

I am a huge fan of Ed Emberley's drawing books (see links below for his other books I have blogged about). He starts with very simple shapes and, as you can see (below), shows the step-by-step addition of lines and basic shapes to complete the picture. I own several different drawing books, but Ed Emberley is the author I come back to over and over. I love them, the kids love them.

Make a Face With Ed Emberley is the only Ed Emberley book I own that has removable pages. It is meant to be drawn in and used up (but I don't). There are 48 different faces on a total of 20 pages. Each page will have the beginning shapes in the middle (see image above), and then you add the features to these shapes. On the back of each page are the same shapes but without the instructions. Try and draw from memory. Then, that whole set of pages is duplicated again in the book. In addition, in the back of the book are a lot of chances to be creative. There are 12 colorful frames with one shape inside, you draw what you want. At the bottom of each frame it says "This work of art created by" and you fill in your name. Cut them out and give them to friends or family. There is one page with 5 rectangle bookmarks drawn, three or four colored shapes in each, you supply the details. There are seven speech bubbles with one shape each. What will you draw and what are they saying? There is one final page at the very back with the chance to draw 12 expressions in squares. 

It's fun to watch the faces light up of kids who never dreamed they could draw. After using his books, all of my kids are able to just look at a face now and figure out where to start and how to add all the features without the step-by-step guide. Mr. Emberley's books offer many opportunities to practice lines kids often have difficulty with, diagonal, rounded, loops, etc., and the characters are whimsical so a lack of precision as the kids are learning does not ruin the picture.

I typically use a small dry erase board and bright markers to start, moving to colored pencil later on. You can also move from broad tip to ultra fine tip markers as you increase the demands for precision. Expo is the only brand of board and markers I use. To read why, check out my Expo post here

Here are other Ed Emberley books I have blogged about and love:

Drawing Book of Faces - My favorite book, loaded with many expressive faces. A great place to start or work on facial expressions.

Goody Gumdrops by Ed Emberley - Each animal starts out with the exact same shape, a gumdrop. Concentrate on the details.

Ed Emberley's Christmas Drawing Book -  It's all about winter and Christmas.

Ed Emberley's Fingerprint Drawing Book - Use an ink pad and start with a fingerprint shape.

Ed Emberley's Great Thumbprint Drawing Book - Use an ink pad and start with a thumbprint shape. 

If you would like to read more about games that require writing or drawing in some form, check out my post Games That Require a Writing Tool.  

Try this:
  • Give verbal spatial directions as you draw.
  • Say things like 'this is an upside down V' when drawing a pointed ear, or 'this is a U' if drawing a u-shaped mouth, or 'this is a C' when drawing a left ear. Talk about alphabet.
  • Use colored pencils. Adds just a bit more fun to be able to change colors.
  • Let the individual choose the face to make the experience more positive if the person does not like drawing or writing.
  • Look at each new step and, before drawing, ask the individual what has changed, what has been added.
  • Attempt to start on a line and stop on a line (no overflow).
  • Ask the individual to verbally give the directions, step-by-step, using spatial terms, and you draw along.
  • Emphasize body parts. Say something like "Let's draw the mouth next" and let the individual take the lead and you follow so they have a chance to identify the body part to draw.
  • Use dry erase marker boards instead of drawing in the book. If you think it would be reinforcing to the individual to keep the picture, draw in the book.
  • Work on diagonal lines for letters such as K, Y, X, W by drawing pictures that incorporate diagonal lines (whiskers, sharp teeth, legs, bird toes). Work on distal rotation by drawing pictures that incorporate small, colored-in circles (eyes, freckles, tassels, chicken pox). Work on rounded lines, such as needed for many lower case letters, by drawing pictures with rounded and wavy lines (ears, water, noses, hair). Sounds pretty basic, doesn't it? One big reason I like the Ed Emberley books is because I can quickly scan each page, looking for the shapes and feature(s) that I want to practice without having to make up a variety of my own drawings on the spot.
  • Be short and precise with your verbal instructions as you model. Draw only one line or shape at a time and make sure they are following your instructions to the best of their ability. Drawings may start out looking rough, but typically improve over time with practice. The kids often recognize this and are very pleased when they see their improvement result in recognizable pictures.  
  • Model how to start and stop on a line. I usually say, as I'm drawing, "start on the line" and when I stop I just say "stop on the line". And I often just reach over and erase overflow with my finger and they quickly get the idea.
  • Draw a picture and then erase and try to draw it again from memory.
  • Use the Ed Emberley Book of faces when working on emotions. Emphasize the shapes of the eyes, eyebrows and mouth when talking about reading facial expressions.
  • Work on fine motor precision, pencil control, efficient pencil grasp, coordinated use of both hands, distal rotation, visual memory, spatial relations, visual closure, visual form constancy, visual motor integration, visual discrimination, motor planning, drawing and recognizing shapes, body awareness, proportion, executive functioning skills, process skills, play and leisure exploration and participation, reading facial expressions

If you are interested in purchasing this item or just want more information, click on the image below.