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.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Chair Activity Bingo

Chair Activity Bingo - Seated exercises and stretches

I watched for Chair Activity Bingo to go on sale for a long time. It never did, so I finally broke down and bought it. My first thought upon opening the package was "$35 and you don't even get a box?" After further inspection I did find a ziplock storage bag. If you're interested in buying it look around, some places have it cheaper than others. I got mine at Walmart online. Did you know that third party sellers are now on the Walmart online store? I didn't.

I work with someone who has low endurance and poor balance in standing, so she doesn't want to move around too much in standing or seated. And since she doesn't move around much, I am always trying to make up activities that present that just-right challenge - engaging (my biggest hurdle) while offering the opportunity to improve balance and increase strength and endurance while still letting her feel safe. I have high hopes for this game. 

Chair Activity Bingo includes 30 bingo cards (see above), each with a 4 x 4 grid. The cards are printed on card stock that is glossy on the front. The colorful blocks on the cards each feature one activity or stretch, like the bear hug, shin strengthener and seated jumping jacks.

There are no markers to put on the card, such as bingo chips. You will have to use something that you already have or cut squares to use to cover the squares on the card. 

There are 30 activities all together and each one is featured on one calling card. Calling cards are on perforated sheets and need to be separated before playing. Also on each calling card is a written description of the activity and a suggestion for the number of reps to do. Here is an example:

Play like you would a regular game of bingo. Small, inexpensive prizes are often motivating.

Be the first to get 4 in a row in any direction: horizontal, vertical or diagonal. Or use another pattern, such as fill in the border or make a letter T (see suggestion below).

Set up:
Give each person playing a BINGO card and several markers. Choose a person to be the caller. Mix the calling cards face-down and place them near the caller.

The caller will turn over one card, read it (silently or aloud) and demonstrate the activity. Either all players can perform the activity or all players that have that activity on their card. Players then put a marker on that square if they have it on their card. The caller repeats this until someone matches the winning pattern on his card and yells BINGO. Check the player's card for accuracy and reward the prize if there is one. Play again.

Try this:
  • Stack the deck. I did not want her to balk at this game, so for the first session I chose activities that I thought she would not object to. Then I picked out a bingo card that would have a bingo within 5 calls using those activities, so that she did not tire out or feel it was too much. If you are just going for a random bingo, you might go through 15 or more activities before it happens. Increase your variety and add in more activities as they can tolerate. Stacking the deck is not cheating in therapy :). It is what I often do to get the outcome I want.
  • Read the card and then demonstrate the activity so the individual knows what is expected. Talk through it if that makes it easier.
  • Reduce the number of reps if they cannot tolerate, and work your way up.
  • Work at it until they get it so that you never have to say 'no, you did not perform so you cannot cover that space'.
  • Keep things upbeat and your tone light, show that exercise can be fun.
  • Practice recognizing a winning pattern before playing. Cover a pattern with markers on a card so the individual can see what it will look like. Then set up several cards with multiple markers and a win embedded on each one and ask the player to find it. Work until he is proficient at spotting the winning pattern.
  • If the player has trouble seeing a bingo, check the card with them, using your finger in the air to draw a line in the direction you want them to check for each column or row.
  • Watch for only one BINGO direction at a time until they are used to watching for it (horizontal, diagonal, vertical). Then watch for two directions, then for three. Finally go to a bingo in any direction.
  • Make sure the player knows and can recognize the colors red, green and blue before starting the game. 
  • Stop occasionally and check the player's card. Ask them to point out places where they only need one more to win a bingo. Or point out possible bingos and ask how many more will be needed to win or which squares will need markers to win in that direction etc.
  • Display a black and white card with the BINGO pattern for each game highlighted in yellow so the players can remember the pattern they are looking for. 
  • Use letters as your patterns. You can play for O (border), X, N, L, P, C, T, U and Z.
  • Visualize the letter you are going for as a bingo and do not mark pictures that aren't part of the letter. 
  • Pick the pieces off the card after each game, squirreling them into the palm. How many can you hold without dropping any?
  • Work on visual discrimination, figure ground, visual closure, eye-hand coordination, spatial relations, fine motor, in-hand manipulation, manual dexterity, executive functioning skills, socialization skills, process skills, play and leisure exploration and participation 
In the box: 30 bingo cards, 30 calling cards, ziplock storage bag

Monday, January 6, 2020

Mini Puzzlle Pack - Vehicles

Vehicle-themed Mini Puzzle Pack - 16 vehicles in all

When I saw this cute little puzzle box I thought about the year, when I was a kid, that I got a watch for Christmas. Looking at that small, wrapped box I couldn't fathom what was inside. My mom's only hint was that good things come in small packages. Well, fun things can come in small packages too.

This Vehicle-themed Mini Puzzle Pack measures only 6" x 4 5/8". There are four slide-out puzzle boards and each has a different category and four vehicles. The categories are helping vehicles, water vehicles, air vehicles and construction vehicles. There is a cut-out space for each vehicle and the same picture that is on the puzzle piece is also in the cut-out space on the puzzle board, making it easier to match. The four puzzle boards each slide into a groove in the storage box and each have a colored tab. The tab color will match the border on each piece of that puzzle. The elastic cord on the box is used to wrap around the tabs and keep the puzzle bases in the box.

Try this:
  • Start easy by placing one puzzle board in front of the individual and handing them one piece at a time to place, in the correct orientation. Work up to scattering the four pieces randomly next to the puzzle board, in incorrect orientations. Scatter the four pieces and add a couple that don't belong. Work on assembling two boards at a time, then three and four, mixing more and more pieces as you go.
  • Take the opportunity to talk about community helpers when assembling the helper puzzle.
  • Scatter the puzzle pieces and don't use the puzzle bases. Sort them into four piles by category (or border color) without help from the puzzle base. 
  • Scatter the pieces in different orientations before assembling. Turn each piece in-hand to orient for placement.
  • Assemble one puzzle at a time and talk about the name of each vehicle and how it is used.
In the box: 4 vehicle puzzles, 16 puzzle pieces and 4 bases

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