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, September 22, 2017

Go Nuts!

Dice games offer the opportunity to work on multiple hand skills.

Work on hand arches, in-hand manipulation, distal finger control, fine motor precision, manual dexterity, visual discrimination, figure ground, executive functioning skills, social interaction skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: Small score pad, small pencil, 9 picture dice 

To the untrained eye, this may look like just another dice game. But to a therapist it can be so much more. Occupational therapists, who are trained to look at the parts of the whole, may choose to play Go Nuts! as a way to help develop distal finger skills and fine motor precision (repeatedly cupping the hand can help develop, strengthen, and stabilize the arches which in turn direct skilled movements of the fingers). They may also choose to play it because there is no set-up, there is very little down time, it is fast playing, and turns are short. As a matter of fact, it is a game that plays in 12 minutes or less, according to the box.   

The object is to be the first person to score 50 points for the win. Points are determined by the pictures and combinations of pictures that are face up after you roll the dice.  There are five squirrel dice (pictured on dice are squirrels, acorns, and car), and 4 dog dice (pictured on dice are dog and doghouses). The dice are a tad smaller than standard spotted dice.

The dog die from Go Nuts!
To Play:
On your turn, roll the five dice with the squirrels. (Each person receives one dog/dog house die but only uses it on others' turns.) Here are what the three images mean:
  • Acorn - Worth one point each.
  • Squirrel - Worth no points but can be rerolled.
  • Car - Worth no points, cannot be rerolled. Take it out of the game.
Once you roll the dice, here are your options:
  • Keep track of the points from all acorns, pick up the acorns and squirrels and throw again, hoping to make more points. Pull out all cars.
  • Take the score you received for the acorns you threw and end your turn.
If you decide to keep throwing, count the points you receive for acorns on your next throw and add them to your last throw. You can throw over and over but there is a risk involved in continuing to throw because if at any time you throw all cars, your turn ends immediately and you lose all points. If at any time you throw all squirrels, you lose all points and a Go Nuts! round starts. Pick up the dice and throw them over and over, as fast as you can, counting all the acorns that you throw. At the same time the other player(s) will throw their dog die. As soon as someone throws a dog image, your turn is over. Record the number of acorns you threw (if any) and your turn ends. Keep playing in this manner until someone reaches 50 points and wins the game.

Try this:
  • Shape the palm before shaking the dice by putting a small ball or round object in the individual's hand and forming the hand around it.
  • Model the cupping position and how to shake the dice before starting to play - fingers together, making a rounded cup in the palm. Often the child will just squeeze the dice tight in the hand and shake the hand, thinking the dice are moving around when they are not. I constantly monitor this.
  • Cup both hands and place on top of each other (at a 90 degree angle). Double the therapeutic value!
  • Skip playing a game and just play with the dice. Put one die at a time in the palm and ask the individual to move it to the fingertips and rotate it for placement. Place the dice all animal side up or all gray objects, etc. Then place two in the palm, holding one back while working one to the fingertips.
  • Put the dice away by cupping one hand and dropping the dice in, one at a time, until all are in the palm. Then put in the box.
  • Pick the dice up one at a time, squirrelling them in the palm as you go. Can all be picked up without dropping any?
If you are interested in purchasing this game or just want more information, click on the image below.

IQ Steps

A visual perceptual and problem solving puzzle with 120 challenges.
Work on visual discrimination, visual closure, figure ground, visual form constancy, spatial relations, executive functions, manual dexterity, in-hand manipulation, frustration tolerance, process skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: Plastic playing board/carrying case, puzzle booklet with 120 challenges, 8 plastic pieces

A portable game that will challenge the visual perceptual and problem solving skills of the brightest. It measurers roughly 5 1/2" x 3 1/2" and could fit in a purse or pocket. The object of the game is to place the 8 pieces on the board with no hangover. The pieces are made of rings and the rings for each color are molded together so that they take up two tiers. Sounds simple enough, but these types of puzzles are so not me. I hate to admit it, but I took one piece out of the case and it took me 10 minutes to put it back in. For a minute I thought I would have to go get a Ziplock bag. And that was with the other seven pieces already in place! I used to have a theory that if I couldn't do something I didn't give it to another person to do. I assumed if it was frustrating for me it would be frustrating for them. Then I realized that my weaknesses could turn into their strengths, so I stopped that. There are 120 puzzles in this booklet and they advance in difficulty. The puzzles start by showing seven of the eight pieces in place. Follow the guide to put the seven in the case and you figure out where the eighth one goes. The puzzles go from showing seven pieces to showing only two on the most difficult challenges. All solutions are pictured in the back of the book.  A natural opportunity to practice in-hand manipulation as you turn each piece to try this position and that.