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.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Domino Rally Treasure Hunt

The work is in the set-up. A steady hand is required.

Work on visual discrimination, spatial relations, eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, in-hand manipulation, coordinated use of both hands, fine motor precision, executive functioning skills,process skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 100 dominoes, shark, row boat, treasure chest, instruction book 

I thought this was a game, but it is not as far as I can tell. It is an activity where you set up the dominoes and pieces for the shark, row boat, and treasure chest, then touch the first domino to watch the reaction. You're going to need space and a flat surface, such as a kitchen table top. The instruction booklet shows you how to set-up the dominoes around those three items, but where you put the majority of the dominoes, connecting those three items, will be up to you. 

Pages from the instruction book.

There is a picture on the back of the box if you want to follow that. 

Left: Inside the box.  Right: Back of the box.

You can play it over and over and change the paths each time. Most of the action comes around the shark. His fin will rotate when hit by a falling domino, his mouth snaps shut, and his tail flips to the side. As the final domino falls, it triggers the treasure chest lid to pop open, revealing the gold bars inside. A lot of set up for less than a minute of excitement. And if your hand skills aren't already pretty good, you may end up knocking over strings of dominoes as you go and having to start over. Frustrating for the wrong person. There dominoes are several different colors (blue, black, red, yellow) and you can set them up however you want as they are all the same size and shape. The dominoes measure 1 3/4" by 11/16" by 1/4".

Try this:
  • Engage both hands by holding a handful of dominoes in the non-dominant as you use them to set-up with the dominant hand.
  • Pile the dominoes on the table before setting up. As you pick them up, one at a time to set-up, turn them in-hand to position.
  • Re-position yourself around the table for the easiest set-up. Walk around the table and work from different angles as you go, instead of trying to do it all from one location. I often talk about how to set up your work area or how to re-position what you are working with as you go for the best vantage point and greatest shot at success. 
  • Work on sorting by color by making each section of dominoes a single color.
If you are interested in purchasing this item or just want more information, click on the image below. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Pie Face

Whipped cream is the best case scenario.

In the box: Thrower, plastic mask, spinner

I cannot imagine a scenario where I would use this in therapy, but since it is so popular right now, and I got it for 99 cents, I figured I could blog about it.  It is just what you would think it is by looking at the box (above). Load whipped cream or a wet sponge onto the hand, turn the cranks, and hope you don't get hit in the face. No strategy, planning, skill etc., just dumb luck. Or lack thereof. Determine the number of rounds you will play before you start and then score each round as I will specify below. Highest scorer is the winner. There is some assembly required for the "thrower" (snapping pieces together), and there is also a spinner that takes simple assembly. 
Back of box.

Set up:
Assemble the game, load the whipped cream onto the hand, put the spinner nearby. Decide how many rounds you will play.

The first player spins the spinner to determine how many times he will have to turn the cranks on the thrower. He then puts his face into the plastic mask and cranks the thrower. This is how he scores:
  • Take full turns matching the number on die and doesn't not get pie-faced. Score double the number on the die. (Score a 3, take 3 turns. Get 6 points)
  • Take partial turns than the number shown on die and doesn't get pie-faced. Score the number of turns you took. Player must decide before he starts cranking how many turns he will turn. (Score a 3, take 2 turns. Get 2 points.)
  • Get pie-faced before you are done cranking. Score no points.
SAFETY FIRST as anything on the hand might get into the eyes.