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, November 19, 2018

Blokus Junior

Use the game mats to teach this game to beginners.

Work on spatial relations, visual closure, visual discrimination, visualization, manual dexterity, in-hand manipulation, process skills, executive functioning skills, socialization skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: Game board, 48 games pieces, 5 double-sided game mats

I've already blogged about Blokus, so now it's time for Blokus Junior. This game has the same type (but smaller) board, similar pieces and plays the same as Blokus, but has something that the original game does not have - the addition of game mats for single player games designed to teach the game to beginners.  

All the pieces are plastic and the grid on the game board is raised so the pieces don't move around. The board is a 14 X 14 square grid, measures approximately 10" x 10" and has two squares which each have one circle in them. Those are the two starting places for each game. Each player will get 24 pieces of 12 different shapes, each piece made up of smaller squares.

Before playing with an opponent, use the game mats to teach newbies how to play. The game mats are printed front and back, so 10 puzzles altogether that increase in difficulty as you go. Simply choose a mat and gather the green pieces that are show in the bottom left hand corner. These are the pieces you will use to complete the puzzle. Following the Blokus rule of play (each piece played must touch another like-colored piece, but only in the corner(s), play the green pieces so that they connect the green pieces already printed on the mat. No need to set up the board, the games pieces can be laid directly on the game mats. Work through the 10 puzzles and then challenge an opponent.

Play as many pieces as you can.

Set up:
Players choose a color and take those pieces. Place the board between the players.

Each player will place one piece on one of the squares with a circle. Then players take turns putting down one piece at a time, making sure each piece laid touches a like-colored piece on the board, but only at the corner(s). If a player cannot play a piece, he must skip that turn. The game ends when either all the pieces have been played or no player can place another piece. Players now count the squares that make up each piece they have left (that was not played). Player with the fewest squares is the winner.

Try this:
  • Play with the pieces without playing a game to start. Let the player see how they fit on the board and how they touch in the corners.
  • Play a game on one of the game mats as the individual watches. Talk out loud to teach the strategy for playing as you go. Then take the pieces off and let the individual solve.
  • Turn pieces in-hand as you orient for placement.
  • Look at the shapes of the pieces your opponent has left and try to block spaces that he will need.
  • Play you biggest pieces first, they may not be room for them later as the board fills up.
  • Use the game mats as pattern cards and set up the board, without playing a game, for those who could not complete a game. 
 If you are interested in purchasing this game or just want more information, click on the image below.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Animal BINGO

BINGO - An everyday game that covers a lot of skills.

Work on visual discrimination, figure ground, visual closure, eye-hand coordination, fine motor, in-hand manipulation, manual dexterity, executive functioning skills, socialization skills, process skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 32 BINGO game cards, 48 call out cards, 594 card markers

I learned about different types of animals by playing a game called lotto with my grandma when I was very young. I'm not sure what the difference is between lotto and bingo, because this game reminded me of her game. This is an animal-themed bingo game with a combination of domestic, farm and wild animals. The game card is a 4 X 4 grid with no free spot in the middle, and the cards measure 6 3/4" X 8 1/2". The bingo game cards show the animal picture only while the call out cards show the animal picture and the written name.

The call out cards and the markers are on perforated cards and will need to be separated before playing. Adding small prizes for winners is always a treat, but not necessary (we never used them as kids).

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 X, etc.

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 give them to him.

The caller will turn over one card and call it. All players will 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:
  • 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.
  • 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. Then you can vary with different patterns as mentioned below.
  • Place the call out card next to the player's BINGO game card if he needs it to compare to the animals on his card.
  • Ask the player to repeat each animal name as they cover it with the marker.
  • Ask player's to hold several marker pieces in their dominant hand as they play. Ask them to bring the pieces to the fingertips, one at a time, and place on the card as they play. Use a variety of things as markers to practice with different items, such as paper clips, coins or dried beans, etc.
  • Use letters as your patterns. You can play for O (border), X, N, L, C, U and Z.
  • Display a black and white card with the BINGO pattern for each game. You can just make them with a black marker on white paper or draw them on the board.

If you would like to purchase this game or just want more information, go to www.orientaltrading.com.