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.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Sock Game

Work on tactile discrimination, in-hand manipulation, coordinated use of both hands, manual dexterity, haptic memory, executive functioning skills, process skills, socialization skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 2 stockings, game board/spinner, 2 sets of 30 objects, 2 pawns

A feel-and-find game. Like most feel-and-find games, the rules are simple and straightforward: Put your hand in the stocking and try to find an object by feel only.

The stockings seem to be a good quality and they are long, measuring approximately 20" from top to toe and 3" wide. At this point, while the game is new, the stocking easily stretches but still fits snugly around your hand so that you cannot see inside at all.

There are two identical sets of objects. If I had a complaint about this game it would be that I don't think the objects are that interesting or familiar to kids. Objects that will probably be less familiar to kids (at least at the start) include a poker chip, bolt, nut, washer, spring, golf tee, cork, and metal strip. Some of the familiar items include a plastic car, ping pong ball, lego brick, hair band, rubber band, domino, Scrabble tile, pawn, die and button. With that being said, there's nothing to say that you can't assemble your own identical sets of objects. In that case, you would not be able to use the spinner. 

The spinner lists every single object included in the game and, after you spin, will indicate which object you will be searching for. There are also 4 blank spaces on the spinner so that you can add your own items if you want to the mix. However, once you write on the spinner I don't think you will be able to erase it, unless you write very lightly with a pencil. The instructions say that if you don't want to add your own items, when a player lands on a blank space they can choose which item the players will search for. The spinner is printed in English on one side and in french on the other side. The arrow moves freely. There are 11 footprints that run down the left and right sides of the spinner. This is how you will keep score. Advance your pawn from the bottom footprint to the top footprint, one at a time, as you win each round (be the first to find an object). First one to the top (11 footprints = 11 points) wins the game. You can see the spinner size in the second image below.

Be the first player to win 11 points.

Set up:
Add one set of the 13 objects to each sock. Give one sock to each player. Place the spinner between the players. Each player chooses a pawn and put it at the bottom of the footprints, on the circle marked START HERE. Place the die near the spinner.

Players always start their turn by spinning the spinner. The spinner announces that object shown on the spinner and both players put their hand in their sock and start searching. The first player to pull out the correct object wins one point and moves his pawn to the next step up on the side of the spinner. If a player removes the wrong object, he simply puts it back in the sock and keeps looking. If the spinner lands on the hand symbol, players must use their non-dominant hand to search for the object. Spin one more time to find the object you will search for. If the spinner lands on the foot object to search for, the winner will receive two points for that round. Play until someone has 11 points and wins the game.

Other feel-and-find games include Ned's Head, Boa Bella, Monkey Beach and What's in the Cat's Hat?

Try this:
  • Don't bother to buy the game. Find two sets of identical objects around your house and put them into your own pair of knee socks to play.
  • Familiarize yourselves with the objects before playing. Look at, name and feel each object. Can they remember them by feel the next time you play without the review?
  • Start with fewer objects. Play several games and add one more object to the sock for each game.
  • Let the player play alone. Place one set of objects into the sock and then use the other set as visuals. Choose an object, show it to the player and let him feel for it.
  • Assemble three sets of your own objects. Use a set for each sock and one set as a visual to show what to search for.
  • Put your hand in the sock. Pick up an item, feel it, name it, pull it out and see if you're right.
  • Choose a few objects for the group, maybe four or five. Show the player the items and ask them to memorize what is there. Put one less than the items you showed into their sock, but do not tell them which item has been withheld. Ask them to put their hand into the sock, feel what is there, and name the item that is not there.
  • Put all the items into the sock after the player can name them without looking. Let them put their hand in the sock, pick up one item, name it, and pull it out to see if they were right. Can they identify all 30 items correctly?
  • Place all the items in the sock. Ask the player to put their hand in and find something round, something made of metal, something stretchy, something made of wood, etc.
If you are interested in purchasing this game or just want more information, click on the image below.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Get Packing

Pack the items strategically in the suitcase so you can close the lid.

Work on visual discrimination, spatial relations, eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, fine motor, planning, problem solving, logic, executive functioning skills, process skills, socialization skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 4 suitcases, 52 packing pieces, 30 challenge cards, solution booklet

Imagine that you're in a competition and the grand prize is a dream vacation to one of 30 different exotic destinations. Of course, before you can take off you'll have to pack a few things, and this is where Get Packing gets fun. The first person to successfully pack their suitcase and shut the lid is the winner! Good luck, I know you could use the break :)

This is definitely a one-of-a-kind game. Included are 4 plastic suitcases and 52 plastic pieces for packing. The suitcases are shallow and the pieces must fit in exactly for the lid to close. Not for those who frustrate easily as you may end up putting in and taking out the same pieces several times as you try different ways to pack. Each challenge will have 2 layers of items in the suitcase.

There are 13 different items to pack and four of each (up to four can play). The 13 items are bug spray, pool float, swimsuit bottom, teddy bear, flipper and snorkel, driving mask, sunscreen, sun hat, swim trunks, flip-flops, t-shirt, sunglasses. Many of the pieces have a shape that has been filled in at the bottom to make pieces more difficult/exact to fit. Here is an example:

There are 30 round challenge cards and a solution booklet. Each card will show either seven, eight, or nine items to pack. The instructions offer two different variations: 1) Even the playing field between kids and adults by requiring the adult to play with their non-dominant hand, and 2) Set a timer for 30 seconds and try to pack the suitcase before time runs out. One side of the card will name a destination, and using this destination is how you will look up the solution if you need it.

This game was quite challenging for me, as spatial things sometimes are. Maybe after playing a few times and I get an idea of which pieces fit best together this will get easier. A help while you are initially learning this game is that you can tell the players which pieces go on each layer, since each puzzle has two layers of pieces. Building your layers on the tabletop first may be easier too, instead of picking them out of the case each time somethings doesn't fit. 

Let's get packing! 

Be the first to pack your bag and close the lid to win a challenge card. Win three challenge cards to win the game.

Set up:
Give each person an empty suitcase. Give each person one set of items (one each of 13 different items). Mix the solution cards and place them face-down in the middle of the players. Turn the first card face-up. Each player finds the pieces shown on the card and places them by their suitcase.

On go, all players play at once. Work to get all your pieces into the suitcase so that the lid closes flat. Be quick, as the first one done will win the card.

Try this:
  • Use the solution book and everyone pack one or two suitcases before playing the game to see how the pieces fit together in the bag.
  • Skip the game, just play with the suitcases and packing pieces. Pack one challenge card at a time and eliminate the need for speed.
  • Use the solution booklet for a faster game. Put all pieces into the suitcase but one. Let the individual place the last piece. Do another puzzle and place all pieces but two and let the individual figure out how to pack the last two. Then three, etc., until the individual is packing them all independently.
  • Pack a suitcase and problem solve aloud as the individual looks on so they can learn the process and how to think about it. Say things like "this piece won't fit here because" or "I need to look for a small piece to fit into this small space".
  • Pack a suitcase while the individual plays next to you. Let them copy your work while they learn.
  • Pack a suitcase. Place it near the player and ask them to pack a suitcase just like it.
  • Place the pieces on the table upside-down and ask the player to pick up one of each piece that he will need, turning them in-hand and placing them next to his suitcase right-side-up before starting.
If you are interested in purchasing this item or just want more information, click on the image below.