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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.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Tumble Jumble Pond Life Puzzle

Use 10 four-sided rectangle pieces to create four puzzles.

Work on spatial relations, visual closure, visual discrimination, visual form constancy, figure ground, visual scanning, focus and attention, manual dexterity, in-hand manipulation, leisure and play exploration and participation

In the box: 10 rectangle pieces

Tumble Jumble puzzles are similar to jigsaw puzzles in that you follow a picture on a box, matching patterns and images to complete a scene. They are different in that the puzzle pieces are 4-sided rectangles instead of flat pieces with tabs and blanks. The pieces are very lightweight plastic and have a sticker that wraps around each piece so that there is a different image on each side. Considering this, an OT might rightly stop and exclaim "Think of the opportunities for in-hand manipulation!" LOL Five of the rectangle pieces measure approximately 2 15/16" x 1" x 1", and five measure 1 15/16" x 1" x 1". There are four complete puzzle pictures that are printed on the back of the box. About 1/6 of two of the puzzles are not shown because the puzzle pictures overlap each other, so an additional wee opportunity for visual closure.

The back of the box showing the four puzzles you can make.
The front of the box says "Find the 4 tricky pictures", but I just assembled one and it only took me a few minutes. So they are not those difficult puzzles where the same piece can fit six different ways. However, each picture has some of the same images (koi, frogs, leaves, etc.) so you do have to look closely and reply on the image on the box to complete the puzzle. There is no frame to build in, so the pieces just sit next to each other on whatever flat surface you choose to work on. Tumble Jumble puzzles comes in a few different themes.

Try this:
  • Start with the puzzle with the turtle. It is quite large and there is only one whole turtle in all four pictures, so those pieces should be easier to separate out for a more likely chance for success on the first try.
  • Turn the pieces in-hand as you search for the correct side.
  • Place the pieces all right-side-up and in the correct orientation for an easier assemble.
  • Assemble a puzzle beforehand and place it in the box so that you can take the pieces out and place them all right-side-up.
  • Assemble the puzzle and leave out one piece. Give it to the player in the incorrect orientation and let him finish the puzzle. Then repeat, leaving out two pieces. Then three, then four, etc. until the person is assembling it alone.
If you are interested in purchasing this item or just want more information, click on the image below.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wooden Threading Fruit

My favorite stringing fruit.
Work on bilateral integration, manual dexterity, eye-hand coordination, visual discrimination, sequencing, spatial relations, crossing midline, palmar arch development, focus and attention, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 24 pieces of wooden fruit (bananas, apples, pears, plums, oranges), 4 cords with wooden "needles"

When one of my families asks to borrow a game I am delighted to lend it. It does my heart good to think of them all gathered around the table and enjoying time together. Funny thing, no one has ever asked to borrow this. I'm sure to most folks (including kids!) this may not look very exciting, but I love this set for multiple reasons:
  • The fruit is smooth, solid wood, brightly colored
  • The hole is very large and smooth all the way through (no snagging) 
  • The fruit is a nice size for cupping the hand around and works well with hand-over-hand assist
  • The cord is about 54" long and will hold all the fruit at once if you want 
  • The cord has a 4" wooden "needle" on one end and a 1.75" wooden piece tied onto the other end to keep the fruit from slipping off
  • The cord does not collapse as you are attempting to thread because the needle is so long
  • The needle and hole are big enough for those with poor vision or hand skills to still be successful
  • The stringing involves a multiple step process that coordinates the use of both hands, and then unstringing reverses it 
What can I say, it's an OT thing.



Try this:
  • Place the fruit in a container and ask for a specific piece each time, such as get an apple or get a pear, etc.
  • Ask the individual to turn the fruit in-hand as he looks for the hole.
  • String a sequence of two or three different pieces and repeat.
  • Take the fruit off before putting away to reverse which hand does what.
  • Place the fruit on the table after taking it off the string. Then pick up one piece at a time, cupping it in the hand, and put it in the box.
  • Place the fruit pieces on the dominant side (that holds the needle) so that the individual will have to cross over to pick it up.
  • Start your time together with an activity that requires focus, such as stringing, to set the tone for the session.