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, May 22, 2017

Disney Alphabet Spot It!

Disney version SPOT IT! games include alphabet, shapes, and numbers.

Work on figure ground, focus and attention, visual discrimination, visual form constancy, in-hand manipulation, coordinated use of both hands, shuffling and dealing cards, manual dexterity, spatial relations, visual scanning, social interaction skills, number/shape/alphabet recognition, process skills, executive functions, play exploration and participation

In the tin: 31 or 55 cards

If you have read my blog at all, you probably know that Spot It! is one of my favorite card games, for many reasons. However, I am not nearly as fond of the Disney Spot It! games as the other versions that I have blogged about. The Disney line features alphabet, shapes, and numbers, and each game is also specific to a Disney movie and features characters and objects linked to that movie. This seems kind of like a DUH remark, but you probably won't do well against a kid who has seen the movie if you haven't seen the movie. I did not think of that before I bought the Frozen version. Yes, every Spot IT! game has a list of all the pictures on the cards and the names of each item. However, you may turn up a card that includes three characters (for example Anna, Olaf, Elsa) and while you are scrambling to look up a name the other player has already played past you. DUH. Two other main reasons I don't care for the Disney line is that 1) these cards are smaller in diameter and therefore some of the characters end up being quite small and 2) there are typically fewer cards to a game - 31 instead of 55. I suppose both of those factors may go to the fact that these games, which include letters of the alphabet, shapes and numbers, are geared toward younger kids. OK, I realize I am sounding real picky right now because I am writing this from a therapist's point of view and most people who buy these games buy them because they ARE familiar with the characters and probably aren't even considering the other factors. So to go to the positive side, here are some of the reasons I like Spot IT! games:
  • Everyone plays on every turn, no down time.
  • People of all ages and skill levels can play together - a good family game.
  • You can address a lot of different skills at the same time.
  • A game is quick.
  • Most have enjoyed it.
Each Spot It! card has six images on it (junior versions). The images may differ in size and/or orientation, but never in color. Between any two cards there is one, and only one, match. Be the first to spot your match. There are several ways to play:
  • Twins - Place the deck of cards face-down on the table. Turn two cards face-up at the same time. The first player to spot the match gets the cards. Keep going until the deck is gone and the one with the most cards, wins.
  • The Tower - Give each player one card face-up. Place the rest of the deck, face-up,  in the middle of the players. All players look for the match between their card and the top card on the deck. The one who finds it first takes the card and puts it on his pile. Players keep going until the last card from the deck has been taken. Person with the most cards, wins.
  • The Well - Place one card cafĂ©-up in the middle of the table. Deal the rest of the cards evenly between the players. Players place these cards in a pile, face-up in front of them. All players quickly look for the one match between their top card and the card on the table. Whoever finds it first, places his card on the card on the table. Play continues until someone has run out of cards and wins the game.
Try this:
  • Start by showing the individual each image in the instruction guide and make sure that he recognizes or learns what to call each item. It would be an unfair disadvantage if he found the match but didn't know what it was so couldn't call it.
  • Play with non-verbal individuals and point to the match on one of the cards instead of calling it out.
  • Start by making it a simple matching game to teach the object to beginners. Put two cards side by side on the table and point out the match. If the individual has trouble, turn the cards so the items are in close proximity to each other. Go through the deck this way.
  • Ask the person to hold the stack in the non-dominant hand throughout the game. Push each card off the top with the thumb.
  • Lay several cards in front of you on the table and call out an object on the cards. Count how many times that object appears on those cards.
  • Take turns finding matches if playing for speed is not desired.
  • Stack the pile of cards in front of each player. Lift each top card off the pile without tipping the pile over or sliding unwanted cards off.
    If you are interested in purchasing this item or just want more information, click on the image below.


    Sunday, May 21, 2017

    Alphabet Alligators

    Alphabet Alligators - There's less than meets the eye.
    Work on visual discrimination, visual form constancy, spatial relations, figure ground, eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, coordinated use of both hands executive function, figure ground, play ad leisure exploration and participation

    In the bucket: 13 two-piece alligators

    I am big on reading, and recommending that others read, descriptions and reviews before buying. Therefore I was surprised when this arrived with only 13 alligators and a big, clear plastic cone inside the bucket to take up room so the bucket would look full. I expected 26 two-piece alligators, one for each letter of the alphabet. After returning to Amazon to check the description I see that yes, they made it very clear there are only 13 two-piece alligators, each with a capital and small letter on one side, and a different capital and small letter on the other side. The front and back of the alligators push together easily and pull apart easily (will not require much hand strength), but not so easily that they will just fall apart. However, the description on Amazon also says that this is a self-checking activity, which it is not. If an activity is self-checking, there is one, and only one way that two pieces will fit together - the correct way. In fact there are three complete green alligators, three blue, three red, two orange, and two purple. So there are many opportunities to get it wrong and not know it. In addition, if an individual is supposed to be working on matching the alligators by letter, but is actually matching them by color, they will probably get some randomly correct while you are thinking they are learning letters. A complete alligator measures approximately 5"L x 1.5"H.

    Try this:
    • Start by giving only the pieces that make correct matches so that individuals don't learn them incorrectly.
    • Place one front of each color on the table. Present one of the backs at a time and ask the individual to match the color. If this is too challenging, reduce the number of pieces to choose from.
    • Place all fronts of one color on the table. Give the back of one of them and ask the individual to find the matching letter.
    • Use as a two-handed activity and allow the individual to push any two pieces, front and back, together. Then take them apart as you put them back into the bucket.
    • Place all the pieces in a pile and assemble the alligators by letter. Play with more than one person and race or take turns matching alligators.
    • Place the pieces in the pile in different orientations so that some of the letters are upside-down or laying sideways.
    If you are interested in purchasing this item or just want more information, click on the image below.