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.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Balloon Animals

Android app for making balloon animals
Work on visual discrimination, spatial relations, position in space, visual closure, eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, strength, in-hand manipulation, fine motor precision, motor planning, coordinated use of both hands, executive functions, play and leisure exploration and participation
Making balloon animals covers a lot of skill areas and I was tickled the day I stumbled onto this app. Step by step directions allow you to stop or replay a step over and over.  You can also slow down or speed up the rate of the movements.  Items are rated from easy to difficult. Important - all balloons and balloon pumps are not created equal. I started with Walmart balloons and pump. The balloons were thin and popped fast or when you tried to twist them, and the pump just plain didn't work.  I use the Qualatex brand (below), whose products are made for this purpose. This activity is popular with all ages, even older youth who may be a little harder to plan for. Great for motor planning.
Here is a fun website that I also use for this activity.  Michael Floyd, the balloon twister, is entertaining and explains each step as he goes.  Check it out. http://balloon-animals.com/  Use it in therapy or just to teach yourself.
WARNING: Check for allergies to latex before introducing this activity. Also, some individuals do not like the feel and/or sound of a twisting or popping balloon.

Try this:
  • Model each move on your balloon and let the individual copy you. I also explain verbally as I go. One step at a time.
  • Practice tying knots on balloons beforehand or be prepared to tie for them. It is hard to manage a long balloon full of air if you are just learning to tie the knot.
  • Have balloons already blown up and tied if that part would add too much frustration for beginners or it is too much to learn in one session.
  • Start with very simple shapes for beginners. Everyone seems to like the sword, or lightsaber as most kids (Star Wars fans) call it and it is the easiest model.

If you are interested in purchasing this app or balloon making supplies, click on the images below to go to Amazon.com.


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