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 19, 2015

Connect 4 Launchers

 Work on fine motor precision, manual dexterity, pincer grasp, using both hands in a coordinated manner, finger isolation, visual discrimination, visual closure, figure ground, spatial relations, eye hand coordination, visual tracking, executive functions, values, Process skills, social participation and interaction skills, play and leisure exploration and participation
Kids like this game a lot, and so do I. There's just something fun about launching a disc into the air and watching it to see where it lands.  Like the regular Connect 4 game, get four in a row to win. Unlike the regular Connect 4 game, you launch discs, not drop them, and there are two levels to watch. This game also includes markings on several of the discs that add additional challenges if you want to play that way, but I don't in therapy. The launchers are a good quality, not flimsy. Good if you are working on using a stabilizing hand. Pushing the launcher lever all the way down will make the discs really fly. Depending on where your launcher is sitting, this could mean completely over the structure and behind the dog. Pressing down softly will make the discs fly shorter distances. How far you push down on the launcher lever, how close you place the launcher to the structure, and the angle you place the launcher will all be critical to where the disc will land. The launcher is angled up from the bottom, toward the nose. This is so you can tip the launcher forward before shooting so it is easier to hit the bottom level. The two clear plastic trays have "cups" where you see the discs sitting. Up to four discs can land in each "cup". So while you are trying for the fourth in your line to win, someone may come along and land a disc on top of one you already have in place. There are six pieces to the structure, the four blue legs and the two trays. Each corner of the plastic trays pushes into a slotted hole in a blue leg. Easy to assemble and take down. Take turns or everyone play at once to see who can get four in a row first.
 Try this:
  • Start hand-over-hand if necessary.  If kids can't see a pattern or understand the rules, play to see if you can just get the discs onto the grid. I have used this activity with many kids who could not play by the rules, but enjoyed shooting the discs.
  • Demonstrate how pressing the lever all the way down will make the disc fly farther than pressing only part way down. Practice grading. 
  • When clearing the board, put the index finger through a disc stack in one section of the grid and pick up several, opposing to the thumb.
  • Shoot for only the bottom level, then for only the top, to illustrate the difference in grading pressure and positioning the launcher.
  •  Watch for four in a row in only one direction at a time, either horizontal, vertical, or diagonal. Then watch two directions, and work up to three.
  • Start with connect three for an easier game.
  • Try for other combinations, such as a four square, stack four in one cup, or four corners.
  • Use both color discs with one individual and call the color he must launch each time.
  • Place the grid at different distances from the individual to practice grading pressure on the launcher lever.
  • Everyone play as once. Be flexible in looking for new wins as your discs get covered up.
  • Stop the game periodically and ask the player to look over the grid and show you places where he needs only one to win.
  • Ask the player to determine if he pushed the lever down too far or not far enough after missed efforts. Then adjust and try again.
If you are interested in purchasing this game or just want more information, click on the image below to go to Amazon.com.

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