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, March 9, 2015

Rush Hour Railroad

Work on manual dexterity, in-hand manipulation, visual discrimination, visual closure, figure ground, spatial relations, critical and analytical thinking, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 1 traffic grid, 1 red train engine, 19 assorted train cars, 50 challenge cards, carrying bag
Ages 8+

It's looks like an impossible task to move the red engine from one side of the grid, through a traffic jam of train cars, to the opposite side of the grid. But it can be done! A popular game for working on visual perceptual skills, Railroad Rush Hour has all the fun of the classic traffic jam Rush Hour puzzle game, but it's made for train enthusiasts. To set up, choose a challenge card and place your train cars on the grid according to the picture. Now move the vehicles top to bottom, bottom to top, left to right, and right to left to clear a path for the red engine to drive off the grid. Pieces must stay on the path they are on when the game is set up, no lifting pieces off the grid and placing them somewhere else. The 50 challenge cards come in five levels: beginner, junior, intermediate, advanced, and expert. Puzzles increase in difficulty (more cars, more moves to complete) with each new challenge. The answer to each puzzle is given, step-by-step, on the back of each card.

There are a couple of ways this version differs from the original version. First, there are 2 gates on the top right for the engine to drive through. The puzzle card will tell you whether to open the top gate or the bottom gate. Second, there are also 2X2 square pieces that can move both up and down as well as side to side. An error in setting up the puzzle (placing a train car on the wrong path or in the wrong spaces) may result in an unworkable puzzle. Also available are Rush Hour Safari, Rush Hour Junior, and the original Rush Hour.

Try this:
  • Make a game out of just setting up the trains, following the challenge cards, if the puzzles will be too difficult to complete.
  • Complete the first couple of moves to get the individual started and model how to play.
  • Work backwards. Do all but the last move, then do all but the last two moves, then do all but the last three moves, etc. Allow the individual to complete the puzzle each time, getting more difficult as you go.
  • Complete a challenge as the individual looks on. Talk out loud as you problem solve to help the person learn. Then ask him to complete the same challenge.
  • Ask the question "Who is blocking the exit?" If you can move the car and open the exit, go from there. If you can't move it, then ask who is blocking that car. Keep asking the question until you can move a car and then work from there.
  • Choose a challenge card and have the individual set up the board. Read the answer, step-by-step, from the back and have the individual follow your directions to complete the puzzle. For instance, in the example card above, move the car to the left 2 spaces. Then move the D car up 2 spaces. And on until you complete the puzzle. Good for working on left-right.

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