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.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Gumball Grab

Includes 4 great tongs that help develop appropriate pencil grip.

Work on manual and finger dexterity, tripod or quadrapod grip, hand separation, tactile awareness, tool use, visual discrimination, eye-hand coordination, visual closure, figure ground, spatial relations, play and leisure exploration and participation, social interaction, following directions

In the box: 4 games mats, 4 tweezer tongs, 40 instruction cards, 40 balls in 5 different colors, a game board

A fun game to address fine motor skills with a theme that kids love. This game includes one of my favorite type of tweezer/tongs for working on developing an appropriate grip for pencil use. The tall gumball machine board is about 14.5 inches tall and sturdy. The balls are placed on the top of the gumball machine (a round plastic barrier is built in to keep balls from rolling away) and the stack of cards can be placed toward the bottom, where the money would go in if it was a real machine. On your turn, pick one card and follow the instructions. Cards are plastic coated and instructions on the cards include
  • Take 1 - any color
  • Take 2 - any colors
  • Lose 1 - any color
  • Lose 2 - any colors
  • Lose 3 - any colors
  • Take 1 - specific color shown
  • Take 2 - specific colors shown
The first one to fill his card with the appropriate colored balls, wins. The tweezers are sturdy plastic and have three prongs, perfect for placing the three fingers of the tripod. The balls are a rubber material and are easy to grasp. They bounce easily and there are exactly enough, no extras, so don't lose any. These balls are the exact same balls (size, color) as the balls in the Tweezer Tongs activity. Fun and very kid friendly! Both were purchased from Lakeshore Learning.

Try this:
  • Get 5 small bowls or a 6 hole cupcake tin. Use the tongs to sort the marbles, one color per bowl or section.
  • Choose a tweezer color. Pick up only the marbles of that color and drop them into a small bowl or cup. Choose another tweezer color and use it to pick up only that color balls.
  • Play against someone and the person to collect all of his colored marbles first, wins.
  • Start with only TAKE cards if trying to learn TAKE and LOSE, while learning a new game, is too much. Add the LOSE cards in later after the person has the hang of the game.
  • Use the tweezers for sorting all kinds of small manipulatives. Try using the tweezers yourself first to make sure they will be appropriate.
  • Cup the hand and drop balls in one at a time while counting. How many can you hold. Put them back into the box by handfuls.
  • Cup both hands while someone else drops them into your hands. Now how many can you hold? Put them away by the handfuls.
CAUTION - The balls are small and could be swallowed if a young child or the wrong person gets ahold of them. Safety first - make sure this game is appropriate for the person you are working with.

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