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.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

My Plate Builder


Get a taste of good nutrition as you build a healthy place.

Work on meal planning life skills, food related facts

In the box: 200 cards, instruction/answer sheet
Grades 2-3

The new MyPlate plan and icon were released in 2011 in conjunction with Michelle Obama's mission to raise a healthier generation of kids. I think the new icon is a great visual and I like it much better than the old pyramid model. The box contains 200 cards in the following categories:
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Proteins
  • Grains/Dairy
  • Physical Fitness
  • Physical Challenge
I expected something more for beginners, a place to start teaching about the government's nutrition model, My Plate. But that is not what it turned out to be. The plate is cut into fourths (vegetables, fruits, proteins, grains/dairy) and each of the four sections have their own stack of cards. On the front of each card is pictured that portion of the plate so that you can complete a plate like a simple puzzle as you follow the directions or correctly answer the questions on the back.

I am seeing two ways to look at this (there are probably many more). You can either teach by question and answer format, or the individual already needs to know some basic nutritional information.  I am using this game with high school students who many have already had a fair amount of academic failure, so I don't really want to set them up with more by asking them to answer questions they don't know the answers to. Here is a sampling of the questions on the back:
  • Choose the vegetable that is highest in beta carotene, which can be good for your eyes (lists four to choose from).
  • True or false? Eating too many cranberries can cause bladder infections.
  • Name the protein foods you have eaten today.
  • True or false? A small hamburger patty equals 1 ounce of protein (the answer is false, but they did say small, right?).  
  • You need 4 ounces of protein per day. About 7 walnut halves equal 1 ounce. How many walnut halves should you eat to get half of your protein for the day?
The questions are numbered and all the answers are on the instruction sheet.

There are also physical fitness and physical challenge categories as this is also a part of Obama's overall health program. You could either add these two to the plate activities, or do them separate. Here is a sampling of what those cards include:
  • Walk slowly backwards across the room as you spell "asparagus".
  • True or false? Kids need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day, at least five days a week, to stay strong and healthy.
  • Exercises that make you breathe harder and your heart beat faster for a period of time are called a) stretches, b) aerobic 3) muscle strengthening d) bone strengthening.
  • Touch your toes, then reach for the sky. Repeat five times.
Yes, OK, I admit I should have checked this out further before buying it. I am working on cooking and meal planning with several kids right now and I saw this and thought it would help. There was only one review on Amazon at the time, but it wasn't that enlightening. I always look for reviews before I buy, maybe that is why I think a blog like this can be interesting and helpful. : ) Anyway, I will think of ways to use this and will probably come back and add more ideas later as I go. www.ChooseMyPlate.gov has lots of activities and information if you want to check it out.

UPDATE: Here is a plate that I recently picked up. It is not exactly set up as the "official" Choose My Plate image, as the cup is in the middle, but it could be a place to start introducing the concept to young children.

Try this:
  • Use the information on the back of each card to teach from and then come back to using it as a game and checking what has been retained. It will be like teaching random bits of trivia.
  • Save the physical cards for a day when you are talking about overall health if you want to concentrate on nutrition only.
  • Line up the four nutrition cards on the table. Look through magazines and cut out pictures of food and stack them next to the appropriate card.  Dairy and grain are together on the same card. Good luck.
  • Line up the four nutrition cards in front of four small baskets. use any plastic kids food that you have and let the individual sort it into the four baskets based on category.
For more information, click on the image below.

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