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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.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Ants in the Pants


Work on finger isolation, grading pressure, manual dexterity, eye-hand coordination, manual and finger dexterity, proprioceptive perception, sequencing, auditory memory, visual discrimination, spatial relations/position in space, social interaction, values, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 1 plastic container, a cardboard insert, 16 ants
Ages 3+, 2-4 players

A fun game that gets kids' attention. The original Ants in the Pants has been around for a long time. I picked up the Sponge Bob version because at one time I worked with quite a few of his fans. Recently I stumbled across Ants in the Can. The versions all play the same and the ants are the same. Each set comes with a different plastic container to shoot the ants into (garbage can illustrated above) and a cardboard insert (the Grouch). You do not have to use the card board insert if you don't want to, as it does block the opening in the top of the container, as you can see above. On the plus side, it makes a nifty backstop if you tend to overshoot. The ants come in four colors - red, blue, green, yellow. To play, line up an ant so that it is pointed toward the container. Push down on the tab at the back of the ant, pull your finger off, and the ant will jump up and fly forward, hopefully into the can. If the game is new, the ants are stiff and they fly fairly easily. After they have been pushed down over and over, the ants lose some of their stiffness. At this point, when you press on them they tend to squish down and don't jump or fly as well.

Try this:
  • Give each player one color and see who can get all four of their ants in first.
  • Mix the ants up and tell the child the color of ant to shoot until they are all in.
  • Use different fingers to shoot the ants. Which one is easiest?
  • Push the can back a bit and practice tossing the ants into the container.
  • Give the individual a verbal sequence of ants to shoot into the can. For instance, red/green/blue. Start with two and add more and more as the individual is able to remember a longer sequence.
  • Put one ant at a time into the individual's hand and ask him to turn it in-hand into the correct orientation to set it down to shoot.

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