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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.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Hoppin Poppin Spaceballs


Work on finger isolation, visual discrimination, grading pressure, motor planning, coordinated use of both hands, visual closure, focus and attention, play exploration and participation

In the box: 1 piece hopper as seen above
Ages 3+, 2-4 players

This is an oldie, you may only find it on eBay or at a garage sale. The object of the game is to be the first person to collect all four marbles of your color. To begin, set the unit on the table where all players can reach it. The marbles are contained in the unit and, from what I can tell, cannot be taken out unless you break open the unit. There are six marbles each of four colors - pink, yellow, blue, green. There are four tabs that stick out for each color and four round holes inside the machine, one in front of each tab. Pushing down on the tab will kick the marble out of the hole in front of it. To start the balls popping, hold the unit down with one hand and pull up on the yellow knob at the top. The marbles will start jumping and flying up into the round holes in front of the tabs. You have no control over what color marble lands where. You want to fill all the holes in front of your tabs with the same color, so whenever a marble of the wrong color lands in ones of the holes, push down on the tab to launch the ball back into the spinning mix. I thought this toy would be good for isolating the index finger and pushing down, but there turned out to be a little more to it. Just pushing down will not launch the marble out. You have to push your finger down fast, with a little force, and then pull it off the end quickly to kick the marble out. To stop the machine, push down on the yellow knob at the top. The balls just keep popping until the machine is turned off. And yes, plastic marbles bouncing on plastic will make noise that you can't control.

Try this:
  • Play alone. Get all of one color in, then turn the machine and work on the second color. Repeat until all four colors are in.

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