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.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Chutes and Ladders


Work on figure ground, visual scanning, visual discrimination, spatial relations, manual dexterity, counting squares and moving around a game board, coordinated use of both hands, thumb opposition, counting to 100, following directions, crossing midline, social skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 1 game board, 4 pawns, 1 spinner
Ages 3+, 2-4 players

Chutes and Ladders is a popular game with kids that has withstood the test of time. There are several reasons why I am careful about who I use this game with in therapy. First, the game board is very busy with colorful graphics, numbers, and overlapping images. The boxes can be numbered in any corner, depending on where the graphics are placed. It may be easy for some to get lost and not understand or remember where to go or what to do. Next, it can be difficult for some to see which box the chutes and/or ladders originate or end on. In addition, to advance from the bottom to the top you must move right, up, left, up, right, up, etc. That is not how the typical game board with a rounded path works and can be very confusing to some. The boxes are numbered, but not all can count to 100 or understand the concept of advancing numbers. With that said, many kids like the game and it can be an opportunity to practice spatial directions, such as slide down, climb up, and the constant weaving from right to left as you change levels. To set up the game, place the game board on the table and each player chooses a pawn and places it next to the box that is numbered 1 (bottom left corner).

The rules are simple. In turn, each player will spin the spinner and advance that many spaces on the board. The first to reach the top left corner box numbered 100 is the winner. As you play, if you land on a square at the base of a ladder, you may climb the ladder, advancing from one to six levels in one turn. However, if you land on a square at the top of a slide, you must slide down, losing one to six levels in one turn. The spinner is easy to hold and spin and has the raised piece on the back of the arrow, an easier target to hit for some. There are six spaces on the spinner numbered 1-6. This game comes in many themes and I own several versions, including Dora and Super Heroes Squad.

Try this:
  • Hold the spinner in one hand while spinning with the other.
  • Practice flicking the finger, aiming sometimes for the higher spot on the back and sometimes for the flatter part at the front of the arrow. Model for the individual and let him practice.
  • Examine the board with the child before playing. Show him what to do when encountering a chute or ladder and explain the back and forth advancement on the board.
  • Ask the child to scan the board with his eyes, from box 1 to 100. Count aloud or use your finger to trace the advancement.
  • Try flicking the spinner with different fingers to thumb.
  • Make sure the child sits in one position as he is crossing midline and does not lean to the side as he goes.
  • Practice using the chutes and ladders before playing. Give the number of a box at the top of a chute of bottom of a ladder and ask the individual to place his pawn there (or place it for him). Ask him what he should do now. Check to see that he arrives in the correct box after he climbs or slides.
If you are interested in purchasing this game or just want more information, click on the image below.

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