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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.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

TracKit - Mary Benbow


Work on visual tracking, sequencing, manual dexterity, bilateral integration, cognitive functioning, coordinated use of both hands, grading movement, balance, shoulder stabilization, motor planning, motor inhibiting, body awareness, visual discrimination, visual sequential memory, figure ground, spatial relations, number recognition, letter recognition, visual form constancy   

In the box: 1 plastic tray, 1 ball bearing slider, 5 round activity sheets (printed both sides - 10 activities total)

My life as a therapist changed after I met Mary Benbow. Well no, I didn't actually meet her in person, I met her through a 12 credit online CEU course called Neurokinesthetic Approach to Hand Function and Handwriting. According to a brochure printed for Columbia University and one of her many CEU courses, "Mary Benbow, MS, OTR, is a recognized expert in the area of neurological functioning in children including learning, social behavior, vision, and fine motor skills." Mary Benbow received the first Award for Outstanding Achievement from AOTA, and The John Hancock Award for her contributions for teaching handwriting in America. But you don't have to just be interested in handwriting to benefit from Ms. Benbow's work. The detailed and practical information I learned from this course impacted my practice in profound ways. TracKit is an activity that Ms. Benbow designed and is a tool that can be used to help develop a myriad of skills, as noted above. To use this activity, choose a paper activity sheet and place it into the tray. Place the ball bearing slider on top of the sheet. Ms. Benbow recommends standing, feet apart as wide as the shoulders, and holding the tray in two hands. Tip it so that the ball bearing slider moves from one target on the sheet to the next. For instance, place the activity sheet with the lower case alphabet in the tray. Starting with the letter "a", tip the tray so that the slider moves from letter to letter, in order from "a" to "z". Scan the sheet before tipping the tray to find each new letter. To practice controlled movement, don't let the slider hit the side of the tray. This is difficult and may take different types of movements to achieve, such as gently shaking the tray as well as tipping. The activity sheets include:
  • Lower case alphabet printed in red.
  • Upper case alphabet printed in black.
  • Objects printed in green (bunny, arrow, bee, lighthouse, tent, apple, scissors, etc.)
  • Number one to 10 in pool ball format (see purple sheet in above image).
  • Numbers 1-25 printed in red.
  • Numbers 5-100 by 5's printed in green.
  • Numbers 2-50 by 2's printed in green.
  • A painter's pallet. There are eight paint smudges with one colored in with black. You can color the others in with your own markers.
  • A bull's eye with three rings. The outer ring has fingers that point in the direction you should move the slider (clockwise). The second circle has arrows point in a counterclockwise pattern for moving the slider. The very inside ring has a picture of a bull. Printed in blue.
  • Upper case cursive printed in purple.
I was surprised and tickled to find a handout from a Clinician's View (where I took the course) CEU course online. It is a 27 page abbreviated version of what I got when I took her course and certainly worth a look if you are at all curious about her work or looking for activity ideas.  Neurokinestheitc Approach to Hand Function and Handwriting by Mary Benbow. The handout I received with the course has 91 pages and has a 2-page Developmental Hand Skill Observations: The Primary Child section that I use as part of every assessment I perform. 

Try this:
  • Make a copy of the sheet with the objects. Cut them out and paste one, two, or three on an index card. Show the card, ask the individual to remember the object or sequence of objects, and turn the card over. Ask the individual to move the slider to the object or through the sequence of objects from memory.
  • Buy a package of character or holiday stickers with at least two of each sticker. Cut a large circle out of white paper to fit the tray (will need  11" X 17" paper). Place stickers randomly on the circle and place it in the tray. Place the duplicate stickers onto index cards. Show the individual an index sticker card and ask him to move the slider to it on the tray. Use with any holiday stickers or stickers of favorite cartoon characters, animals, etc.
  • Cut a large circle out of white paper to fit the tray (will need 11" X 17" paper). Write words, such as sight words, on the paper. Call out one word at a time and ask the individual to move the slider to the word.
  • Spell words. Verbally give the individual a word to spell out, landing on each letter in sequence.
  • Cut a scrapbooking sheet (like found at Michael's) into a circle to fit the tray and have the individual move the slider to different pictures or words. I have one I use that has community/traffic signs. Lots of variations here and sometimes the sheets sell for only 25 cents each.
  • Use from a seated position if the individual does not have the balance to stand. Keep the elbows and arms up off the table to reduce outside supports. 
If you are interested in purchasing this activity, or just want more information, click on the image below.
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