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.

Monday, January 11, 2016


Work on visual discrimination, figure ground, spatial relations/position in space, eye-hand coordination, visual scanning, visual closure, manual dexterity, fine motor precision, sequencing, executive functioning, values, social interaction, play exploration and participation 
In the box: 84 gems, 7 power gems, 70 scoring coins, bag, game tray
Bejeweled is a tabletop game that was designed after a popular digital game by the same name. Kids today may prefer the digital app, but as an OT I like playing the 3D version, considering all the pieces involved. There are two different types of plastic gems, regular and power, that are set up on a plastic grid/tray. The power gems look the same as the regular gems with the exception that they have glitter in them. To set up the game, randomly fill the tray with the regular gems. The grid is 8 X 8, so it will take 64 of the gems, sitting side-by-side. Make sure that you don't place three of any one color in a row horizontally or vertically. Place the remaining 10 regular gems and the 7 power gems in the bag. Taking turns, each play will swap two gems that are sitting side-by-side (horizontally or vertically) on the tray. The goal is to make a row or column of three or more gems of the same color. If you do, take those gems off the tray. If you match three of one color you will collect 1 scoring chip of that color. If you match four of one color you will collect 2 scoring chips of that color. If you match five or more gems of one color you will collect 3 scoring chips of that color. You also collect one chip for each power gem you remove. Once you have removed the gems from the grid, push the gems forward to fill in the gap. Refill the tray with gems from the bag, then put the gems you took off the tray back into the bag. Your turn is over and the next person plays. Once a player has accumulated three different colored sets of three scoring chips, he wins.  

Try this:
  • Skip the game, just line up the gems on the tray by color to practice sorting by color.
  • Randomly fill the tray. Call out colors and ask the individual to pick up any gem of that color and hold it in his cupped, non-dominant hand. See how many pieces can be held without dropping.
  • Set up the game by picking up two or three gems in the hand. Bring them to the fingertips one at a time and rotate and place without dropping any.
  • Make a pattern card by drawing an 8 X 8 grid of squares and coloring in the squares to match the colors in the game. Prop the pattern card in front of the person (or lay it off to the side of the tray) and ask the individual to recreate this pattern on the tray using the gems. Leave some of the spaces empty for a more difficult game.
If you are interested in purchasing this game or just want more information, click on the image below.

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