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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, January 31, 2016

Melissa & Doug Pattern Blocks and Boards


Work on manual dexterity, in-hand manipulation, palmar arch strength/stability, coordinated use of both hands, motor planning, body awareness, tactile perception, visual discrimination, visual memory, visual closure, visual form constancy, spatial relations, figure ground, eye-hand coordination, attention, recognition of shapes and shape names, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 5 wooden boards (10 designs), 120 wooden pieces
Ages 3+

There are a lot of pattern block activities out there and Melissa & Doug have more than a few. If you have read my blog much, you will already know my pet peeve for many of their products - PACKAGING. This products has multiple pieces and no lid. Once you open the shrink wrap, it is up to you to figure out how to store them. The pieces to this kit are all wooden and the shapes and colors match the size/shape/color format that you see with a lot of these types of activities. Melissa & Doug products are usually well constructed, brightly painted, with kid-oriented themes. Other Melissa & Doug pattern blocks kits I have blogged about include the magnetic set and the beginners set. The boards are smooth and the pieces are smooth, making it easy for pieces to slide if bumped, so work on a flat surface. The boards measure approximately 7 5/8" x 6 1/4". Geometric shapes are fun to use for working on spatial relations as pieces need to be turned and placed in specific orientations. Patterns include a flower, rabbit, bird, geometric design, train, butterfly, fish, snail, dog, ship. Pieces needed per picture range anywhere from 10-18. But seriously, I just don't get the thinking that goes behind selling toys with 125 pieces and no lid.  

Try this:
  • Play with the pieces before using the boards and point out the differences in size, shape, color, etc.
  • Put the first piece in place in front of the individual if he cannot look at the picture and figure out where to start. Or say something like "let's start with the ears".
  • Build on top of the board. Once this is mastered, build next to the board. Then prop the board up in front of the individual and build by looking up at the board.
  • Orient and place a piece if the individual is having trouble with orientation. Then pick it up, hand it to the individual, and invite him to place it.
  • Hand the individual a piece he will need and ask him to turn it in-hand for the correct placement.
  • Use consistent directional and positional language such as above, to the left of, under, flush, etc.
  • Find all piece for the picture ahead of time. Place only those pieces (or even fewer) next to the board if you want to focus on one specific skill at a time, such as spatial orientation. This may decrease frustration from working on too many things at once.
  • Practice recognizing shapes from different orientations. Ask the individual to search through all the available pieces to find the ones he needs. Make sure that the pieces are in various positions so that some are facing the wrong direction, some are overlapping, some are upside-down, some are on their sides, etc.
  • Correct errors as soon as they are made as continuing to build on incorrect placement may impact the rest of the model.
  • Teach the individual to recognize and correct errors. After the individual places a piece incorrectly, as "Are you sure?" or say "Try again". If he cannot figure out the error, correct the piece while he watches. Then pick up the piece and hand it to him to place.
  • Give fading prompts as the individual learns to identify errors and correct mistakes on his own.
  • Ask the individual to cup his non-dominant hand. If he has trouble doing this, place a small ball in his hand and ask him to curl and lightly squeeze his fingers around the ball. Then remove the ball and ask him to hold his hand in that position. Place several of the pieces he will need in the cupped hand and keep the hand cupped while he places the pieces on the board.
If you are interested in purchasing this item, or for more information, click on the image below.



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