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, February 11, 2016

Angry Birds on Thin Ice, Knock on Wood, Happy Holidays, Space

Work on manual dexterity, coordinated use of both hands, finger isolation, balance, grasp and release, tool use, eye-hand coordination, motor planning, visual discrimination, visual closure, spatial relations/position in space, visual tracking, proprioceptive and vestibular perception, executive functions, social interaction skills, process skills, play and leisure exploration and participation  
In the box: Varies per box but each includes plastic pieces to build structures of varying lengths/heights, pull-back launcher, plastic pigs, plastic Angry birds, mission cards, point cards
Build a structure from a mission (pattern) card and balance pigs on top. Then try to knock them off by launching Angry Birds their way. Inevitably you typically also knock down much of the structure. Most kids like this part. I've lumped these all together because they are basically the same game with different themes. This is one of those games where I don't use all the cards or follow their rules. I am most interested in the pattern cards. Each game includes pattern cards which each show one model to build. They are numbered 100, 200, and 300, and increase in difficulty as the number goes up. It will take a steady hand to stack the pieces and place the pigs on top, as the structures are easy to knock over if you bump them. Here are card examples of the different levels of difficulty:

At the bottom of each card is pictured one or more Angry Birds. These pictures indicate the number and type of birds that you are allowed to launch at the structure to knock it over. There are typically three different birds included with each game. If the card shows two yellow birds at the bottom, you will shoot it once, fetch it, and then shoot it again. If you succeed, you get a point card that equals the number at the top of the card. I don't bother with these, as I am most interested in building the structure per the pattern card. Each game includes hard plastic building blocks of different lengths and then something unique to that game. For instance, the Space game has a hollow odd-shaped boulder (meteor) that you snap together, Knock on Wood has a gold bird egg, On Thin Ice has an exploding TNT box that you have to push together to assemble. Happy Holidays and On Thin Ice both have "ice girders", two-piece blocks that have to be snapped together before stacking. None of the pieces snap together real tight as they have to be able to fall apart when they are hit. The pigs are hard plastic, the Angry Birds are soft plastic, and the launchers have held up surprisingly well.
To play, choose a card and build the model. Set up your launcher, load your bird onto it, hold it down with one hand and pull down on the slingshot with the other hand. Finally pull your finger off the slingshot to make the bird go flying. The launcher is easy to pull down.
Keep launching birds until you have used up the birds allowed or you knock off all the pigs. If you're playing by the rules and you succeed, take a score card that matches the number on top of the mission (pattern) card. First player to earn 1,000 points wins. There is also a level 4 mission card that shows you specific pieces and you build your own freestyle structure using those pieces.
Try this:
  • Stack the deck of pattern cards beforehand so that the cards come up in the order of difficulty that you want.
  • Place the first piece or two if the individual has difficulty figuring out where to start. Or give verbal instructions such as let's start right here (pointing), or let's start with the tallest part(s) first.
  • Cover part of the card, showing only a portion at a time, if the individual cannot look at the whole structure at once while building. Work your way up to revealing more and more.
  • Create the structure further and further back as the individual gets better at knocking it over.
  • Allow the player to shoot all the birds they need to knock all the pigs off. Count the number of birds. Can they do it with less next time?
  • Practice moving the launcher around before aiming and shooting.
  • Practice shooting pigs before launching at a structure. They can really fly and you will have to grade how far down you pull the slingshot so you don't overshoot.
  • Follow the bird with your eyes as it travels through space.
  • Practice balancing the pigs on top of single pieces of varying lengths that are standing on end, before you build. Get the feeling of using a light touch so that you won't topple structures over and over just learning this part.
  • Demonstrate to show how far the bird will travel if you push the launcher all the way down as opposed to pushing it only part way.
  • Ask the player to determine if they pushed the launcher down too far or not far enough after missed efforts. Then ask him to adjust and try again.
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