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.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Hot Potato

Work on eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, social interaction skills, coordinated use of both hands, balance, ROM, spatial relations/position in space, visual tracking, sustained attention, play and leisure exploration and participation 

In the package on the left: 1 electronic potato, 13 potato chips
In the package on the right: 1 electronic potato

Hot Potato is a fun, simple musical passing game that can be played by individuals at different skill and age levels. Families with members at different levels of functioning have enjoyed playing this game together. The Hot Potato on the left (above) is made of fabric and can be played indoors or outdoors. It also comes with 13 cardboard potato chips. Squeeze the potato and loud music will start playing (there is no volume control). Throw the potato back and forth between players and the person who is caught holding the hot potato when the music stops is out. Continue playing until only one person is left - the winner. Or you can use the potato chips that come with the game on the left. Each time a person is caught holding the hot potato when the music stops, he gets one potato chip. The first person to get three potato chips loses and is out of the game. The music is the same over and over, but it stops at different time intervals. The Hot Potato on the right is plastic and is meant to be played with in the pool. Once it was in the water for awhile you could no longer hear the music. I have had one other Hot Potato Splash game that was made of some type of nylon and meant to be played in the pool. As soon as that one hit the water the potato was soaked and you couldn't hear the music any longer without holding it up to your ear. A complete waste of money. After you are done playing, the potato will call out "Again, again!" at two different intervals before automatically turning off. Requires 2 AA batteries. There is an opening on the back, which opens and closes with velcro, for you to insert the batteries. The batteries go into a small hard plastic box inside the potato, so be careful how you throw, don't aim for someone's head.

Try this:
  • Establish a pattern for throwing so that everyone has the chance to be involved.
  • Sit in a circle and pass the potato instead of throwing it.
  • Reduce waiting times between throws/catches by limiting the number of people who are playing.
  • Start with players standing in a close circle. Pass the potato around once and then each player takes one step backward. After passing the potato around again, the whole group takes another step backward. Repeat until all players are eliminated but one.
  • Choose an alternative gross motor action for the person caught holding the potato as opposed to kicking them out of the game.
  • Use your own object as a hot potato and ask someone with an iPod or MP3 player to supply and stop the music. Have him turn his back to the group so he won't see who he is stopping the music on.
  • Toss back and forth between two people. Take an occasional step forward or backward to adjust the gap to the just-right challenge.
  • Practice catching in the hands without the aid of catching it against the body.
  • Play passing it behind the back or a round of passing it above the head, etc. 
  • Watch the potato as it is passed around the circle.
  • Pass it by throwing it to someone opposite from you. Call out their name and throw it to them.
If you are interested in purchasing this item or just want more information, click on the image below.

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