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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.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Swish Jr.

Work on visualization, spatial relations, figure ground, visual discrimination, visual scanning, visual closure, manual dexterity, coordinated use of two hands, in-hand manipulation, logic, attention, planning, social skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 42 transparent cards, game bag
Ages 5+, 1+ players

Swish Jr. is a precursor to the original Swish game that is popular with many therapists because of its focus on visual perceptual skills. I typically play this game with a single player in the therapy setting.

Object of the game: Make the most Swishes by layering two or three cards together so that the solid shapes fill in the hollow shapes of the same color.

To play: Shuffle the cards and deal 12 cards onto a flat surface in a 3 X 4 configuration (see image above). Place the rest of the deck (draw pile) to the side. All players visually scan the 12 cards to find a swish. Players are not allowed to move the cards and must visualize them as they would look if they are flipped, turned, rotated, and stacked. A players calls "swish" as soon as he spots one and play comes to a stop while the cards are checked. If it is a swish, the player takes the cards and the dealer adds new cards to the grid to replace them and play resumes. If it is not a swish, the cards are put back in the grid and the player who called Swish must return one of the cards he has already collected to the draw pile. Players continue in this fashion until either all the cards have been matched and collected or until there are no more swishes. The player who has collected the most cards wins.

Observations: The cards have only two shapes each. The 12 cards that have a blue arrow in the center (see image above) are the easiest sets to make because no matter how you turn the cards, the center set will fit together. So technically you only have one shape to match on those. There are a total of four shapes depicted on the cards (arrow, circle, flower, leaf) and four colors (purple, blue, orange, green). Cards may need to be rotated, flipped, or turned to line up the matches. Keep the language consistent while teaching and cueing so as not to confuse. Introduce one move at a time until the player can do it. Playing the game on a light, solid color background works best since the cards are transparent. 

Two approaches to teach the game while slowly increasing the difficulty:
  • Give the player a card. Place two cards above it and ask him to find the match to his card. Keep them all in the correct orientations, so no flipping, rotating, etc is necessary. Play again and place three cards to choose from. Slowly add more cards to choose from and more cards to match. Then move to teaching turning. Then rotating. Then flipping.
  • Give the player 2 cards that make a swish. Keep them both face up and ask him to rotate the cards until they match. Then give the player 2 cards that make a swish and flip (top to bottom) one of the cards to make the match and teach him how to flip and match the cards. Then give the player 2 cards that make a swish and teach him to turn one of the cards (front to back) to make the set. Then move to flipping and rotating in the same swish. 
To see the post for the original Swish game, click here.

Try this:
  • Stack the deck ahead of time so that you control the difficulty level and so that the matches come up when you want them to. 
  • Start by allowing the individual to touch, pick up, and move the cards. Just visualizing those moves will be a lot harder.
  • When dealing, hold the cards in the non-dominant hand and push the top card off with the thumb. Or, place the cards in a stack and pick them up one at a time to place without sliding cards off the stack.
  • Increase the difficulty of the game by making the grid larger. Decrease the difficulty by decreasing the number of cards in play.
If you are interested in purchasing this game or just want more information, click on the image below.

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