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, June 30, 2016


Work on spatial relations, visual closure, visualization, manual dexterity, logic, problem solving, frustration tolerance, leisure exploration and participation 
In the box: Plastic game base, 17 wooden animal and food tiles, puzzle book with 60 puzzles, booklet with rules, clues and solutions
I like these kinds of games - one-person logic puzzles that help develop visual perceptual skills, introduce problem solving naturally, have lots of puzzles that increase in difficulty as you go, and that keep kids engaged. I also like them because kids get to see that making errors is part of the process (trial and error) and not a bad thing. The puzzle book is large, spiral bound, easy to read, and has 60 puzzles. The base to this game is hollow, thin plastic, the kind you can bend and that will crack or break. The good thing is that you don't need the base. It is just meant to hold the puzzle book and the tiles, and you can just place them flat on the table and work from there. Now more about the game. The premise behind the game is that you are a zookeeper trying to avoid chaos among the animals. Therefore, as you solve puzzles, no animal can be placed next to a rival, no animal can be placed next to his favorite food, and each piece placed must be adjacent to at least one other piece (sharing a common side). You will be given a puzzle which shows squares and one or more pieces already on the puzzle. To the right of the puzzle will be pictured a column of several more tiles - animals and/or food. Here is a picture of the puzzle #12 and the solution.
Your job is to place the tiles pictured on the right on top of the puzzle squares following the zoo rules. The same rules always apply to all puzzles. There are several that you have to keep in mind, and this may be where some will run into trouble. The initial zoo rules are:
  • A cat cannot be placed adjacent to a mouse.
  • A dog cannot be placed adjacent to a cat.
  • An angry dog cannot be placed beside any other dog.
  • A cat cannot be placed adjacent to a fish.
  • A dog cannot be placed adjacent to a bone.
  • A mouse cannot be placed adjacent to a piece of cheese.
As the puzzles get harder, these additional rules will be added that will block you from placing tiles on specific squares:
  • No food can be placed on top of ants.
  • No animal can be placed on top of the raging bull.
Dogs, cats, mice, ants, fish - these sound more like pets than zoo animals. (Did you ever have an ant farm? LOL) Here is a picture of puzzle #60, the hardest puzzle in the book to give you an idea where it maxes out.
Try this:
  • Work a puzzle with the beginner or as he watches. Problem solve out loud so that he can learn how to apply logic.
  • Write the rules on a white board or paper and keep it near the game for easy reference.
  • Hand the individual a piece that you know there is enough information to place correctly. Start eliminating where it couldn't go and identifying where it could until you have narrowed down the spot.
  • Don't let a mistake be made by a beginner that is not corrected right away. Ask the individual to tell you why that is the wrong spot for that piece, giving a chance to reinforce the rules, and take it off. As the player advances, he will be able to identify his own mistakes. Early on it will just throw off the whole puzzle and discourage if you let the player keep building on an incorrect piece.
  • Place the tiles on the table so that they are not in the correct orientations. Ask the player to turn each piece in-hand to correct as he picks it up.
If you are interested in purchasing this item or just want more information, click on the image below.

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