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, November 6, 2016

Mini Muffin Match Up

Work on visual discrimination, figure ground, spatial orientation/position in space, visual memory, eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, palmar arch development, tool use, separating the two side of the hand, coordinated use of both hands, shoulder stability, motor planning, sequencing, color recognition, simple counting, executive functioning skills, process skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: One muffin tin with six cup spaces, 2 dice, 12 sorting discs, squeezy tweezers, 60 mini muffin counters (12 of each color), activity guide with 6 games

A muffin-themed sorting game from Learning Resources. Occupational therapists have long used muffin tins for sorting purposes so I wasn't surprised to find this toy muffin tin with mini muffins. First, the "tin", muffins and tweezers are all plastic. The tin and muffins are hard, solid plastic, but I was surprised to find that the tweezers are made from a much lighter plastic. It has me wondering how long they will last and if after extended use they will stay open. The tweezers can be used with two or three fingers. The dice are the biggest dice I have ever seen and made of some type of foam that feels as light as air. Too big to really shake in the palm, but big enough to have to cup the palm to hold (see image below). The dice I got do not match the picture from Learning Resources (above). I got one number die and one color die, not two number dice. My number die is completely white except for a number on each side (1-6). The color die has a different color on each side and the color blocks are circles, not squares. I bought my set through Amazon, so am not sure if I got an older version or if they just got the picture wrong, which happens.

The goal is to use the tweezers to sort out the muffins into the tin, either by color, number or both. If you don't want to use the dice, there are also round sorting discs included that can be placed into the cups before the game begins. You can barely see one in the muffin cup above that has no muffins. The discs are printed on both sides and there is one for each color, one each for numbers 0-10, and six that have a colored muffin and a number. For instance the number 8 and a purple muffin meaning sort out 8 purple muffins into that cup. Once you have put two or three muffins on top of the disc and cover up the number, it can turn into a memory game. The way to avoid that is to sort only one cup at a time, before you forget the number, or place the disc outside, next to the tin.

UPDATE: Sometimes the tongs can slip in your hand and turn sideways. The plastic handles are thinner than other similar tongs and the plastic is smooth. We ended up wrapping a wide rubber band around each handle where the fingers go and it worked to keep the fingers from sliding. 

Try this:
  • Sort the muffins into the tin, then throw the dice and play another game for taking them out. The tweezers can be used when taking the muffins out because the muffin does not have to be completely in the cup to pick it up.
  • Place the muffins randomly in the tin. Call a color and have the individual take out a muffin of that color without moving the tray to achieve easier access. Practice moving the hand and arm in different orientations to grab the muffins.
  • Put one die in each hand and throw them simultaneously. Shake or roll the dice for a few seconds while the hands are in the cupped position, if the hand is big enough.
  • Skip the tin and play a sequencing game. Begin a sequence by lining up a few muffins, such as in an AB or AAB configuration. Ask the individual to complete the pattern using the rest of those colored muffins. Name the colors out loud as you put them in place.
  • Dump the muffins on the table. Sort them by color by choosing a color, cupping the non-dominant hand and placing one color at a time in the palm. Count out loud as you go. How many can you hold without dropping any? Place them into a cup on the tin and keep going until all are sorted out. Now reverse and cup the dominant hand to hold the next color. Repeat until all are sorted out.
  • Dump the muffins on the table to sort by color. Choose a color and pick the muffins up in the dominant hand, one at a time, and squirrel each one into the palm. How many can you hold this way without dropping? Place them into a cup on the tin and keep going until all of that color are sorted out. Use the non-dominant hand to pick up the next color. Go back and forth until they are all sorted.
  • Skip the tin and place one of the sorting discs in front of the individual. Ask them to retrieve the muffins that will match the disc, picking up 2 or 3 and squirreling them into the hand. Then bring them to the finger tips, one at a time, and orient for placement as you stand them upright on the table. 
  • Mix the muffins and put them into a bowl so that many are overlapping, buried and crowded. Ask the individual to pick them out by color and squirrel them into the palm. Push them around as you locate and pick up others without dropping any. Sort them into the tin by colors.
If you are interested in purchasing this game or just want more information, click on the image below.

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