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.

Friday, December 23, 2016

LEGO Build Up

24 small models. A great place to start beginners.

Work on visual discrimination, visual closure, visual form constancy, spatial relations/position in space, visual memory, figure ground, eye-hand coordination, in-hand manipulation, manual dexterity, precise fine motor control, hand arch development, separation of sides of hand, using two hands together, finger strength, executive functioning skills, following directions, sequencing, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 250 LEGO pieces, 2 pattern booklets

If you've followed my blog much at all then you probably already know how much I LOVE LEGOs. I wrote a post called Building With Construction Toys which compares the different types of construction toys on the market that I have tried and why LEGOs come out on top for me. This set came out around Christmas and has 24 small LEGO models, which is a great place to start with beginners. The step-by-step booklets typically show one to three pieces per step. Each model can be completely put together during a therapy session for most (often in 10-20 minutes) and they don't have enough pieces for most to get frustrated before finishing. Although there are 24 models, this is not an advent calendar, meaning that there are not enough pieces for them to all be put together at the same time. You will have to break them down to build others. Here are a few of the models and their piece count - reindeer (31), raccoon (25), train (27), penguin (24), candy cane (12), snowplow (26), airplane (15), ship (19). I was rather disappointed that there were not more Christmas themed models in the box, but now that Christmas is past, I am pleased to realize that that means I can keep working with the set throughout the year. Here are the 24 models included:

They are not in the booklet in any kind of order for difficulty or number of pieces, and there is nothing in the box that shows all of the models together, like they are above. I made cards with the individual characters on them, or you could print this picture and stick it in the box if you want to let kids choose what they will make. At least 17 of these models aren't directly related to Christmas, other than maybe being toys that might be found under a Christmas tree. Girls and boys alike have loved this set and I am so happy I stumbled onto it.

Below are the first and last pages from the instruction book for the reindeer.


Try this with any LEGO set:
      • Give a few minutes to look over the pieces at the beginning so that the person can examine the different shapes and how they snap together.
      • Set the piece(s) for each step in front of the beginner until he has gotten used to identifying pieces. 
      • Turn pieces on the table so that they can't be picked up by the child in the correct orientation. Ask him to turn each piece in-hand after picking it up.
      • Place a piece in the individual's palm, or at the base of the fingers, in the incorrect orientation and ask him to bring it to the fingertips and turn it in-hand for placement.
      • Give the beginner one piece at a time while building and point to the piece on the guide to show where it should go.
      • Ask the child to pick up the model and hold it in one hand while adding pieces with the other hand so that both hands works together while adding pieces (instead of adding pieces while the model is on the table).
      • Show the child how to hold the model with the non-dominant hand while "pinching" the new part on with the dominant hand.
      • Place the pieces for each step on the non-dominant side so that the individual will have to cross midline to pick them up. Instruct him not to lean to the side as he reaches across.
      • Ask "what is different" at each new step in the instruction guide to focus on where the new parts will go.
      • Keep the unused pieces in a pile so that the child will have to search for each needed piece. Turn some of the pieces upside down or half cover them so they will look different from the picture.
      • Advise the child to hold the model in the same orientation as the one in the picture to aid in orienting pieces.
      • Catch mistakes as they happen, as an incorrectly placed piece may throw off the rest of the project. Tell the individual that his model does not look exactly like the picture and see if he can identify the mistake and correct it on his own before jumping in to help.
      • Place the piece for the individual if he is having trouble orienting it on the model. Then take it off and hand it to the individual to place himself.
      If you are interested in purchasing this item or just want more information, click on the image below.

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