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.

Monday, December 26, 2016

One-Player SmartGames

I remember the day I stumbled onto Castle Logix, my first SmartGames adventure. Smart Car and Day and Night quickly followed and I was hooked. SmartGames is a brand I use on a regular basis in my practice. Here are some of the reasons why:
  • They are fun. Kids love them and isn't that the first step? When they are eager to play, they don't realize the work involved.
  • They hit visual perceptual skills (especially spatial skills) hard. I work on VP skills diligently as they impact almost all areas of occupation for most individuals.
  • They are fairly quick to play for most. Typically one puzzle per page and we usually work through several in a session before moving on to something else.
  • The challenges increase in difficulty as you advance in puzzles. Puzzles are ranked, usually in four categories such as beginner, advanced, expert, master. There are often 48+ challenges per game, requiring more and more advanced skills as you go.
  • They are great for problem solving and teaching that getting it wrong is not failure, just keep trying until you find something that works. 
  • Solving a puzzle can give an individual a feeling of success. Many times I work with a middle or high-schooler that has always found school a struggle. After administering the Motor-Free Visual Perceptual Test (MVPT3) I find that they perform at an above average percentile rank. These are the types of games that they can excel at and often really love. So you might wonder why I would give them these games to play when they already rank so high in visual perceptual skills. First, it gives them a sense of success and the knowledge that they can figure things out. They often beam as they play and I often end up leaving the game for them to play over the week. Second, playing one of these games at the beginning of a session sets the tone for creative thinking and problem solving. The drawback of bringing it out in the beginning is that you might have a hard time getting it back. : ) 
  • The pieces are quality, solid wood or plastic, and offer the opportunity to work on manual dexterity, in-hand manipulation, and associated skills.
I have been trying to figure out how to let people know the difficulty of a game since age does not always work as an indicator for cognitive level. Therapists use clinical reasoning to determine which games are appropriate for each individual based on a number of skill levels. For many games I have blogged about I added the manufacturer's age recommendation, but that is for a typical population. So I have decided to show an image of the first (easiest) challenge and an image of the last (hardest) challenge on all games that include increasingly difficult puzzle/pattern challenges, like these games. Then you can make a determination on which ones are appropriate for the individuals you work with. I will have to go back and update many posts, but I will start with these.   

Below are SmartGames that I own. If you would like to know more about a particular game, click an image to go to my post about that game. And just for the record, I do not do reviews for companies or people upon request.  The posts on this blog are my own opinions from my experiences using the games and toys in therapy.


http://theplayfulotter.blogspot.com/2015/03/castle-logix.html http://theplayfulotter.blogspot.com/2015/01/smart-car.html

http://theplayfulotter.blogspot.com/2015/07/go-getter-3-prince-dragon.html http://theplayfulotter.blogspot.com/2015/01/day-and-night.html

http://theplayfulotter.blogspot.com/2016/09/jungle-hide-seek.html http://theplayfulotter.blogspot.com/2016/06/troy.html

http://theplayfulotter.blogspot.com/2016/12/penguins-on-ice.html http://theplayfulotter.blogspot.com/2015/05/bunny-peek-boo.html

http://theplayfulotter.blogspot.com/2015/11/bill-betty-bricks.html http://theplayfulotter.blogspot.com/2016/10/mummy-mystery.html

http://theplayfulotter.blogspot.com/2015/09/color-code.html http://theplayfulotter.blogspot.com/2015/03/camouflage.html

http://theplayfulotter.blogspot.com/2015/04/three-little-piggies.html http://theplayfulotter.blogspot.com/2015/05/duo-puzzle.html


http://theplayfulotter.blogspot.com/2015/02/angry-birds-under-construction.html http://theplayfulotter.blogspot.com/2015/06/go-getter-2.html

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