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, January 23, 2017

Smart Car 5X5

Work on spatial relations, visual motor integration, visualization, visual discrimination, visual closure, visual form constancy, coordinated use of both hands, manual dexterity, motor planning, executive functions, play and leisure exploration and participation
In the box: Blue plastic car, 5 wood blocks, 2 challenge booklets
If you own the original Smart Car, this is similar to that game but it has five blocks instead of four. Both are made by SmartGames. Four of the blocks in this set are in an "L" shape and the fifth block is an "l" shape.  This set has a plastic car and brightly colored wooden blocks. The challenge booklets have 48 puzzles each (96 total!) and are spiral bound, the pages turn easily, and they lie flat. One of the challenge books has puzzles that will take only four pieces (excluding the orange l shaped piece), similar to the original Smart Car game. The second book has puzzles that take all five pieces. All solutions, in the form of a picture of the finished car, are pictured on the back of each challenge page. The puzzles in each book increase in difficulty by obscuring some pieces in the picture, leaving white spaces so you have to figure out the colors, and showing multiple views of the car with white spaces (see images below). This is a fun activity for working on executive function and visual perceptual skills and the kids have enjoyed it. I used the original version quite a bit and this version just came out and I'm sure I will get good use out of it too. Below is the first and last puzzle from each book so you can see the range in difficulty levels.

First and last puzzles from the 4-piece challenge book.

First and last puzzles from the 5-piece challenge book.

Try this:
  • Turn to the answer page, which shows how to build one block at a time, if the puzzle is difficult (this view only for the first few puzzles of the 4-piece book). Then take the pieces out, turn back to the puzzle page, and have the individual try again.
  • Model how to complete a puzzle by working a puzzle and talking through the problem solving process while you do so.
  • Turn a block to the correct orientation and place in the car if the individual gets stuck. Then take the piece out, turn it so it is not in the correct orientation, and give to the individual to place.
  • Talk through the reasoning process if the individual gets stuck. Such as "the yellow block is taking up two spaces horizontally, so it must be lying on its side".
  • Turn the block in two hands instead of flipping it around on the tabletop.
  • Put the first block in the puzzle if the player can't figure out where to start.
  • Give the individual one piece at a time, in the correct orientation, if they are having difficulty learning. After they improve, push one piece at a time toward the individual but not in the correct orientation. Finally let them choose their own piece and orient it.
  • When placing the pieces on the table, make sure that none of them are in the correct orientation for a challenge.
  • Build models from looking at the pictures on the solution pages.
If you are interested in purchasing this game or just want more information, click on the image below.

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