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, March 16, 2017

Brownie Match

I've never turned down a brownie... before today.
Work on visual discrimination, visual memory, spatial relations, visual form constancy, eye-hand coordination, use of hand tool, coordinated use of both hands, web space development, fine motor precision, manual dexterity, executive functions, process skills, social interaction skills, play and leisure exploration and participation. 

In the box: 16 brownie pieces, spatula, 4 cardboard plates, spinner

Brownie Match is as advertised (number recognition and memory game) but I was disappointed because it did not match my expectations for how I wanted to use it in therapy. Pancake Pileup has been a favorite of both the kids and mine. I have been able to use that game with kids of varying cognitive levels. The pancakes are a rubbery material which helps them stay stacked and on the spatula. I assumed these brownies would be the same rubbery material but they are not. They are hollow, hard plastic with hard plastic sprinkles on the top. You have to be much more careful stacking these brownies because they slip and slide easily, which is going to take a different level of skill than the pancakes. The object of this game is to be the first to stack five brownies on a plate. The brownie pieces are lightweight and measure approximately 1.5" x 1.5", with four of them having rounded corners. On the bottom of each brownie is either a number (1, 2 or 3) or a picture. The game includes a spinner with the same numbers and pictures. To start each turn, a player will spin the spinner. Here is a guide of what you will do on your turn, depending on where the spinner lands:

The brownies are kept in the bottom of the box for the game. There is a brownie pan printed there. The brownies fit nicely on the brownie pan. There is also a border of space around the brownie pan that makes the bottom of the box almost twice as big as the square of brownies. With 16 brownies, that makes a 4X4 square. The spatula on the front of the box is the same width as the brown square, so you won't disturb other squares as you pick them up. The game spatula is actually wider than one brownie piece which means that you will not pick up one without disturbing others around it. The back of the box shows kids playing a game with several brownie pieces out and the others still in a neat square. Not gonna happen. Plus, since the brownies are lightweight, hard plastic they are more difficult to get onto the spatula, meaning kids will be using the edge of the box to help them slip the spatula under the brownie. Since the box is so much bigger, when doing this you will be sliding other brownies pieces. This is a memory game and it is important during memory games that pieces stay where they are so that you have a chance of memorizing their location. As players attempt to pick up a brownie with the spatula, they end up pushing it either against other brownies or pushing it against the side of the box for support. The brownies are bumped and slide into other brownies. The "square" quickly changes shape and remembering where anything is becomes more difficult each time this happens. Taking the brownies out of the box and playing, say on a table top, is even more difficult because you don't have anything stationary to push against. Playing on a carpet may work better. Another option is to push the brownie pieces apart so there is space between them when setting up and then put your finger on top of a brownie square to hold it in place so you can pick it up with the spatula. An opportunity to use two hands together. I am debating whether to send it back.
Spatula is too wide, disturbs other brownies.  Spinner.

Try this:
  • Skip the spatula. Place the brownies on the table in a grid with space around each piece. Flip and then stack the pieces with the fingers as you play.
  • Practice flicking the spinner arrow instead of pushing it. Check for a nice rounded circle (web space) with index to thumb. Isolate and flick with different fingers.
  • Hold the spinner mid-air in the non-dominant hand while spinning with the dominant hand.
  • Follow up with making a batch of real brownies. Practice following directions, stirring, cutting, using a spatula, etc.
  • Stack the brownies by hand and see how high you can go before they fall.
If you would like to purchase this game or just want more information, click on the image below.

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