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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, March 10, 2017

Pizza Pile-Up

Pile the ingredients onto the pizza crust to play this challenging balance game.
Work on visual discrimination, spatial relations, visual closure, manual dexterity, graded release, balance, executive functions, in-hand manipulation, palmar arch development, coordinated use of both hands, tactile discrimination, motor planning, focus, concentration, eye-hand coordination, social interaction skills, process skills, play and leisure exploration and participation 

In the box: 1 pizza crust, 32 toppings, 1 Poppa Chef, 1 Poppa chef base to sit on

Do you work with kids that have trouble with a graded release? That aren't able to open their hand and gently put something down? That's when I bring out the balance games. They always start with modeling, cueing, and usually hand-over-hand to get the feel of slowly, purposefully opening the hand to release something. After practice, many kids are successful. Pizza Pile-Up is NOT one of those balance games. Yes, it is a balance game, but the rubbery ingredients slide across the pizza from almost any location, adding weight where you don't want it and therefore tipping the crust and causing everything to fall. I read on Amazon reviews that there was an earlier version that OTs loved where the pieces stayed on as placed. But with this game the pieces only stay put if you pile them right in the middle of the crust. In addition, there's only so many that you can pile up this way. Otherwise, this would have been a fun game. To play, place the base (the chef's blue feet) in the middle of the players, place the Chef on top and then balance the pizza crust on the Chef's finger. Scatter the ingredients (tomato slices, pepperoni slices, mushrooms, cheese) on the playing surface. Each player in turn throws the die. If you get a picture of an ingredient, place that ingredient on the crust. If you get the picture on the die that includes all four ingredients, you get to choose which one to place. If you get the picture of the chef on the die, you lose a turn. The player who places the ingredient on the pizza that makes the pizza topple, loses the game.

CAUTION: Monitor for safety, ingredients may look edible to some.

Try this:
  • Start easy by eliminating the chef and placing the crust flat on the tabletop. Skip the die and just practice releasing the ingredients onto the crust one at a time before using a moving/balancing crust. Lastly introduce the die back into the game.
  • Sort the ingredients and place them onto the crust by type. For instance, add all mushrooms first, then all cheese, etc.
  • Eliminate the base. This will be a more dynamic game as the chef will be even more wobbly.
  • Turn the crust upside down on the tabletop and try tossing the ingredients into it.
  • Cup the hand and hold it in that position, rolling the die in it several seconds before throwing. Or sing a version of Muffin Man, replacing muffin with pizza, while rolling the die in the hand to keep the hand cupped longer.
  • Pile the pieces on the tabletop so that parts of pieces are hidden.
  • Put the ingredients in a bag so that you can't see them. Put your hand in and feel a piece, call out what it is before pulling it out of the bag and placing it on the crust.
  • Put the ingredients in a bag so that you can't see them. Tell the individual which ingredient to pull out by feeling only. Place it on the pizza crust.
  • Place the pieces on the crust to start. Carefully lift off the ingredients, piece by piece.
  • Hold the crust in the non-dominant hand while piling the ingredients on with the dominant hand.
If you are interested in purchasing this game or just want more information, click on the image below.

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