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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.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Pop Belly

Feed the pigs till they pop.

Work on visual discrimination, visual memory, eye-hand coordination, coordinated use of both hands, precise fine motor control, in-hand manipulation, palmar arch development, separation of two sides of the hand, web space development, executive functions, social interaction skills, process skills, play and leisure exploration and participation 
 
In the box: Barnyard game board, five pigs with 5 snap on bellies, 4 pawns, 80 feeding chips (20 for each color pawn), number die, color die
 
Pop Belly is a game that you won't stumble onto in many places. It is made by a company called Simply Fun who only sell their games through their website and through home parties (think Tupperware, but a lot more fun). The people behind Simply Fun are very passionate about play. They understand the critical relationship between play and learning, and how spending time playing games with family and friends can strengthen bonds and build fond memories. They have a great website and have a section that links to multiple articles about play. While I understand their passion and applaud them for their commitment, I do wish that they would make their games more widely available to the public. They don't advertise or sell on Amazon, Walmart, Target, or in toy stores. To buy a game, you have to visit their website or go to one of their parties. And before you can visit their website, you have to hear of them! So hopefully by blogging about them, I can steer other folks their way. Simply Fun games are whimsical, well-made, and often have unique and fun pieces, like you will see with Pop Belly.
 
The goal is to feed the pigs and then be the first one to leave the barnyard (move off the game board). All farmhands (players) participate in the feeding, and as the pigs eat more and more their bellies will eventually pop, helping the farmhands advance. To set up the game, give each player one pawn and 20 of the same color feed chips (small bingo type chips). Snap the bellies on the pigs. The five different bellies each hold a different amount of feed chips and snap on underneath the pig. They can be a little tricky to snap on, so you may end up doing that part. 
 
 
Players begin by feeding two chips to a pig of their choice. Mix the pigs up and place one on each colored blanket on the game board (pink, orange, green, black, purple). The pigs are hard plastic and they have a slot on their backs that make them look like small piggy banks. All players place their pawns at the barn door on the game board. The first player throws both dice. The number die will show how many feed chips to feed two different pigs. The color die will match a blanket color and that will be one of the two pigs you will feed. The other pig you feed is your choice. You cannot move the pigs in any way while you are dropping the chips in the slot on their backs to feed them. Players take turns throwing the dice and feeding the pigs until a pig pops his belly, meaning the belly falls off and all the chips inside spill out. All players collect any of their color chips that fall out and they advance around the game board one space for each chip. By advancing around the game board, you are getting closer to leaving the barnyard and winning. The player who popped the pig collects his chips, but does not advance on the board. Snap the belly back on the pig and keep playing until someone advances all the way around the board, leaves the barnyard, and is declared the winning farmhand. 
 
The purple and the black dot on the color die both look the same color to me. I can tell the difference because the black dot is centered just right and the purple dot is printed more to one side. The numbers on the number die are 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5. The game is based mostly on luck, with maybe a little strategy involved when remembering which pigs you have fed and choosing which pig to feed. As the game progresses you will have to try and remember which pigs hold a lot of chips and which holds a few, and which ones you have fed. There are only 18 between the barn door and winning, so the game may not last long enough for you to apply strategy.
 
Try this:
  • Forget the game, just have fun with the pigs. Hold the pig in the non-dominant hand and count as you drop the feed chips in with the dominant hand. How many will the pig hold before it pops?
  • Place several feed chips at the base of the player's fingers and ask him to push them out to the fingertips, one at a time, and feed the pig.
  • Place the feed chips flat on the table top. After throwing the number die, pick up the chips, one at a time, and squirrel them into the hand. Then push them one at a time to the fingertips to feed the pigs.
  • Allow the player to hold the pig in the hand while feeding if he does not have the skills to place the small feed chip into the hole while the pig is freestanding. Remember not to hold the pig in such a way that you will block the belly from dropping out the bottom if he is fed too much.
  • Cup the hand before throwing the dice. If this is difficult, place a small ball in the players hand to form the cup. Remove the ball and add the dice.
  • Recite "This little piggy..." while the player is shaking the dice to keep the palm cupped in that position a little longer.
  • Model and encourage a well rounded web space as the individual feeds each chip into the pig.
I have many Simply Fun games that I have not had time to blog about yet and I will add them with a link below when I do.

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