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.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

See-Inside Counting Tubes

Work on visual discrimination, visual memory, grasp, reach, strength, coordinated use of both hands, counting 1-10, manual dexterity, parmar arch strength and support, executive functioning skills, process skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 55 balls, 10 plastic tubes

I've never seen anything like this before. The object is to learn to count from 1-10. Each tube will hold a certain number of marbles, and that number is shown at the top of each tube. Learn to count by pushing a tube down on the balls, one at a time, and counting as they snap into the tube. Once you reach the number of balls indicated at the top of the tube, no more balls will fit. The box says "tap & count", but I had to do more than just tap. First I tried holding the tube like a big pencil. I didn't think it through, that is just how I picked it up, and I had to push really hard on the balls to get them to snap into the tube. After my fingers started to get tired I moved to the grasp that you see the boy using on the image above. That worked much better and the balls went in a little easier. Maybe it is just a matter of breaking it in a little. Once the balls are in the tubes the only way to get them out it to snap the tube open at the top and pour them out.  It takes a little effort to open and close. I guess what I'm saying here is once those balls are in the tube, they aren't coming out until you're ready to take them out. Here is a picture of a child with an open tube pouring them out.

The balls are purple, yellow, orange, blue, and green. There are 11 of each. That is exactly enough balls to fill the tubes, so don't lose any. These balls are plastic but not rubbery like the balls in Gumball Grab and Tweezer Tongs. They are going to roll and getting them to stay put on a flat surface is tricky. I usually take the tubes out of the box and empty the balls into the box bottom, then they can't roll away. A cookie sheet or similar flat surface would be really noisy as you push down on the plastic tube to pick up each ball. 

SAFETY FIRST - Make sure this game is appropriate for the person you want to play it with. Be careful around anyone needing supervision for safety because of the size of the balls and the fact that they look like gum or candy. 

The manufacturer, Lakeshore Learning, suggests ages 3+ for a typical population. They have also has included several activities that you could use to teach math.

UPDATE - Open the tops for the first time yourself before playing with the kids. Ease the top all the way back, wiggle it if you have to and loosen the hinge so the lid pulls back easily. I let a child be the first to open a couple of them and he snapped the lids back fast, bending the hinge and now the tops are loose from the tube. The lid still snaps on, but I will have to do it from now on.

Try this:
  • Introduce the activity by using a tube and pressing in the balls, counting as you go. Model how to hold the tube to get the force you need comfortably.
  • Line the tubes up sequentially after they are all filled. 1-10, and 10-1.
  • Put the balls in a bowl. Pick out only the marbles you will need to fill one tube at a time. Squirrel them into palm as you pick them out. How many can you hold?
  • Pick out only one color of balls from the bowl at a time, filling the tube with like colors. For instance tubes 1 and 10 are blue, tubes 2 and 9 are green, tubes 3 and 8 are orange, etc.
  • Cup the hand and drop balls in one at a time while counting. How many can you hold. Put them back into the box by handfuls. Now use the other hand and try for one more.
  • Cup both hands while someone else drops them into your hands. Name them by color as they are dropped. Now how many can you hold? Put them away by the handfuls.
  • Fill the tubes with mixed color marbles and line them up in order from 1-10. Starting with the #1 tube, name the color of each marble in order, practice it out loud three times. Then close your eyes and say it. Look at tube #2 and memorize the order of the colors, then close your eyes and say it. Work your way up the tubes, how far can you go memorizing the color sequence?
  • Hold a tube upside down in the non-dominant hand and push the balls in with the dominant hand. 
  • Make pattern cards, using paper and markers, for several of the tubes. Leave the numbers off so the individual will need to count and then find the appropriate tubes. Then fill each tube with the color order of the marbles on the pattern card.

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