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

Squirrel Popper

In the package: Plastic squirrel, 6 firm foam balls

Work on spatial relations/position in space, hand strength, eye-hand coordination, coordinated use of two hands, manual dexterity, play exploration and participation 

A fun way to get in some target practice with a fall theme - a squirrel gathering nuts. The squirrel comes with 6 "acorns" that you will launch toward any target you want to set up. To start, set up targets around the room that you want to launch acorns at. Then, place one of the acorn balls in the squirrel's mouth and push it in. The squirrel is made of stiff plastic and it will take some hand strength to push the ball into the mouth and then to squeeze it back out. Now aim toward your target and squeeze the squirrel's stomach to launch the ball. This will take both hands for most people. Balls can travel up to 20 feet, depending on how hard you squeeze and how far you pushed the ball into the squirrel. Not an activity for those with very weak hands. There are lots of different animals to choose from and the balls from one set will fit the others with the exception of the small seasonal sets that are sold in store like Target. Kids have loved these.

Check out a list of 20+ fall-themed games you can play on my Fall Edition post.

Try this:
  • Measure the distance you can pop the ball.  Go again and see if you can beat your distance.
  • Make a large round target and tape it to the door. Divide the circle into several sections (like a bullseye) and assign points to the sections. Aim for the middle, and give points for wherever the ball hits. Play again and try to beat your score by getting closer and closer to the middle on most balls.
  • Set up small targets and see if you can knock them over.
  • Take the popper outside and aim for targets where you won't accidentally hit and break something (keep away from dogs or animals who might chew and/or swallow them).
  • Set up targets on a level plane at equal distances, then a variety of elevated planes at equal distances, then at different distances.
  • Set up buckets at different distances and aim to get them into the buckets.
  • Hang (or hold up) a hula hoop and see how far back you can stand and still pop them through the hoop.
  • Set up empty pop cans on the picnic table or ledge and see how many you can knock over.
  • Make a game out of picking up the balls that fly astray (there will probably be lots) to make it seem less like work and more like fun. For instance give a point for each ball collected.
If you are interested in purchasing a popper/extra balls/target, or just want more information, click on one of the images below to go to Amazon.com.

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