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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.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Hello Kitty Make A Match

Matching Games - Ordinary games that pack a big visual perceptual punch.
Work on visual discrimination, visual memory, visual form constancy, figure ground, spatial relations, visual scanning, eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, in-hand manipulation, pinching, distal movements, fine motor precision, bilateral coordination, crossing midline, executive functioning skills, process skills, socialization skills, play and leisure exploration and participation 

In the box: 48 cards, 1 Hello Kitty figure

Matching/memory games are a dime a dozen. We've all played them, I have several in my collection. I am willing to bet that you can find one for almost any theme you want. And thankful we are as they are excellent tools for working on so many different visual perceptual skills.
  • Visual discrimination - Matching the pictures on the cards.
  • Visual memory - Remembering what the pictures are once the cards have been turned face-down.
  • Visual form constancy - Recognizing matches if some of the cards are turned in different orientations. Finding matches when the pictures are not exactly the same, such as one card has a picture of a fish and one has a drawing or silhouette of a fish. I SPY games are good for this.
  • Figure ground - Finding matches when the cards are all turned face-up.
  • Spatial relations - Remembering exactly where a certain card is in relation to all the cards around it.
And that doesn't even touch on the natural aspects of the game to practice other skills:
  • Crossing midline - Since the cards are set up in a big grid, you must reach across many times over before the game is done. Separate the cards this way on purpose while setting up if you don't want to leave this to chance.
  • Fine motor precision - Since the cards cannot be moved from their location (or you would never remember where they are!), cards must be picked up where they are, no pulling them to the edge of the table for help.
  • Bilateral coordination - Since many cards need to be placed face-down on the table, you have the opportunity to hold them in the non-dominant hand and deal them out and position them with the dominant hand to set up the game.
  • In-hand manipulation - Since the cards are in close proximity, you will need to pick each one up and flip it in your hand before setting it back down on the table.
  • Visual scanning - Looking across the lines of cards to find matches when all cards are turned face-up.
  • Visual attention - Paying attention so you can make matches. Attention is vital for this game. You're not going to snooze through this one.
Well, you can see I could go on and on. Occupational therapists are trained to break tasks down into their components so that they can match each activity to the skills a particular individual is working on. The more skills one game or activity can match, the better. It's one of my favorite parts of the job. 

So let's get to this particular Hello Kitty game and how it differs from other memory games. You can see an example of how the cards look on the image at the top of this post. Each card pictures one Hello Kitty character surrounded by a flower border. The typical memory game requires turning all the cards face-down in a grid on the table. Players take turns turning two cards face-up. If they match, the player takes the set off the table and places it next to him. If not, the player turns the cards back over and the next person plays. Continue this way until all cards have been removed from the grid. Players then count their matches and the one with the most matches is the winner. Hello Kitty is also played this way with these exceptions:
  • Take Hello Kitty - This game includes a charming, plastic figure of Hello Kitty herself. You can see her in the bottom left hand corner of the box in the image above. Place her on the table to start. There are five pairs of cards that say Take Hello Kitty. Anyone making this match takes Hello Kitty from the player who has her. At the end of the game, the player who has Hello Kitty adds four points to their score.
  • Wild card - This card and any other card in the game will count as a match.
  • Lose a pair - This set will require you to put one of the matches you have won back in the box. Sorry, no points.

Try this:
  • Reduce the amount of sets you play with if 48 cards is too challenging. Add back in one set at a time to increase the challenge over time.
  • Turn all the cards face-up and find the sets for a simpler matching game without the memory component of a memory game.
  • Lay one card from each set face up on the table. Give one attribute at a time until the player narrows down and finds the card. Example, this character is wearing pants, this character is a boy, etc.
  • Lay one card from each set face up on the table. Place the remaining cards face down on the table. Choose one face down card, look at it, and see who can find its match first.Leave all the cards on the table and give the one card to the individual to keep score.
  • Ask the individual to look to remember. Wait a few seconds before turning the card face-down.
  • Watch the individual for leaning when crossing midline, leaning as little as possible.
  • Empty the box on the table. Ask the individual to place the cards all face down in preparation for play. Request that he pick up each card as it lays and turn it in-hand to the correct side and orientation for placement.
  • Put the cards away at the end by picking up one card, stacking it on top of another and picking up both cards, stack those on top of another and pick up the three cards, etc. Keep going and see how many your hand can hold without dropping.  
  • Lay the cards all face-up in preparation for play. Take turns removing sets by giving directions of each cards placement. For instance, three rows down and two cards in from the left.

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