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 16, 2017


Cooperative games encourage players to work together.

Work on cooperation, social interaction skills, visual tracing, spatial relations, eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, palmar arches, executive functioning skills, process skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: Game board, 2 dice, a cat marker pieces, 3 creature marker pieces (chipmunk, mouse, bird), 4 treat marker pieces (cheese, milk, catnip, bowl of favorite food)

Max is a cooperative game. A cooperative game is where everyone works toward a common goal, there are no individual winners or losers. Max is also the name of the black tomcat on the box cover, a cat owned by the creator of the game. The real Max runs around his farm catching small creatures. The goal of the game is to get all the small creatures safely to their homes in the big tree and making sure that Max gets fed. The game board is smaller than a typical game board and measures 12 x 12". It is a simple board with 27 spaces and no reading required. The two dice are the same, each have three green and three black dots, one per side. You can see them on the game board in the image above. The other game pieces are small flat cardboard pieces with pictures on them. You can also see those in the image above. 

Set up: Place the Max marker on the rug, upper left hand corner of the game board. Place the four treats near the board. Place the three other creature markers on the tree stump (the yellow stump space is at the top of the board).
Play: Players take turns throwing the dice. Follow these directions depending on the dot colors that are thrown:
  • Green dot: Move a creature one space toward the tree. Each creature has a short cut and may use it if they land on that space.
  • 2 green dots: Move one creature two spaces or two different creatures one space each.
  • i green dot, i black dot: Move one creature one space and move Max one space.
  • Black dot: Move Max one space.
If you feel that Max is getting too close to a creature you can call him back to the rug space by placing one of his treats on the rug. There are four treats, so you can do this four times. Max can also follow the shortcuts for all the creatures. The instructions do not say what happens when Max lands on the same space as a creature, or vice versa, but I imagine that ends the game. If this does not happen, the game ends when the three creatures are all safely in their tree home. Players are encouraged to discuss plays and what to move when for the best outcome.

Try this:
  •  Shape the palm before shaking the dice by putting a small ball or round object in the individual's hand and forming the hand around it.
  • Model the cupping position and how to shake the dice before starting to play - fingers together, making a rounded cup in the palm. Often the child will just squeeze the dice tight in the hand and shake the hand, thinking the dice are moving around when they are not.
  • Cup both hands and place on top of each other (at a 90 degree angle) to shake. Double the therapeutic value!
  • Trace the path with the eyes before starting the game. Look for the shortcuts and follow them to see how they work.
  • Count to 10 or recite a kitty ditty while shaking the dice to keep the hands in that position a little longer.

    If you are interested in purchasing this game or just want more information, click on the image below.

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