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 30, 2017

Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head

Teach body awareness with a potato.
Work on visual discrimination, figure ground, spatial relations/position in space, eye-hand coordination, palmar arches, strength, fine motor precision, coordinated use of both hands, body awareness, parts of the body, executive functioning skills, process skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the case: Potato, 2 pairs of eyes, 3 noses, 6 arms, 6 ears, 2 hats, 4 mustaches, 4 mouths, 2 tongues, 1 pair of pants with shoes, 2 pairs of eyeglasses, 1 earring, and 1 microphone.

Mrs. Potato Head
Mr. Potato Head has been on the market since 1952 and was the first toy advertised on TV. Still popular today, Mr. Potato Head has come in many forms - Play-doh, seasonal, popular characters, small to quite large, stuffed - and there is also a Mrs. Potato Head. 

Mr. Potato Head is basically a potato that you add body parts to, so a fun place to start building body awareness. The potato itself is a hard, smooth plastic and many of the bigger ones have a door that pulls open in the back where you can store the pieces. Because the potato is wide and smooth, you might want to start with a smaller version for small hands to grasp. There are eight holes and one slot in the larger version that I own. The holes are for arms, eyes (one piece), ears, mouth/teeth, mustaches, hats/hair, and the slot in the bottom is for the feet (one piece). The small head has only four holes and two slots. There are only two holes on the face as the eyes and nose are one piece, and only one hole on each side of the head, for ears OR arms. The two slots are top and bottom for feet and hat. 

A drawback if you are teaching body parts with this toy is that it doesn't have legs, only feet. Once the feet are in place it will stand on its own. Different sets have different variations of pieces (I have also seen earrings), so you can have quite a collection if you have two or three sets. I have a police officer's hat and a fire fighter's helmet, and can incorporate these into play about community helpers. It doesn't take much strength to push the pieces in, but they still stay in place. A good two-handed activity because you must hold the body while you are adding the pieces. 

Try this:
  • Use it to teach five senses: touch, taste, hearing, seeing, smelling.
  • Build 3D models from 2D models. Dress him up in different ways and take a picture of each. Present the pictures one at a time and let the individual build each one.
  • Call out each body part to add.
  • Let the child point to a hole and tell you which body part goes there. Then you pass him a piece to place.
  • Use a big blob of Play-doh for the body to add a different sensory component and more of a strength component (for molding and pushing in pieces).
  • Play a game. Make a chart showing or naming each body piece corresponding to a number that can be thrown with dice - use either 1-6 or 1-12. Throw the dice and then add that part. If you already have it either skip a turn or keep throwing until you get something you need. Don't forget to cup the hand before adding the dice.
  • Use several different plastic containers and sort - Arms in one, ears in another, etc.
  • Allow the individual to build in whatever sequence he wants, but ask him to name each body part as it picks it up.
  • Use positional and spatial terms, such as what goes on the bottom, put on the left arm, what is in the middle between the eyes and the mouth.
 If you are interested in purchasing this or just want more information, click on the image below. 

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