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.

Sunday, September 3, 2017


Using tweezers, remove the pieces that ail your patients.
Work on visual discrimination, figure ground, spatial relations/position in space, body awareness, tool use, fine motor control, eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, thumb opposition, rounded web space, separation of the two sides of the hand, executive function skills, process skills, social interaction skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: Varies, but each has an operating table with a pair of tweezers attached and approximately 12 small pieces that fit into the holes on the board. Some also include game cards and money.

Somebody needs surgery and, for better or worse, you are the doctor. Operation is a game that has been around for a long time and it comes in lots of different themes. I have found that therapists are divided on their feelings about this game - some love it, some hate it. I use it occasionally but am careful who I use it with because of the high potential for frustration and the shrill sound it gives off. Of course you can avoid the sound, just take out the batteries.
Some of the games also have a red light that will light up when you touch the sides, but that will not work either if you take the batteries out. 

The operating table is made of plastic and a pair of tweezers, the operating tool, are tethered to it by a piece of plastic coated wire. The table has a card stock picture of the victim on it and has 11 or 12 small holes, depending on the game version. The holes are shaped like the matching pieces and labeled so you know which piece goes where. The pieces you need to remove are small, plastic, usually white and approximately 1/4 to 1/3 inches in size. The pieces are easy to lose because they are so small, so I keep mine in a baggie. Some of the game boards have a small drawer that slides open to keep the pieces in, but it doesn't stay shut very well. All but one version that I have seen have money and cards that tell what you will be attempting to remove. Minion Operation is one version that I know of that doesn't have money and cards, you choose what you will remove. Below are images from the Star Wars version.

Left: The version described below.      Middle: Tweezers.      Right: Game board.

Be the person with the most money when all 12 pieces have been removed.

Set up: 
Shuffle the cards. Deal out the specialist cards evenly between the players. Take any extras out of the game. Place the doctor cards face down next to the operating table (game board). Choose someone to distribute the money for successful operations and give them the money. Drop each piece flat into its matching hole on the game board.

The first player draws a doctor card. The card will tell you which piece to attempt to remove and how much you will get if you remove it without setting off the buzzer and the light. The player gets one attempt. If he succeeds, the person in charge of the money gives him the amount shown on the card. If he is not successful the play passes to the person who has the specialist card for that piece. If he can remove it, he will get double the money. If neither remove the piece, the doctor card is placed on the bottom of the draw pile and the next player chooses the top card and plays. If the specialist does remove the piece, he is paid the money and both the doctor and specialist cards are taken out of play. The game ends when all 12 pieces have been successfully removed, freeing the victim from all his aches and pains. (Just like real life, right?) 

May the force be with you.

Try this:
  • Scatter the pieces on the table top and practice picking them up from there before attempting to pick up from inside the game board.
  • Practice with the tweezers and the sound off before playing a game. Try different things with the tweezers - 1) Keep them closed (to avoid accidentally hitting the wall) while going into the hole and then open them, 2) Push the piece around so that it is lined up with the shape of the hole before attempting to remove, 3) Slide them under the part instead of trying to grab the piece from the top. 
  • Forget the rules, the money and the cards. Just play 1:1 and try to remove the pieces.
  • Give more attempts to remove a piece while setting off the sound. Start with four attempts, then move to three, two, one, as the player gets more experienced.
  • Take the batteries out so you don't set off the buzzer and take as many turns as necessary to remove a part. Try to improve with practice.
  • Place the pieces into the holes askew to make it more difficult to remove them.
  • Start with the pieces on the playing surface and add them to the board instead of removing them.
  • Quit if you sense frustration that is not eased with practice. This game is not for everybody.

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