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, October 29, 2017

Lap Harp

Take it out of the box and play, without learning to read notes.
Work on spatial relations, figure ground, visual tracing, visual motor integration, grasp and grading of force, manual dexterity, finger isolation, separation of two sides of hand, shoulder stability, crossing midline, auditory perception, tactile perception, process skills, executive functioning skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: lap harp, extra wire, pick, tuning tool, 6 music cards, 1 instruction card

I was excited to get this because so many of my kids love music. You do not have to read music to play this lap harp. When you first open the box, it will be out of tune, even though the instructions say they are all tuned at the factory. The fact that it is out of tune was unanimous among all the reviewers on Amazon, but it didn't scare me because I have played the piano since I was quite young and I know a little about music. However, I have never tuned anything and that part turned out to be a bit of a pain. But doable. I  downloaded a free piano tuner app on my phone and that confused me even more, so had to do it by ear. There is a small metal tool that you put over one metal peg at a time (down the right hand side of the harp) so you can turn the peg. Turn it ever so slightly and then pluck the wire. Do this repeatedly until you get the sound you want. Start at the top wire and work your way down. It took me probably 45 minutes and I still had a couple that sounded a little flat and I couldn't get just right. But not to worry, it will go out of tune a little as you play and you can get another shot at it. The reviewers said you might have to re-tune it a few times in the beginning. Joy. 

A pick is included. If you pluck the strings lightly, you will get a softer sound. Pluck the strings with a little pressure and you will get a louder sound. The harp comes with 6 music cards, printed both sides, so 12 songs total. One card of instructions is included to tell you how to replace the wire and tips for tuning. The lyrics are printed right on the card so you can sing along. An Amazon reviewer was asked what songs were included, and they are different from the songs I got. My songs are:
  • Eensie Weensie Spider
  • Jesus, Joy of Man's Desiring
  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat
  • Rock a Bye Baby
  • Brahm's Lullaby
  • Minuet - Johan Sebastian Bach
  • Baa, Baa, Black Sheep
  • Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (ABC Song)
  • Clementine
  • My Country 'Tis of Thee
  • Daisy
  • Yankee Doodle

Slip the sheet under the strings and push it to the top. This is supposed to line up the round notes under the string you should pluck, so you are not really reading the notes. The notes are connected by straight lines. Play a note and then follow the line to the next note to play. Follow these lines as you play to know where to play next. There turned out to be two things that kids had trouble with. First, the notes don't all line up under the wires in the same place. This confused me too and I ended up playing by ear most of the time. Then a couple of the kids had trouble following the straight lines from note to note. Take the card out of the harp and practice following the notes, making the way across the card with a finger. Once that is understood, follow from note to note with the eyes only. Then put the card back in and try again. The harp measures 7” top width, 14” bottom width, 8” top to bottom, 1” deep. There are optional sets of music cards that you can buy and I bought the Christmas set. The songs in that set are:
  • Jingle Bells
  • Joy to the World
  • While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night
  • Deck the Halls
  • Silent Night
  • O Come All Ye Faithful 
  • Hark the Herald
  • O Christmas Tree
  • Away in a Manger
  • The First Noel
  • It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Try this:
  • Look at a card before putting it in the harp. Pick something that is not real busy, and use the finger to trace from note to note, following the lines. Then do it again without using the finger, tracing with only the eyes.
  • Play with the pick before playing a song. Run it up and down on the strings, get the feel of how to pluck the strings, vary the sound by applying pressure, make up your own happy song.
  • Skip the pick if the individual can not get used to using it. Pluck with the fingers, which is a softer sound for me because I am not used to plucking metal strings and it is not as easy to apply the pressure.
If you are interested in purchasing this item or just want more information, click on the image below.


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