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 1, 2017

Muuli (Mule)

Reduce the mule's load, one piece at a time.
Work on visual discrimination, eye-hand coordination, visual scanning, manual dexterity, in-hand manipulation, finger isolation, graded pressure, tactile discrimination, shoulder stability, executive functioning skills, social interaction skills, process skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: Mule with elastic attached, 64 "bamboo" pieces

The mule is hauling a load of bamboo pieces. Your job is to reduce his load by removing the pieces, one at a time, without the whole structure collapsing. Setting this up can take as long as it does to play, sometimes longer. It's a little hard to see in the image above, but the white part at the base is shaped like a mule. A heavy-duty elastic cord is attached to the mule (in the front and in the back - making a circle) and it will enclose all the pieces, as you see above. You can't set up the game in a vertical position, you will have to lay it flat on the table before you start putting the round plastic pieces inside the elastic cord. The more pieces you put in, the more you stretch the cord and the more taut it gets. The more you add, the more you have to push the pieces around to accommodate them. When you are finished, some of the pieces will be rather loose and some will be quite tightly wedged in. I recommend setting up the game on a piece of flat cardboard, then holding the cardboard against it to keep any lose pieces from slipping out as you stand it up.

Players take turns removing one piece at a time without causing the whole thing to collapse. Push on pieces gently to find a loose piece and remove it. As you take pieces out, the others may adjust to fill the space. Or, allow each player to take out as many pieces as he dares on each turn. When the structure collapses, the person who has collected the most pieces is the winner. The instructions say to play with the mule standing in the box to catch the pieces when it collapses, and am I glad I did. When the piece was removed that brought down the structure, the elastic cord recoiled quickly and the pieces that didn't land in the box really flew. Pieces are solid plastic and good quality. They come in four different sizes and colors, with all of one color being the same size.

Try this:
  • Demonstrate how to test to see how loose a piece is by tapping or pushing on it lightly. If the player cannot feel the tension, instruct him to watch for the piece to move slightly. If the person doesn't know how to test for loose pieces, you may spend all the time setting up just to have it go down in one or two turns.
  • Sort pieces by color, or call each color to add while setting up.
  • Play alone. See how many pieces you can push out before the structure collapses. Then play again and try to beat your score.
  • One player calls a color and the next player has to remove a piece of that color. No fair testing pieces before calling the color.
  • Name each color as you put each piece in while setting up.
  •  Pull the pieces out instead of pushing them out.

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