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.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Cat Crimes

These felines are up to no good. Can you "cat"ch them in the act?
Work on following directions, cognitive flexibility, reasoning, problem solving, planning, working memory, attention, decision-making, evaluating and retrying, spatial relations, position in space, visualization, visual discrimination, eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 1 game board, 6 cats with stands, 6 crime discs, 40 puzzle cards.

I haven't purchased a logic game in a long time, so went to Amazon to look around. My theory is that I'm not going to be able to role play my kids through every situation that will come their way in life, but if I can teach them something about problem solving, they'll be better equipped long after I'm gone. So every once in awhile I bring out a logic game. I am a big fan of logic games by ThinkFun and SmartGames, so that is where I usually start. Many of my clients are cat lovers, so Cat Crimes by ThinkFun caught my eye. Two days later, we're playing it.

The goal of Cat Crimes is to determine which cat committed each crime by using the clues on the front of the puzzle cards. There are six cats and six different crimes committed. There are 40 puzzle (challenge) cards that increase in difficulty as you go. They are ranked beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert. There are 10 numbered cards per each level and each level also has a different color border. There is one crime on the front of each card and its solution is on the back of the card. 
Left: Front of the card with clues. Right: Back of the card with solution.

There are six different crimes altogether including who broke the flowerpot, who swallowed the fish, who ruined the shoes, and who ate the bird. You will play several of each crime as there are 40 different puzzles. Each crime has a matching crime disc that has a picture of the crime (see image below). Place this on the board at the beginning to remind you what crime you are solving. This will also be the space where the guilty party will be sitting at the end of the game.

The game board, cats, stands, and discs are all of a heavy cardboard material. The playing board is rather small, measuring 8"L X 5"H, but it is a one-person game so the smaller board size is sufficient. The game board is a picture of an oval rug on the floor. On the rug are different items such as a birdcage, flowerpot and fish bowl, along with cat toys, including ball with bell, mice, and catnip. The cats slip into a small half disk at the bottom that makes them stand. They stand fine so far, but by the end of the first session, these stands were not staying on the cats when you picked up a cat to move it, making them a little awkward to move at times.

UPDATE: I fixed the problem. I hot-glued a stand to each cat. Then I took out the plastic insert that comes in the box to keep all the pieces in place, and I placed the cats on their sides in the box. The box is just deep enough for them to fit.

To play:
Choose a crime (challenge) card. Each crime will be described at the top of the card. Take the crime disc and put it on that area of the rug. This is just to remind you, as you are working out the solution, what the crime was and where the criminal will end up standing. Example below: The crime is who unraveled the yarn? The game is set up with the unraveled yarn crime disc in place and the usual suspects standing by. As you read each clue you will place a cat by one of the six spaces on the rug game board. Clues will be obvious and straightforward to start and require trial and error as the puzzles get harder and less specific information is given.

At least one clue will refer to an item on the rug (game board) for placement, so you will know for sure this cat is in the right place, but the clues mostly involve where cats were in relation to each other at the time of each crime. So if you get a cat in the the wrong place by the rug, other cats will end up in wrong places too. Clues may ask you to put a cat in front of, near, across from, to the right of, and/or to the left of other cats or items, and/or between cats. Clues may also refer to specific things about the cats such as placing a cat wearing a bell in a specific location. There will be at least two that qualify, so you will have to choose. As the spaces fill up, you will get closer and closer to figuring out which cat committed the crime.

Throughout the session i will add comments about how problem solving in the game is similar to real life and give examples. Higher functioning kids always want to jump to the intermediate level or higher, but I usually ask them to start in the beginner section to learn the game. This lets them see how the game is played without all the explanation a more complicated scenario might bring and starts them off with a win.  Once they understand the game, I let them jump ahead if they want. If they aren't able to finish a puzzle, we go back.

Here is a picture of the first crime in the box and the last crime, so you can see how the difficulty increased. If cats were upstairs sleeping, that means they weren't used in this particular puzzle. Only a few puzzles use less than all six cats.

It was fun and the kids have liked it so far. A nice game to pull a lot of skills together. For higher functioning individuals if you expect to get through all the clues. One of my highest functioning kids completed #40 last week and it took him about 20 minutes. No absolute position was given in this puzzle, so lots of trial and error. Good lesson on persevering, shifting gears in thinking, remembering what you've already tried, holding several pieces of information in working memory, I could go on and on...

If you are interested in reading more about one-person logic games, check out my post What's in Your Therapy Box? Logic Puzzle Edition.

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

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