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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.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

LEGO Build Up 40253

24 small models can typically be completed in one therapy session!
Work on visual discrimination, visual closure, visual form constancy, spatial relations/position in space, visual memory, figure ground, eye-hand coordination, in-hand manipulation, manual dexterity, precise fine motor control, hand arch development, separation of sides of hand, using two hands together, finger strength, executive functioning skills, following directions, sequencing, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 254 LEGO pieces, instruction book

If you've read my blog at all, you probably already know what a huge fan I am of LEGOs. I flipped through their Christmas catalog when it arrived, not intending to buy anything, until I saw this. I got a similar set last year and really liked it. However, according to the LEGO catalog, this set is not available for purchase. You can get it free with a $99 purchase of other LEGO sets. I'm a LEGO fan, but I don't buy them in that quantity, so thought I was out of luck this year. However, thanks to third party sellers on Amazon, mine has just arrived. I paid $17 and change and I consider that a bargain for 254 pieces and 24 small models. Like last year, there is a variety of models and many of them can be used other times of the year, not just at Christmas. I could not find an "official" image of the models, so here is a photo from the instruction book and a rundown of what is included in this set:



1. Ship, 18 pieces
2. Peacock, 28 pieces
3. Reindeer, 20 pieces
4. Snowmobile, 10 pieces
5. Windmill, 21 pieces
6. Robot head, 21 pieces
7. Eagle, 11 pieces
8. Igloo, 24 pieces
9. Snowplow, 29 pieces
10. Fireplace, 17 pieces
11. Cabin, 26 pieces
12. Airplane, 11 pieces
13. Snowman head, 15 pieces
14. Lighthouse, 12 pieces
15. Street lamp, 16 pieces
16. Chicken, 27 pieces
17. Wreath, 17 pieces
18. Animal head, 17 pieces
19. Owl, 16 pieces
20. Cup of cocoa, 17 pieces
21. Snow plow, 17 pieces
22. I don't know, 14 pieces
23. Christmas tree, 29 pieces
24. Santa Claus, 34 pieces

Some of these are open to interpretation. The set also includes an orange tool that you can use to remove pieces. I will use this set throughout the month of December and into the new year. BTW - No, it is not an advent calendar, meaning there are enough LEGOS to make them all at once. You will have to take them apart as you go. 

The instruction book shows which new pieces have been added at the top. This is great for beginners who might not be able to look at the picture alone and decided what has been added. There is one book this year instead of two and it is bound instead of just stapled.


A great activity that lends itself naturally to bilateral integration, in-hand manipulation and a bevy of fine motor and visual perceptual skills without a lot of set-up. 

If you're interested, you can read my post on how LEGOs stack up, in my opinion, to other construction sets by clicking this link. Building Skills with Construction Toys.

Try this with any LEGO set:
  • Give a few minutes to look over the pieces at the beginning so that the person can examine the different shapes and how they snap together.
  • Set the piece(s) for each step in front of the beginner until he has gotten used to identifying pieces. 
  • Turn pieces on the table so that they can't be picked up by the child in the correct orientation. Ask him to turn each piece in-hand after picking it up.
  • Place a piece in the individual's palm, or at the base of the fingers, in the incorrect orientation and ask him to bring it to the fingertips and turn it in-hand for placement.
  • Give the beginner one piece at a time while building and point to the piece on the guide to show where it should go.
  • Ask the child to pick up the model and hold it in one hand while adding pieces with the other hand so that both hands works together while adding pieces (instead of adding pieces while the model is on the table).
  • Show the child how to hold the model with the non-dominant hand while "pinching" the new part on with the dominant hand.
  • Place the pieces for each step on the non-dominant side so that the individual will have to cross midline to pick them up. Instruct him not to lean to the side as he reaches across.
  • Ask "what is different" at each new step in the instruction guide to focus on where the new parts will go.
  • Keep the unused pieces in a pile so that the child will have to search for each needed piece. Turn some of the pieces upside down or half cover them so they will look different from the picture.
  • Advise the child to hold the model in the same orientation as the one in the picture to aid in orienting pieces.
  • Catch mistakes as they happen, as an incorrectly placed piece may throw off the rest of the project. Tell the individual that his model does not look exactly like the picture and see if he can identify the mistake and correct it on his own before jumping in to help.
  • Place the piece for the individual if he is having trouble orienting it on the model. Then take it off and hand it to the individual to place himself.
If you are interested in purchasing this item, or just want more information, click on the image below. 

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