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, December 31, 2017

Tic Tac Toe - Charlie Brown

Teaching Tic Tac Toe with Charlie Brown.
Work on visual discrimination, visual closure, eye-hand coordination, spatial relations, figure ground, manual dexterity, in-hand manipulation, coordinated use of both hands, executive functioning skills, process skills, socialization skills, play and leisure exploration and participation  

In the tin: 2-sided game board, 24 checkers, 6 mini snow globes

These Valentine's Day and Christmas Charlie Brown tins include both checkers and tic tac toe games. This one is on my blog for two reasons: 1) It's Charlie Brown, and 2) it includes tic tac toe. I have hated checkers since I was a kid. Frustrated to the point of walking away, I still have no interest in learning the game. I keep this in mind when I use a game with an individual and they just don't like it or just don't get it. We just move on. So I am going to write about the game pieces and tic, tac, toe. If you're interested in how to play checkers, I'm not the one to ask :) 

The checker pieces are lightweight plastic and the board is laminated and nice and heavy. The game board is folded into quarters in the tin and measures 14" x 14" when opened up for play. It has a checker board on one side and a tic tac toe board on the other side. There are 12 different characters on the checkers, and each set (red and green) has the same images, so you will tell them apart by the checker color. The pictures on the checkers are stickers. There are mini snow globes that you place atop a checker when playing the Christmas checkers game (when you king someone). These are cute, but unfortunately I am not able to use them when playing tic-tac-toe. Unless... you use them to keep score. Play several games of tic-tac-toe and give the winner of each game a snow globe. First player with three snow globes is the grand winner.

Tic Tac Toe

Be the first to place three checkers in a row to win. A row can either be diagonal, horizontal, or vertical.

Set up:
Place the board between the players. Each player takes one set of checkers.

Players take turns putting a checker in a box. If you cannot win, try and block the other player from winning. Game ends when someone gets three in a row or when all boxes are filled and no one has won. When we were kids, if no one won we always said that the cat got it.

If you have two good players that know how to block the moves when playing tic, tac, toe, you can play forever without anyone winning a game and it can get boring fast. But I like to use it with beginner players who are working on visual perceptual skills, especially spatial relations and figure ground. It can be used as a precursor to BINGO. Tic Tac Toe has fewer columns and rows to watch. BTW - You don't have to buy a game to play Tic Tac Toe. For ages it has been a paper and pencil activity.

I also have this in a pink Valentine version, but couldn't find a very good picture of it. It has heart shaped checkers in pink and red.

Check out other Christmas games I have blogged about on my Christmas Edition post.

Try this:
  • Go for a win in one direction at a time, for instance a horizontal win, if the individual cannot watch three directions at once. Introduce and play each direction separately until it is learned before playing where any direction can win.
  • Place a piece of paper near the board that shows the different ways to win. I make a box with nine squares, like the board, and then use a yellow highlighter to fill in a vertical win. Then make another box and use a highlighter to fill in a horizontal win. Do the same for diagonal. The individual can look at these examples as they play to help them remember what they are looking for.
  • Practice recognizing wins before you play. I place a number of markers on a card and embed a win in one direction, then ask the individual to find the win. Do this over and over until they can see the wins before actually playing a game.
  • Hold the checkers in the non-dominant hand and take them from there as you play to use both hands.
  • Stack the checkers in one tall stack before putting them away at the end.
  • Tell the individual to ask themselves three questions, in this order before they play: 1) Can I place one checker and win? If so, do it. If not, ask 2) Can I place one checker and block the other player from winning on their next move? If so, do it. If not, ask 3) Where can I place a checker that will help me win on my next turn?
  • Tell the player to look again if he does not take the opportunity to block your win. I tell them I will win on the next turn if they don't block me and let them look over the board and find the win and block it. At least while they're learning ;)
  • Place a checker in the player's hand (upside down and in the palm) and ask him to bring it to his fingertips to orient and place. Do this on each turn to practice in-hand manipulation. Or, place the checkers face side down on the table and let the player pick them up one at a time and orient in his fingers and place on the board right-side-up. 
  • Play a game of memory by turning all the checkers face-down on the table and turning up two at a time. If the pictures match, stack them on your side. Players take turns until all matches have been made and then see who has the tallest stack.

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