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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, December 5, 2017

Penguins on Ice - Math Activity Set

100 cute penguins will help you learn colors, counting, patterning.

In the box: 10 ice bars (12" X 1"), 100 penguins in 10 different colors

Work on visual discrimination, visual memory, figure ground, spatial relations, eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, in-hand manipulation, palmar arch development, coordinated use of both hands, executive functioning skills, process skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

Learning Resources is a name that I have come to associate with quality and fun products. Brightly colored pieces, well made, and found in many classrooms. However, if I hadn't stumbled onto this game second-hand, I probably wouldn't have given it a second look because it is called a math activity set. So when I opened the box and found all the colorful penguin manipulatives inside, I was pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately, because I did buy it second-hand, the activity guide is missing. And I'm sure it was loaded with many great ideas.


The penguins are made from a rubbery-type material and each of them have a hole in the bottom. You can see the 10 colors on the image above. The ice bars are plastic and have ten peg-type protrusions each. It does not take any appreciable hand strength to stand or remove the penguins, and because of the rubbery material they stay in place. The 10 ice bars can be connected horizontally, so you can make one long line of up to 100 penguins, or vertically, so you can make a grid (large ice floe), up to 10 X 10. 

 A fun activity for learning colors, sorting, patterning, and counting.

Try this:
  • Sort by color, 10 of one color on each ice bar. Start by differentiating between two colors and add more into the mix as the individual learns.  Start with very different colors, such as orange and white. Later move to more similar colors, such as orange and pink.
  • Repeat the color name as you place each penguin on the ice bar to reinforce.
  • Place one penguin at a time in the individual's palm and ask him to bring it to the fingertips and turn to position for placement. If the individual has difficulty bringing it out of the palm, then start by placing it at the base of the fingers and gradually move it back toward the palm as the individual's skill increases.
  • Work on patterning - AB (red, white, red, white), AAB (red, red, white, red, red, white), ABC (red, white, blue, red, white, blue), etc. Connect the ice bars vertically so that you can use all the penguins (2 bars for an AB pattern, 3 bars for an ABC pattern, etc.)
  • Place a pile of penguins on the table and an ice bar in front of the individual. Call out one color at a time for the individual to find and place on the bar.
  • Place 10 penguins on an ice bar. Place it in front of the individual and give him an empty ice bar. Ask him to make his bar look just like yours.
  • Pile the penguins on the table. Ask the individual to pick them up one at a time, rotate in-hand, and stand on the table. Make up your own fun story about the assembly of penguins.
  • Pick up the penguins one at a time and squirrel in the palm without dropping. Then put them back in the box by the handfuls to put away.
  • Ask the individual to cup one hand. If he has difficulty, place a small ball (tennis ball) in the palm and wrap the fingers around it. Remove the ball as he keeps his hand in that shape. Drop the penguins in the palm one at a time. How many can he hold? Now cup both hands. Drop them in one at a time and see how many more he can hold.
  • Place several penguins on a bar. Show the individual and ask him to look at it to remember the colors and order. Practice saying the colors out loud several times. Remove the ice bar from sight and ask the individual to make an ice bar just like it. Bring the bar back and compare the results. Start with two penguins, then move to three, then four, etc.
 If you are interested in purchasing this item or just want more information, click on the image below. 

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