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.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Perler Bead Pattern Pad

Be creative! Covers many skills.
Work on fine motor precision, manual dexterity, pincer grasp, web space development, palmar arch strength and stability, tool use, finger thumb opposition, sequencing, visual discrimination, eye-hand coordination, spatial relations, figure ground, visual closure, attention, creativity, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the book: 110 patterns

Did you know that the Perler bead people have a whole line of pattern books? If you are not familiar with Perler beads, sometimes called fuse beads, they are small plastic beads that come in many, many different colors. 

You stand them on a pattern board/grid to make a design, then cover them with parchment paper and run a hot iron over the design to melt/fuse the beads together. Many OTs love these beads and use them frequently in therapy. You can buy pattern boards that are already shaped like an image, such as dog, person, turtle, star, circle, square, etc. Those shapes are smaller and brightly colored plastic. 

Or, you can choose one of the large boards (square or hexagon) where you can make bigger designs and get more creative. The large square boards are also interlocking, so the sky's the limit. From there, what you make is only limited by your imagination. If you are working on visual perceptual skills and you would like a pattern to work from, then you could use one of their pattern books, the internet, or their web site. Patterns are all over out there, but not always life-sized. If you are going to use in therapy and want a life-sized pattern, I would suggest printing it out ahead of time and measuring it so you don't get into the session and find that the pattern does not match the size of the grid that you have. Been there. One of the advantages of this pattern pad is that the patterns are life-sized, meaning that you can lay one of the large, transparent boards right on top of a pattern and work from there. You cannot lay one of the smaller boards on top of a pattern because they are opaque, brightly colored, and you cannot see through them.

This pattern pad contains 28 pages and 110 designs. Some pages have more than one design. The school supplies pattern (above) includes scissors, glue, pen and ruler. Pages are printed on both sides and the book is spiral bound and lays flat nicely. Some of the categories from this book are circus, sports, animals, food, vehicles and musical instruments. Some of the patterns even have small stands, like this tree, so that you can stand it upright. There are also several pages at the back of the book with blank patterns. You can color in your own. Make copies of the blank patterns before you fill them in and you can use them over and over. The blank patterns are small star, circle and heart, and large hexagon and square.

Perler also sells a pair of plastic tweezers that you can use to place the beads. They are handy and I have used them many times in therapy. The bigger the design, the more tedious it can get. Come back to it later if it gets to be too much for one session.

I earlier blogged about the Perler BIGGIE beads and tray cards. You can read about it here. You can use this as a patterning activity without fusing them together at the end. 

SAFETY FIRST - Monitor for safety. These beads are small and may look like candy to some and/or be a choking hazard.

Try this:
  • Hold a few beads in the cupped, non-dominant hand and pick them up from there as you place them on the grid.
  • Keep the colors separated so you don't have two tedious jobs at the same time.
  • Buy a big bucket of beads of different colors and sort them into a divided tray for an activity.
  • Use the tweezers to fix beads that you accidentally knock down as you work. It can be hard to get your fingers in-between beads to straighten them. 
  • Place the pattern next to the grid instead of under the grid for a greater challenge.
  • Practice picking the beads up with an open webspace. Picking them up with fingers flat is going to be difficult since they are so small.
  • Put a piece of paper under the line you are working on since it can be difficult to look away to work and then look back to the pattern and find your place, over and over again.
  • Tear the pages out of the book. Several people can use the book at once this way, or you can choose the patterns you would like the person to pick from and lay them side by side for comparison.
  • Use removable tape on the edges of the pegboard if you are laying it right over the pattern page. It can easily be moved if you bump it while working and you will have to re-align it each time this happens.
If you are interested in purchasing this book or just want more information, click on the image below.

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