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!

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Fish Stix

Get hooked on this strategy matching game.
Work on visual discrimination, spatial relations, figure ground, visual scanning, eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, writing tool use, writing in confined space, efficient grasp, executive functioning skills, process skills, socialization skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: Score pad, 72 fish sticks

I always get excited when I see the word "strategy" on a game because I work with several high functioning individuals that like to be challenged, but this game would be quickly and easily mastered by them. Fish Stix is a strategy/matching game where the fish sticks are the only game pieces (see image above). They are made from a heavy cardboard-type material. Each piece is the exact same size and has 4 images of fish on it. There are five different images of fish altogether, each a different color, and one image of a school of six small fish. The fish are always the same size, shape and color on the sticks, but they may be pointing either left or right. The score pad has six rows, one for each fish, and 10 columns - 60 boxes in all. You will need a large playing space, as you will be lining up the sticks, side by side, as you play.

Be the first player to check every box on your score sheet.

Set Up
Give each player one score sheet. Mix the fish sticks and give each player three. Place the remaining fish sticks in a pile, face-down, in the playing area.

In turn, each player will add one fish stick to the line-up. Match a fish from your sticks to a fish already in play and place it next to that stick. It must be facing the same direction to count. Then check the boxes next to that fish on the score pad, one box for every fish that is lined up. If there is one in play and you add one, then you can check two boxes. If the next player adds one more to the line, he can check three boxes. If you add one more, you can check four boxes, etc. Check your sticks against the sticks in play on each turn and see if you can place a stick in a position where you can match more than one fish. The more fish you can match with your one stick, the more boxes you can check off on your score sheet. (See the example below.) Each time you play a stick, draw another stick from the pile so that you always have three sticks to choose from on each play. As soon as someone has filled in their score sheet, the game ends and he is the winner.

Examples of scoring from box.
If you would like to read more about games that require writing or drawing in some form, check out my post Games That Require a Writing Tool.  

Try this:
  • Model how to scan the sticks in play, looking for more than one match. Choose one fish to compare, and each time you find a good location, see if anything else on the stick matches.
  • Forget about keeping score, just choose one fish and make a long line of matches.
  • Use Xs on the score sheet instead of check marks if working on diagonal lines in writing. Stress drawing from corner to corner.
  • Use the score sheet as an opportunity to practice shapes or letters or symbols over and over without making it seem like writing practice. For instance use the person's initials, or any letter you are working on, or circles, etc.
  • Line the sticks up in a grid, face-up, on the playing surface. Choose one fish and then pick up all the sticks that picture that fish. Pick the sticks up where they are, don't pull them to the edge of the table first to help.

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