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, January 2, 2018

Houdini Brainteaser

A 40-challenge escape logic puzzle.

Work on visual discrimination, visual closure, visualization, eye-hand coordination, spatial relations, executive functioning skills, manual dexterity, fine motor precision, bilateral coordination, grasp, problem solving, strategy, logic, process skills, play and leisure exploration and participation.

In the box: 40 challenges, 2 ropes, lock & 2 rings, Houdini body and legs, trap cage, travel bag

I received this one-person brainteaser as a gift this Christmas from one of my wonderful families. I have to admit I don't have anything like it. The box even boasts that it is the "World's First 40-Challenge Escape Puzzle". There are several pieces, which will be used to bind Houdini. You can see the individual pieces in the image above. Your job is to free him, without using the clasps to release the pieces. Sounds intriguing, let's check it out! 

One of the first things I do with a new puzzle is look at the challenges and then at the solutions. Yikes, no solutions! That had me sweating until I read in the instructions that the complete take-apart solution videos are on the ThinkFun website. So I headed to the website and sure enough, there they are. They also show videos for the set up part of the puzzles. You know there's a chance it will be difficult when you need a video to help you set-up a puzzle. The 40 challenges increase in difficulty as you go. Here is a picture of the first and last challenge.

  1. Select a challenge.
  2. Tie Houdini up as shown.
  3. Free Houdini getting him clear of all the ropes without undoing the clasps.
Sounds simple enough (she said naively). So I got the first puzzle set up according to the picture with no problems. This is embarrassing to admit, but I was stumped trying to solve it. It made sense once I watched the solution video, but I never would have thought of it. Remember those metal 2-piece puzzles that were popular about 50 years ago? I couldn't do those either. 
Not included, just reliving bad memories. LOL
No magicians in this family. But I'm not discouraged, I'll still use it in therapy and see what the kids can do with it. The Think Fun website has a link where you can see the set up as well as the solution to the puzzles if you are interested. Here it is ThinkFun.

Here are the Think Fun tips for freeing Houdini:
  • Try to work him to one end of the rope.
  • Experiment to see which pieces can pass through each other. VERY GOOD TIP TO START. I might have figured it out if I done this first.
  • Try to keep your ropes from getting tangled.
  • Free another piece before you free Houdini.
  • Remember to use what you learn from previous challenges.

If you would like to read more about one-person logic puzzles, check out my post What's in Your Therapy Box? Logic Puzzles Edition.

Try this:
  • If you get too tangled up, just release the clips and start over.
  • If frustration takes over, take a break. Most can't think creatively under those conditions. I know I can't.
  • Use the set up cards only, if you have those who couldn't figure out the puzzles. Just those pictures can offer a VP workout.
  • Work the solution as the individual watches. Then set up again and let him do it.
  • Use the videos as a guide and stop as many times as needed to follow.

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