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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.


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Tippy the Turtle

Use a graded release to balance the pieces without tipping the turtle.

Work on visual discrimination, spatial relations, eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, graded release, executive functioning, in-hand manipulation, coordinated use of both hands, webspace development, palmar arch development, balance, motor planning, body awareness, socialization skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 1 turtle, 1 die, 15 round pieces, cloth carrying bag

Tippy the Turtle is an all-wooden balance game. Place the turtle upside-down on a flat surface. He will easily rock back and forth. Taking turns, players throw the die to determine if they will balance a yellow piece or a green piece on the turtle. The die is smaller than average, measuring 1-2/5" square. There are two light green sides on the die, two dark green, and two yellow. Keep stacking the pieces until they are all on the turtle or until a piece(s) falls off. If you are playing against someone, you could declare the other player the winner at that point (the person who did not cause a piece to tumble off). If playing alone or in therapy, just pick it up and put it back on. ;) I had no trouble stacking all the pieces on without any falling off.


Try this:
  • Play with the turtle figure and pieces before starting a game. Demonstrate how to place pieces on alternating sides to keep it balanced and what happens when you don't. Model and practice picking up pieces with one finger on each end, opening the webspace into a nice O.
  • Hold the turtle still with the non-dominant hand and place pieces on with the dominant hand. The figure will not rock and placement may be easier for beginners.
  • Skip the die, just choose and put on one piece after another.
  • Try to place two pieces at once, one in each hand.
  • Cup the hand before shaking the die. Keep the hand in a cupped position while shaking and moving the die. Alternate hands and place the hands, one on top of the other, during different turns. I try to keep the hand in a cupped position as long as I can on dice games by maybe singing a song about a turtle, counting to 10 or 20, or asking the person to make the die dance and watch it move around in the hand.
  • If the individual has difficulty cupping the hand, place a ball in the hand, curl the fingers around it, and remove the ball.
  • Put the pieces away by dropping them one at a time in the cupped hand. Count as you go. Can they hold them all without dropping? Put the pieces back in the bag.
  • Pick the pieces up by handfuls to put them back into the bag when you are done.
  • Place one piece at a time in the player's palm. Ask him to bring the piece to his fingertips and orient before placing on the turtle.
  • Ask the player to cup the non-dominant hand. Place several pieces in the hand. Ask the player to remove them from this hand, one at a time, with the dominant hand and place them on the turtle.
  • Play a reverse game when putting it away. After playing a game and the pieces are all on the turtle, take them off one at a time, without tipping the turtle, and put them in the storage bag.
  • Play hand-over-hand if the player cannot place a piece without knocking others off or tipping the turtle. Holding their hand from above, help them open their fingers gently so the piece lands softly where you want it to.
  • Holding the turtle in the air with the non-dominant hand, see how many pieces you can place on it before one falls. Do it with the elbow anchored to the tabletop. Then do once with no support surface for the arms. Can they still put as many on?

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