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.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Bulls & Cows

Work on visual discrimination, spatial relations, executive functioning skills, eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, process skills, socialization skills, play and leisure exploration and participation.

In the box: Card rack, 25 cow chips, 15 bull chips, 60 number code cards

A two-player code-breaking game that features, you guessed it, bulls and cows. Bulls & Cows is manufactured by Front Porch Classics, a company that encourages folks to unplug and spend time doing things together. If you have ever played Mastermind, this game is similar to that.

Be the player who has made the fewest code-breaking guesses after 5 rounds.

Set Up:
Place the wooden card rack in front of one of the players. Place the number code cards in a face-down pile by the rack. Place the cow chips in a pile. Place the bull chips in a pile.

Determine if you will be breaking a 3-number code or a 4-number code. Three-number codes are easier to break and thus may be a good place to start while teaching the game. The first player, the person with the rack, places three or four cards on the rack. If playing a three-number game, only use the numbers 1-3. The player can either take the numbers randomly from the pile or look at the number cards and create their own unique number. Place the cards in the rack so that the other player cannot see the numbers.

The second player will now try to guess the three numbers and their order, and will place three numbers, face-up, in front of the rack. The first player will use the cow and bull chips to let the person know if they have gotten any of the numbers correct. A cow chip placed by the line of numbers means that you have a number correct and in the correct position. A bull chip will indicate that you got a number correct but it is in the wrong position. Neither cow or bull chip will tell you which numbers are correct. That is for you to decide. Here is a picture from the instructions that will help explain this. Player two has made two guesses, the second guess based on the feedback from the first guess.

Player two keeps guessing until he has the correct numbers in the correct order.

Try this:
  • Start with a two number game to teach, then three, then four.
  • Start by playing a game yourself. Talk out loud as you reason and try different things so that the individual can hear and see you model the process.
  • On a three number game, if one number comes up as the correct number in the correct position, only change one number during the next two turns to find out what number if positioned correctly. 

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