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.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Robot Explorers

A solar system race game.

Work on visual discrimination, figure ground, visual tracing, manual dexterity, thumb opposition, web space development, coordinated use of two hands, counting 1-6, executive functioning skills, process skills, socialization skills, play and leisure exploration and participation, learning planets

In the box: Game board, 4 robot-rocket pawns, spinner, 36 specimens, cotton bag to store specimens

You are a robot engaged in scientific research. To collect the research specimens you need for your science lab, race your robot around the sun, stopping at eight planets to collect one specimen from each. The game board is heavyweight, opens to 18" square, and pictures our solar system. The robots are card stock also and will take simple assembly to make them stand upright. The spinner is also made of a heavy card stock. The arrow on mine is a little tight so it does not spin as freely as one would hope. However, it works. There are six colored spaces on the spinner, each with a different number (1-6). Below is a picture from the back of the box showing the contents:

Be the first person to collect all 8 specimens, one from each planet, to win the game.

Open the board. Each player chooses one robot and places it on the board in his own space laboratory. In the image above, the green robot, named Spin, is pictured on the board and underneath him and to the right of him the board is colored green. This is his lab and where you will place your specimens as you collect them. In the picture above, a blue and a pink specimen have already been found and placed in the lab. Each corner of the board is a different color laboratory to match a different robot. 

In turn each player will spin the spinner and move that many spaces forward. The white dots on the game board, pictured along an orbit, are the spaces. If a planet overlaps your orbit, it is also counted as a space. All movement on the board is done clockwise. At the top and bottom of the board all orbits come together and at these junctures you may choose to follow a new orbit if you wish. You may need to follow one orbit more than once to pick up the specimens that you need. Some of the spaces on the board will also have directions that you must follow if you land on that space. These include go again, move ahead 5, lose a turn, lose a sample, and go to a specific planet. Any time a player lands on a planet, by exact count, he may choose one of the specimens from that planet and place it in his lab. If a player lands on a space that another player is already occupying, the player that was there is sent back to his space lab and continues play from there. Be the first to collect all 8 specimens so you can proceed with your research. We'll leave that part to your imagination.

Try this:
  • Collect fewer specimens for a shorter game.
  • Hold the spinner in one hand and spin with the other. 
  • Look for a nice rounded web space before spinning the spinner.
  • Isolate and use different fingers to thumb when flicking the spinner.
  • Look over the board before playing the game. Explain the rules. There's a lot going on there that could be confusing.
  • Use your eyes only and trace the orbits, one at a time. Each orbit is a different color. Name the planets or other things that you run into on each orbit.
  • Stack the specimen pieces when putting them away. Stack one on top of another and pick them both up together. Then stack the two on top of another and pick all three up together, etc. How many can be stacked and held at one time?
  • Look ahead and visually trace along an orbit. Ask what number will you need to spin to land exactly on that planet, or to land on the free turn space, etc.
  • Ask for information about planning such as which specimens do you still need and which orbit(s) do you still need to fly through to get them.

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