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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.


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

K'Nex Elmo Building Sets

ELMO themed construction sets with picture cards.
Work on visual discrimination, visual closure, visual form constancy, figure ground, eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, coordinated use of both hands, in-hand manipulation, finger/hand strength, executive functioning, sequencing, process skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: Varies per set. Approximately 35-50 pieces.

K'Nex and LEGO are two of my favorite construction sets. These K'Nex Elmo sets are more comparable to the LEGO brand DUPLO sets, bigger pieces for younger kids. Each of these sets have a different theme and each set includes pictures of multiple things that you can construct, including animals, a sandcastle, and always an ELMO. There are pictures on the box and several picture cards inside each box to show items you can make. As with most K'Nex products, you will have to work from these pictures of the finished models as there are no step-by-step instructions like you get with LEGO. The pieces are well-made and brightly colored. Some of the bigger pieces are hard plastic, but many of the pieces are made of a sturdy, but flexible plastic. There are not enough pieces for all of the items pictured on the cards to be made at once. You will have to disassemble some to make others. They are fun sets and kids that I have worked with have liked them.

Two pattern cards from the Sunny Days Building Kit.
Try this:
  • Give time for free play at the beginning so that the person can examine the different shaped pieces and how they snap together. Some pieces you will have to push down from the top, not in from the side, and go together nicely with a pinch.
  • Ask the child to pick up the model when possible and hold it in one hand while adding pieces with the other hand so that both hands work together while adding pieces.
  • Hold the model in the non-dominant hand and pick up the correct piece in the dominant hand, setting up a natural opportunity to manipulate the piece in-hand for placement. 
  • Turn pieces on the table so they are not in the correct orientation. Ask the individual to pick up a piece and turn it in-hand to the correct orientation.
  • Set a piece, or only a few pieces, at a time in front of the individual to cue him which piece(s) he will be placing next. It can be difficult to look at a completed model and determine where to start and/or how to proceed. 
  • Give the beginner one piece at a time as he needs it and point to the piece on the picture to direct where he should place it.
  • Cover the part of the model that you are not working on to reduce confusion or to direct the building sequence. 
  • Keep the unused pieces in a pile so the child will have to search for each needed piece. Turn some of the pieces upside down or half bury them under other pieces so they will look different from the picture.
  • Advise the child to hold or stand the model in the same orientation as the one in the picture to aid in orienting pieces.
  • Point to each piece on a model and ask the child to find it in the pile of pieces. Assemble all the needed pieces before building.

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