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 15, 2019

Games with Money

Recognizing coins and their value, counting money, making change, are all important skills if an individual will be living independently or semi-independently. Below is a list of games that include working with money in some form. Click on any link to go to my post about that game.

Buy it Right!

Melissa & Doug Play Money

Counting Money - Level 2

Monopoly Junior


Money Equivalency Puzzles

Match it! Money Bingo

Money Bags Coin Game

Clumsy Thief

Operation (some games)

Money Dice

Bare Books

The Allowance Game


Hot Dots Jr.

Exact Change


Sunday, January 13, 2019


A visual tracking, eye-hand game.

Work on visual tracking, eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, catch and release, aim, socialization skills, process skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 6 pieces, metal balls

This is a fun, one-of-a-kind game that involves visual tracking and eye-hand coordination. The game consists of several hard plastic pieces that are assembled and clipped right onto the game box to form a curved, grooved rail (see images). Attached under the arch (above the rail) is a cord with a metal ball swinging on the end. Inside the box there are 14 empty compartments, seven on each side. Each compartment is labeled with a value (50, 100, 150, or 200). The further away from the middle, the higher the point value of that compartment. I'm sorry I don't remember how many metal balls come with the game as I have added to them.

Be the first player to score 1500 points by knocking the ball into the numbered compartments.

Set up:
Assemble the pieces so that you have a rail with an arch over it (it's very simple to put together and take apart). Two players sit across from each other. One player places a metal ball into a clip on the structure and prepares to release it. The other player holds the ball on the end of the string.

The first player releases the metal ball and it swiftly rolls from one end of the rail to the other. The person on the other side of the game will visually track the ball until he feels he can swing his ball and it will hit the rolling ball as it passes, and knock it into one of the compartments. If he is successful and the ball lands in one of the compartments, he gets the points assigned to that compartment and the two players trade jobs and play again. If he is unsuccessful, the player on the other side may catch the ball as it swings over and then try to knock the ball off the rail himself. Keep swinging the ball back and forth, with whoever can catch it getting a try, until someone knocks it into a compartment and gets the points. Keep playing until someone accumulates 1500 points and wins the game.

Try this:
  • Add your own different sized metal balls. I have several different sizes and I start with a much bigger ball. It is slower and easier to hit. Then I reduce the ball size until we are playing with the smallest ball. 
  • Practice before playing a game so that you can see how long the swinging ball takes to make contact, and what angles you should swing the ball to get it to fall into the different number compartments.
  • Play alone and see how many times you have to release a ball to make 1500 points. Then play again and see if you can do it in fewer turns (by landing in bigger number compartments).
  • Practice hitting the ball on its first trip across. Try 10 times and see how many times you can do it. Then play again and try to beat your score.
  • Give the points to the other player if the swinging ball you released happens to contact the rolling ball on its return to you and knocks it into your opponent's side.