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, September 24, 2015

Bright and Beyond Preschool Playtime Activities

Work on visual discrimination, eye-hand coordination, visual form constancy, visual memory, visual tracking, kinesthesia, motor planning, sensory awareness, balance, body awareness, fine motor precision, manual dexterity, in-hand manipulation, coordinated use of both hands, pincer grasp, hand/finger strength, thinking skills, problem solving, sequencing, creativity, play exploration and participation
In the box: 52 idea cards
Ages 3-5, 1 or more players
This deck is a treasure trove of simple but effective ideas that may make you scratch your head and wonder "Now why didn't I think of that!" The activities are creative, geared toward preschool ages, and can be performed with common items found in many homes. There is a great mix of activities in this box and they touch on a large range of skills, as you can see above. The front of the card shows a picture of people engaging in the activity, which you can share with the child while explaining the activity. The back of the card has the written directions and offers one or more games to play. They also often offer suggestions on upping the challenge once the child succeeds with the original game.
Front of the card.           Back of the card.
 Here are some of my favorites:
  • Magic memory box - Put three items in a box. Allow the child to look at the items. Put a lid on the box and see how many he can remember.
  • Sound match - Use five plastic Easter eggs that open. Find five items that will have a very distinct sound, such as salt, nuts and bolts, buttons. Make five sets of two, such as two eggs with small bells, two with a tablespoon of salt, two with dried beans or peas. You take one set of five and give the other set of five to the child. You shake one egg. Ask the child to shake his eggs and find the his egg that matches that sound.
  • Goopy goop - Mix 2 cups of corn starch with 1 cup of water. Mix until it is combined. At this consistency you can roll it into a ball in your hands, but as soon as you stop manipulating it, it becomes a liquid again. Let it run through your fingers and start again. 
  • Follow the clues - Design a simple treasure hunt with a small prize at the end. Write a clue on an index card or slip of paper, such as 'look on your bed'. On his bed you will place the next clue, such as 'look under the couch'. Under the couch you will place the next clue, and so forth. Make four or five clues and place them at the appropriate locations. Give the child the first clue card (look on the bed), and allow him to follow the clues until he finds the small prize at the final location.
  • Nuts and bolts - Most people have a handful (or more) of nuts and bolts hanging around in the garage or junk drawer. Gather them up and sit down with your child. Find a nut and bolt that are a correct fit and practice screwing them together. How many sets can you make? When you have made all the sets you can, unscrew them to put away.
Some of the materials needed for the activities include apple, small empty box, buttons, glue, paper, empty milk jug, old magazines, photo, toy cars, and dice. This company has a line of activity boxes for different ages.
Try this:
  • Magic memory box - Tell the child to look at the items with the intent of remembering them. If he forgets one, let him peek in the box again, describe the item for him, let him feel the item without looking, give verbal clues, or pantomime using the item. Now can he guess correctly? As the child can remember three, then put four, then up to five, etc. If the child has difficulty remembering the items in the box, have him verbally name the objects (maybe several times) as he is looking at them. Hearing while seeing can help reinforce memory. 
  • Sound match - Make the items closer in sound as the child gets better at identifying them. For instance, make them all different types and sizes of dried beans and legumes. Make sure the child holds the egg upright while opening if the contents can be spilled.
  • Goopy goop - Pour the mixture on a large cookie sheet with edges (so it does not flow off the sides). Use your finger to draw simple pictures or write alphabet or numbers. There will be a drag as you pull your finger through the mixture.
  • Follow the clues - Use left/right orientation and two step directions as the child progresses, such as look in the second drawer on the right.
  • Nuts and bolts - Tell the individual that screwing toward the right will tighten the bolt and toward the left will loosen it. Right tight, left loose.
If you are interested in purchasing this item, or just want more information, click on the image below.

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