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, October 29, 2015

Secret Square

Work on categorizing, visual discrimination, visual scanning, figure ground, manual dexterity, crossing midline, analytical thinking, social interaction, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 96 squares, 96 self-adhesive stickers, 25 scoring chips
Ages 4+, 2-4 players

Secret Square is the game of categories and great questions. One player chooses 25 squares, sets them up in the shape of a 5 X 5 grid (see picture above), and secretly hides a chip under one of them. The other players ask yes and no questions and squares are removed until the only square left is the secret square. A game simple enough for a 4 year old to learn, but challenging enough so that the whole family can play. The player who hides the chip does not guess that round, but is the one who answers the questions and removes the squares each time a question is answered. The pictures you see on the tiles above come as stickers and you apply them yourself. After owning this game for years they are still sticking fine. The pictures are very simple every day objects and are brightly colored. Here are a few of the objects from the box lid:


The player who asks the question that eliminates all tiles but one, wins.

Try this:
  • Set up the grid for the individual and you call the categories as the individual removes all tiles that fit each category. For example something red, something living, something you can eat, etc.
  • Set the game up and use only a category you are working on. For example use only animals. Questions could focus on categories such as animals with beaks, animals with fur, animals with tails, etc. Or for instance work on just color questions.
  • Let the player who is asking the question make one guess at the end of his turn, ending the game sooner if he thinks ahead correctly.
  • Set up all 96 tiles. Have one person call a category and all scan the pile and remove tiles at the same time. Then the next player names and category and the tiles are removed. Continue until all tiles have been removed.
  • Use all 96 tiles, instead of 25, for a greater challenge.
  • Give each player one tile and start a 1 minute timer. How many categories can each player write down for his one tile. Example snowman: cold, white, edible (carrot nose), winter, wet, inanimate, etc. 

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