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.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Work on visual discrimination, spatial relations, visual closure, visual form constancy, eye-hand coordination, visual memory, figure ground, coordinated use of both hands, manual dexterity, sequencing, social skills, motor planning, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 1 game board, 38 wooden blocks, 72 sets of blueprints, 60 second timer, 1 die
Ages 8+, 4+ players

A game of construction chosen by Mensa as a National Competition Winner.  The pieces are solid wood, unfinished and smooth (see box above). The cards do not include any step-by-step directions but show pictures of completed structures. The cards are numbered and increase in difficulty as you go. Cards are also rated from apprentice to journeyman to master builder. 

The goal is to be the first team to reach the DONE space on the board. There are two sets of 29 spaces on the board for two teams to play. In each round there will be one foreman who will receive the blueprint and give the directions. He does not build, therefore the game is set up for a minimum of four people to play. The game starts by each foreman receiving the same blueprint (there are 2 of each card). The timer is turned over and each team has 60 seconds to build the structure on the card. The foremen are the only people who see the picture of the finished structure and they must give verbal directions to their team of what to build. They cannot gesture, point or touch the blocks. The first team finished shouts "Done". The other team checks their work. If they got it right, they throw and die and move ahead that many spaces. If they got it wrong, they throw the die and move backward that many spaces. A new foreman is chosen for the next round and the game continues. As the teams advance around the board there are several special spaces. If a team lands on one of these they must follow the directions for the next round. Special rules are as follows:
  • Silent Challenge - The foremen cannot speak or touch the blocks but may gesture, point, nod, waves, etc.
  • Blind Challenge - The foremen turn their backs to the construction site and gives directions verbally. They do not see the finished structure until the round is over.
  • Memory Challenge - Foremen memorize the structure before giving directions. Once they both agree they have memorized it, the cards are turned over and the round begins.
  • Clock Challenge - Only the team that lands on this space plays the next round. The other team watch the timer, but cannot play.
The instructions suggest that you consider the age of the foreman before choosing a structure for each round and consider using only apprentice structures for the special challenges.

Try this:
  • Use the cards with a single person, without playing a game. Build the structure as pictured.
  • Increase the time for each round or eliminate the timer altogether until you get used to the game. Depending on the skill you are focusing on, the timer may add unnecessary pressure that slows down processing.
  • Give the individual one block at a time to place if he does not know where to start or how to proceed.
  • Place only the blocks needed for each structure in front of the individual. Turn them in different directions so he will have to identify them from different perspectives.
  • Use consistent directional and positional language in your directions.
  • Cover a part of the structure you are not working on as you work if looking at the whole structure is too confusing.
If you are interested in purchasing this item or just want more information, click on the image below.


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