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, July 12, 2016


Work on making and reading facial expressions, non-verbal communication, social skills

In the box: 350 caption cards, 5 blank cards to personalize, frame

Who would have known there was a crazy game like this out there? And I stumbled onto it just at this time when I am trying to find therapeutic ways to incorporate cell phones into my sessions. I didn't think I would ever be going there, but I am working with several high level teens who are glued to their phones. So I started wondering how/if I could incorporate cell phones into therapy. Turns out there are lots of ways, but this game is totally out of the box, so to speak. And the great part, you won't even need to buy the game after I describe it because the box contains nothing but cards and a cardboard picture frame. Just make your own! (If you don't have a cell phone, you can just hold the frame up in front of your face.) Each card poses a different situation where the typical person would react - with joy, fear, pain, repulsion, etc. To play per the box instructions, deal five cards to each player. The person who will take the selfie picks a card, poses for the caption, and takes a selfie. Then he passes his phone around the table and each player chooses a card from his hand that he feels is the best match for the selfie. The person who took the selfie looks at all the cards and chooses his favorite. The winner of each round gets a point and the player with the most points at the end of the game, wins. Here are a few of the card captions:
  • There's a spider on your shoulder.
  • Your friend has really bad breath.
  • You just hit your thumb with a hammer.
  • You won first place at the school track meet.
  • Someone just sneezed on you.
  • You are on an elevator and a TV star just walked in.
  • You are dizzy.
Talk about how different people may not always respond the same to the same situation and how this makes it even more important to be able to interpret facial expressions and body language. For instance I may hate spiders and shriek when I see one on my shoulder, you may love them and smile.

Here are two ideas for playing in therapy with just one person.
  1. Lay several cards on the table, say four. Stack the deck if you want the cards to be very different or all similar. One person looks at the cards and chooses a card caption, but does not tell the other person. Using a phone, he makes that face and takes a selfie. The other person looks at the four card choices and finds the match.
  2. Choose a card. Talk about the emotion/response involved. You and the player each pose for the same card and take selfies on your individual phones. Compare the two selfies. Are they similar or different? Talk about each feature, such as eyebrows, mouth, eyes, typical to that emotion/response. Use what you learned and take another selfie if you did not hit it on the mark.
Kick it up a notch: Use photo booth props. Either real items such as sunglasses, hats, lipstick, and fake moustaches, or use the paper items that comes with the sticks that you hold up in front of yourself.

Try this:
  • Take the opportunity to talk about the importance of matching non-verbal communication with verbal communication.
  • Cover part of the selfie so that you are looking at one feature only. Does it match the card/emotion/response? If not, try again.
  • Start with very obvious differences between emotions/responses and move to more subtle differences within emotions/responses as the individual becomes more skilled at interpreting them.
  • Use a tablet to take the pictures instead of a cell phone. You can better hide your whole face with the tablet so others can't see your expression ahead of time.
If you are interested in purchasing this game or just want more information, click on the image below.

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