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.

Sunday, July 3, 2016


Work on visualization, spatial relations, figure ground, visual discrimination, visual scanning, visual closure, manual dexterity, coordinated use of two hands, in-hand manipulation, logic, attention, planning, social skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 60 cards, carrying bag

Another therapist favorite for working on spatial skills. The object of the game is to make the most swishes by layering two or three cards together so that the colored dots fill in the colored circles. In the image above, you can pick up either of the green and purple cards and, without changing the orientation of either, set it on the top of the other for a perfect fit - a swish. Other times, cards will need to be rotated, turned, or flipped to create a Swish. The blue and orange card on the top left will have to be flipped over to land in the correct position to create a swish. All cards have two objects, either two dots, two circles, or a dot and a circle. So once you get the hang of it, this game doesn't increase in difficulty unless you add more cards to look over to make the swishes. If you would like something similar that does increase in difficulty, check out On the Dot. The cards are plastic and transparent, so it is best to play on a plain, light colored background.

The instructions for play are the same as for Swish Jr. so I am going to copy and paste here:

To play: Shuffle the cards and deal 12 cards onto a flat surface in a 3 X 4 configuration (see image above). Place the rest of the deck (draw pile) to the side. All players visually scan the 12 cards to find a swish. Players are not allowed to move the cards and must visualize them as they would look if they are flipped, turned, rotated, and stacked. A players calls "swish" as soon as he spots one and play comes to a stop while the cards are checked. If it is a swish, the player takes the cards and the dealer adds new cards to the grid to replace them and play resumes. If it is not a swish, the cards are put back in the grid and the player who called Swish must return one of the cards he has already collected to the draw pile. Players continue in this fashion until either all the cards have been matched and collected or until there are no more swishes. The player who has collected the most cards wins.

I usually teach one position at a time. Start by laying the cards out all in the correct orientation, like the purple and green set above. Then play with the cards all face up but one needs to be turned to fit. Then play so that each swish will required that one card is flipped from side-to-side or top to bottom. Demonstrate as each new move is introduced. Expecting someone to learn to see all the orientations at once is too overwhelming for many. Once they can see more than one, play a game of mixed by starting slow with a few sets and work up to as many cards as you want to play with.

To see the post for the Swish Jr. game, click here.

Try this:
  • Stack the deck ahead of time so that you control the difficulty level and so that the matches come up when you want them to. 
  • Start by allowing the individual to touch, pick up, and move the cards. Just visualizing those moves will be a lot harder.
  • When dealing, hold the cards in the non-dominant hand and push the top card off with the thumb. Or, place the cards in a stack and pick them up one at a time to place without sliding cards off the stack.
  • Increase the difficulty of the game by making the grid larger. Decrease the difficulty by decreasing the number of cards in play.
If you are interested in purchasing this game or just want more information, click on the image below.

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