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.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Barbecue Party

Add or remove food from the grill without making it jump. Collect 4 to win.
Work on visual discrimination, spatial relations, eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, tool use, in-hand manipulation, shoulder stability, body awareness, graded release, motor planning, executive functioning skills, process skills, visual memory, socialization skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 2-piece grill, 16 food pieces, tongs, 17 cards, sheet of stickers

Be the first player to collect 4 pieces of food off the grill to be crowned the Grill Master. Players will take turns placing and/or removing pieces of food off the grill. Move carefully, as you don't know when the grill will jump, and the pieces will go flying. The grill is made up of two pieces, the red base and the silver grate, and is hollow, hard plastic. Nice surprise: No batteries! The food pieces are hard plastic and hollow and they have eyes that are stickers. A sheet of stickers is included and you will have to put them on the food pieces yourself. They don't stay forever, a half dozen have fallen off my food pieces. You could always use a black marker and draw pupils on those if you want. I did not bother. The tongs are plastic but a little more flexible than the hard plastic of the rest of the game. The food pieces can be picked up from any position, even flat off the table top, with the tongs. If you look closely at the food pieces, you will notice flat ribbed lines where the tongs can grasp the piece from above. Each food card will have one food item pictured on it.  Food items are mushroom, sausage, tomato, red pepper, broccoli, chicken drumstick, fish and ear of corn. There is one joker card.

Pic of kid's playing off back of game box.

Be the first to collect 4 pieces of food.

Put the stickers on the game. Place the grill on a flat surface. Move the switch on the side of the grill to the "0" position. Push the black rod in the center of the grill down. You will hear it click into place. Place the silver grate on top of the grill, lining it up in the three slots on the grill top. Move the switch to the "l" position. Shuffle and place the cards next to the grill. Place the food items next to the grill.

In turn, each player will turn over one card. There are four possible moves:
  • Food Card
    •  If that item is not yet on the grill (there are 2 of each food item), place one on the grill. Return the card to the bottom of the stack.
    • If that item is on the grill already, take it off and place it on top of the card next to you. You've collected a piece of food.
    • If you pick a card and both pieces of that food have already been removed from the grill, lose your turn. This may happen if someone took a piece of food off with the joker card and so did not have the specific matching food card.
  • Joker Card
    • Take off or put on any one food item of your choice. If you take one off, it will not count as you don't have the matching card.
If the grill jumps while you are attempting to take off a piece of food, all food, including anything in your tongs, is returned to the table. First person to collect four items, with the matching food cards, is the winner.

Try this:
  • Scatter the pieces on a flat surface and practice picking them up with the tweezers before playing a game.
  • Place the silver grate flat on the table top and practice placing the food items on it with a light touch before playing the game.
  • Play a simple game of memory match with the food cards. Shuffle and place them face-down, side-by-side, on the table-top. Turn over two cards at a time looking for a match. Remember which cards have been turned so you can make more matches. When you make a match, set it by you. Play until all cards have been matched and removed. Player with the most sets is the winner.
  • Shuffle and stack the cards. Make eight sets of two matching cards on the table top. Lift the top card off the pile without sliding other cards off or toppling the pile. Then turn the card in-hand to see the food on the other side. If it is upside-down, spin it around in your hand without setting it down on the table first.
  • Use your fingers instead of the tongs.
  • Skip the game. How many food items can you place on the grill before it jumps? Go again and see if you can increase the number.
  • Skip the game. Place the stack of cards on the table. Turn them over one at a time and place a matching piece of food on top of it. Use the tongs or don't.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Clumsy Thief

Make and steal money stacks by adding 2 cards to equal $100.
Work on manual dexterity, in-hand manipulation, coordinated use of both hands for mixing/dealing/fanning/holding cards, processing speed, executive functioning, adding to 100 in multiples of five, socialization skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 94 cards

The box calls it a money game. I was hoping I could use it in therapy for kids with money goals, but it is less about money and more about adding sets of 100. The game includes money cards, thief cards, and jail cards. Each money card has one value on it (see image below). The values on the money cards are $15, $20, $25, $30, $40, $45, $50, $55, $60, $70, $75, $80, $85. This is the only game I've ever seen where the instructions are a comic strip. Kind of fun.

Be the player with the most money at the end of the game.

Set up:
Shuffle the cards. Give each player 7 cards. Place the rest of the deck face-down on the table. This stack is called the bank.

All players look at their cards and make money stacks on the table in front of them. A money stack is 2 cards that equal $100. For instance a money stack could be a $30 card and a $70 card, or a $15 card and an $85 card. When all money stacks have been made the dealer says "GO!" It is now time to steal as many money stacks as you can. All players play at the same time. There are three ways to steal someone's money stacks:
  • Money Cards - You may steal someone's money stack if you have a card in your hand that will add up to $100 when placed on top of their stack. You may add only one card. For instance, if the top card on someone's stack is $60, you may top it with a $40 card and slide the stack to your side of the table. If someone else has a $60 card in their hand, they can add it to your stack and steal it from you.
  • Thief Cards - A thief card can be played on top of any pile and lets you steal that stack. The more cards already in the stack, the better. Another thief card can be played on your thief card and the stack can then be stolen away from you.
  • Jail Cards - A jail card can be played only on top of a thief card. This stack is now safe and no one can steal it from you. No card tops a jail card.
When the stealing is done, that round ends. Now everyone takes one card from the bank and on the word "GO", a new round of building money stacks and stealing begins. When one person is down to one card in his hand he must say "Last card". When any person, or the bank, runs out of cards, the game is over. Add all the money in your stacks. THe person with the most money is the winner.

Try this:
  • Practice adding the different sets of two before playing the game. Because it is based on speed, some people will always be faster than others.
  • Practice dealing by holding the stack in the non-dominant hand and pushing the top card off using the thumb. If the individual has difficulty, start with a shorter stack of cards.
  • Practice fanning the cards by holding your cards in the non-dominant hand and pushing away one card at a time using the thumb.