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.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Tickety Toc Chime Time

Work on visual discrimination, figure ground, spatial relations/position in space, eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, thumb opposition, web space development, coordinated use of both hands, vestibular and proprioceptive perception, gross motor movement and coordination, process skills, executive functioning skills, socialization skills, play and leisure exploration and participation 

In the box: Game board, spinner, 40 game tiles, 4 character movers, 4 mover bases

Let me start by saying this is not a game to teach someone to tell time. It is a simple game of following directions, learning colors, and simple counting. It is also one of those few and far between table games with built-in gross motor involvement. The game board, as you see above, has gears. It comes as three large jigsaw puzzle-type pieces and is easy to assemble. The gears are interlocking, and as you turn one of them, they all turn. As the blue gear moves, it will count up from one to 12 (like a clock). When it gets to 12, chime time, the game is over. As the players advance around the board and turn the gears, they will choose game tiles and be challenged to a variety of activities. Complete an activity and win the game tile. At chime time, when the game is over, the one who has collected the most tiles is the winner. Game tiles include gross motor activities and will require getting up and doing things. If there are activities that a player will not be capable of doing, just remove those tiles before the game begins. Here are the three different categories of game tiles and examples of activities.
  • Play time - There are numerous small objects pictured around the border of the game board. This category challenges you to find specific items.
    • Find Tooteroo's bandana.
    • Find Chikidee's yarn basket.
    • Find Madame Au Lair's fruit bowl.
  • Pretend time
    • Pretend to be a monkey
    • Pretend to be a fish
  • Exercise time
    • Fly around the room 3 times
    • Pretend to climb a ladder
    • Dance like a robot
    • Do two hops on one foot
Object: Be the player who has collected the most tiles by "chime time" (12 on the blue gear).

Set up: Assemble the game board as instructed and place it in the middle of the players. Separate the game tiles by character/color (Red - Battersby, Yellow - Chikidee, Blue - Madame Au Lair, Green - Tooteroo) and stack each pile face-down by the board. Put the multi-color clockhouse tiles near the game board. Each player chooses one character pawn and places it on start.

Play: Spin the spinner. If you spin a color, advance to the next space of that color on the game board and your turn is over. If you spin 1, 2 or 3, choose any of the large gears on the board and turn it until you see the same number of characters in the window(s) as the number showing on the spinner. Now ALL PLAYERS check to see if there is a character in a gear window adjacent to the space they are on. If so, each player may choose a tile card that matches their character and may perform the activity on the card. Each player that is successful gets to keep their card. If you spin the word SLIDE, go to the slide space on the board and collect a clockhouse tile. No activity required and this will also count as a tile in your final count. A freebie.

Try this:
  • Examine the game board before playing. There is a lot going on here. Point out the small objects on the borders, play with the gears and watch how they move together, etc.
  • Practice making a nice rounded circle with the thumb and index finger before flicking the spinner.
  • Practice flicking the arrow with different fingers to thumb.
  • Hold the spinner in the non-dominant hand and spin with the dominant hand.
  • Practice flicking the raised part of the bottom of the arrow as well as the more flattened top of the arrow. 
  • Model gross motor movements or assist if necessary for completion and safety.
  • Indicate the quadrant where the PLAY TIME item can be found if the game board background is too busy.
  • Advance around the game board before starting the game, pointing to each space as you go and naming the color.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Peacetown - Conflict Resolution

Lots of role playing opportunities to resolve conflict.

Work on learning and practicing conflict resolution skills

In the box: 1 2-sided game board, 70 conflict cards, 60 chance cards, 13 skill cards, 6 pawns, 1 die.

Ages 7+, 2-4 players

The goal of this game is to teach, and then provide opportunities to practice, the skills needed to peacefully resolve conflict. The game follows Steve and Wendy through a typical day in their home town, Peacetown. The game board is a large board, trifolded, and 2-sided. Side one of the game board shows exteriors of Peacetown and teaches eight conflict resolution skills:
  • Apologizing
  • Using Chance
  • Compromising
  • Taking turns
  • Sharing
  • Avoiding
  • Ignoring
  • Getting help
Side two of the game board shows what is going on in the interiors of the buildings of Peacetown and teaches deeper conflict resolution skills:
  • Listening
  • Respecting differences
  • Communicating feelings
  • Taking responsibility for actions
  • Attacking the problem, not the person
The instructions recommend a teaching session using the Skill Cards before beginning the game. There is one skill card for each conflict resolution skill that I listed above. After choosing which game you will play (1 or 2), present the skill cards, one at a time, and read the short definition included in the instructions.

There are two sets of cards to the game - one set for side one, one set for side two. The cards for each game will include conflict cards and chance cards. Conflict cards set up a conflict for you to resolve. Here are some examples:
  • Side one
    • Whenever Jake walks into the cafeteria, the kids call him "fat" or "four-eyes". Jake doesn't like this, be he has to go into the cafeteria to get lunch. What can Jake do?
    • Mr. Frankel divides his class into small groups and asks each group to draw a picture of what they think their school will look like in 50 years. Linda is put in charge of one group. She has some ideas about how the picture should look, but so does everybody else in the group. The group starts fighting over what the picture should look like. What can Linda suggest that would stop the conflict and get everyone started on the project?
  • Side two
    • When Juan gets mad, he yells at people. When Jamal gets mad, he keeps his feelings inside. Is one way of handling feelings better than the other? Why or why not?
    • Velma's dad is out of work and trying hard to find a job. Paco tells everyone at school that Velma's dad is a bum and that he doesn't want to work. If you were Velma, how would feel? How would you let Paco know how you feel?
The chance cards
  • Side one
    • A bully threatens to beat you up after school, so you ask your friends to walk home with you. Move ahead 2 spaces.
    • You refuse to take turns with a friend. Move back 2 spaces.
  • Side two
    • When your friend tells you about her problem, you listen without interrupting and try to understand her point of view. Move ahead 2 spaces.
    • You get even with a boy for tripping you by tripping him back. Move back 2 spaces.
Move along the path earning peace points by appropriately resolving conflicts. When someone reaches the finish line, the person with the most peace points wins.

Set up:
Place the board in the middle of the players. Each player chooses and places a pawn on the "start" square. Shuffle and place the conflict cards on the board. Shuffle and place the chance cards on the board.

Each player will throw the die and move his pawn that many spaces. There are no blank spaces on the board, and each space on the board has some kind of symbol that will indicate what action to take. There will be a lot of opportunities to problem solve and practice as you go.

The box has the ages of 7-12, but I did not list the top age as I have used side two with teenagers with success. Maybe some will think this goes against the spirit of the game, but I never like to penalize someone (withholding peace points) for a wrong answer when they are learning. Each wrong answer is an opportunity to teach a better way. If you want to compete, see who gets to the finish line first. Of course that will just be dependent on the roll of the die.

Try this:
  • Skip the game and just use the game cards, posing questions and role playing.