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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, June 16, 2017

The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse

A coloring game.

Work on visual discrimination, visual closure, visual motor integration, fine motor precision, finger isolation, separation of two sides of the hand, coordinated use of both hands, thumb to finger, developing web space, tripod grasp, coloring, manual dexterity, executive functioning skills, social interaction skills, process skills, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: Game board, spinner, 4 pawns, 144 sheets animal coloring pad, 8 crayons

A coloring game - this is the first of its kind for me. Whether you use markers, pencils, or crayons, coloring is an activity that lots of kids like and that is great for helping develop functional hand skills. It's also a way to get a writing tool into the hands of reluctant writers. I've passed out many a color book and box of crayons in my day. Unfortunately, they are not making color books like they used to. If you go to Walmart, a color book is likely to cost you $6. The dollar store still carries them but they are called activity books, and half of the pages are devoted to puzzles, mazes, and the like. The object of this game, according to the box, is to "explore the painter's color palette in this cooperative game of self-expression." This game comes with very simple drawings of several different animals (lion, bear, fox, crocodile, horse, donkey, cow) on plain white paper. Pictures are L 5" x W 2 3/4" and each animal is divided into four sections.


Set up: Place the game board, spinner, and crayons in the middle of the table. Place a pawn on start.
Play: In turn, each player will spin the spinner. The options that may come up include:
  • 1-4 - Move the pawn ahead on the board the number of spaces indicated. Everyone colors one section of his animal with the color indicated on the space.
  • Any color X 2 - The person who is spinning chooses two colors that all players will use to color a section of their animal.
  • Trade animal - Players trade their unfinished pictures and end up working on other's masterpieces.
The game ends when all sections of the animals are colored and everyone enjoys all the masterpieces.

LEFT - Spinner.   RIGHT - Game Board.
Try this:
  • Use pencils instead of crayons.
  • Use your own pictures or coloring books for more variety, a longer game, and to customize the skill level or subject of interest to your individual colorer.
  • Follow the path on the game board with your eyes and touch each color as you name it. Do this before the game to familiarize yourself with the colors.
  • Tape the animals in a long line on the wall as you finish coloring them. Make a parade of animals for everyone to enjoy.
  • Lay the crayons on the table upside down so that when an individual picks one up, he will have the opportunity to rotate it in-hand to orient it correctly for coloring.
  • Practice flicking the arrow with different fingers to thumb. Look for the big circle in the web space before flicking.
  • Practice distal rotation by coloring in the animals using small circular motions. I call it giving the animal "curly fur".

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