Let the Games Begin: How to Help Your Child to use Games in a Different Way

As I mentioned before in my previous blog, it is important for parents to consider traditional board games as well as hands-on toys forlegos this holiday season. While new technology is impressive, traditional board games and hands-on toys continue to be an ideal way for children to work on a variety of skills allow them to explore their environment and pursue their own personal interests. One common struggle that parents may encounter is that their children may become ‘bored’ with their toys after a short period of time, therefore, this proves to be a perfect time to help your children think of alternative ways to play a game.

Below are a few suggestions as to how to break down a game and address different skills:

  • Easel: While an easel is a great place for your child to draw pictures and paint, it can also be used for practicing your child’s spelling words, playing Tic-Tac-Toe, Pictionary or Hangman and for creating a visual schedule. Similarly, have your child use  clothes
    pins or clips to hang his or her paper onto the easel to address their hand strength, pincer grasp and upper body strength. These skills will benefit their handwriting and other fine motor tasks.
  • LEGOs: It is often that children will have plenty of ideas of what they would like to create using their LEGOs, whether it be pirate ships, castles or spaceships. In addition, parents can challenge their child’s visual skills by building a structure and then asking the child to copy that identical structure using the exact same colors and placement of the LEGOs. This activity will help your child improve upon copying complex designs as well as tracking skills(to move his eyes left to right and up and down). Tracking skills ultimately help your child improve his or her visual skills for reading and handwriting (as both activities happen left to right).
  • Puzzles: It can be difficult for children to want to sit down and work on completing a puzzle as puzzles can be challenging and they often require patience and attention to detail. With that being said, try mixing it up a little bit for your child by creating a scavenger hunt with the puzzles pieces. One person is the ‘hider’ who hides the puzzle pieces and then can provide “hot/cold” verbal cues to help the ‘finder’ locate all of the missing pieces. Similarly, the ‘hider’ could create a Treasure Map in order to help the ‘finder’ locate the missing puzzle pieces or the ‘treasure’. Creating a Treasure Map enhances creativity, problem solving, planning and executing skills (completing a task start to finish). Similarly, it helps to improve fine motor and visual motor skills to create the map. Overall, a puzzle helps to address your child’s visual motor skills, problem solving skills and the skill of being able to politely request help when needed.

As you can see, many of your child’s games and toys can be used in a variety of ways and not only what is printed in the instruction manual. Similarly, there are various strategies to use in order to improve your child’s fine motor, gross motor, attention and motor planning skills with a fun and simple family game night. Please contact your child’s occupational therapist for more individualized ideas for your particular child. Let the games begin!

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