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The Benefits of Family Game Night

Whether it’s rainy, snowing, cold or hot, a family game night can be a great way to enjoy time together while secretly working on fine motor skill development. Your children will have so much fun playing games and spending time with you, they won’t notice that they’re developing skills at the same time! Family Game Night Blog

Below are 5 classic board games that can be used to facilitate fine motor skill development at your next family game night:

1. Hungry Hungry Hippos: This classic game was created by Milton Bradley and is great for family game night. To play, kids are required to rapidly depress a lever that in turn extends their hippopotamus’ neck and gobbles marbles that are bouncing around the game board. The player whose hippo eats the most marbles wins! This game is an excellent way to strengthen a child’s finger isolation (ability to use one finger at a time, without correlating movement of the others). Encourage your child to use only one finger in each game to push the lever. For the next round, switch fingers. Try to play enough rounds so that your child has the chance to exercise each finger on her left and right hand!

2. Operation: This game was also created by Milton Bradley. It requires a lot of fine motor precision to remove small plastic “organs” from a pretend surgery patient using small tweezers. To play, kids are required to move their hands and fingers very slowly and steadily without allowing the tweezers to touch the patient’s body. Encourage your child to hold the tweezers using the same grasp pattern she would on her pencil. This activity will strengthen the same intrinsic muscles of the hand that your child will use for writing, drawing, and coloring.

3. Perfection: This game is by Hasbro and is a great addition to family game night. To play, kids are required to use their pincer grasp pattern (the tips of their index finger and thumb) to pick up game pieces varying in complexity of shape. The goal of the game is to match all game pieces to a correlating slot on the game board before the timer expires. To make this game even harder, encourage your child to pick up the game pieces using tweezers, resistive clothes pins, or chopsticks to exercise a different set of intrinsic hand muscles.

4. Don’t Spill the Beans: This game is the third by Milton Bradley on the list. To play, kids are again required to pick up small beans using their pincer grasp pattern. One-by-one, they are to place them on top of an unsteady pot. Your child will have to be very careful to place the beans just so, in order to avoid the entire pot of beans toppling over and spilling. To make the game even harder, your child can use the same tweezers, resistive clothes pins, or chopsticks to pick-up the beans.

5. Connect Four: This game is also by Hasboro. To play, kids pick up 2 inch plastic coins and drop them into a vertically stabilized playing board. The object of the game is to place four game pieces, of the same color, in a row. The pieces can be strung together in a line side to side, up and down, or diagonally. This is a great game for practicing the grasp and release of objects as well as hand-eye coordination. To make the game more challenging, encourage your child to pick up the game pieces using different combinations of fingers (ex. “This time use only your thumb and middle finger to pick up the pieces). This practice will promote improved fine motor planning, finger isolation, and body awareness.

6. Lite-Brite: This game (or art project) is by Hasboro. To play, kids can work on their own or with friends to create pictures by pushing colored pegs through an illuminated game board. Kids have the opportunity to follow a pre-designed pattern or create their own bright and colorful masterpiece all while using their pincer grasp pattern to pick up the pegs.

Board games provide an excellent chance for kids to improve their fine motor skills but can also be used to promote cognitive development and social skills. Try to find time in your busy schedule to have a family game night as often as possible for a fun evening of family bonding and the enhancement of a variety of skills.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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How Household Materials Can Be Used For Occupational Therapy Goals

In occupational therapy sessions, we often use common materials and games to make our sessions therapeutic and fun.

Here are some ways that you can use materials and equipment that you may have lying around at home to help your children reach their occupational therapy goals:

Children play household games

  1. Board Games Board games are a great way to help your children develop their social skills and fine motor skills. Board games can be a way to improve eye contact, turn taking, and sharing. Many board games, such as Battleship, Trouble, and Perfection, involve small pieces that need to be placed into the game board. By having your child use his fingers to manipulate these pieces, it can help him understand how to hold small objects which can facilitate learning how to properly hold writing utensils. In addition to helping to hold small pieces, it can also assist your child to develop other fine motor skills, such as manual dexterity and in hand manipulation skills. For example, you can have your child hold onto several of the pieces with one hand and put them into the game board one by one. Using board games that also have cards, such as Sorry, can also help improve manual dexterity by means of shuffling, dealing, and manipulating the cards without dropping them or revealing them to the other players.
  2. Play-Doh Play-Doh is a wonderful tool to improve fine motor skills in children. Play-Doh can be used as a medium to practice writing, drawing, and cutting. You can trace different geometric forms (circle, square, and triangle) into the Play-Doh with a pencil and have you child copy the shapes in another piece of flattened Play-Doh and cut them out with scissors. Using Play-Doh to practice drawing and cutting is often a good precursor to writing with a pencil and paper as the texture of Play-Doh is more resistive which makes cutting and tracing easier. Play-Doh can also be used to help strengthen the small muscles in their hands by rolling it into a snake, ball, and flattening it into a pancake.
  3. Puzzles Puzzles can be used to help your children improve their visual-perceptual skills which is important for many school tasks, such as copying things from the board and finding items in their desk. The complexity of puzzles can very greatly, from simple large peg puzzles in a wooden form to 100 piece jigsaw puzzles. If you have an older child, using a complex jigsaw puzzle can be a great way to work on planning, sequencing, organizing, and problem-solving skills.
  4. Playground equipment Using the playground or the jungle gym in the backyard is the perfect way to help your children increase their core strength, upper body strength, and bilateral coordination. This will help build up the strength in your children’s larger muscles so that when they have to work at their desk or a table, their core and upper body will have the stability and endurance to sit and complete fine motor activities.
  5. Balls Playing catch, kicking, dribbling, and volleyball are just a few of the many ways balls can be therapeutic. All of these activities involve using eye-hand coordination, balance, and core strength which are great skills to have for a variety of gross motor and fine motor activities. These activities can also help with ocular motor skills as your child needs to track the object through space.

There are many types of equipment and materials used during therapy that can be adapted to meet the needs of your child. You can find these materials and many more around your house in order to improve your child’s skills so he or she can be successful in school and play activities!

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