Games…there are all types out there! Board games, card games, strategic games, silly games, fast-paced games, hour-long games. Most people play games for fun and pure enjoyment but underneath the fun and competition there are many different purposes to consider and secretly address. Growing up, games were a constant in my family. We had shelves full of puzzles and games to play. That enjoyment has spilled over into my Occupational Therapy sessions with patients of all ages. In this blog I would like to share with you some of the benefits of games that can be incorporated into occupational therapy sessions or even at home!
Games are a fantastic and engaging tool to use when working with either children or adults. At times one may just follow the rules for the game or the rules may have to be altered to fit the objective of the session. Here are some aspects to consider when choosing a game:
- Timeframe to play
- Do you only have five minutes or an hour? Some games can be a quick warm-up and others can test one’s endurance and patience.
- What Occupational Therapy goals are you addressing?
- Are you working on fine motor skills? Visual perceptual skills? Executive Function? Social Skills? Does your patient need to work on turn taking? Are they working on learning impulse control?
- Does the game need to be adjusted to meet the abilities and needs of the patient?
Here are some common games that have more than just fun as a benefit that I utilize. I have to say that I it was difficult to narrow it down as I am always looking at games and getting new ones:
- UNO —This is an absolute classic! Patients of all ages enjoy playing this game and the variations of the game.
- Spoons —This one has to be played with the correct group as it can be quite competitive and fast-paced. However, it can be adjusted to slow down the pace of the game if need be. It is a fantastic game for visual scanning, divided attention, decision making, emotional regulation and social skills. Connect 4–Now, there is the typical sized version of this game and there is a mini version that I like to use for challenging those fine motor skills! Connect 4 is great to use for strengthening visual perceptual skills.
- Battleship —This one often takes a longer period of time but I have graded it at times to fit the time that I have available. For example, we have played that instead of sinking all the ships we just sink one ship. Battleship is a challenge for the fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills, and executive function skills. Solitaire—This is a great game as it only requires a deck or two of cards depending on the variation being played.
- Sequence —This game takes a little longer to play but can easily be adapted to fit a shorter time. This game has different variations for children with animals and letters and then playing cards for teenagers and adults. This game is a good tool to use to work on executive function skills along with strengthening visual scanning and visual discrimination.
- Mastermind—This game is a favorite with the challenge to deduct the hidden pattern of colored pegs. My pediatric patients often ask for this game when given the option. Unbeknownst to them I’m able to work on visual perception skills, fine motor skills (the pegs are nice and small!) and/or executive function skills. It covers a lot!
- Spot It!—I enjoy this game because it is small and easy to learn. It has a few different ways to play that are all enjoyable. Also, it can be played with just two people or a larger group. One trick I use is a kiddo takes a little longer to find the match is to count to 5 or more before noting the match. This game could be carried in a bag to pull out when waiting at an appointment or at a restaurant making the waiting fun while working on visual perception skills!
And then some other favorites that I make sure I keep on hand for Occupational Therapy sessions but are not as common to see on the shelf in the store…
- Swish—Ohhh! This one is a great one that I found on Amazon. It really challenges the visual perception skills as one has to visualize how to manipulate the cards to make the matches or “swishes.” It can easily be adapted and graded to make it easier or more difficult.
- Clack—This game is fun because it makes the noise “clack” just like its name as you quickly stack pieces on top of one another. In this one the players have to recognize what color and pattern has to matched from the dice roll and then find and stack as many pieces as possible that have that combination…Clack! Clack! Clack! Great fun while working on scanning and visual discrimination.
- Battle Sheep—Yes! You read that correctly—Battle SHEEP! This game works on executive function skills and visual perception skills in an amusing and engaging manner. The pieces have sheep with unique facial expressions and the players have to strategize how to gain the most “pastures.” Each game is different though as the game board is set up differently every time. This game is a hit with all ages!
This list is just the beginning of endless possibilities of games. Pick up one and try it out!