2020 has certainly been a challenging year, requiring most of us to adapt to new realities, restructure our lives and even redefine how we interact with one another. But in lieu of this unpredictable change that has been brought upon us this year, we have to find ways to thrive, to connect, and to appreciate the little moments in each day. From social media challenges to virtual game nights – connecting with our loved ones has taken on a whole new meaning this year. Our therapists have put together their top 10 games for a successful virtual game night HERE, but since we’re being innovative this year, why not also target a variety of developmental skills while having fun. Check out some of our tips, tricks and how-to’s below to ‘therapize’ your virtual game night.
HOW TO ‘THERAPIZE’ YOUR GAME NIGHT
‘Therapize’ is a healthcare term used when you are subjecting someone to therapy – so essentially you are putting a therapy spin on something you are already doing in your every day life. Why is this coined term so important in the world of pediatrics? Because our kids are always learning, growing and adapting so being able to simply change the setup or modify the rules of a game can help your child become more proficient at a variety of foundational skills needed for future success with school, socialization/peer relationships, leisure activities and daily life skills.
This game is perfect for development of motor planning, written expression, and a whole gamut of speech and language skills. You can create your own word bank that will be more appropriate for your children if needed. You can also help them with guessing by giving them categories that each item may fall into. Let’s be serious – you can’t play charades without laughing. You can use THIS Charades Generator to help you get started. An awesome Charades board game is called Kids on Stage.
The possibilities are endless here – you can have your child look for specific items within the house or have to find items within a category. For example, one version has the child find the red ball, but another version has the children looking for something you throw, which could still be the red ball. Is it a race or are children working together? This is an excellent game choice when looking to target executive function skills (initiation, working memory, planning/organizing etc.), vision and visual processing, and team work. Click HERE for an indoor scavenger hunt printable.
Bingo is so simple and transferrable to any age or topic. It can be used to target working memory as you need to actively remember the image/combo that is called while searching for it on your board. Get those eyes turned on because Bingo is a great opportunity for your children to work on visual scanning and discriminatin as well. Want to add some fine motor skills to it? Use chop sticks or tweezer to pick up your marker pieces and place them on your board focsuining on hand strengthening and grasp development. Did someone say in-hand manipulation? Try holding several marker pieces in your palm and bring them up one at a time to your finger tips to place on the board without spilling! You can get themed boards that target social skills, language, regulation, colors/number/letters or really anything you feel your child needs to work on! Click HERE for free winter bingo boards.
Similar to the concept of hangman, snowman is a winter-themed game that can be played using the whiteboard/eisal or just with some paper-pencil. This targets literacy (e.g., phonological awareness, letter identification, spelling, decoding) and written expression. Does your child struggle with handwriting? You can have them practice writing in the letters and drawing the snowman parts as a fun way to incorporate a some motor coordination. Bonus points: use a vertical surface for writing/drawing which will directly targets shoulder stability, wrist extension and finger disassociation; all important foundational skills needed for success with handwriting and written expression. If your child is still giving you a hard time with writing, try using different modalities – maybe try use a paint brush and water on a chalk board, or have your child use his/her finger to write in sand/salt trays. You can try a wiggle pen, or even use crayons with some sand paper underneath for a different texture. Remember, our kids learn by doing – and us OTs never miss an opportunity to get messy or use a new modality with our kids!
Pictionary can be played virtually by dividing your group into teams (Don’t have enough for teams? don’t worry, play that if the correct answer is guessed, the artist gets points). Choose a team to play first and an artist within your team. You can use THIS pictionary word generator when you are ready to get started. This game is a great way to target impulse control, time-management, sportsmanship and turn taking. But don’t forget the fine motor and visual motor here – using simple shapes to great a picture is the foundation for written expression and 3D awareness. Did you know it isn’t until nearly 5-6 years old that our children’s brains truly inderstand lines and curves and how the combine to create images, letters and everything else we see? Pictionary is a great way to develop and visual-motor skills with pre-writing. Don’t be afraid to use salt/sand trays if drawing is too difficult for you child.
Simple, yet so effective. Simon says can be used to target following directions, impulse control, motor planning, and so much more. When playing Simon Says, your child has to listen for the key details while also following single or multi-step directions. Can your child process the directions, generate an idea, and execute the designated movement successfully? That is called effective motor planning! You can work on body awareness by touching various body parts (bonus: can they do it without you showing them?) Practice crossing midline and development of laterality with specific actions that encourage these movements (touch your left hand to your right knee or do 10 cross crawls). And let’s not forget the endless ways Simon Says can work on coordination, timing and rhythm (jumping jacks, split jumps, animal walks, etc.). The best part about Simon says, if you are getting your kids moving with all of your directions which helps provide vestibular and propriopcetive input needed to help with arousal, attention, and learning.
Go Fish/Crazy 8’s:
Card games are great for kids and there are a variety of levels pending your child’s age and cognitive level. Most card games work on turn taking and good sportsmanship; social skills needed for success at all ages. With Go Fish, you can work on asking questions, recognizing patterns, counting and working memory. With Crazy 8’s, your child has to understand and discriminate patterns and color/number relationships. Holding cards in your hand is a great way to develop smaller muscles of hand, thumb mobility and overall dexterity. Plus, holding the cards with one hand and using the other hand to pick up/discard naturally helps develop bimanual coordination skills. Fatherly explains 21 different card games you can play with your kids, check it out HERE.
Name, Place, Animal, Thing:
This game is similar to the idea of the game scattergories. You have to pick a letter, and then say a name, place, animal and thing all starting with the assigned letter. This targets working memory, vocabulary, categorization and association. Instead of playing this game at the table, try playing on the floor while you are laying on your stomach and propped on your elbows. This works on back/core strength and shoulter/neck stability. This is important because our bigger muscles in our middle create the foundations for development of higher level skills. For example, head/neck stability and control are the foundations for development of ocularmotor control (using your eyes to look). Being able to use your core to sit up straight is the foundation for legible and automatic handwriting. Playing games in the prone position (on your belly) helps naturally develop all of these foundational skills we use every day. Want to add some movement in? Instead of saying the words, you have to draw, act, or locate those items.
What a great way to incorporate music and movement into your virtual game night. This can help provide vestibular and propriopcetive input to help your child get organized and ready for learning. It also works on rhythm, coordination, and spatial awareness. Don’t forget the freeze part – this targets your child’s ability to not only be aware of his/her body in space, but also control his/her body to start-stop on command (impulse control). Without this skill refined, you may see your child bumping into other kids or items in the hallways at school or being unsafe on the playground. Plus, it is a foundation for higher level coordination skills that will be needed to success with a variety of sports/activities.
Targeting some foundational developmental skills during game nights can help you’re your children up for success. And the best part, is they often don’t realize that you are actually making htem ‘work’ because it is FUN! These are just a few of our game-night favorites, with some ideas on how to adapt them to target specific skills. We hope these game ideas are useful in hosting a fun-filled virtual game night with your family and friends.
Hi, I am an occupational therapist at South Shore Therapies. I specialize in pediatirc brain injury and stroke, but love working with all families to help kids reach their optimal potential. Our mission with SST’s social media platform is to empower, educate and inspire families to take on life’s challenges while promoting an optimistic outlook and a brighter future.