The first, very wordy, post of this series discussed the importance of foundation skill stability on development of higher level perceptual motor skills. In summary, for those functional targets like eye-hand coordination, fine motor skill, and higher level perceptual stuff to develop smoothly, it's ideal to have a solid base of strength, coordination, and body awareness. After those components have been given the attention they deserve, higher-level stuff will come with greater ease. In this installment, I'll be showing you how I look at a commercially available game from a broad activity analysis perspective, and then how I accessorize them to get the most bang for my therapist buck. In pictures.
Today I'm featuring a game by Mindware called Q-Bitz. It's a game specifically designed to promote visual and fine motor skills for children ages 8 and up. There are 3 rounds, which can be played in succession if you like, or you can just use them as 3 separate versions. For the purposes of continuing our "putting it all together" analogy, these are the bricks, or what you get straight from the box.
Q-Bitz is a good example of the first thing I look for in a game/toy when shopping: Are there multiple ways to play? Q-Bits does this for you, but I usually come up with my own too (a little on those later).
Generally, when I am playing a new game with a child that requires them to use motor skills that are still new or emerging, I start by reducing the competitive demands. For this game, you can have the child complete a card on their own, like a puzzle, using whichever version best fits their needs. Having a stopwatch handy will help give them a goal to work towards if they work best with a goal in mind. You can also maintain the race vibe, but give yourself a more challenging card, or give the child a head start.
If the child is still working on the foundation skills mentioned last week, this might be a good activity after a gross motor warm up such as those we discussed. Another good way to continue to address those foundation skills would be to put the cubes in an obstacle course (at the top of a slide, hidden in a bin of dried beans, or inside a tunnel) this would also reduce the amount of cubes they would have to place in any given turn, reducing any visual fatigue. So that's another thing I look for when I shop for games: Can it be easily put into an obstacle course or added to a gross motor activity? For anything with parts that go into or on other parts, the answer is yes, as long as those parts are relatively durable. At the clinic, we have a cup velcroed to the top of the rock wall, expressly for this purpose.
Now for the mortar, the custom stuff we do that helps the learning stick while facilitating more self-directed learning. After I had gotten to take Q-Bitz for a test run a few times, I had come up with some upgrade ideas, and had the assistance of Justine, my fieldwork student at the time.
The first thing I had her do was to group the cards into relative difficulty levels. The cards are numbered, but do not appear to use any conventions of visual motor development in their numbering system.
Where most of the modifications have created more ease to allow younger children and children with challenges the opportunity to play with ease, the following add a little more challenge to target higher-level fine motor and visual perceptual areas.
I've also done versions where colors are mixed up within a tray, kids do version 2, rolling in a shared area to add the task of looking for your own color, and versions where the grid coordinates are all mixed up like those old-school drawing puzzles. For more ideas for play ideas that foster these types of skills, check out our Pinterest page!
Thanks to Justine, who is now an OT herself in New York City, who did most of these photocopies as one of her first projects during her time with me.
So this is a little peek into how I choose, use, and modify games to help them help me help the kids! Next installment is an example of a fully custom game I proposed to a volunteer and what she made for us (hint: it involves penguins and identifying based on touch)!