Games in OT

Games are another meaningful activity for both children and adults. Like crafts, many games include a motor component such as picking up and moving pieces or dealing and flipping cards. With the exception of single player games, games also involve a social component. Players must work together to follow rules and the sequence of the game. Some games also require players to interact directly with one or more other players by asking or answering questions.

Games work well in one-on-one interactions with students and with small groups. Almost any game can have therapeutic value either by the nature of the game or by adding a few modifications. Good games to use in therapy require fine motor manipulation, following directions, sequencing, and taking turns.

When playing games, think about how where and how you play the game can affect the therapeutic value. For example, when playing games with a student who also needs proprioceptive input, try playing the game while in quadruped position. Or, for a student working on extending his reach, try modifying game boards and pieces so the game can mounted and played on the wall or slant board. Some games can even be modified to play on a bulletin or cork board by moving pieces using push pins which helps students work on developing a pinch grip and finger strength.

Card Games
Card games can range from very simple to very complex which makes them a good activity to grade mental or cognitive skills while working on the same fine motor skills. Shuffling and dealing cards helps students work on bilateral coordination while picking up and flipping cards works on pinching and in hand manipulation. Ideas for card games include:
  • Go Fish
    • Can be used to work on the concept of matching
  • War
    • Work on the concepts of greater than and less than.
    • Can also involve math if you ask the student “How much more is this card than that card?”
  • Cribbage
    • If you know and can teach the rules, this is a good game for older students because it involves math skills and fine motor skills when moving pieces on the cribbage board.
  • Uno
    • Work on the concept of matching color and number

Board Games
Almost any board game can be used. Most board games require you to pick up and move small pieces. Students can pick up the pieces the traditional way using their pinch grip. Or, to make it more challenging, ask students to pick up and move pieces using a pair of tweezers. Ideas for board games include:
  • Checkers
  • Connect 4
  • Kerplunk
  • Thin Ice
  • Candy Land
  • Operation
  • Concentration
  • Battle Ship

Paper Games
Paper games can be a fun way to work on writing skills. Some paper games like hangman involve writing letters while others like Dot Boxing involve connecting dots. Here are some ideas for using paper games:
  • Tic-Tac-Toe
    • Instead of always using the traditional X and O to play this game, assign a new letter to each player every time.
    • Play several rounds with a student, each time the student uses a different letter in his or her name.
    • Have one player use an upper case letter while the other player uses the corresponding lower case letter.
  • Hangman
    • Have the student think of a word, for kids who have difficulty with spelling it might be helpful to give them a bank of words/phrases to choose from.
    • Students can work on forming letters while filling in the blanks.
    • It’s also a fun way to work on drawing a person.
  • Boxing Dots
    • Students work on connecting dots to form squares. A big thing to work on with this game is starting and stopping strokes in the correct place.
    • When a student finishes a square he or she makes an identifying mark inside the box. Have students write letters inside the box or draw basic shapes such as circles or triangles.
    • When the game is finished, count how many squares each person made. Decide who had more. Figure out the total number of squares and practice math skills by writing each players score in terms of fractions of the total.