Tuesday, March 19, 2013

This is Monkey Business!

There are a few games that have been a staple in my therapy life for years now.  I recommend them again and again on my holiday gift guide and when anyone asks me for a toy suggestion for their child, I will often suggest Tumblin' Monkeys.  It is one of the most popular games at my gym and is often used as a reward for children who need some motivation to do the more challenging activities I might ask them to do when they are with me.

Tumblin' Monkeys is similar to the old school game, Kerplunk.  That is a great game but I like monkeys and so do a lot of the kids I work with so this tends to be more motivating for them.  Plus, no matter how hard I try when playing Kerplunk, those pesky marbles roll all over the place.  While it is recommended for children ages 5 and older, if you change the rules a bit, it is a great game for children as young as 3 years old.  It's a fast moving game with directions that are easy to follow, even if your child has difficulties with following directions or processing information.  I love that it is a game that children of varying skill levels can be successful with.

The rules of the game are quite easy:  you put together a tree with different colored sticks that act as branches for the monkeys to hang onto.  You roll the dice and you pull the orange, green or pink stick out based on the color you roll.  The actual rules are that you win if you have the least amount of monkeys, but when playing with younger children, I play that whoever gets the most monkeys is the winner.

*Improve Grasping Skills-I not only encourage but insist that children use their "pinchers (thumb and pointer finger) when pulling the sticks out of the tree.  If they don't, they have to put it back, and any monkeys they may have won, into the tree and go again.  For kids who have a really hard time with this, you can use a chip clip or clothes pin to have them work on this skill.

 *Improve Problem Solving Skills-I really encourage children to look at the sticks that are left in the tree and figure out which one will help them get the most or least monkeys.  If I see a child trying to just pull the first one they see, I will make them stop and answer "Do you think this is the best stick for you to take out or if you look around, do you think you might find a better one?".  Eventually, I hope the children will learn to look at that independently once they are skilled Tumblin' Monkey players.

*Improve Counting Skills/1:1 Correspondence:  at the end of the game, each child is responsible for counting their monkeys and determining who is the winner.  I encourage the children who are better counters to help their friends out with the counting if need be.

*Improve Eye-Hand Coordination-just putting the sticks into the tree is work enough for the kids!  There are tons of holes all over the tree trunk and you have to carefully put the stick in one side and out the other side of the tree.  Sounds simple enough but it can be quite tricky to get it on the right level or to make sure there is just one stick in each hole.

*Improve Social Skills-this is a great game to work on improving social skills.  The children have to decide together whether they will play the game to win by getting the least number of monkeys or the most number of monkeys.  They have to negotiate the rules together and who will go first, second, etc. and wait patiently while their friends take their turns.  As always, I think it is important to teach the kids how to be good losers and learn how to congratulate their friends at the end.

*Improve Modulation/Regulation Skills-the children I work with are encouraged to take their time in making a decision and to not just grab the first stick they see.  This can be quite challenging for some of the kids I work with as they just want to hurry up and get their turn done and see if they can get a monkey or not get a monkey.

*Improve Focus and Attention Skills-it is important to me that the children I work with focus on the game and not only pay attention to what they do on their turn, but what their friends are doing.  I like to tell the kids that they might be able to figure out their next move better if they are paying attention to the whole game.  It is also an important social skill to be able to pay attention to the whole game and not just your turn.

Tumblin' Monkeys is a great game for any playroom, classroom or therapeutic setting.  As you can see, there are many skills that can be worked on with the game.  I also love the fact that it's a battery and noise free game which is great for the children we work with who may be more sound sensitive or get stuck on the sounds.

While I have included a link to Amazon, I continue to strongly encourage you to check out your local toy stores to see if they carry it or can order it for you.  I have seen this game in many of the little toy stores in Manhattan and I know how much these small businesses rely on our business.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this game and what your little ones think of it.  I have offered one way to modify the game for younger children, but would be curious if any of you have any other suggestions.  I am only a click away and am always happy to answer any questions you might have.  


  1. Must get this! Looks perfect for Lila. Thanks.

  2. With kindy age and up kids I play this with a number dice as well as coloured dice - how many sticks can they pull this turn, then they decide if its going to be all the one colour or roll the coloured dice more than once. Not done it in a group setting, but when playing child + me, it makes the game go faster with lots of problem solving and negotiating. I like the feel of the monkeys :) I needed to glue the tree to keep it strong enough to play with.