Sunday, September 29, 2013

Un-bee-lievably Fun Word Game!

Since most of the kids I work with are between the ages of 3 and 6, I tend to blog about items appropriate for that age group.  I do have a handful of older children on my caseload and most of them come to me to focus on handwriting and fine motor skills.  So it is important to me to find fun games or activities that will motivate these older kids to work on this challenging activity.  I want to make sure that our time together is fun but also spent working towards achieving goals that will help them be more successful in both school and at home for academics.

A  few weeks ago I spotted Speedeebee! by Blue Orange.  Ever since discovering and blogging about Spot It by the same company, I have been drawn to their products.  Besides being super portable (which is great for those of us who do home care or work between a couple of offices), it is a fun game that can work on a variety of occupational therapy goals.  I also love that many of their games can be adapted to allow for success for whatever child I am working with.  I also like the fact that the game can be different every single time you play it.

Speedeebee! consists of 50 cards containing 150 challenges and 4 alphabet dice.  On each of the cards there are three challenges to choose from.  Some examples of the many challenges are:
**Name something you love to do, starting with one of these letters (throw all four dice)
**Name something you love to eat, containing one of these letters (throw all four dice)
**Find a word containing two of these letters (throw the red and green dice)
I think the questions are great and make kids think, but aren't all so challenging that they won't be successful.  And I think it is nice that they have a choice of 3 so they can find a question that they are comfortable with.  There is a lot about the game that sets the kids up to not only have a good time but to be successful.  The fact that a child gets to pick out a question means less stress for them during game play and unfortunately, playing games can be something that produces a lot of stress in the kids I work with.

There are two different ways to play the game (although with my kids I don't always play by their rules)
Challenge Mode:   Place 20 cards in the middle of the playing area face down.  The remaining 30 cards are not used for the rest of the game and are returned to the storage tin.  The first player holds all 4 dice  (great for fine motor skills and improving in-hand manipulation skills), picks the top card from the deck and picks one of the 3 challenges on the card and reads it out loud to the group.  Once all players understand the challenge, the person who selected the challenge will roll the dice and as quickly as possible, all players attempt to complete the challenge using the letters rolled.  Whoever answers first takes the card and a new turn is started.   This continues until there are no cards left in the draw pile and at the end, the person who gets the most cards is the winner.
Freestyle Mode:  Set up the game the same way you would if playing with the Challenge cards, but rather than reading the challenges on the cards, the players are required to make up their own.  The first person to complete the challenge/answer the questions correctly gets the card.  The person who has the most number of cards at the end is the winner.

Here are a few occupational therapy goals that can be addressed when playing Speedeebee!:
Improve Handwriting Skills-while the game is meant to be a language game, I have adapted it to be able to work on improving graphomotor skills.  Instead of having the kids shout out their answers, I have them write their answers down on paper.  Whether they are working on print or cursive, I find this to be a motivating way to work on a skill that is typically challenging for them.  I actually did this with a 9 year old girl I work with who needs to work on handwriting and endurance; she was totally engaged for much longer than she would have been if I had just had her practice words or other random sentences.  She actually asked to play longer when I said it was time to put the game away!  I encourage the children to write whole sentences and use proper grammar.  Depending on their handwriting goals, you can work on grasping skills, building up writing endurance,
Improve Social Skills-as I have already mentioned, this is actually a game that is meant to be played in a group.  If you are looking for a good game for a social skills group or to have at your disposal for family game options, this is a great game.  If you a group of younger and older kids, you can pair them together (since this is more appropriate for kids who are 7 years of age or older) and have them work as a team.  This could also work on improving frustration tolerance for those older kids who get annoyed with the younger ones.  I know that the point of the game is to be the fastest to answer the questions, but in my adaptation of the game I encourage the kids to take turns and allow all friends to be able to have an opportunity to answer the questions as well.  I find that in my social skills groups, there tends to be one or two kids who dominates play which discourages other children from taking risks.
Improve Executive Functioning/Organizational Skills-many of my older kids are also coming to me to work on improving their executive functioning skills.  The most common aspect of executive functioning I work on is improving organization skills for improved performance in school or at home with homework.  For my older kids who are fluent readers, the first thing I make them do is read the directions to themselves.  Once they have read them, I ask them to repeat the directions back to me...I will interrupt them if they forget something or mess them up.  I also make them set the game up and if they do something incorrectly, they have to read the directions again and fix their error.

I love games that can be adapted to be appropriate for a variety of children and their varying needs.  Speedeebee! is one of those and while I intend on adapting it when necessary, it is also a great game the way it was created.  I have a feeling that my speech therapy friends will love this game and am definitely interested in hearing their thoughts and opinions.  One thing I would like to figure out is a way to make this game work for my preschool population, particularly the social skills groups I run with my colleagues.   Any thoughts or suggestions from you my readers on how to do that?  I love hearing from you and am always a click away.

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