Friday, January 31, 2014

Let's Wok and Roll!

I am sure we all have games or toys in our collection that have been there forever.  They are the ones that you aren't sure about when you buy them and then you get them and you wonder what you did before.  Wok n Roll is one of those games for me.  I bought it on a whim years ago and have used it on a weekly basis ever since then.  Not only is it a favorite of mine, it is a favorite of my kids.

A child holding onto the chopsticks with 3 fingers
Wok n Roll is a great game for many reasons.  Not only is it a fun game for the kids to play, it works on a ton of occupational therapy goals at the same time.  It can be played in a group as large as four children or individually.  My favorite thing about the game is that it can be easily adapted to a child's skill level so it can be used with children as young as 2 years old and all the way up to school age children.  Wok n Roll is a battery operated game that shakes and moves around.  The goal of the game is to get all your food into the matching bowl as quickly as possible.  Over the years, I have adapted the game and the expectations for the children depending on what we are working on in therapy.  For my younger children or those that have to work on building their grasping skills and fine motor strength, I won't turn the game on to have it shake and just focus on holding the chopsticks correctly and getting the food into the bowls.  When kids are first playing, they need to be reminded to open and close the chopsticks; I have learned the hard way what happens when a child squeezes the chopsticks too hard-flying plastic food can be very difficult to find!  As the kids get older, I will add the challenge of turning the wok on so it moves around while they are sorting the food into the bowls.  One doesn't realize how difficult this is to do until they actually try it.  This is a perfect game to work on helping a child who has a decreased frustration tolerance because that shaking causes the food to fall out of the chopsticks.  I also love using this game to work on increasing attention span and focus.  Once the game is turned on, I encourage a child to find a piece of food to pick up and not give up.  It may require them tracking where that food moves around to in the bowl and not giving up until you have successfully picked it up.

In addition to what was already mentioned above, Wok n Roll can work on the following occupational therapy goals:
Improve Grasping Skills-the chopsticks are great for working on increasing grasp strength, fine motor control and grasping skills.  For children who have an immature grasp when holding writing instruments, it's important to find fun ways to work on encouraging a proper grasp in a variety of ways.  When using chopsticks, be sure to have your child use 3 fingers (the same number a child should use when holding crayons, pencils, etc.).

Improve Bilateral Coordination Skills/Crossing Midline-when a child is using this on their own, I encourage them to hold the chopsticks in one hand and hold the shaking wok still with the other.  This encourages them to use both hands in a coordinated manner which is important for other graphomotor and fine motor skills.  To encourage crossing midline, I purposely but the bowls on the opposite side of their body so they are forced to cross midline when putting the food into the correct bowls.  
Improve Matching Skills/Color Recognition-a great way to begin on simple matching skills and color recognition.  Because this game can be so easily adapted to a child's skill level, you can use it with even the youngest of clients.  I have had my younger kids who aren't ready for the challenge of chopsticks work in developing grasping skills by using their "pinchers" (pointer and thumb only) to pick up the food and place them in the correct bowl.  A child who has difficulty recognizing and identifying colors can work on that skill by being asked to name each color as they place it in the matching bowl.
Working on crossing midline
Improve Executive Functioning Skills-for older children who need to work on organizational skills, you can require them to set the game up and tell their peers the directions for proper playing of the game.  You can require them to put the food in the bowls in a certain order to work on sequencing and organizing their work.
Improve Upper Extremity Strength-once a child knows the rules of the game and seems comfortable, I start increasing the challenges.  One way of doing that is by adding a strengthening component to the activity.  I like to have the kids lie on their belly on the net swing and complete this task.  They are not only working on improving the skills mentioned above, they are able to work on increasing upper extremity and neck strength at the same time.  Sometimes getting my kids to work on upper extremity strengthening can be difficult but if they are engaged in a motivating and fun fine motor or visual motor/perceptual activity, the "work" is hidden from them.
Improve Social Skills-this game is great for individual play but even better for group play.  I don't think I have a game that makes kids laugh as hard as they do when they play Wok n Roll.  For the older kids, I turn it on and make it shake and that cracks them up.  This is a great game to work on building a child's frustration tolerance with their peers and to work on how to be a good sport during games.  Being a good sport means letting your friends have turns, using kind words during play and not only being a good winner, but also being a good loser.

As I write this up, I am reminded that I should probably pick up one or two as a backup.  So many of the great games that I have used in therapy for years and years keep changing (Perfection and Wack a Mole both changed their designs and no longer as good as they used to be) and are then impossible to find.  I have seen Wok n Roll in some of the local toy stores in Park Slope and Manhattan but also on many websites, including which I have linked to.

I would love to hear from some of you about your favorite games that you use during your therapy sessions.  Not only do I want to hear for me personally so I can add to my game collection, but also want to share with parents who are always asking for activities to do at home.  I especially love games that can be adapted for a variety of skills and can have challenges added as they gain skills so if you have any recommendations, please share them with me and my readers!  I am always a click away and love hearing from you all.

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