Monday, March 4, 2013

This Game is Nut-Tastic!

I tend to have a hard time finding board games that are good for younger children.  As an occupational therapist, I am constantly on the hunt for a game that will work towards achieving goals but not be too complicated that they can't be successful without maximum support from a grownup.  When I was putting together my annual holiday toy list this year, I found a great board game that met my sometimes unrealistic expectations:  The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel game.

The goal of the game is quite simple so even your youngest of children can follow the directions.  Each player has a tree stump with five colored holes on it.  Whoever fills the tree stump up with all 5 of the different colored acorns first is the winner.  You may be attacked by a sneaky squirrel who steals one of your acorns or the wind  may blow your acorns off the tree stump and you have to begin again.

There are a lot of things to like about this game but lets just begin with the packaging.  It's a very sturdy box that can withstand the brute force of a wild 3-year old Quinn.  The best part about the box is that it is doubles as part of the game.  Open the box and turn it over and you will see a tree to hold all the acorns.

One of my favorite parts of the game is the adorable squirrel grabbers that you use to pick up the acorns.  The cuteness of this little guy can distract the user (in my case, many children who have grasp strength weakness and poor motor control) that they are working on getting stronger. Talk about sneaky!  Another way to work on strengthening is by using the spinner.  I encourage the kids I am working with to make sure they are only using their pointer and thumb when flicking the spinner.  This sounds easy but can be quite difficult for a child with fine motor delays.

Here are a few more occupational therapy goals that can be focused on when playing this game.

Matching-you can work on matching skills as you put the little acorns into the tree trunk.  Make sure that your kids are putting the acorns in the correct color hole.  If they aren't, stop the game until they do.

Color Recognition-this game is a great way to begin introducing young ones to some of the basic colors.  For those kids who know their colors already, this game is great for generalizing the skill in different mediums.

Social skills-it is never too early to begin teaching your child the social skills that are involved in game playing.  Turn taking, not cheating, cheering a friend on when they win, not bragging and not being a sore loser are a few of the social skills that can be focused on when playing this game.  Personally, I think it is very important that a child learns how to be a good loser.  Nobody wants to play games with a child who must always win or gets upset when they lose.

Visual tracking and visual motor skills-you can work on these skills in many different ways when playing this game.  For example, a child has to scan the "tree" with all the acorns to find the color that they spun.  They use visual motor skills when they take the acorn out of the "tree" with their squirrel grabbers and bring it into the correct hole in their tree-stump.

Focus/attention-playing games is a great way to increase a child's attention span and ability to focus.  It is important to encourage a child to to finish the game they are playing, even if they are having a hard time.  If you know your child has a hard time completing games, you may start the game by having them only have to put 3 acorns in and build up to them being able to play by putting all 5 acorns in.  As a child's attention and focus improve, you may want to add more distractions in their environment, such as music since this will eventually happen to them as they get older and are in school.

One of the best things about this game is that my husband and I have fun playing it with Quinn, which rarely happens with her games.  I also know that my 4 1/2 year old and 7 1/2 year old nieces love playing The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel game as well.  I love when I can find a game that is meant for typically developing children and can incorporate tons of occupational therapy goals.  While I may have talked about the therapeutic benefits of this game, it is a game that is intended for all children and not just those who may struggle with any of the things mentioned above.

If you are looking for this game, ask your local toy stores if they carry it or can order it for you.  I got mine at Barnes and Noble but try and shop small business before the big box guys if possible.   I want to see these hardworking and dedicated shop owners survive and do my part to ensure that.

I hope you and your sneaky ones enjoy this game as much as we are.  I am excited to try out some of Educational Insights other toys and products.  This is a company that is really invested in making really good games that will teach your child something new.  Do any of you readers have a favorite Educational Insights game I should get for Quinn's upcoming 3rd birthday?   I would love to hear from any of you with with your questions or comments.  I am just a click away and always happy to hear from you.

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