Friday, January 16, 2015

Launch Into This

My daughter is at an age where games are really fun for her, especially those that we can play together as a family.  This summer, Quinn went to her cousin Lila's birthday party and got to play with one of her awesome new games and fell in love with it.  I had been on the lookout for Connect 4 Launchers but never had any luck.  So when Quinn received it for Christmas this year, I was really excited!  More importantly, she was really excited and immediately took it out and we played with her cousins, aunt and uncle!

For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, you know my love of pretty basic and battery/sound free games.  Of course, there are the exceptions for things like the new Lite Brite and Wok N' Roll.  The classic game of Connect 4 is still one of my favorites, especially when working with kids in small groups.  It's great for working on improving eye-hand coordination, grasping skills and focus/attentional skills.  It's a class game that kids always love to play and over the years they have taken the game and made it more hands on and exciting.

Connect 4 Launchers takes Connect 4 to the next level and adds some pretty awesome occupational therapy skills that will be sure to make this a favorite of kids and adults alike.  The goal of the game is the same:  the first player to get 4 checkers in a row is the winner.  The thing that makes this game so different is that instead of slipping the checker pieces into the slots, the players have special launching tools that will send your checker pieces zooming through the air to land in one of the two levels.  They are easy to use and so far, pretty durable.  The game can be played different ways which is good for making it more challenging for older kids who are getting tired of the regular game.

Connect 4 Launchers is great for working on the following occupational therapy goals:

Improve Bilateral Coordination Skills-one of my favorite things about this game is the checker launcher.  Not only is it really fun to launch a checker piece into a target, it is a great tool for working on improving bilateral coordination skills.  It's hard to come up with fun ways to encourage kids to use both hands during activities, but Connect 4 Launchers makes it really fun!  Kids will realize without anyone having to tell them that if they don't use both hands, things just won't work well.  Once they place the checker piece on the launcher, they need to use one hand to hold the launcher still and the other to flick the launcher.
Improving Eye-Hand Coordination-kids really need to maintain their visual attention to the game board in order to be the first person to get four checker pieces in a row.  Unlike the original game of Connect 4, you really have to combine your visual attention with your eye-hand coordination.  When playing the game, each child (or team if that is the way you are playing) is given a special launching tool.  You place your checker piece on the launcher and aim.  In order for it to work, a child has to hold the launcher still with one hand and push it down with the other.
Improving Organizational Skills-one of the great aspects of this game is that you can work on improving executive functioning skills such as organizational skills.  For my older kids, I like to have them set the game up, sort the yellow and red pieces into piles, etc..  If playing with a group of children, I like to have one person who has played the game explain the rules of the game to the other.  Not only does this work on improving organizational skills, it helps to improve self-esteem and confidence when one child can act as a leader.  This game also works on improving planning skills.  I guarantee the kids will just launch the pieces as quickly as possible when they first play this game.  I let kids do that and after they are all done, talk to them about slowing down, moving the launcher, encourage them to look at the game and see where they should aim the launcher in order to get their four pieces in a row.
Improve Focus/Attentional Skills-for older kids, this is a super motivating game to work on focus and attentional skills.  When playing this game, you really need to be able to focus on the end goal of getting 4 game pieces in a row.  For some kids, the act of putting the game piece on the launcher and just shooting can end up being really fun, but also distracting.  It may take verbal reminders from the grownup, but keep reminding and make sure the kids playing the game are focusing on working towards the end goal of getting 4 in a row.  What I tend to see with many of the kids I work with who have focus and attentional difficulties is that they rush through the game to get rid of all of their pieces; what they don't attend to is the point of the game of getting 4 piece in a row in order to win.  When playing the game, a child has to not only focus on where they need to aim their piece, but where they need to move the launcher in order to shoot the checker piece so it can end up in a place where they may win.  Improve Social Skills-what I love about this game is that it can be played 1:1 or in small groups.  When my daughter first got this game, we played in teams of two:  one grownup and one kid against another grownup and kid.  If you have a social skills group, you can have two kids play against each other.  Great for encouraging kid to work as a team to come up with solutions for the best moves to win the game.  Whenever you are playing a game, you can work on good to be a good winner and how to be a good loser.

There are a lot of great games out there, but I am always happy to find new ones, especially at this time of the year when I am getting bored with all the games and activities we have been using all year.  I especially like when classic games come up with new versions of themselves that are as good as the original.  Connect 4 Launchers is not only a great family game, but a great game to have in a classroom or a therapeutic environment.  It's easy to set up and can be adapted based on a child's age and skill level.  Kids can also be creative and create their own rules if they wanted to.

Do you have any new games to share with me or my readers?  I'd love to hear from anyone with suggestions...we have a birthday coming up in our house and would love to have some new games to give her since she is so into them.  Would love to hear from you with any suggestions or questions!  I am only a click away!

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