Thumbs Up, by Blue Orange Games (makers of Spot It and several other wonderful games that sit in my work closet), is one of those games that you don't think will be that big of a hit until you start playing it and then you just don't want to stop! The goal of the game is simple: be the first to stack different colored rings on your thumb based on the order shown in the challenge card that you pick up. Sounds easy, right? From personal experience, I can tell you it is way harder than you think. First of all, try taking a kid who has sensory processing and body awareness issues and tell them they have to place all these rings on their thumb...and that they need to keep their hands in a hands up position for the whole game. It's probably the biggest challenge I have witnessed with the kids I have been playing it with.
"That's your pointer finger" and "Tuck those fingers in" have never been repeated more often in my life than the last few days. The other challenge is that each card is very different from each other. You have to really take a moment or two before starting to collect your rings to look at the card and get a sense of the order. So many of the kids I work get excited/anxious and just dive into a game without thinking about the most organized way to do it. I have found that for the kids I have been playing it with, it has been helpful to play a round or two together and talk out strategies before beginning the actual competition. I actually have gone through the cards and picked out the ones that I think the kids I am playing with will be successful with. For the younger kids, this is a great opportunity to talk to them about colors and matching and you can play the game with them without dealing with competition part of it.
One of the best things about this game, especially if you do any kind of therapy that takes you into homes or schools, is that once taken out of the box, it takes up very little space and weighs almost nothing. It's can be thrown in a bag and not take up much space at all. As we are all dreaming of warmer days, it is a great game to take with you to picnics and on vacations. It's not just for kids...I promise grownups will love to play it too!
In addition to what I have already discussed, Thumbs Up can work on the following occupational therapy goals:
Improve Grasping Skills-the rings are very thin and I encourage my kids to pick them up using their "pinchers". As they get into the game, it's harder for them to focus on what kind of grasp they are using because they are so focused on winning! I've actually working on improving grasp strength and grasping skills by having the kids clean up the rings using Zoo Sticks.
Improve Focus/Attentional Skills-it's super easy to get distracted while playing this game. I noticed that the kids I played this game with were more focused on how I was doing that they kept losing track of where they were and what they should be looking at. They were hyper-focused on winning that they would become distracted and lose track of where they were. After that happened a few times, I had to remind them that they needed to keep their attention/eyes on their challenge card and not be so worried about what I was doing. For a competitive kid who really wants to win, this proved to be quite a challenge, but a very important lesson.
Improve Visual Skills-so many great visual motor and perceptual skills can be worked on while playing this game. You need to be able to visually track from the challenge card to the stack of colored rings and then put it on your thumb. You also need to be visually organized to look at the challenge card and find the number and color you need to pick up.
Improve Social Skills-great game for 2-6 players which means it could be perfect for those of you who run social skills groups. Since it is a fast-paced game that doesn't require much set up, it's perfect to have in your bag of tricks when your group needs a little something to get you going. From start to end, the game lasts about 10 minutes (you can change that based on the kids you are working with). I've been playing against the kids I work with and maybe haven't been trying as hard as I can to allow them to win, but kids aren't going to play that way. If working in a group, you can use this game as a perfect opportunity to talk about how to be a good vs. a bad loser, being a good sport vs. a bad sport, etc.. If you want to, you could pair kids up into teams and have them work together to be the first to get all of their rings stacked (one can pick up the rings as their partner calls out the color to them).
Blue Orange Games continues to make quality games that keep kids learning and having fun at the same time. I found Thumbs Up at a great toy store located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan called Fantastic Kids Toys. Be sure to check out your local toy stores and support those small businesses who work so hard to keep your kids entertained.