July 7, 2014

Educational Insights Game Review #5: Pancake Pile-Up

Get it here!
The last one of my new Educational Insights games that I will be reviewing is "Pancake Pile-Up," a fun movement game that is also great for working on sequencing skills.

The object of this game is to replicate stacks of different-flavored pancakes shown on a card by putting the pancake on a spatula and racing it from the imaginary griddle to the plate. Whoever can do so the fastest without making a mistake is declared the winner (or the server who will earn the greatest tip).

What is great about this game is that it can be played with larger groups (2-12 players, ages 4 and up), making it a great choice for a social skills group or birthday party. Players are divided into two teams of servers. The pancakes on the griddle are placed next to the order cards approximately 15 feet away from the plates, or the customer's table. 

Go from this...                              ...to this!

The game starts by an order card being turned over - servers need to replicate the pattern by finding and stacking matching pancakes. They take turns racing the correct pancake from the griddle to the customer's table. The race concludes when a team manages to complete the pancake and places the butter patty on top. The other team will check to ensure no errors were made.

Serving pancakes!
I am aware that many of us SLPs lack the space to do an activity that spans over any distance because our speech rooms are often the size of broom closets -- you can easily modify this game by just doing it all in one spot. The way we did it was simply by placing the plate next to the griddle. When a student was done with their turn, the next student had to figure out which pancake would have to be next in the line-up. This worked really well and my 3rd grade SDC students still had fun! If you do have the space, this game is especially great for very active students who respond well to gross motor activities. Students really have to pay attention to what the other members on your team are doing and be vigilant in regards to which step they are on. This game lends a wonderful opportunity for working on sequencing skills as well!

The pancake fell off the stack.
We also practiced some basic social skills / problem-solving: if the pancake falls off the spatula, should you use your hands to pick it up and spread your germs on it? Or should you get a new pancake? What might happen if you touch someone else's food? Would you want to eat food that has fallen onto the ground or was touched by someone else's germy hands? Why not? etc.

This game can be used in a multitude of ways to promote language and other developmental skills. Here are some ideas:
  • Sequencing: You can work on sequential vocabulary with this game -- "First we put the blueberry pancake on the plate. Which pancake is next?"
  • Pretend Play: You can simply use the pancakes, plates, and spatula in play therapy! The pancakes and spatula are very durable and should hold up well.
  • Counting: You can have students count how many strawberries / blueberries / chocolate chips are on each pancake or how many pancakes are in your stack.
  • Social Skills / Teamwork: The relay race creates a wonderful opportunity for teamwork, as well as good sportsmanship.
  • Vocabulary: This game is great for working on vocabulary terms such as stack, spatula, griddle, plain, flavor, etc.
  • Basic Concepts: You can also work on basic concepts - "The banana pancake is between the plain pancake and the strawberry pancake."
  • Memory: Memory skills are exercised as students have to remember which step they are on.
  • Motor skills: Students will get a great exercise in balance and coordination in this game. It became especially challenging to balance the pancakes as stacks got taller!
I will definitely be using this game for my social skills group for team-building! This is another great speech room addition!

July 3, 2014

Educational Insights Game Review #4: Laundry Jumble Game

Get it here.
Today I am reviewing one of my favorite Educational Insights products: "Laundry Jumble Game." The reason I like it so much is because it is extraordinarily versatile for use in Speech therapy. The game is recommended for ages 4 and up, although it could be used with younger populations if the rules are adapted (see some of my recommendations at the bottom of this post).

The game comes with a fabric dryer, game cards, and clothing items. The object of this game is to collect the most cards by matching correct clothing items to the picture on a card. On their turn, players pick a card and look at the clothing item. They then stick their hand into the dryer and feel around until they have found what they think is a matching item. If they get a match, they get to keep the card and return the clothing item to the dryer. If they do not get a match, they return the card and the clothing item. Players have to beware of the skunk's stinky polka-dotted underpants - if they accidentally pull them out, one of their game cards is returned to the draw pile.

My student is trying to find
the pink shirt
This game banks on students' tactile sense and their ability to feel for and identify small details with their sense of touch. This game is very similar in nature to "What's in Ned's Head," although smaller and easier to unpack / set up. It is also more difficult to peek into the dryer when compared to Ned's Head.

The quality of the game components is also excellent - the dryer seems very durable and the clothes are lovingly crafted with lots of details. The fabric dryer is very soft and pliable, keeping you unharmed if your student decides to whack you over the head with it. 
       The skunk...    ...and his stinky

I knew that my students would want to play this game as soon as I pointed out the picture of the skunk and its stinky underwear on the box - this was immediately followed by laughter and shouts of, "Can we play this?" Students had a lot of fun trying to feel for the correct clothing items, although many of them needed prompts and reminders to feel for small details, such as buttons, bows, sleeves, etc. Of course this game also provided a fantastic opportunity to work on playing honestly and not trying to cheat.

This game may be difficult for young players, but you can easily modify the difficulty level by removing some of the clothes from the dryer and playing only with a limited number of pieces (make sure you remove the corresponding cards from the deck, as well).

"Reverse" Laundry Jumble
I was also able to modify the game rules for our middle school students in the functional skills class (this population has very low cognitive abilities; most of the students are non-verbal): first, I spread out all of the clothes on the table for them to see. On their turn, students picked up a card and had to find the matching item to put it in the dryer. It was like playing the game in reverse and allowed this group of students to practice their matching skills.

Because this game is so easily modifiable, it is a valuable addition to any speech room, and you can use it to target a ton of skills! Please see the list below for some ideas I came up with:

  • Basic Concepts: Because the dryer has a clear front and back (and an inside!), you can use it to work on following directions. e.g., "Where are the skunk's underpants?" - "Next to the dryer").
  • Following Directions: This game would make a great tool for working on following directions. You could have students complete directives, such as, "Before putting the yellow shirt into the dryer, put in the green shorts."
  • Matching: This game is great for working on matching skills! You can play "reverse" Laundry Jumble as described above.
  • Describing: You can use the clothing to work on describing - you can have the students describe words such as colors, textures, shape, number of sleeves, etc.
  • Compare/Contrast: Similarly, you could ask students to compare and contrast two items of clothing.
  • Functional Living Skills: For lower cognitive functioning students (or even adult TBI or stroke patients), you could work on daily living skills, such as sorting laundry - have clients separate all the light-colored clothing from the dark-colored clothing.
  • Sensory diet: This game could be worked into a student's sensory diet - there are several different textures to explore.
  • Impulsivity: Students will have to learn to carefully feel for details and not just pull out the first item they touch.
  • Vocabulary: This game can be used to introduce a lot of great new vocabulary besides colors: e.g., sleeve, brim, seam, collar, buttons, strap, bow, etc.
  • Grammar: This game lends itself well to grammar targets such as possessive pronouns ("Whose underpants are they?"-"They are his underpants."), subjective pronouns, and 3rd person singular conjugation ("He has green shorts."). Many of my students struggle with this!
  • Fine Motor Skills: Students will have to be careful not to grab, but use a pincer grasp - otherwise, all of the clothes will come flying out of the dryer!
  • Pretend Play: And, of course, the game would make a great tool for pretend play in play therapy, since the clothes are very realistic!
  • Guessing game: Because the dryer nicely obscures anything inside, you can play a guessing game by placing a random item inside, having students touch it, and guess what it is.
  • Social Skills: We used this game to work on fair play and not attempting to peek into the dryer!
If you only have money to purchase one of the Educational Insights games that I am reviewing here, I would recommend you get this one, since you will get the biggest bang out of your buck with this choice!