Bits and Pieces FTW!

adminbilateral coordination, creativity, executive functioning, fat brain toys, fine motor, frustration, manipulation skills, social skills, strengthening, The Offbits, visual attention, visual motor Leave a Comment

I am sure we all have that website that just sucks you in and you can be hypnotized to buy just about anything.  For me, when I see an email or get a catalogue from Fat Brain Toys, I have to make a decision to look at the email and know that I will be spending money or just delete it immediately.  At the end of the summer, I got an email that I decided to open and I am so happy I did.  In it they featured The Offbits building toys and I was immediately obsessed.  It’s easy for me to find toys and products for the younger kids on my caseload…the real challenge is finding things that will motivate my older kids who tend to give up or become bored faster.   When I read about The Offbits, I knew that my older kids were going to love them and that they would be a great way to work on a variety of their goals without it seeming like work.

The Offbits kits are made up of a variety of “bits and pieces” that you might find in the bottom of a junk drawer or in a tool box.  To clarify, each kit comes with various screws, nuts, bolts, springs, etc. that can be used to build robots, vehicles or whatever else your child’s imagination can come up with.  Each kit comes with a book with instructions to build something specific but also provides challenges with the bits and pieces provided in the back of the book.  Once kids are confident in their building skills, you can provide them with a bunch of pieces and see what they con come up with.  Like I have already mentioned, there is no right or wrong which I find helps kids have more fun when building with the bits and pieces.  The greatest thing is seeing a child’s confidence and self-esteem soar as they build something from nothing.  If your child does better with step-by-step instructions, you can check out The Offbits website and take a look at their challenge section.  Here they show off other people’s creations and give picture step-by-step directions.  I’m a particular fan of the ones they have for the holidays including the adorable CupidBit below for Valentine’s day (it also includes a printable set of wings).  

I have a 7 year old daughter and she has actually become my partner in crime in toy testing.  As she has gotten older, watching her play with different toys and products I pick up has given me an idea of how to better use them with the kids I work with who struggle with different things.  For example, if she is having difficulty for some reason, it gives me the opportunity to come up with ways to adapt it so my kids can be successful.  When my collection of The Offbits  arrived, she was immediately interested in playing and building with them.  I was psyched because I love it when she chooses to play, explore and build in place of watching tv or using the iPad.  What was even more fun was when my husband came home from work and sat down and joined in on the fun!  These have definitely turned into something our whole family enjoys.

One of the things I like the most about The Offbits kits are that while they come with specific instructions on what to build, they also encourage you to challenge yourself and make your own creation.  There is no right or wrong when it comes to playing with them.  It’s about exploring the various pieces and creating something.  I have noticed that before my kids can build something on their own/without a visual template, they need to follow the visual directions first.  This gives them a foundation and understanding of what the different pieces do, how they fit together, etc..  The other thing I love about The Offbits kits is that they are small and easy to bring places to keep your kids busy.

Increase Grasp Strength/Improve Manipulation Skills-the bits and pieces provided are really small (which is why these are geared towards kids 6 and older) which is great for working on improving manipulation skills; I encourage the kids to pick up the pieces using their “pinchers”.  There are mini screwdrivers and wrenches included with each set which provided kids which makes the kids really work those little muscles in their hands.  In order to complete their creations, kids are required to screw nuts and bolts together, screw tiny screws tight and push springs into places.  All of this helps to improve overall grasp strength which is important for being able to write for long periods of times, manipulate buttons/snaps/fasteners and lots of other things.

Improve Bilateral Coordination-so many of the kids I work with will only use their dominant hand for activities.  They require constant reminders from me to use two hands because it isn’t something that comes naturally to them.  When building with The Offbits kits, it’s virtually impossible to only use one hand in order to put your robots, vehicles or whatever you are making together.  One hand must hold a screw while turning a nut onto it or hold the creation while using the screwdriver or wrench.  The nice thing about this is that kids figure this out pretty quickly on their own because they just won’t have success building if they don’t use two hands.

Improve Visual Motor/Perceptual Skills-as I have already mentioned, each kit comes with step-by-step directions in order to build a robot or vehicle.  Often times, the kids I work with don’t like to work on things that challenge them and many have difficulty with visual motor and perceptual activities.  The Offbits provide many opportutnies to work on this skill in a fun and motivating way.  Some of the visual skills that can be worked on are:  visual tracking-to follow the instructions; visual scanning-to find the bits and pieces needed for each step; visual figure ground-to locate the right piece in a pile of pieces for each step; visual discrimination-to find the right size and color piece in a busy working field.

Improve Executive Functioning Skills-as kids get older, finding fun ways to work on improving executive functioning skills gets more and more challenging.  The Offbits provides so many opportunities to work on this.  Some of the executive functioning skills that can be worked on are: initiation by figuring out what the first step of the activity is…what pieces they need first, etc.; planning what the goal of the activity is and setting a goal; organization-this is something many of my kids struggle with.  With The Offbits, I sometimes have the kids organize themselves by sorting the different bits and pieces into piles so that it is easier for them to grab what they need for each step.  I also talk to them about looking at and following the directions so they can be successful; emotional control-one of the things I have to work on with my older kids is being able to not get too frustrated during challenging activities.  Sometimes this means providing them with challenging activities so they can come up with strategies to work through the challenges.  Many of my kids refuse to ask for help, which is a great strategy during challenging tasks.

Improves Social Skills-while kids can build The Offbits sets on their own, it can be a great activity for kids to do together.  They can come up with a game plan before they begin to build and work together to either follow the visual instructions or come up with their own creation.  It may mean sharing the materials, being able to compromise about a plan and patiently wait for your turn when necessary.  Once the kids build and create, you can have them act out different scenarios (you can collaborate with children’s team members to see if there are certain social things they struggle with that they can act out through their Offbit robots).

As you can see, The Offbits can be used to work on so many occupational therapy goals.  I love when I can find something that parents can do at home with their kids.  Even better, this is something that you can do with your children and all have fun.  Oftentimes, I suggest parents have their kids do some kind of “warm-up” activity with kids before they begin their homework to warm up their hands.  This could be a great way to get your kids organized and warm up their hands for their homework.

If you have ever used The Offbits or have something similar you like to play and build with, I would love to hear about them.  I am always a click away and love hearing from you all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *