Pinch It To Believe How Great It Is

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When I think about how much has changed since I became an occupational therapist over ten years ago, I think about the iPad and how this piece of electronics has added to my practice.  While I know there are many of you therapists out there who don’t use iPads or technology in their work, I know there are just as many of you who do.  I make a concerted effort to not rely on it too much and be sure to use it minimally and only for certain kids.  My goal is to use it as a reward or to work on skills that may be more challenging and need more motivation to spend the necessary time on it to make a difference in his/her skills.

Every once in a while I stumble on an app and get so excited.  I belong to this awesome group on Facebook for pediatric occupational therapists and it’s been such a great resource.  I’ve used it to find clients who are moving and need to find therapists in their new town or to helpf find specialty therapists for clients I currently work with.  The best thing though is that we are able to bounce ideas and suggestions off of each other and because of it I have discovered some great toys, activities and apps from these other great therapists.  One of the things I have recently discovered is the app Pinch Peeps by Everplay Interactive.  While the game is simple (in theory), there are so many occupational goals that can be addressed during play.

The point of the game is to pinch two similar creatures together before they explode.  It sounds easy, but it is a fast moving game and it moves faster and faster so focus and attention is crucial.  Before the iPad, I had a hard time working on this skill without it being boring for the kids.  How long could you ask a kid to pick up small beads from a table or to pull little pegs out of a pretend birthday cake made out of putty or playdough?  For me, it wasn’t long before the kids got bored and wanted to move on or would just avoid this activity entirely.  A few months ago, I blogged about Dexteria Jr..  This app was a huge hit with my kids from the beginning and continues to motivate them to work on their fine motor skills.  I am sure there a bunch of apps out there I don’t know about (if you know of them, please tell me!!) and Pinch Peeps seems to be one of those I will be relying on all year long and telling parents about.  I try and use this game right before a handwriting activity as I find that once you warm up those hand muscles through games like Pinch Peeps, the hand is warmed up to hold a writing instrument.

A child must find the matching peeps and pinch them together.
Starts off easy and gets increasingly more challenging

Here are just a few of the occupational therapy goals that can be addressed using the Pinch Peeps app:
Improve Pinching Skills-clearly, if you want a game to work on improving and encouraging pinching (a crucial prerequisite skill for graphomotor skills), this is your game.  The whole purpose of the game is to work on pinching skills by finding the matching peeps and pinching them together. As you get better and better, there will be challenges such as pushing the bombs away from each other with your fingers instead of pinching them together.
Improve Eye Hand Coordination/Improve Visual Perceptual Skills-in addition to pinching, you have to be sure that you find the matching “peeps” so it makes this app perfect for targeting visual perceptual and matching skills.  At first, there is only one pair to match but as you go on, you get more creatures to match at a time.  Eventually, there are challenges (avoiding bombs, obstacles and such) which require you to really focus on the visual cues on the screen.  And this is great for working on eye-hand coordination skills because you have to scan the screen to find the matches and then use your hands in order to pinch the matches together.

In addition to the regular part of the game, there are
challenges such as these throughout
Improve Focus and Attention Skills-one of the great things about Pinch Peeps is that it moves quickly which requires a child to really focus and pay attention to what is happening on the screen.  If they aren’t paying careful attention, they will match the wrong peeps and they will lose a life.  If they don’t pay attention to the obstacles that are placed on the screen (bombs need to be pinched away from each other or a bar will show up in the middle of the screen and you have to pinch the bombs together by avoiding touching the line)

Improve Upper Extremity Strength-I love killing two birds with one stone.  Whenever it is appropriate, I will put my kids in the super hero (aka net swing) to play with the iPad.  Sometimes my kids tolerance for lying in the prone position is minimal and it requires a tremendous amount of encouragement from me for them to stay in the swing for even a minute.  Give them something interesting and motivating, and I can get them to stay on that swing for ages.  They don’t even realize they are tired or how hard they are working because they are so focused on the game.  Pinch Peeps is a perfect game to distract kids from doing other things.

While you have to pinch the peeps together, you need to
pay attention to the bombs and pinch them apart
before they explode

Executive Functioning/Organizational Skills-for the older kids on my caseload, organization skills is something that I try and hide into our work.  I feel like when I am all on top of them and forcing them to do it, it becomes more of an argument or stress inducing thing.  With this game, I have my kids watch me play the game for a little while and tell them to pay close attention to what I am doing because I will have them tell me the purpose of the game and the instructions based on what I am doing.  This helps them organize themselves before they begin the game; helps them regulate their actions and prepares them for success with the game.  It’s also a great way to see how well a child can understand visual cues/directions (this game doesn’t give verbal directions, instead there is a little video (that I mute) to watch that gives you all the directions.  Depending on the child, I will have them repeat part or all of what they saw back to me.

I am loving this game and love that it is sold (and by sold, I mean it is free!  You just have to deal with this annoying thing before you start the game of a popup ad.  Be sure to “x” out of the ad and avoid a trip to the app store before each game begins.) as a game for everyone, not kids with special needs.  I’m not gonna lie…I have found myself playing this between clients and have fun with it.  I am pretty sure if I were to put this on my niece’s iPods, they would love it too and they are typically developing 5 and 8 year olds).  There is enough of a challenge that it can be played by everyone.  I love the added dimension of matching the peeps so a child can work on more than one skill at a time.

If any of you are looking for a new (and cheap) game to add to your iPad repertoire, Pinch Peeps is a perfect one.  It offers the just right challenge that I am sure you are all looking for when working with your kids but allows the kids to have a good time at the same time.  No matter how great an app is, if the kids don’t have fun while playing it, then it just won’t have the lasting power if there isn’t an element of fun to it.

I would love hear from you guys and your thoughts on this game.  Does anyone have any other games similar to this that might encourage pinching and other fine motor skills like Pinch Peeps and Dexteria Jr.?  I am just a click away and looking forward to hearing from you with other fine motor app suggestions.

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