So Many Obstacles, So Much Fun

admincooperative play, eeBoo, games, group games, imagination, motor planning, organization, problem solving, school age, social skills, speech therapy 1 Comment

Several weeks ago, I blogged about a toy from one of my favorite toy companies, eeBoo.  I have loved this company for years, but have fallen more madly and deeply in love with them after that post.  I was fortunate enough to go spend some time at the eeBoo studios in New York City a few weeks ago.  Oddly enough, my sister and I had been to a sample sale there many years ago and it wasn’t until I was walking in the doors that I remembered that.  I blame me not remembering on being pregnant.  Yes, that explains it all!
Right before I went to the eeBoo studio, I was talking to my speech therapist colleague Jacki Barredo who was telling me all about this great game she purchased over the weekend, Obstacles.  It sounded great.  Actually, it sounded amazing and asked her to bring it in so I could see it and possibly get it for The Meeting House.  Fast forward 20 minutes; I am standing in the eeBoo studio taking a look at all their toys, dreaming a bit about how cool it would be to have my OT office in their space!  As I look around, my eyes fall on the game Obstacles that Jacki was talking about!  I love coincidences like that!  In addition to a handful of other games and products, I walked out with the game Obstacles and have been playing it nonstop ever since.  

Obstacles is a game of imagination, problem solving and collaboration.  There are 25 obstacle cards that have scenes and you have to figure out how to get through each one using one of the 100 tool cards.  Check out a few examples in the image to the right.  The goal of the game is pretty easy: get home using the best tool card to overcome the obstacles.  My favorite way to play the game with a small group of kids is to have them each put down a tool on each obstacle and explain how they would use it.  After each of them has finished explaining how they would use their tool, the group has to decide which tool would be most effective for that given card.  It might take time to negotiate and come to a decision but I think it is a tool that will help our kids in so many life situations.  Learning how to negotiate can be a difficult thing to teach kids, especially the ones that I work with.  Doing it in a fun and lighthearted way may be a good non-stressful way to practice the skill before generalizing it to other life situations.  

There are so many things to love about this game, but one of the things I like best is that there is no right or wrong answer.  It’s not about winning or losing.  It’s all about being creative and using your imagination in order to get through each obstacle.  It’s about encouraging a child to compromise and recognize that sometimes others may have good ideas too.  One of the most interesting things I have seen when watching this game is how stubborn a child can be about thinking that the other players tool might be more effective.  Children are competitive beings and are so used to winning and losing that it can be quite difficult to realize that they need to work together to get home.  

Here are a few more skills that can be worked on when playing the game Obstacles    

Improve Social Skills-I have used this game at The Meeting House and in my smaller social skills groups.  I love watching the kids come up with reasons why their tool will be the the best to get through the obstacle successfully.  There are many ways to play it but the way I mentioned above seems to be the best way to encourage team work and collaboration.  

Improve Imagination Skills-what I love most about this game is that you can never be wrong and that you are required to really think outside of the box.  So many of the children I work with, both individually and in groups, struggle with this.  It’s really fun to watch the excitement that comes out of a creative explanation of how they might use a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to overcome a herd of sheep or how they might use a vacuum to get through a street filled with tacks.  
Improve Problem Solving-so many of the children I work with struggle with solving problems (whether it be with their school work or dealing with a social situation).  This can cause a child to get frustrated and often give up too easily on things.  This game is a really fun way to get children, especially those who are concrete thinkers (or rock brains as we tend to call them in our group) to become more flexible and really think things through.  
Improve Organizational Skills-you can work on improving organizational skills by really thinking about what tool you will use for each obstacle.  I tend to lay out a certain number of obstacle cards in front of the players and give each player a number of tool cards at the beginning of the game.  I then allow them a little time to look through their tools and organize them and figure out what tool would be best with each obstacle.   

I am sure my love for this company is obvious.  But let me tell you one more thing that makes me want each and every one of my readers to support this company.  If you want to, you can go onto their online store and purchase any product they create.  However, that is not what they want or encourage.  They are a true small business supporter and encourage you to find a small business in your neighborhood to purchase their products from.  How cool is that?  If you live in Park Slope, I can tell you that you can find a tremendous selection of eeBoo products at Little Things and Lulu Toys and Cuts.  I realize that sometimes it is more convenient to order online, but let’s all do what we can to support these awesome small businesses.

While I think this game is great for social groups and individual therapy sessions, I think it is an also a great family game.  I think this game will turn into a family favorite as it is fun for children of all ages and grownups.  It’s pretty awesome that the game can be different every time you play it because each person will have different ideas for the different tools.  You may not always use the same cards.  I know that I have as much fun playing and strategizing with the kids when they are struggling to come up with solutions.

I look forward to hearing from you all about this game and how you use it during therapy, groups and at home.  I am sure that there are many other ways to play this game and am always looking for ways to adapt and modify the games and toys that I blog about.  I am only a click away so please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or comments.  

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