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Resources

For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

Therapeutic Use of Games

June 2022 | Monica Prindiville, OTS and Katie Frank, PhD, OTR/L - Occupational Therapy Student and Occupational Therapist

While games are widely considered to be a meaningful and enjoyable activity, their therapeutic benefits can be easily overlooked. Games provide opportunities to work on a wide variety of skills we use in everyday activities. These include fine motor, visual motor, and cognitive skills (more on each of these below). Most games (apart from single player games) also allow for working on several social skills. Many of the games can be made easier or harder depending on the skill level of the players. 

 

Fine Motor Skills

We use fine motor skills every day to complete tasks that require using the small muscles in our hands or wrists. We use them to eat, put on clothing, write or draw, type on a computer, open containers, and more. Many games provide opportunities to practice these skills, which can make completing many of our daily activities easier. The games listed below require use of fine motor skills, including picking up and moving small pieces, flipping cards, or using a spinner or dice. To increase the fine motor difficulty, you can pick up game pieces using large plastic tweezers, beginner chopsticks, or clothespins. 

  • Ants in the Pants

  • Candy Land

  • Card games like UNO, Go Fish, War, etc.

  • Chutes and Ladders

  • Don't Break the Ice

  • Don't Spill the Beans

  • Hi Ho! Cherry-O

  • Kerplunk

  • Let's Go Fishin'

  • Mancala

  • Pop the Pig

  • Shelby's Snack Shack

  • Sorry!

  • Stacking Chairs

  • Trouble

  • Yeti in my Spaghetti

Other ideas for working on fine motor skills can be found in the following resources: Fun Activities to Improve Fine Motor Skills and Daily Tasks to Improve Fine Motor Skills

 

Visual Perceptual or Visual Motor Skills

The following games target visual perceptual skills, which are used to process and make sense of what we see, and visual motor skills, which are used to coordinate the visual information we take in with our movement. These skills are essential for many activities we perform every day, including writing, typing, eating with utensils, cleaning, tying our shoes, and folding clothes.

  • Ants in the Pants

  • Battleship

  • Blokus

  • Checkers

  • Connect 4

  • Don't Break the Ice

  • Jenga

  • Kerplunk

  • Operation

  • Spot it!

 

Cognitive Skills

The following games target memory, problem-solving, planning, attention, and sequencing (performing actions in order).

  • Bananagrams

  • Battleshiop

  • Bingo

  • Checkers

  • Connect 4

  • Farkle

  • Guess Who?

  • Happy Salmon

  • Hedbanz

  • I Can Do That

  • Jenga

  • Kerplunk

  • Left Center Right (LCR)

  • Mastermind

  • Match or Memory

  • Qwirkle

  • Scattergories

  • Twister

  • UNO

  • 5 Second Rule

 

These games are available at a variety of retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, Target, etc.

For more on the benefits of games for social skills and specific game recommendations, see our article “Using Games in Social Groups,” which can be found here

Please note: The information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for a medical, psychiatric, mental health, or behavioral evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment plan by a qualified professional. We recommend you review the educational material with your health providers regarding the specifics of your health care needs.

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