Toobeez Tangrams
Primary Market
Health, Occupational Therapy
Character Focus
Communication, Gross Motor Skills
Items Needed
1Toobeez set, 1 blindfold per student
The Activity Time
30 - 60 minutes

Objectives

  • Facilitate receptive communication and expressive communication skills
  • Address auditory-processing skills
  • Address spatial awareness
  • Improve right/left discrimination skills and directional concepts
  • Improve tactile-discrimination skills
  • Address self-advocacy skills
  • Support orientation & mobility (O & M) skills in with visual impairments
The Challenge

Without seeing the other person, connect the Toobeez and build the same exact design. One person gives directions and the other person follows auditory instructions only.

Preparation

Time: 5 minutes

Materials

  • 1 Toobeez set
  • 1 blindfold per student

Setup

1. Each individual is given the same variety of pieces (start with five depending on skill level).

Activity Plan

Time: 30 – 60 minutes

Instruction: Individual (with therapist) or pairs

Space: Tabletop or floor space (about the size of a gym mat)

Helpful Hints

  • Be sure to review these tips prior to beginning the activity, and if necessary, share reminders with the group during the activity.
  • If using floor space, sit back to back to one another. For students with visual impairments or total blindness, sit at a table. When the design is complete, the designs should be identical.
  • Remember that this is not a mirroring activity. The person building is listening and interpreting the verbal instructions.
  • If a child is receiving individual therapy, the therapist can be the child’s partner for the activity.
  • Find a quiet area to minimize auditory distractions. This activity requires concentration and minimal environmental distractions for the best results.

Activity Instructions

1. Provide the individuals with the same number of Toobeez (begin with a few and add on as the children are successful). Students should also the exact same pieces. For example, one piece could be a sphere, one piece could be a 36” tube with a sphere on the end, one piece could be two 11” tubes connected by a sphere to form an “L” shape… be creative!
See picture below for sample starting pieces.

toobeez-tangrams

2. If necessary, review directional concepts such as right and left, up and down, away from and toward, front and back, straight and veer. Ask the children to point (using their body as the center) in each direction.

3. If necessary, review concepts such as short, long or medium lengths. Ask students to use their hands to gesture differences in lengths.

4. Review the pieces and clarify the vocabulary used to describe each tube. This ensures that both individuals are clear on how to describe the pieces when giving and receiving the instructions. For example, have the children agree on what they will call the black sphere to clarify instructions – will they call it a sphere, a ball or a connector?

Therapist Note

For children with intact vision, have them sit back to back on the floor so each child is unable to see the other person’s work space. For children with visual impairments, total blindness, or if the only space available is a tabletop, have the students sit across from one another. Be sure that both of the participant’s vision is occluded using the blindfolds.

5. Read the following Activity Challenge Box. Review the importance of listening and feeling comfortable asking questions to clarify instructions. For individuals with visual impairments, this is a vital skill needed to travel routes safely and efficiently.

Challenge: Without seeing the other person, connect the Toobeez and build the same exact design. One person gives directions and the other person follows auditory instructions only.

Two students were successful in giving and following instructions!

Two students were successful in giving and following instructions!

6. Children should decide which participant will give directions and which will receive directions.

7. Begin the activity, and the therapist should not prompt students unless frustration is noticed and/or help is requested by the students. The children should strengthen their problem-solving skills and communication skills by working with each other.

8. Upon completing the designs, the children can inspect each other’s design and move on to the Discussion and Processing questions.

Therapist Assessment

  • Observe each child’s ability to comprehend and follow specific instructions, as well as the ability to clearly state instructions. This observation will provide ideas as to the type of learning style to which the child will best respond and what types of strategies are needed to encourage full participation in daily activities, whether in the classroom or in the home.
  • This activity requires a lot of planning of language and of gross motor and spatial awareness. By occluding the child’s vision, this allows the body to use both tactile and kinesthetic/proprioceptive senses to strengthen these skills.
  • This is a great activity to co-treat with speech and language pathologists, if the child requires their professional services.

Here are available Training Options!

Activity Discussion and Processing

Use the questions below as a guide for your discussion. Select the questions you feel will best benefit your child/student. It is not mandatory to cover every question. Make sure to let everyone share their ideas, and remind participants that everyone’s opinions and feelings are important!
Work through the following questions:
  • What was easy or hard about this activity?
  • What frustrated you during this activity?
  • What do you now know about yourself from this activity? For example, do you need your teacher to repeat instructions or re-word your instructions for homework to be able to understand them? Do you need more time to think about instructions to best understand what you have been asked to do?

Activity Variations

1. Add blindfolds.

With sighted children, use blindfolds to occlude vision and further tune into the tactile sense. This also requires children to use a different set of concepts to describe the tubes (short or long rather than by color).

2. Decrease the difficulty.

Use fewer Toobeez pieces and provide the students with the exact pieces that they need to use. This can decrease feelings of being overwhelmed when trying to find the piece being described.

3. Increase the difficulty.

Add more pieces to the activity to increase the challenge.

4. Increase the difficulty.

Divide the set of Toobeez in half. Instruct the students to build a three-dimensional structure including all of the pieces rather than a flat design.

5. Make it a group activity.

If more than two students are involved in a group therapy session, split the students into two groups. Ask one student to build the structure or the design while the other students can take turns providing instructions. Or, more than one child can participate in the construction of the design and one designated child can provide the other group with instructions.

6. Change activity to mirroring.

Have children seated facing one another and ask one child to be the leader and the other the mirror. The child that is the mirror must follow the leader’s every move, even if they itch their ear before picking up the Toobeez piece. The mirror must follow each move and connect the same pieces in the same direction as the leader (leader’s right side of body will be the mirror’s left side of the body).

7. For children who use wheelchairs.

Have one child create an “accessory” to their wheelchair (perhaps an extended arm like an oar that would make steering more fun – be creative!) and have that child give directions to another child (vision occluded or back-to-back) to create the same wheelchair accessory.

Candice Donnelly-Knox is a licensed and registered occupational therapist with over three years of experience. She has experience working with students (ages 3 to 21) with a variety of needs including Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD, Cerebral Palsy and Down syndrome etc. Candice is dedicated to providing each student with an individualized plan to address their unique educational needs; needs that may include activities of daily living, coping skills, reading and handwriting, and functional math skills such as money management, pre-vocational and vocational skills.
All Activities of Candice Donnelly-Knox

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