Age level: Preschool, Early Elementary
Description: The idea of this game is that students are trying to get CooCoo to juggle as many balls as possible. CooCoo is designed in such a way that his feet are rounded, making him able to rock back and forth. Twenty-four balls of three different sizes are included with the set. Students must choose balls based on size to place in the best location on CooCoo’s arms, hands, shoes, or hat so that he will not rock too far and fall down. While this game is listed as being appropriate for ages 3 and up, I have worked with students as old as eight or nine that still enjoy the game immensely. This is, by far, one of the most motivating games I own, especially for young learners with autism spectrum disorders.
Skills & Modifications: This game really is a critical thinking game for early learners. Below you’ll see multiple examples of areas in which students must think critically and strategize in order to win the game.
- Cause & Effect – At its most basic, this is a cause and effect toy. You put a ball in the wrong place, CooCoo will fall down. You place a ball, CooCoo may rock then balance out, or may rock and lean to one side. There’s a great anticipation aspect to this game that is not present in other games for early learners.
- Comparisons – This game easily lends itself to comparisons based on size since the balls come in small, medium, and large. While we are playing, sometimes I will pick a ball that clearly is the wrong choice to see if the student will correct me. For example, if we have placed many balls and CooCoo is clearly leaning to one side, I will pick a small ball to place in order to balance CooCoo. Usually my student will say “No, you need a bigger ball.” If not, I might ask, “Do you think this is best choice?” or “What will happen if I use the ball?” For students who are still grasping the concept of the game, I may talk through my thinking, such as “If I put this small ball here, it probably won’t make a difference. But if I pick a bigger ball, maybe CooCoo will stop leaning. I’m going to put a big ball right here. Oh, look! CooCoo stopped leaning!”
- Making Predictions – My students love to make predictions with this game. I might pick up a ball and say, “What do you think will happen if I put this ball on CooCoo’s head?” They enjoy guessing if the CooCoo will fall down or stay balanced. I also encourage my students to interact with me and their peers in asking for predictions as well.
- Peer Play – This is frequently a struggle for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. I have found success in using this game to encourage peer play because student’s are just as motivated to watch what happens when another player plays as they are to engage with the game on their own. Moreover, this game is more motivating to play correctly than to play in a stimulatory or inappropriate way. (Although I have had one student who greatly enjoyed pushing down on one arm so that CooCoo would fall over before any balls had been placed. With some teaching, he began to interact with the game appropriately when supervised, but left to his own devices he did not play with the game as it was designed.)
- Averages & Graphs – There are many toys and games that kids still enjoy but don’t want to admit to because they feel the toy or game is too “babyish.” I see this a lot with trains, figurines such as MyLittlePony or Barbie, and with this game. I have been able to introduce simple math skills using CooCoo. Students are motivated by the game, and not worried about it being too babyish because it is being used to teach something age-appropriate. This is one of those rare instances in which I use a game specifically to teach, and am clear about that with the student. For this I might have the student see how many balls they can balance on CooCoo multiple times, and then figure out the average. I might teach graphing to compare using a bar graph how many ball each individual student was able to balance on CooCoo. There are many possibilities here, but these are just two I have done in the past.
- Sorting/Scanning – I always practice sorting and/or scanning when I clean up the game. I remind the student(s) that there are six balls of each color, then we decide which color we are going to clean up first. They must scan through all the balls on the floor and find the color we are searching for. Once we have found all six of that color, we then choose a new color. Other times, I will have them sort the balls into groups by color, then we will count and make sure that we have all six balls of each color before packing up the game.
Pros: You can play alone or with up to 6 players. It is one of the few games for early learners that teaches concepts of strategy and logical thinking in a way that is highly motivating for students.
Cons: The game is costly. That being said, the materials are high quality (made completely of wood.)
Cost: $27.99, but frequently less expensive on Amazon. Should I buy this? While the game is on the expensive end, it allows for practice of skills in a unique way. This is not a game that you can easily recreate or make on your own. And I appreciate any toy that I know will last for many years.