Teach Through Games: Smashed Potatoes

Teach Through Games: Smashed Potatoes

Age level: Early Elementary

Description: Smashed Potatoes caught my eye immediately becuase I have so many students who love play dough. It’s a simple game in which each player is trying to get his/her potato to the finish space in one piece. But with so many opportunities to get smashed, meeting this goal is more challenging than it first appears!

Skills & Modifications: On occasion, this game does have a long playing time, so I typically set a timer with the rule that the player who is the furthest ahead when the timer goes off wins the game. This way I can set a time period that is appropriate to my learner’s skill level, attention span, and interest.


One potato got caught in the chip chopper!

Motor Skills – Not only does Smashed Potatoes require learners to spin the spinner, but it also provides plenty of opportunities to turn a crank, push down a “chip chopper” and a “french fryer,” and use two hands to successfully create their potato with the potato mold.

Flexibility – For young learners who struggle with being flexible in social situations, Smashed Potatoes can be a great game for practicing the skill. When the learner’s potato is unexpectedly smashed, he/she has to create a new potato using the potato mold and start over. You can teach specific skills and appropriate language for managing such situations if your learner is highly motivated by the game.

Counting – The game includes a spinner with the numbers one through four. For young learners who are motivated by playing with the play dough, this is a great way to practice basic counting skills. The game also requires that learners use one-to-one correspondence for the numbers one through four.

The spinner for Smashed Potatoes. If you land on the potato, you get to move one space ahead of the leader. If you land on the ball of play dough, you smash ALL the potatoes in the Mash Machine!

The spinner for Smashed Potatoes. If you land on the potato, you get to move one space ahead of the leader. If you land on the ball of play dough, you smash ALL the potatoes in the Mash Machine!

Cause and Effect/Expressive Language – I love this game for teaching young learners to describe cause and effect. For example, when a potato is smashed in the crinkle chipper, I can say “What happened?” and the learner can describein detail what happened to the potato and why.

Peer PlayMany of my learners with autism have excellent spatial reasoning skills, so this is a great option for age-appropriate peer play. I feel that I should also admit here that I have one student who beats me on a regular basis.

Extending the lesson: Have your learners create their own obstacle course of the potato pieces to go through. What do they have around the house or classroom that could be used? You can create your own game board by drawing spaces on poster board, then include items such as colanders, rolling pins, etc. as part of your obstacle course.

Pros: This can be a highly motivating way for elementary students to practice basic skills without utilizing materials that appear inappropriate for their age. For learners with autism who love to smash play dough, stress balls, etc. this can be a great option for motivating them to engage in functional play.

Cons: The “Mash Machine” comes loose from the board quite easily, especially if your learner is not skilled with holding it down with one hand while operating it with the other hand. Be prepared to address this as needed. I also wish that the potato molds were easier for young learners to use.

smashedpotatoesCost: $24.99 You should invest in this game if: you have a learner who loves play dough, you are seeking games that work on fine motor skills, or you are looking for unique games to practice counting, taking turns, and motor skills.

ABLLS: C9, D12, H47, K15, R5, Z6, Z12, Z25

VB-MAPP: VP-MTS 2, Listener Responding 8, Social Behavior and Social Play 15, Intraverbal 14, Math 12, Math 13

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