Age level: Preschool, Early Elementary
Description: Willy’s Wiggly Web is a unique game for preschool learners to practice basic skills in an active manner. The set up is unlike most games I’ve seen in that posts are placed in a base so a web can be stretched across them. The object of the game is to work as a team to cut all the bugs free from the web, without letting Willy (the spider in the center) fall from the web.
Skills & Modifications: One of my favorite things about this game is that it contains three levels of play, all with the same primary goal. You can easily select the appropriate level of play for your learner.
Motor Skills/Scissor Skills – It is very difficult to find games that practice scissor skills. Many of my learners with autism don’t want to even pick up a pair of scissors or are completely bored by the tasks given them to practice scissor skills. But there is nothing boring about Willy’s Wiggly Web! The first level of play is simply having each player take turns making 3 cuts to try to free the bugs.
Counting – As a player is making cuts, all players count aloud together. In Level 1, all players make 3 cuts each turn. But in Level 2, cards are introduced that vary the number of cuts each player makes. On one turn, you may only make 1 cut, while on the next turn you may make 5 cuts.
Peer Play/Taking Turns – The main reason I love this game for peer play is that my students with autism who love this game are attending to the turns of other players. They are highly motivated to see what happens on each turn, which increases their engagement and their opportunities for interactions.
Recognizing Left and Right – Levels 2 and 3 of this game provide lots of practice with recognizing left and right. I love how it’s built into the game in a simple way.
Problem Solving – I often play this game with one learner with autism and his/her sibling(s) and parent(s). It’s interesting to see the siblings talking with each other about where the next cut may be made. It’s simple problem solving and provides a great foundation for more complex problem solving in other games or in real life situations.
Pros: Beyond the fact that Peaceable Kingdom has managed to provide a fun game focused on scissor skills, my favorite thing about this game is that my students are so motivated to attend to all the things happening throughout the game.
Cons: No cons! The webs are made out of an excellent materials that doesn’t tear too easily but does provide good cutting practice for my students. Fifty webs are included in the game, and when you run out you simple call Peaceable Kingdom for free replacements!
ABLLS: A10, A19, K15, L2, L4, L8, R5, Z12
VB-MAPP: Social Behavior & Social Play 6, Social Behavior & Social Play 9
Willy’s Wiggly Web was provided to me for free by the company Peaceable Kingdom to write about here. This did not influence my opinions on the game. The thoughts and ideas above are all my own.
Age level: Preschool, Early Elementary
Description: Wild Ways Stacking Wooden Animals comes in a set of two, including 10 stacking elephants and 10 stacking monkeys. The materials are of high quality and have fun, colorful patterns. Your learner can use them to build towers, create unusual structures by combining the two animals in interesting ways, or talk about patterns. It’s a fun toy that allows for a broad range of activities.
Skills & Modifications: No modifications were necessary for these materials. If you have a learner with very poor motor skills, they may not be able to use these materials effectively.
Imitation Skills – These are fun toys to practice higher order imitation. I build a tower by placing the elephants in a specific way, then have my learner imitate the structure I’ve made. This requires positioning the elephant in the specific way that I have, (i.e., upside-down). The same activity can be completed with the monkeys.
Motor Skills – Building a tower does require your learner to use a pincer grasp. To build some structures, your learner may be required to use to hands in order to keep the tower balanced until a new elephant or monkey has been added to make the structure balance on its own. Many of my learners with autism require prompts to use both hands to better complete a task, so introducing tasks which naturally encourage the use of both hands is beneficial.
Matching – This set of blocks also allows for practice of higher order matching skills. As seen in the picture below, the learner can match a monkey and an elephant by pattern. This may require them to turn over an animal to find the pattern. It’s a fun way to improve matching skills!
Peer Play/Taking Turns – If your learner is motivated by the materials, this could be a great activity for peer play. With one learner, we used these blocks for playing with his sibling. Each kid took turns stacking the animals to try to build a structure. It was a great opportunity for engaging in appropriate play with an activity both learners enjoyed.
Pros: I love the patterns and bright colors. Many of my young learners are motivated by animals, so I appreciate materials that are fun and engaging and allow for me to practice important skills.
Cost: $29.95 You should invest in this game if: you have a learner who is highly motivated by building or animals, are seeking interesting materials for working on fine motor skills, or are looking for unique materials for identifying colors and patterns.
ABLLS: B9, B12, D20, K5, Z5, Z25
VB-MAPP: VP-MTS 2, Motor Imitation 5
Wild Ways Stacking Animals were provided to me for free by the company MindWare to write about here. This did not influence my opinions on the game. The thoughts and ideas above are all my own.
Age level: Early Elementary, Upper Elementary
Description: Clumsy Thief is a great game created by a mother to help her son with his addition skills. It’s fast-paced, offers lots of practice in addition skills, and (for older learners) also provides a high-interest activity for low-level skills. Furthermore, the game has a sense of humor that is especially great for kids who find math aversive. The illustrations of the clumsy thieves are funny, and many of my students love “putting the thieves in jail.”
Gameplay is simple, as you can see in the short video below.
Skills & Modifications: One of the things that I love about this game is that it is easy to modify to meet the unique needs of your particular learners. The game can sometimes be quite long, so an easy modification is to set a timer, then the player with the most money when the timer rings is the winner.
Another modification for learners who are still struggling with basic addition, you can play the game with only increments of 10 (removing the 15, 25, 35, and so on…) until those skills are solid. Then you can reintroduce the other cards.
There are also some modifications you can make to increase the difficulty level of the game. The first of these modifications utilizes the great design of the box. Each player is given a pawn. If the player makes an error in addition, their pawn “goes to jail” and they are not able to play cards for the remainder of that round. Once all other players are out of moves, pawns are released from jail and all players start the next round of play.
For the second modification to increase the difficulty level, I introduced the use of a spinner with the other dollar amounts written on it. When played as designed, players are always trying to combine two cards to add up to $100. In this modification, the dealer spins the spinner at the end of a round, and all players have the chance to combine two cards that add up to the new dollar amount (as pictured below.)
Addition – At its heart, this game is offers a ton of practice in basic addition skills. It bills itself as a money game, but I found it wasn’t as helpful with practicing money skills since most of my students struggle with money once the decimal is introduced. The game is still valuable though for its fantastic design and focus on addition.
Scanning – This game is a great way to practice higher order scanning skills, as it requires players to scan their own cards and an ever-changing collection of cards in play on the table. For some learners, I modified the game and introduced it as a turn-taking game until they mastered the level of scanning required.
Playing with Speed – Clumsy Thief really is a fast-paced, fun, free-for-all. Players must attend and play their cards quickly, or they may miss an opportunity to use a card.
Pros: The design of the game is great. I love the humor (such as the thief card pictured below.) I have played this with learners of a wide range of ages and skill levels.
Cons: You can definitely play this game with two players, but it’s vastly more entertaining when played with three or more. If you’re working with individuals with autism or other developmental disabilities, it may be difficult to match up more than two players who enjoy the same level of play.
Cost: $14.99 You should invest in this game if: you are a math teacher, you have a learner working on addition skills, or you are seeking games that can be played by students of multiple skill levels.
Clumsy Thief was provided to me for free by the company Melon Rind to write about here. This did not influence my opinions on the game. The thoughts and ideas above are all my own.
One of my favorite companies, Tiggly, has teamed with up with Sesame Street to create a fantastic app for young readers. I’ve written about Tiggly Words before, and the same interactive letter toys my students love can be used on this app as well. Now add Cookie Monster into the mix, and you’ve got one great app!
You can see how the Alphabet Kitchen (which will be released Nov 26th) works:
Many of my students with autism, like their peers, are highly motivated by the iPad. I love the addition of the interactive letters because it allows for more peer play, opportunities to mind (or make requests), and interaction with others. Furthermore, it makes it easier for me to modify the activity to some extent because I can make fewer letters available for them. This app really does one thing, but it does it very well. There are multiple levels, and the game does work from basic CVC words up to four-letter words. The only drawback is that, at this point, you are unable to select the playing level for your learner.
Another aspect of the app that I enjoy is the error correction when the learner places a letter creating a nonsense word. Many apps out there use some unique sound or visual to indicate an error. Oftentimes my learners with autism love these sounds or visuals and begin making errors intentionally. On this app, if a nonsense word is created, Cookie Monster makes a silly comment (such as “Pog. Pop? That sounds like sneeze.”) then erases the word and tells the learner to try again. What’s great about this is that the correction is quick, and all of Cookie Monsters reactions happen in other parts of the app as well. You don’t have to make an error for Cookie Monster to be silly.Each time the learner creates a word, Cookie Monster makes a cookie representing the word. After the learner has made four words, Cookie Monster reviews the words, eating the cookies as he goes along.
If you read my blog often, you know that I love any opportunity to be silly with my young learners. This app offers lots of chances to be playful and giggle with your learner. It also should be noted here that you don’t have to have the interactive toys to play the app, so don’t let that stop your learner from cooking something up in Alphabet Kitchen!
ABLLS: A10, B5, Q3, Q7, Q8, Q9, T1, T2
VB-MAPP: VP-MTS 5
Tiggly Words was provided to me for free by the company Kidtellect to write about here. This did not influence my opinions on the toy. The thoughts and ideas above are all my own.
Age level: Early Elementary, Upper Elementary
Description: Make A Pie from eeBoo is a fantastic, simple game to help learners practice working with fractions. I love that the game provides an activity for identifying fractions as part of the whole, and working to create a whole.
The design of the game is simple and motivating to my learners. I love the picnic blanket, and I also love that the way the game is organized, students don’t miss a turn. It provides MANY more opportunities to practice fractions.
Skills & Modifications: If I’m introducing this to a child who is just starting to learn about fractions, I will remove the smaller fractions and the spinner. Instead, I will create multiple cards that contain my target fractions. (For example, I might create cards that say 1/4, 1/3, and 1/2. Then the learners take turns drawing cards and creating their pies. Over time, I introduce more and more fractions. Once all fractions have been introduced, I introduce the spinner so that the learner is playing the game as designed.
Fractions – This is one of those games that does one thing, but does it very well. As your learner becomes more proficient with it you, can begin to ask them more complex questions, such as “What combination of fractions would help you make a whole pie?”
Pros: The game is simple to play, but helps learner practice an essential but challenging math skill. Gameplay is also relatively quick, so it’s a fantastic activity for kids who have shorter attention spans. Also, the game instructions include potential extensions for the game, which I always appreciate!
Cost: $17.00 You should invest in this game if: you are a math teacher, you have a learner who needs additional practice with fractions, or you are looking for games that children of different levels can play with each other.
Age level: Early Elementary
Description: Orchard Toys puts out many fantastic games (several of which I’ve written about here on the blog,) but Bus Stop is by far my favorite. At it’s root, Bus Stop is a simple board game that allows you to practice addition and subtraction with your learner in a fun way. Players taking turns rolling the dice to pick up and drop off passengers on their bus route.
Bus Stop is one of those rare games that you can play as designed or use the materials for imaginative play. Several of my students with autism are motivated by playing with vehicles, so this game can also be an entry point into teaching all sorts of skills.
My students love to drive the buses around the game board, picking up passengers as they go along. In order to win the game, you must have the most passengers at the end of your route.
Skills & Modifications: One of the modifications I frequently make to this game is to make it more of a storytelling game. Sometimes we’ll incorporate blocks to build a small town around the road, then talk about who we’re picking up and where they’re going. It’s a nice way to engage with the game, especially with young learners who aren’t yet ready to add or subtract.
The game also comes with two dice. One determines how many space you move on the board, the other determines how many passengers are added to or subtracted from the bus. For some students, I’ll introduce the game with just one dice and we’ll add or subtract one passenger per turn.
Addition/Subtraction – This is a fantastic math game in that it provides a visual of addition and subtraction each time your learner takes a turn. It’s great practice for single-digit math.
Comparing Numbers – The player with the most passengers on their bus at the end of the game wins. This provides an easy opportunity for players to compare the number of passengers on each bus using math terminology such as “greater than” or “less than.”
Accepting Losing Your Turn – While a player cannot lose a turn in this game, young learners who struggle with losing a turn may benefit from playing this game and learning how to accept losing passengers on a turn.
Peer Play – I use this game a lot with sibling play with my students with autism. It’s simple to play, and I’ve found that most of my learners are motivated by the game. Turns are relatively quick which makes it easier for my students with autism to wait for their next turn.
Imaginative Play – As describe in the Skills and Modifications section, I frequently remove the dice entirely and make this more of a storytelling activity. The materials are wonderful and provide a wealth of opportunity for telling realistic stories about a person’s day.
Pros: I really love all the materials included in the game. I also appreciate the diversity represented by the passengers, which is sadly rare in children’s games.
Cons: The only con is that sometimes, when playing the game as designed, you may have the opportunity to add passengers but have a full bus, or need to subtract passengers but have an empty bus. Just be prepared to explain what to your learners what to do when this happens, then move on to the next player’s turn.
Cost: $19.99 You should invest in this game if: you are seeking fun ways to practice addition and subtraction, teach math to young learners, or are looking for a simple board game to introduce to young learners.
ABLLS: K15, R5, R23, R25, R27
VB-MAPP: Math 13, Math 14
Age level: Early Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School
Description: Super Genius is a fantastic new set of games Blue Orange released this year. Gameplay is quite similar to Spot It, a favorite of my students and my family. Super Genius allows for more academic practice, with give different games including Addition, Multiplication, First Words, Reading 1, and Reading 2. Each deck is a matching game that can be played in multiple ways.
Each deck contains two different types of cards. For instance, the “First Words” deck include picture cards and word cards, so a match consists of finding the word that matches with a picture on the other card. With the math decks, you’ll find addend and sum cards in the addition deck and factor and product cards in the multiplication deck.
Skills & Modifications: I have had huge success using these cards with my students with autism. First, it is relatively easy to find the appropriate deck for your learner. Second, instructions for a multitude of games are included in each deck, increasing the likelihood that you’ll find an activity that is motivating for your learner and allows you to practice these essential skills. Finally, many of my older students are still working on basic math and reading skills. These cards allow for practice in a way that is motivating for older students. It’s rare to find this and I am deeply appreciative of Blue Orange for providing high interest, low level materials.
Addition/Multiplication – Currently there are two decks that focus on math. Addition focuses on basic addition problems using digits from 1 to 20. Multiplication 1 (hopefully additional decks will come soon!) focuses on single unit multiplication equations (from 2 to 5.)
Reading – There are three different reading decks right now: First Words, Reading 1, and Reading 2. First Words focuses on basic consonant-vowel-consonant words, while Reading 1 and Reading 2 focus on words from the Dolch list of most common sight words. I particularly love the reading decks because many of my students with autism read fluently but struggle with comprehension. This game offers a simple way to practice comprehension.
Pros: Learning how to play Super Genius is relatively simple and opens opportunities to practice basic skills. I also love that during gameplay my learners get far more practice with math than they might have just by doing a worksheet, and they’re having fun while doing it!
Cons: No cons. Super Genius is a simple, fun, and useful game.
Cost: $12.99 You should invest in this game if: you are seeking high-interest low-level materials for a special education classroom, looking for fun ways to practice basic math or reading skills, or seeking games for family game night that can be enjoyed by children of different ages.
ABLLS: Q5, Q10
VB-MAPP: Reading 15
Super Genius was provided to me for free by the company Blue Orange to write about here. This did not influence my opinions on the game. The thoughts and ideas above are all my own.
I usually do the big back-to-school giveaway in August, but got a bit behind this year. Hopefully you’ll forgive me when you see the EIGHT great games I’m giving away this year. There are several ways to enter, and you can enter more than once.
There are over $100 worth of games included in this giveaway, which includes Laundry Jumble Game, Match Numbers & Quantities, The Tower, Color Clash, GreenMarket, Mystery-Dish Diner, DoodleQuest, and Make a Pie!
Age level: Preschool
Description: Hucklebee is hands-down one of the best-designed games on the market. It’s been a big hit with my young students with autism and allows me to help them practice all sorts of essential skills. Hucklebee is a soft plush toy that is designed in a way to help young learner practice identifying shapes, colors, body parts, and more.
Hucklebee comes with 25 double-sided cards that you can use as prompts to help your learner engage in a wide range of early skills.
Skills & Modifications: One of the best aspects of Hucklebee is that you can easily modify the activity to meet the learning needs of your child. You can remove cards that your learner is not quite ready for. For example, you might only use the cards that have one-step directions and remove those that have two-step directions. Or, you may remove cards that require your learner to count higher than three if they’re not yet ready to work on that skill. You can also remove the cards entirely or create your own set of cards for an individual learner. The design of Hucklebee allows you to easily focus on the skill sets your unique learner is acquiring.
Listening/One-Step Directions & Two-Step Directions – At its core, Hucklebee is a listening game. The adult (or an older sibling or peer) reads the card and the learner follows the instruction. If your learner is motivated by the Hucklebee plush toy, they may be more likely to engage in the listening activities provided with the game.
Scanning – Almost all of the cards require basic scanning skills. For example, a card might say “Find something that is white on Hucklebee.” The learner must scan all parts of Hucklebee to find a part that is white. What is unique about the Hucklebee game when compared to other scanning activities is that the learner must turn Hucklebee over and around, exploring all parts of him, rather than looking at an image on a flat surface. This is an excellent activity for all learner, but especially for learners with autism who may struggle with scanning skills and/or generalization of scanning skills. (Click on the link below to see a 5-second video related to scanning with Hucklebee.)
Motor Skills – Hucklebee also incorporates motor skills, many of which are likely novel for your learner. The motor skills involve manipulating Hucklebee, imitating actions you’ve just done with Hucklebee, or interacting with Hucklebee in different ways.
Counting – Many of the cards require the learner to count different parts of Hucklebee (such as all the purple parts or Hucklebee’s stripes.) There is a broad range of numbers the child must count to, so you may want to pull out the cards that are appropriate for your learner’s current goals.
Shape Identification – One of the brilliant parts of Hucklebee’s design is that each set of hands is a different shape. There are also other shapes included on his body, (such as a round nose.) This allows for practice with identifying shapes through a range of instructions.
Body Parts Identification – This game does a beautiful job of incorporating generalization into identifying body parts. For example, as pictured below, the game frequently has the learner do something with Hucklebee, then complete the same action on their own.
Color Recognition/Identification – Color is incorporated into a wide range of instructions with Hucklebee. You may want to modify it to just pointing at colors if your learner is not quite ready to complete more complex instructions involving color.
Peer Play – If your young learner with autism is motivated by Hucklebee, then this may be a great option for peer play or sibling play, especially if the peer or sibling is slightly older and able to read the cards to your learner.
Pros: I can’t get over how well-designed this game is. It incorporates many of the methods I use in direct instruction, allows me to practice a wide range of early skills with materials that are motivating for my students, and embeds generalization of those skills into the activity. I loved this game when I saw it at Toy Fair back in February (as I wrote about here,) and my love for it has grown since I’ve introduced it to students.
Cons: No cons! I absolutely love this game for young learners.
Cost: $20.00 You should invest in this game if: you have a preschool learner, you are looking for unique ways for older siblings/peers to engage in play with your young learner with autism, or you are seeking motivating ways to teach basic skills.
ABLLS: A10, C6, C9, C23, C33, C34, G5, G9, G13, K14, R3, R5
VB-MAPP: Listener Responding 4, Listener Responding 5, Listener Responding 8
Hucklebee was provided to me for free by the company MindWare to write about here. This did not influence my opinions on the game. The thoughts and ideas above are all my own.
Age level: Early Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School
Description: eeBoo’s Design Tiles are so unique, at first I wasn’t sure how to categorize it for the blog. Is it a game? A toy? An activity? The one thing I know for certain is that it’s fun. It includes 64 double-sided shapes and tray that allows your learner to explore and create patterns. The materials are durable and colorful, and allow for lots of opportunities to engage in visual play.
Skills & Modifications: Because Design Tiles is geared towards exploration, there aren’t too many modifications necessary. You may want to reduce the number of tiles available, or make sure that matching tiles are all turned face up. Otherwise, let your child explore on their own! (If your child with autism is not yet scanning and turning items over, they may not be ready for this activity yet.)
Symmetry – There are so many opportunities to create symmetrical designs with this activity. For learners who struggle with the sheer number of tiles that fit in the frame, you might want to consider modifying the activity by removing the frame (as pictured below.) Here, you can give the student just the four blue tiles, or all eight tiles and have them create a symmetrical design. If necessary, you can place the tiles on a piece of paper and draw a line of symmetry to guide them.
Matching – This game also provides plenty of opportunities for matching. If your learner wants to make patterns or specific designs, they must be able to scan the pieces for matching tiles. If they need help with this, you an always reduce the number of tiles within view.
Orientation – Design Tiles allows you to practice some basic orientation skills with your learner. First, you may introduce it my placing a tile in a way that clearly doesn’t follow the pattern (as pictured below) and ask your learner to fix it. But your learner can also learn a lot through exploring the materials on their own. I’ve watched several students place a tile, then pick it up and try it several different ways.
Fractions – I also love that this game allows me to introduce some basic fractions. I can introduce it casually, by making observations such as “you’ve made half the circle” or be more explicit based on my learner’s current level of skill.
Independent Play – If your learner enjoys this activity and explores the materials appropriately, this may be a great option for independent play. It’s also something you can add to an activity schedule if your learner with autism uses one to manage his/her leisure time.
Pros: Many of my students just loved this activity. The pieces are fun to manipulate. It’s a simple activity to do, but each learner introduces their own challenges and individual preferences to make it match their own skill level. Overall, Design Tiles is a great product!
Cons: The only con is also a pro: there are just so many pieces included! Careful clean up is necessary if you want to ensure you don’t lose any tiles.
Cost: $19.99 You should invest in this game if: your learner enjoys visual play, you are seeking unique activities for independent play, or your learner likes to complete puzzles.
ABLLS: A10, A19, B5, Z4
VB-MAPP: VP-MTS 5, VP-MTS 6, VP-MTS 7
Design Tiles was provided to me for free by the company eeBoo to write about here. This did not influence my opinions on the game. The thoughts and ideas above are all my own.