There’s a TV show I enjoy watching on the Discovery channel called “Dual Survival”. On the show they take two survival experts and drop them off in a barren area. There they rely on their knowledge of the land to survive and find civilization. If they were to deposit me in the same area, I would look around and see trees, dirt, rocks, insects etc. These experts see ways to make shelter, fashion weapons, gather food, and most importantly, make fire. Essentially, the survival experts are doing a “task analysis” of their situation, quickly envisioning the possibilities that the found materials afford them. While I may be at a loss to analyze a survival situation, as an OT I am continually doing a task analysis of all the equipment that I have, and what each item affords me when I work with a child. This is true in the world of Apps. One person may look at an App and see a game, but I look at it and see a therapeutic tool to facilitate learning and development.
One App I recently discovered is Drawnimal (available on the itunes App store). As stated on itunes, this app teaches kids to think out of the box. How does it work? First place your device on a sheet of paper. When you launch the app you are shown a letter. Under that is a representation of the ipad\iphone. There are then cues to draw various shapes around the ipad.
For example, you may be prompted to draw the tail of an alligator, the ears of a bear, or the fins of a dolphin. Most are pretty basic shapes, but some younger kids may need more help from a parent. When you finish drawing, click “play” and the animal appears on the screen to completes the picture you drew! Finally when you tap on the animal, it does some funky action that will make you laugh, and motivate kids to play again and again.
First of all I love this App because it is gets you to pick up a pen\marker\pencil and draw, to work on pencil grasp. Next , it is a great exercise in visual perceptual skills, as well as directionality. Do I draw it on the left, right, top, bottom? In addition, it provides practice in sequencing and spatial relations. Where do I start? How far up the side? How far apart should the ears be? These are all developmental skills that are precursors to letter formation. What a great tool to use to encourage kids to practice their (pre-) handwriting! While the app does not ask the child to form letters, but you can encourage your kids to do that. Perhaps, before they move on to the next animal, have them write the first letter of the animal they just saw. If they are learning a specific handwriting technique, such as Handwriting without Tears, have them practice the letter formation that reinforces proper technique. You can encourage older children to write the whole word. They will be having so much fun they won’t even realize they are practicing their handwriting.
As you use the app repeatedly, change it up and make it more interesting by having the children add more body parts. If the app just asks you to draw the ears, suggest that your kids draw arms, legs, and tails. Get creative, draw the bear holding a jar of honey, and then have your kids write a sentence, paragraph or story about how he acquired it. Maybe the bear met the survivalists, scared them off, and stole the honey from their packs.
As you can analyze this app there are so many possibilities for strengthening skills here, drawing lines and shapes, visual perceptual skills, sequencing, directionality, letter recognition, and handwriting. All from a simple game .So, the next time you discover a new app, look at it more critically ,analyse the task requirements and you may find more ther than meets the eye initially.I if you are working with an OT ask them what possibilities your child’s favorite of the apps afford.
As always, if you want to contact me about any apps I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org