occupational therapy gamesOperation is a classic family fun game that has been a staple in homes since 1965 when it was originally distributed by Milton Bradley. Decades later, Hasbro is still cranking out new versions of the stress-inducing game, featuring characters like Olaf from Disney Frozen.

The star of the game is the very unfortunate Cavity Sam, who has a lot of issues. In each of the 12 cavities on Sam’s body is an ailment piece, such as a Charlie horse, wishbone, and Adam’s apple. And you know how it goes: Players take turns using a pair of tweezers to remove the ailments from Sam’s body, without hitting the sides of the cavity. If they do, Sam’s nose will turn red and players will endure an unpleasant buzzing sound. Players try to remove the pieces successfully to earn the most money and win the game. You know, like any good surgeon.


occupational therapy games

Designed for kids ages 6 and up, the game can be used for fun and function. Operation is especially beneficial for teaching kids social strategies, like taking turns and waiting. It also has occupational therapy benefits, helping kids develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skill improvements.

Operation can even teach kids about math, challenging them to add up their money at the end of the game. Also, it teaches executive functioning skills in determining the skill needs vs. rewards gained. Should the player go for the more effortless procedure for less money but with less risk, or try the more complicated procedure for more money, but with more risk?

Since some objects in Cavity Sam’s body are easier to extract than others, therapists and caregivers may chose to forgo the cards and focus on the easy ailments to practice fine motor skill development. As the child proceeds in meeting their functional goals, the adult can introduce harder ailments as a challenge.

Caregivers and therapists should note that the buzzing noise may cause some children to experience fear or negative behaviors, but one good way to avoid this is to take out the batteries in the game. While this means that the child is not aware if they touch the sides, it may be beneficial to have them practice the pincer grip and following instructions without the noise, and possibly even work up to the buzzer challenge.

On a side note, while not approved by the manufacturer, therapists may find it a benefit to replace the game pieces with items like gummy bears and M&Ms for incentives and rewards. However, note that you will need to clean the game in between uses by removing the cover and wiping down each cavity with disinfectant wipes.

Operation by Hasbro can be a fun family game that also offers children with challenges the opportunity to learn and grow too.