Piko’s Blocks + – Spatial Reasoning Learning Tool by Creetah Ltd. is a fabulous new app that I have been waiting for, for quite some time. Why oh why did I want it so badly? Because, it facilitates design copy, spatial reasoning, and creative thinking and problem solving – all skills needed for practical life. Following a recipe, rearranging furniture, and the most difficult of all is assembling those flat packages into usable furniture without having missing or left over parts are all composite skills needed to function. Most kids acquire these skills through observation, imitation (trial and error) and manipulative play. Kids that are dyspraxic or have difficulty with motor planning skills however, are easily overwhelmed with toys or objects because they are not sure what to do with them. Many dyspraxic children will often throw pieces of a toy that has component parts because it is just too overwhelming to know where to begin. An app allows them to gain competencies without the frustration of handling the manipulatives before trying the tasks with objects. Piko’s Blocks allows for a multitude of options so that you can scaffold skills. I have used the app alone and with manipulatives and have had great results with play. Some of the block designs can’t be replicated with real blocks, but the app gives enough practice to build the confidence to transition to building off screen. One of the remarkable features I appreciate as a clinician is that the app adapts to the player’s skill level, keeping motivation high. Teachers and parents will also appreciate the ability to monitor a child’s progress and then have the option to set practice levels that are more or less difficult for a child depending on progress. Some kids require more repetiton for mastery of a skill. In addition, there are unlimited player profiles, for busy itinerant teachers and therapists on the go.
There are 3 components to the game: design copy or construction, replicating a symmetrical pattern using mirroring, and removing parts or deconstruction to match a model. In addition, there are expansion skill sets in each of these areas. In the construction and deconstruction puzzlers, there is a rotational or spatial orientation challenge where the model has one view as a reference point and the replication takes on a view from another point in space. Point symmetry is using a central axis as a reference point and mirroring in the opposite direction while having the component pieces equal distance from that central reference point. They are tricky but fun. On opening there are ten levels to complete for each portion of the game, with over 300 games in all. The fact that it breaks down to 10 manageable mini-games helps to set up a time frame and expectation – which so many children need for a challenging task. They need to know that there is a beginning, middle, and end to tasks and feel rewarded for a job well done. They can take time to breathe and process what they just did or simply put it up and comeback when ready. Instructions are universal, and there is no need for translation. Kids can immediately engage and receive feedback. In play, the model and working base can be rotated in space (in unison) so that it can be seen from all angles. This also helps with locating the right space to place or remove a block, and also keeps pudgy fingers from missing tapping on the correct space for placement or removal of a block. It is also a good way for kids to check their work independently. Once a child is happy with his or her model, tapping the checkmark greenlights advancement to the next level. Piko makes an appearance from all sides of the screen showing kids he’s happy with their work, but more importantly, it gives the visual system an extra boost to stay alert and continue. Most kids I used this with (4 and up) readily engaged and enjoyed playing. The graphics are fun and have an out of this world vibe. There is also enough feedback to know what to do next.
In summary, this is a great app for building basic skills for science and math. It also translates to practical life skills that have far reaching value for functioning in everyday life. It is a TWA Top Pick and awarded our Highest Recommendation Award. It is available for both iOS and Android devices on Google Play.
Jo Booth OTR/L has been an Occupational Therapist for over 35 years, and currently practices at EasterSeals of SEPA, Montgomery County Division mainly focusing in Early Intervention. It is an APS (Approved Private School) and home outreach based setting. She has also worked in Adolescent and Adult Rehabilitation. Writing reviews for Teachers With Apps has been a tremendous opportunity and experience to share and learn with others.