Using POP THE PIG To Grow

Pop the Pig is a simple, fun game that is excellent for learning colours and numbers. Learn how you can use Pop the Pig to help develop your child’s gross motor, fine motor, social, emotional and cognitive skills.

Gross motor skills

Pop the Pig may not seem like a very physically active game but it is easy enough to adapt to target some of those gross motor goals.

  • Encourage your child to sit cross legged, kneel on their hands and knees or lie on their stomach while playing to increase their core strength.
  • Place the burgers a few metres away from the pig and use a scooterboard or various animal walks (e.g. bear, duck, crab, frog) to get the right coloured burger and feed it to the pig. Encourage your child to think of new animal walks. This is also great for developing your child’s working memory as they will need to remember the colour they rolled on the die while making their way across to the burgers.
  • Create a simple obstacle course using what you have at home (e.g. crawl under chairs, hop on mats, walk heel-to-toe on a line drawn in chalk or masking tape etc.) and have your child do the obstacle course each time they want to collect a burger to feed to the pig.
  • Pick 4 gross motor skills you would like your child to work on (e.g. star jumps, skipping, standing on 1 leg etc.) and link each skill to a colour. Each time a player wants to feed a burger to the pig, they need to do the activity linked to the colour (e.g. do 10 skips for a green burger).
  • Have the child use their right hand to pick up burgers placed to the left side of their body and their left hand to pick up burgers placed to the right side of their body. This develops a skill called midline crossing which is important for hand dominance and is necessary for tasks such as dressing.

Fine motor skills

  • Ensure your child uses a pincer grasp (using the thumb and index finger with other fingers tucked away) when picking and inserting the burgers.
  • Pressing down on the pig’s head is great for building your child’s hand strength. Encourage your child to use just one hand to press down on the pig’s head if they are strong enough.
  • Encourage your child to hold the pig steady with their non-dominant hand while feeding the pig and when pressing down on the pig’s head.

Cognitive skills

  • Pop the Pig is in itself a wonderful game for developing your child’s knowledge of colours and counting skills.
  • Ask your child to name the colour shown on the dice and find the matching burger.
  • Ask your child to name the number on the burger and model putting up the right number of fingers to match the number. Encourage your child to count as they press down on the pig’s head the correct number of times.

Social skills

  • Prompt your child to find a fair way to decide who goes first. Playing ‘rock, paper, scissors’ can be a useful way to prevent arguing. Practice turn taking skills and if your child requires the support, give verbal prompts such as ‘who is next?’, ‘your turn, my turn’.
  • You can also focus on developing your child’s winning and losing skills. Often when children become fixated on winning, they can have difficulty regulating their emotions if they lose. It is often helpful to role model good winning and losing behaviour. Also emphasize at the start of the game that it is more important to have fun and play fairly than to win. Similarly, before starting the game, brainstorm friendly things to say to one when someone wins (e.g. “You played really well”) or when someone loses (e.g. “Good game. Do you want to play again?”. You could also practice empathy and discuss how other players may be feeling at the end of the game.

Emotional regulation skills

  • If your child gets frustrated, angry or upset when they lose or because it is challenging to practice the skills listed above, encourage them to identify what emotion they are feeling. Then help them identify and use strategies (such as taking deep breaths or using a movement break) to calm down before refocusing back on the task. Also emphasize the importance of practicing so we can get better.
  • Link each colour on the dice to an emotion (e.g. red is angry). Each time you pick out a burger, name a time you felt the emotion linked to colour of your burger. Extend this by saying something that could make you feel that emotion or something that could make you feel better if you were feeling that emotion.

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