Using POP-UP PIRATE To Grow

This post is going to focus on how you can use common games to help develop your gross motor, fine motor, social, emotional and cognitive skills. Today’s blog is focused on the game Pop Up Pirate! This is a fun, popular and simple game that can involve many players. Have a look at how Pop Up Pirate can support your child’s development.

Gross motor skills

You don’t have to be limited to only following the rules when playing a board game. You can always integrate different challenges into the game to help work on gross motor skills.

  • Encourage your child to sit cross legged or lie on their stomach while playing to increase their core strength.
  • 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 sword to bring it to the barrel.
  • Similarly, place the swords on one side of the room and the barrel on the other and use various animal walks (E.g. bear, duck, crab) to get the swords and bring them to the barrel.
  • Have the child use their right hand to pick up swords placed to the left side their body and their left hand to pick up swords 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 placing the swords in the barrel.
  • Encourage your child to pick the sword up by its pointed end and turn the sword in their hand (sot they are holding it by the handle) with just the fingers of one hand (instead of using their other hand to help or resting the sword on their chest or the table to turn it.
  • Ensure your child uses their helper hand (the hand not holding the swords) to hold onto the barrel to help stabilise it as they insert the sword in.

Cognitive skills

  • Hide the sword pieces around the room then use various animal walks (E.g. bear, duck, crab) or a scooter board to get the swords so they can place them in the barrel. Make this more interesting by drawing up a simple map of the room (e.g. indicate where tables, chairs, doors etc. are) and then marking out where the swords are hidden. This is a good way to develop spatial awareness and planning skills. Your child may need a lot of verbal prompts at the start to orient themselves on the map and work out which direction they need to move to get to the next sword.
  • Have your child call out the colours as they take each sword. Alternatively, have your child take the sword of the colour you call out.
  • You can make the game more challenging by encouraging your child to place the swords into the barrel in a pattern or order. You can have this pattern written down to make the task easier or get your child to remember the pattern to challenge their memory.
  • Count the number of swords as you insert them in. Alternatively, at the end of the game, count the number of swords left (unused) and the number of swords that have already been placed into the barrel. You can also count the number of swords of each colour and work out which colour of sword was most/least used.

Social and emotional regulation 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. Reinforcing the importance of saying ‘good game’ or ‘thanks for playing’ can assist with peer-to-peer interactions and ability to make friends.
  • 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.

Related Blog Posts

If you liked this post you may also like:

25 ways to pretend
Playing together 101
Learn by playing? Imagine that!
Pretend play


  • Blog Categories: