Playing Cariboo

Playing Cariboo

If we had to do therapy with just one item, Cariboo would be the item of choice.  There are unlimited possibilities to the game!

Start with just opening the box, depending on the level of the child:

  • imitation of knocking on the box lid to request opening
  • Verbal “knock knock”
  • “Open please”
  • “Help me open please”

What’s in the box?
Cariboo includes the Cariboo game board, two sets of playing cards (beginner and advanced), six colorful treasure balls, the key, and the treasure chest.

Once the box is open, take the six balls and…

  • keep the balls away.  Put them in a sealed container of some sort – jar, ziploc bag, anything where they can be seen but not grabbed.  They should be requested in some way – by color, “ball”, more (verbal or sign).
  • The balls have to be put in one of the three circular openings.  This gives the opportunity to focus on the concept “in” as well as words indicating location (first, second, third, right, middle, left).

Once the balls are in the game, the object of the game is to use the purple key to unlock doors and locate the six balls, place them in the “river”, and open the treasure.

The game itself can be altered for many levels, from a non or minimally verbal individual to those with higher levels of function.  It can be played in a group or with just an adult and child.  Each door card has 2 sides, the beginner and the advanced.  The game can just be played with the child requesting the key and opening doors, or it can be made increasingly more difficult.

  • The key must be requested – via sign language, single word:”key”, or any longer utterance – “Key please”, “I want key please”, “I want the purple key please”.
  • If the cards are being used, the child should flip a card and choose what door they will open.
  • There is always an opportunity for turn taking – with other children or with the adult.  With students who struggle with sustained attention, I take a turn holding the key, momentarily, but then give it back to them.
  • As each door is opened, the child may state or imitate “No ball” or “I found a _____ (color) ball”.
  • Each time they find a ball it goes “In the river”.  Blocking the opening is a sure way to get a request.

Amazingly, entire 60-minute sessions have been held with just this game – it is engaging, flexible, motivating, and fun.  We have taught siblings without disabilites how to use it with their brothers/sisters with disabilites.  I play this at home with my 2-year-old who is typically developing and he will play for quite a while.  We carry the game into special day classrooms for students with autism spectrum disorders from preschol to sixth grade.

All in all, it’s a great game – I have a work copy and a home copy.  Enjoy it!


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