Today I’ve got my Corporate Trainer hat- if you undertake too, I want to know:
Do you use toys inside your classroom session?
I’ve been bringing what I call Fiddle Toys to my classroom learning sessions for nearly 20 years and perhaps they are always a hit. I see that giving learners something active about their hands not just enables them to stay mentally focused, it is assistance to those people who are kinesthetic learners (meaning they learn by moving their bodies.) Even grumpy, non-engaged participants may ultimately chill out a little to find reasons to touch among the items placed in the biggest market of their table.
Because toys do degrade, I’ve been investigating refreshing my stash. That’s prompted an expression on my criteria for appropriate Fiddle Toys.
My fiddle toys have to be:
Durable Quiet Safe-can’t pinch people or somehow “rub off” in it with ink Something that doesn’t invite a lot of “play”/interaction with someone else
Also, perhaps the most common toy that I’ve seen used is a thing “filled”-squishy items filled with gel, liquid, or sand. I’ve tried all of them and still have given up. Believe it or not, I’ve seen the 3 types destroyed by someone with just a touch too tight a grip. You can imagine the mess. At that point, the toy creates more distraction than focus.
The biggest hits over the years of “typical” toys are already:
Mini-Etch-A-Sketch Silly Putty Rubick’s Cube Slinkys Pipe cleaners
I’ve had also good succession planning for my local novelty shop. The prices are very much cheaper than another retail store. As an additional benefit, a holiday to a novelty store is an instant stress-reducer.
A few other tips:
Aim for 2-3 extra toys per grouping of six people. Nobody likes to feel as if they got the “last toy from the bunch”. Pay attention to the most widely used toy and make certain there’s one at every table. I’ve even heard people negotiating for several toys during breaks. Make the toys part of an ice-breaker. Put the same toys with varying colors (say, “stretchy guys”) shared. Ask everyone to take a toy and build new discussion groups in line with the color from the toy they selected.
So, if you are after to improve your classroom participants’ focus and participation, try tossing several toys into the mix to see what goes on. Encouraging visitors to be childlike (curious, experimental) using the toys makes indeed decrease their tendency to be childish (immature, uncooperative).