Friday, June 3, 2011

Favorite Table Top Toys For Training Programs

Hopefully, by now everyone involved in promoting learning recognizes the importance of having materials on participant tables. The haptic and kinesthetic learners really need something to do with their hands to increase the probability of their learning.

The following table top "toys" are my favorites because they appear to be my participants' favorites. "Toys" is in quotes because they are really learning tools.

My long time favorite table top "toy" is the classic Koosh ball. As large as an orange, their many colors are visually appealing and their rubber strands invite bouncing, twirling, braiding, and squeezing. They are excellent stress reducers, useful for times when participants need to introduce themselves or make report outs in front of the rest of the group. Usually, there is even someone who knows how to juggle, which is fun for everyone to watch (during a break!). The Koosh ball can be used for an instant energizer: just tell everyone to grab a Koosh and, when the music starts, throw them at each other and try to keep as many in the air as possible. A few minutes of this Koosh toss, and the laughter that accompanies hits and misses, will invigorate any group. To purchase classic Koosh balls at an economical price, I do a web search.

A recent happy find is pipe cleaners. Not only are their inexpensive, light, and easy to pack, the creativity that they inspire is absolutely amazing! The long, brightly colored chenille pipe cleaners are also wonderfully soft to the touch, which adds to the pleasure of working with them. It is possible to buy them in bulk at internet sites that sell novelty items.

Different blocks of colored non-hardening and reusable modeling clay also inspire amazing creativity. They are heavy to pack, however, and you need to make sure that the dye doesn't come off on people's hands, which can make a real mess. As you can tell, I have a love/hate relationship with modeling clay. I still make sure to bring it, because I've seen participants make incredible creations with it. I typically find these at craft markets.

Another winner are colorful plastic snap together tubes and snap together cubes and triangles. They are light and easy to carry and folks are extremely creative with them. One particularly inspired fellow actually made an entire castle with working drawbridge out of them (using pipe cleaners). Very impressive!

One more table top "toy" I love is a clear plastic tube about 10" long filled with colorful glitter and other bits in a liquid. I need to warn you, however, that I typically lose at least one a session because participants get so enamored with them. I purchase them at a specialty toy store.
I always put two large colored foam dice on the tables. Participants can use them to identify the group leader or who should go first in a game. They also add color and interest to the table. These are available at internet novelty sites.

The geo twister fiddler offers a variety of interesting kinesthetic possibilities. It is plastic and very flexible. As a result, it can be flattened or poked and pulled into a number of different shapes. Training supply companies on the internet offer these.

Another caution: If you are going to place these items on participant tables, it is helpful to isolate them at one end of the table. That way, those participants who enjoy them can access them, and those participants who are less interested in them don't feel that they are cluttering up the table. The only item I place in front of each of the participants is a Koosh ball.

There are all sorts of kinesthetic items available for a trainer to place on participant tables. Let your participants interact with them to relieve their stress and stay focused on the content. You will find that everyone benefits.

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