Tip #182: Favorite Table Top “Toys”

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. I’ve included information about where I purchase them, to give you at least a starting off point. I do not have stock in any of the companies that I mention (although I probably should look into that…) and it is entirely possible there are other companies who sell them at lower cost. If you can recommend other suppliers, that would be wonderful!

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. Star Magic at http: //www.starmagic.com currently sells them at $2.25 each, which is a terrific price!

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. Oriental Trading Company at http://www.orientaltrading.com sells them in bulk.

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. I am reasonably certain that the 5 color EZ modeling clay I just purchased at Joann Fabric does not leave dye on your hands. I’m certainly hoping that’s the case, since I have six packages of them!

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!
Oriental Trading Company sells these.

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 J.T. Puffins in Madison, Wisconsin, which is a specialty toy store. I haven’t found a good economical supplier on the web, so if you know of one, please let me know!

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.

In the following weeks, we will discuss participants’ favorite give-aways and prizes.


Last week, I said that today we would start a discussion of my participants’ favorite give-aways and prizes. However, my good friend and a wonderful trainer, Julie Almont from Delaware Park, wrote to remind me about the philosophy behind the use of table top “toys,” prizes, give aways, and peripherals (such as kites on the walls). She says it best, so this is what this week’s Tip is all about:

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