Tip #60: Haptic Engagement: Touch

I don’t remember when I first discovered Koosh balls, but they have been a permanent fixture in all of my training programs for over twenty years. Permanent, that is, unless participants walk off with them!

Tactile learners, learners with energy to spare, learners who are not used to sitting for any period of time, haptic and kinesthetic learners, and learners who are stressed- all gravitate to the Koosh balls. They will squeeze them, hold them, bounce them, throw them, and even juggle them as they “self-medicate” with these brightly colored balls of soft rubber strands.

Koosh balls can generate an instant change in individual and group energy. When participants stand to introduce themselves, having a Koosh ball in their hands helps to absorb their nervousness. When someone says something that might elicit a groan, participants can throw the Koosh ball at the offending speaker and keep the mood light.

When the energy of the group starts to flag, a Koosh toss for several minutes is a guaranteed pick-me-up. You will feel the energy in the room surge as your participants try to keep as many Koosh balls in the air as possible. Their smiles and laughter will refresh everyone.

Often, the haptic and kinesthetic learners don’t even realize that they have a Koosh ball in their hand. Luckily for everyone else, Koosh balls don’t make a sound. They are a much better silent replacement for the usual clicking pens and jingling coins.

Koosh balls can be a means of bonding. Some competitive or prankster table groups may amass a pile of Koosh balls for a friendly sneak assault on other tables.

Often there is at least one person who knows how to juggle, providing entertainment for those who like to watch. A break may offer an occasion for just-in-time training for novice jugglers and positive acclaim from those not blessed with similar hand-eye coordination.

There are actually three different sizes of Koosh: mini (the size of a lemon), cosmic (the size of an orange), and mondo (the size of a grapefruit). I personally prefer the cosmic Koosh, because the mini seem too small and the mondo are heavy enough to bean someone if they’re thrown with too much enthusiasm!

Koosh balls add instant color and energy to a training room. They are easily portable and relatively inexpensive. You just have to remember to check under all of the tables in the training room at the end of the day, to make sure you don’t miss any that have fallen on the floor!

You can sometimes find Koosh balls at stores such as Target, Shopko, or Toys R Us. If not, a search on the internet will give you many options.

Next week we will continue our discussion of haptic engagement through touch. And if anyone knows who walked away with my favorite silky soft green Koosh ball, I would love to have it back!!

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