Fidget Spinners – annoying fad or a great workshop fiddle toy?

If you are a parent or someone who spends much time with school aged children, the fidget spinner can’t possibly have escaped your attention. If you are a teacher, I can almost hear you cursing under your breath!

If you have no idea what I am talking about, I got my 9 year old to do a demo:

 

I believe they were first created as a sort of stress reliever and are potentially useful for children with ADHD or Autism. Whatever their origins, they are now the latest playground craze set to drive any teacher up the wall and something that every child seems to rather love.

When I was at school we used to flick bic biros round our thumbs, but that was back in the dark ages……

I can imagine 28 children in a classroom all playing with these and not doing their maths, showing each other their latest moves (my daughter can make it spin on her head) and very much not paying attention. I am not about to enter into the ban them/not ban them in school debate.

I’m more interested in workshops! Could they actually be a good thing for a workshop full of eager adults?

I often provide my participants with fiddle toys, so now I’m wondering if these may just hit the mark.

A fiddle toy (or perhaps fidget toy) is something for a workshop participant to play with. It is something to fiddle with while they are learning. This could be something simple like lego or plasticine, or something more custom make for the job like stress balls, or bendy plastic figures. So, why are they helpful?

  • They are useful to keep people focused on the content of the workshop while giving their hands something to do, rather like doodling whilst talking on the phone to someone. Increasingly we are not great at paying attention these days and having some kind of small physical activity can be useful.
  • We all learn in different ways, with some people being predominantly kinaesthetic learners. These people need to touch and feel and play with things to learn, it helps information go in. Other people are happy to just listen, some people prefer things written or drawn and in reality we are all a bit of a combination.
  • There is some suggestion that regardless of how fidgeting helps to keep people’s attention on the task, it also helps with memory and retention of information.
  • Some people are just natural fidgets, and this is a good way to channel their fidgetry if you need them to sit down for a bit! We all know people who just seem to have excess nervous energy, well for those people having something to fiddle with can be an outlet. I actually think there is probably a fidget in us all…….
  • Some participants may be a bit nervous or anxious, and having something as a moderate distraction can be useful to put them at ease. It deflects a bit from a room full of expectancy that sometimes comes with a workshop!
  • I always think that fiddle toys are brilliantly adaptable for an ice breaker or energiser. What better way to get people talking than put some funny looking objects or toys on the table? I can already think of at least 3 different activities I could use them for…..

I’d love to know what you think.

Do you use fiddle toys in your workshops, and will you be trying fidget spinners? Or are they just another annoying fad?

To find out more about my nest workshops click here.

 

Communication discussion starter

If communication was a vehicle what would it be?

When doing my workshops, I do like a good analogy. I find that likening one thing to another helps us process what we are talking about and create a mental picture. Because I see a workshop and the discussions that take place as a journey, something that moves forwards and gains momentum as it does so, I frequently use analogies that involve moving. These are often related to vehicles, roads, rivers, maps and journeys, so I have created a short exercise, a discussion starter mapping communication onto different vehicles!

How does it work?

Well, first have a think about communication, what is it, what does it mean, how does it feel. Try to visualise it. Communication means different things to different people, and that’s where things can go a bit awry. So it’s good to create space to discuss it. For some it’s all about clarity, for some it’s about speed, for some it’s about quality. Perhaps listening is most important. It may be the two way nature, or it may be the versatility, or maybe the depth and range of things we can do with communication. It will inevitably be a combination of things, but different combinations for different people. Think for a couple of minutes what it means to you.

Next imagine if your idea of communication could be represented as a vehicle, what vehicle would it be? Perhaps you see communication as something that is slick and efficient, but perhaps (particularly with all the different mediums available to us) it can be a bit high maintenance. Perhaps a high end car. But maybe you think communication needs to be something that glides along smoothly, that you like it to be simple and uncomplicated, maybe that makes you think of a boat gliding down a river. It’s completely up to you.

Then you draw your vehicle.

Communication discussion starter

 

There is no right or wrong answer. I did a workshop recently where someone drew a picture of a tank! They saw communication as a bit of a struggle, and they needed it to be like a tank to get through, to get their message heard. The point is to use this as a discussion starter, to use the analogy to explore what different people think, to gather opinions and to get everyone thinking. One of the things you might find is that actually a certain vehicle is great for a number of things, but that there are many things it cannot do. One mode of transport does not quite represent all the facets of communication. It is a multidimensional thing. This exercise is a way of starting to explore that. From this starting point you may go on to dig deeper into communication problems, challenges, ideas for improvement, setting goals to move forwards, creating actions. But that’s the real heart of the workshop. This is just to warm you up.

It can also be a bit of fun and can be good to break the ice. This analogy can be used for other things too, not just to discuss communication – you can make it about anything you want.

Have a go and I’d love to hear the results, and I’d really like to see some pictures too!

What vehicle did you choose?