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Recently I was in Townsville running a Trainers Intensive and had three participants who became emotionally attached to their squashy toys.  It was so funny at the end of the day we nearly had to do some grief and separation counselling.

I trust that those who have worked with me in the past now appreciate that there is large group of people in our training room who are Tactile Learners. They need to fiddle to have their minds engaged.

Trainers have said to me in the past they don’t like having toys on the table at ‘serious’ meetings and with ‘serious’ content, in case the participants walk in, see the toys and groan or think “we are supposed to be here to learn, not play games.”

Might I suggest that you can address this in a couple of ways:

  • Explain to the group WHY the tactile materials are on the tables.  Ask: “Has anyone here ever been accused of being a fiddler, or got into trouble for peeling labels off jars or stubby bottles, or even unfolding paperclips? If so, then the squashy toys on the table are for you. Some of you are going to learn or think visually, that’s why the coloured pens are out and why there is plenty of blank paper to write on. Others will get tired sitting in one place so you folk will need to have a stretch if you need one. It will help your brains focus.”
  • Have some squashy toys on a side table and explain why they are there and suggest to those people who know they are fiddlers and stubby-label destroyers that they help themselves to the toys if they wish. It will help them focus on what they are learning; despite what teachers and parents might have said to them in the past – they literally NEED to fiddle to learn.
  • Have some multiple coloured pipe cleaners on a side table and invent an activity where they have to go up and collect some pipe-cleaners to represent, non-verbally, a particular situation as a pipe-cleaner sculpture. 
  • Look at your presentations – are YOU taking care of the ‘fiddlers’ in the room? Please don’t forget them because if you do, and they have a pen in hand, be prepared for some endless clicking until you engage their fingers elsewhere – you’ve been warned !

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