Friday, March 30, 2012

Windup Toys

This post is about what I would call my secret weapon when trying to keep kids on task.  Unfortunately, I as I tell everyone about it, I can't really speak to it's secrecy.  As you will be able to tell from my pictures, I have far too many wind-up toys and it has really become a full-blown collection.  I find them in the dollar section at Michaels, for 2-4 dollars apiece at places like Barnes and Noble, JoAnn Fabrics, Lakeshore Learning and recently in the new section at my local Goodwill store.  (I also picked up bunch the more expensive kind on clearance at a closing Borders store).  I am endlessly amazed at the variety of wind-up toys available.

Now that I'm looking at the picture again, I should officially admit: I really do have too many wind-up toys.  I'm a little afraid to count them.

First and foremost, no students ever get to see the entire collection. I keep six to eight at a time in a pencil box by my speech table.  Some kids choose from only 2-3.  I’m not waiting all day to choose the right toy to look at.  The toy rotation also keeps interest in the activity.  My students never know what will be in the box and surprises are always popular.

You might be thinking, How do wind-up toys apply to therapy? In many different ways.  I'm always finding new ways to use them.  You have no idea what kids will do to be able to look at a wind-up toy.  I am still pleasantly surprised at the different ways I find to use these.

1. Standardized testing
This is the primary reason for the existence of my wind-up toy collection.  I started using them as short breaks during sub-tests of standardized tests.  Many kids get test fatigue, especially when you are administering something like the PLS-4, the CASL, the CELF-4 and sometimes even the OWLS.  Not to mention all of those times you are giving the same student multiple tests back to back.  I use the wind-up toys as a structured break during extended testing sessions.  The student gets to choose one toy to look at 1-2 times, or two toys to look at 1 time.  I typically do the winding; most students struggle to wind them up.  They either don’t wind it up enough to actually go, or wind it too much.

I’ve really found them to be the perfect break for testing.  There is a definite end point – when the toy stops, the break is over.  It’s also a great time for me to take a few notes on the last subtest while the student is occupied.

As a double-plus bonus, for some reason kids develop a positive association with you and testing.  On initial evaluations, students might not know me outside of administering a test, and many of those students are excited to come back and work with me.  As I am never excited to spend more time with the CASL, I'm making an educated guess it has something to do with the toys.

2. Instead of a game during therapy sessions
As much as I love being able to say "I played Candyland at work today," I’m trying to move away from games with most of my groups.  I think we all can picture the student, who takes a solid minute to shake the dice, who has to carefully take their time to think through every step in the game.  This makes me impatient since I feel we are wasting valuable therapy time.   Enter – Wind-ups.  I have each student in the group take 1-2 turns practicing their sounds, or completing a language task.  Then one student will pick a wind-up toy for the entire group to look at.  Everyone else thinks about what they will choose on their turn.  We look at the toy and then do another round of practice.  The next student selects a toy and so-on.   Typically every student selects a 1-2 toys through the entire session.  I’ve found that this seems to eliminate the extra time spent on the game in therapy.  Also, like for testing, it gives me a second to take some data or notes during the session.  I also think that it’s important to remember that doing something different makes kids excited again.  I’ve done this with students from kindergarten all the way up to sixth grade. 

3. As a reward my non-compliant friends
I’ve also had great success using this as a reward for my more obstinate students.  I have some very clear memories of how difficult it was to get one of the students I worked with last year to do ANYTHING.  She has down’s syndrome and perfectly fits the stereotype of the student who is adorable, sweet and funny when doing what she wants to do and will do absolutely nothing that she doesn’t want to do. I couldn’t beg, plead, or force her to do anything.  Partway through the year she displayed an interest in several windup toys in my office. I started having her select a windup toy to look at at the end of each session.  After we started the system she would select one for the next session to have look forward to it.  While we still had challenging days, it decreased from three out of four days with challenging behaviors to one out of every four of five days.   We had a chart so she was also able to see when she had a prize day coming.  Here it is in a google doc:  Windup Toy Motivational ChartI laminated it and crossed out each day with a dry erase marker and washed it off for the next time through.  I’m doing something similar with another challenging student this year.  It was amazing what the change was.

Who couldn't have fun with these little guys?


  1. Wow your collection is mind blowing.The idea you have shared here is also very informative .Some toys like hcl kids learning laptop is also very good for kids.

  2. Very nice article for all people... would you like to share some information about funskool toys !!!!!


  3. thanks for your post!!!!! fisher price toys s are necessary to use for teaching the children...