Where did this company, Answers In Motion start anyway and why are people calling me an entrepreneur (I hate words that rhyme with manure)? I don't want to forget why I do all this. Business has been very business-y (not fun) and I need to go back to that day when a small stuffed ball and a sharpie got together and created what would later be know as Category Mania Thumball. I love the photo we have of the hand made original, the first prototype and finally the finished product.
Students love games and when they get to play them in the classroom they really feel they are getting one over on us. This keeps them focused and actively participating and that is why a game can teach more in less time if presented with limits and a zero tolerance policy for out of control behavior.
So when I was working as a speech therapist with multiply handicapped second graders I needed to keep their interest. Once I allowed them to at first pass a ball to each other, then to roll it and finally to toss it I had their attention.
Now they were asking me, "Hey what are these words doing on the ball" Now they were told to keep tossing until I said STOP and that player should life their thumb off the ball and read the word found there. It was a category term and now they were challenged to name examples of "Vehicles or Fruit or Occupations".
So there you have it the origins of what is now a real business offering 18 Thumball designs. The most remarkable thing about a game of Thumball is how intently the players focus on each other which increases the amount they are learning.
Other learning games I had tried were effective but the players only learned on their own turn and then tuned out. Not so with Thumball all my students were actively learning for the entire length of the class from the ball, their teacher and their classmates.
So Category Mania Thumball will forever be my favorite because that is where it started. It lends itself to every age and ability. A younger person might only name 1 or 2 items in a category. The older more capable might name 5 or 6. Then add a challenge by tossing the Letter Mania Thumball and getting a "D" and then Category Mania and get "Furniture" and now they must name an answer beginning with that letter. (I like dinette or davenport but there is always dresser). This skill called word retrieval is essential to language development.
If a category ever seems "too hard" for the age group use it as an opportunity to discuss it and research it. Some say "My 6 year old students don't know any European countries." and I say then let's teach some. Even our youngest are aware of countries like England or Italy and so we can locate a world map and show them the rest.
Every time our family plays we come up with an answer we had never thought of or a new way to play. Sometimes we name an item and have the player find the category word it belongs to on the Thumball within 25 seconds. Sounds silly but we like silly and as a mom I like anything that gets my family laughing. As a speech therapist I like anything new and interesting that expands vocabulary, improves communication, stimulates active learning and enriches problem solving skills.
So name a toy that begins with "T" that people learn with and never get tired of playing. Hmmmm......your guess is as good as mine.