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.
Blogs are wonderful but like most wonderful things it takes focus and discipline. I posted less in August than expected but I am on a quest of self forgiveness so this gave me a chance to express it.
As we wait for our first shipment of Thumballs made under the stricter European standards (CE), for half the shipment to go to the UK establishing us as a worldwide company and for the new designs our customers asked for I take a moment to reflect. The past 4 years since the pivotal dream, literally a dream that urged me on to manufacture our product I am amazed. Defining ourselves as entrepreneurs has been exhilarating, enlightening and terrorizing. Gregg and I have taken a bigger risk than we ever thought possible.
With my husband's tenacity and business sense we have created something that was not there before and that is stunning. There are more reasons not to do this than to do this unless you want some real excitement. Now my goal to make Thumball™ a household word like Frisbee™ or Magic 8 ball™ or Duncan Yo-Yo™.
I believe Thumball™ is truly beneficial and powerful in a surprising way. One toss of an Icebreaker or Who Are you Thumball and you can be communicating with someone you may never have spoken to in your life. One toss and the playing field is evened whether for students having autism, learning disabilities, ADHD or for diverse employees brought together for trainings. They may have all seen each other and even nodded politely but actually engaging in verbal interaction probably not.
So it is time to give thanks for those that believed in our dream. Family members and friends willing to work on our project and attend the trade shows with us and watch our dogs when we went on the road, thank you.
We have businesses to thank for their orders and support including;
Trainer's Warehouse, S & S Worldwide, Nasco, Self-esteem shop, Marco Products, Courage To Change, Self Help Warehouse and recently added to The Speech Bin catalog.
Of course our independent toy store retailers gave us an early start as well and we are grateful for them. There are so many others and we appreciate all of you. Thanks to our customers who ordered through the website or sent a PO from a school or business.
I don't always know where a blog post will take me as I write it. This foray led to thankfulness and that is a great place to go on any day for any reason. Giving thanks gives back every time. I am thankful for this journey the good, the bad and the terrorizing.
I am at the point of preparation for a week long camping trip that I start to wonder what we are doing this for. It feels as if we are bringing everything we own so I wonder why not set up the backyard tent.
I will post upon return to share details. I already know that a day or two in clean air and a float down a river will make me forget all about the prep. Let's face it that is why we keep camping.
I confess I love it. The campfire is so nostalgic and we talk as a family and with our friends like never before. Even the rainy days stuck in the tent are amusing with cards, backgammon, 20 questions and our all time favorite Thumball.
Category Mania is chosen frequently as we all get better at naming words faster and thinking of more interesting answers. Instead of chair, couch, table for kinds of furniture we answer second hand, Chippendale, French provincial.
We have created a new product to compliment the Letter Mania Thumball. A camping scene printed on write-on, wipe off paper. This kind accepts any ink, crayon or marker, even Sharpies and it will wipe off. We will be doing a test run of the let's Go Camping: 4 of A Kind game on this trip.
I am imagining the early morning sounds of the birds and then the people getting up in all forms of disarray. I can smell the coffee and it never tastes better than out in the woods sitting at a picnic table. Next the aroma of fresh pancakes and bacon and happy campers ready to sit and eat.
With 2 children in college these family trips are changing and becoming less frequent. I think I will keep packing and keep praising our life so blessed. If my husband and the kids wants to take the TV I will agree because after all this is vacation and while they watch the Olympics I will watch them and smile. All the bother will be worth it in the end.
A Trade show in Disney World is an interesting event. When exhibiting our Thumball™ line of products we spent 2 full days and more in the exhibit hall early morning till evening and by the end have only enough energy to eat then sleep. Therefore taking the kids did not make sense. However walking around the Disney resorts without them made even less sense.
Ahhh, the Polynesian a dream of mine from the age of 12. My mother balked at people that would "spend that kind of money for a place to sleep" but I gazed at it from the Monorail ride in 1973 and thought it must be wonderful over there.
So here I am 35 years later staying at this iconic monument and at first I could not adjust, here I was missing the children, feeling surreal as my childhood wish surprisingly came true. But adjust I did and oh my the food was flavorful, the air was balmy, the pool a perfect lagoon with palms and plants and flowers. The trade show turned out well for many reasons. The most important of which was the Disney employees or cast members as they are called.
I can be cynical and corny things annoy me so I was being the wise guy using the expression "Feel the Magic" with disdain. But suddenly it really was magic as everywhere we were greeted with courtesy, offered assistance, provided good food in good time. At the exhibit hall in the Contemporary Hotel we had kind people helping us make copies, mail packages, choose restaurants and give us goodies.
I guess it is a job requirement for "cast members" to ask each guest, so where are you from? but it works each time to get a smooth, unpressured conversation going. Seriously every single person we intereacted with really did exceed our expectations and that we are told is Disney's ultimate goal. That really is where the magic lives being treated well and therefore treating others as well or bettter. I guess Walt really understood The Golden Rule.
Guess what ? We never even visited any of the theme parks. We enjoyed the amenities of the hotels both The Polynesian and Port Orleans- Riverside. There we were greeted with the same hospitatity but even sweeter, southern style. We swam, biked, drove boats, ferried, ate and smiled at every turn where we werre made to feel special and important.
So Thumball was a hit and I grew a bit as a person who still believes in magic.
Thanks Walt for dreaming that big.