BALANCING ANIMALS teaching points
Teachers can use Balancing Animals in a variety of classroom activities:
- Children will learn and become smarter by experiencing the physical laws of gravity, leverage, fulcrums, friction and balance or equilibrium as well as experiencing the tactile benefits of touching and playing with timber.
- Balance – children can use Balancing Animals to balance, this could be combined with other resources like getting children to try and balance other things, or balance themselves on a board. Lessons could include circus acts; high wire balancing, balancing spinning plates, balancing chairs. Children can learn about shifting of weigh over a fulcrum to achieve a balance point.
- Friction – Balancing the pieces requires friction as the pieces rub, or hold together. Lesson plans around friction can be developed.
- Nature – Balancing Animals are made from timber. The growth rings show the amount the tree grew each year, with the darker rings showing the winter season when growth is slow. The darker timber is denser than the light timber. Children can see the grain lines and follow them from piece to piece.
- Natural world – storeys about animals, jungles, forests, farms. Playing and making sound or actions like animals.
- Other countries – Kangaroos and Koalas are native from Australia. Balancing Animals can be used in class during lessons about Australia and New Zealand.
- A fun game of skill for creative minds
- For children, adults, Mums and Dads
- Hundreds of Balancing possibilities
- Sets combine for more fun
- A great educational game
- Hand made from a single block of timber.
- Balancing Animals are a fun game of skill for both children and adults. Different age groups will use them in different ways. Young children may just stack them one on the other, or play with the animals separately. Older children will be able to recognise the different shapes and do the configurations. As play develops they will try their own configurations and look for praise from adults for their accomplishments.
- Balancing Animals are fun to balance while teaching and improving hand-eye coordination, problem solving skills, patience and perseverance, shape recognition, plan reading, minor motor skills, colour recognition as well as giving an enjoyable tactile experience.
- Following the configuration patterns will teach children about shape recognition, transferring plans to reality, making adjustments to plans to achieve objective. One of the main play aspects of Balancing Animals is that children need to learn to make alterations away from the drawn plans in order to make the pieces balance. Each piece of timber is a different weight so it actually performs differently when balanced. Also, as the pieces are hand cut there are slight variations which mean that doing the configuration exactly as it is drawn may not result in the pieces balancing, but making slight adjustments to the positioning of the pieces will make them balance. This teaches children to be creative in their problem solving rather than just following the set pattern.
- For older children and adults encourage them try to do all the configurations, and then develop their own. In group play they may race to see who can balance the set the quickest, or who can build the highest tower or the widest stack. Challenges of building on top of the smallest animal or using each animal as a starting point will ensue.
- Older children can be divided into groups. One group develops a configuration which the others can not see. They must then try and describe the configuration to the other groups so that the other groups can build the configuration from the description. This can be done either as a verbal description or as a written description. This teaches children to recognise shapes and describe in detail. At the end of the session feedback from the class is an important part of the learning process.
- We have suggested only a few of the hundred of configurations possible with each set and Balancing Animals are able to be combined with other sets (either of the same style or different styles) to build large configurations. This can be a lot of fun as well as a great challenge.
- When people are finished playing with Balancing Animals they can be placed on a shelf to look fun, ready for the next time! Some people like to make a new configuration each day!
Playing with Balancing Animals:
Gives Enjoyment of challenge and the satisfaction of success.
Enhances Understanding of the laws of physics such as gravity, leverage, fulcrums, weight and dimension.
Develops Hand eye coordination, problem solving techniques and spatial concepts. Widely used by occupational therapists.
Facilitates an appreciation of the world’s unique wild life.
Promotes individual and collective creativity.
and what’s more they’re fun!
Used by Teachers:
I use them as a critical thinking exercise in my classroom. I find these balancing puzzles help students develop strong problem solving skills while having fun!
Cary Hartley, Learning Handicapped Teacher, Santa Ana Unified School District, CA, USA
Used by School Counsellors:
I’m a school counsellor. I use them as a multi sensory tool for helping kids/teenagers take their minds of their anxiety. Often we can be obsessing/worrying about something that we have no control over and having something that uses your different senses and concentration can help someone break the anxiety loop in their head. I also use it when kids are needing something to calm themselves if they’ve been talking about really heavy things and they are upset, so they can be ready to go back to class. Concentrating on this before they go back to class helps them be less likely to be dwelling on the difficult things discussed in counselling. At least that is the hope.
Lucy Richardson Christchurch, New Zealand