LDND InfoCenter

Skill Toy Programming: T/w/een Critical Thinking

On May 27, 2018, 35 intrepid youth services workers gathered in Lexington, VA at the Rockbridge Regional Library and learned how to help young people “fail better” in a low tech environment through play. Play with Skill Toys, that is! Flow Circus is in the business of helping people explore

  • how people learn and what gets in the way (often self-imposed)
  • how to simplify a message and connect it to a visceral experience for powerful results
  • how to create a culture of success and well-being for groups engaged in learning
  • how to balance commitment to a goal with an openness to improvisation and innovation

Dawn Daria and Paul Miller co-founded Flow Circus in 1999 to use education, psychology, and neuroscience theory along with play to help promote these messages. At this training, distributed 6 skill toy kits to be shared among the 6 VLA regions. Here is what you need to know to bring Skill Toys and associated programming to your library.

You might see some familiar faces from the training here!


What are Skill Toys?

Skill toys are a collected from cultures around the world that encourage self-directed learning and a growth mindset as individuals and growth. Some require precision, others allow for creative play. The skill toy sets available to you include:


Image of toys

24 Flop Balls

4 Kendama

4 Flower Sticks

4 Diabolo

4 Yoyos

10 Spinning Plates

2 sets of Juggling Balls




Do I need to be good at playing with these toys?

NO! In fact, it’s better if you’re not so you can model iterative learning, appropriate response to failure (trying again), and persistence! But, because it’s a good idea to know something about them, here are some videos to help you get started as well as how to present the toys to the program participants from the team at Flow Circus: Skill Toy Training Videos


I like this idea but have no idea how to use this as a program.

  • Download this pdf!  for lesson plans and ideas
  • Private FaceBook Group – If this link doesn’t work, search Facebook for “Flow Circus Kit Users” – use it to share ideas or ask questions.
  • FlowCircus.com/blog – the gallery has the photos/quotes you can use as discussion prompts with teens and the library has books you may be interested in

Here are the ideas your peers who came to the training came up with:

  1. Circus themed family night
  2. Minute to Win It activities
  3. Multi-cultural tie ins (Reading takes you everywhere!) as toys have international roots
  4. Passive program–different toy each week or just free play for stress relief, boredom relief
  5. Talent show/challenge show
  6. Maker-space: make your own skill toy, a commercial for your skill toy, etc.
  7. Escape Room elements
  8. Inter-generational Opportunities: teens to teach younger kids or older people
  9. Use as a bridge for transition or waiting…have them out as a station while waiting to do something else; pre-program ice breaker
  10. Petting zoo
  11. Portable enough for outreach–take them to your Pop Up/festivals/school visits, etc.
  12. Team building for staff
  13.  Unplugged programming–no reliance on tech/remind how to play without a device
  14. Science tie ins–physics

Feel free to submit a lesson plan here.


How do I get my hands on the toys?

Pick your regional rep and sort it out with them. Library of Virginia covers their postage so don’t be afraid to ask them to ship it

Region 1: Bristol Public Library, Amber Combs amberc@bristol-library.org

Region 2: Lynchburg Public Library, Emily Hedrick  emily.mook@lynchburgva.gov

Region 3: York Public Library, Ariane Glagola Ariane.Glagola@yorkcounty.gov

Region 4: Colonial Heights Public Library, Chantal Emerson emersonc@colonialheightsva.gov

Region 5: Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Laura Miller, lmiller@fallschurchva.gov

Region 6: Rockbridge Regional Public Library, Carol Jones, CEJones@rrlib.net

Don’t know what region you are in? Click here for a map.

Don’t want to share? We totally understand! Flow Circus is making kits available to Virginia libraries at a discount from their store–purchase them directly by emailing Dawn Daria (dawn@flowcircus.com) , mentioning Virginia library training to get the $400 cost. You can also purchase individual toys from Flow Circus here. You can purchase toys from other places too but our personal experience in handling those provided by Flow Circus was that they were high quality and heavy duty to withstand the abuse t/w/eens are capable of doling out.


I have questions not answered here.

Call or email Nan Carmack at LVA – nan.carmack@lva.virginia.gov or (804) 692-3792


Skill Toys and their support are made available in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Library of Virginia.


This site is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. It is managed by the The Library of Virginia Library Development and Networking Division.