Toby Whelan explains how MAKA, his line of ‘make your own magnet fidget toy’ kits, has led to both schools and parents alike realising the positive benefits of fidgeting for kids.
WHERE MAKA CAME FROM
For my thesis project studying Product Design at the University of Sussex I created MAKA, a fidget toy that increases focus and eases stress. Originally designed as a tool to enable autistic children to make their own toys, MAKA gives children creative ownership over their play.
In the process, I discovered that this activity is just as rewarding for normally developing children, and that the benefits of fidgeting apply too to adults. Fidgeting is proven to increase our attention span, improve our receptiveness to new information and reduce the chance of distraction. It is the ultimate superpower – a power we all hold in our hands.
As schools move to embrace fidgeting in education and parents recognise its value at home, the fidget toy is new category that is set to explode.
MAKA has received a fantastic response from the SEN community, with many schools looking to purchase kits.
Last summer it won the LEGO award for Playful Creativity, a huge honour that has drawn further attention to the project. It has been a busy and exciting time since, with big plans underway for 2017.
WHERE I’M AT
Following the success of MAKA I have launched Fidget for Good, a social enterprise that aims to destigmatise fidgeting and give schools and workplaces the tools to embrace fidgeting.
So far we have run a series of workshops making fidget toys in schools, and have given talks teaching the benefits of fidgeting on our focus, creativity and productivity.
Through these we are spreading the word about MAKA and building a community of ‘fidgeteers’, working towards launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund an initial production run next year.
I’m also in the final phase of Startup Sussex, an entrepreneurial competition run by the Sussex Innovation Centre, and will be pitching for funding later this year.
We’re excited about the year ahead and bringing fidget toys to a wider audience.