Chalk Spinner

Geek Culture

First-graders try out the Chalk Spinner. Photo: Debbi Hoffman, used with permission.First-graders try out the Chalk Spinner. Photo: Debbi Hoffman, used with permission.

First-graders try out the Chalk Spinner. Photo: Debbi Hoffman, used with permission.

Kodo Kids is a fairly new company that has a small line of products for kids. They encourage “open-ended, playful-learning.” Translated, that means the things they sell don’t look like typical toys: the Cozy Cubby is a giant cardboard tube with a round hole cut in the side; the Slurry Chute is sort of a PVC tube with a funnel for pouring liquids, sand or gravel through; the Discovery Board is a clear acrylic board which comes with the following warning:

Not to be used as a tracing device—may hinder creativity!
Not to be used while seated—moving kids have active brains!
Not to be used with structured lesson plans—it’s a discovery board, let them discover!

The toys seemed a little odd at first, but when my two-year-old spent all afternoon playing with an empty cardboard box, oblivious to all the toys in her room, it hit me: maybe Kodo Kids is onto something after all.

The Chalk Spinner works for toddlers, too. Photo: Jonathan LiuThe Chalk Spinner works for toddlers, too. Photo: Jonathan Liu

The Chalk Spinner works for toddlers, too. Photo: Jonathan Liu

Their flagship product is the Chalk Spinner, a cylindrical spinning chalkboard that comes in a couple sizes to accommodate one child or several. (I do see that the largest size has been discontinued but they’re still offering the available stock for sale.) Kodo Kids sent me the Skinny Spin version to try out. I let my two-year-old and five-year-old play with it at home for a couple days, but to really get a feel for how it works with multiple kids, I took it to my daughter’s first grade class. Her teacher set it up as one of their activity centers and let the kids take it for a spin.

Basically it’s a chalkboard surface, mounted on a turntable which is entirely hidden underneath. There’s a small indentation on the top that serves as a chalk tray. Each Spinner comes with two boxes of colored chalk and one box of white, as well as two towels for cleanup. (Erasers and additional chalk are available from Kodo Kids; they recommend Prang or Sargent Art “no dust” chalk.)

The kids love the Chalk Spinner, which is not surprising—it’s chalk, right? But because of the shape, it adds another dimension to things. I would guess it might even be a little exciting because it feels like drawing on furniture, and getting to do something you aren’t normally allowed to do is always fun.

The first-grade teacher told me it was very easy to clean, and that she found it worked best with up to three kids, maybe four. She did have as many as five at a time, but things got a little crowded. The one thing she wished it did have was some sort of locking mechanism: with multiple kids, there was inevitably some spinning or jostling that other kids didn’t want. She thought it would be nice if you could lock or unlock the turntable depending on the situation. On the other hand, perhaps this sort of interaction between kids is what Kodo Kids wants to encourage.

The Chalk Spinner is a big ticket item, and the price tag might be the biggest barrier for some parents. (The tabletop Tubby Spin is $99, and the Skinny Spin is $220.) However, it does seem like a great addition for a classroom, where there are many kids to use it. It’s very solidly built, and although it’s not intended for sitting on, it does feel like it should hold up to typical kid treatment. The spinners are also made in the US with kid-safe materials (low VOC paint, recycled formaldehyde-free MDF) so at least you know your money is going toward a high-quality product.

For more information, visit the Kodo Kids website.

Wired: Kids love it, easy clean-up, solid manufacturing. And, hey, it’s a spinning chalkboard!

Tired: A little pricey, might be nice to have a locking mechanism.

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