Look who’s talking: Family Spinner a hit with local kids, parents

Community Day School third-graders take a spin to decide on a story topic.

Six months after Jewish Healthcare Foundation supported the free distribution of the low-tech game to three Squirrel Hill parochial schools, the Family Spinner is earning top grades for getting people talking.

Developed by two mothers of Community Day School students, the Family Spinner consists of a cardboard circle with a dial divided into eight themes. Players spin a center spinning arrow and tell a story from their week about the theme on which the arrow has landed: Kindness, Highlight, Gratitude, Challenge, Lowlight, Victory, Compliment, Choice. The spinner was distributed at Community Day, Hillel Academy, and Yeshiva Schools.

Parents say they are hearing about things their children typically don't share, pulling even reserved kids out of their shells. It makes a game out of answering questions they might otherwise dodge.

"Our 6-year-old seemed to feel very empowered by this game," said parent Leland Guthrie. "She often feels like the conversation is dominated by stories that don't include her, but with the spinner she really owned her time to speak, and it reminded us to take the time to give her the floor."

Dr. Heather Ufberg, clinical manager of behavioral health services at The Children's Institute of Pittsburgh, said she has used the Family Spinner to facilitate communication, parent-child bonding, identifying feelings, and problem-solving.

Quipped psychiatrist John Guterson, "I love it! It's inspired tons of family laughter, improv, and closeness. Put your cell phones away for an hour and spin!" 

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