Elephants and Squirrels and Chickens, Oh My: Why I Use Stuffed Animals in Meetings

A rubber chicken. A stuffed rabbit. A slice of pizza. Elmo. When participants show up to our facilitated meetings, they see their tables already packed with fun items. Most of those tools have obvious applications – the flip chart pens, 3 x 5 cards, post it notes, and envelopes are familiar…. but stuffed toys? What the hey?






Every facilitator has a unique style, and our style is to make sure the meetings are fun and engaging as well as effective and efficient. We incorporate the toys into our ground rules, and here’s how it works:


Ground Rule: Elephants and Squirrels and Chickens Oh My

Visual: We have the visual from Karina Branson on the wall for reference

Conversation: At your tables are some fun stuffed animals and toys. They are part of our meeting for several reasons: they serve an important function, and they work as a kinesthetic tool. Let me explain…


  • The adorable stuffed rabbit works when we are getting too detailed – going down the rabbit hole.

  • The squirrel can make an appearance if we get off topic and start to ramble.

  • The Dammit Doll™ is on standby for any frustrating situations.