DIY Switch-Adapted Spinner

About 350 years ago when I was in college, I worked in a special ed classroom that had an AbleNet “All-Turn-It” spinner . This clever sturdy device stole my heart on the spot. The teacher incorporated that switch-adapted spinner into activities and routines in her room throughout the day; it was amazing to see how many uses she had for this simple but powerful random spinner.

In the words of Junie B. Jones, “I love[d] that fluffy thing!”

Fast forward 350 years to last week, when I was contemplating ways to help my own daughter choose random cards for a language game. An All-Turn-It would have been an ideal solution, but I don’t have $120 sitting around home to spend on one.

Did we have anything around the house I could use?

Aha! We certainly did! A paint spinner!  

A switch-adapted spinner made from a paint spinner.
You might have one of these inexpensive toys at your house too...or be able to find one without much trouble at your local craft store or online. My guess is that charity resale shops like Goodwill or Value Village carry them regularly as well.

Keep in mind that the average spinner/painter will be able to keep BOTH the spinner and painting functions, so it becomes a multi-purpose tool...

Directions for adapting the paint spinner for switch access can be found here.

Here are the directions for adapting the paint spinner into a random generator for games and dozens, if not hundreds, of other uses around home and school.

You will need:

Switch-adapted paint spinner (directions for adapting found here)


Switch for access

Flexible soda straw—standard diameter or other as needed to fit snuggly over the center pin of the paint spinner

Paper clip

Cardboard support for overlays (I used two layers of poster paper; any flat cardboard should work)

Template for overlay (PowerPoint, available here in 4-choice, 8-choice, and 12-choice

1) Cut cardboard in a 9.25” circle. Our paint spinner has a removable splash guard I was able to trace around for the circle. Cut a ½” hole in the center using a craft knife. Smooth the edges of the hole using a round file. Set aside.

2) Lift paper holder off the center spindle. Keep it in the box for times you want to use the spinner for painting.


3) Unfold all but the small loop of a paper clip, insert down into straw. Bend to 90* angle.


4) Cut the long end of the straw to a point. 3 – 4 inches is a good length.

4) Slide the short end of the straw through the hole in the cardboard and onto the center spindle of the spinner.


5) A good spin with the switch should center the cardboard and overlay for you.

This light-weight pointer does not continue to spin when the switch is released. While this may make it feel like the selections are not random, we checked it out with a little data collecting and found that the selections do even out in time.

Now you are ready to create the overlays for games and other activities. Print out templates with 4, 8, or 12 spaces onto standard 8.5 x 11” paper. Cut out the halves, cut out the center hole, and tape or glue the halves together.

Add items to be randomly selected in the outer ring.

The inner ring of the overlays can hold a second set of random selections. Two spins gives a random pair, such as two dice, two numbers to add or multiply, or a noun and a verb to be used to create a silly sentence.

If you laminate the overlays, you can write on them and wipe them clean to use another time.

For ideas on how to use your new spinner, check out GlendaAnderson’s blog or these ideas from SET-BC.

Use your imagination to find ways to use the spinner with other games and activities. Please share your ideas with us!

1 comment:

Gingham Skies said...

This is brilliant! I was hunting for a quick way to create a spinner for my students and I stumbled across your blog. I have all of the supplies on hand. Thank you!!