Fidget Toys are commonly recommended by occupational therapists or tried out by teachers for children who are constantly fiddling at their desk. For some children, they might just mean the difference between concentrating and attending on what the teacher is saying or missing much of the lesson. They don’t work for every child though and in some cases can cause more of a distraction!
The idea of a fidget toy is to give the child a more appropriate and less distracting item to play with. For children who have poor awareness of where their body is (proprioceptive sense), fidgeting helps them to ‘know’ where they are. This means they then can concentrate on what is being said, instead of thinking about where their body is. For other children who seek out extra touch sensory inputs, having something to touch actually allows them to focus better. Fidgeting helps to sharpen their attention.
Which children might benefit from a fidget toy?
A child who is touching everything on their desk
A child who is constantly touching others who are around them
A child who is constantly doodling on the desk
A child who is fiddling with inappropriate items e.g. scissors
Top five tips for choosing fidget toys
The fidget toy must be silent
Avoid any fidget toys that could leak if punctured
Choose a texture that your child prefers – not all fidget toys suit all children!
Ensure the child is not zoning out due to the fidget – e.g. fidget spinners sometimes distract the child from their learning
Ensure the school is happy for the child to use the item (e.g. some schools ban blu-tack/fidget spinners)
Bonus Tip – Make sure you monitor the fidget toy!
It is super important to make sure the fidget toys are helping rather than creating more of a distraction for the child and or their classmates. Don’t expect the child to necessarily look more at the teacher when they are talking. Do expect some of the following signs that the child is getting some benefits from their fidget:
Has the fidget toy helped to improve the child’s focus in lessons?
Are they following instructions more accurately?
Can they answer more questions?
Is the child being less disruptive to their classmates and the lesson when using the fidget?
Does the child stay in their seat longer/more when fiddling?
Does the child make less noise when fidgeting with the toy?
For some children, fidget toys don’t make a lot of difference or can make them more distracted. In this case, remove the toy is removed, or try a different fidget toy.
Indications that the fidget toy might not be helping:
Is the child completely distracted by the toy and just not listening at all now?
Is the toy becoming a distraction to others?
Is the toy becoming a play item (e.g., is the child is pretending their blu-tack is a car)?
Is the child making more noise now?
Is the child moving about more now?
When could fidget toys be used at home?
When talking about fidgets most of the information is typically related to the classroom. Fidget toys, however, can be helpful at home and when out and about as well. Some examples include:
At the dining table when the child is waiting for food or waiting for others to finish eating
During transitions e.g. home to school, home to shops, home to grandparents
As a soother/comforter during times when the child is more anxious – especially if the fidget toy can fit in their pocket and they can fiddle without others noticing
Any time the child has to wait e.g. the shops, doctors, in the car waiting for siblings
What can I use as a fidget?
Drawing or mindful colouring
Twist & lock blocks
Textured fabric – e.g. sheepskin or velvet
Putty or play dough
Physio resistance ball / egg
Mesh & marble
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