Everyone fidgets– you may bite your nails, play with your hair, doodle on your paper, or bounce your leg. “Fidgets” have become a common craze today in the world of our kids, but there is actually science behind why fidget tools help some kids focus. Some children’s brains are seeking more input to stay at the “just right” arousal level. For example, a child who is “seeking” sensory input may be constantly moving, wiggling, touching others, humming or making noises to themselves, or looking around the room in order to get that extra input their brain needs. A fidget tool provides the child just enough sensory input in an appropriate way in order to improve their arousal level and focus. The key is using the right fidget. Each child is different and has unique sensory preferences, so it’s important to trial fidgets on an individualized basis. Here are my top 5 tried and true fidget tools.
1. Thinking Putty
With putty, you can squish, roll, and quietly fidget with it in your hands. I like to use good ol’ theraputty or Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty which comes in so many different colors, glow in the dark, and even scented!
These are really made for finger strengthening, but they work great as fidget tools as the kids can hold it in one hand and press down on the buttons with all fingers or isolated fingers. *Added bonus* It will strengthen their hand muscles at the same time!
3. Tactile balls or bean bags
Small balls with tactile input such as bumps or spikes, or bean bags with tiny balls inside give that extra sensory input to the hands. They even have weighted bean bags for an extra calming effect. The hands are a HUGE part of the brain’s sensory system making them effective in regulating the arousal level.
4. Theraband on chair legs
Add a piece of theraband, or exercise band, around your child’s chair to allow them a little movement while their seated at their desk. They can gently bounce their feet on the band. Cheap and super easy to implement! A lot of companies sell bands pre-made now!
5. Move n Sit Cushion
For those seeking extra movement and have a hard time sitting still, this is a tool that will allow our little ones to wiggle while they work! Easy to set on the chair and take off when needed.
When using fidget tools for focus with children, it’s important to set some ground rules. First, we MUST teach them how to properly use the tool and teach them that it is a TOOL not a TOY. For younger kids, it may help to do this through a social story. There should be a designated spot to keep the fidget tool so it doesn’t go missing. If the fidget tool is used inappropriately, it will be taken away.
Some of my favorite fidget and sensory tools are inside DeveloPLAY Boxes! Monthly subscription boxes with specific tools and toys for sensory and motor development. Designed for children with sensory processing, mental health, and developmental differences, but fun for ALL! Geared toward children diagnosed with Autism, Attention deficits, anxiety, emotional and behavioral disorders, and developmental delays. Delivered straight to your door!
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