Fidgets: What are they and how can they help?

Fidget toys are self-regulation tools to help with focus, attention, calming, and active listening. Fidgets come in all different shapes, sizes, and textures and are often referred to by various different names. Stress balls, tangles, and squigglets can all be used as fidget toys to promote movement and tactile input that is critical for some student’s learning.

Who are fidgets for?

It is easy to point out that restless child. The one who is always getting up to sharpen his pencil, use the bathroom when he just went 5 minutes ago, or take a drink for what seems like the 100 time. We can recognize that child who is constantly tapping his foot, rummaging through his desk, or peeling up his name tag. We know that it is these children who interrupt learning because these behavioral disruptions are difficult to ignore. The child also hinders his own learning due to their short attention.

How do they help?

So, how can we help this child control their movement and actually improve their learning? Research on fidgets shows that if movement can be directed, it can enhance learning. Movement is essential for learning because the learner is required to use both the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The book entitled, Learning with Tangle Brain Tools: The Playful Path to Meaningful Learning at Home and in School includes fun activities and also the research.

The Research

In addition to research confirming the importance of movement and sensory input while learning, learning is enhanced when fidgets are introduced. This is documented through case studies and a comprehensive understanding of human cognition and student learning. One case study, conducted in a sixth-grade classroom in Georgia, observed the positive effects of fidgets. Academically, the students showed growth when the stress balls were implemented. The average writing score of the class increased from 73% without stress balls to 83% with the use of stress balls. In addition, the student with a medical diagnosis of ADHD showed the most progress with an increase of 27% on a writing sample (Stalvey & Brasell, 2006).

Get Started!

Fidget toys come in literally dozens of colors, shapes, sizes, and materials.  Taking a bit of time to think about what features will suit your child’s needs can help narrow your options. Some great shops for fidget toys include: Trainers Warehouse, Office Oxygen, Therapy Shoppe.