Are Fidget Cubes Actually Helpful for Kids with ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders affecting children. The core symptoms of ADHD include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. While ADHD often persists into adulthood, it is usually first diagnosed in childhood.

Children with ADHD can have difficulties focusing, sitting still, and controlling impulses in school and social settings. This can negatively impact their learning, social skills, and self-esteem. Finding strategies to help kids with ADHD manage their symptoms is important for supporting their development and success.

In recent years, fidget toys and devices have become popular as tools to help kids with ADHD self-regulate and focus. Fidget cubes, in particular, have emerged as a popular ADHD tool. These small cubes have buttons, switches, and sides with different textures that kids can play with in their hands.

But do fidget cubes actually help kids with ADHD? There is limited formal research specifically on fidget cubes at this point. However, some studies have looked at similar fidget toys and devices and found promising results:

  • A 2018 study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders found that letting kids with ADHD use a fidget spinner during a cognitive task improved their attention and focus. Kids with ADHD made fewer errors on the task when using a fidget spinner.
  • A 2016 study in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology evaluated kids using fidget items while taking an IQ test. They again found the fidgets helped increase on-task behavior and concentration in kids with ADHD.
  • Another 2016 study in the journal Child Neuropsychology had children perform cognitive tests under three conditions: no fidget toy, stress ball, and fidget toy with small moveable parts. The small fidget toy significantly improved working memory and attention in kids with ADHD.

The researchers theorize that allowing tactile/kinesthetic stimulation of fidgeting gives part of the brain something to focus on, allowing better cognitive control and attention to a main task. The fidgeting may help the children channel nervous energy and self-regulate.

Anecdotal reports from parents, teachers, and clinicians also suggest benefits of fidget cubes for helping kids with ADHD:

  • Fidget cubes can serve as an outlet for the “excess energy” many kids with ADHD exhibit. Fidgeting with the cube allows them to expend energy in a manner less disruptive than tapping, yelling, or getting out of their seat.
  • Having an acceptable fidget object provides a coping mechanism for ADHD symptoms and antsy behavior. Kids often feel calmer and more able to focus when their hands can interact with the cube.
  • Fidget cubes give kids a way to briefly take a “brain break” during challenging cognitive tasks. Kids can fidget with the cube to recharge attention and then refocus.
  • The toys help kids learn to self-regulate behaviors and distracting impulses by having an acceptable way to channel the impulses.

Of course, fidget cubes also have potential downsides. They can become distractions themselves if overused or used in an unstructured manner. Like any tool, they need to be integrated thoughtfully into a child’s ADHD management plan. But current evidence and anecdotal reports suggest they can be an effective component when used appropriately. Providing a cube along with other evidence-based strategies tailored to the individual child offers a promising approach for supporting kids with ADHD.

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