Fidget toys have surged in popularity in recent years. These small, tactile toys are proving to have some big benefits for kids with ADHD and focusing issues. Simple fidget toys give restless hands and minds an outlet for excess energy, allowing improved focus, calming effects, and better regulation of behavior. When used appropriately, fidget toys are becoming valuable learning aids for children with attention difficulties.
The Rise of Fidget Toys
Fidget toys are small, discreet gadgets that can be manipulated and toyed with in the hands. Items like fidget spinners, cubes, tangles, and putty give fingers something to do while a person sits, talks, listens, or concentrates. The use of handheld objects to occupy restless fingers is not new, but well-designed fidget toys made specifically for focus have risen to prominence recently.
Mainstream fidget toys only date back about 20 years. But the use of worry stones, stress balls, and other tactile objects for calming and occupation has been around far longer. With the increased recognition that many kids and adults struggle with focusing, fidget toys have hit the mainstream as potential tools to aid concentration and attention. They offer subtle sensory input and distraction.
Recent decades have also given rise to more sophisticated therapeutic tools and toys for cognitive and sensory needs. Items like weighted blankets and chewlery provide sensory input that can have calming effects. Fidget toys take a similar approach – giving senses and brain something low-key to focus on to allow better overall attention and relaxation.
Fidget Toys for Focus and Calming
For kids with ADHD and other focusing disorders, the subtle distraction and sensory input of fidget toys can have multiple benefits. These include:
- Improved concentration and attention span in class when allowed to fidget with a toy. It occupies part of the brain, allowing the other part to focus.
- Calming effects and reduced anxiety from the sensory stimuli and repetition of motions like spinning, clicking, squeezing, etc.
- Channeling of mental and physical restlessness into fidgeting hands limits other disruptive behaviors. Kids sit stiller when their hands are occupied.
- Increased ability to self-regulate and monitor behavior when kids can redirect energy into fidget toys for occupation.
- Overall better classroom performance and learning ability thanks to improved focus, attention span, and behavior regulation that toys can bring.
Fidget toys are not a miracle cure, but they provide a sensation that can help calm, stimulate, occupy, and redirect – all useful attributes for kids struggling to sit still and pay attention!
Best Fidget Toys for School Kids with ADHD
Educators and therapists agree that small, quiet, and subtle fidget toys work best for schools and learning. Popular choices include:
- Fidget cubes – These classic cubes feature buttons, switches, gears, and dials to occupy fingers on all six sides. Fun, discrete, and endlessly entertaining.
- Fidget spinners – The simple toys that quietly spin for minutes offer calming visual stimulation and tactile feedback.
- Squeeze and stretch toys – Moldable putty or stretchy rubber toys allow kids to work out energy in their hands without disrupting others.
- Tangle toys – Bendy, twistable tangles made of rubber tubing provide tactile and visual stimulation.
- Fidget bracelets – Inconspicuous bracelets have textures and buttons to run fingers over while wearing discretely.
- Finger spring coils – These mini slinkys can be stretched out and bounced back repeatedly. The repetitive motion can be soothing.
Ideally, fidget toys for the classroom should be silent, small, not too distracting, with subtle tactile components to keep hands occupied. Having toys that provide calming sensory input allows better overall focus on learning.
Success Stories: Fidget Toys in Action
There are countless success stories of fidget toys helping students with ADHD and other issues thrive in school. Teachers and parents report improved concentration, fewer outbursts, increased engagement, and more successful learning. Here are just a couple examples:
- A second grader struggled with impulse control, often jumping up to walk around. Introducing a fidget cube helped him remain seated and less disruptive – and got praise for good behavior!
- A middle schooler who tapped loudly and frequently on her desk was disrupting classmates. A silent fidget spinner allowed her energy outlet without the noise.
- A parent shared that her son’s teacher allows a box of fidget toys in class. Kids can grab one discreetly whenever they feel focus slipping to self-regulate.
- A fifth grade student was calmer and less apt to outbursts and distraction with a fidget bracelet to manipulate during down times.
While not a cure-all, fidget toys can undoubtedly help many kids better regulate attention, behavior, and energy – leading to improved focus and classroom success.
Smart Use of Fidget Toys in School
For optimum success, both teachers and kids should use fidget toys thoughtfully in the classroom. Best practices include:
- Discreet use – toys on laps, under desks, in hands. Avoid waving in air and distracting others.
- Toy stays with child – Limit sharing to prevent distraction and germ transmission.
- Subtle toys – Noisy electronic or elaborate toys can be too engaging. Simple works best.
- Consistent access – Allowing and relying on toys, then taking away as punishment is counterproductive. Kids depend on them.
- Not for every child – Fidget toys help many kids self-regulate, but can distract others. Only provide to students who benefit.
- Mindfulness – Teach kids to notice when their focus is drifting and use a fidget toy to self-correct.
With some reasonable guidance and consistency, fidget toys can be excellent tools for kids who struggle with focusing, attention, and behavior regulation. Used correctly, they are helping many students achieve more success in school and beyond.