Sitting in a classroom all day or staring at a computer screen from home is hard for anyone, but it can be even more difficult for students – especially those who have anxiety or ADHD. Whether it’s just a fad or a trend that will stick around, many experts believe fidget toys can help.
What are fidget toys?
Fidget toys are the latest craze among students of all ages. Think of them as the Rubiks Cube, slap bracelet or POGS of this decade. From Pop-Its and putty to bendy sticks and squishy balls, the idea behind them is that they help focus attention and improve learning ability. Some experts argue that fidget toys are just another distraction in the classroom; but there are just as many advocates for fidget toys – if the right kind of fidget toys are being used for the right purposes.
Can fidget toys help with anxiety?
We all fidget to varying degrees. Fidgeting is the body’s way of releasing restless energy. Types of fidgeting we sometimes don’t even realize we’re doing include foot tapping, knee bouncing, hair twirling, or nail-biting. Many experts believe that if fidgeting activities can be redirected, they can actually enhance learning.
ADHD expert Sydney Zentall explains that fidgets improve the classroom experience because doing two things at once allows a child's brain to better hone in on the primary task. It’s similar to activities such as doodling in a meeting, folding laundry while watching a TV show, or listening to music while driving.
The use of fidget toys in many schools is becoming more popular. As the end of the school year approaches and it’s time for final exams and state standardized testing, many schools are allowing students to bring in fidget toys to help with focus, attention, calming, and active listening.
Which fidget toys are good for school?
If schools and teachers do choose to allow fidget toys in the classroom, you can be certain that they will only allow quiet fidget toys versus noisy distractions like the fidget spinner craze that took off a few years ago. Below are some popular options, but there are many more, all of which can be found on Amazon, Target, Walmart, or similar stores.
Wacky Tracks are links that can pivot and lock into 5 positions, letting students create any shapes they want – letters, numbers, symbols – the possibilities are endless.
Monkey Noodles are strong, stretchy strings. Their durability allows them to be pulled, twirled, and squeezed without breaking as they bounce back into their original shape
Thinking Putty is simply a stretchy material that can be squeezed, kneaded, and stretched, providing a relaxing and stimulating tactile experience.
Squishy Ball stress toys come in a variety of styles and textures. Some are filled with beads, sand or foam, giving students something they can grab to release stress or simply do hand exercises.
The Pop It is one of the hottest fidget toys right now and is essentially bubble wrap in silicone form. This never-ending bubble popping game is a self-contained durable design that allows for hours of quiet popping to relieve stress and anxiety.
While the verdict may still be out on whether or not fidget toys in classrooms are here to stay, they definitely seem to have their own benefits for students as an alternative way to ease stress and anxiety, whether in the physical classroom or remote learning.
Educators are so creative when it comes to finding a balance between helping students learn to focus for longer periods of time and accommodating their needs based on the stage of growth they are in, especially in this season of remote and online learning! Where do you find the balance?
What are some techniques or tools you have implemented in your classroom, in-person or online, that help students focus or relieve stress…or just simply get their fidgets and wiggles out?
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