The Benefits of Fidgets for the Classroom

What Are Classroom Fidgets?

When focusing in class becomes a problem, you may want to turn to fidget toys for help. Fidgets can be small toys or school supplies that appeal to the senses and may help students manage their behavior—especially their attention—while in class. Squeeze toys are familiar types of fidget toys. These include stress balls, but they can come in kid-friendly shapes including animals and characters. Squeeze toys meant for classroom use have two critical qualities: they are pliable, and they produce little, if any, noise. Kneading the squishy textures may help kids reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. Koosh balls are also similar novelty toys that are perfect for fidgeting children. Like squeeze toys, Koosh balls provide students an outlet for using their nervous energy. Kids can pull and stretch the rubber pieces of a Koosh ball without devoting much focus on the ball itself. Instead, they can keep their attention upon the teacher's directives as they monitor their stress levels. For many, a few moments fiddling with the fidget toy may be all that is necessary to ready the mind and body for schoolwork.

Two other types of fidget toys for kids include slime and putty. Again, these types are a tactile intervention just as stress balls are, but slime and putty may be better suited for older children. Unlike stress balls, a single stock of putty or slime has the potential to be divided, and no teacher wants to find globs of putty pressed between papers or a classroom carpet covered in slime. Although cleaning up these messes can be a cinch, it still takes time.

Some school supplies conveniently double as fidget toys. Scented erasers, pencil sharpeners and even removeable pencil toppers and grips can help kids monitor their behaviors. While kids love the colors, scents, and textures of these items, teachers love that they can be used quietly at each child's own seat.

Who May Benefit from Fidget Toys?

Small fidget toys can be used by students with either chronic or occasional attention problems. A range of reasons may cause students to become distracted; disinterest, home issues, testing, and disabilities are some factors that impede students' attention span. Signs of stress can include stomach or chest pain, rapid heartbeat, and headaches. If chronic, other health issues may develop. Furthermore, disorders such as ADD, ADHD, and autism can often hinder one's ability to stay focused. In some circumstances, a child's anxiety or stress level may reach a critical high. A teacher may recognize signs of distress when a child begins to rock his or her body. Sometimes, stressed students may use their hands to muffle sound from their ears. Or, a child experiencing anxiety will squeeze a body part repeatedly. Some kids naturally resort to these behaviors to deal with the stressful situation. Using fidget toys is an easy strategy to try that may help kids with disorders or disabilities remain calm and attentive. In fact, the use of fidget toys during class time may be written into a child's Individual Education Plan (IEP) or Section 504 plan.

A Cost-Effective Intervention

These days, teachers may present students with a variety of materials that can alleviate stress and anxiety. Some kids respond well when their chairs are replaced with large exercise balls or when large rubber bands span across the legs of their desks, allowing kids a place to bounce their feet. Others find solace by listening to music through headphones. Weighted blankets are yet another device used to promote security and have a pacifying effect. While these interventions are best for some learners, they have their drawbacks. A main challenge in introducing these items to a class is cost. Money may be easy to procure for a single item, but each of these devices would be expensive if multiple students needed them. For many budgets, purchasing these things would simply be unrealistic. Fidget toys, on the other hand, are affordable. For a few dollars, a teacher can supply every single student in the class with a fidget toy. Since they are economical, fidget toys are often the first items a teacher will try in an intervention strategy.

Cost can in turn reveal another inherent benefit of novelty toys that help kids keep calm and stay focused. When the toys are distributed to all the children in a class, no one will necessarily stand out, plus the teacher can educate the whole group on the usefulness of the toys. Signs of stress, anxiety, and nervous energy should not be mysteries to students. Once they learn to recognize those signs, they may begin to anticipate their triggers. If a fidget toy can enable a child to self-monitor and refocus attention, how may that impact the learning process?

Have fidget toys helped in your classroom? Share your experience.