How Can Fidget Toys Help?

FidgetsWhat are fidgets? Fidgets are small toys that have moving parts and/or textures that children can manipulate. They are usually small enough that they can be held easily in the hand. They should also be quiet toys that are not distracting either to the child using them or to other children (or adults) within the area.

What is their purpose? The purpose of fidgets is to keep a child calm and focused most typically when they are sitting. They are most often used during circle time activities when the child is expected to sit and attend such as when listening to a story. However, they can also be used when there is active participation that requires waiting for a turn if the child has difficulty waiting. They are also used when there is a transition that may be difficult for the child to make. The child can then carry the fidget to the next activity.

How is a fidget chosen? Fidgets are child specific. Children have preferences in terms of texture, movement, size and visual appeal and if a fidget is to serve its purpose it must be appealing to the child. Gathering a large number of fidgets is necessary so that the child may explore each item before choosing what they may like. A child may also choose different items on different days therefore variety is essential.

Who needs a fidget? Some children have difficulty sitting still for any length of time and also attending to an activity. These children may sit and focus better and for longer if provided with something that they can hold and feel. Children who are anxious about a situation or program may also find holding a fidget reduces their anxiety in that situation. The only way to assess if a fidget will work with a particular child in a particular situation is to try it.

How are they used?  Fidgets are used at specific times and in specific places in order to be effective. If a child needs something in his hands to keep him sitting and attending then it should be used only at that time. Otherwise it will lose its novelty and not work as effectively. Children can also use fidgets during an activity which involves active participation. In this case they can hold the fidget until it is their turn, take a turn while the fidget is held by the adult and then hold the fidget again. Children who need fidgets during transitions or when they are waiting are given them during these times for the same reason. Fidgets are usually removed once the activity is over or the transition is made. This may be difficult at first but they quickly get used to the routine and expectation.

Some school age children also need fidgets to help them stay calm and focused. These fidgets are kept in the child’s pocket, or in their desk so that they are readily accessible but out of sight.

Jane Boni
Occupational Therapist
Consultant to Andrew Fleck Child Care Services – Making Connections Nursery School