Fidget Toys

Fidget Tools, Fidgets

Fidget Toys are small objects that can improve focus and attention when handled by students that are seeking extra sensory input that might not otherwise be received from their environment (e.g., students that have difficulty self-regulating, problems in sensory processing, ADHD, or demonstrate anxiety). Fidget Toys are specifically used to support a student that is extremely distracted, or a student that is seeking to touch and feel uncontrollably (e.g., rubs hands on rug, touches others, steals objects). Fidgets can provide different types of stimulation since some are squishy (e.g., stress ball, putty), bendable (e.g., wikki sticks), and textured (e.g., koosh ball). A teacher can provide a Fidget during times when the student is expected to focus and attend quietly (e.g., morning meeting, independent reading). Since Fidget Toys are small unobtrusive objects, students have the ability to seek out specific sensory needs in a more appropriate manner, which can minimize learning disruptions.

Implementation Tips

Conducting Observations
Conduct observations to notice any sensory seeking patterns (e.g., a student putting hands on everything; constant bouncing, rocking, or spinning; frequently bumps into objects; often gets out of seat). Use observations to decide if a student is seeking a lot of tactile stimulation before providing a Fidget Toy.
Gathering Fidget Toys
Confer with the Occupational Therapist to see if Fidget Toys are accessible for student use. Some daily items that can also be used as Fidget Toys include kneaded rubber erasers, koosh balls, small squeezable non-squeaking pet toys, rubbery bracelets, and Flubber. For a homemade Flubber recipe, click [[ | here ]].
Trial Period
Allow a student initially using a Fidget Toy opportunities to try a variety of objects before making a selection. After a selection has been made, periodically monitor student progress (e.g., ask if the Fidget is helpful, have the student identify when focusing was a challenge, make a schedule for proactive use).
Setting Clear Expectations
Set clear expectations from the outset that the purpose of a Fidget Toy is to support focus and attention. Reiterate these expectations when enforcing them by removing the Fidget Toy if it is not being used properly (e.g., if the student becomes distracted by it or distracts others, or uses it unsafely).
Student Self-Assessment
Encourage students to self-monitor engagement and productivity with Fidget Toys after using them for a while. Students can provide verbal responses or self-assess progress on a check-off chart (e.g., how many pages read, self-rate level of engagement from 1-5 stars during independent reading).
Providing Visual Cues
Provide visual cues, such as pictures of a Fidget Toy on a student’s personal class schedule to help identify times when the student can access this support, such as anticipated times when sitting still or keeping hands-to-self might be a challenge (e.g., lessons on the rug and independent work periods).
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Modifications
Create a variety of DIY stress ball Fidget Toys if prefabricated options are not available by filling small, unblown balloons with rice, flour, or beans. Make sure balloon ends are double-knotted and tied tightly to avoid the contents from spilling out during use.
Avoiding Distractible Objects
Avoid providing students with Fidget Toys that can cause increased distraction. Use observations during a student’s initial trial period to determine if an object is specifically supportive for the student (e.g., how one student engages with a Fidget Toy might not be how another student engages with it).


Keeping Hands-To-Self
Throughout the school day, a teacher notices that a student is constantly touching nearby objects (e.g., clothing, floor, adjacent classmates faces) whenever the class is seated on the rug or working in small groups. The teacher recognizes that this behavior distracts the student and others from learning activities and offers a Fidget Toy to help satisfy the student’s sensory input needs. The teacher explains, “Here are some tools that will help you stay focused and keep your hands to yourself.” Several Fidget Toys are offered (e.g., textured, squishy, bendable). After the student chooses a squishy Fidget Toy, a plan is made for the student to use it when in close proximity to others.
Supporting Independent Work
After a student lost several bendable Fidget Toys, a teacher confers with the Occupational Therapist (OT) about additional options. The OT supplies the teacher with a short strip of elastic material (e.g., theraband) and suggests tying the strip to the leg of the student’s desk to support sensory input as needed. After preparing the new Fidget the teacher explains to the student, “With this new Fidget, you’ll be able to pull, scrunch, or twirl the theraband to help you stay focused while you read independently at your seat, and it can’t get lost!” After, the teacher provides a daily self-assessment chart for the student to complete to monitor progress.

Related Strategies