To find the best fidgets that won’t drive you nuts at school, consider the following:
Fidgets that work
Fidgets are a tool not a toy.
In a classroom situation, fidgets shouldn’t distract but rather provide the movement, pressure or tactile input that help ‘ground’ and calm a student whilst keeping them alert and focused on task. A general rule of thumb is that you should be able to manipulate fidgets with one hand without looking at them – this means you can participate in tasks at the same time as ‘fidgeting’.
Fidgets should help not harm
The last thing we want is a fidget being a catalyst for unnecessary behaviour management issues at school. If fidgets are distracting or diverting attention then they’re harming the teaching and learning time.
If fidgets are distracting other students, then they’re reducing academic engaged time.
If fidgets are not being used properly e.g. constantly rolling off desks, thrown or passed around then they’re cutting into valuable teaching and learning time.
Fidgets need to be safe
Because of the very nature of fidgets – they are manipulated, twisted, turned, pushed and often even end up in mouths being chewed – it is crucial that the right fidget is selected for the right situation.
If students chew, fidgets need to be non-toxic and not contain small items.
Best fidgets that are also safe to chew:
The coil wrist band above ticks most boxes – they won’t be dropped, they’re easy to find without looking, they’re discreet (they also come in clear), they’re safe to chew (in fact they’re designed as chewlery), they’re suitable for all ages, and they provide a fidget option.
Fidgets need to be durable so they won’t easily be broken and then become unsafe
Fidgets should be quiet
Noisy Fidgets may be suited to the playground (as a calming tool) but need to be avoided in the classroom so others are not annoyed or distracted from their work. Examples of noisy fidgets would be “laughing balls” and “pop outs“. We do stock these items because they have other uses such as a cause/effect auditory item or as a hand strengthening resource but I wouldn’t be putting them into the classroom fidget box.
Generally items that light up are not suitable as fidgets either. By their very nature you’re drawn to look at them. For example, we stock fabulous little LED finger torches that are great for those who need visual input for proprioceptive and/or fine motor development but they wouldn’t be a smart investment as a classroom fidget.
Ball shaped fidgets
Ball shaped fidgets may work in the playground but at a desk are likely to roll off causing disruption. Also, ball shaped objects are tempting fate – they’re just asking to be thrown or bounced. The classroom “fidget rules” would have to be pretty tight if you choose to use them.
Ball-shaped fidgets are great though because of their convenient palm-size, texture options and the fact they offer differing levels of “resistance” which is great for varying levels of muscle tone depending on a student’s specific needs. So I do have a few exceptions or alternatives to offer:
- Smiley Stress ball – has a weight so it is less likely to roll off desk and has the most ‘resistance’
- Gel Glitter ball – can be squished to sit flat and feels pretty gel-like
- Earth stress ball – when you really need a stress ball, but it has to be soft and not able to burst
Buyer beware – some of the ball shaped fidgets you can buy (or hand-make) are balloons containing a corn-flour substance (or rice, wheat, sand etc). They make a huge mess when they break. I no longer stock these as one broke in my store and Im never going there again!
The right size
Large fidgets may work well in school assembly (if they’re lap sized or smaller) and may even offer extended time benefits (keeping a student focused for longer). We have the marble mazes made to A4 size for this very reason. The mazes come in navy (a discreet colour for school) and have a plush raised-bubble fabric one side for additional tactile input.
Generally though we recommend fidgets that are small enough to fit into the palm of your hand.
The fidgets below ↓ are a good size and are easily manipulated without having to look at them are:
Most fidgets are tactile in some way but you can also find fidgets that vibrate, offer compression or provide safe oral input (see ‘safe’ section above for good chew fidgets options). The vibrating seal key ring is lovely and soft to touch and squeeze but also vibrates (for approx 5-7sec) when the cord is pulled. The spiky gloves are a good options as they are made from a rubbery PVC material that provides gentle compression + they wont be dropped. The weighted starfish offers the advantage of compression (from the weight) but we also have designed it specifically to have plush ribbons on the end of each ‘arm’ as additional tactile and fidget options.
Fidgets for older students
Some fidgets are better suited to different ages. As students get older it can become more difficult to find fidgets that are both socially appropriate and effective. We have a helpful post on the best fidgets for teenagers and adults here. In the meantime a few ideas are:
- bike chain fidget (the Ultimate Fidget Rings)
- fidget cube
- wrist band
- zipper bracelet
- sensory bookmark
- desk buddy ruler
- mini roller XL
Bike chain fidget Fidget Cube Squeeze Beans Tangles Wrist Band Zip bracelet
Sensory Bookmarks Desk Buddy Ruler Fidgipod Fidget Mini Roller
The bike chain fidgets are a totally cool option for teenagers and adults, as are the latest rage – the fidget cubes. Please know, we only stock the genuine article – not the cheap untested illegal knock-offs.
My personal favourite fidget, is the fidget mini roller. It’s quiet, cool, discreet and easy to work with one hand. Perfect for all ages but very popular with adults.
The tangles, zipper bracelet and wrist band suit all ages. The zipper bracelet and the wrist band have the advantage of “always being there”.
The sensory bookmarks and the desk buddy ruler are really discreet options to have at a desk – no-one would even know they’re being used as a tactile fidget option. They’re also safe to chew and bend.
Lastly, we sell loads of the fidgipods. One school bought 30! Fidgipods were designed by an engineer and an OT to provide tactile fidget input but also to sit on a desk without too much ‘slipping’. Fidgipods are also popular in an adult work environment.
Fidgets that are durable, easily stored and cared for
Durable, easily stored and cared for – ideally, fidgets are easily stored and cleaned so you’re not forever replacing them. Fidgets that can be washed and kept in a handy storage bag or box without having to worry about them breaking means you’ll get your money’s worth, especially if they are re-usable.
Sometimes fidgets can kill two birds with one stone. Some fidgets can also help develop fine motor and/or hand strengthening. Some fidgets are designed as seating aids, but also provide tactile input (which students can run their hand over e.g. the tactile seat pad). You can get Oogi Large, but for a classroom I’d suggest the Oogi Junior to be more discreet and hand-sized.
Even though Theraputty is fabulous (and we sell a lot of it) it’s not ideal as a classroom fidget though – if it gets onto clothing or carpet it can be difficult to remove. The exception would be in a specialist education setting, where Theraputty use is supervised and part of a therapeutic program. I’d avoid the knock-offs such as Thinking Putty, too.
Some students may need fidgets that can be worn or attached somehow. For example it may be helpful for younger students, those with hyperactivity, students with poor muscle tone or hand strength or perhaps students with mobility issues to have a fidget that they wear (around the wrist or attached with a key ring to clothing or on a safety lanyard). Some fidgets can even be attached to a pencil case, or a loop sewn into the inside of a pocket, or on a lanyard attached to the chair. Using a Safety Lanyard or breakaway necklace cord opens up a whole other range of fidgets that can be worn.
The ogo soft has an elastic strap that can go around the wrist while the actual ‘ball’ tucks into the palm of the hand.
For the classroom
Introducing Fidgets to the classroom.
Prevention is better than cure.
Take the time with the following steps, and fidget use in your classroom is far likely to be successful.
I like the following rules for using fidgets in the classroom.
You can only use a fidget if:
- it helps you focus, pay attention or calm.
- it stays in the right place when it is being used – the hand, the pocket, pencil case, the desk
- it is for you ONLY – it can’t disturb or distract others
- you don’t need your eyes to use it
- it goes back where it belongs when not in use
Download this ↓ handy Classroom Fidget Rules chart here. Alternatively we’ll have them available in our shop for sale (professionally printed by the end of the week).
See how another teacher introduces Fidgets and rules into the classroom here.
- Students who become anxious or overwhelmed with a change of environment or crowd may find a fidget an excellent transition tool (to take with them on the move from the classroom)
- Having a fidget can help some students remain focused and attentive during a lengthy school assembly or events such as concerts or chapel.
- The Starfish marble mazes are deliberately made larger and with wider seams, so students can easily work the marble through the maze without having to look and are designed specifically for these sorts of environments or situations. The navy colour is more discreet than a brightly coloured marble maze.
- Other recommended fidget options would be quiet, non-roll and hand held or attachable items.
- Fidgets can also be effective in the playground for students with anxiety, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (after a great deal of exertion they can be used to help calm), Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder (they can meet sensory needs and help students from becoming overwhelmed), as well as Auditory Processing Disorder (by focusing attention on the hands rather than the background playground noise).
- Fidgets can also be an effective transition tool, to help students move from the classroom to the playground and vice versa.
- Fidgets may need to be attached somehow to prevent them being lost or dropped in the playground. Key-rings, elastic band attachments or lanyards can solve this problem. Make sure you go for safety lanyards – they’ll break apart at the clasp if pulled too tight to prevent strangling (though they still require supervision). Alternatively, fidgets that can be clipped onto the inside of a pocket or kept inside a pocket can be a good option too.
I’d love to hear your “fidget tips” for school so I can add them to this blog. Caring is sharing, and we’re all about trying to provide the best possible and most useful information for us all.