2017 has seen the Fidget Spinner craze take homes and classrooms by storm, resulting in the concept of fidget toys coming into most people’s awareness for the first time. However, the concept of a fidget toy is not new, and specialists, such as occupational therapists, often incorporate these small, easily manipulated objects (aka stress toys) into therapy to help people stay calm and alert.
So, what should you consider when looking at purchasing a fidget toy?
Below we’ve listed three key points to keep in mind when deciding to purchase a fidget toy, and when searching for the right one!
1. remember the purpose of the fidget toy
First and foremost, kids, parents, and teachers should look at fidget toys as a learning tool, and ensure this is the purpose it is serving. Basically, it should be a small, tactile object a child can store in their desk or pocket and use quietly in their hands when they are required to (or struggling to) keep quiet or concentrate e.g. in class, or in a waiting room with a parent.
The tool’s purpose should be to ensure the child has a calm body, to provide sensory input the child may be seeking (in a less distracting way than seeking to touch or grab at things in the environment or disrupt others), or to give them a way to focus nervous energy.
It should allow them to focus their attention in a constructive manner, so if the toy becomes distracting, it is no longer serving its purpose.
2. it doesn't have to be the most popular or obvious toy
Fidget toys have been around for years, and people fidget with things e.g. click their pens or scribble on paper, without realising they are basically using a fidget toy. Despite fidget spinners currently being the obvious choice due to their popularity – they don’t offer anything unique other fidget toys or tools. Most importantly, there is no current scientific evidence suggesting fidget spinners are an effective treatment for learning difficulties or neurodevelopmental disorders like Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or ADHD.
However, for children who take part in inappropriate distracting fidgeting behaviour whilst struggling to focus. E.g. tapping on their desk, squirming in their chairs, disrupting other students, they may benefit from a tool that allow them to increase focus by engaging with a quiet, non-disruptive object.
These objects can be bought or created at home, and should provide a tactile experience the child finds soothing:
- Squeeze balls e.g. stress balls, putty, balloons filled with flour.
- Bending pipe cleaners
- Worry beads e.g. wooden beads threaded onto string Play dough
- Rubber toys
- Rubber band ball
3. Fidget toys are not a sole form of treatment or a solution
With the increasing popularity of fidget toys thanks to fidget spinners, various claims have been made regarding their effectiveness in ‘treating’ kids with ADHD or ASD.
However, parents are often left disappointed or disheartened when they do not see results they expect, and it is crucial to note the methods of managing these neurodevelopmental disorders are broad, and vary in accordance with severity and symptomology across individuals. Intervention and support often targets functioning at home with parents, at school with teachers and peers, and sometimes requires medication or dietary management.
So, a fidget toy alone cannot be relied upon, and parents should not purchase them under the guise it will manage or ‘solve’ their child’s difficulties with sensory processing, attention or hyperactivity. Specialist assessment and recommendations are required. This allows the child to receive evidence-based, individualised intervention to maximise their learning, daily functioning and development. .
Green, H. H. (2012). Ad/hd homework challenges transformed! : creative ways to achieve focus and attention by building on ad/hd traits. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com
Here at Educational Toys Online we understand the value of educational toys in supporting healthy development. We have more than 300 items available in our shop, and offer free shipping for all product orders over $150. Contact us on 1300 33 11 13 or use our online contact page.