Many children with attention deficit disorders (ADHD) have trouble sitting still, paying attention, and controlling impulses. This affects the child’s life at home and at school and impacts on their ability to get along with others. ADHD children often disrupt learning in the classroom, both for themselves as well as for others. ADHD children often seek additional sensory input to stay alert and organized. The more they receive from their environment, and the more organized their bodies and minds feel, the better.

The idea of a fidgettoy is an old concept. Baoding ball technology was developed during China’s Ming Dynasty. This was centuries before fidget spinners became fashionable. To reduce stress, the two small, metal balls could be rotated repeatedly. The smooth motion of these balls was said to be soothing. It can also help you relax and get into a meditative state.

According to Dr Karlesky of New York University fidget toys reflect a human need for self-soothe. “We are hard-wired for self-regulation enacted through tangible, tactile sensory experiences,”He said. “These mind-body mechanisms are initiated with specific objects with at least two key qualities: a distinct tactile experience and an ease in repeating that stimulation.”

Fidget toys are based on the idea that children need to feel and touch things to calm their nervous systems. Fidget toys can provide sensory input in a more non-distracting way. A fidget toy can be used to help a child focus and learn. ‘filter out’Excessive sensory information in their environment.  The physiological stimulation that fidgeting provides can bring a child’s attention back to the task at hand, and allow them to focus, thus enhancing their learning opportunities.

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Studies have shown that learning is dependent on both the right and the left hemispheres. A case study has shown that a student who used a stress ball fidgettoy to stimulate these areas with both sensory input and movement, was able to focus more effectively in a learning environment.

What are the qualities that make a good fidget toys?

  • Safe to use
  • They are relatively inexpensive so they can be replaced easily, or multiple fidgets placed around the house and classroom.
  • It is small enough that you can hold it in your hand.
  • Keep quiet, so as to not cause distractions.
  • Able to be used without distracting other people.

You should also consider the following:

  • What foundation skills does the person have? What foundation skills do they have?
  • Is there a preference or avoidance of certain sensory experiences? Is there a particular texture or sensation they are allergic to? The fidget toys should provide a calming influence.
  • Which times of the day are they most fidgety? And when would they be most likely to benefit from a fidget ty?
  • What are the rules regarding the use of the fidgettoy?

Some everyday items can be very effective in maintaining sensory regulation at school and home. A ‘fidget box’You can give the child a variety to choose from whenever they feel the urge to fidget.

Some examples include:

  • Paperclips
  • Prestik
  • Elastic bands
  • Stress balls
  • Velcro under a desk
  • A hand-sized, smooth stone
  • Putty
  • Fidget cubes
  • Fidget Spinners
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Twist and bend straws
  • Fidget pencil toppers
  • Magnetic fidget rings
  • Push pops
  • Squishes
  • Twisty tangled
  • Strange tracks
  • Stretchable string made from monkey noodles
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You should try different fidget toys to find the one that works best for your child. Visit for more information.

Romy Saunders is an occupational therapist at Bellavista School.


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