Fidgets are all the rage right now, with the popular Fidget Spinners grabbing the attention of children, educators, and parents everywhere.
There seems to be some confusion though, regarding what fidgets are, how to use one, and why they can be beneficial for kids of all ages, in the classroom and beyond.
Anyone who spends a significant amount of time with children knows that, for the most part, kids learn best when engaging both their mind and body simultaneously.
When I was in college studying Child Development, one of my professors had us view an interesting video. In it, two boys (around age 12) were placed in two different classrooms (by themselves) with headphones on, listening to a lecture on brain development.
One of the boys was told to sit still and simply listen to the lecture. The other boy was asked to listen to the same lecture, but he was allowed to also hold, squeeze, and bounce a tennis ball throughout the entire thing.
At the end of the lecture, each boy was asked to recall some key points. Who do you think was able to retain more detailed information?
I was astounded at the amount of knowledge the boy who was allowed to “fidget” and move around was able to gain from the short lecture, as compared to the other boy who was instructed to just sit still.
Certainly, there could have been other factors that contributed to the varying amounts of information these boys were able to recall, but it was pretty apparent that being able to engage both mind and body simultaneously made quite a difference.
If you were to observe a traditional school classroom, it wouldn’t take long to identify the children who might benefit from using a fidget. A quick glance around the room would allow you to identify at least a few children who are visibly anxious or seem to be “bursting at the seams” as they sit and listen to the teacher.
Many times in today’s society, schools are quick to label these children with ADD or ADHD, when that is not necessarily the case. Often, these kids are simply more kinesthetic learners, who need to move as they learn.
For children who do have ADD, ADHD, autism, or other special needs, fidgets can be a fantastic self-regulation tool to help relieve stress, calm anxiety, and achieve better focus.
What these children need, is a physical outlet. Ideally, they need to get up and move their body, but when that isn’t an option, a fidget can work wonders.
What is a fidget
A fidget is a small object (preferably one that fits in a child’s hand), that can be squeezed, pulled, or moved around easily and without much notice from those around them.
Fidget examples include:
How to use a fidget
In a classroom setting, a fidget can quickly become a distraction. It’s important to set clear boundaries regarding the use of fidgets in school, or other environments where they could become an issue.
Some general guidelines might include:
- The fidget should stay in the child’s lap, and preferably out of sight from others.
- Eyes should remain on the teacher, rather than on the fidget, whenever possible.
- Using a fidget is a privilege. When it becomes a distraction, rather than a helpful tool, it may be taken away.
I think it’s important to remember that although a fidget can be a valuable tool to use in the classroom, or anywhere else that a child needs to sit still (car, church, appointments), they are definitely not for everyone. If the fidget becomes more of a problem than a solution, it’s time to find another option.
Why a fidget might benefit your child
Children are naturally inclined to move their bodies, which is why it can be so difficult for many kids to sit still. Certainly, this can be an even bigger issue for children with attention disorders, or those on the autism spectrum.
Constantly reminding a child to “stop fidgeting” or to “stay still” can cause a great deal of frustration and anxiety for kids, which will likely lead to other, more undesirable behaviors.
In my experience, any child can benefit from using a fidget. Often, it takes some trial and error to find the best option for each unique individual. Once kids find the fidget that works best for them, it can truly help them to thrive.
Using a fidget, like the ones listed above, can be a great way to redirect the child’s natural desire for movement, and allow them to be more focused and ready to learn.
Do you have experience using fidgets with children? Do you find them to be a useful tool?