As the mother of 4 boys, and a former preschool teacher, one thing that I’ve learned from both life at home and life in the classroom, is that there is an undeniable difference in the way that boys and girls learn. Certainly, each child is different regardless of gender, but as a general rule, boys are much more kinesthetic than girls. They tend to learn best when engaging both their mind and body at the same time.
When I was in college and studying child development, I remember a specific video that one of my professors played for us. In the video, 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 to listen to the same lecture, but he was allowed to hold, squeeze, and bounce a small tennis ball at the same time.
In the end, each boy was asked to recall some key points from the lecture. Who do you think was able to retain more facts and details from the lecture ?
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 told to just sit still. Obviously, there could have been other factors that contributed to the different 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 sit and 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 the case at all. What these children need, is a physical outlet. Ideally, they need to get up and move their body, but when that isn’t necessary, a fidget can work wonders.
What Is A Fidget ?
A fidget is a small object (preferably one that fits in the child’s hand), that can be squeezed, pulled, or moved around as the child sits and listens to the teacher.
- Koosh ball
- Soft foam ball or tennis ball
- Hand exerciser
- Silly Putty, Play-Doh, or Clay
- Plastic bracelets
- Smooth stone (sometimes called a “worry stone“)
- Wikki Stix or Bendaroos
- Sensory balloons (filled with rice, flour, birdseed, etc.)
- Pipe cleaners
- Coiled shoestring
- Bendable plastic straw
- Paper clip
- Hair scrunchie
- Pencil or pen
How To Use A Fidget -
Obviously, a fidget could quickly become a distraction for many children. It’s important to set clear boundaries regarding the use of fidgets in the classroom. Some good general guidelines include:
- The fidget must stay under the child’s desk or table (or in the child’s lap in a non-classroom setting)
- Eyes should remain on the teacher, rather than on the fidget
- If the fidget becomes a distraction, it will 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, etc.), 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 who struggle with ADD, ADHD, or who are on the autism spectrum. In my opinion, any child can benefit from using a fidget.
Constantly reminding a child to “stop fidgeting” or to “stay still” can cause a great deal of frustration and anxiety for the child (and the adult involved), which will likely lead to other, more undesirable behaviors.
Using a fidget, like the ones listed above, can be a great way to redirect the child’s need to move, and allow them to be more focused and likely to retain information.
Do you have experience using fidgets with children ? Do you find them to be a useful tool ?