Fidgets are designed to allow us to self-regulate during times of stress or boredom, but no one fidget is created equal. Because our sensory needs are unique to us, what may work for you may not work for a friend, co-worker, or kid. So how do you know what works for your child? Rather than strolling down the toy section or browsing the endless lists of fidgets online, we broke it down to help you and your kiddo find that “just-right” fidget.
Sensory Needs and Wants
When selecting a fidget, it comes down to what sensory input that works best for your child. For example, if your kid seeks deep pressure to calm down and focus (like when they snuggle up to you while reading a book), they may benefit from a stress ball or a weighted fidget rather than a fidget spinner.
Additionally, you will need to consider the environment your child will be using their fidget in. Gadgets that make noise end up becoming a disruptive toy rather than a tool for success, and will most likely NOT get their teacher’s stamp of approval.
Lastly, think about the fidget’s durability and if your child likes the look and feel of it. Just like buying clothes, if it’s satisfying and comfortable for your kid to operate, the more they will reach for it when they need to regulate. Obviously, the more they use it, the more it will wear and tear. So cost of replacement can also be a factor.
Please know that although many fidgets are marketed to the neurodiverse community, it doesn’t mean that your child couldn’t benefit from them if they don’t carry that diagnosis. Remember that these are sensory tools aimed to help children, teens, and adults achieve an appropriate arousal level in whatever they do throughout their day.
If your child can’t help but touch everything, they may need to keep their hands busy to stay on task. Try:
Give a Good Squeeze
Perhaps your kid needs to a bit of resistance to let out some energy or finds zen when given deep pressure. Check out:
Stay in Touch
If your child finds calm in petting or feeling certain textures:
Wiggle It Out
Kids can get jittery and need to move about to get themselves back on track. If it’s not possible to get out of their seat, these may help. Note: You may need approval from their school to use any of these in the classroom.
Keep it Discreet
Teachers don’t mind a fidget that won’t cause a distraction, or maybe your child would prefer something that won’t draw attention to themselves. Good options are:
- Fidget Bean Keychain
- Tortoise Head Popping Squishy Squeeze Fidget Keychain
- Mini Pop it Keychain
- Original Flippy Chain Fidget
- Fidget Pad
- Fidget Cube
Chew on This
Some kids happen to bite and chew on items, like their shirt or pens, to pay attention or self-soothe:
This is a very small list compared to the many fidget options offered on the internet. It would be helpful to have a few different kinds on hand as your child’s sensory needs may change throughout the day depending on their mood or activity they’re engaged in. If you do intend on sending fidgets to school, make sure you talk to your kid’s teacher first to ensure you are both on the same page.
Remember, fidgets only provide temporary relief when your child is feeling restless, like when waiting for their food at a restaurant or listening to the teacher in class. Children would much rather be in motion instead of sitting still. It’s just their nature (and the body’s method to organize and adjust its arousal level). Whenever possible, allow your kid to run, play, climb, and jump to get those wiggles out.