I’m sure most of you will have heard about the country’s latest playground craze Fidget spinners / Hand spinners. You may also be aware of the divide amongst the ADHD / Autism community about whether these toys should be used by children without special needs.
I had been aware of the fidget spinners for a while due to the numerous Facebook adverts and posts aimed at children with ADHD / ASD. I purchased one a few weeks ago for all three of my children and they were thrilled with them.
Having tested them out they do make a little noise and they really need two hands to be effective, they also aren’t a fidget you can use discreetly due to the spinning which does draw your eyes and focus. I could quickly see why these could be a problem in a classroom setting.
The argument that children with additional needs should be the only ones buying these has become quite heated. I strongly disagree with this view. A lot of fidget toys are pocket money type items aimed at all children, I think it would be very wrong to bring out a product only for a select few children, particularly when we fight so hard for our children to be treated equally. The reason many parents feel this way is due to many schools banning the spinners and thus removing access to a helpful tool for children that need them. Whilst I can understand this frustration, there are ways around this. Many schools will still allow those children who have a IEP, EHCP or a recognised need to continue to use them, those not allowing exceptions for the spinners will usually allow a different fidget aid on the condition it does not distract others or draw the child’s own focus away.
We have tried many fidget toys, we find it works best to have a good selection and rotate them regularly to get full benefits. We also find different types of fidget work best for different scenarios.
I will include a brief overview of some of the fidgets we use, although I’m sure there will be some I miss.
Lets start with the fidget spinner. We have only tried the cheap £3.99 basic spinners so far, although I have some metal LED ones on order. The fidget spinners are a very relaxing tool, watching the spinning action and the patterns it makes as it spins, along with the low humming sound really draws you to it. The weight of it in your hand is ideal and if you move it slightly as you spin it the weight transfer can be felt in your wrist giving good sensory feedback. You can use them in your hand or on a flat surface, some children even manage to balance them on their forehead or nose. We find the best use of these is for calm down time when you don’t need to be focusing on anything else. If you are angry, upset or feeling anxious they really help you forget these things for a few moments as you become so absorbed in them instead. They are also a good one to use in the car or when you have to queue for something. So even if your school has banned them you can still get good use out of these and they are still worth investing in. They come in a huge range of designs, simple plastic casing in various colours, glow in the dark, LED, metal, ceramic bearings, two arm, three arms or more so you can try a few to see which you prefer.
Fidget Cubes – Another one that is a bit of a craze at the moment, initially funded by a Kickstart campaign there are now many generic versions flooding the market. The cube has six sides with a different fidget function on each side. Very small and easy to fit in your pocket for discreet fidgeting. This is a good one for use in classroom settings as it is quiet, the buttons even have two that don’t click for this purpose. It can be used in a pocket or under the desk so won’t distract others and can be used one handed without having to look at it, so better for keeping the user focused on their lesson. The only thing I personally didn’t like was the cheap plastic feel and the weight, I felt it would be more beneficial to have a heavier weight as it is very light and didn’t give the same satisfaction in the hand as the spinners do. George however, loves it and always has it in his pocket. These also come in various colours, you can get some with a built in loop to attach to your wrist or belt or you can buy rubber prisms to cover them.
Tangles – These are one of the most recommended fidget toys, they consist of linked plastic loops you can move and manipulate in your hands, they are silents, small and discreet so another good option for school. We have quite a collection of these. We have the plain plastic ones in various colours, ones with a velvet covering (fuzzy tangle) which gives an additional sensory side to them and one with stretchy rubbery covering (hairy tangle) which is very appealing and my personal favourite. You can also take them apart and mix and match them all. George likes to join as many as he can to make a giant tangle.
Twist and Lock blocks – These are small wooden cubes on a piece of elastic and George adores them, you can bend them into different positions and shapes and again this is silent and can be used with one hand in a pocket.
Rainbow ball – This is a fun one that also helps with problem solving skills and patience, It is a ball with lots of coloured balls inside each with a matching colour around it, you mix the balls up and then have to get them all back to their original positions, similar to a Rubix cube only easier. The balls make a very satisfying clinking sound when they move into position. They are a little bit larger than some of the other fidgets, they do make a bit of a noise and need two hands and focus so these are better suited as a calming down tool rather than a classroom fidget. Like the fidget spinners they would also be good out and about, waiting in a restaurant, in the car or in a queue.
Rubber stretchy toys – These are widely available and come in a huge range of designs. There are animal, dinosaur, insect shapes amongst others. Some are slightly inflated with lots of small or large rubbery tentacles that are great for stretching. Some have lights inside them than flash when you bang them, others are very stretchy. You can get some filled with gel or silicone beads that are really good for squeezing. You do need to be a bit more careful with these as they do tend to burst, especially the gel filled ones. These also have the added benefit that most of them also have a pleasant smell to them. George has a good selection of these including Mr Ploppy (See previous post) who lives in his bed for use at bedtime.
Stretchy / Bendy men – These are usually found in the party bag section in shops you can get very small yellow men that are slightly sticky and stretchy or stiff ones that can bend about. Due to the size of these they are very easy to use without anyone noticing, can slip inside a pencil case or palm of the hand. George has some lizard and snake style ones he puts them all together in a Tupperware pot and puts his whole hand in to play with these. These are also one of the cheapest ones on the market, often as little as 10p.
Blue Tac – Readily available and easy to keep a little blob on the desk to fiddle with, make shapes with. A good choice for older children that aren’t so much into the toy style fidgets or don’t want to draw attention to their fidgeting.
Squeeze balls – You can get basic foam balls or balls with gel or sometimes cornflour inside. Our favourite are the ones with the netting on the outside, when you squeeze them you get little bubbles coming through the netting. The flour filled ones are our least favourite, they are usually made from latex balloons and they break very easily leaving a lot of mess.
Water snakes – These again are fragile and need two hands so better for at home. They are however amazing to play with and difficult to put down. They often have characters or underwater animals inside the water as well as glitter.
There are a few more fidgets I’m hoping to add to our collection, the bike chain fidgets look a good option as does the table top flipper. I’m always on the look out for more items to add to our collection. Of course a fidget toy doesn’t have to be something designed for that purpose, the possibilities are endless. If there are any good ones I’ve missed please let me know.