Fidget tools come in all different shapes, colours, sizes and textures; some even vibrate. There are so many benefits of fidget toys and it’s important the correct fidget tool is provided to your child, so they’re used for their intended purpose.
Soft and gentle fidget toys and tools work well and benefit anxious children. For a longer duration, items such as vibrating cushions can assist your child sit still through dinner, school, or extended car rides. These are also good for children who have trouble sleeping, providing a subtle sensation that encourages sleep.
The benefits of fidget toys that are stretchy and bendy can be useful for children who need to manipulate something when they’re required to attend things for long periods of time. This helps to assist with their attention span.
Fidget toys can increase a child’s ability to focus or keep calm when dealing with big emotions.
How can fidget toys help my child?
Fidget toys and tools may be recommended to help your child regulate, attend or to decrease anxiety and stress.
On average, a typically developing child can attend for 10-15 minutes, or up to 30 minutes if the task is novel (new to them). For a child with ASD, ADD/ADHD, anxiety, or other developmental difficulties, focusing is more of a challenge. This is due to the difficulties in processing sensory information.
Our brains receive messages from our senses through the central nervous system. A typically developing child or adult should be able to take these messages and turn them into an appropriate motor or behavioural response.
Movement helps with processing the world around us and increases the alertness of our brain
Children or even adults with ADD/ADHD, ASD and anxiety have difficulty organising an appropriate response to incoming sensory information. Our bodies are always working hard to process the world around us. Our nervous systems receive information from our different senses including smell, touch, vestibular (our sense of balance and movement from our inner ear), taste, hearing, pull of gravity and proprioception (awareness of body position in space from muscle, tendon, and joint receptors).
Sometimes children can either over-respond (difficulty filtering unnecessary information) or under respond (difficulty identifying important information) to different sensory information. The theory behind why movement helps with processing the world around us is that it increases the alertness of the brain. Their brains are in a constant state of under or over arousal. In other words, it takes more sensory input than normal for them to recognise it and pay attention. Movement can help “wake up” the brain from this state and help prepare it to focus and attend. Therefore, the benefits of fidget toys and tools can provide extra sensory input to keep our brain awake.
4 considerations when you’re looking to add fidget toys and tools into your child’s day:
- Fidgets should be relatively cheap and durable. They should also be small enough to be used under a table, not produce a noise that is distracting, and be used without distracting others.
- It should provide sensory input, whether through texture, shape, or sensations that is calming and one that a child enjoys (stay away from sensory textures, shapes, or sensations that a child does not enjoy. This will have the opposite effect of calming).
- What time of day does a child seem most fidgety? When would they benefit the most from using the fidget tool? It shouldn’t be used all day, every day.
- Will there be an amount of time that the child can use the fidget tool? What rules need to be set up around the use of a fidget tool. Clear boundaries and expectations should be set in advanced so keep things clear and consistent.
It’s also important to note that not all children will benefit from fidgets, especially in a classroom setting.
It may take some trial and error to figure that out. But it is important to try. Reach out to us here at OTFC Group and your occupational therapist if you’d like to know more information about fidget toys and tools.
OTFC Group are based across three locations Adelaide CBD, Mile End and Parkside.
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OTFC is a South Australian clinic-based service that is centrally located and services children and adolescents from birth through to 21 years of age both locally and nationally. Dedicated to providing a client focused approach where children and families feel validated in their concerns, supported in difficult times, encouraged to be proactive and inspired to facilitate change.