When fidget toys first made their appearance in the market, they were initially for children (and adults) that struggled with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In the classroom, these fidget toys initially disrupted classroom learning. However, in recent years, educators have changed the classroom setting to include these fidget toys and turn them into classroom fidgets.
Are Fidget Toys a Distraction from Learning?
Fidget toys, like anything else, can be a distraction in the classroom. However, when you introduce fidget toys and a set of expectations and consistency, these tools can be potent tools for learning. When fidget toys first came out, I didn’t even know what to do with them. More research came out about sensory processing and the need for students to have a minor distraction while they work. After reading various articles, I felt much more comfortable with offering fidgets to the sensory seekers in my classroom.
How to Introduce Fidget Toys in the Classroom
When you introduce fidget toys, you serve a myriad of diverse learning styles and provide a positive environment.
However, as mentioned in the previous section, to successfully introduce fidget toys into your class, make a set of rules first. Next, teach kids how to use each fidget toy and sensory tool. Lastly, ensure that each child knows where these tools go at the end of the scheduled break times.
Whether you allow students to utilize these for brain breaks, specific lessons, or throughout their learning day, ensure that you are consistent with your rules and storage.
10 Best Classroom Fidgets in 2022
1. Fidget Spinners
I put the fidget spinner here at the top because it is the original fidget toy! The fidget spinner is a toy that even adults fidget with. Whether you are an elementary school teacher or upper-grade level, a fidget spinner is an excellent idea for students if they have ADD/ADHD.
2. Pop Its
Pop Its are FANTASTIC fidget tools. There are literally so many different Pop Its activities to help students learn anything from basic math, counting, making shapes, learning the alphabet, counting syllables, and more.
The pop-it fidget tool provides tactile input in what would typically be a listening and response lesson.
3. Magnetic Rings
Depending on a student’s sensory preferences, something that makes a slight whizzing noise like fidget spinners or even a squishy item may not be a good solution. These magnetic rings make virtually no noise and allow students’ sensory needs to promote movement while working.
4. Pop It Ball Fidget Toy
Stress ball meets Pop Tts, this is a handheld ball pop it. This ball inspires small movements that distract kids from feeling overwhelmed and anxious without being loud or distracting other students in the classroom. These fidget balls help keep kids focused and allow students to practice self-regulation.
5. DoodleJamz Jelly Boards
This JellyBoard is a tremendous sensory stimulation tool for your classroom. Like the doodle boards of old, this one is way more fun. This board has a layer of gel for a squishy surface and two different backer boards for different art. Children will love to practice outlining their letters and numbers or just having a fun sensory input experience.
6. Sensory Water Beads
If sensory systems are overloaded in class, these water bead bean bags are a great tool to help students focus on their work and not on anxiety. Students with excess energy and sensory processing issues need items like these water bead bags to allow them to process through movement and play. Allow each student a bead bag to hold, or not, during class.
7. Liquid Motion Bubbler
As far as sensory tools that can stay in one place, these are perfect. The Super Z Outlet Liquid Motion Bubbler is similar to watching a lava lamp move about. I like this item because it allows a child to focus in one place or on their work, rather than searching the classroom for distraction.
8. Spiny Water Bead Stress Balls
Stress balls have long been a favorite tool for teachers in the classroom. However, these Spiny Stress Balls are WAY cooler than the ones I ever had. These sensory tools reach each student’s own unique sensory needs and provide a high sensory input.
9. Busy Cube for Kids
All fidgety hands in your class will love this busy cube! I write this to warn every teacher that these fidgets do make noise. However, if you allow time for a brain break at school, this is a fantastic fidget toy for students who struggle with fine motor skills. There are mini mazes, shoe ties, bells, light switches, and more on these tiny fidgets that allow students to take their minds off stress or anxiety.
10. Silly Putty
Silly putty is a fun way to provide sensory experiences in the classroom. The great thing about this goop is that many teachers incorporate making it into their lessons as part of a STEM/STEAM project! You can easily incorporate making putty into a class lesson. For example, make gooey blue goo after you read Fox in Socks! There are tons of great ideas to help teachers incorporate these sensory activities in class.
Final Thoughts on Fidget Tools
Overall, having a sensory kit or a set of calming fidgets for your classroom can relieve stress and be an extremely useful tool to deal with fidgety students. Teachers serve students with so many different needs, and we understand that there is no longer a one-size-fits-all method of education.
Our focus is to serve each and every child however we can. If that means getting creative with using fidgets in our classrooms, we will serve students in that way. Sensory integration doesn’t have to be complicated; we just need to know which items serve different sensory systems best!