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Fidget Tools Are Not Toys!

Fidget spinners. Fidget cubes. Chances are if you are in any way involved with children you have heard of them. Ask a teacher and they will probably tell you they are the bane of their existence as they cause distraction and reduced attention in the classroom.

But are "fidgets" really that bad?

Teachers often report that fidgets in the classroom cause students to be distracted.

Teachers often report that fidgets in the classroom cause students to be distracted.

Well, yes... and no. Fidgets were created for a specific reason - to help children process and regulate the information they receive from their senses to improve their attention and concentration.

But, to a child it will appear that the person next to them is playing with the latest toy and, like all things shiny and new, they want one too. The difficulty is that while a fidget will improve attention and concentration for those children that need the extra sensory input, it will be a disruption for those who don’t and when everyone in the class has one, even those who don’t need it, they are no longer helpful but a distraction.

But Muuh-um, Johnny has one and its soooo cool. He said it helps him concentrate! It’ll help me concentrate too. Can I have one? Phuuu-leeeeeeaaaasssee Muuum"…
Conversations like this occurred in households everywhere when fidgets were first launched.

A child’s main occupation is learning – this includes learning to regulate the information they receive from their senses. Children understand they need to move; however, lack the experience to know that the movement needn’t be disrupting to everyone. They understand it’s important to sit and concentrate, but that "toy" Johnny has looks like more fun.

For those children that need movement or touch to regulate their sensory input a fidget tool can help. Beyond fidget spinners and cubes, a fidget tool can be something discrete that can fit in a pocket, or even put on a finger to help your child manage that need for movement.

A Chewigem bracelet is fidget for tactile and oral seeking behaviours.

A discrete piece of fabric or a rubber toy in a pocket that can be rubbed or squeezed; a ring that provides deep pressure on a finger and can be discretely adjusted; or a wrist band for busy fingers to fiddle with on are just some examples.

Parents, students and teachers can work together to set basic ground rules around when and how fidgets can be used in the classroom to minimise the distraction factor. Rules might include using it only to help with attention and concentration and putting it away if it distracts other people or starts to be used like a toy.

Similar to a doctor prescribing medicine, sensory preferences are unique; what will work for one child will not suit another. An Occupational Therapist or the staff at Access Therapy Services in Townsville can help you decide what might work best for your child’s needs.

By equipping parents, children and teachers with the knowledge of why and when fidget tools should be used, we can educate our children and hopefully reduce the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) they experience when they see another child with something that they don't have.

 

Author: Kymberley Walker

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Townsville, QLD 4812

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