How Can Fidget Toys Help Students Learn?


From putty and clay to cubes and spinners, fidgets can provide a relatively discreet way for students with ADHD or sensory input needs to focus during classroom activities and tasks. However, different fidgets can serve different purposes and choosing the right one is essential to your student’s success.

While there has not been a definitive study on the impact of fidget toys, research does see the benefits of using them in the classroom. For example, one study found that sixth graders who used stress ball fidgets said that their “attitude, attention, writing abilities, and peer interaction improved.” Another study from UC Davis allowed students with ADHD to fidget by bouncing, wriggling, or moving in place while performing a complex task. The study found that more overall movement in children with ADHD did help them perform the task better.

So, how do you choose a fidget toy that fits your student’s needs?

Typically, the best fidgets are quiet. They are meant to help the user without distracting others in the classroom. For example, putty or dough, like Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty and Mad Mattr, provide users with sensory input through touch as they stretch, kneed, or squeeze the putty. It allows them to quietly move their fingers and hands while still paying attention to a task or lesson. Tangle toys, like this School Health branded version, allow students to twist and turn the fidget, providing finger and hand stimulation without making any noise.

Fidgets come in all different forms, and they don’t necessarily have to be high-tech or expensive. Sometimes, low-tech fidgets can provide the sensory input a student needs to focus. Plus, low-tech fidgets may even look like regular school supplies, which allows them to be even more discreet. A classic example of this type of fidget are pencil grips, which can provide sensory input through their squishy texture or unique design. The Desk Buddy Textured Tactile Ruler can also function as a low-tech fidget. It looks like a regular ruler, so students can keep it on their desk, but it features multiple textures that students can touch or rub with their hands. Low-tech fidgets are a great option for students who need extra sensory input, but who may also be self-conscious about their different learning needs.

Regardless of the type of fidget you choose for your student, it’s important that they understand its purpose and how to use it, so that it doesn’t becoming another distracting toy. According to Edutopia, here are some questions to think about before giving your student a fidget:

  •  Why is this behavior happening? Is the student seeking attention, are they avoiding work, or do they have a sensory need?
  • If it is a sensory need, is the student trying to get rid of excess energy or are they having difficulty with the sensory input of the classroom?

From clicking a pen to tapping their feet, many people may fidget without realizing it. Fidgeting isn’t a bad thing, it can provide stress relief, self-regulation, and improve concentration for students with anxiety, ADHD, ADD, or other learning differences. Fidget toys allow students to get the stimulation they need to complete their work without bothering their peers. Make sure to connect with your student’s parents, the school’s occupational therapist, and other support staff to decide what type of fidget toy may be the most useful.


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