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Sensory fidget toys guide ✅ reducing stress anxiety 2021

Published on 

December 08, 2020

Fidgeting and associated toys to remove anxiety behaviour

There’s more to meet the eye with fidget toys. Although they may just look like another thing to play with, they are a rather complex tool. 

Anxiety is a complex issue and there are so many reasons why children experience it. To combat stress, you need the right tools for the right situation. "Fit in your pocket" fidget toys to the rescue! 

There is a science behind these angst-reducing tools! They are designed for different agitation-causing purposes. How do you know what spinning toy or fidget spinner to use? Here is the ultimate guide about spinners to reduce worry in 2021!

Statistics Chart Australia Disability
Statistics Chart Australia Disability

What makes a fidget toy what it is?

Fidgets are tools designed for focus and attention. It helps the brain filter out extrasensory information. It is often this sensory overload of information that causes a person to be fidgety, anxious, or out of control (1). 

Thanks to their repetitive nature, items that you can twiddle are an outlet to transfer extra energy. A lot of youngsters with discomfort, ADHD, or autism use them. So why are thousands of kids around the globe catching on with the latest trend and putting into their pockets a toy that replaces the twitch, wriggle and squirms when anxious times arise.

They Help Increase Focus

 For some children with concerns around a lack of focus, fidgeting give youngsters a natural outlet which increases concentration. 

When parents or teachers try to get minors to "sit still," anxiety rises in children. They want to move! 

Fidgeting and spinning toys alleviate that tension. A new study from the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology found when kids with ADHD had opportunities to use their motor skills, sitting in class increased (2). Spinners are a great way for children to vent out their motor skills while in school. 

Helps With Self-Regulation 

When kid's senses overstimulate, their angst levels go up. 

Games or gadgets that kids get their fingers on help to decrease unease. The repeated movement, like pressing, squeezing, rolling or spinning, is soothing for them.

Youngsters of all ages love tactile things that have colour and variety. They provide fun ways to get some tension relief while working on self-regulation.

Reduces Distractions 

Giving someone a toy to play with to help focus might sound odd but surprisingly things that promote fidgeting decrease distractions.

Sometimes children experiencing unease are more distracted by their angst than the actual things causing the worry. Like a child with autism who is more distracted by their uneasiness than the bright lights. 

When given a hand held object that they can twiddle, squish, push, spin, twirl or twist, toddlers can zone out and not think about their distractions. This repeated movement keeps them calm. Now let's look at the fidgeting items in more detail. 

How do you know which one you need? 

How do you know when to use it? 

Sensory room set up - stress relief and calming space

Sensory fidget toys for adults and kids

When children have agitation, they have strain! Thankfully there are fidget toys out there that have a calming effect! When your kiddo is pressurized, try one of these worry reducing tools.

 Squishy Balls 

The durability of squishy balls are perfect for lowering tension! When people feel tense, they need relief. Digging their fingers into a palm sized sphere is a great release. These hugely popular items come in a range of sizes, colours and textures to satisfy all kinds of sensory needs. Simply put, the more kids play with them, the more they relax. 

Putty 

Putty takes worry relief one step further. Putty is excellent at bringing calm because you can mould, pull, stretch, or form it into other shapes.

Therapy putty has amazing therapeutic benefits and is used by Occupational Therapists and school teachers as not only a calming tool but also as a method of improving a child's finger and hand strength. This increased improvement in tactile strength through use of therapy putty, quickly transfers to improved fine motor control and writing ability.

Texturized Fiddles 

These are excellent for sensual input, and a lot of them have added texture.

Large gel beads, spikes, and bumps all offer tension relief for minors. Youngsters like to focus on the extra receptive input they gain from these textures.

Best products to use at home and school for reducing stress

Use these types of fidgets when you notice higher stress levels in your kiddo. Look for a tense body, angry movements, or pacing. During these times, give your child strain relieving fiddles like: 

Stress balls with sand, gel, or stuffing 

Theraputty or playdough 

Spiky balls, gel pads, spiral sticks, fluffy balls.    

                   

Spinners for classroom learning

There are school-friendly devices to twiddle! These classroom fiddles are quiet and are designed to help students pay attention. Learning can bring on anxiety, however these items can reduce angst in an environment that is worrying for many students.

These objects are designed for sensory play. The tactile feel, like bumps or ridges, are great for school. They are discreet and can be easily handled while sitting at a desk and maintaining eye contact with an instructor.

Tactile play helps students with alertness and focus, allowing them to pay attention to the teacher. These are awesome products for their price.

Quiet fiddle 

Many fidget spinners can make clicking or tapping sounds which can be distracting in a school. Luckily there are quiet fidgets that children can use. Toddlers can handle silent tools at their desks and not cause distraction. 

Fidget toys that double as school supplies 

Some school supplies double as spinner fun and are easily accessible for students since they already use them! Toymakers also make school supplies intended for fidget use too.

Top ways to help focus, keep calm and ease the mind.

Use these settling objects when little ones seem distracted, need to calm down, or at break time. Classroom-friendly fidgets includes: 

  • Bumpy gel ball
  • Gel-filled rulers
  • Rubber rings 
  • Squeeze erasers 
  • Rubber pencil grips 
  • Magnetic metal Magnet 
  • Fidget spinners
  • Bubbles
  • Infinity cube 

                                                                       
infinity-cubes
Infinity-cubes
pencil grips
Pencil grips
Gel-Squeeze-Balls
Gel-Squeeze-Balls
sensory-magnets
Sensory-magnets
Bubble-push-Sensory
Bubble-push

Fidget Toys for Sensory processing

Sensitive issues significantly increase worry in children. There is a relationship between anxiety and sensory processing. A study in the Journal of British Occupational Therapy found participants with sensory sensitivity experienced higher distress levels (3). Journal of British Occupational Therapy.

Much of this stress stems from self-regulation. When tots become unregulated, they have higher agitation levels. Fidgets curb worry and promote self-regulation. The following are sensory-friendly fidget toys:

Calming Fidgets

When people are revved up, certain fiddles can slow them down. Playing with these sorts of toys is relaxing.

To achieve a soothing effect, children will want to use fidgeting items that give them the sensory input they crave. 

Awakening Fidgets

While some little ones need calmness, others need to boost energy. When kids are alert, they will achieve better focus and attention. 

Stimulating the senses helps people wake up. Visual stimulation and repetition are big energy boosters.

Sensory Friendly Fidget Toys

Some toddlers dealing with anxiety-related issues need fidgets that offer a lot of sensory input like deep pressure. Some gadgets are designed for other body parts that provide extra stimulatory input like pushing feet or weight on laps.

When to use:

Look for signs like restlessness, boredom, impulsivity, or repetitive behaviors, as these are signs of dysregulation. Try out one of these sensory-friendly fiddles: 

Squishy balls 

Theraputty 

Slinkys 

Hand Spinners 

Stretchy bands for chair feet 

Spiky roller ball for feet 

Weighted lap pad

square box rollers 

Fiddle toys to help manage emotions

Thinking Putty/Worry Stones

Kids need to think to express their emotions. Give them something to keep their hands busy while thinking and the repetitive nature of playing with objects will help the brain focus on its thoughts. Thinking putty is more than just a toy and without realising, children are giving themselves awesome therapy for their hands and wrists along with saying goodbye to their own stresses

 Calming Fidgets

When feeling anxious it is important we find our own ways to find ways to calm down. There are many small devices or objects on the market now that provide a significant soothing effect via deep pressure.

Fidgets for Expressing Self 

There are many things just for teens that are socially acceptable and act as great accessories for self-expression. chewelry, bracelets, necklaces, or keychains can be kept close by while letting teens be themselves. For children who like to chew as a method of coping with stress, there are now a wide variety of chew toys that can be worn as necklaces or bracelets.

Best products for all ages who are emotionally unstable

During distressful or emotionally unregulated times these are a definite "go to" for managing emotions: 

Thinking putty

Smooth stones 

Soft velvet bean bags 

Spiral bracelets or rings 

Squishy keychains

Managing behaviour

Problem-solving elements increase focus. The challenge of figuring out a problem makes little ones stick to it. A mini Rubrik's Cube can easily be pulled out of the pocket to ease stress and is a discreet way of dealing with one's anxiousness or boredom.

Decrease Impulsivity

Give a child a multi-tasking fidget item and they can stay passively occupied for longer durations. These mechanisms can decrease impulsiveness thanks to the many buttons and dials on the one object.

Feed Sensory Needs 

When these needs aren't met, behaviors also can get out of control. Sensory-friendly fidgeting items s help young people maintain behaviors because it supports self-regulation. 

Frustrated and angry

Frustrated and angry

Help manage aggression and bad behaviour with these items

Try these tools to regulate emotions and manage behaviour when you notice fidgeting, moving around, or the inability to sit still for any length of time. Remember it is always a good idea to be proactive and get in early. reach for the toolkit before things escalate and try these devices:

Handheld mazes or mini Rubik's cubes 

Cubes with buttons and dials 

Theraputty 

Sensory toys

Whether you're a parent or teacher, you now know how to use the right fidget toy! Adults should model correct behaviours and ways to manage emotions and demonstrate ways to stay on top of stress when it arises. Explicitly teach your children or students ways to deal with their thoughts and emotions and emphasise that fidget items are a tool to enhance their ability to learn, de-stress or concentrate.

Whether used at home or in the classroom, these work as a learning tool or device to keep focussed so that one is able to learn. If used like any other toy, they lose their therapeutic purpose. 

Have a designated spot and within reach for easy access when needed.

Kids should know exactly where to get their tools in those anxious moments.

And remember............................... all children are different and will have varied needs, so have an assortment in the fidget box that includes items of varied size, colour, smell and texture.

Lastly, always model proper use. If adults can model these supports properly, they are more likely to be useful and not a distraction.

References: 

         1.            https://harkla.co/blogs/special-needs/fidget-toys-adhd-anxiety#:~:text=Some%20people

         2.            https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10802-015-0011-1

         3.            https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.4276/030802211x13046730116407

         4.            https://elemenopkids.com/benefits-of-fidget-toys/      

Frequently Asked Questions
✅ What is the deal with fidget spinners?

Fidget spinners are fast becoming the real deal for many kids battling with anxiety, stress, ADHD and restlessness. They are increasingly being used by teachers and other professionals to assist children in classroom settings or situations whereby concentration is required for lengthy times. Fidget toys come in a range of gender and age-appropriate designs and give the extra benefit of improving dexterity, fine motor skills and co-ordination.
The price drop - alongside increased awareness of anxiety issues - caused an increase in popularity of fidget spinners, until they reached fad status. Once anything becomes a fad, there's a natural cycle of seeing them everywhere, then some people start getting all bent out of shape about seeing fidget spinners everywhere and they start complaining about them online.

✅ What causes the urge to fidget?

The urge to fidget is controlled in part by the brain’s hypothalamus. Fidgeting can be a coping mechanism for stress, a sign of boredom, a self-regulation mechanism to increase attention levels (by calming or stimulating) or even the body’s innate way of burning calories. The urge to twitch, squirm, twist, wriggle, writhe and twiddle can be initiated by boredom with severe fidgeting being brought on by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and restless leg syndrome (RLS)).

There's also a biological and evolutionary method, basically if you sit still for too long blood begins to pool, veins and arteries are cramped and clenched... So the more you fidget the less of a risk there is for developing a blood clot. Its basically a mini survival instinct.

When its cold, fidgeting and shivering causes you to keep warm through movement and keeping your blood circulating. The reason this works is the same reason fidgeting helps you from forming a blood clot.

✅ What was the fidget spinner of your generation?

Although fidget spinners were invented in 1993 by Catherine Hettinger and became a huge popular trend in 2017, many generations before were enjoying their own types of sensory tools to soothe. Baoding balls, Worry beads and Prayer beads have been used centuries before and some popular fidgeting toys of different generations throughout the 1900s included the Slinky (1940s), Silly Putty, Play-Doh, Gumby and Troll Dolls (1950s), Rubiks Cube, Stretch Armstrong (1970s), Koosh and yo-yo’s (1980s) and Buckyballs (1990s). Along with fidgeting toys, people have always discovered ways to calm anxiety with fidget habits such as twirling hair, spinning keys around on fingers and clicking a pen.

✅ Can fidget spinners help people with autism?

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that fidget spinners do indeed help those with adhd, restlessness and autism. Many autistic individuals like the simple, spinning and repetitive tasks that are able to be performed with many fidgets and they have a therapeutic, calming affect.

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