Benefits of Fidget Toys
Carmen Knight, M.A.T. Early Childhood and Special Education
We've all seen them. Most of us have used them. Fun little hand-held toys used to relieve anxiety, calm nerves, or just pass time. Items like poppers, spinners and stress balls are popular fidget tools being used by people all ages. On a recent flight, I sat near a passenger that was using a popper to reduce their anxiety for the upcoming flight. I thought about my little patients and how similar items have helped them in so many ways. Yes, fidget toys can distract, calm, and even help with attention and focus. But therapists can use these handy tools to help their patients reach other developmental goals as well.
Children are feeling the emotional stress of the world today, especially with all the changes that have come from the pandemic. As Early Interventionists and Therapists, it is our responsibility to provide our patients with tools that will help them in any stressful situation they face. In my work with children, I have encountered early childhood to high school students that use fidget toys to help assist their sensory processing. SmileMakers has a variety of items that can be used almost anywhere for sensory stimulation. A popular one that I love to share with children is the Fidget Popper.
This handy toy is great to relieve stress or anxiety in the classroom (they easily attach to a backpack or tuck in a bag), at a doctor's visit, and a variety of other social situations. They are used by so many people of all ages that they don't make children with sensory or social-emotional needs feel isolated but instead help them feel like part of the crowd.
Fidget toys are amazing tools for therapists because they can be personalized for each child's individual needs. They can be used by children to self-regulate their sensory input needs. Using poppers, your patients decide the amount of sensory input they need and adjust by pressing the dots as hard or soft as necessary to receive the sensory stimulation that they need to relax. Oftentimes, children are unable to verbalize what is causing their sensory needs or anxiety so having this small, portable item available will give them a tool to self-regulate. This is especially true for autistic or special needs patients. Learning how to self-regulate is a tool that will benefit children for life.
- Improve fine motor skills – Spinning, squeezing, manipulating are all ways to help patients gain hand strength so that they can complete everyday activities like eating, getting dressed, writing, etc.
- Help children with learning disabilities – Research shows that children with attention disorders or other learning issues concentrate better when they move. Encouraging these children to use fidget toys keeps hands busy while allowing their brain to focus on learning.
- Improve listening and communication skills – Use fidget toys to work on your patient's communication goals. Instruct your patient to perform a certain task with the toy, and see if they follow the directions. Ask your patient to describe to you what they are doing with the toy. Your patient should be less stressed or anxious and more focused on communicating with you.
SmileMakers carries a wide variety of fidget toys so be sure to check them out to see what would be most beneficial for your patients.