Wiggly Kids Need Fidgets to Learn
In the “olden days”, kids were expected to sit still and listen. When they didn’t, they were in big trouble. Nowadays, teachers and parents understand that kids need to move in order to learn. Children who have special needs may have particular difficulty listening or maintaining attention to topic for what educators consider “appropriate” periods of time. Thankfully, fidgets have become more and more commonplace in the classroom. Teachers have changed their classroom routines to include movement breaks and “brain breaks” so kids can get their “wiggles out”. But when it’s time to sit and listen, nothing beats a fidget for keeping busy hands still.
Simple Fidgets from the Dollar $tore
Teachers (and O.T.’s) spend a ton of their own money every year to make sure their kids have everything they need to learn. As one of those “teachers” AND a total Bargain-Hunter, I spend a lot of time at the Dollar store. I’m teaching a class for teachers in a few days about sensory processing and I want to drive home the importance of letting kids fidget. So I decided to start the class by giving each teacher (aka student in my class) a fidget to play with during the lecture part of my class. I decided to share my favorite budget fidgets on my blog to help other teachers as well as all the parents of those wiggly kids.
Fidgets keep wiggly hands busy. So the kids aren’t looking at you when you talk, Who cares!? They know what you look like. And very often, they can still answer your question. So why not give them something to fidget with?
Ok, so here goes: Miss Jaime, O.T.’s Top Ten Dollar $tore Fidgets
1) Bubble Wrap– The best fidgets are silent, but there is really something so satisfying about the “POP” of bubble wrap. It also works on the “pincer” grip that OT’s are always looking for. It works on hand strength, too. A word of caution, kids with weak hand strength have difficulty popping the bubbles. So they tend to “sneak” a pop by using their nails to cut the bubble. Not on my watch – oh no you don’t. Pads of the fingers only, kiddies!
2) Car Wash Mitt – this is a weird one, but if you look past the name on the label- it’s a perfect simple fidget. the soft material just begs for fingers to play and rub and the little nubs are the perfect size for little hands. If you wanted to take it a step further, you could open it and put some rice or beans in there. Then it’s not only tactile, but a weighted fidget, too.
3) Microfiber Hand Towels – the ones I found at the Dollar Tree by me (in the Baby section) have these cute little character faces on the ends. Just one could be a nice quiet fidget. Or you could sew two together and make a weighted lap pad.
These little towels are soft with a little face for fingers to play with.
4) Cold Compresses – Again, in the baby section. Most people wouldn’t think of these as a fidget, but why not? They are filled with little gel balls that are fun to squish around, and they are Quiet!
These are meant for bumps and bruises, but why not as a fidget? Both squishy and quiet, they make a perfect fidget.
5) Pop beads– in the Kiddie toy or “goody bag” section – there are usually pop beads available. Now, I can’t pretend that Dollar Store Pop beads are as good as really good pop beads from a therapy catalog. BUT – sometimes budget pop-beads do the job. They are quiet. Plus, they work on eye-hand coordination and bilateral coordination.
Popbeads are great for keeping two hands busy.
6) Stretchy animals – Again – in the toy section or maybe the goody bag section, there are usually lots of yucky stretchy worms, spiders, frogs, etc. They tend to be seasonal. But they are always there. They are quiet and small enough to fit in a pocket for silent fidgeting.
Stretchy bugs change every season, but they are always at the dollar store!
7) Silly Putty – Silly putty is almost always available at the dollar store and it’s a great simple fidget. It’s quiet and so satisfying to stretch and roll in between fingers. It fits in the little “egg” to keep it nice and clean in the child’s supply box.
8) Loofah – My favorite part about being an OT is that I am able to look at things further than seeing what they are usually used for. Everyone knows a loofah is great in the tub, but why not in the classroom? They are quiet, they are fun to fiddle with. Sometimes they have little animal heads on them, which makes it seem more like a toy and less like a hygiene tool. But either way, they are great for busy fingers.
9) Tiny Koosh balls – I like these because they fit right in a little palm or a little pocket. They are quiet, and they are usually colorful. The tiny spikes feel good when you roll them in your hand or against a desk. My Dollar Store usually has them in the goody bag section. They usually come ten in a bag, so ten fidgets for a dollar, which makes a budget diva like myself very happy!
10) Large Squishy balls – these are usually in the toy section. They come in fun loud colors and are sooo fun to squish, stretch, and smash. I do like these fidgets, but I find that they are a little more distracting than the little ones. They don’t fit in a pocket, either.
A lot of teachers who aren’t used to giving out or allowing fidgets will say to me “how do I explain to the other kids that only Johnny is allowed to have this toy”? I like to tell kids that every student is different and they all need different tools to learn. One child might need a special cushion seat and another might need special crayons. Everyone is different and just because one child has something doesn’t mean you all need it. I love the book “Arnie and his School Tools” for this reason. It basically explains this to the kids in a cute story about Arnie, a very fidgety kid!
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