Teacher Tuesday: The Fidget Guide

Life / Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

Hi Friends:)

I skipped over my “this week in workouts” post because I spent half of last week battling a nasty virus and getting as much rest as my body requested. Which was a whole lot. Like… I watched the entire first season of “Riverdale,” re-watched the last three episodes of “Stranger Things,” and still had time for “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.”

Anywho, my failing immune system isn’t today’s topic: the fidget fad is!

Last year, all of my (high-school-aged) students started staring at these things all day.

I literally had kids failing exams in the weeks after acquiring spinners.

You see, there are students with actual attentional challenges who really benefit from some movement and sensory stimulation throughout the school day. The problem is, spinners provide very little of either of those things, and can quickly become totally distracting. Sure, if you use it correctly and just spin it with one hand without ever looking down at the shiny, spinning object in your hand, I guess it could work.

But once videos like this got 11 MILLION views, I had kids spinning spinners on their faces and getting them trapped in other kid’s hair… That was in my 9th grade class. I cannot imagine what the 4th grade teachers of America went through during that phase of history.

I teach my students who benefit from extra movement and sensory input (aka fidgets) three golden rules.

  1.  Stay Focused: Your fidget should never distract you from your work. Eyes on your work or you’re showing me you cannot handle a fidget.
  2. Keep Working: You should be able to work a fidget in one hand while writing with the other.
  3. HOLD IT: Don’t bounce it, toss it, trade it, roll it, or demolish it. It gets held or squished, NOTHING ELSE.

Once my students have heard and agreed to these rules, I bring out my fidget stash!

  • Play Dough: You can get 6 mini canisters of play dough for one dollar in the party favors section of Dollar Tree. It works wonders for kiddos who need something to squish!
  • Stress Balls: All labeled with my name, because I have found that if kids are constantly reminded that it’s not theirs, they’re less likely to a) throw it at someone or b) bring it to the bathroom with them.
  • Homemade Kinetic Sand: This is a little messy, but it’s great sometimes. Kids should keep it int he case, and keep the case on their desk beside their work, that way they can just pick at it as they’re thinking.
  • Beans and Beads Sorting Bin: I stole this idea from and OT I worked with at camp over the summer. This one isn’t so much a fidget as it is a de-stressing tool. I know I love sorting things; it makes me feel regulated. And I realized that many of my students feel the same. So I mixed some dry beans with some old buttons and beads in a piece of segmented dollar-store tupperware and voila! A calming, sensory-stimulating sorting bin!
  • Pin Plate: This is one of those things with a sheet of clear plastic on the other side so you can see the imprint of your hand in it when you touch the pink plastic pins. I grabbed it at the thrift store and it’s an awesome fidget for kids that are independent reading.
  • Stability Ball (not pictured): I keep a stability ball that was gifted to me from a friend in my classroom for kids to sit on. They freaking love it and I want to get a few more!
  • BREAKS: So, this isn’t a physical fidget- it’s just common sense. If a kid can’t hold still for more than a few minutes, don’t make them sit still all through class! I make it clear to students that they can take a little walk if they’re restless, as long as they “Use Breaks Responsibly;” this means not taking more than 3-5 minutes, not disrupting others when they head out, and making sure to return ready to work!

I have an Amazon wishlist full of other amazing fidgety fidgets I’d love to add to my collection, but for now this is the squad!

Now, for all you parents, aunts, big siblings and grandparents out there… I implore you: stop buying kids spinners. Stop letting them bring slime to school. Stop letting them let fads dictate their attention spans. Because if there’s one super-negative that came from the fidget spinner fad, it’s that for the first time in my career, I had teenagers telling me they couldn’t do work without a toy in their hand.

Like I said, some kids find some fidgets very therapeutic. I regularly write fidgets into IEP’s as an accommodation, and provide appropriate fidgets as need be.

But not ALL kids need fidgets, and having a 16-year-old young man with no attentional or sensory issues act like he’s a baby whose pacifier you just stole when you tell him to put his spinner toy away during his practice AP Exam… That’s bananas. 

All young people should learn to know themselves, know their limits, and know when to ask for support. They should not learn to look at their peer’s new toy and decide that they need it to be academically successful.

Now You Tell Me…

  • What helps you focus?
  • Do you believe in fidgets? 
  • Any creative fidget ideas?!? Planning to add to my collection really soon! 

3 Replies to “Teacher Tuesday: The Fidget Guide”

  1. I love this post so much! As a P.E. teacher there is absolutely no reason for fidget spinners. We are actively using our hands throughout the class, so I told my kids I don’t want to see them. Period. After a few warnings, I actually kicked one under the bleachers on purpose and told child it was a poor use of his parent’s money to have it lost that way. Probably not my shiniest moment, but it spread fast and none have been spotted since!

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