What are fidget tools and why are they important for kids?

By Christine Hemelians, MSOT, OTR/L

We all fidget in some way shape or form. For example, shaking our legs, twirling our hair, biting our nails, chewing on pen caps, or tapping fingers on the table. While this may be thought of as distracting, these actions are used as a form of self-regulation, and if directed properly, may sharpen a person’s focus and increase learning. Fidget tools and toys are also a form of self-regulation to help with calming, attention, and focus. These items can also be used to provide the ‘just right’ amount of sensory input required to calm a person’s nervous system. Fidgets are more commonly used in the classroom setting to enhance a child’s attention and learning. It works to provide sensory input to tactile seekers while concentrating in class. There are many different types of fidget tools from stress balls, or putty, to spinners. Some tools can provide auditory (sound), visual (sight), and olfactory (sense of smell) input, along with tactile (touch) input, to be able to provide the level of arousal required to enhance calming, attention, and focus. However, rather than strictly use these tools in the classroom setting, they can also be used in other settings to assist with regulation. For example, children may use these types of fidget tools in a calm down space such as a waiting room, public transport, or a medical appointment.

Below are some examples of fidget tools that can be used to provide necessary input required. It is best to consult with an occupational therapist for information regarding a fidget tool’s use and the duration used, as it differs for each individual child.

Fidget tools for hands:

  • Putty
  • Stress ball
  • Tactile balls
  • Rolyan Ultigrip finger exercisers
  • Digi-Block hand exerciser
  • THERABAND Hand Xtrainer
  • Fidget spinners
  • Crazy coiler keychain fidgets
  • Fiddlelinks fidgeter
  • Finger Springs
  • Fleece bags
  • Finger poppers
  • Squishy gel bead fidget squares

Fidget tools for feet:

  • Foot/ resistance bands
  • Fidgeting foot roller
  • Foot steppers
  • Chair bouncy bands
  • Donut Foot Figit
  • Pedal exerciser

Fidget tools for wiggling:

  • Exercise/ peanut balls
  • Air disc/ stability disc
  • Weighted lap pad


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