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May 17, 2017

The What, How, and Why of Fidgets

By Meghan Everette
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    If you’ve been in an elementary school lately, or even the local toy store, you might have noticed the spinner trend. Spinners are one type of fidget that have gained popularity among students, though many schools are banning them. What is a fidget? Why would you give a student a “toy” in class? And how can you make your own inexpensively? Read on!

    The Why Behind Fidgets

    Fidgets can cover a wide range of objects meant to support students in the classroom. Nearly six million students in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to “Inside ADHD.” And Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on the Teaching Profession states that classroom behavior problems are on the rise. Couple this with the popularity of extended learning times and what you have is a whole lot of students looking for a way to release energy. It’s hard to fault kids — do you doodle or check your phone during meetings while still listening? Sure. But we expect kids to sit still and pay attention while many need a way to release this energy in order to be successful. Enter the fidget.

    Many times fidgets are only allowed if students have an IEP or 504 plan, yet other teachers have no problem letting students use tools to stay focused. One parent told me their child uses a fidget cube to help feelings of being overwhelmed so she doesn’t freeze up. “The tactile nature of the cube really helps her process and calm down,” the parent explained. The problem for educators comes when fidgets turn solely into playthings. Such is the case with the popular spinner fidget, which is being banned from schools left and right. A few fidgets make clicking noises, adding to the issue. Alabama educator Autumn Zellner said, “The buttons click and distract other students. If it was silent, it wouldn’t bother me.”

    Understood, a website powered by 15 non-profits aimed at educating and supporting parents of children with attention issues, offers a helpful post about teaching students to be mindful when using fidgets.

     

    What Is A Fidget?

    Fidgets come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The Fidget Cube started as a Kickstarter campaign that has earned over six million dollars in startup funds. Each side features a different way to glide, roll, flip or spin. Klicks are another product that snap and move while students play. While usually plastic, my sons own a wooden version.

     

    Currently, the spinner fidget has taken off. It comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, but the basics are a ball-bearing, three-pronged spinner that continually spins as the student holds it. A local trip to my toy store found spinners starting at 10 dollars and including higher-priced options, such as light up spinners and removable parts for changing the color.

     

    While these two types of fidgets are wildly popular among students, there are many other fidgets that can serve the same tactile purpose while not breaking the bank or driving you mad. Yoga ball seating and magical cushions, little air pads with spiked nubs, can help students who need to rock or move in their chair. Bouncy Bands are large rubber bands that stretch near the floor of a desk so students can bounce their feet silently. Amanda Zullo, a New York state educator, said that her district advocated for these alternative seating options for students and it helped educators willing to embrace new options.

     

    Educator Tabitha Pacheco of Utah suggests putting Velcro under desks for students to rub their fingers over. Another silent option is the marble bag; made of netting, a marble can slide silently inside the tube. My sons are enamored of the many variations of Crazy Aarons’ Thinking Putty lately. You may already have Wikki Sticks, wax coated threads, in your classroom. These can serve as a silent fidget as well. Some other commonly found items that might serve as classroom fidgets include:

    ·      Bracelets

    ·      Floam

    ·      Gum

    ·      Key chains

    ·      Kinetic sand

    ·      Koosh balls

     

    ·      Pipe cleaners

    ·      Play-doh

    ·      Pop beads

    ·      Putty

    ·      Stress balls

     

    Make Your Own

    Friend and educator Alina Davis shared a spinner her son Zane printed on their at-home 3D printer. If you aren’t quite as crafty as Zane, you can still make your own fidgets at home. LEGO has a how-to build a spinner and a fidget cube with LEGO bricks you already own. Creating oobleck or slime and filling a balloon can make a great stress ball. Be sure to double-balloon your creation to avoid leaks. My own son tried this one and his tip is to put the slime into a plastic bottle. Put a balloon around the mouth of the bottle and squeeze the slime in, letting as little air as possible enter.

    Where do you stand on the great fidget debate? Do they help or hinder learning in your classroom? What fidgets do work for your students and do you use any other easy and inexpensive options?

    If you’ve been in an elementary school lately, or even the local toy store, you might have noticed the spinner trend. Spinners are one type of fidget that have gained popularity among students, though many schools are banning them. What is a fidget? Why would you give a student a “toy” in class? And how can you make your own inexpensively? Read on!

    The Why Behind Fidgets

    Fidgets can cover a wide range of objects meant to support students in the classroom. Nearly six million students in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to “Inside ADHD.” And Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on the Teaching Profession states that classroom behavior problems are on the rise. Couple this with the popularity of extended learning times and what you have is a whole lot of students looking for a way to release energy. It’s hard to fault kids — do you doodle or check your phone during meetings while still listening? Sure. But we expect kids to sit still and pay attention while many need a way to release this energy in order to be successful. Enter the fidget.

    Many times fidgets are only allowed if students have an IEP or 504 plan, yet other teachers have no problem letting students use tools to stay focused. One parent told me their child uses a fidget cube to help feelings of being overwhelmed so she doesn’t freeze up. “The tactile nature of the cube really helps her process and calm down,” the parent explained. The problem for educators comes when fidgets turn solely into playthings. Such is the case with the popular spinner fidget, which is being banned from schools left and right. A few fidgets make clicking noises, adding to the issue. Alabama educator Autumn Zellner said, “The buttons click and distract other students. If it was silent, it wouldn’t bother me.”

    Understood, a website powered by 15 non-profits aimed at educating and supporting parents of children with attention issues, offers a helpful post about teaching students to be mindful when using fidgets.

     

    What Is A Fidget?

    Fidgets come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The Fidget Cube started as a Kickstarter campaign that has earned over six million dollars in startup funds. Each side features a different way to glide, roll, flip or spin. Klicks are another product that snap and move while students play. While usually plastic, my sons own a wooden version.

     

    Currently, the spinner fidget has taken off. It comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, but the basics are a ball-bearing, three-pronged spinner that continually spins as the student holds it. A local trip to my toy store found spinners starting at 10 dollars and including higher-priced options, such as light up spinners and removable parts for changing the color.

     

    While these two types of fidgets are wildly popular among students, there are many other fidgets that can serve the same tactile purpose while not breaking the bank or driving you mad. Yoga ball seating and magical cushions, little air pads with spiked nubs, can help students who need to rock or move in their chair. Bouncy Bands are large rubber bands that stretch near the floor of a desk so students can bounce their feet silently. Amanda Zullo, a New York state educator, said that her district advocated for these alternative seating options for students and it helped educators willing to embrace new options.

     

    Educator Tabitha Pacheco of Utah suggests putting Velcro under desks for students to rub their fingers over. Another silent option is the marble bag; made of netting, a marble can slide silently inside the tube. My sons are enamored of the many variations of Crazy Aarons’ Thinking Putty lately. You may already have Wikki Sticks, wax coated threads, in your classroom. These can serve as a silent fidget as well. Some other commonly found items that might serve as classroom fidgets include:

    ·      Bracelets

    ·      Floam

    ·      Gum

    ·      Key chains

    ·      Kinetic sand

    ·      Koosh balls

     

    ·      Pipe cleaners

    ·      Play-doh

    ·      Pop beads

    ·      Putty

    ·      Stress balls

     

    Make Your Own

    Friend and educator Alina Davis shared a spinner her son Zane printed on their at-home 3D printer. If you aren’t quite as crafty as Zane, you can still make your own fidgets at home. LEGO has a how-to build a spinner and a fidget cube with LEGO bricks you already own. Creating oobleck or slime and filling a balloon can make a great stress ball. Be sure to double-balloon your creation to avoid leaks. My own son tried this one and his tip is to put the slime into a plastic bottle. Put a balloon around the mouth of the bottle and squeeze the slime in, letting as little air as possible enter.

    Where do you stand on the great fidget debate? Do they help or hinder learning in your classroom? What fidgets do work for your students and do you use any other easy and inexpensive options?

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