By now, most ADHD parents know of, or even own, a Fidget Spinner. Ya, they’re cool and a lot of fun. Some of them are even pretty. But I have to admit, I don’t like them at all. They’re noisy, distracting, and can even be dangerous (I read an article about a teacher who lost an eye when he was trying to retrieve one from a group of distracted students—the thing broke mid-spin and a piece flew off and hit him, irrevocably damaging the poor guy’s eye). None of these attributes are great for a kid who’s already having problems with concentration. I think they just make the situation worse. Whether your child is in school or at home learning with parents, Fidget Spinners are a no-no during learning time. Our Spinner stays out of sight and mind during school time—period.
But for my ADHD learner, fidget toys play an important part in helping him to concentrate. They even help him to stop picking his nails to the quick. They calm his anxiety and help him focus.
They are calming and are sensory tools that take a child’s brain to a place where focus is possible and learning is easier. Keep in mind that different kids need different modes of stimulation and sensory play. Not all of these suggestions will work for every kid. I’ve tried to keep the cost low so you can try a few different options. But you are the world’s foremost expert on your child and only you will know which ones might work. Here are a few things Josh and kids like him have found success with.
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9 Fantastic Fidget Toys That Don’t Spin or Distract!
Play-Doh. Who in their right mind doesn’t love a good Play-Doh session? You can mash it, squish it between your fingers, form it into a friend to play with, make spaghetti out of it, turn it into ice cream, heck you can pound it flat and scream at if you’re feeling frustrated or angry. Therapists love Play’Doh because of it’s therapeutic sensory properties like it’s smooth texture, it’s coolness against the skin, and it’s formability. Josh has spent many a happy therapy session simply banging on Play-Doh and uttering the occasional phrase to his therapist. This is one of my top picks for a hyper or anxious child.
Elmer’s Glue. When we’re watching a documentary that’s more than half an hour, Josh likes to get out the non-toxic glue, pour some on his hands, rub them together until it starts to dry, and then peel it off in big, satisfying flakes. I have him do it over a trash can obviously and it hasn’t been a messy problem since the very first time he tried it.
Velcro. This was an idea one of his school teachers had. She took self-adhesive Velcro and taped the hook side to his chair. Josh would simply reach down and rub the scratchy hooks for some satisfying stimulation. Some kids may like the soft side of the Velcro, but Josh did really well with the scratchy side.
Extra Fuzzy Pipe Cleaners. Not great for tiny kids because these can be pokey, nevertheless super soft pipe cleaners are a fun, cheap, and silent toy to roll around in the fingers and even rub on the face. Take the poke out by forming a circle with the wire and wrapping itself around the outside until you have a round toy that can be slipped onto a wrist or played with in a busy hand.
Wikki Stix. Soft, mushy, and formable, WIX is also a cheap and silent option for kids that like to play with something a bit tacky and tactile. Busy fingers can form balls, stick figures, and geometric shapes.
This adorable soybean keychain is squishable and fun. It is a silent option that may work well for some kids if it isn’t too distracting.
For the child who needs visual stimulation, this soothing Liquid Motion Bubbler is captivating and fun. I had one of these as a kid and could spend many peaceful moments just watching it burble away.
- The Tangle Jr. Original Fidget Toy is a favorite around out house. It twists and tangles in satisfying ways to sooth an anxious or overstimulated kid. Josh likes to play with these while he’s doing math.
Water Weenies. I hesitate to mention this one because it can certainly be distracting, especially to a kid who doesn’t know how to control it yet. Water Weenies are cool and smooth and when a kid learns how to control one, they are fun to jiggle in the hand. Josh keeps his in the refrigerator for a cooling burst when he begins play. I’m not crazy about them during more intense moments like lessons and when Josh needs his hands to type. But they are fun for documentary time and for after school if Josh is feeling anxious or hyper. Give it to your child after school time has ended so they can learn how to use it at a time when you don’t need them to concentrate on you or a lesson.
Fidget Cubes are not necessarily for a school setting and might nott work in a multi-learner environment where other kids could be distracted by the whizzing and clicking noises they make. However, the little gadgets have been shown to help kids with ADHD, autism, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder. They are sensorily satisfying and, despite a little noise, they can really help with concentration. They are almost as popular as fidget spinners and are just as collectable.
Ratoop Fidget Cube Relieves Stress and Anxiety Attention Toy for Work/Class/Home, Black/GreenFidget Cube Toy Camo Anxiety Attention Stress Relief for Children and Adults (Night Stars)Fidget Dodecagon –12-Side Fidget Cube Relieves Stress and Anxiety Anti depression cube for Children and Adults with ADHD ADD OCD Autism (B3 Blue sky)CuberSpeed Rainbow Ball Magic cube Fidget toy puzzle Magic Rainbow ball puzzle Fun fidgetGeneric Color Fidget Cube ToySunsine Fidget Cube Anti-Stress/Anti-anxiety and Depression for Children, Teen, Student, Adult, Active Dice Stress Reliever for Work, School, Class (Camouflage Blue)
Does your child have a favorite fidget toy we should know about? What have you and your kiddo found that really works? We want to hear from you in the comments below!