Fidgets: They Are Not Just Toys


By Lisa Glahn, MSW, LSW, Youth First, Inc.

From time to time, we all have the need to burn off energy; some more than others. Personally, I tend to click my pens, bounce my legs, and tap my feet. Sometimes I am not even aware that I am fidgeting until someone calls my attention to it. This can be distracting to my coworkers in the room but helps me focus and concentrate. In a school setting these tendencies can be particularly distracting for a student’s classmates.

Recently while working with a student, I suggested a fidget to help him regulate his emotions. He declined because he didn’t want a toy. While some of these fidgets look like toys, they are actually therapeutic devices. Fidgets are handheld devices that help with self-regulation and focus and allow people to better cope with feelings of boredom, anxiety, and agitation. Students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may find that fidgets can distract them from the symptoms of their condition.

Fidgets come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They can be popped, stretched, squeezed, spun, snapped, etc. Teens may prefer fidgets that are discreet, small enough to be held in one hand or in the student’s pocket. They even make stainless steel options for teens who don’t want a childish looking fidget. I have students who wear fidget jewelry such as bracelets, rings, and necklaces with a variety of sensory inputs that look very stylish and can be made in metals that don’t turn the skin green.

There are so many different fidget devices, and you will want to try different types. You don’t have to spend a lot of money either. You can order from Amazon or even find them at Dollar Tree. Just keep in mind that it needs to be therapeutic for your child and not negatively affect their attention. 

In addition, the devices must not be disruptive to the classroom or to fellow classmates. I have found mixed reviews in the research on fidgets, but I think that if you find something that works for your child, talk to the teacher to see if they will allow it in the classroom.  

My students have named me the “Fidget Master,” and I am quite proud of that title. As a school social worker for Youth First, I use a variety of these devices with students in my sessions with them. I am always on the lookout for the newest and the latest versions and rotate them so the students won’t get bored. I play with a fidget in sessions, too. Using the fidgets alongside the student shows them it’s a safe place to try them and that adults use them too.