In the school where I work, fidget toys for the classroom are common place and it is still a battle with teachers as to why they need it and how they are supposed to use it without it being a distraction themselves and others.
Equality vs Equity
‘It’s not fair!’ has been the usual response when a child is given anything more than their peers. Yet it is usually from the adults that I hear this response than from the children themselves. I have found that most children can see when their fellow classmates are struggling and can easily be reasoned with as to why they may need a little extra help – especially if it means their own learning will not be as disrupted.
We are hopefully creating an empathetic way of understanding one another and a realisation that other people require some help to level the playing field as it were. We are all born into various circumstances which may or may not provide the environment that would promote thriving. So there is a need to look at things holistically, and respond accordingly.
What do fidget toys actually do?
Notice the anxious child who literally chews holes on the cuff of his or her jumper. I would first offer them and apple as the crunching and sucking of juice helps to regulate the senses but the apple does not last long. So having something such as chewelry which can hang around the neck or less obviously a band around the wrist.
A simple object like an elastic hairband on the wrist that can be pinged against the skin will help alleviate the need to self harm. When feelings are so overwhelming and there needs to be an outlet for this that is quiet – children start to hurt the skin which can lead onto more serious ways of self-harming. Catching the signs early and giving coping strategies is so important.
For the child who struggles to regulate their emotions and are prone to angry outbursts, when the squeeze one of my mesh balls with slime in it, their focus immediately changes and I can see their shoulders drop as the tension is moved from their bodies, to their hand and into the ball. They can even do a breathing technique along with the squeezing.
Those who struggle with concentration and being still do need movement of some kind as this regulates the brain. Wobble cushions are a helpful, inconspicuous tool but I think they need more. If it was up to me they would have access to exercise balls to sit on – the bouncing and balancing are what keeps the mind focused and the body regulated.
It is not a one size fits all
It goes without saying, each individual will require different kinds of help and that is where we start. We look at the child’s lived in experiences from conception – very important – to current day. Considering all external factors before determining what this child needs to not only cope with day to day requirements but to most importantly to enjoy being a part of their peer group, to feel successful in their learning and to be prized for the individuals they are. Fidget toys are a small part of this and one we can easily work with.