This week parents, students and teachers will be fidgeting a lot! We have never faced such a fraught start to the academic year and fidgeting is a way that we can self- soothe.

It can also be extremely irritating!

Give a Fidget

When children come to us at Hummingbird Learning Centre, a parent joins the session too.  Thinking that it will annoy me, often the parent will interject when their child fidgets. But fidgeting doesn’t bother me. I will often give a child something to fidget with as I realise that it is simply fulfilling a physical need and not a sign of disinterest.  

I know that fidgeting helps many children to focus, so, years ago, I made a conscious decision to change my reaction to it.  I cannot control how any child fidgets, but I can control how I react to those actions.  By choosing to see a fidget as a positive, it no longer bothers me.  When it no longer bothers me, the kids can only use it to help themselves get focused rather than attempt to distract me with it. However, some fidgets, like clicking a pen or tapping a pencil on a desk will try the patience of a saint and so we need to replace these with more acceptable options.

Fun Fidgeting Ideas

So here are 3 useful fidgets to use in school and are easy to keep sanitised:

  1. Pipe Cleaners:  I love the feel of them. They can be bent into all kinds of shapes and are silent! As they are inexpensive, they are disposable but can be sprayed with disinfectant daily and reused. The wire can then be recycled.
  2. Velcro:  Placing some sticky-backed Velcro onto a ruler will give the child something to touch.  Use both the hook side & the soft side – the contrast will make it a better fidget. Again, a spray of sanitizer will keep it safe to use.
  3. Worry Stone: You can buy these in health food shops or indeed lots of craft shops have them too. This year on my staycation I saw quite a few Connemara marble ones.  Why not find a little pebble when out for a walk or in the garden? It makes it more personal.  Take care to ensure that it is a little light pebble to avoid injury if it was thrown. As it is a hard surface, a worry stone is easy to sanitise daily. Find a stone has both smooth and rough elements as this increases the sensory experience.

When using a fidget, the student needs to be discrete and not draw attention to themselves. Other children ‘telling tales’ or slagging in the yard afterwards can be counterproductive. I recommend discussing the use of a fidget with the teacher in advance and agreeing boundaries.  The fidget toy fad a few years ago did nothing to endear teachers to fidgets!

Real Issue

Fidgeting is a real issue. It is not bad behaviour, rather a strong indicator that children are not getting enough movement throughout the day. Ideally, they would be playing outside a lot more but that can be difficult in the modern world. Coronavirus is placing additional strains on us all so having an easy release valve through fidgeting will benefit not just the fidgeting student, but by reducing their stress, reduce interruption in the classroom – thus benefiting all their classmates and the teacher too. So, if your child is a fidget, or is anxious returning to school get them a fidget and explain to the teacher that fidgeting will help them to focus.

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