Do you have a fidgeter in your homeschool? They are impulsive, wiggly, distractible, and completely adorable when they sit in the chair upside down during a lesson. While you may be tempted to tell your wiggler to sit still (right side up) and listen – resist! Studies have shown that fidgeting often facilitates learning. The key is to make sure fidgeting has a positive impact rather than a negative one on your student’s learning experience.
My son is a fidgeter, even as a now adult. To insure that my son’s fidgets were productive when he was younger, I created a “fidget box”. My fidget box contained a variety of items that allowed him to move without getting carried away in the activity. Our box included items such as:
- Squish balls
- Colored Pencils
- Geometric Design Coloring Books
- Manipulative Puzzles, such as Tangle®
- Stretch Toys
- Textured Toys
- Rubber Bands
- Ear Plugs
I used a clear plastic shoebox to store everything, but a basket or other easily accessible container will work equally well. You may want to adjust the items according to the needs and preferences of your student. For example, gum or sour candies and scented lotions appeal to sensory needs other than touch and movement.
You can find specialty stores online for items specifically for fidgeters, but I was always on the lookout for new items for our fidget box when on shopping errands. Dollar stores are perfect sources for inexpensive sensory toys. Remember to look at items in a new sensory light; you may find a great tool in something intended for another use. I once found a potholder made of silicone with a honeycomb design in a kitchen supply store. My sensory seekers could stretch, roll, stick their fingers in, or run their hand across it. My kids fought over who had rights to our new…potholder! It eventually ripped in half from use, dissolving any future disputes.
Be sure to look for items that keep hands busy but do not engage the mind too much. My son used to like to fiddle with Lego pieces, but I found more often than not he became completely engaged in an imaginary battle between his creations. For the same reason, I selected books of geometric designs rather than pictures to color.
A word of warning on putty items – spend the extra money on therapy putty, which is a little more firm and holds up longer than play putty. Silly Putty is too stretchy and sticky and will ultimately wind up in your carpet. Trust me. I speak from experience.
I tried not to limit our fidget tools to just a box either. Invest in swivel chairs (just make sure they are greased so they do not squeak). Large exercise balls make great chairs when extra movement is needed and can be used to roll back and forth on without being disruptive to other listeners during read alouds or group learning. Another great item for movement while seated is a cushioned disc like the one pictured below.
The disc can be placed on the seat of a chair or at the feet. The textured side is great to move feet over. If more movement than the disc can provide is needed, try placing a ball to roll around with the feet instead. Small trampolines, stretch bands, and balance boards are all tools we had in our school room at one time or another to help make wiggles effective. Browse sporting goods stores for items that allow for quiet movement in a small space.
Do you have a fidget box or other items in your schoolroom that help your students focus and learn? What are some favorite items in your box?
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