Every few years a new fad sweeps through society and becomes a huge hit with school age kids. Growing up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, my generation felt the wrath of Pokemon cards, TY Beanie Babies, and Pogs. Working with kids over the last few years, their interests shifted more towards silly bands and making their own slime. Somehow Pokemon cards even made a resurgence. One surprising trend possessed a therapeutic background though- fidget toys.
Everywhere you looked there were fidget spinners, fidget cubes, klicks, and string noodles. The big ones were the fidget spinners. During the height of their popularity, you could not walk past a checkout line without seeing fidget spinners on sale for between $5-$7. There were some that had special designs or made of metal that pushed $25-$30.
What a lot of people do not know is that fidget toys originally were developed for those with autism, anxiety disorders, and ADHD. It just so happened that the toys hit the mainstream and turned into a monstrous hit.
Even as a 29-year-old mental health counselor, I stand by the use of fidget toys for my youth and adult clients alike. I even own a few myself.
They serve as a good distraction. Sometimes our minds simply need a distraction from whatever is bugging us. This way it pulls us away from it and allows us to calm down.
Fidget toys are relatively inexpensive. I often buy fidget toys as prizes for the youth and adolescents I work with. I buy them in bulk from Amazon. Usually, I get a pack of about 20 items for $15. You can find fidget spinners, stress balls, and other small related items at convenience stores for a dollar or two. It also does not hurt your wallet as much if it breaks.
They are small and easily accessible. Most fidget toys are small enough to hide in your pocket or under a table during meeting. This way they can be taken almost anywhere.
Some fidget toys are mentally stimulating. There are several fidget toys that also double as puzzles. Several younger clients I worked with asked me to buy them Rubik’s Cubes for example. Another personal favorite is shown below.
Fidget toys engage the five senses. I am a huge fan of sensory integration. Fidget toys tap into multiple senses simultaneously. Most utilize tactile sensation by giving an individual something to squeeze or manipulate with their hands. Sometimes sound accompanies the toy through clicking or snapping noises. Others go as far as engaging one’s taste buds (i.e. chew necklaces).
By using the five senses, the fidget acts an instrument of mindfulness. It allows an individual a safe space to pull themselves away from their own thought patterns. The fidget provides a sense of awareness to these thoughts and feelings. It grounds the individual back into reasonable reality.
What kind of fidgets have you used or do you want to try out?
-The Caring Counselor