Pop Its and Fidget Spinners have become all the rage recently, but they come with a hefty price tag. In this post, I discuss some homemade options for DIY fidget toys that have just as much success as those spendy fidgets.
What is a Fidget Toy?
A fidget toy is an item (not necessarily a “toy”) that is helpful for people who need constant movement or sensory input. Fidget toys can be helpful for a variety of needs. Here are the most common benefits of fidget toys:
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Increase focus
- Enhance dexterity/ coordination
- Provide a quiet distraction during class or meetings
Foster children experience higher rates of anxiety and stress. Foster children with special needs also greatly benefit from having a fidget item for the above reasons.
It’s no secret that children in foster care have to attend many meetings of various adults in their lives. Instead of handing them your phone or an iPad to keep them occupied, next time try handing them one of these fidgets!
Types of Fidget Toys
There are so many different types of fidget toys and items! From a “sensory wall” to a pencil grip- the range is vast.
Fidget Toys for Calming
Some fidget items are intended to calm the person using the toy. These could be items like a keychain fidget, fuzzy socks or pipe cleaners, or even Wikki Stix.
To make the keychain DIY fidget toy, you will need some old keychains, four beads (preferably of different colors) and hot glue. Here’s a simple video showing how to make the keychain DIY fidget toys.
Fidget Toys for Focus
DIY fidget toys that increase focus include infinity cubes, silly putty or bouncy balls. Even though these items might help your child focus, they can be a distraction in class. Keeping that in mind is important when deciding where and when it’s appropriate to use a specific fidget item.
At the bottom of this post is a step-by-step guide on how to make a DIY fidget toy that helps with maintaining focus and keeping calm.
Fidget Toys for Biting & Chewing
We all know the people that chew on their pencil, fingers, or even sometimes a shirt sleeve. With “Chewlery” (or something similar), those days are long gone.
There are hundreds of different options for chewable necklaces, wristbands, and rings. Two that I particularly like are the Tilcare Chew Chew Pencil necklaces and the Juniorbeads Skinny Charles bracelet. I like these two options because they look like something my middle and high schoolers would wear, without it being noticeable that it is a fidget.
Fidget Toys for Touching
This is a BIG deal in middle school. Kids are constantly moving and needing something to do with their hands, feet and the rest of their bodies.
Our school Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) placed those stretchy exercise bands (yes, that is the technical term!) around some of the chairs in her office and kids kick push them with their feet while still remaining engaged in the lesson.
As for me, I tried out a homemade fidget I saw on a friend’s Facebook page. You can find the how-to at the bottom of this page.
I went through some trial and error because my middle schoolers were a little rough with the cheap plastic bags I bought. However, I’ve finally found a way to make these homemade fidgets without the mess of dish soap everywhere.
Scroll to the bottom of this page to see how to make it yourself!
The Best Fidget Toys
To figure out the best fidget item for your audience (your own child, your classroom…etc.), you have to “read the room”. For example, a fellow school social worker recommended I stay away from kinetic sand, as her high schoolers were making “inappropriate” sculptures out of the sand. You also may want to stay away from items like blocks or other heavier items that can be thrown and cause injury if you are in a school setting.
Different fidget items are appropriate and necessary for different environments, and some work great for some kids but not so much for other children. Age and gender can also impact how a certain item is received.
You will also want to take into account a child’s trauma history as well as any sensory needs. Fidget toys come in a lot of different shapes/ textures, and can sometimes trigger certain memories or experiences a child may have had.
Hopefully this post helped to highlight some of the key functions of various fidget items. Leave a comment if you have any great DIY fidget toys you use in your classroom or home!
Ultimately, the most important advice I can give you is: think creatively! Even if it’s not marketed or intended for a fidget toy, there are lots of household items that make great fidgets. I bought a set of erasers from Cost Plus World Market and the kids at my middle school (and the staff…) love to fidget with them!
The EASIEST DIY Fidget Toy for Classrooms or Home
Time needed: 5 minutes.
Easy DIY Fidget Toy
- Gather the items
For this fidget, you will need a plastic Ziploc bag. It is important that it closes completely. You will also need trinkets or charms (like for crocs) and dish soap
- Add dish soap to Ziploc bag
Add some dish soap to fill a little more than 1/4 of the bag.
- Add the trinkets
Add several trinket items or charms. For my bags I made I themed each bag with the different items. I also included some plastic beads to change up the texture and size.
- Seal the bag tightly
Seal the Ziploc and then add duct tape so that half the duct tape is on the bag and secure the other half to a table, clipboard or other item. A small mirror might work well here to add another sensory effect. If you simply close the duct tape, you run the risk of dish soap leaking out!