When you hear the term “fidget toys,” images of fidget spinners may come to mind. If you were a parent, a teacher, or someone who knows a kid, you would have probably seen these little things that make you wonder, “What is that thing for?” But it wasn’t just popular for kids – apparently, all ages of the world population have jumped on the fidget spinner bandwagon. It was a big hit in 2017, and in May, 19 out of 20 best-selling toys on Amazon include fidget spinners and fidget cubes.
Was it just hype, or are its claims true? Apparently, fidget toys like fidget spinners offer legitimate benefits to curb restlessness, help with reducing stress and anxiety, and increase focus and attention.
In this article, learn about the benefits of fidget and sensory toys.
Benefits of Fidget Toys
You may not understand how it works, but fidget toys can be very helpful for people who use them. It benefits individuals who need to release tension, reduce stress, or alleviate anxiety. They distract from overwhelming feelings or situations and help to redirect energy towards something calming and soothing. Here are some ways it can help:
1. It improves focus and attention
Fidget toys can help channel nervous energy and provide sensory stimulation, which can help individuals stay focused and attentive. They provide a physical outlet for restlessness, which can help reduce distractions caused by the need to move around. This can be especially helpful for individuals with ADHD or other attention disorders who may have difficulty sitting still for long periods of time. By occupying the hands and allowing for movement, fidget toys can help increase the person’s ability to focus on the task at hand.
2. It helps reduce stress and anxiety
When a person is anxious or stressed, their body can enter a “fight or flight” response, making it difficult to focus on anything else. Fidget toys can help reduce stress and anxiety by providing a calming, repetitive activity that can help regulate breathing and promote relaxation. The repetitive motions of using fidget toys can be soothing and help individuals manage their emotions and feelings. This can help improve focus and attention by reducing the impact of stress and anxiety on the body and mind.
3. It helps enhance fine motor skills
Some fidget toys, such as putty or small objects to manipulate, can help develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Many fidget toys require intricate movements involving fingers and hands, such as twisting, squeezing, and pinching. These actions help to develop hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and finger strength. It can help build up the muscles in the hands and fingers, making it easier for individuals to perform fine motor tasks in general.
4. It provides a sensory processing experience
You can find fidget toys in every shape, texture, size, or material, providing a unique tactile experience that can help those who experience difficulty in sensory processing. These toys can help improve the brain’s ability to receive and interpret sensory information from the environment. By providing different textures, shapes, and sensations, fidget toys can help stimulate the senses and improve sensory processing. This may lead to increased focus and attention as the brain processes and filters out irrelevant sensory information more efficiently.
5. It gives you something to do when you’re bored
You can get restless while waiting in line, waiting for someone, or being in any boring situation. And when you’re bored, you may feel unmotivated and disengaged from your environment. Fidget toys can help to provide a source of stimulation and engagement, allowing you to focus their attention and redirect their energy. By keeping the hands and fingers engaged in a repetitive and soothing motion, fidget toys can provide a sense of satisfaction and satisfaction that can help alleviate feelings of boredom.
6. It allows you to get creative
Fidget toys can stimulate the brain and promote creative thinking. Tangle toys, for example, can be used to create various shapes and patterns, while other toys may encourage imaginative play. Also, pop-it toys allow you to pop bubbles to create patterns.
Examples of Fidget and Sensory Toys and their Benefits
There are many fidget and sensory toys in the market to choose from, and here are some of the most popular ones:
1. Fidget spinners
Fidget spinners, a three-pronged toy made of plastic or metal that can fit in the palm of your hand, gained massive popularity and recognition in 2017 as the trendy toy to have. To use a fidget spinner, a person must hold the center of the spinner with the thumb and finger and then use the other hand (or other fingers on the same hand) to rotate the spinner. Once it’s already spinning, the user can explore tricks, like balancing and rotating the spinner on the thumb.
These toys are visually attractive and enjoyable to manipulate, making them suitable for those who stare at moving or bright objects. They claim to assist children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in focusing and entertaining themselves without using electronic devices.
However, due to the potential distraction and risk to others, many schools now have rules regarding fidget spinners. While it can be beneficial for individuals who struggle with hand fidgeting, it has been observed to be distracting and irritating when used inappropriately. Balancing the fidget spinner really requires keeping an eye on it, and it’s what draws the eyes of the user away from the teacher and likely also the attention of the nearby students, making it hard for a teacher to keep a classroom focused.
The toy’s manufacturers recommend its use for children aged 12 and above, as these toys have small parts and can pose a danger to children aged five and below.
2. Pop-it toys
Pop-its are the latest sensation among fidget toys, and it’s not hard to see why. These toys, crafted from silicon, have small, round bubbles that can be popped by pressing on them. They come in various enjoyable shapes and colors and can be used repeatedly.
This toy is useful for alleviating stress, honing children’s motor abilities, and focusing their energy on a small object. It can also serve as an educational tool. Young children can be taught about colors, numbers, or patterns using pop-its. Children can be encouraged to pop the bubbles in a particular order or with different fingers to develop fine motor skills.
One of the most significant advantages of pop-it toys is that they don’t present a choking hazard to children, so kids of any age can use them. Even infants can utilize them as teethers, and the toy can be kept for later when they can play with it properly.
3. Fidget cube
The fidget cube is a slightly more intricate toy, offering numerous options to keep fingers engaged. Typically made of plastic, each face of the cube has various buttons to push, spin, click, flip, or twist –providing a means to keep hands occupied and the mind focused elsewhere.
These toys are available in various sizes and with differing numbers of sides, ranging from straightforward six-sided designs to more intricate 12-sided options. According to some experts, they may be beneficial for children with anxiety disorders and trauma as they can alleviate discomfort in certain circumstances. The variety of options also makes them suitable for children with sensory processing difficulties since they can choose a side they want to play.
The primary disadvantage of fidget cubes is that they can produce noise, which may be distracting or bothersome to others. As a result, this kind of toy may not be ideal for classroom use. Fidget cubes are better suited for older children since younger ones may break their small parts.
4. Stress balls
While stress balls are not a new invention, they are currently being promoted to children more than ever. These tiny objects are available in various colors or designed as cute animals whose eyes bulge when squeezed. Stress balls are made from different materials, have varying shapes and designs, and can help release energy and soothe nerves. They are also useful for relaxation, strengthening the wrists, and relieving arthritis. Squeezing a stress ball is part of a relaxation technique called “progressive muscle relaxation.” It also improves blood circulation, which is beneficial in several ways.
Stress balls are appropriate for children aged three and above and provide unique advantages to kids depending on their age. Stress balls can help reinforce the arm and wrist muscles of younger children. Stress balls can aid in nerve stimulation, reduce blood pressure, and release tension for older children. Unless a child throws a stress ball, there aren’t many drawbacks to using them. Otherwise, these toys are relatively safe and long-lasting.
Despite its common use in classrooms and households, putty is an often-overlooked fidget toy. Similar to stress balls and play-dough, it can help alleviate stress and tension. Its soft and pliable texture makes it a gentle option compared to harder fidget toys. Additionally, putty is a quiet and tactile fidget toy that can benefit children who enjoy the feeling of textured objects in their hands or need to work on their fine motor skills. Putty can serve the same purpose as the spinners, but they are more classroom-ready and less distracting.
However, putty is best used on a flat surface and may not be as enjoyable to use anywhere. While it is typically non-toxic, young children who tend to put things in their mouths should be closely supervised when using it. As a result, putty is recommended for children six years and older, though younger children can still use it with close supervision.
6. Tangle toys
Tangle toys are uncomplicated and noiseless fidget gadget that appeals to all ages. They consist of a series of curves and colors that can be twisted and manipulated as much as one desire. They are not only suitable for fidgeting but can also be used as a puzzle or brain teaser for children, coming in various textures that appeal to all. Tangle toys encourage children to think, create shapes, and manipulate objects in innovative ways, which can help improve imagination and creativity.
However, one potential disadvantage of tangled toys is that they can disassemble, posing a choking hazard or becoming a nuisance if the child drops the pieces. For this reason, it is recommended for children aged five and above to use tangle toys.
7. Chewable pendants
Sensory tools are not only limited to hand-held items. While they may not be as well-known, chewable pendants are a type of oral sensory tool that can benefit those who have a tendency to bite their nails or chew on their hair, sleeves, or even pencils. These necklaces offer a safe and enjoyable object to chew on without posing a choking hazard or other risks.
When searching for chewable pendants, it’s important to ensure that they are free of latex, lead, BPA, and PVC and are made with materials that are safe to put in the mouth. Chewable pendants are designed for all age groups, but children should be supervised when using them.
However, the most apparent downside of using chewable pendants is the risk of germs. If worn as a necklace, the chewable pendant will be exposed to the air, which can lead to the spreading of germs. Additionally, older children may be teased by their peers for using a chewable pendant as a fidget toy.
8. Stretch fidgets
Stretch fidgets are enjoyable toys that enable children to experience different textures and movements through stretching or manipulating them in various ways. They come in different colors and are very affordable. In addition to providing a means of diversion, these toys can aid in the development of hand-eye coordination and the pincer grasp, as well as strengthening hand muscles.
However, stretchy strings can present a minor choking hazard, and they can also cause discomfort if they strike children in the face.
Tips When Shopping for a Fidget Toy
If you’re sold on fidget toys, here are some factors to consider when shopping for one:
Fad or not – fidget toys are here to stay. Despite being an annoying distraction for others sometimes, fidget toys have practical uses and benefits for both children and adults. There are different types of fidget and sensory toys on the market that you may want to try if you’re struggling with anxiety, stress, and lack of focus.