Fidgets, Fiddles, Focus and Fun!

Fiddle toys… are they a useful aid to focus and concentration for children? Can they help relieve stress? Are they a distraction for them and others? There has been much discussion about this, some very good and informed input provided (including from my good friend Miriam Gwynne, well worth reading her thoughts on this on her blog https://faithmummy.wordpress.com), as well as some utter guff from folk just jumping on the bandwagon about finger spinners without understanding this at all…

This blog doesn’t attempt to re-open that debate, but to move it on to look at how a wide range of fidget or fiddle toys can be a really effective part of the resource toolkit for children’s and youth workers in the church context, and what things to include in your fiddles box.

Firstly, it is important to think a little about how fiddle/fidget toys can help. We all occasionally use other things to help us to focus and concentrate; some of us might listen to some music as we read or write, others might doodle as we chat on the ‘phone, some of us might even spin that pen around in our fingers a bit like a miniature cheerleaders baton, or repeatedly click the pen on and off, or chew the top of it. In our case, these activities can help us to focus and concentrate, relax, get rid of some nervous energy or stress, or simply give us something to do with our hands!

It can be the same with children and young people with fiddle/fidget toys; by using a variety of things, children and young people, including those with additional needs, can be helped in just the same way as us adults, especially during a talk time. Each child will, like many of us, have a favourite item that they will choose from the fiddles box,  something that meets their needs and helps them concentrate. Having a selection of different items in your fiddles box will ensure that you’ve got something for everyone and if more than one child wants the same thing, most items are fairly inexpensive so adding more to the box shouldn’t be difficult. The variety of things to include can be up to each children’s or youth worker and the children/young people they work with, but here are a few suggestions (see the photo’s too):

  • Something you can twist or bend… A string of wooden blocks that can be twisted into shapes, or pipe-cleaners which can be bent or twisted into spirals, can be excellent for this.
  • Something you can stretch… Fitness rubber bands, or stretchy people, both work well.
  • Something you can squish/squeeze… Play-Doh is a favourite for this, and is the go-to item for my son James, but a ball that you can squeeze is also good.
  • Something that lights up… Balls or other items that light up if you squeeze them.
  • Something that has a little bit of weight… Such as a bean bag or something similarly heavy.
  • Something you can stroke… A small soft toy or puppet for example, or a piece of velvet.
  • Something you can click, manipulate etc… This is where the fidget cube, finger spinner, or even a slinky can work well.

Fiddles box

Lots of other ideas are out there… what would the children in your group find helpful?

What you have in your fiddles box might also depend on where you are going to use it. Mine also has some velcro, which is very satisfying to tear apart and re-join, but could be a little too disruptive for a quieter setting!

It is important that everyone has the opportunity to choose something from the fiddles box during the session as they need it. It shouldn’t only be available to some children or this risks building resentment. Initially, the excitement of it all might make it a short-term distraction, but things will settle down quite quickly and then having access to the fiddles box will be normalised. Don’t forget to add extra of any items that are popular!

A great suggestion is to bring the fiddles box along to your next children’s or youth work team meeting. Let your team choose something to fiddle with while you all talk (instead of their usual pen!) It will soon be evident that this helps concentration and focus, rather than hindering it, and it’s a bit of harmless fun at the same time!

More tips on how to engage effectively with all children and young people, including those with additional needs, can be found here: www.urbansaints.org/additionalneeds

I hope you find these tips helpful, and look forward to hearing your stories as you create your own fiddles/fidget box and use it effectively in your group! I’ve made some fidget boxes/bags up and offer them below.

Now, where did I put my finger spinner…

Mark
22nd June 2017, updated 1st May 2020

Image rights: © Urban Saints & Mark Arnold

I have made up some ‘fiddles boxes/bags’ that might be of interest to you if your child struggles to focus and concentrate, or needs something to help them remain or regain calm.

If you want to know more about what a ‘fiddles box’ is, then have a look at this web link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxhXo-2sgJc

There are three types of fiddles boxes/bags that are available:

‘Mini fiddles box’ (£5 plus £3 p&p):
Fiddles box mini
– Box
– Some notes
– Play dough
– Crystal flashing bounce ball
– Wooden ‘twist & lock’ blocks
– An egg ‘maraca’
– Two stretchy yellow people
– Some pipe cleaners
– Coloured dance scarf

‘Fiddles bag’ (£12 plus £3 p&p):Fiddles bag– Colourful gym/pe style cotton drawstring bag
– Some notes
– A hand puppet
– Safari animals wooden dominoes
– 225ml bubble mix and wand
– Play dough
– Squeezy bead ball
– Smiley face puffer ball
– Soft squeeze anti-stress ball
– Wooden ‘twist & lock’ blocks
– An egg ‘maraca’
– Two stretchy yellow people
– Some pipe cleaners
– Coloured dance scarf
– An activity book

‘Large fiddles box’ (£19 plus £5 p&p):
Fiddles box large 2
– Colourful ‘wham’ tub
– Some notes
– A hand puppet
– ‘Mr Splat’ squish, stretch and stretch toy
– 225ml bubble mix and wand
– Play dough
– Squeezy bead ball
– Crystal flashing bounce ball
– Soft squeeze anti-stress ball
– Wooden ‘twist & lock’ blocks
– ‘Rubik’s’ style cube
– Squeezy bean ball
– A rubber duck
– Two stretchy yellow people
– Some pipe cleaners
– Coloured dance scarf
– An activity book and coloured pencils

There may be minor amendments to what is in each box/bag based on availability but if there is a replacement it will be similar and just as good.

If you are interested in a fiddles box/bag then please message me and we can sort things out from there. I hope these are helpful… please share this information with anyone that you know that might be interested.

Thank you! 🙂

 

One thought on “Fidgets, Fiddles, Focus and Fun!

  1. I bought two of the fiddle bags for my children. Both my children are autistic but with very different sensory needs. I wondered what they would make of them but they both loved them! My non verbal son is a sensory seeker who loves moving, flapping, noise and colour. He waved the material about, adored the bendy stick and giggled when the bubbles were blown.
    His sister loved the play doh, the bubbles, the book and pencils and the ball. The rattle egg was popular with them both too!
    Over a week later and the items are still regularly used both to calm, entertain and amuse. The material is taken to bed every night and my son has spent hours putting them in and out the bag over and over.
    I highly recommend these items. They are quality, well made, well priced and bring so much delight. You won’t be disappointed! Thank you Mark!

    Liked by 1 person

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