Take Advantage of the Wiggles: All About Fidgets!

I work with learners of all ages (from age 3 to 90), so I know a thing or two about the wiggles! Not a day goes by where you won't hear me tell someone "Time to get the wiggles out!"  or "Wow, you are very fidgety today! Let's use a strategy."

Special educator or not, I know you have all had these days. It may be challenging to manage these high-energy days (or as a teacher friend once said, "spicy days"), but you CAN make it work! Research supports the use of "fidgets" and "movement breaks"(check out these research articles here, here, here, and here) as preventative strategies and interventions as they relate to behavior, attention, and memory.

There are many different ways you can help support students who are fidgety. There are lots of sensory strategies to help students with their wiggles. Today's post is devoted to the wonderful world of fidgets!

What Are Fidgets?

"Fidgets" are strategies or tools used to help students self-regulate. They may help the child in a variety of ways, depending on their needs and the type of fidget being used, such as: maintain focus/attention, to calm/soothe, to alert or stimulate, or to "ground" or provide sensory input. There are fidget's of all different materials, colors, shapes, sizes, and uses. Generally, people think of "hand fidgets" when they think of the term fidgets, or items you can play with in your hand. These are wonderful strategies for many kids, but there are a variety of different types of fidgets out there worth checking out.

Types of Fidgets

As mentioned above there are all different types of fidgets. Lots of different companies sell products aimed toward teachers - marketing their toys/items as "fidgets." However, I must say that some of the best fidget's I've ever found have been little toys at the dollar store, putty I found in my niece's Easter basket (don't worry - I asked first!), or pieces of fabric/materials from old clothes or bags. It all depends on the types of fidgets you are looking for and which ones work for you kids. Once you become well-versed in the World of Fidgets, the easier it will be to find fidgets for your classroom.

Below are some common fidgets teachers use in their classrooms:

When To Use Fidgets

In my classroom, fidgets are provided non-contingent, meaning my students can ask to use a fidget at any point, or help themselves from my fidget bin. I want students to be able to have access to supportive strategies throughout the day - I want them to advocate for their needs!

Many students benefit from using fidgets to help them focus during lessons. Notice the student who is doodling in her notebook when you are lecturing? Or the student who is gnawing on the cap of his pen? These students are looking for some sort of input or sensory tool to use to help them concentrate. This is where fidgets come in!

Managing Fidgets

Fidgets can be fun, but it is important to that you, the educator or parent, as well as the students, view these as "sensory tools" or "strategies." Fidgets do not work for all students - many students, depending on their needs, will not benefit from having a stress ball in their hands during a lesson, as they will become distracted. It's all about Trial-and-Error, and knowing your kiddos.

That being said, some students will take advantage, or will choose fidgets that are inappropriate for their needs or the situation (want to use a finger puzzle when they need to do finger painting). From the start of school, when I'm teaching students how, when, and why to use fidgets (as we would with any other part of our classroom/school day), I instruct them that teachers have the final say. At any point, a teacher can confiscate the fidget, change the fidget, or deny a fidget. I explain that, as teachers, we are experts at using fidgets - we know which fidgets will work best for which students, and we are especially good at figuring out who is using the fidget to help them, and who is using a fidget for fun. This works well with younger grades, as they buy into this mentality more, but can be tailored for upper grades as well. Establishing these rules and sense of responsibility from the beginning really starts the year off strong. Just like any routine, students will test it out the first several weeks of school (or first several weeks from when you introduced it), but allow time, patience, and support, and you will be amazed at how useful these tools can be!

ABA at Play: automatically-maintained behaviors, antecedent manipulation, free operant, incompatible behaviors, socially significant behaviors, Positive Behavior Supports, function-based interventions, social validity, manipulating MOs


  1. Thanks for sharing this! I teach ECSE and am currently compiling many fidgets, but am always looking for new ones as each child seems to like a certain one.
    Fun in ECSE

  2. You are very welcome! I love using fidgets in the classroom - helps the students focus, and helps me teach! I will be having future blog posts devoted to choosing the right fidgets for you students so if you are interested, make sure to check back soon :)


  3. Great information. Fidgets are a great tool, and I think that if we know how to make them more useful and appropriate for students, we'll be more comfortable with them! Thanks for all of the background info!

    Buzzing with Ms. B

    1. You are very welcome! Thanks for stopping by - hope you found some more awesome Bright Ideas :)


  4. great ideas! I love the silly putty for fidgets as well!


  5. Thanks for this post! A while ago I used the rubber bands on the chair so that a student could bounce his feet on it while working, and it was SO helpful! I will have to look into more of them this year.
    Whimsy Workshop Teaching


Thanks for the comments! I look forward to reading them :)

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