Friday, July 18, 2014

Using Fidgets to Help with Attention and Sensory Issues

Creating an environment for children to be successful is a proactive approach to dealing with challenging behaviors.  Many factors must be taken into consideration when setting up your classroom space and schedule.

For many, whole group situations are a challenge.  Since our children are unique individuals, what works for one child, might not work for another.  As teachers, we need to look past the "challenging behavior" and get to know the child.  We need to know the child's interests, needs, fears, and situations that cause anxiety.  We also need to know if the child has had any prior experiences with sitting in a classroom setting.  This post is part of our Challenging Behavior book study. You can read more about it HERE.   If you like this blog post, remember to sign up by email and check out my blog HERE.


In the book Challenging Behaviors in the Early Childhood Classroom: Preventing, Understanding, and Responding Effectively, the authors suggest that your meeting spot or whole group circle time should be in a defined space.  Children that have difficulty in group time could have koosh balls or small objects to hold to help during whole group activities such as listening to a story.  


ENTER THE FIDGET BOX

 It can be a basket, bucket, caddy, or small decorated box.  Basically, it is a container which holds items to help a child maintain attention, get sensory feedback, or for calming. I am always asked if all children need fidgets. Answer:  No.  Do you ever give children fidgets when they really don't need them?  Answer:  Yes.   How do you make it fair?


I have a sensory center that includes many of the items that are in the fidget box.  Children have the opportunity to touch, feel, describe, and manipulate the fidgets during other times during the day.  I make everyone a fidget out of a pipe cleaner.


  • Cut the pipe cleaner in half.
  • Bend the ends around in a tight circle to cover the pointed ends.
  • Pass out to all children.
  • Let them fidget.
  • Collect the fidgets and have a discussion about strategies for listening.
  • Follow Griffin's Mantra for Listening Strategies.
    ARE YOU READY TO CREATE A FIDGET BOX?







    Ideas to remember when creating and implementing fidget boxes:
    • Decide where you will put your fidget box.
    • Teach the procedures for accessing fidgets.
    • Teach the procedures for using fidgets.
    • Create a visual cue as a reminder of using fidgets.
    • Do not add new fidgets without discussing them first.
    • Model, practice, role-play using fidgets.
    • These fidgets should never go in children's mouths.
    • If a child needs oral sensory input, consult with your speech pathologist and occupational therapist.  
    • Some children like pictures of their family in the box.
    • Some children like a visual schedule in the box.
    • There is a difference between a fidget box and a calming place.
    • Some children will need a calming place instead.

    If you need ideas and strategies to use in the classroom, check out my Listening Strategies for the Early Childhood Classroom.


    My favorite place to shop online is Therapy Shoppe.  I have been ordering from their online store for 7 years.  They have a wide variety of fidgets and other sensory integration items for your students.  It's also amazing for me to look through their online catalogue and see what is available for our students.  Suggestions for funding?  Ask.  That's what I did one year.  I had a classroom full of students who needed fidgets.  I presented my administrator with the problem and solution. You could also consider writing a small grant.  Or do as I do. Buy a couple of items every year and "grow" my fidget box.



    Here are some more samples of fidgets from Amazon.  Links have been provided.




    REMEMBER TO SIGN UP BY EMAIL and check out my blog HERE.

    Check out these other blog posts from the Challenging Behavior Book Study:

    19 comments:

    1. One other thing that I use with my students is self-stick velcro. I cut one 2"-3" of each piece (soft and the loop side) and then stick them back to back. Most of my kids like this, it's small enough not to cause a lot of disruption and they can't throw it like a squish ball. :)

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      1. Awesome idea Sherrie. Thanks for sharing :)

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    2. As a parent of a young child with Autism, I appreciate these tips.

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      1. Thank you Courtney. I was always the inclusion early childhood teacher at my school. My youngest daughter (now 22) has Down Syndrome, so I understand what it is like navigating through the special education side of school and needing alternative solutions. Thank you for visiting my blog.

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    3. I tried an experiment with small spiky balls that I found at the Target Dollar Spot. These were helpful for some kids as fidgets. Sometimes I had to remind them that the balls had to stay in their hands (instead of being rolled or tossed). When using these again, I would practice a little more with procedures to minimize these types of distractions.

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      1. I love those spiky balls and the Target Dollar Spot. I use those too! Yes, procedures on how to use fidgets are essential. I teach my students, "A strategy is only a strategy if it helps you. If it disturbs your friends, it is not a strategy. Please choose another one." That works for those rolling, tossed balls. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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    4. I loved reading this. I am raising my grandson who is now9 I have had him since birth. i am so blessed and as I tell him I am the lucky grandmom as I don't have to ever have to send him to another home I get to have him all the time. he has alot of issues and reading this I so wish his school would do stuff like this as it would help him so much.

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      1. I'm a "Nana K" too! It's the best job in the world isn't it? I understand your concern in wanting to help your grandson. You can help him learn coping strategies to use at school. Try some of the suggestions in this blog post and follow our behavior book study for more ideas. Ask his school if they have access to fidgets or other suggestions to help in this area. Sometimes, it helps if our students have options for what to do when they struggle with attention or sensory issues. Thank you for visiting my blog.

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    5. Wonderful resources! Had some of these children last year and used a couple of things simiilar- spiky rolls and chewies on pencils (per their OT). Help calm and bring them back into focus. Will be passing this info onto our pre-k teachers for similar children they had difficulties with. Thank you!

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      1. Thanks Laurie for visiting my blog. I love collaborating with O.T.'s on those oral sensory issues.

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    6. I do daycare and have one child who always wanted to chew/such on his clothing. Bought him the sport sweat bands for his wrist. Worked and were washable.

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      1. Thanks for sharing your tip. Washable is great!

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    7. I've really enjoyed reading Challenging Behaviors as well! Making fidgets with the kiddos sounds like something I need to add to my lesson plans for the first month of school. I like the variety of fidget suggestions, as each child has different needs.

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      1. Thanks for visiting my blog :) I love the Challenging Behaviors book because it gives the "why" our children are displaying challenging behaviors. That part is a must-read. Have fun making your fidget box.

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    8. Thank you. I love these ideas. Would love to use pipe cleaners as they can be manipulated in to many shapes. Thanks again

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      1. Thank you for visiting my blog Jocelyn :)

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    9. Great ideas Kathy! I'd love you to visit my Etsy shop as well and see some of my handmade fidgets! I designed several quiet fidgets which are great for ages 5-10 to use in the classroom as well as some weighted pillows to help with circle time. You can find me at www.cuddlebugkids.com. Thanks again for your great tips for parents!

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    10. add fidget spinners and cubes

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    11. Interesting. Can someone explain to me why this generation of children need to have a fidget. When children have "difficulty in group time" they are lagging skills, skills that fidget don't teach. I am in classrooms teaching social and emotional skill to young children. Too many times when a child has a challenging behavior they are given a fidget. It is now becoming our school's easy solution to every challenging behavior. Call me old fashion but this isn't rocket science...first,limit children's access to technology, and secondly get them out in nature and let them move.

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