We all love a good fidget toy (or 20) in our classrooms! But, there are so many out there now, it can be hard to know which ones will meet teacher criteria. First, they need to be durable. How many times have you spent money (most likely your own money) on fidget toys only to have them break during the first use? Sigh. Second, they need to be something that young children like to use. Don’t worry, I’ve tested so many out and have a list of definite favorites. Third, they can’t be loud or really distracting in the classroom. You know what I’m talking about…we’ve all been there! As a matter of fact, my paras and I recently realized that one of our new fidget toys could easily be flung around and hit other kids at group time. We said, “we’ve got to get rid of the flinger”! 😂 Using fidget toys or sensory tools will help autistic children with the self regulation of their emotions. Consistent use of these tools will reduce stress, and increase focus. The trick is finding the right one for each individual child.
1. Simple Dimple
The Simple Dimple is my favorite fidget toy! I gave one to each of my paras and we all have one attached to our lanyard. By using the fidget on my lanyard, I’ve been able to redirect students countless times. For example, a transition in from the bus breaks down, and a student lays on the ground in the hallway. Sometimes it is as simple as showing them the Simple Dimple fidget. The child often just stands up and starts walking while holding the sensory tool. It is also important to use fidget toys proactively, such as offering them as the child gets off the bus as a way to help the transition from the start. This tool is also very helpful during group time. it is small, quiet, and children like it a lot. The Fat Brain Simple Dimple is the best. There are generic versions, but they just aren’t the best quality compared to the Fat Brain option.
Poppers are all the rage right now! The awesome thing about this fidget toy option is the variety of colors, shapes, and characters they come in. Another nice aspect is how quiet they are. A quiet fidget toy in the classroom is so helpful. Since popper fidgets are so popular right now, there are endless activities on Teachers Pay Teachers to use them as learning tools too. There are math activities, phonics, and resources that use them to teach basic skills, such as colors.
3. Chew Necklaces
Chew necklaces are great because the necklace stays on the child who needs to chew. I’ve seen a lot of different chew necklaces, but my favorite one is the one that looks like a long Lego block. The reason I like it so much is that it seems to stand the test of time with most children. A lot of our students chew right through a lot of materials. This necklace seems to withstand that. Another necklace that is very durable is this pendant-shaped chewy necklace. Both of these necklaces are my go-to choices.
4. Wacky Tracks
The Wacky Tracks fidget toy is another nice choice for a sensory tool at home or in the classroom. This keeps little hands busy because it is movable, and easy to hold. I’ve noticed that several of my students tend to choose this fidget. They also keep it in their hands longer than some other sensory tools.
5. Waterbead Toys
This set of waterbead toys by Lesong have been a great addition to my classroom this school year. Children seem drawn to these sensory tools. They are small and durable, and have a variety of color and shape options.
Many autistic children benefit from “chewies”. Chewies provide oral input for sensory seekers. Giving students the ability to chew can help them focus and self regulate. There are so many choices out there when it comes to chewies. My favorites are this cross-shaped chewy, and the T-shaped chewy. Both have proven durable over time, and children like them.
7. Marble Toy
I love this mesh marble toy! It is interesting for children to hold and touch (the adults in the classroom like playing with it too). It meets the teacher criteria because it is small, quiet, and kids like it. The marble toy can also be soothing for some children.
8. Orbeez Bottles
You have probably heard of Orbeez beads. They are so cool! Did you know you can make your own sensory bottles using these beads? They can be a really nice addition to a sensory bin. Who wouldn’t like to watch these colorful bun beads? Check out this quick YouTube video to learn how to make your own sensory bottles using Orbeez water beads.
Hypersensitivity to noise is common in autism. I can’t even tell you how many students I have had over the years who cover or plug their ears. Noise-blocking headphones can help! The Snug brand is my top choice. I love that they are “kid-size”, and come in different colors. When the headphones fit correctly, children will tolerate wearing them better. You can also incorporate this “Wearing Headphones” social story when introducing them to your child or students.
What To Avoid
I gave you 9 of my favorite fidget toys to use in the classroom. These 9 meet the teacher criteria: they are durable, children like them, and they are quiet. There are definitely fidget toys to avoid. Some are too distracting or will get some children hyped up. This is why it is important to consult an occupational therapist (OT) to help determine the right one for each student. OT’s are the experts on self regulation and strategies to address dysregulated emotions. I tend to avoid cheap stretchies and balls (break right away. When I say right away, I mean that they literally break in one use. What a waste! I also steer clear of long snake-like stretchies (they tend to get flung around the whole time). Another type of fidget I try to stay away from are hard items (ouch). You’ve been there. Getting hit with a hard fidget toy that is thrown in your direction does not make your day brighter.
For a full list of all sensory fidgets in the Autism Little Learners Amazon Shop, you can click on this link.
If you liked this blog post and would like to read more about autism and self regulation, check out these super helpful posts full of practical tips:
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