This post was updated in July of 2023 to share 4 additional reasons!
There are probably few other toys that are more aptly named. As any parent with an especially active child well knows, fidgeting can be a default behavior that is best dealt with by focused redirection. And the truth is, any child – highly active or not – will fidget, which is why we have had “fidget toys” long before they were called that.
Fidget Spinners and Other Things We’ve Fidgeted With
No parent on the planet, or at least in this country, has not heard of fidget spinners!
Today these ubiquitous toys are still the most popular fidget toy out there, even though they peaked in sales numbers a few years ago. When fidget spinners first hit the consumer market, they quickly rose in popularity in 2017. However, after peaking in May 2017, sales began to decline as did the demand for the addictive gadgets.
According to an entry in Wikipedia,
“Fidget spinners became popular toys in 2017, although similar devices had been invented as early as 1993. The toy has been promoted as helping people who have trouble focusing or those who fidget to relieve nervous energy, anxiety, or psychological stress.”
But these were just the latest in a long line of items that found use as a way to keep one’s hands busy or distracted.
If we were to take the Way Back Machine to ancient China, we would find a device of sorts that isn’t all that unfamiliar to modern eyes.
As the folks at AtlasObscura describe it,
“Centuries before fidgets spinners came on the market, Baoding balls were created in Ming dynasty China (1368–1644) to perform a similar function. The two metal balls, small enough to fit in one hand, could be rotated repeatedly to reduce stress. The constant motion of the smooth balls was thought to be soothing and put the user in a more meditative mindset.”
Fast forward to America in the 20th century and it’s believed that these objects inspired the creation of the ubiquitous stress ball.
Still popular today among fidgeters of all ages, these squeezable palm-sized balls are designed to relieve tension and stress wherever you happen to be. While adults mostly use them to help redirect and then release stress when squeezing them, kids use them primarily as fidget toys.
Four Reasons Kids Can Benefit from Fidget Toys
While spinners, in particular, sparked a feisty debate on the benefits and downsides of fidget toys back in 2017, the focus was more on the distraction that these particular toys created in classrooms and elsewhere. Fidget toys in general, however, can provide several benefits for kids.
1. Increased Focus and Concentration
Research has shown that when kids can control or direct their movements, especially when stressed or anxious, they can also improve focus and concentration. Movement and sensory input are essential for learning and carrying out tasks since they involve both the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
In addition, case studies have shown that learning can be improved with fidget toys. For example, a study focusing on showing the impact of fidget toys concluded that students given stress balls had improved scholastic achievement, especially students with ADHD.
In fact, fidget toys can be beneficial for children with attention disorders like ADHD. These toys provide a physical outlet for excess energy and can help redirect restless behaviors, allowing children to better focus on tasks or activities. The tactile engagement with fidget toys can provide a calming effect, enabling children to concentrate more effectively.
2. Create Movement for Stimulating the Brain Stem
One of the main functions of the brain stem is to control basic body functions such as breathing, heart rate, and consciousness. And whether one is awake or sleepy. Some children’s brains can wake up but not sustain alertness, while some kids need a bit of help to even awaken.
Movement is a fundamental way to trigger the brain stem and fidget toys can serve that purpose. Movement, even fidgeting with the hands, can help by sending signals from the body to the brain to awaken and be alert.
Many fidget toys offer different sensory experiences, such as varying textures, sounds, or visual elements. These sensory stimulations can be beneficial for children with sensory processing difficulties or sensory-seeking behaviors. Fidget toys can help regulate sensory input, providing a positive outlet for sensory exploration and promoting self-regulation.
3. Sensory Stimulation
Increased Fine Motor Skills: Manipulating fidget toys requires precise hand movements, which can help develop and refine fine motor skills in children. Activities like spinning, twisting, or squeezing fidget toys can strengthen hand muscles, improve dexterity, and enhance hand-eye coordination. This can have a positive impact on various everyday tasks, including writing, drawing, and self-care activities.
4. Provide Enhanced Learning Opportunities
Some children benefit from sensory input while learning. Fidget toys can offer a non-disruptive way to meet these sensory needs, allowing children to focus and absorb information more effectively. The tactile and kinesthetic experiences provided by fidget toys can enhance learning engagement and retention, particularly for children who are kinesthetic or tactile learners.
5. Social and Emotional Development
Fidget toys can facilitate social interactions and emotional expression. In group settings, fidget toys can serve as conversation starters or shared activities, fostering social connections and reducing social anxiety.
Additionally, fidget toys can provide a non-verbal outlet for emotional expression, enabling children to channel their feelings and communicate their emotional state in a comfortable and non-threatening way.
6. Provide Fun Mental Occupation
Fidget toys serve to productively distract and occupy a child’s attention. In addition to boosting focus and productivity, by giving your child’s mind a bit of a fun mental break thereby making it easier to pay attention afterward.
In addition, they are fun! As every parent and teacher knows, kids need to break up their work and study times with some free play of some sort. And fidget toys can provide an easy, simple to use and contain toy to make that happen.
7. Reduce Stress and Anxiety
While anxiety, stress, and even learning disorders such as ADHD can affect the entire body, they most notably affect the hands and fingers. Heightened anxiety in a child can result in restlessness, shaking, and even cramping in the hands and fingers.
Although fidget toys cannot prevent or eliminate these issues, they can help calm a child, since fidgeting is a calming mechanism. Fidget spinners and cubes give children a way of keeping their hands busy. In fact, one study found that fidget toys can help relieve pre-surgery anxiety in adult patients.
Essentially, many fidget toys can serve as stress relievers, helping children manage anxiety and nervousness. The repetitive and rhythmic movements associated with fidgeting can have a soothing effect, promoting relaxation and emotional well-being. The tactile feedback from fidget toys can also provide a sense of comfort and security, helping children feel more at ease in challenging or overwhelming situations.
8. Calming and Self-Soothing
Alongside relieving stress, researchers have found that fidget toys can serve as self-soothing tools, allowing children to manage their emotions and self-regulate. By engaging with fidget toys, children can redirect their energy in a constructive manner, reducing impulsive behaviors and promoting a sense of calm. The repetitive motions and physical engagement can serve as a healthy coping mechanism, providing a sense of control and stability in challenging situations.
Ultimately, the therapeutic benefits of fidget toys can be chalked up to what you could call “Behavior Management”.
That’s because fidget toys can contribute to behavior management strategies in various settings, such as classrooms or therapy sessions. And by offering a constructive outlet for excess energy, fidget toys can help minimize disruptive behaviors and promote a more focused and attentive environment. They can be used as part of a behavior plan to redirect and channel energy positively.
It’s important to note that while fidget toys can be beneficial for many children, individual preferences and needs may vary. What works well for one child may not work for another. It’s essential to consider the specific needs and characteristics of each child when incorporating fidget toys into their routines.
Fun, Focus, and Development with Fidget Toys for All Active Kids
Even though they are simply fun to play with, it’s important to recognize that fidget toys also offer a range of benefits for children, including improved focus, stress reduction, sensory stimulation, fine motor skill development, self-soothing capabilities, enhanced learning opportunities, social and emotional development, and behavior management support. These toys provide a positive outlet for energy and engagement, contributing to the overall well-being and development of children in various aspects of their lives.
At Fundemonium, you’ll find fun fidget toys to keep young hands – and minds- occupied. In addition, we offer a dazzling selection of other toys, games, and hobby items, all designed for fun.
That’s because Fundemonium is more than a toy store – it’s a family fun experience, a place where families and kids of all ages can meet and play.
Our toy, model, craft, and hobby selections are “funtastically” huge and always growing. This is the place where you’re sure to find something to entertain and occupy any child and all children of any age (even if they’re over 30!)
And Fundemonium also offers a safe and friendly place where adults and children can enjoy creative fun. In addition to toys, we stock a huge selection of arts and crafts projects and materials, games, models, and hobby products for your entire family.
Got questions? Our friendly and knowledgeable staff makes it their business to help you have fun.
At Fundemonium, we always do our best to respond quickly to your questions and to website inquiries about our toys and other products. And you can also find answers to your questions by calling us at (707) 540-0701.
So, if you’d like to speak to one of our Fundemoniacs, come on in or just give us a call during our business hours.
Thank you and we look forward to seeing you soon!