5 Alternatives to the Fidget Spinner in Your Classroom

by room2learn

Fidget spinners — the creativity, the controversy. The rise of toys like the fidget spinner have sparked a ton of debate. While some experts discredit the effectiveness of fidget spinners as stress relievers, there are other voices that highlight the benefits of other, perhaps less distracting, solutions for the fidgets.

According to Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist, the more stimulation or playtime children experienced, the more developed their balance system became, which in the long-term results in better attention and focus. Also, UC Davis behavioral science professor Julie Schweitzer has found that “more overall movement (measured using an accelerometer on the ankle) in children with ADHD did help them perform” the difficult tasks assigned.

We all have those fidgety students in the class. Research tells us that play and stimulation helps. So what now? Should we all go out and buy those spinners? Not necessarily — we at room2learn scoured the web for some innovative and easy-to-implement DIY hacks, so here are 5 that you can try out in your classroom!

Choice Seating

Giving students the flexibility to sit, crawl, or even lie down in different positions is one way to increase movement and focus in the classroom. Not every student learns the best sitting down, so why not give them more options?

Rikki Stenson from Auburn School District shared her creative elementary classroom with us, where students can choose from “stools, crate seats, beanbag chairs, scoop rockers, saucer chairs, and even yoga stability balls!”

There are also many other types of “bottom holders” — as we like to call seating options — available. One room2learn user shared this buoy chair. The bottom of the chair is rounded, giving students some freedom to move or sway, yet still remain seated.

Leg Games

Got students with jittery feet? Try out this simple hack — all you need is a long elastic band. Simply wrap the elastic around two legs of a chair and voila! The list of activities you can do with this is endless — anything from stationary running races or a dance party in your seat!

Movement Centers

One way to alleviate the fidgets is to increase movement breaks in the classroom! Easily create a movement center by the wall or door! Print and post up instructions for simple exercises that can facilitate self-regulated movement breaks.

Squeezables for Sticky Fingers

Got students who just can’t keep their hands still? Try adding velcro to the bottom part of table tops so students can feel and touch the texture when they need additional engagement. You can easily find affordable adhesive velcro strips and stick them to the bottom edges of tables. Also, the traditional stress ball or even play-dough could be low-cost fixes for students with active hands.

At room2learn, our team likes to play with craft materials to prototype spaces. Soft manipulatives like play-dough and pom-pom’s are not only great for modeling seating options, but a great stress reliever to boot!

Window Gazing

For those who are more visual, here’s an easy way to alleviate agitation: Give students the option to use brightly colored school supplies! Using bright paper or highlighters helps students focus on the details when they are feeling restless. For those of us lucky enough to have large windows, incorporate mini breaks and allow students to glance out the windows. We can look to Inner City Arts and Castilleja for inspiration!

It appears that the fidgets aren’t just another fad, nor should we try to stop our natural tendencies to want to move around, stretch, or take brief mind or body breaks. Classrooms should be open and welcoming spaces for all students even those who might be fidgety at times. Give our techniques a try in the classroom and let us know if you come up with some of your own hacks!

Do you have a cool hack for fidgeting in the classroom? We want to hear about it! Share with fellow edu-innovators at room2learn.org and Tweet us at @HackClassrooms!