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Calm Down with Friends

Fidget toys are supposed to help kids who… well, fidget a lot. True confession: I find them often more distracting to the child, other children and adults than helpful. One day our group kids entered the room in a loud, active whirlwind. Although they often enter this way, this particular day they were not able to hear the adult voices and were literally bouncing off the walls, the chairs and tables. In an act of desperation, I brought out my bag of fidget toys.

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Toy Bag Contents

My toy bag that day included a buzzer bug, mesh squeeze ball, a tactile image captor, and plastic bottle filled with thick liquid and glitter stars. Each child was given one item and told to play with it for 20-30 seconds. When I said, “Switch”, they were to pass the object to the child on their right. We proceeded to move the objects around the table until everyone had a chance with each item.

No Talking

The kids wanted to start sharing and talking while playing with the objects but we found they couldn’t listen to each other. They were told to either play quietly or talk about the objects. This became a mindfulness exercise bringing the kids into the present moment but within the group.

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Two Minutes Later

At the end of this brief session, the kids put the objects back in my mysterious black bag without a fuss and were ready for conversation and play! The following week, one boy started us off by saying, “Can we use the calm down toys?” We did, and the outcome was the same.

Building Friendship Skills with Fidgets

We switch up the toys often to maintain interest and novelty. The kids have experienced how it feels if one child doesn’t switch when he’s supposed to, causing others to have to wait. Sometimes we have the kids ask a friend to switch practicing the important question, “Want to trade?” and responses, “OK” or “In a minute”.

See our Amazon Store for fidget toys we use and some we hope to use in the future.

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

tags: friendship, perspective taking, regulation