As we travel further along this road of sensory issues with my son (and now, to a lesser degree, with my daughter), we have learned a few things. Scratch that, we’ve sorted A LOT to managing these issues easier. I’ve shared many of them before: routine is our best friend, go light on Trick or Treating, learn to love the professionals helping him along the way. But today I want to zero in on the things, the objects, the sensory fidgets that have worked miracles in helping my children process their world.
I am not a medical nor educational professional. I am a mom, a mom who has done a ton of research and talked extensively with the pros, most notably my son’s incredibly smart learning support teacher, but simply a mom, nonetheless. There are many people who will explain Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) far, far better than I, but the primary way I understand sensory fidgets for my kids: kids with sensory issues struggle to sort the sensory experience of the world around them. Some require extra sensory input (additional stimulation) to do so effectively, some require sensory output (extra movement) to process their environment.
My son tends to require extra input, my daughter leans towards output. Both are very significantly, primarily orally stimulated, which means we incorporate lots of oral sensory fidgets into our lives. Know that all children are different, and it’s far worth the effort to check out different fidgets to find the win for your child. Also of note, even if your child doesn’t have SPD, many children have tendencies towards some sort of fidgeting, and these fidgets may be of use in helping many kiddos focus as they go about their day!
The fidgets below work well in a school setting as they are not only helpful to children in focusing as they go through their busy days, but they are also age-appropriate among peers and in a classroom setting. They are fidgets that work well as both activity levels and social pressures grow.
Top ten sensory fidgets for school-age children:
- I LOVE this chew-friendly jewelry from Two Brothers and Olivia! It’s so very well made for my daughter’s constant need (and often vigorous) chewing and even better, it looks exactly like the fashion jewelry my daughter would pick to wear for fun. We struggled a lot with chewing jewelry for my son: the baby teething options that worked well when he was younger quickly seemed to age out as he grew. We were so delighted to find this option for her–which does wonders with saving her sleeves from being chewed through and ruined with holes and stretching. Not to mention her teacher has complimented it as a active Kindergartener-friendly solution–we are loving this line!
- The genius of LEGO keychains is the sensory fidget of which I’m most proud. How did we come across it? Because I’m a geek mom, I made my kiddos wear fanny packs when we visited LEGOland last year. As part of my press package, they each received a LEGO keychain, which we hooked to their packs. Halfway through the day, we noticed our son was not chewing his sleeves because he was fiddling with the LEGO keychain instead. Mind-blown!! We stocked up on keychains there (far cheaper to purchase there or directly from lego.com vs. another retailer) and ordered carabiner clips from Amazon. We now make sure he goes to school every day (it’s actually written into his IEP) with a LEGO keychain hooked to his carabiner clip which is fastened around a belt loop on his pants. Giving him a cool keychain to fidget with is very age-appropriate and works well as it is something he has on his person. *note: this option works less well for our daughter, who often wears dresses and/or leggings without belt loops.
- For that matter, any fidget-friendly keychain. My son also has an ADD diagnosis, but even without this diagnosis, many children have difficulty keeping track of personal effects (read: they lose everything!). A keychain that helps them work out some of their sensory stimulation is a great find. Attach it to their pants, backpack, coat…anything that keeps it with them as they go throughout their day. Check these adorable fancy keychains that look like a fashion accessory or my game-loving son is especially taken with his Rubix-cube plush keychain he can endlessly squeeze while on the bus.
- My son’s Occupational Therapist specifically recommended this water bottle for my son as it allows him to sip water while simultaneously providing oral stimulation as he chews on the nozzle. Disclaimer: I do have to regularly purchase replacement valves as he steadily gnaws his way through them.
- Speaking of chewies, my son’s smart teacher came across this chess piece pencil topper, which works super-well because it’s not only tough and stands up to tons of chewing, but also fits nicely with his chess obsession. I ordered a set for home use and both my son and daughter top their pencils with these fidgets while doing homework.
- My son loves his games, and if we can couple games with a sensory fidget–a total win! Not mention, this feels super age-appropriate as elementary age kiddos love their games. By grabbing a few of these at a low cost and send them into school with him, it’s a cool hit. Keeps his senses busy while he gets to share some fun with his friends!
- Sensory balls can be wonderful for sensory kids. My son went through two years of school with his special seat cushion (helped tremendously), and we purchased them at home for both our children. Yet as he grew, he no longer was able to fit under the table while sitting on his cushion. He outgrew it, but the need for the sensory input of the spiky ball-like texture remained. Enter sensory balls. Give them to your kiddos to fidget with as they tend to the tasks of their daily world.
- Aaron’s Thinking Putty. I was a prize idiot and took my kids to Learning Express when they had a recent day off. During this visit, I not only lost my life savings, but discovered this brilliant product. While chatting with the clerk, she mentioned it was great for sensory kids, so I hopefully purchased a tin for each of them. The result? Genius! They both went home that day with their Thinking Putty and watched a full-length movie without whining, fighting, or begging for food. I know! We then prayed and read bedtime stories while my kiddos worked their putty without the their usual fussing. Completely sold on the brilliance of this product, I now encourage my kiddos to take their tins with them in the van whenever we head out–the act of working the putty keeps them from picking at each other and begging Mommy for needs (dangerous while driving!). In short, I LOVE this putty!
- Floof. Also during that fated budget-busting trip to Learning Express, we discovered this sweet find. We purchased the general snowman bucket and I am crushing on this product for it’s sensory-friendliness which works so very well for playdates. Have a sensory kiddo who’s a bit nervous about having a new friend over? Whip out Floof and allow them to work out their nerves while playing with friends and having fun!
- How about a good old-fashioned slap bracelet? But amp it up a teensy with some super sensory-friendly spikes and chew-welcoming stability, and you’re golden. A classic, gender-neutral find that kiddos will adore–while keeping their sensory issues in check. These bracelets are also a win because they are so cheap–I don’t get (too!) upset when one inevitably gets lost.
Check these sensory fidgets out, friends. Check them all out–things I never thought would work for my kiddos have surprised me by being a perfect fit. Try different fidgets, sort what works for your children and then stash up. The proper sensory fidgets can make such a world of difference in their focus and capacity to effectively interact with the world around them.
Your sensory kids can be successful in this world–once they have the tools they need to get there!
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