Be sure to read to the end of this post for instructions on how to enter a giveaway!
For a lot of kids – and even adults – sitting still is a hard thing to do! When kids are expected to sit still through a class or in an hour long therapy session, many of them get restless, start daydreaming, or squirm around in their seat. For kids with ADHD or anxiety problems, it’s even harder to try to stay focused.
When kids come to see me for therapy, many of them have trouble sitting still if we’re trying to talk about something or if they’re listening while their parents are updating me on what’s been going on. Many parents, wanting their kids to behave, remind them to sit still and not touch anything without asking, but I don’t mind if kids get up and walk around then room, bounce a ball, play with playdough or sand, or doodle while we talk. And I try to give every kid permission right away to do this, pointing out some of the options in the room.
Giving kids appropriate ways to fidget and move their body can actually lower anxiety, help them stay focused, and increase their ability to learning. When adults try to force anxious or high energy kids to sit still, they are setting themselves up for unnecessary struggles and may end up decreasing their child’s functioning.
As kids are heading back to school right now, I thought it would be a good time to share ideas for positive fidgeting in the therapy room and in the classroom. If you’re a school counselor – encourage the teachers to let students have small fidget object in class. If you’re a counselor or therapist in an office setting, make sure you have small toys and fidgets readily available so that kids know that they have this option. And advocate to the teachers if you think fidgets or stress toys would help your client at school.
Here are some of the fidget and sensory items that I have in my therapy room:
Some other activities that can provide more input and motion but still allow kids to focus include walking around, bouncing on an exercise ball, listening to music, chewing gum, and doing art or coloring.
Easy fidgets for kids to try at school include a stress ball, pipe cleaner, marble maze (thanks to a client for telling me about this!), tangle, doing origami, doodling, small glitter jar, beaded bracelet, worry stone, adhesive velcro dots under the desk, and sitting on an exercise ball.
A warning that I give all kids is that they can try a fidget or activity, but might lose it if it does become a distraction. Kids do need to learn that fidgeting doesn’t necessarily mean “playing” with something. It can also be a trial and error process to find the best options, so I encourage kids to try different things out and then see what helps. For example, some kids can doodle and listen to the teacher; others get hyperfocused on the drawing and don’t hear a single word of the lesson.
A note for adults: You might benefit from intentional fidgeting too! Try having a small fidget toy, walking around while you’re on a phone call, doodling during a meeting, or playing music in the background while you work.
So if you want to help your clients be able to focus better and calm anxieties, encourage them to give intentional fidgeting a try!
Giveaway! I’m giving away a Marble Maze fidget to one reader. If you want to enter, you have 3 chances to win.
1. Comment below and share what your favorite fidget item or activity is.
2. Follow me on Instagram @creativityintherapy and comment on the fidget basket picture.
3. Tag a friend in your Instagram comment to get an extra entry.
Giveaway winner will be chosen on Sept. 9th.
Update: Linda B. was the winner! Thanks to everyone that commented here and on Instagram!
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Carolyn Mehlomakulu, LMFT-S, ATR is an art therapist in Austin, Texas who works with children, teens, and families. For more information about individual therapy, teen and child counseling, family therapy, teen group therapy, and art therapy services, please visit: www.therapywithcarolyn.com.
This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any mental health conditions. All directives, interventions, and ideas should be used by qualified individuals within the appropriate bounds of their education, training, and scope of practice. Information presented in this blog does not replace professional training in child and family therapy, art therapy, or play therapy.
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