Using fidget tools to help students self-regulate at school


It’s a familiar story: a student who is out of control disrupts the class and encounters punishment from the teacher and/or resentment from other students. Thankfully, much progress has been made on this issue, in the form of fidget tools which satisfy students’ needs for movement while keeping them from disturbing their neighbors.

A host of low-cost fidget tools and where to get them was recently discussed at the #COETC16 conference at Michigan State University. Presenters Stacy Turke and Jodie Fowler, OTs at Ingham Intermediate School District, showed fidget tools for hands, feet, seat, and even mouth.

Although some fidgets tools look like toys, it is crucial to teach and frequently revisit the concept “Tools, not toys,” said Stacy and Jodie. They suggested defining a “tool” to the students as “whatever helps you do your work.” The difference is how a device is used. For example, a pencil is a tool until you start tossing it in the air or playing catch with it.

Stacy and Jodie also recommended discussing the concept of fairness, especially when you can’t provide a fidget tool to everyone in class. The following graphic could be helpful in explaining the concept of fairness.

Fair is not equal. Fair is everyone getting what they need.

Fair is not equal. Fair is everyone getting what they need.


Here are some tips about fidget tools and seating solutions. For more ideas, search for “fidget” from,, and,

Hand fidgets

hand fidgets

Hand fidgets

Just about anything small and malleable can be a hand fidget, as long as it doesn’t make noise. Avoid wooden ones, because they can be noisy. What works for one child might not work for another, but here are some suggestions.

Foot fidgets

These allow students to wiggle their feet without bothering the person in front of them. They are placed on the legs of chairs or desks.

  • Bouncybands for desks and chairs.
  • Big-Ass Bands for desks and chairs, from Amazon (are less expensive than Bouncybands).

Oral fidgets

  • If you use food for oral fidgets, use something with a strong taste that lasts a long time, such as jerky, Warheads Sour candy, or jawbreakers.
  • Give the student a water bottle with a flexible straw attached.

    Use water bottles with flexible straw attachments

    Use water bottles with flexible straw attachments

  • See “chewies” in

Seat and desk solutions

  • Try Hokki Stools or Wobble Chairs.
  • Have the students sit on yoga balls. You can steady them by placing them in rings created with pool noodles. When storing them beneath tables, use frisbees to hold them in place (but don’t use frisbees when kids are sitting on them).
  • Have the kids sit on the floor using BackJack chairs.
  • Use bed risers on the legs of your tables to create a standing desk.
  • Consider two work stations for those really wiggly folk.

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