Teaching Effective Fidgeting

Do you feel this way?

Do you feel this way?

“Fidgeting is always a distraction!”

“I’ve never had a student who actually fidgets effectively. They just play.”

“Fidgeting is just an excuse to have a toy.”

If any or all of these quotes about fidgeting in your classroom resonate with you, allow me to show you another way. 


Why Kids Fidget

For individuals with ADHD, the brain’s release of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine; responsible for attention, is inconsistent. Therefore, these processes are impacted, making it difficult for our students with ADHD to attend to learning and classroom tasks.

However, fidgeting can help stimulate the networks of the brain that control attention, leading to an increase of norepinephrine and therefore an increase in attention. Simply put, fidgeting can truly help kids focus when their brain makes it otherwise hard for them to do so.


Why it Often Creates Problems

Okay, so if I give my squirmy students a little squishy ball or fidget spinner, will they focus better?

Well, it’s not always as simple as I’m sure you’ve experienced it if you’re still reading. On occasion, we’ll have the student whom you give the tool and problem-solve. However, most of the time, we find ourselves wanting to take those fidgets back because they end up causing more disruption than the behaviors we hoped would help in the first place.


What Can We Do?

Without taking the time to teach students about fidgeting properly, we can’t expect a child to be given a toy-looking object and not simply play with it. Fortunately, teachers can have a lot of success with appropriate fidgeting in their classrooms through intentional teaching.

Through teaching students about appropriate fidgeting, they will learn:

  • the difference between a primary focus and a secondary focus
  • when something is being used as a tool or a toy
  • the classroom expectations for using fidgets


Rather than simply saying no to fidgeting, we can instead empower our students to know when and how to use fidgets, help our students improve their focus and attention, and truly minimize distracting behaviors in the classroom.

Written by Carly Wolf
ADHD Teacher Trainer Academy© Facilitator
Elementary, Special Education Teacher 

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