Research shows that students with ADHD can concentrate better when they’re allowed to fidget (here's a link to the study). But what if this becomes a distraction for the rest of the class? We received hundreds of Facebook comments from teachers, parents, and students with great ideas for letting students quietly fidget, and here are some of our favorites:
1. Squeeze Balls
Squishy balls, stress balls, koosh balls, hand exercisers… there are dozens of objects that can be squeezed quietly. Teacher tip: make sure that kids use them under their desks for minimal distractions to others. Fun activity idea: fill balloons up with different items (seeds, playdough, flour, etc.) to squish.
Fidgets are small objects that help keep students’ hands occupied. You can buy these on Amazon.com or use objects like beaded bracelets, Rubik’s Cubes, or slinkies.
3. Silly Putty
Silly putty, playdough, or sticky tack can also keep students' hands occupied.
Tape a strip of the hard side of velcro under the student’s desk. It gives them something to touch. Many types of objects can work, such as emery boards or straws.
5. Gum or Chewable Necklaces
Chewing gum can help keep some ADHD students focused. In no-gum classrooms, necklaces with chewable pieces can also work. You can also wrap airline tubing or rubber bands at the ends of pencils for students to chew.
Doodling can help many students focus, not just ones with ADHD (here's the research if you're interested). Some students also benefit if they can draw during storytime or a lesson.
7. Background Noise/Music
A fan in the back of the room can help some students focus. Letting them listen to music on headphones (as long as it doesn’t interfere with what’s happening in class) can also help. One teacher had success with an aquarium in the back of the room -- the students liked hearing the calming swish of the water.
8. Chair Leg Bands
Tie a large rubber band (or yoga band) across both front legs of the chair for students to push or pull against with their legs.
9. Bouncy Balls
AKA yoga balls, stability balls, or exercise balls. These are potentially great for all students, not just ones with ADHD.
10. Swivel Chairs
Kids can twist a little bit from side to side. A rocking chair also works.
11. Wobble Chairs
Similar to swivel chairs or disk seats, these chairs let students rock within their seats. Teacher tip: don’t let students wobble too much, or they may fall off!
12. Disk Seats
These sit on a chair and allow students to rock in their seats (without being as dangerous as rocking the entire chair). Cushions can also work.
13. Standing Desks
Great for all students, not just ones that need to fidget. Learn how students brought standing desks into their classroom in this Edutopia community post: Using Stand Up Tables in the Classroom. If it’s within your budget, you can also use treadmill desks.
14. Desks with Swinging Footrests
A built-in footrest can help reduce the noise that would otherwise happen with foot tapping.
15. Stationary Bikes
Putting a stationary bicycle at the back of the classroom is a great way to help students be active, with the added benefit of exercise!
16. Classroom Space for Moving Around
Clear an area in the side or back of the room to let students stand, stretch, dance, pace, or twirl. If you’re brave, you can set up small trampolines for students to jump on.
17. Flexible Work Locations
Students don’t have to do their learning at their desk. One student did his work at the windowsill, while another moved from one desk to another. Having different learning stations can benefit all types of students. For ideas on setting up your classroom, check out this post: 7 Learning Zones Every Classroom Must Have.
What has worked for you?
Many thanks to our Facebook commenters who contributed to this list:
Amanda Becker, Amanda Nagy Magee, Angela L. García, Angela Peery, Barbara Linkus, Beverly Becker Wood, Bonnie Reeves, Brian Gagnon, Cherish A Eagen, Crissy Fleetwood, Debbi Allred, Don Myers, Dot McGee, Fin Scott, Helen Zukauskas, Holly Zuidema, Hollyann Moriarty Pierce, Jana Colvin, Jane Reed, Jennifer Preuss Schmidt, Jim Hansen, John N Kelly Sefcik, Judith Anderson, Katharine Healey Dalton, Laura Maslin Bradley, Laura Miranda, Laurie Baumbach Krivitz, Lindsay Russell Hyland, Lissa L. Rapoport, MaLinda Luker, Mandy Eller, MaryAnne Finch, Matt Winkler, Moe Margetts, Olivia Christine, Pat Melvin, Risa Blum Mendelson, Robyn Gunther, Sandra Churchwell Voss O'Brien, Sarah Holmes, Shannon Costella, Sylvia Morales Lopez, Tana Williamson, Tricia Musson Wright, Valerie Wilmot, and Virgil Miller.