Fidget toys: Keep your hands busy and your brain focused

by Karina Aguilar / Staff Reporter

Some examples of fidget toys are fidget cubes, stress balls, fidget rings, rubiks cubes, fidget spinners. Photo courtesy of

Fidget toys are objects that work as tools to aid with focus and attention–these toys allow the brain to process irrelevant or extra sensory information. 

“Most children learn better when their hands are active and funneling expandable energy in this manner allows them to better focus on what they are trying to learn,” according to Flushing Hospital. 

“Experts have concluded that movement is essential for learning because the learner is required to use the left and right sides of their brain.”

Some students said they have seen for themselves how much channeling their energy into fidget toys can help the learning process throughout their virtual classes.

“If I start noticing that I am not paying attention or if I am feeling like moving around a lot, I’ll use my stress ball, and it’ll help me recenter myself for class,” said junior sociology major Azalia Resendiz.

Although fidget toys seem to be helpful for some students, there are others that said they feel fidget toys divert their attention from their studies.

“I think that using fidget toys distracts me more than it keeps me focused,” explained Mhari McGhee, a junior integrated marketing communications major. “I have ADHD, and I know fidget toys can be helpful for a lot of people with ADHD, but I haven’t seen any benefits for me personally. When I use them, I start thinking about the toy rather than the activity I am supposed to be focused on.”

While it is very possible that fidget toys just aren’t for everybody, some researchers believe that the type of fidget toy being used may play a role in the general effectiveness of the fidget. 

Some therapists recommend objects that are tactile, so individuals are able to hold and move the toy in their hand without looking at it– this may allow the fidget toy to be less distracting and more effective. 

“I use stress gear during my Zoom classes if I’m getting bored or anxious from sitting down because it’s a discrete way to keep me focused,” said Mariana Patino, a senior psychology major.

Aside from improving focus, some students said they also use fidget toys to cope with stress.

“Stress can become overstimulating. And all of the excess energy that comes with the stimulation can end up feeling overwhelming if I don’t engage in some sort of physical activity. The fidgeting seems to help with that,” explained Nick Rudauskas, a masters clinical psychology student. “Additionally, I believe that I get a certain degree of comfort from the distinct, yet familiar sensation of using my personal fidget.

While Rudauskas’ fidget toy brings a sense of comfort and eases his stress often, he said it doesn’t always do the trick.

“It doesn’t feel as significant if I’ve already been feeling extremely overwhelmed for a while, before I start using it,” he said. 

Another thing to consider when using fidget toys is how often you switch up which toys you are fidgeting with. Some researchers suggest that the effectiveness of fidget objects decreases over time,which may make it beneficial to switch between toys. 

Some research suggests that every person has a unique need and experience with fidget toys.

“Psychology research about sensation seeking tells us that people often seek to adjust their experiences and their environments so that they provide just the right level of stimulation,” according to Scientific American.

In addition to support for school, students may also see other benefits from using fidget toys. 

Some psychologists have argued that fidget toys are also effective in enhancing dexterity and coordination. Additionally, fidget toys can help motor skills and the development of muscles. 

Another potential benefit of using fidget toys is to help facilitate meditation. Psychology professor Jonathan Smith explained how to use fidget toys in this manner.

“To use a fidget meditatively, you need to slowly rotate your fidget finger over and over.  It should be done very easily.  Focus only on the fidget movement. Whenever your mind wanders or is distracted, which will happen hundreds of times, return to your calm simple fidget movement focus.”

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