When You’re Anxious and Fidgety: Fidget Toys Save the Day

By Victoria Marsh

Fidgeting (aka small movements of restlessness) is a sign of discomfort and nervousness. It also indicates a short attention span or a lack of concentration. It’s something nearly everyone does, too.

These small movements can look like twirling your hair, bouncing your knees or tapping your fingers. Fidgeting is common among people with anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and has been considered a coping mechanism that improves focus in people with attention disorders or people overcome with emotional and mental concerns.

For people who fidget a lot, anxiety fidget toys can help.

Designed to improve attention, concentration and focus, fidget toys come in different shapes, designs, forms and types. Research shows that fidget toys are ideal for anxiety, stress, restlessness and panic attacks.

What Are Fidget Toys?

Typically advertised for kids, fidget toys are handheld toys or tools that help kids (and adults) manage their stress or improve their focus. The term “fidget toys” can be deceiving since they’re not traditional toys. Instead, they’re small and purposeful tools that help people channel their anxious energy. When you’re experiencing anxiety, fidget toys can help you shake off the discomfort and nervousness that comes with each episode.

There are many fidget toys available for people with anxiety. These include the following:

  • Fidget spinners
  • Sensory diffusers
  • Fidget cubes or spinners
  • Rubber band balls
  • Chewable straws or pendants
  • Slime, putty or play dough

There are many fidget toy packs that marketers claim can help people deal with their anxiety or lack of focus. However, there are no studies that confirm these toys work for everyone. Still, if these toys help you manage your anxiety, why not?

How Do Fidget Toys Help with Anxiety?

People with anxiety or suffering from episodes of anxiety make small movements when they feel nervous, impatient, restless or anxious. Fidget toys offer an outlet for these movements, which can help a nervous person relieve their stress, calm their nerves or be distracted. Whether you go with a fidget spinner or a full fidget toy pack, these toys re-direct your attention from a stressful thought or environment to the toy.

Think of it as a parking space for your worries. The rhythmic sensation of any movement is soothing — like shaking your leg or tapping your feet.

Some fidget toys, when used by adults, also offer a mental break. But in some cases with kids, toys like fidget spinners can distract them.

What Fidget Toy is Best for Anxiety?

fidget toys for anxiety
Pop those pop its to bid anxiety goodbye (Photo from Pinterest)

There are many fidget toys available in the market and they come in different sizes and shapes to meet your personal needs and preferences. Each person has their preference when it comes to using fidget toys to deal with their anxiety. Fortunately, you have many options to choose from.

Stress Balls

These bouncy balls come in different materials, shapes and sizes. It can also help in calming your nerves and expelling anxious energy. These fidget toys can also strengthen the muscles in your hands and wrists, as well as relieve arthritis. To play with it, all you have to do is squeeze or just clench to promote progressive muscle relaxation.

Some stress balls come with extras like a scent, which offers stress relief. Other stress balls are designed with resistance options for strength training. There are also stress balls designed with positive affirmations to offer additional relief and motivation.

Fidget Spinners

Usually made from metal or plastic, fidget spinners are three-pronged toys that you spin. These spinners are helpful for people who fidget with their hands a lot. However, they can be distracting.

Fidget Cubes

This six-sided fidget toy for anxiety can be a bit more complicated since it has multiple options to keep you busy. Each side of the cube includes different activities like flipping, spinning or clicking, enabling your hands to stay busy and your mind to focus on something else.

Putty

Putty is a common classroom or household item, but you can also use it as a fidget toy. Play-Doh or putty can help you release your tension or stress. It’s a pocket-sized toy that isn’t as noisy as fidget cubes, which makes it less distracting.

Slime

Slime is another stretchy fidget toy that can keep a person’s hands busy. Slime helps both adults and kids focus or feel calm when they’re agitated or restless. Also, it can help you be more creative since today’s slime range come in DIY kits, with some designed to look like food.

Mindful Breathing Straws and Chewable Pendants

Sensory tools aren’t just for your hands. Chewable pendants and mindful breathing straws are ideal for anyone who chews off their nails, pencils, sleeves, hair and more. If these are your chosen fidget toys for anxiety, shop for toys that are free from PVC, BPA, latex and lead.

How Do You Choose the Best Fidget Toy for Anxiety?

If your anxiety needs help, fidget toys are great tools. However, not all toys offer the same effect to different users. Cheap fidget toys might work wonders on someone and fail on another. When choosing a fidget toy for your anxiety, consider the following:

  • User’s age. If the toy is for someone younger, avoid fidget toys that present a choking hazard due to the design or small parts.
  • Noise levels. Some people would like a quiet toy, especially if they want to use them in public places or avoid disturbing others.
  • Ease of use. Since many people use fidget toys to improve their focus, most would use a toy that doesn’t require focus to use the product.
  • Durability. You’re using these toys during stressful and anxious times; therefore, they should be durable enough to withstand daily use. If you’re looking for a toy for anxiety or stress relief, buy a toy made from stronger materials, such as metal or plastic.

There is no one best fidget toy for anxiety. Instead, people should consider the fidget actions that come with the product, as well as the toy’s noise levels and safety. Also, consider the type of fidgeting that you find most calming. For example, some people prefer toys that they pull and twist while others find stretching putty more relaxing.

Are Fidgets Only for Anxiety?

Known as a tool that helps a person deal with anxiety, fidget toys can also aid people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism and other conditions that affect concentration and learning. Although these areas require further study, some evidence suggests that fidget toy packs can influence a person’s fine motor skills, which are in charge of precise movements.

 

If you’re looking for a fun way to ease your stress or anxiety, fidget toys can save the day. And the best part is it’s not just for kids. Adults can have fun and stay calm with it, too.

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