Category: Focus Tool

Water Beads … Favorite Fidget #7

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Orbeez, water beads, sooper beads, call them what you like, these little expanding balls lead to endless fun!  They start as tiny seeds… and as soon as water is added, they immediately start to expand!  They will expand for up to 6 hours, looking something like this

Water beads have always been one of the most desired prizes in the OT prize box.  Just a small handful can overflow a cup!!  They are such a great sensory tool for touch, sight, and focus!  They give a cool sensation and if you fill a deep bucket or table, can offer some deep pressure input.  Hiding small items amongst the water beads can make for a fun searching game!  Good for visual distraction and tactile discrimination. (Click HERE for more details on specifics of sensory bins)

C had a bug-themed birthday party this year, so we filled our water table with green and yellow water beads and many plastic and rubbery bugs.  The kids had a blast digging up to their elbows for bugs.  (For a whole other sensory experience, we also had a mud table filled with real bugs!  But that is for another post…)

         

Something else we love to with our water beads is pour them into balloons!  These make really excellent stress balls.  Clearly, I could go on forever about all the wonderful things you can do with these little beads!   So, here’s the review:

C(4): breakable, bouncy, slimy, 16  (yes, out of 10!)

G(6): squishy, wet, colorful, 10

O: satisfying, boba-like, fun, 8.5

This is the pack that I always order!  Very inexpensive for A LOT of beads!  Click the image to buy your own!

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, but only share items that I have personally tried and approve.

Wacky Tracks … Favorite Fidget #6

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(Affiliate link)

Wacky Tracks are a great affordable fidget, with movement, sound, and bright patterns!  Each clicking piece can move into several different positions to allow for creation of a variety of shapes.  We worked very hard to get this hexagon shape!

 

Although not necessarily ideal for the classroom, I like fidgets that make a bit of noise.  It allows the individual to create a rhythm with their hands that they can also hear and anticipate.  Rhythm and repetition can be very calming and regulating.

And for the family review:

C (4): stretchy, rainbow, yellowish, 9

G (6): happy, beautiful, colorful, fun to move, 9

O: clicky, versatile, manipulative, 6  — perhaps because he is not a fan of the clicking noise that I love so much 😉

To get your own set of Wacky Tracks – click HERE

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, but only share items that I have personally tried and approve.

Categories: Focus Tool

Wikki Stix … Favorite Fidget #5

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I love wikki stix!  They are very versatile and allow creativity!  They are simply thin pieces of yarn covered in wax, so they offer a somewhat tacky texture that is pliable.  They are sold in individual packets which are perfect for travel or adding to a coping kit.  They can also be purchased in bulk to offer in a classroom or a program.

One of my favorite activities that I have completed with wikki stix is a group challenge.  I provide the group with a pile of wikki stix and instruct them to build a road.  They usually start out simple, building a straight road from one end of a table to the other.  Next, I give them each a cotton ball and a straw and see if they can blow their cotton ball down the road.  As the activity goes on, I invite them to challenge themselves and see what kind of a road they can build, while still getting their cotton ball through the path.  I have a fond memory of doing this group with about 8 staff in a residential program.  I often teach activities to staff, so they could then bring it back and do the same with the youth in the program.  These staff got so into the activity, building their path over posters and stacks of books, weaving it back and forth across the table.  It was so fun to watch!  And I know that the more excited staff are about an activity, the more enthusiasm they will bring when doing it with youth.  Consulting and working with many programs for kids and adolescents, staff buy-in is one of the biggest indicators of moving the program culture to one that embraces sensory strategies as tools for self-regulation.

Completing this activity meets so many objectives, such as;

  1. team building
  2. breath control
  3. fine motor manipulation
  4. communication
  5. self-regulation

I have personally made wikki stix roads with pre-school children up to adolescents.  Adjusting the level of difficulty or challenge invites all participants to engage in the activity.

I often keep wikki stix in my purse for my kiddos to use while we are out.  Here are some of their (and my) creations:

Of course, they gave their review and rating:

C (4) sticky, colorful, shapey, 100

G (6) stringy, sticky, fun to play with, 8

The perfect tool for fidgeting, being creative, or focusing!  Click below to get your own set!

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, but only share items that I have personally tried and approve.

Flow Ring … Favorite Fidget #4

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Working with sensory based coping strategies for over eleven years, I like to think that I am pretty knowledgeable about my fidgets, but this awesome tool snuck right up on me!  I was working with a social worker recently and we were heading up to her office to grab some things we needed for a meeting, including a few fidgets.  She was really excited to show me this new fidget she had picked up.  I was immediately mesmerized by this FLOW RING!  

            

So this ring starts out flat, then springs out.  And if you put your arm into the ring, the middle flower shape forms around you!  As you move your arm, it twirls up and down with you.  Lock your hands its it will travel down one arm and up the other.  Great for focus and fun as you can see below!

For me the flow ring had amazing movement and also provided a good tickling with a comforting squeeze as it traveled up and down my arms.  It also felt cold!  That cooling is a rare option in fidgets (other than those that we store in the freezer) that can really help when stress and anxiety lead to feeling overheated.

Here is the family review –

C (4) – fast, spoingy (a new vocab word? 😉 ), pumpkin-shaped, 9

G (6) – tickly, shiny, cool, 10

O – fun, slinky, magic, 9

Definitely a winner here!  I hope you like it as much as we do!!

You can find it here – –

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, but only share items that I have personally tried and approve.

Categories: Focus Tool

Squash It … Favorite Fidget #3

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Really excited here to review this favorite fidget – The Squash It!  

This was a teen favorite at some of the programs that I worked in.  I brought them home for the review with my whole family and like last time, I gave one to each, my husband included this time, and asked them to describe the experience in three words and then rate the tool on scale of 1 – 10.

C (4) – squishy, fast, quick, 9

G (6) – darting, squishing, fun to watch, bubbly, beautiful, 10

O – entertaining, pressure, feels like a video game controller, press to get visual stimuli (ok, I interpreted that from what he said), 8.7

So overall, this was a big hit in our house!  We felt that squeezing was a good stress reliever because it takes a bit of pressure to move the bubbles from side to side.  It also gives you something to watch, so it can serve as a visual distraction when feeling overwhelmed or anxious.  G even came up with a challenge – try to get all the bits of sparkle to one side.  This was fun and took some focus to achieve.  They also had fun looking through the colored circles and piling them on top of each other to make new colors.  These fidgets are quiet too, so could work well in a classroom.  My sister-in-law stopped by while we were playing with them and she took a few to try out in her 8th grade classroom.  I am excited to hear the update and review from her students!

 

Here’s where I get them –>

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Categories: Focus Tool

Marble Fidget … Favorite Fidget #2

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Working for many years in a non-profit, I have become keen on finding fidgets on a budget.  These marble fidgets are definitely a hit and at just under 50 cents a piece, you can’t go wrong!

I like them because they are quiet and offer a bit of movement.  I am the person who will click the battery compartment of the remote a millions times without even noticing I am doing it (until I get THE LOOK from my husband 😉 ).  This fidget is quieter than clicking the remote and just as satisfying!

Here is the review from G (6) and C (4):

What three words do you think of when you use this fidget?

C – hard, massage, quiet

G – hard, rough, moving

On a scale of 1 – 10, what number would you give this tool?

C – 9

G – 8

Hope you like them as much as I do!!

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, but only share items that I have personally tried and approve.

Click above to check them out, or click on to see Favorite Fidget #3~

 

Categories: Focus Tool

Slime … Favorite Fidget #1

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As an OT, I have been making slime since the “olden days” before there was slime activator 😉  Recently G and C had a play date, with a little slime-making expert!  They had planned (without telling me) that they would make slime on the visit, luckily, we have our go-to slime making tools on hand.  When I carried the supplies to the table, the little slime expert said “where is the activator?”  I told her I had a magic activator called Sta-Flo liquid starch!

So we set to work…

First we added a 1/2 cup of Elmer’s School Glue

We added several drops of food coloring, stirred and added, several times until we had an approved color.

Next, and this is the important part that is often missed, we GRADUALLY added 1/4 cup of Sta-Flo

We added a little, stirred a little and continued until all of the liquid starch was incorporated.  At this point, it might look a little “brainy” or stringy.  Let it sit a few minutes and stir again.  Once it appears combined, its time to pick it up and knead!

After a bit of kneading, if its still too sticky, add liquid starch.  If its still stringy, add a bit of glue.  This is the part that kids love – experimenting!  It meets kids inner drive to mix and measure and learn.  This is why slime making is such a great STEM activity!

Now you can get creative!   On this day, their idea was to make a different slime for each season.  Our favorite was winter – where we added glitter, peppermint essential oil, and the small styrofoam balls that we had used earlier in the day to make snow globes.

I even learned a great tip from my little slime-guest!  and that is lotion!   Adding lotion, in small increments (C and G went a little lotion crazy when they learned the secret) can help cut down on the stickiness.  It can also add a nice scent!

In the end, slime making;

  1. meets that innate need to experiment and measure – STEM
  2. provides a sense of mastery and accomplishment upon completion of the slime
  3. offers a sensory tool that can be used for regulation

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, but only share items that I have personally tried and approve.

Click on to Favorite Fidget #2

 

 

Tool of the Month: Fidgets

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Everybody loves fidget tools!  But why?

Our hands are home to a multitude of touch receptors, muscles, and joints.  Each time we touch, hold, or manipulate an object, signals are sent to our brain.  Some of these signals help us to discriminate what it is we are touching (help us to identify the object without looking) and others help us to use this input to alter our level of arousal.  In order to be successful in our daily tasks, we need to be able to alter our arousal level.  When falling asleep or watching television a low level of arousal is suffice, while attending to a task that requires focus and attention requires an arousal level that is a bit higher.   There are also times when a high arousal level is appropriate such as playing sports.  There are many ways to change arousal level, including using the sense of touch or the internal sense of proprioception received through muscle and joint contraction and relaxation.  All individuals use these senses throughout the day to alter their arousal level.   Strategies are individualized and are often done without thinking about them – such as bouncing legs, cracking knuckles, chewing a piece of gum, drinking through a straw, clicking a pen.  With the popularity of fidget toys, individuals are now able to find more tools that meet their preference.  Some tools may provide more light touch – which can be more alerting, while others may provide more deep touch – which can be more calming.  Any tool that exercises the muscle and joint of the hand can also help with bringing the body to the appropriate level of arousal.  Actually, tools that provide muscle and joint changes, can be great choices because this type of input can raise or lower arousal level depending upon what the body needs.  Touch can also strengthen the ability to learn and retain information, because more parts of the brain are activated when an object is being touched, helping build connections for later retrieval.  Fidget tools or other strategies such as tapping, clicking, cracking, bouncing, etc. are appropriate and can used as long as they are helping the individual to meet the appropriate arousal level for the given moment.  Fidget tools and strategies should be reconsidered when they become a distraction.

Throughout the month, I am going to share all of my favorite fidgets!!

Join me for my Top Ten Favorite Fidgets, starting with …

SLIME!

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, but only share items that I have personally tried and approve.

Soft Simple Play Dough

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This play dough recipe will quickly become your favorite because it only requires two ingredients!  It is also the softest play dough you will ever feel and leaves your hands feeling super smooth after you play.  Even better, it smells wonderful!  Sold?  Head to your local dollar store or grocery store for corn starch and hair conditioner, and maybe a table cloth…  Corn starch can be messy!!!

Materials:

  • Cornstarch (2 parts)
  • Hair Conditioner (1 part)  I personally love the White Rain brand, for the smells (apple, rain, and coconut, and also for its consistency).  Every conditioner has a slightly different consistency, so you may have to adjust your measurements accordingly.
  • Measuring cups, such as 1 cup and 1/2 cup
  • Container for storage
  • Fork for stirring
  • Optional – food coloring

I often do this activity in a group setting, so I vary my “parts” accordingly.  Today I did it with C and G, so we had plenty to spare, and they even made two batches each.  We started with 1/2 cup of conditioner.  They measured it out and added it to their containers.

Then they measured out their cornstarch.  One big tip to this recipe is GRADUALLY adding the cornstarch to the conditioner.  The recipe will still work if you add it all at once, as many a kid I have made this with has done, but it comes together so much easier when added gradually.

  

Once all of the cornstarch is added and the dough begins to come together, take it out of the container and knead it.  If its still a bit sticky, tap it in some of the cornstarch that inevitably spilled 😉  If it is a little dry, add more conditioner.  Be sure to knead enough before you decide to add more cornstarch or conditioner.  And that is it!  You are now holding the softest, most wonderful smelling play dough.

We were having so much fun, that we decided to switch it up and add some color.  To do this, we added 5 – 10 drops of food coloring to the conditioner and stirred before adding the cornstarch.  Then we completed the recipe in the same way and we got these results:

 

Play dough is such a great tool because it just makes you feel so playful!  As soon as we finished, C said “can we take out our play dough tools?”  So not only did we have a blast making it, but it kept us busy for a while after we made it!  Play dough offers an invitation for people of all ages to playful and get messy.  I made this same play dough last week with a group of adolescent girls and others could hear their laughter from down the hall.  Many of them asked to make more than one type, and that classroom was COVERED in cornstarch, which they willingly cleaned because they had so much fun making the mess.  They also were excited to show it off, and show off how soft their hands were.

Having something in our hands, somehow, just makes us feel more at ease.  So what exactly is that somehow?  We all do certain things when we are nervous, bored, upset, to make us feel better.  Some of us chew gum, some of us bounce our leg, and some click their pen.  And some do all three 🙂 By accessing our senses, we can change our level of arousal – to help us wake up, calm down, or stay exactly where we need to be.  Using play dough, fidgets, or any FOCUS tool can help us to feel regulated.  So, might this be your tool?  Give it a try!!!

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, but only share items that I have personally tried and approve.

Search Bottle

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Still have all these goodies from your gel pack?!  Or do you have a bunch of small objects that need a home?  Then let’s make a search bottle!

What is a search bottle, you ask?  It’s a fabulous FOCUS tool, for keeping eyes, hands, and minds busy!  The search bottle is filled with small objects that appear when you rotate and shake the bottle.  For kiddos and teens that get easily anxious, overwhelmed, even bored, it gives them something to keep them occupied and can take their mind off of what is bothering them.  You can make a list of all of the objects and attach to the bottle, giving a specific task to complete. Challenging them to find all of the item on the list can extend the life of the activity!  Sounds good, and you have a pile of small objects hanging around?  Then you are ready!

Materials needed:

  • small objects such as pompoms, googly eyes, beads, jewels, small figures, dice, buttons, and anything else you can find
  • leftover bottle, clean and dry
  • filler, such as rice, beans, craft pellets
  • Optional — super glue to seal the bottle tight

Directions

Lay out and count your objects.  This may be the best time to make your list so you are sure to keep track of all of the objects you plan to include.

 

Pour a few items into the bottle, then add some filler.  Continue until you had added all objects and the bottle is filled with at least a 2 inch gap at the top, to allow items to move freely.  A funnel can help with filling, but not totally necessary.  For my search bottle, I used the craft pellets that I use when I make weighted blankets.  I chose this material because I had it and thought it would look pretty, but if you have rice or beans at home right now, they will do the trick!

Tada!  Attach your list and glue on your lid and your search bottle is good to go!  Great as a coping tool, busy tool, or activity to do while waiting 🙂

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, but only share items that I have personally tried and approve.