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If your kids are anything like mine, you have a lot of wiggling, flipping, flopping, getting up and down, playing with stuff nearby, and difficulty paying attention to their online classes. They need to MOVE, and sitting in front of a screen most of the day is the exact opposite of what they need. Enter: Quiet Sensory Fidgets.
There’s plenty of points we could debate about that, but as I write this, we are still in the midst of the worldwide pandemic, and my kids’ school districts are still delivering classes via Zoom and other online platforms. I have a houseful of very distractible, wiggly, “bored” teens and preteens, so I thought I’d share some of the kinds of things we are using to meet their need to wiggle, and improve their ability to pay attention during class right now.
Please note that the links below are affiliate links, and any purchase you make through these links will help our family 🙂 (see my affiliate disclosure statement)
Vestibular / Proprioceptive / Large Motor Fidgets
We’re all familiar with the 5 senses – sight, taste, smell, touch and hearing – but did you realize there are two more senses we use all the time? Vestibular Sense and Proprioception help us know where our bodies are in space, maintain balance and much more. Kids who struggle with these senses often seem clumsy and lack muscle control, among other things.
What Proprioception Does
Need to Bounce, Hop or Roll?
Sometimes the best solution to a fidgety kid is to let them fidget! Kids with sensory integration difficulties can focus and participate so much better if they have an outlet for all that extra energy. My middle schooler hasn’t been able to sit still HER WHOLE LIFE. It was YEARS before she stopped falling out of her chair at the dinner table. This year, a simple wheeled desk chair has truly changed everything! (Be sure to consider whether bouncing/rolling will be too distracting during video class – a quick check in with your child’s teacher might be in order.)
Gaiam Ball Chair Balance Kids Classic (this one has wheels too!)
Ergonomic Desk Chair w/ Lumbar Support, Armrest (teen/adult size)
JJS Kids Mesh Rolling Swivel Desk Chair (kids/teen size)
Need to Swing, Rock or Sway?
Even grownups gravitate toward the swings at the park! There’s just something calming and centering about swinging and rocking back and forth, even beyond infancy. If this sounds like your kiddo, check out these creative ideas below:
Need to Wiggle, Tip, Rotate or Spin?
Wiggling is literally WHAT KIDS DO! 🙂 It releases extra energy, strengthens core muscles and keep their need to fidget satisfied. Each child is different, and has different sensory needs. I definitely suggest getting their input on which kind of movement they’re drawn to, as well as making your own observations. Try looking for extremes – they might create the movements they need the most – or avoid them completely.
Need to Push, Pull or Lift Heavy Things?
Lots of kids have an extra need to PUSH or PULL something. If you Google it, you’ll find lots of great lists of free ways you can support your child with pushing, pulling and “heavy work” kinds of activities. I used to give my kids a laundry basket of books to drag around the living room when they were young. Or have them rearrange the cans in the pantry a few times. I’ll link you to mamaot.com for more creative ideas in and outside the home.
But what about when your kiddo has to sit in front of a screen? Difficult for all of us. Below are a few items you can have on hand to give them an outlet for pushing, pulling or lifting.
Some of these ideas are outside the box – be creative! Some can be used WHILE sitting, some provide a break between classes.
EAST MOUNT Push Down Bar Machine (adjustable, might be better for older kids/teens)
Need to Feel Weighed Down or Grounded?
Sometimes kiddos need help to control the wiggles, or they’ll bounce right out of their seats! They might benefit from a fidget like the ones linked below. If you’ve ever worked with an Occupational Therapist, you probably know about weighted vests, shoulder wraps and lap pads. Please do your research and learn about sizing, weight guidelines and how to use them. Some kids don’t like them, but they can be an amazing help for others. Here’s a link to the weighted vest FAQ page on nationalautismresources.com.
Need to Be Squeezed, Squished or Rolled Up Like a Burrito?
For some kiddos, it’s not so much about having extra weight keeping them down to earth, as it is about pressure. Feeling squeezed, squished, or wrapped up snugly like a burrito can be instantly calming for some. Again, please be sure to do your research so you know the best and safest ways to use these tools and ideas to help your kids. Here’s a great resource from Harkla.com about the benefits of deep pressure with special needs folks, or people struggling with trauma and anxiety.
Special Supplies Sensory Compression Vest (teen/adult – fits over clothing)
SmartKnitKIDS Compresso-T Deep Pressure Sensory Compression Undershirt (if you search, you’ll find similar undershirts for kids of all sizes, and adults too)
Quiet Fidget Blog Post Series
This post is part of a series of blog posts about various forms of fidgets and solutions to the additional sensory needs kids sometimes have. This series is by no mean comprehensive, and I am not an expert in all things Sensory Integration or Occupational Therapy. However, I have a houseful of teens and preteens who have struggled with many different sensory integration, anxiety, depression and other needs along the way. They’ve taught me a lot, and I wanted to share with you.
I will link the rest of the posts here as they are published.
- Quiet Fidgets Part 1: Fine Motor
- Quiet Fidgets Part 2: Vestibular / Proprioceptive / Large Motor (<– you’re here!)
- Quiet Fidgets Part 3: Resistance
- Quiet Fidgets Part 4: Oral-Motor
- Quiet Fidgets Part 5: Comfort/Snuggle/Cocoon/Weighted
- Quiet Fidgets Part 6: Frugal DIY Fidgets
- Quiet Fidgets Part 7: Retro Fidgets
- Quiet Fidgets Part 8: Sensory Integration Resources
Connect with Kristi
Have a question or a great idea to share? Leave a comment on this post, or send me a note via the contact form.