Back to school (and for some, back to work) season is upon us, and with that comes the stressors and day-to-day struggles of calming both your body and mind. Chances of being able to ease back into your routines, as opposed to being launched into the metaphorical deep end, are slim, which means it can be difficult to find an outlet for all that overwhelming nervous energy. When it feels like so much is going on in your mind and around you that all you can do is, well, nothing, a fidget or pop toy may be helpful.
What is a fidget toy?
To put it simply, fidget toys are sensory toys that occupy your mind to prevent negative emotions or behaviors. Flushing Hospital Medical Center defines fidget toys as “self-regulation tools to help with focus, attention, calming, and active listening.” Though they began to increase in notoriety in 2017, when the fidget spinner craze swept the nation, fidget toys (and fidgeting) have always been around—if you’ve ever incessantly clicked a ballpoint pen or vigorously chewed piece after piece of gum, then you’ve used a fidget item. Much like the reasons people might need them, no two fidget toys are alike: They can come in the form of a squishy stress ball, moldable putty, or the latest TikTok craze, poppable silicone molds. These days, they can even disguise themselves as inconspicuous, everyday items like accessories and office supplies, meaning you can take them with you everywhere and keep them out within reach. The main point of a fidget toy is that you don’t have to devote all your attention to it, which is why as kids became too distracted by customizing and doing tricks with their fidget spinners, many schools banned them from use. However for the 9.4 million children with ADHD and the 4.4 million who have anxiety alone, having a fidget toy in the classroom can actually serve as a valuable tool to help improve their ability to focus. While it may seem counterintuitive, these toys provide a much-needed mental break that in turn stimulates concentration and productivity.
Who can use pop and fidget toys?
Many associate it with kids, but as more people began to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, it became more noticeable that adults do plenty of fidgeting too. No matter your age, fidget and popping toys can help alleviate stress and strengthen one’s ability to concentrate, especially if you have ADHD, anxiety, autism, OCD, PTSD, or SAD. Other benefits listed by Flushing Hospital Medical Center include “[enhancing] dexterity, [improving] coordination and fine motor skills, and [assisting] in the development of muscles of small hands.” One study of sixth grade students in Georgia found that kinesthetic learners, in particular, saw an increase in attention span when using stress balls, to the point that “student achievement on writing paragraphs improved.” Furthermore, the study determined that all types of learners saw improvement in “attitude, attention, writing abilities, and peer interaction… due to stress ball use.” Additional studies show that fidgeting improves cognitive skills for kids with difficulties like ADHD, and providing them with the proper tools to fidget can make it a safer outlet for themselves and less of a distraction for their peers. While many schools still do not permit fidget toys in the classroom, you can request a 504 accommodation or have it written in your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) if you think it will benefit them.
What are some signs someone might benefit from a fidget toy?
Some signs you or someone you know could benefit from fidget toys include:
- Difficulty listening or concentrating
- Having a short attention span
- Causing disruption or personal harm during stressful situations
- Restlessness, tension, or an inability to sit still
- Struggling to stay organized, particularly when prioritizing tasks
- Extreme nervousness about new environments or life events
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15 Best Pop Its and Fidget Toys
Push Pop Bubble Fidget Phone Case, $2.50, Shein
Pop, pop, squish, squish, oh what a (stress) relief it is! If you find yourself constantly losing your fidget tools, Shein’s Push Pop Bubble Fidget Phone Case is a great option that you can take with you anywhere you go. This colorful case is available in 10 colors for iPhone 7-12 Pro Max models—just know Shein has a $3.99 shipping fee if you don’t meet the $49 minimum requirement for free shipping. Push Pop Bubble Fidget Phone Case, $2.50, Shein
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BUNMO Textured Stretchy Strings Fidget Toy, $10, Amazon
Your fidgety fingers won’t be able to resist the BUNMO Textured Stretchy Strings Fidget Toy. This sensational sensory toy is pliable, yet durable, with plenty of bumps and ridges to keep your hands occupied. Each box contains six brightly colored strings, which makes it easy if you happen to misplace one or two. Plus, it’s BPA-free, non-toxic, and phthalate-free, so those with an oral fixation can chew away! BUNMO Textured Stretchy Strings Fidget Toy, $10, Amazon
Fat Brain Toys Simpl Dimpl , $9, Amazon
If tactile stimming helps you concentrate or cope, we have a simple suggestion (literally). The Simpl Dimpl’s ABS plastic frame fits right in your hand as you pop the food-grade silicone buttons in and out. This toy is just as satisfying as squeezing bubble wrap, and you can take it anywhere thanks to its handy clasp that clips onto purses, lanyards, or backpacks. Fat Brain Toys Simpl Dimpl, $9, Amazon
LANQKUISZ Pop Push Its Among Us Tie Dye Bubble Sensory Fidget Toy (3-Pack), $14, Amazon
If you feel like an imposter as you struggle with doing day-to-day tasks, this 3-pack of Among Us Bubble Sensory Fidget Toys can help you focus. In addition to being made from durable silicone, these scrunchable pop it toys come in camouflage, rainbow, and tie-dye patterns, so you can have one for every mood or each member of your crew. LANQKUISZ Pop Push Its Among Us Tie Dye Bubble Sensory Fidget Toy (3-Pack), $14, Amazon
Related: 50 Best Gifts for 1-Year-Olds
Small Fish Infinity Cube, $10, Amazon
As what we would consider the Optimus Prime of fidget toys, the Small Fish Infinity Cube, is a great option if you’re looking for a toy that’s equally workable and subtle. In addition to easily passing as a cool desk knickknack or paperweight, it’s solid and easy to manipulate with one hand, meaning you can stay grounded as you fiddle with it on phone calls and in meetings. You can snag one for $10 in black, but it’s also available for $9 in green and $19 in silver. Small Fish Infinity Cube, $10, Amazon
With nearly 155,000 backers and $6.5 million raised through their viral Kickstarter fundraiser, Antsy Labs’ viral Fidget Cube continues to be a crowd-pleaser since the campaign’s launch in August 2016. All six sides of this convenient gadget have different features, such as flickable switches and clickable buttons, with some being noiseless for those times when you don’t want to distract others. Plus, it’s small enough that you can pop it in your desk drawer, car console, or coat pocket and securely hold it in your hand when needed. Antsy Labs Fidget Cube, $15, Walmart
Crazy Aaron’s Putty Color Shock & Holo Mini Tins (4-Pack), $20, Amazon
Say goodbye to tension and “holo” to relaxation with the moldable and mashable Crazy Aaron’s Putty variety pack, which includes four tins of gluten-free and latex-free thinking putty in dazzling, holographic colors. This is a great tool to squish and stretch when you need to keep one or both of your hands busy, like while watching TV or talking on the phone. Crazy Aaron’s Putty Color Shock & Holo Mini Tins (4-Pack), $20, Amazon
Related: 52 Best Indoor and Outdoor Toys
Chuckle & Roar Pop It! Letters & Numbers Fidget Toy, $23, Amazon
If your little one is learning their ABC’s and 123’s, this is a great take on Chuckle & Roar’s classic Pop It! Whether your tot needs some extra sensory support during a long road trip or some clarity and calmness during the school day, this bubble popping game is easy to take with you anywhere. Chuckle & Roar Pop It! Letters & Numbers Fidget Toy, $23, Amazon
ALEXTINA Spinner Ring, $11, Amazon
For those with dermotillomania, a form of OCD in which one compulsively picks at their skin, fidget jewelry like the ALEXTINA Spinner Ring helps give their fingers something else to do when they’re mindlessly scanning for imperfections to rub, peel, and scratch at. Plus, it’s available in 12 colors and sizes 4-12, meaning you have plenty of options if you want to match your favorite outfit or pick up a few sizes to wear on different fingers. ALEXTINA Spinner Ring, $11, Amazon
Crayola Globbles, $10, Amazon
If you’ve found yourself on #FidgetTok, chances are you’ve seen the super popular (and super squishy) Crayola Globbles. With bright colors and a satisfying plucking sound as you pull them apart, these sticky, stretchy stress balls are perfect for when you need some soothing ASMR or want to exert some pent-up energy by throwing them at your wall or ceiling. Crayola Globbles, $10, Amazon
Tom’s Fidgets Original Flippy Chain Fidget Toy, $8, Amazon
Flip the script on your anxiety with the Tom’s Fidgets Original Flippy Chain Fidget Toy, which is available in 4 colors. Its clean design features sturdy and corrosion-proof stainless steel split rings and chain links with grippy silicone O-rings. The Flippy is also noiseless, so you can discreetly twiddle it around your fingers in class or at work without drawing unwanted attention Tom’s Fidgets Original Flippy Chain Fidget Toy, $8, Amazon
ASSBABY Soybean Stress Relieving Chain Toys (3-Pack), $7, Amazon
With a cute concept and even cuter faces, this pleasantly poppable toy is sure to bring you some peace—or rather, peas. The hard inner plastic beans are attached inside a rubbery outer pod, resulting in a great sensation as you push one nugget out and pop another back in. The ASSBABY Soybean Stress Relieving Chain Toy is easy to clip onto your key ring, but it comes in a 3-pack should you lose one. ASSBABY Soybean Stress Relieving Chain Toys (3-Pack), $7, Amazon
Asuku Magnetic Sculpture Building Pen, $19, Amazon
Satisfy your meticulous inner sculptor with the smooth and durable Asuku Magnetic Sculpture Building Pen, which comes in 3 classic colors. Comprised of an inner pen and over a dozen stackable magnetic pieces, it perfectly balances ergonomics and whimsy, meaning the budding Michelangelo or Mark Twain in your life can go as far as their imagination takes them. Asuku Magnetic Sculpture Building Pen, $19, Amazon
Tangle Relax Therapy Tangle Therapy Toy, $14, Amazon
Are you in an entanglement with your anxiety? If you find yourself pulling on your hands and clothes when you’re stressed out, check out this totally tubular toy. The Tangle Therapy Toy is easy to pull and twist, while the tactility of the rubber-coated bumps and ridges satisfies your sensory needs, so you can keep your hands occupied while your mind focuses on what’s important Tangle Relax Therapy Tangle Therapy Toy, $14, Amazon
YoYa Toys Pull, Stretch and Squeeze Stress Balls (3-Pack), $16, Amazon
If your kid’s motor skills could use a tune-up, consider the YoYa Toys Pull, Stretch and Squeeze Stress Balls, which feature a thermoplastic rubber exterior and a non-toxic inner putty. Whether it’s squeezing, yanking, squelching, there’s nothing these malleable and easy to clean spheres can’t handle. YoYa Toys Pull, Stretch and Squeeze Stress Balls (3-Pack), $16, Amazon
From jewelry and phone cases, to balls and (key) chains, there are plenty of options for you to find a sensory tool that works for you. We hope our fidget and pop toy recommendations bring you the peace and clarity you’re looking for as you tap, pop, spin, and flick away your pent-up energy and anxiety!
Next, the surprising benefits of mindfulness.