If you are anything like me, it is hard to sit still without fidgeting for extended periods of time – especially in school. I’m not just talking about when I was a toddler or in preschool or in elementary school. I’m talking about from birth to the present (I am a sophomore in college). High school was difficult for me. I was asked to sit in a chair for eight hours a day, only moving during our six minute class changes. Because I recognized that I worked better when I could stand up and move, I had better focus and a longer attention span, I began to think of ways I could get through class without sitting. Science classrooms in my school had really tall tables, and I am fairly short. For this reason, I began to stand up when I was in biology or chemistry. I found that I was able to think as I swayed and able to burn off some of the energy that was bubbling up inside me and keeping me from giving my full attention to the teacher. None of my teachers ever had a problem with my standing versus sitting.
In other classes, like Calculus, we didn’t have tall tables that I could hide my standing behind. So, I asked my teacher if she minded if I paced in the back of the class while taking notes. She didn’t mind and I was a much more active and engaged learner because of this. I bring these stories up to show that even high schoolers can benefit from fidgeting and alternatives to sitting in a chair all day. The thing is, fidgeting doesn’t just help kids of all ages, it helps adults too.
The rise in fidget-related products and integration of alternative options to sitting in a regular desk chair is on the rise. Just last week CBS wrote about fidget toys, and how they are growing in popularity. The top two sellers are the Fidget spinner (which is Forbes magazine’s must-have office toy of 2017) and the fidget cube, which allow people to spin (spinner), push, roll, touch, wiggle and various other tactile fidgeting occupations. Both of these items can fit in the palm of your hand, so they aren’t distracting to others. Both of these little gadgets are under $5.
My brother, who is in high school, has greatly struggled with sitting still and he just got these fidget devices. They have been really helpful in providing an outlet that is not disruptive in which he can get out some of his desire to wiggle. Other alternatives that teachers can use in the classroom to decrease kids’ energy that is often either disruptive or distracting, are plentiful. In a second grade classroom that I shadowed in the fall, the teacher had a variety of “chairs” that kids could sit on, including exercise balls, chairs that rocked and bean bag chairs. This not only allows kids to move, but it also allows them to have a choice in the day which makes them feel valued and in some control of their education environment. GAIAM wrote about the benefits of sitting on exercise balls during class. The list includes: improved behavior, increased legible word productivity, increased attention span from children with learning disabilities, special needs and ADHD, greater focus and longer attention spans, increased muscle strength and development of the central nervous system, brain and body. While the cost of supplying exercise balls to all students in a classroom can be greater than a teacher’s budget, there are alternatives to allow kids to fidget. For instance, teachers can tie parts of resistance bands to the bottom of chair legs to allow kids to bounce their feet, tape sandpaper or other textured materials under the table so kids can run their fingers over it, having floor time and having walking or standing learning time. Offering kids variety gives them a sense of control, making them more likely to feel in control of education and invest in it more. Additionally, it allows kids to burn off energy that has numerous benefits.
So how will you incorporate fidgeting into your classroom or workplace?