Do you know a kiddo that LOVES all things fidget toys? This Fidget Kit is a DIY Travel Sensory Kit that is perfect for on-the-go sensory needs for kids with Sensory Processing Disorders children or those who are Autistic and prefer sensory fidget items. Let’s cover fidget kits, just one occupational therapy kit that meets specific needs.
Read on for tips to help with sensory issues while out and about, how to use and set up a fidget kit, and why fidget kits are a great sensory tool for self-regulation, a sensory diet (based on meaningful and motivating sensory strategies (aka a sensory lifestyle), or sensory needs.
What are Fidget Kits
A fidget kit is essentially a collection of fidgets that can be used to meet sensory needs and can be used as a movement break to incorporate specific sensory motor actions into daily functional tasks. Fidget kits may contain squeeze toys, fidget items, pop toys, putty, slap bracelets, Rubix cubes, stress balls, and many other fidget items. These sensory items can be housed in a box, bin, tote bag, shoe box, or any small carrying case. Fidget kits can be used by occupational therapy professionals with a whole caseload of clients, or a fidget kit can be individualized based on one person’s specific sensory preferences.
Fidget toys support self-regulation and sensory needs so that kids can pay attention, focus, learn, and interact with others. Some fidgets offer heavy work through the hands. Others offer movement for the hands or body.
A fidget kit can be used in many different ways:
- A fidget kit can be used in a sensory corner of a classroom as a calm down area.
- Or, a collection of sensory fidgets can be used by one individual for meeting various needs.
- Other times, a fidget kit is used as a choice, where use of a sensory tool is selected from a bin or bag of sensory fidget items. In this case, a visual schedule may be incorporated into the fidget toolbox.
We’ve shared various collections of fidget toy recommendations here on the website in previous years.
These types of fidget toys are all excellent additions to a fidget kit:
- Quiet Fidget Toys for School
- Desk Fidget Tool
- DIY Fidget Toys
- Keychain Fidget Tools (great for clipping on a shoe for fidgeting during circle time, clipping to a backpack for fidgeting on the bus, or clipping to a belt loop or coat zipper for fidgeting during school or other transitions.)
- Weighed Fidget Toy Idea
- Pencil Topper Fidget
- Beach Ball Wiggle Seat– This seating alternative can be taken on the go as a wiggle tool while sitting at restaurants or appointments.
Occupational Therapy Fidget Kits
Occupational therapy practitioners know the benefit of carrying a collection of intervention tools in their therapy bag. They create a collection of materials designed to meet various needs on their caseloads. OTs make handwriting kits, scissor skills kits, auditory kits, functional skills kits, and even themed OT kits, or seasonal kits. Each therapy kit contains materials and activities designed to make therapy sessions fun and innovative. A fidget kit is no different!
Why use fidget kits?
Have you ever been out shopping the day before Christmas Eve when the entire city is packing everything from pineapples to pickles in their carts? And while you wear your itchy winter coat and drippy boots, the carts bump into aisles, people are talking everywhere, and buzzes, dings, and noise are everywhere.
It is utterly unorganized chaos. Now imagine you have difficulty ignoring those beeps and buzzes. That itchy wool coat is SO there. The people talk and talk and you hear them all. The utterly unorganized chaos makes you feel so out of sorts that you can’t help but breakdown, throwing yourself on the floor, and trying to make it all go away.
Children who live with a Sensory Processing Disorder experience situations like this every day. It doesn’t have to be a busy holiday for the environment to be too much for their body to organize. It is everyday life for SPD kiddos. They over or under process environmental stimulation at the bus stop, in the library, in a restaurant, or while waiting with Mom at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The disruption of typical processing can occur at minor or severe levels, but is always a struggle.
Treatment of Sensory Processing Disorder with a Sensory Diet To treat these responses to input, Occupational Therapists perform an assessment of individual abilities and needs. Using information from evaluation, they establish a diet of sensory integration activities to organize sensory systems so that appropriate and meaningful responses occur. Function and purposeful responses to sensory input in all settings are the goals of sensory integration and sensory diets.
A sensory diet is highly specific to the needs of a child with sensory processing disorder. Sensory diet activities should be specialized to the meet the child’s regulation needs. Items that are often times found on a sensory diet include activities like wall push-ups, jumping on a trampoline, vacuuming, pillow sandwiches, and kneading play dough (among tons of other ideas!) But how do you do these sensory diet activities while in a classroom, car, restaurant, or in a while waiting for appointments?
This is where a fidget kit comes into play, that can help with sensory needs and can go anywhere.
How to use a fidget kit in schools
When I started working in school-based therapy in 2000, long before the craze of fidget toys, I created a set of fidget kits for each classroom in one school that I served.
As the occupational therapist in this school, I worked with many of the children in various classrooms on my caseload. However, I knew the benefit of using fidget items during specified times in the classroom.
The kits were contained within a clear plastic shoebox with a lid. There would be a list of materials in the kit and a sign out sheet if students removed an item to use at their desk.
Because I knew the students on my caseload in each classroom, and their sensory preferences, I was able to select specific sensory tools to place in each classroom’s fidget kit. Then, I added additional materials that may benefit the general population of the classroom. These items included things like stress balls, a string of paperclips, a bead on a keychain ring, a fidget desk strip, wacky tracks (clicking string of blocks), finger trap, and Koosh ball.
I offered a quick in-service to each teacher on the fidget kit that I created for their own classroom. I introduced the fidget kit, showed them the items in the kit and how to use them, and quickly explained the benefits of using a fidget kit to support attention, focus, sensory, and regulation needs in the classroom.
I explained preferred sensory tools for the students on my caseload and when they may use the materials to best support their education.
I also quickly explained that we all (whether receiving OT services or not) use sensory strategies all day long throughout our day to regulation, to focus, attend, deal with anxiety, or even boredom. For most of us, this fidgeting, or sensory breaks, looks like getting a cool drink of water, standing up after sitting for a long time, taking a deep breath, sitting up strait, stretching, clicking out pen, or jiggling a leg.
Finally, I instructed teachers to use the supports as they deemed fit within their classroom. This way, the kit was used correctly within the classroom.
Consult time with students was spent identifying needs and making changes to the individual student’s items and supports.
At the end of the school year, I collected all of the kits and saved them for the next school year. These sensory kits were a success with every teacher and were requested again at the start of the next school year.
How to make a sensory kit
Sensory fidgeting breaks support learning and paying attention for all individuals and using a kit of fidget tools can support the entire classroom. Plus, another benefit to using a kit with the whole classroom is the normalization of the fidget tools as a generalized support, and using the tools correctly, and not as a means to gain attention. Still other students may feel as if they are being watched when using the fidget tools and when the entire classroom has fidget time, the use is less ostracizing.
The benefit of creating fidget kits for schools is that you can put the items in any container that suits the needs of the students. Some can even travel from classroom to classroom. Try these ideas:
- Plastic shoe box
- Mini tote bag
- Pencil box
- Pencil pouch
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This travel sensory diet is perfect for on-the-go sensory needs. We made a small tote bag with fun paint and used it to create a travel sensory diet. A tote of this size can be slid into a big purse, carried by the child, or carted around in the minivan.
The best thing about this travel sensory diet is that you can switch out activities so that new regulating items are added in and old favorites remain.
What goes in a fidget Kit?
A fidget kit can be made up of any sensory motor item!
Some common sensory items include movement based fine motor or activities that offer heavy work through the hands, or Proprioception Activities. Related articles: Proprioception and the hands impacts pencil pressure, and can be a great way to add a quick heavy work brain break.
- Bungee cord or Exercise band. These can be used by arms or legs while sitting or standing.
- 1 pound wrist weight: This is an important addition to a travel sensory bag. The weight provides proprioceptive input as the child carries the bag. Sometimes, just carrying the tote bag can be enough to regulate sensory needs.
- Other ideas include wearing the weight on the wrist, ankle, placed on the lap, or draped over shoulders.
- Use the weight of the bag as input: While seated, hang the loop of the handles over a knee for weight down through the calf and into the foot. Switch legs after a while.
- Hang the bag on one shoulder, then the other.
- Hold the loops of the bag by the hand as if carrying a suitcase. Switch hands often.
- Hold the loops of the bag by individual fingers.
- Clothes pins for pinching and providing proprioception to hands. Add a few clothes pins to the tote bag and have your child pinch them onto the exercise band.
- Hand Gripper workouts
- Squeeze Ball
- a few pop beads
- Pop Fidgets like these bracelet pop fidgets
- Rubber band fidget toy
Oral Fidget Items
- Sugar free hard candy
- Sugar Free gum
- Eat dried fruit, bagel pieces, popcorn, pretzels, or raisins
(take the paper out for less noise!)
- “Chew Toy ” or Chew Necklace
Scent Fidget Tools
- Small bottle of scented lotion
- Fidget with sensory koosh balls.
- Pipe cleaners twisted together make a great fidget toy.
- Beaded Keychain Friends
- Small Scrub Brush
(The pictured brush is used in the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol. An Occupational Therapist should train you in this treatment
- Baby wipe to wipe the face, arms, hands to “wake up” the skin.
- Fidget items– The nice thing that is different than in 2000 is that Amazon now has large kits of items available that can be distributed into various smaller kits and recirculated among classrooms.
- Heavy work activity cards
- Hang the head and arms down between the legs to touch the floor.
- Arm windmills
- Twisting walks: Twist at the waist as the child walks.
Other sensory diet ideas that work while on-the-go
These are fidget kit ideas to have on hand that don’t require any equipment. these are sensory strategies that can be “pulled out” anywhere to support attention, focus, emotional needs, or sensory needs.
- Carry grocery bags.
- Push shopping carts.
- Bend over hand hang the head and arms down to the ground.
- Find a wall for wall push-ups.
- Hug from a loved one.
- Chew gum.
- Drink from a straw.
- Carry a sports bottle with crushed ice for resistive sucking and chewing ice.
- March down a hallway.
- Duck walks.
- Find stairs and climb them.
- “Mountain Climb” up a stairwell banister.
- Use a coat as a sensory wrapper. Wrap the child up like a sensory burrito with an extra coat.
- “Prayer Stretch” Press the palms of the hands together and press hard.
- “Spider Finger” Stretches” Place fingertips of both hands together and stretch fingers up and down.
- Spin in a chair (if at a doctor’s office).
- Chair Push ups.
- Weighted vest for situations that you know will cause sensory overload.
- Headphones to cut out background noise.
This on-the-go travel sensory bag can go everywhere from the doctor’s office with the too-hot waiting room and buzzing fluorescent lights to the hair salon with the noisy dryers and itchy hair clippings.
This post is part of our 31 Days of Occupational Therapy series where you can find free or almost free treatment activities and ideas. Stop by every day! You’ll find more fun ideas each day in October.
Looking for more sensory integration ideas? These are some of my favorite:
The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory processing information, each step of creating a meaningful and motivating sensory diet, that is guided by the individual’s personal interests and preferences.
The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is not just about creating a sensory diet to meet sensory processing needs. This handbook is your key to creating an active and thriving lifestyle based on a deep understanding of sensory processing.
Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.