Fidget Kits for Travel and On-the- Go Sensory

fidget kits

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. 

Sensory fidget kits

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:

  1. A fidget kit can be used in a sensory corner of a classroom as a calm down area.
  2. Or, a collection of sensory fidgets can be used by one individual for meeting various needs.
  3. 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:

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.     

Use of a specialized sensory diet can help with over or under sensory responses while out and about.  Specific sensory inputs can help to organize these inappropriate sensory responses.

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 set up classroom fidget kits

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

fidget kit

This post contains affiliate links.

sensory fidget kit

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.    

Travel Sensory Diet Bag for on-the-go-sensory needs

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.

Oral Fidget Items

  • Sugar free hard candy
  • Sugar Free gum
  • Eat dried fruit, bagel pieces, popcorn, pretzels, or raisins
  • Kazoo
    (take the paper out for less noise!)
  • Chew Toy ” or Chew Necklace

Scent Fidget Tools

  • Small bottle of scented lotion

Tactile Fidgets

  • Fidget with sensory koosh balls.
  • Pipe cleaners twisted together make a great fidget toy.
  • Beaded Keychain Friends
    for fidgeting
  • 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.

Vestibular Fidgets

  • 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.  
Travel Sensory Diet Bag for on-the-go-sensory needs

  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.  

Travel Sensory Diet Bag for on-the-go-sensory needs


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:

Dinosaur-Sized Sensory Feelings and Proprioception Activities

  Oobleck in the Marble Run

Oobleck in the Marble Run

 Alphabet Discovery Bottle

Alphabet Discovery Bottle

Fidgeting During Homework

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 is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

Goals of a Sensory Diet

benefits of a sensory diet
Have you ever had a professional mention the term “sensory diet”?  Have you wondered why a sensory diet would be used with kids?  This post describes the goals of a sensory diet for kids with sensory processing needs. 
 
This resource on how to create a sensory diet is a good place to begin when it comes to creating a sensory plan that helps kids thrive and function in their daily tasks.
 
Why do kids need a sensory diet to help with sensory processing problems?
 

Sensory strategies that are motivating can be a big help for some kids. Try these train themed sensory activity ideas.

Why Use a Sensory Diet?

To begin, read this blog on what is a sensory diet. You’ll discover that sensory diets are a commonly known strategy for addressing
sensory needs.  The term “sensory diet” was coined by Patricia Wilbarger in 1984 to explain how certain sensory experiences
can improve occupational performance and help to remediate disruption of the sensory processing systems.  
 
When it comes to benefits, a sensory diet is a means to adjust sensory input in relation to an individual’s
needs.  
 
There’s more to it, though. 
 
Sensory diets don’t need to be a strict set of prescribed structured activities for every child.  They ARE a meaningful set of strategies for developing sensory programs that are meaningful, practical, carefully
scheduled, and controlled in order to affect functioning.  
 
We use sensory diets for many reasons: 
 
Specific needs- While a sensory diet offers specific sensory input at times in preparation for periods of poor regulation, the optimal sensory diet becomes a sensory lifestyle, in which the individual has a “bank” of sensory strategies at their disposal and can use those tools in preparation before a meltdown or crash occurs.
 
Individualized needs- No two individuals are alike. And, no two individuals will experience the same sensory needs. As a result every sensory diet will differ in sensory input, timing, and various other factors. Sensory diet activities provide appropriate sensory input based on the needs of an individual. 
 
Balance- Just as a healthy diet consists of a variety of foods, a sensory diet is a balanced set of sensory information that allows an individual to function.  A person cannot survive on broccoli alone. Similarly, a child cannot function with only one type of sensory activities.
 
Sensory diets are not just for kids with identified sensory issues.  We all need a diet of sensory input. 
 
Position in Space- Our bodies and minds instinctively know that varying sensory input allows us to function appropriately.  Neuro-typical children naturally seek out a variety of proprioceptive, vestibular, and tactile sensory input.  Children that struggle because of underlying issues or developmental concerns may show difficulties with fine motor, gross motor, sensory processing, self regulation, executive function, creativity, and general life skills. It’s through a process of identifying specific sensory processing needs that these areas can be impacted. 
 
Routines and Transitions- Having a better understanding of transitions, routines, and schedules may allow children to know what to expect in their day. A sensory diet offers this opportunity.
 
Confidence- When we offer children strategies that support their needs, they thrive. This is true for children of all abilities and skill levels. Involving kids in movement based and sensory activities allows them to connect with others, and learn about the world around them, how their body moves and interacts in daily tasks, and this offers confidnce and further skill-building, as well as overall competence.
 
 
Regulation Needs- As a result, they are able to accept and regulate other sensory input such as a seam in their shirt, a
lawnmower running outside their classroom, or the scent of chicken cooking in the
kitchen.
 

Why Sensory Diets?

 
Studies support the use of active participation in multi-sensory activities for at least 90 minutes per week to improve occupational performance and autism symptoms and behaviors (Fazlioglu & Baran, 2008; Thompson, 2011; Woo & Leon, 2013; Wuang, Wang, Huang, & Su
2010).  
 
Children who have a toolbox of sensory activities available to them for daily use may benefit from prescribed sensory activities.  These activities can be a part of and incorporated into the day in a natural way.


Related Read: Here are more sensory-based tricks and tips that help with meltdowns.


What is a sensory diet?

 
A sensory diet is a set of activities that are appropriate
for an individual’s needs.  Specific and individualized activities that are specifically scheduled into a child’s day are used to assist with regulation of activity levels, attention, and adaptive responses.  
 
Sensory diet activities are prescribed based on the individual’s specific sensory needs.   Just as there are no two people that are alike, there are no two sensory diets that are alike.  
 
Every sensory diet will meet the specific needs whether in activity, position, intensity, time, sensory system, or type.  Additionally, a sensory diet can be modified throughout the day and based on variances in tasks.
 
A sensory diet needs to be specific with thoughtful regard to timing, frequency, intensity, and duration of sensory input.
 
Goals of a sensory diet


Goals of a sensory diet are to:

 
  1. Provide the child with predictable sensory information
    which helps organize the central nervous system.
  2. Support social engagement, self-regulation, behavior organization, perceived competence, self-esteem, and self-confidence.
  3.  Inhibit and/or improve modulation of sensation within daily routines and environments.
  4. Assist the child in processing a more organized response
    to sensory stimuli.

Add these resources to the ones you can find here under sensory diet vestibular activities to meet the sensory needs of all kids. 

 
Reference:
Fazlioglu, Y., & Baran, G. (2008). A sensory integration therapy program on sensory problems for children
with autism
. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 106, 415–422. http://dx.doi.org/10.2466/PMS.106.2.415-422
 

Read more on sensory processing information here:

 
Sensory processing red flags for parents to help identify sensory needs in kids
 
 

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 is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

How to Use a Sports Water Bottle as a self regulation tool

Sports water bottle self regulation tool

Sipping on a hot cup of tea, chewing gum, or sucking on a hard candy are self regulation strategies for oral sensory processing you probably use in your daily life, without even thinking twice.  But did you know that you can use a sports water bottle as a self regulation tool, too? Oral sensory processing tools, or coping strategies, can be an important part of anyone’s life, for self regulation and promoting attention across settings like home, school, and the community.  

You can use a sports water bottle as a self-regulation tool! This sensory coping trick is great for kids, in the classroom, or while on the go!

Using a Sports Top Water Bottle for Self Regulation

While sitting in a waiting room, waiting for your table at a restaurant, or sitting down to pay your bills, how often do you bring along a drink or snack to help maintain your regulation? 

You probably don’t realize these are great sensory regulation tools, it just seems like a good idea, and has become a habit. As adults, we naturally have strategies we incorporate into our daily lives to help us regulate. 

For children, these strategies may not be as obvious or innate.  Here’s where using self regulation strategies including those for oral sensory processing, from an occupational therapist may help.

Related, this Impulse Control Journal from the OT Toolbox is a great resources for writing down triggers, develop strategies, and use self regulation tools to feel more organized.

What is self regulation?

Self regulation is a complex process we all use on a moment to moment basis.  It involves registering and responding to your own thinking, emotions, and attention.  Self regulation impacts your focus and your behavior, which in turn impacts how you receive and respond to information in your environment.  

Self regulation involves the coordinated effort of your sensory processing systems, emotional regulation, and executive functioning.  If this sounds complicated, it’s because it is! 

Occupational therapists can help children and families, by evaluating their needs across the environments where they live, play, and learn.  One of the areas an occupational therapist will assess, is your child’s sensory processing patterns to determine what, if any sensory strategies and self regulation tools may support their participation and performance at home, in school, or when out in the community.

Self regulation is a necessary tool for developing impulse control in order to make good choices.

What is sensory processing?

Amazon affiliate links are included below.

In the book Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder, Lucy Jane Miller defines sensory processing as “a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives sensory messages and turns them into responses” (Miller, 6).  The sensory systems involved in sensory processing are:

  • Visual (sight)
  • Auditory (hearing)
  • Tactile (touch)
  • Olfactory (smell)
  • Gustatory (taste)
  • Vestibular (movement)
  • Proprioception (body position/awareness)

If you think your child is having difficulty with sensory processing, you may find this Sensory Processing Disorder Checklist a helpful place to start. This is just the tip of the iceberg in understanding sensory processing and getting help.

Here are a couple of other popular resources to learn about sensory processing disorder.

Oral Sensory Processing and Sensory Strategies

There are hundreds of different ways to support sensory processing when addressing all of the senses mentioned above.  Let’s take a closer look at oral sensory processing and the sensory strategies associated with it.

Using oral sensory input for self regulation starts at birth.  Infants and babies use their oral sensory receptors as both a source of comfort and for sensory stimulation. 

Parents use pacifiers, and feeding by bottle or breast to calm and soothe infants.  Babies constantly bring hands, feet, and toys to their mouth to explore.  Because oral input is comforting and soothing, pacifiers and thumb sucking are hard habits to break.

As babies grow into toddlers and beyond, we see these oral sensory experiences continue to change and adapt into functional strategies that fit into everyday life in the form of chewing gum, sipping a warm drink, or snacking on a favorite crunchy snack.

These are natural examples of sensory regulation tools.

For some people, the need for oral sensory input is strong, and they may seek out this type of input in many ways. This may be the child who continues to mouth toys beyond toddlerhood, chew on clothing. 

While this does provide oral sensory input for kids who need to chew, it is not functional for a child to be chewing on their shirt at school.  School-based occupational therapists may be able to help make suggestions for sensory strategies that can be easily incorporated into the school day to help support student’s oral sensory processing needs.

Why Using a Sports Water Bottle Helps with Self Regulation

Using a sports top water bottle for self regulation is a common suggestion by occupational therapists.  Why?

When using a sports bottle, sensory input is added through the face; The mouth, including the jaw, lips, and cheeks are powerful sensory areas.

The mouth, face, and jaw are full of sensory receptors.  Using oral sensory processing tools and strategies are often a great way to provide intense or calming sensory input with a fast impact.

Oral receptors send information to the brain about taste, touch, and they also provide proprioceptive inputs through sucking. 

Activating the oral sensory receptors through sucking provides intense, calming sensory input.

Sports Water Bottles for Sensory Input

Using a sports bottle during the day is a meaningful task for most of us. Kids see their peers using a sports bottle or a water bottle of some type during the school day, during after school transitions on the school bus, in the community, and in many settings. This means that the high-impact sensory strategy they are using doesn’t look out of place to their peers. (While acceptance of differences is widely accepted, it can be helpful for kids and teens to appear to be using the same items as their peers. This is true for all of us, and not just because there may or may not be a sensory need at play!)

So, what are some OT-recommended sports bottles for use as a sensory tool that have high-impact when it comes to calming supports? Try these sports bottles:

  1. Kids Hydro Flask with Straw
  2. 32 Ounce Hydro Flask With Straw
  3. ADIDAS Sports Bottle
  4. Water Bottle with Straw and Flip Top Lid

Here are some ways to provide oral sensory input:

  • Use a sports top water bottle such as this one, with resisted sucking throughout the day
  • Try drinking a thick smoothie through a straw
  • Provide chewing gum (usually sugarless in small pieces)
  • Use a battery powered toothbrush – vibration provides proprioceptive input to the oral sensory receptors
  • Encourage crunchy or chewy snacks such as pretzels, bagels, carrot sticks, or stale Twizzlers
  • Sucking on a popsicle or other frozen treat (These homemade lemon lime popsicles are a great way to support this need. Plus kids can help make them!)
  • Blowing bubbles

A final note on using a sports water bottle as a self Regulation tool

The most important thing to think about when choosing sensory strategies for anyone, is to think about how it will fit into their daily routines.  A water bottle is a great tool for anyone who needs access to oral sensory strategies, because they will be able to keep it at their desk, in their backpack, or carry it around with them.

Sensory “tricks” like this; Ones that are specifically integrated into one’s day are the most effective. Similarly, using a battery powered toothbrush on the way out the door in the morning, providing a crunchy morning snack, using a water bottle throughout the day, and offering a thick smoothie with a straw after school would provide your child many oral sensory experiences throughout the day to help meet their sensory processing needs.

This is a great example of a sensory diet, proven to be beneficial for self regulation in many people.

Katherine Cook is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience primarily working in schools with students from preschool through Grade 12.  Katherine graduated from Boston University in 2001 and completed her Master’s degree and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study at Tufts University in 2010.  Katherine’s school based experience includes working in integrated preschool programs, supporting students in the inclusion setting, as well as program development and providing consultation to students in substantially separate programs.  Katherine has a passion for fostering the play skills of children and supporting their occupations in school. 

References: Miller, L. J., & Fuller, D. A. (2007). Sensational kids: Hope and help for children with sensory processing disorder (SPD). New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.