I remember sitting in the back of classes and passing notes to my friends or doodling as the teacher spoke. In college, I remember always grabbing a paper and doing the word puzzles in it during lectures. I remember sitting in meetings and playing with my pen and making personal to do lists. I remember when smart phones became a thing and sitting in meetings texting or playing a game.
I didn’t do these things to be disrespectful or because I was bored. By the way, did you know that only boring people get bored??? I would do those things, and plenty of others simply because it was how I paid attention! Say what? Yup, that was how I focused my brain and body to sit still and pay attention as someone taught me something.
I remember having conversations with college professors at the beginning of the semester to share that I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful but that I had learned over time that my brain retained info better if I was allowed to do something else while concentrating on the subject at hand.
I’ve thought about those conversations often in the past few weeks. Since JustaBXgirl started remote learning a few weeks ago the class is constantly being reminded to sit up straight and focus. They are told to keep things out of their hands and I listen as the teachers spend all day reminding them of this.
I get why kids can’t bring toys to school and how educators don’t want one child to distract other children over the computers but I feel that we are missing a meaningful moment here. Everyone doesn’t learn the same. Some students (and adults) need to be able to fidget. I had a conversation with JustaBXgirl about what she needs. Yes, I have real talk conversations with my 7-year-old.
I shared that I expect her to respect her teachers always, but I also expect her to listen to her needs. If she needs water, she can drink some. We leave a water bottle near (not on) her desk so she can easily access it during the day without having to interrupt class to ask for permission to get water. I shared with her that she can always go to the bathroom even if the teacher says that students cannot go. I allow her to have a snack off to the side of the camera when it is needed. Trust me, you don’t want to be around JustaBXgirl when she’s hangry.
And the purpose of this post…ready? I allow JustaBXgirl to keep different objects at her desk so that she can use to help her focus when she needs to be able to fidget a bit without leaving the screen. Do I think this is the right decision for everyone? Nope. I think it works for our home. JustaBXgirl gets frustrated when she has to sit still for too long. She gets irritated when the teacher has to talk to other students over and over and she just has to sit there. To combat these negative emotions and others that make her feel like a shook up soda can, I allow her to keep her “toys” near her and so far it has worked wonderfully for us.
She also does lots of singing and speaking at the screen while she is on mute. Does she sometimes distract me from what I’m doing? Yup. Does it distract her classmates and teachers? Not at all. We’ve discussed the importance of her keeping her busy items off the camera. And we have talked about her having less options to have fidget fun if it distracts her from the lessons.
The thing that I have noticed though is that by allowing her the freedom to use these items, and sing and speak they have kept her more focused and her work gets completed quicker. I’ve listed a few of the items that she seems to use the most.
PBJ’s (Plush Ball Jellies) – These are awesome. I have one sitting on my desk as well. They come in so many different options. JustaBXgirl adores that it is squishy. She says that they are also very coordinated between the plush and the squish colors. Having the different textured is a plus for me. The plush is super soft. I think they make awesome busy buddies. And they help when one is feeling frustrated or overwhelmed.
Pop It – We got this from our Sweet Suite At Home and have barely put it down since. It’s very soothing. I love that you can play it together as a competition game but it truly serves the purpose of fidget fun. I have used it during a number of virtual meetings since getting it and JustaBXgirl uses it a few times a week.
Dry Erase Board – Yes!!! This is perfect for those that need to do something during class. And chances are, you already have one around the house. If you don’t this can be replaced with scrap paper or a notebook. I personally like the dry erase board that goes by DEB in our home because it saves me from having to clean up hundreds of pieces of paper. JustaBXgirl uses the board during class at times. Other times, she simply keeps it on her desk and doodles, draws, takes tallies (don’t ask me of what), or makes notes. Either way it keeps her out of trouble.
LEGO – JustaBXgirl is a master builder. She builds entire worlds with full backstories and adventures to be taken. She can play with these blocks for hours and has created mini versions of herself for different adventures. With school happening, I had allowed her to take a mini figure with her to class and it gets to keep her company during the day. Sometimes she will take it apart and recreate it as she listens to the teacher reading a story.
Braille Skateboarding Skate Anything – You will remember these from my Instagram posts over the summer. These actually make awesome fidget fun items because of the different textures on the boards. JustaBXgirl’s favorites are the Gummy Bear boards. Being able to flip the boards, roll them back and forth and even just stroking them helps keep her focused.
These things work in our home. They wouldn’t work without open communication or trust. JustaBXgirl reads and does math above her grade level. That means that there are a lot of times in class when she is not being challenged. When children don’t feel challenged they can easily be distracted. I would rather her find ways to keep herself busy while still focusing on the screen than to have her simply resent having to sit still while waiting for others to catch up.
Her teachers work at trying to keep her engage and have her assist where feasible but the reality is that this version of remote learning only allows for so much. When she is in the classroom, JustaBXgirl has many opportunities to help classmates and do other work. While on the computer this isn’t as easily done. Adding fidget fun to her space has allowed her to not get as frustrated when teachers have to slow down. She doesn’t keep all of this in her space at once because that might be overwhelming. Instead, she changes the object out daily. The dry erase board is the only constant.
How do you feel about letting your children use fidget items during the school day? Do you find that they help or hinder your students experience?