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Can Fidget Toys Relieve Anxiety in Children

November 10, 2021

can sensory toys or fidget toys help with anxiety in children


One in six children aged between 5 - 16 years old are likely to suffer from one or more mental health conditions, and one of the most common diagnoses is anxiety. 

Both general anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder (SAD) can significantly important a child’s ability to live a happy and healthy life. It can cloud their thoughts and causes them feeling stressed and overwhelmed at everyday situations. It may lead them to stay at home and lose interest in their usual activities out of fear or worry.

Autism has been closely linked to a number of other mental health conditions in children, including anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Over 80% of children with autism suffer from anxiety and around 17% are diagnosed with OCD. There is also evidence that many children with OCD may have undiagnosed autism, further strengthening the potential link between the two conditions.

What Are the Symptoms and Causes of Anxiety in Children?

Anxiety can manifest in a number of ways in children. It may present as worry or fear over general day-to-day activities that they once found joy in. Moderate anxiety can also involve insomnia, night terrors, agitation, mood swings, headaches, and stomach aches.

Chronic anxiety can cause older children to lack focus at school. They might start to find their lessons difficult because they are unable to concentrate on their work. This can further perpetuate their anxiety as they might start to worry about doing poorly in their school assignments.

For toddlers and younger children, anxiety may prevent them from socialising with others their age at nursery. This may have a negative effect on their social and emotional development.

There are several reasons why a child might develop anxiety. Here are some of the most common causes.

  • Being around other anxious or chronically stressed people, such as overwhelmed parents or anxious siblings and friends
  • Emotional trauma, such as bullying, abuse, or neglect
  • Experiencing a lot of change in a short period of time, such as moving to a new area, changing schools
  • Grief or loss, such as the passing of a family member or a family pet
  • Lots of responsibility that are more appropriate for older children or adults, such as caring for a parent or sibling
  • Excess stress due to lots of school work or several upcoming exams.

How Can You Support a Child With Anxiety?

If your child has anxiety, you might be unsure how best to support them as a parent or guardian. It can be difficult knowing how to reduce your child’s anxiety and calm their mind.

Sensory toys are one of the best ways to relieve symptoms of anxiety and reduce nervousness.  They’re affordable, yet extremely effective for anxious toddlers and children of all ages! Fidget toys can be particularly helpful and they come in a range of different forms, including balls, spinners, cubes, and cylinders.

As the name suggests, fidget toys for children are the perfect solution when your child struggles to sit still. This is often seen in children with anxiety, autism, ADHD, and other sensory processing conditions, where restlessness is a common symptom.

There is still further research required to confirm the effectiveness of fidget toys for anxiety but let’s take a deeper look! In this article, we’re going to run through each of the different types of fidget toys for autism and anxiety, how they work, and whether they’re worth using!

how to treat anxiety in children with fidget toys


What Are the Different Types of Fidget Toys?

There are lots of different fidget toys that can be used to relieve anxiety. Here are some of the most common types.

  • Fidget spinners 
  • Squishy stress balls
  • Fidget cubes
  • Playdough or putty
  • Chewing necklaces
  • Sensory light toys
  • Sensory boards
  • Spinner rings
  • Magnetic balls
  • Chewable pencil toppers
  • Building blocks
  • Tangle toy

Each of these toys can vary in price but you don’t have to pay a lot to get high-quality fidget toys or sensory toys for your child! Here at KeepEmQuiet, we focus on providing affordable toys so that every child can have all of the explorative play time that they desire!

It’s important to remember that every child is different! You might read a page online about one particular type of fidget toy being the most effective but your child might prefer something different. Grab a few different types of sensory toys and encourage your child to try them all out.

How Do Fidget Toys Reduce Anxiety?

Often, your child is anxious because they feel out of control. This might be because they are in an unfamiliar environment or their usual schedule has been disrupted. During these times, they might start to get stressed, overwhelmed, and agitated. 

Fidget toys can be used to keep your child occupied and distract their mind. Spinning, moving, or pulling sensory toys can help to calm your child’s nerves by activating the small muscles in the hands and stimulating their senses.

For children whose anxiety manifests in OCD, fiddling with calming toys in a repetitive motion can be comforting. Twirling or spinning the object may counteract their obsessive thoughts and temporarily reduce their anxiety. Of course, these toys don’t provide a cure or treatment for OCD, but they provide some transient relief for your child in times of need.

As sensory toys are easy to carry around in your bag, you can bring them along when you are out and about with your child. If they start to get anxious being in a busy public environment, you can use the fidget toy to keep them calm. They can also be used in schools to boost concentration and focus during lessons.

How Effective Are Fidget Toys?

Various sensory toys provide numerous benefits to children both at school and at home. In particular, there has been increasing interest in the effectiveness of using sensory toys for autism, ADHD, anxiety, and other learning or sensory processing conditions.

Research indicates that fidgeting can stimulate the areas of the brain that are involved in attention and alertness. By performing repetitive movements, such as twisting a fidget spinner, or spinning sensory light toys, it can reduce levels of stress in pressured situations, more so in males than females.

Studies show that both the left and right hemispheres of your child’s brain are needed for learning and thinking. Fidget toys have been shown to activate both hemispheres and promotion the growth of new neural pathways.

Another study concluded that fidget toys are effective because they help to improve fine motor skills in the hands, which can promote healthy development and stress reduction in children.

If a child with autism or ADHD is getting distracted by the toy in their hands, it might cause further disruption to their learning. When used in moderate amounts, however, fidget toys for Austin and ADHD can be effective!

What Are Some Other Methods of Treating Anxiety?

Sensory toys and fidget spinners have been implemented into preschools and occupational therapy centres to provide distraction and stress relief for children. But aside from using fidget toys, there are several other methods that have been shown to help calm anxious thoughts and encourage relaxation.

Here are some effective approaches to relieving anxiety in children with GAD, SAD, or autism.

  • Deep breathing
  • Meditation and mindfulness
  • Dietary changes
  • Regular movement
  • Focusing on good sleep hygiene
  • Reducing stress levels or workload
  • Therapy or counselling
  • Anxiolytic or antidepressant medications

The exact methods that are best for your child will depend on their individual needs and preferences. If you’re unsure which option is most appropriate, speak to a healthcare professional to get their expert advice.

Final Thoughts

There are definitely some positive benefits to using sensory toys and fidget toys to calm the minds of children with anxiety and autism. Although the evidence is varied, they may be a great solution for many children.

It’s important to remember that many fidget toys only provide temporary relief to anxious thoughts and worries. They are not a form of treatment or a cure for mental health disorders. Alongside fidget toys, you should seek alternative forms of treatment, such as therapy, for your child to help them cope with their anxiety.

Be sure to take a look at the brand-new Sensory Fidget Kit that we have just released here at KeepEmQuiet! It’s got everything you need to keep your child engaged in explorative play for hours.

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