Interview by Carissa Tozzi
When we discovered Lizzie Wall, a blogger we love, shared a story about her son Jasper and their search for the perfect fidget toy for him on her fantastic site, Kids Gifts and Toys, we immediately reached out to her! As many of you know, fidget toys can be a helpful tool to calm, focus and de-stress children of all ages, but it can be especially effective for kids to use a fidget in their classroom to help improve concentration. However, it can be a challenge to find one that works. Lizzie had so many great tips for finding a tool to help her 7-year-old son Jasper focus in school, without distracting his classmates, that we wanted to learn more about her shopping process and share a bit about her life as a mom with you.
When did you first discover that Jasper may need some help staying focused in school? Jasper is an awesome kid who is friendly, happy and kind. He loves to play with his friends and is constantly active from morning to night. Lucky for us, Jasper has always been a keen learner and loves going to school, but he has inherited my chattiness, and I knew it would only be a matter of time before he might get in trouble for being too talkative. However, I hadn’t really thought too much about it prior to my conversations with his teacher and I decided to investigate ways to help keep him stimulated without distracting the other students in his class.
How did you find a fidget toy for him that he would be happy with while remaining calm and quiet in class? Jasper loves Lego, he can build for hours and hours, both from instructions or from ideas in his head and it's an activity that keeps him focused and calm. So for school, we wanted to find a fidget tool for him that was like Lego. I discovered The Happy Me Shop in Australia and the owner was truly amazing at recommending products for him that he would enjoy. After trying out three fidget toys, what we found worked the best for him was a wooden worm, which had a similar building mechanism to Lego. The best news is he hasn’t got in trouble in class this term for talking too much, which was a daily occurrence, so I think you might safely say this little fidget tool is pretty darn amazing!
Have you tried any toys or games to get his energy out before or after school? To get his energy out the best thing for him is sports. He loves football (soccer), playing handball, riding his BMX, swimming or just running around and having fun with his friends and brother. I don’t like to fill his afternoon up with too many after-school activities as I think it is important for him to enjoy being a kid rather than scheduling too much. As a family, we like to get creative by spending time drawing, coloring, painting and making things out of cardboard boxes.
Is there a space at home you created for him to have quiet time? He loves to sit on the floor and do his Lego or read on his bed. At the moment, Jasper's bed is his relaxation area and he has lots of pillows and softies from Inkibabinki and Minimel to lie with.
Are there any routines at home that you've found that have worked for you? Definitely, an early night helps him. We are not one of those families that can get their children to sleep by 6:30 or 7pm. We just have never managed it. So the kids are in bed by 7:30pm and they read for a little while in bed before lights are out by 8pm. Both boys love their books before bedtime and then love to look at a few books themselves before they drift out. If they don’t get to do this, this can cause them to stay awake longer!
What would you tell other parents about having a child who needs a little extra support in school? I would say definitely talk with your kids every day. An open dialogue with your children is so helpful to understand them, their emotions and their personalities. The advantage of Jasper's chatty nature is he will tell me about his day and we can work through any issues that may have come up. I always run through the day’s events and try to bring closure for Jasper, as every day is a new day and new beginning, so it's good not to dwell on the past.
Every child is different and as will like different things to fidget with. We curated a selection of some quiet and calming fidget toys to try, but please discuss with your child's teacher before bringing anything into school:
Micro Cubebot Puzzle by Areaware, $9.89, is made from wood and elastic and can move into dozens of poses.
Wee Critter Puffs, $1.95, are cute animals that kids can squeeze when they are anxious.
Fidget Toy Bundle, $35.99, includes 5 calming fidget toys specifically recommended for school.
Bobby Robby, $4.95, is a unique stress ball has a cheerful smile on his face and loves being squished.
Monkey Fidgetz, $11.95, are loved by teachers, parents and therapists as these toys are great for use anywhere fidgeting occurs.
Rubbabu Bumpy Ball, $7.99, is great for tactile stimulation, cognitive development and motor skill development.
Abilitations Pencil Set with Fidgets, is an assorted set of 4 pencils with fidgets you can slide, spin, pull, or bump, a discreet option for school.
Anamalz, $10-20.00, are adorable animals with necks, legs, and arms that can be manipulated into different positions.
Lizzie lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband and their two energetic boys. She blogs over at Kids Gifts and Toys; curating a gorgeous site of fabulous toys, kids interiors, toy reviews and more. She recently added market event organizer to this list by launching a local, seasonal family market, Bazaar Kids Gifts and Toys supporting small businesses and creating a day filled with fun for families and kids!