Fidget toys belong in the classroom

Two students argue about the importance of incorporating fidget toys in learning spaces.


Even though a colorful bin filled with fidget toys, small games like pop-its, texturized putty and squeeze balls might look like it belongs in a preschool playroom, it can also belong in a college classroom. Some professors, like Jill Bauer-Reese, recognize this and have brought fidget toys to the classroom since September 2021. 

“After COVID, we had all started coming back out into the world, with more anxiety than ever,” said Bauer-Reese, a journalism professor. “I think we lost sight of how to connect with people in person. As somebody who has pretty bad anxiety, I thought that fidget toys could help students relax, so that they could concentrate in the classroom while they were working with each other.”

Once Bauer-Reese added fidget toys to her classroom, she noticed students started looking at her class as a more playful and safe place without as much pressure as their other courses. She also noticed it helps them with their creativity.

“I’ve brought these toys to all of my classes, but the primary class where I use them is focused on innovation,” Bauer-Reese said. “So, on one hand, I would say I use them for relaxation and mental health, but on the other hand, I also use them to encourage my students to chill so that they can come up with creative ideas.” 

Although fidget toys are generally catered toward children, Temple professors should consider following Bauer-Reese’s lead by offering fidget toys in their classrooms. This would be especially useful now, as students’ stress levels are high amid final exams, papers and projects. Fidget toys would help students concentrate better during class and study for their exams. 

At least 15 percent of college students have been diagnosed with ADHD and five percent have a learning disability, according to a spring 2022 study by the American College Health Association. 

It would be helpful to offer resources like fidget toys for students to manage anxiety or help them concentrate. Even if fidget toys are not advertised to young adults, they would be a practical tool in the classroom because they are small and will not disrupt the learning environment. 

“I was caught off guard just because that’s something I don’t usually see in a college classroom,” said Genesis Reddicks, a junior journalism major who is in Bauer-Reese’s Journalism Innovation and Design class. “I thought it was very cool that she provided that for us and I ultimately ended up using them.”

Not every student will use fidget toys, but it’s still important for professors to offer them as resources to give students the opportunity to regulate their emotions. It’s better for students to have a method to relieve their anxiety in the classroom so they can concentrate. 

Fidget toys can help the classroom feel like a safer space even for students without learning disabilities because they show professors are willing to meet and accommodate students’ needs. In classes where the goal is for students to be more innovative, fidget toys can nurture that kind of creative environment.

Orlando Irizarry, a senior social work major, frequently uses a fidget pen to help him focus on schoolwork, he said.

“I know many people who benefit from fidget toys and many who don’t, but regardless it’s a nice small intentional action that many would appreciate,” Irizarry said.

While it might not be possible to incorporate fidget toys in big lecture halls because it may be distracting when students move to reach the toys, it’s possible for professors in smaller classrooms to offer them. Forty-two percent of the classrooms at Temple have less than twenty students and the average class size is twenty four students, so fidget toys should be feasible in most courses. Having fidget toys will give students the chance to perform better and relieve their stress and anxiety, especially during stressful times like final exam week. 

Researchers have argued that fidget toys don’t have an impact on student’s ability to concentrate. However, fidget toys help regulate emotions and improve concentration according to a November 2023 study by the healthcare system Lifespan. 

Fidget toys are especially useful for people with anxiety and ADHD and if there’s a possibility they help students cope with stress, then they should be provided in classrooms.

Professors should consider offering fidget toys in classes they deem appropriate as another resource to promote learning. Fidget toys might not work for everyone, but professors should offer them regardless so students who actually benefit from them can have the opportunity to use them.

Genesis Reddicks has previously freelanced for The Temple News. She did not contribute to the writing or reporting of this story.

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