Why we should never tell our students to “stop fidgeting”!


The traditional expectations of students in a classroom were always very simple;

  • sit down,
  • don’t move,
  • listen/work quietly,
  • give your teacher your full and undivided attention.

These traditional set of expectations work well for some students. It allows them the quiet, stimulant free environment to learn to the best of their ability. Unfortunately, for many students, the ‘sit down, don’t move’ model is the opposite of what they actually need.

Studies are showing us that ‘fidgeting’ and movement can in fact help increase productivity. It does this by giving the body something kinesthetic to focus on, allowing the brain to focus for longer and improve our memory.

Many of us engage in a ‘distraction’ without even knowing it. If you have ever doodled while on a phone call or tapped your pen while thinking deeply about a problem you have engaged your inner fidgeter.

Researchers have found these techniques particular helpful for students with ADHD. Encouraging these students to listen to music while they read or stand and shift their weight while they work can have a significant positive impact.

We are starting to see the idea of ‘fidgeting’ take off outside the education world. Matthew and Mark McLachlan developed a ‘fidget cube’ ¬†and decided to put the product on Kickstart with an initial goal of enticing $100,000 from investors. Their current to total stands at over $6 million dollars invested and they have begun to ship fidget cubes all over the world!

So we know that for many kids, sitting completely still and working quietly doesn’t fit. Perhaps its time we started to think about how we can individualise they way our students work in order to get the best out of themselves.

Where to start?

8 fidget ideas worth trying

Further reading…

Fidget cube kickstarter campaign
Fidgeting improves concentration and focus
The Atlantic: fidget widgets improve memory and boost attention

Got a 3D printer? Make your own fidget cubes

3D printer fidget gadget template

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