Alternatives to Fidget Spinners for Students with ADHD

I think it’s safe to say that fidget spinners have reached every corner of the Earth. I have seen them for sale in gas stations, electronics stores, candy stores, even a liquor store!

At this point of fidget spinner saturation, it is hard to remember that these toys were meant to help students with ADHD focus and relieve some of the anxiety associated with sitting quietly in class. The usefulness of fidget spinners for students with ADHD is in question, and regardless, they have been banned in schools around the world.

The ideal fidget toy treads the line between being engaging and interesting to play with but not so distracting that students don’t attend to their teachers. (Learn more about how to tell if a fidget toy is helpful or harmful here). If you’re looking for alternatives to the light-up, motorized, music-making fidget spinners appearing in your classroom, here are some less distracting fidget toys you can recommend to your students:

  • Fidget Cubes — Cubes, the fidget spinners slightly older sibling, are also controversial in some schools. However, if the cube is silent and inconspicuous, it does the trick of giving students with ADHD something to do with their hands. Since cubes do not need to be constantly spinning, they can be less distracting than fidget spinners.
  • Stress Balls — These are some of the original fidget toys. Having a stress ball helps students focus and relieves anxiety. Better yet, stress balls are completely silent! Stress balls come in a huge range of colors, shapes, and sizes, so students can select one that they think is ‘cool.’
  • ‘Nice’ Pens — This recommendation comes from one of my students. He told me that when he writes with a ‘nice’ pen (by which he means anything fancier than a ballpoint) he enjoys the process of writing more and is more engaged with taking notes. Letting students pick out special note-taking pens may help them focus in class.
  • Yoga Balls — Sitting on a yoga ball while working is a great strategy for students with ADHD. Their whole body is engaged with keeping upright, yet they are still in a sitting position and can continue with their classwork. Wobble cushions are another great way to achieve a similar result.


This is by no means an exhaustive list, but if you’re looking to try out a new fidget toy, why not give one of these a shot? If you have other fidget toys you like, let us know in the comments below!

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director