Bean is a kinaesthetic learner and this is her basket of fidget toys. Today's blog post is all about kinaesthetic learning, and about why and how we use fidget toys.
What is a kinaesthetic learner?
Kinaesthetic learning is a specific style of learning. We all have preferred learning styles that help us engage in content and retain information. The three core learning styles are auditory, visual and kinaesthetic. Kinaesthetic learning happens when we have a hands-on experience. For example, learning to swim is a kinaesthetic learning experience. You can read and listen to instructions on how to swim, but the deep learning occurs when you actually get in the water and have a go.
A kinaesthetic learner is someone who needs to be actively engaged in their learning. They need a multi-sensory learning environment for that deep learning to occur because they learn through 'doing'. A kinaesthetic learner learns best through movement, testing, trial and error.
What are fidget toys?
Fidget toys are tactile toys that have been specifically designed to keep hands busy. They can be offered to a child to regulate their need for movement and touch, thus supporting and enabling them to remain calm, focused and attentive. This is because the simple, often repetitive, motor movements allow the brain to filter out other sensory information which may otherwise be distracting.
What do we use fidget toys for?
We use fidget toys specifically to help Bean to wind down and relax before bed. During the day, Bean is generally quite busy. She is not expected to sit still and listen to me speak or read to her. Ordinarily, when I am reading aloud to her, she will be playing or have her hands otherwise engaged in some activity of her own choosing. I've invested in these toys over the years to support Bean at bedtime when she struggles to wind down. She benefits from having something in her hands to play with while she is lying in bed, listening to me read her bedtime stories. I have also invested in a weighted blanket for her, which she has found very beneficial.
These toys have an end goal in mind, but we use them for fidget play. The Rainbow Ball was new to Bean this Christmas and is her current favourite (fidget toys make great stocking fillers). The aim is to push the coloured balls inside the main body of the ball and manipulate it into the space with the matching coloured hole. It takes a fair amount of strength in the hands and fingers, but is very satisfying. The other two were both charity shop finds, but the Rubik's Cube Keyring is readily available online.
Twist, Bend and Fold
The top is a Spelling Learning Cube Book from ZooBooKoo. There are a huge variety of cubes available on all sorts of topics. I bought this for Bean when she was 4 or 5 years old, to try to encourage some early reading, but discovered that she preferred to play with it for fidget purposes. The cube can be folded and unfolded in all manner of ways, providing a nice tactile experience for little hands.
The Mandala was mine when I was a child and is still going strong. I think that they were traditionally made to support meditation (?) The jointed metal loops can be manipulated to form a variety of different shapes. The other is a Tangle toy which seems to be the modern and highly desirable alternative. Bean bought this one with her own money. It can be twisted and shaped, but the individual plastic pieces can also be disconnected, reconfigured and even attached to further sets to create giant tangle toys.
We have a few of these and they are very popular here. I haven't linked them as they come in a trillion different sizes and shapes, and are readily available. They're made out of memory foam, so when you squish and squash them with your hands, they slowly return to their original shape. A children's version of a stress ball.