One of my favorites is the “squeeze toy” pictured above. It allows the child to squeeze when turned into a ball and this stimulates proprioceptors, which you may recall, help inhibit unecessary stimulation in the brain. In essence, it provides calming stimulation. When the ball is turned inside out it becomes this “spiky” thing that provides tactile stimuli. Tactile stimuli is a “wake up” and alerting sensation. So the child can focus with the squeezing side and alert with feeling the spiky side.
- This toy is a sensory organizer. Squeezing the ball activates proprioceptors in the hands, which activate the filtering system in the brain. The spiky side is highly alerting as it tickles the skin with touch stimuli. The touch system is highly alerting to the nervous system.
- Squeezing is a gentle hand strengthener.
- Turning the toy inside out requires manual dexterity. It strengthens hand and finger muscles and improves fine motor coordination.
- When the child turns the toy inside out, both hands need to be used. This brings bilateral motor coordination into play. Using both sides of the body at the same time is another integrating activity for the brain.
1. Allow the child to explore this toy independently. You will want to demonstrate the different sides when the toys is introduced.
2. Many children need assistance learning how to flip the toy to the other side. This is difficult for younger hands (3-4 year olds).
3. When used as a hand exercise activity, encourage the child to turn it inside out several times.
4. The toy may distract children from the lesson. This is when carefully scripted behavioral expectations need to be introduced. Students are told that it is a privilege to have the toy. IF the toy becomes a distraction to other children or the student does not pay attention to the lesson while using the fidget toy, it will be taken away. Depending on the child and the situation, a warning system may be put in place but what ever is determined, it must be carried out consistently.
Special Considerations and Extension of the Activity :
- The spiky side can be highly uncomfortable for a touch sensitive child. Allow the child to explore this side gradually and always introduce the toy on the smooth side, having the child squeeze hard several times before flipping to the other side. Finish with the smooth side again, emphasizing deep squeezing.
- This “ball” is easy to grasp so it is a great choice for a tossing game. The spiky side is especially easy to grasp and the softness of the toy makes it safe for “early throwers” to use and not worry about injury.
You can find these at many toy stores, typically at the check out counter.
Here is an on-line link: