We have pretty solid collection of fidgets. These two bins feature most of the hands-on, available fidgets available for all of the children. Basically, everyone has access to them, but some children need them and will ask for them specifically. We have steadily collected these over the years after meeting the wonderful occupational therapists and educational consultants who work with the children who attend our little Cooperative School.
The bins pictured here include the collection of what I call "tactile" fidgets on the left and in the bin on the right is a collection of what I call "auditory and visual" fidgets.
Here are some of our favorite items that have been tried and true. On the left, wax threads; textured balls; mostly deflated balls (these are kind of like stress balls, but seem to be preferred by the children); silly putty; cornsilk and mushroom brushes; and a weighted cat neck wrap.
On the right, we have a mirror (to practice facial expressions); toobaloos (to help voice modulation); noise dampening headphones; the heartbeat audio pacifier (it used to be inside a bear, but having it outside makes it more accessible); bubble blowers; miniature etch-a-sketch; that large black board to the right is an old-time gin rummy scorekeeper and it is quite visually satisfying; and the lid of a glass jar is just visible and it contains a toy starfish and turtle (these signal a slow down and are much sought after).
We have other items that children use, but these are available in other bins. We have "lovies" which are stuffed animals, mostly rabbits, hand knitted "Moots", critters that kind of resemble owls, filled with aquarium gravel, and "kitten pillows" made from different kinds of fluffy fabrics and also filled with gravel. We have slant seats (air-filled wedge mats with a knobby surface) and "t-seats" which we made from unit blocks sawed in half and then the pieces screwed together in the shape of a T. The t-seats are actually quite difficult to sit on, unless you need one, and then it is quite straightforward. We used to make our own "chompers", but we now recommend that parents buy their own chompers or chewy tubes.
How do we determine whether a child needs one of these items? To begin with, they are simply available. We have found that when a child (or an adult) needs one of these items, they are naturally drawn to them. The only exception to this rule is usually the toobaloo. A person needing to work on voice modulation is not usually aware of that need. This is something we prompt children to try out. It is a very effective tool, I must say. In fact, all of these items are well-used and well-loved.