On occasion, I and other OACAA staff are asked why we place toys and candy on the tables at our conferences. With the Annual Summer Conference coming up next month, now is a great time to explain their purpose.

These toys are actually called “fidgets” and are tools to help self-regulate, calm stress and anxiety and can help you focus and retain information. You can get fidgets anywhere and they don’t have to be expensive. You’ve probably seen our baskets; they include stress balls, cars, bendable creatures and more. The fidgets promote movement and tactile input that is critical for some adult learners.

Learners that benefit from fidgets can be easy to spot when none are available to them. They may get up from their seat often, tap their foot or rummage through their purse or tote bag. They may read, re-read and flip through their program or handouts throughout the session, or they may even play with their name tag. They don’t do this on purpose, and it is not planned—many times they don’t even realize they are distracting anyone.

Adult Learning Styles teach us that learning can be enhanced when fidgets are introduced. Learning requires us to use both the left and right hemispheres of our brain and appropriate fidgeting can increase learning reception. Movement and sensory input can help direct restless movement.
So, at the next OACAA conference you attend, when you see the little creatures, stress balls, Slinky’s or figures, go ahead—pick one up! You may find that you too benefit from a fidget.


Lorie is a certified trainer in the Prep® Within My Reach curriculum, and Love’s Cradle® curriculum, Family Development Specialist and Family Development Specialist Trainer, as well as a certified Personal Financial Teacher. She is directly responsible for managing all of OACAA’s Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) and other funded programs.

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