Try It Tuesday: Busy Hands

Have you ever sat in a meeting with a co-worker who is jiggling his leg or playing with a pen? Maybe you're one of those people who is always doodling on a notepad? For many people--including our students--finding something to do with their hands is a critical strategy for staying focused when they are watching a video or presentation or participating in a discussion. This is particularly true for students who may have ADD/ADHD or OCD.

For today's Try It Tuesday, we're going to share some ideas for keeping teens' hands busy. When we work WITH fidgeting, we can help young people focus, improve their performance and reduce classroom disruptions. 

1. Bring Play Doh and Legos to Class

One great way to invite low-key fidgeting is to introduce sensory toys into the classroom. Get party packs of Play Doh and a big box of Legos and spread them out around the room. Invite students to play with them as they participate in classroom discussions or watch presentations. You can also bring in stress balls, Koosh balls or even rubber bands and paper clips to play with.

2. Encourage Doodling

Doodling is another powerful way to keep focused. Provide students with colored pens and pencils, black markers of different widths and scratch paper and encourage them to doodle while they listen. 

You may also want to introduce "Zen Doodling"(or Zentangling)--a more purposeful doodling where you draw repeating patterns to form intricate designs and pictures. These can not only aid focus, but they can also be very meditative and relaxing. And they can become beautiful art projects as well!

Here are some resources on Zen Doodling:

3. Introduce Simple Craft Projects

Knitting, crocheting, making lanyards, working with Perler Beads--all of these can be easy ways to keep hands busy in the classroom. They have the added benefit of providing students with a creative outlet--they are producing something that they could use themselves or give to others. 

Some Final Thoughts

As with all of our Try It Tuesday activities, experiment with these ideas to see which ones engage different students. Some may want to play with PlayDoh, while others may want to make lanyards. The idea here is to provide a range of "busy hands" activities that students can use to keep their focus while they're learning. 

You will also want to talk with your students about the purpose of these strategies--that they are a way to help them stay focused and on-task while they're in class or in a meeting. Help them to see these approaches as a way to create an environment for themselves that is more conducive to their personal learning and progress. 

You may also want to model these strategies yourself, especially if you're a "fidgeter." Show young people how you use your preferred strategies to stay focused in meetings, etc. giving them permission to use this outlet for themselves. 

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