The Top 10 Fidgets to Save Your Brain

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Image: Rory Bristol
Image: Rory Bristol

Do you get distracted easily? I do! So do my kids, and my wife, and most everyone I’ve ever worked with. Many people cope by fidgeting in different ways. Some fidgeting behaviors are annoying, some are never noticed by others, and some are just weird. Examples include clicking a pen repeatedly, tapping a foot under the desk, and picking one’s nose. Hey, this is a judgement free zone, but let’s try to be hygienic, okay?

To help you focus, you can use a physical “fidget,” something that helps you focus while you work, by occupying the track in your mind that wants to be doing something other than listening to that very important presentation. I use them to help me focus when I’m listening to audio, or watching an educational video. My kids use them to occupy their hands while they read. Here are ten fidgets that can help you focus, without leaving residue on your keyboard.

Oh, before we start, bear in mind that people around you can probably hear/see you. I’ll make note of how intrusive these fidgets are, to help you out.

1: Stress Ball

Image: Rory Bristol
Image: Rory Bristol

Stress balls are a great fidget for a lot of reasons. They’re soft. They don’t make noise if you drop them. They come in hundreds of shapes and sizes. My personal favorite is my Angry Birds Storm Trooper. It’s larger than my hand, but small enough for me to manipulate it with one hand. It’s on the firm side, which lets me use it as an easy exercise tool, too.

2: LEGO Bricks

Image: Rory Bristol
Image: Rory Bristol

LEGO bricks are great. They snap together for storage, and can be taken apart and reassembled in countless ways. My personal favorite it my mostly-dead LEGO minifig. I have no idea what set it’s from, as I found it on the ground somewhere, and never bothered looking it up. What I like about it is that it comes apart, snaps back together, and it doesn’t matter if I lose a bit, as it came to me without legs. LEGO elements can be noisy, so account for your personal noise habits before deciding if this is a good option for you.

3: Collapsible Shot Glass

Image: Rory Bristol
Image: Rory Bristol

Jenny bought this for me years ago, and I love it. Turns out, so do babies. No, I don’t give babies anything to drink from it! It’s made up of  six rings, which nest together into a neat package, but expand into a shot-glass that’s easy to store. I can spend hours opening and closing it, but it is very noisy. This one just sits on my desk if anyone’s around.

4: The Thinket

Image: Rory Bristol
Image: Rory Bristol

The Thinket is a hilarious project that launched from Kickstarter. It is a magnetic tube and cylinder that have several magnets in each piece. You can press it back-and-forth inside the tube, or take it apart and fiddle with them separately. You can see a full review of these by Jonathan Liu, in another GeekDad article.

5: Prayer Beads or Rosaries

Image: Rory Bristol
Image: Rory Bristol

For thousands of years, priests, monks, prisoners, and ministers have used prayer beads or rosaries to settle their mind. I use my grandfather’s rosary, because I find it particularly soothing, but you can opt for a less overtly religious option, and buy a classy chain of prayer beads.

6: Tokens and Counters

Image: Rory Bristol
Image: Rory Bristol

These little gems (pardon the puny pun, please) are great. I keep a handful on my desk, and I slide them back and forth, or pick them up and set them down repeatedly. The action is soothing, and they make little noise, unless I drop them. I’ve also been known to chase them into the hallway when they’ve bounced, fair warning.

7: Dice

Image: Rory Bristol
Image: Rory Bristol

Dice are one of the most magic tools on the planet. Hundreds (if not thousands) of years have been spent perfecting these wonderful cubes. I keep a handful at my desk at all times. It’s great when I need to come up with a random number, or just need something to do with my hands. I roll them repeatedly, but I roll them on a felt surface, so they don’t bounce too much, or make a lot of noise. Beware, even with a felt pad, dice are noisy, but nothing beats rolling a pile of cubes around in one’s hand.

8: String

Image: Rory Bristol
Image: Rory Bristol

String? I know, I know, you think I’m kidding. Totally not, though. String is awesome stuff. You can play Cat’s Cradle, teach yourself new knots, or just do what I do, wind it around one hand repeatedly, then unwind it, and wind it on the other hand. If I hold the string only by the ends, this can take a while, and I never have to look down, or worry about dropping it. Zero noise, nice to feel in my hand, and 100% biodegradable if needed. If you lose it, don’t worry, it’s everywhere.

9: Rubik’s Cube

Image: Rory Bristol
Image: Rory Bristol

I’ve written about Rubik’s Cube before, but I cannot help but love it still. Modern models are so easy to turn, it takes little-to-no thought to fidget with it, and provides a truly helpful way to mix up the cube for future solving. A friend of mine has about a dozen he keeps around for such dual-action activities.

10: Cards

Image: Rory Bristol
Image: Rory Bristol

I show Magic: the Gathering cards here, but any cards will do. Shuffling cards can be super soothing, if a little annoying to those who are listening. The feel of the cards flicking through my fingers helps me think. My theory is that stimulating my fingers makes by brain think it’s working enough, so it isn’t trying to “help” me by giving me another 99 things to think about.

Matching block symbols, or colors, or types, or costs are all great options for secondary games using Magic cards. Image: Rory Bristol
Matching block symbols, or colors, or types, or costs are all great options for secondary games using Magic cards. Image: Rory Bristol

I particularly enjoy Magic cards because they can be used for many games, just like regular playing cards, but are also freaking Magic cards, and I can throw down a duel on my lunch break. Yes, I felt a little extra nerdy saying that, but the truth is that it’s a lot of fun to keep them around.

Bonus item: Koosh. My wife swears by this one, and my kids love it too. I don’t like them, so much, because they get dirty and smell funny to me, but I seem to be the only person on the planet that doesn’t love them. Zero noise, can’t break, what’s not to like, I guess?

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