Quality stim toys can be hard to find, since fidget toys and chewy jewelry, or chewelry, is trendy. Even the higher priced ones don’t always promise quality, or the ones with great reviews just aren’t within your budget.
Several popular stim toys can be made at home from everyday household objects, or using inexpensive crafting materials. You don’t have to decide between fuel and stim toys.
Tangle Fidget Toy
Grab a few plastic straws and two rubber bands.
Cut the straws into half inch beads. Cut the rubber bands so they no longer form a circle.
Tie the ends of the rubber bands together, cut off the excess rubber band. Tape one end of the rubber band to a table so it’s easy to string the plastic straw beads.
Once you have enough, tie the rubber band together. Now you have a loop fidget, which kind of resembles the hard plastic tangle fidgets.
Make your own Chewelry
Look for silicone beads at your local craft store, and choose appropriate string for the necklace or bracelet. You’ll need an appropriate clasp, to avoid the tag-like feeling of the string tied together and to make it easy to remove.
The easy part is putting the chewelry together. The hard part is determining the chew level. There are three levels of sensory chewers:
- Mild chewers – May be okay with eraser-like texture. Think of the texture and softness of a cheap pacifier.
- Moderate chewers – Mix between mild and aggressive chewers. You need something firmer than a pacifier, but soft enough they can bite down. Think rectangular beads.
- Aggressive chewers – Likely bites lips and nails to the point of infection and chapped lips. Probably loves eating raw pasta, which damages teeth beyond repair. Think circle beads, and literally the hardest silicone beads you can find. Aim for larger beads, as these are harder to break.
Chew level may change based on mood and need, so aggressive chewers may need mild level chewelry as well. Textured beads offer additional sensory pleasure, but may not be appreciated by your chewer.
Including a variety of beads helps, but many chewelry necklaces contain less than five beads depending on the design. If you have enough string and clasps, you could easily make additional chewelry.
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Cleaning Your Chewelry
Different string types have different needs, but cleaning chewelry is vital to deter bacteria growth.
An underrated way to sanitize chewelry is to drop the bead portion into a cup of boiling water, though soap and warm water is the popular choice.
Tissue Paper as a Stim Toy
A sheet of tissue paper crumpled into a ball makes a wonderful sound to anyone who loves crumpling notebook paper, but finds it doesn’t crackle enough.
It’s the auditory sensory input of crispy rice cereal, without having to eat it and at a pace you can control.
If you save tissue paper from gifts, this is technically completely free.
Water Snake Fidget Toy
For this one, you’ll need a plastic bag, clear packing tape, water, food coloring or paint, and glitter (optional).
Fill the plastic bag halfway with water. Add color with paint or food coloring, plus the glitter if desired. Other items you can add include small toys with soft edges.
Decrease the air in the plastic bag before sealing it. Tape the seal with clear plastic tape to avoid spillage.
This fidget is better suited for older children who know not to try to pop it.
Bumpy Water Fidget Toy
Rinse a Popsicle plastic wrapper. Fill with a few pipe cleaners cut slightly shorter than the packaging. Fill with clear hair gel. Seal with a straightener and parchment paper.
Freeze 5-20 minutes. Enjoy!
Almost anything can become a stim toy. Some fabrics are the right kind of sensory input. Lint rollers make a slight crackle sound while rolling them across counters and floors. Even a standalone computer keyboard makes a pleasant clackity-clack sound to some sensory seekers, without need to plug it in.
Creativity helps, but the key to finding things around the house that you can turn into stim toys is viewing everything with a sensory lens. Sensory input is everywhere, in and on everything.
What’s your favorite kind of sensory input?
Izzy Lively is an autistic adult living independently. She is primarily non-speaking and blogs at xoizzy.co.
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