two fiddle toys on a desk

Fiddle your way to improved concentration.

My grandma Phyllis’s nickname was ‘fidgety Phyl can’t sit still’. She always had something in her hands, claiming it helped to keep her mind focused and improved concentration. And there could be something in that. She passed away aged 104 and was ‘sharp as a tack’ till the end.

The benefits of fiddle toys for children with autism or ADHD are well documented. I’ve also observed over the past few years that there is a definite place for fidget/fiddle toys in the workplace too.

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of fiddle toys for adults, the scientific research that backs up those claims and how not all fiddle toys are created equal.

The benefits of fiddle toys for improved concentration in adults.

During a meeting, have you ever picked up a pen and clicked it repeatedly open and closed? Or reshaped a paperclip into something more pleasing? Then you already know the value of fiddling. Being given a toy at the start of a training class and being encouraged to fiddle with it, can feel like a release and certainly aids your ability to concentrate.

I’ve noticed an additional benefit too. Delegates typically like to take the toys away with them. I’ve seen many of my fiddle toys on people’s desks, weeks and months after the class in which they got them. I’m positive this leads to subconscious knowledge retention. Every time they pick up the toy, there is a connection made back to where it came from, and what they learned in that class.

Finally, fiddle toys can help create team spirit. I’ve seen classes get together to create something larger by pooling the fiddle toys together. Or using the toys to summarise their experience in class (see image below). It almost becomes a competition as to who can create the craziest arrangement!

The scientific research that backs up the claims.

There has been much research into the benefits of fiddle toys for children suffering from ADHD, from Scientific American to the National Centre for Biotechnology Information. Now, that thinking is being expanded into the workplace – see The Science of Why We Fidget While We Work. In summary, fingertip stimulation can lead to improved concentration and potentially increases our ability to absorb (and retain) facts and knowledge, by giving our sub-conscious brain something repetitive to focus on.

Not all fiddle toys are created equal.

If the above is true, then as a trainer, I didn’t want my delegates stimulating their fingertips on their mobile phones. Whilst something like background music can enhance some people’s learning, I firmly believe the ability to truly multitask whilst learning is a myth.

When I started offering fiddle toys in Sales Training classes about six years ago, I used to spend (literally) hours in the local supermarket children’s party aisle. I’d get funny looks from other shoppers as I ‘tried out’ out all the ‘party bag’ objects on offer. I needed toys that felt therapeutic, but that didn’t require a lot of movement or make any sound, for fear of distracting fellow delegates. I also had to replace my ‘stash’ after every class, as the delegates wanted to hold onto them!

A few years ago the ‘fidget spinner’ craze took hold in schools. I tried them too, but the sound and movement was just too distracting. I can totally understand why many teachers banned them. Next came the Fidget Cube. A company founded by a Kickstarter campaign that raised $6.4m, but sadly missed the boat, as they strived too hard for production perfection – meanwhile, many cheaper alternatives flooded the market. I learned the hard way, that the cheaper versions tend to disintegrate….


Corporate branded tangle fiddle toys
Branded Tangle Toys

And the winner is...

Eventually, I came across Tangle toys – they ticked all the boxes. As a bonus, they can be branded with your company logo and ordered in your corporate colours. I believe this gives the toys a more professional and ‘adult’ feel. I’ve been using Tangle toys ever since. We even included them in new sales hire ‘welcome packs’ during Covid, as they provide the same benefits during remote training too! The other plus of finding these ideal toys, is that it saves a lot of trips to the supermarket! 

More recently, an innovative new application for fiddle toys emerged. One delegate, having experienced first-hand how fiddle toys improved concentration in the classroom, now gives out branded Tangles to his clients during demos to help them focus too.

In summary.

So we’ve explored the benefits of fiddle toys leading to improved concentration, the scientific research that backs this up and the best fiddle toys for a classroom environment. It seems my grandma was indeed a wise woman!

If you are a sales trainer (or indeed any trainer for that matter!) and you haven’t experienced the benefits of fiddle toys in your classroom yet – what have you got to lose?

If you’d like help incorporating fiddle toys into your sales training programs, I’ve love to hear from you.

Fiddle toys posed in funny arrangements by training delegates
Fiddle toys posed in funny arrangements by training delegates
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Anna Hiett

Anna spent 10 years as the Global Head of Sales Training at Finastra, a large FinTech. Winning multiple awards for her world-class training programmes, Anna now supports busy Sales and Enablement leaders and managers to reach new heights of performance and productivity, to deliver value to their organisations. Anna is the part-time Leadership Executive Coach at Finastra and also has a thriving consulting and coaching private practice.

Head and shoulder shot of Anna Hiett, smiling, against a plain background.
Hi there, I'm Anna!

I’m an ICF certified executive coach and award-winning Sales Training professional, with a passion for sales methodology & process and time & attention management.

My mission with these blogs is to share ideas, to help both Sales and Enablement Leaders reach new heights of performance and productivity.

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