Hoberman Mini Sphere
I remembered having one of these when I was younger and actually referred to this idea of expanding and contracting a lot in therapy so figured it would be a useful tool to explain my metaphor to clients and a bonus if they also liked it to manage distress in the therapy room. What I was not expecting is that it would quickly become the crowd favorite. From babies and toddlers coming in to session with parents all the way up to clients in their 50's, 60's and 70's...this toy was a hit! People would grab it and play with it almost instantly when walking in to the room and whenever I would ask what drew them to it, they said it was partially that it kept their hands busy but it was also seeing the change in shape that was mesmerizing. Prior to leaving my job in Wisconsin, I ended up gifting over 10 of these to clients and if I could have afforded it, would have gifted every client with one! And even now, I have one at my house that friends play with (or use to help distract their kids when they are over and want to have more 'adult' conversations) and still see the surge of use with clients in a new city. I think this tool is necessary for every person/family and truly works not only as a helpful distraction but a great metaphor :)
I don't know how many of you remember these when you were kids but these things were amazing! I loved seeing how the different designs would develop and had so much fun playing with different colors and inserts. I found these one day when I was at the dollar store in Madison and figured I would grab a few and put them in our offices. Instantly, I saw people drawn to these and for a variety of reasons - I mean for sure they made beautiful designs but it was also something they could do while having the hard conversations. Plus, they could divert their eye contact and not seem like they were being dismissive or rude. It was necessary and supportive for so many people. Plus, the rhythmic spinning motion of the inserts is, in it of itself, is somewhat meditative.
Crazy Aaron's Putty (Mini Tins)
Putty is all the rage with younger kids/teens but I think it is too often dismissed for people of all ages. There is something so simple and yet so calming about playing with it. Pulling and pressing it, molding it into different shapes. And the Crazy Aaron's brand is by far leaps and bounds ahead of the others. The texture is completely on point and the colors and styles are super fun - metallics, heat sensitive options, neon colors, and more. I have probably bought over 50 of these since beginning my career as a therapist and frequently find them "disappearing" or being borrowed out to clients, friends or peers in need of something to help them manage their distress. Grab a set today and share them with those you love & care about - everyone has days when they need a little additional support for their distress.
Plus, these neatly fit into your purse, bag, or even pocket so their mobility allows you to ensure it is always with you!
Note: this is also my go to when I am giving a really hard or nerve-wracking speaking presentation!
Spiky Sensory Rings
These rings are super fun, and like the Crazy Aaron's putty, easily transported. They are designed to be slid on and off the fingers and provide sensory activation and rhythmic hand movement that can be calming to someone in distress. I also like how discrete it is as I have so many people who are still fighting against the stigma of acknowledging distress and anxiety. So this helps them feel like they can use something to work through it without announcing their feelings to the world - while the rest of us keep pushing to abolish the bullshit stigma associated with mental health issues and distress.
These little guys blew up with the teenage market a few years ago and suddenly, like fidget spinners, everyone had to have one. But unlike fidget spinners, which you will notice I dont have listed here, these seem to actually work in distress relief and support for individuals. The one problem now, is that there are so many different ones you can buy and many companies have started creating lower quality cubes to undercut competition by offering a cheaper price (but for a shit object). As such, I wanted to give you links to some of the tried and true companies - not only from my account but from client reports as well!
Now, my guess is that you are wondering what is so great about this gadget versus something else. And I get it. I thought the same thing! The cool thing about it though is that it provides not only a distraction by engaging the hands in movement through various engagement spots but also can engage different sensory components. I mean, of course, touch as everything is done through touch on the cube but there are also certain parts that make sounds or can be visually stimulating as well. And, like the putty or the sensory rings, it is small enough to carry in a bag or pocket and can be concealed in classrooms, etc so as to avoid any shame or stigma one may be worried about.