My family and I just returned from a week long vacation (3 hours ago to be specific). The one thing that helped my husband and I survive the 9 hour drive each way with two young kids was bags of toys, including fidget toys. I had a large bag of toys for each child to sort through and play with. So when my son got tired of playing with his cars, magna-doodle, and puzzle, the fidget toys were his next choice. He especially liked the stretchy, light up caterpillar fidget. On one of the "pit stops" I purchased a visual fidget; it is a 5 inch ball with a small fish and glitter inside it.
The term fidget basically just describes what a person would do with that toy...fidget. Fidgets are fun to turn around, pull, squeeze, shake, etc. Some children can benefit from them in the classroom to help them "wiggle" with their hands instead of getting out of their chair. For some kids, they have to be moving in order to listen or they zone out, so a fidget allows them to still be moving, just it is with their hands instead of their entire body. Fidgets are also beneficial for long car rides or waiting in doctor's office lobbies. When the child is playing with it, it keeps their mind off having to keep their body still. Some fidgets are textured which stimulates the tactile sense, whereas others are aiming at the visual, auditory, oral, or proprioceptive sensory systems. But you have to be careful with the auditory fidgets depending upon where you will use it, because you wouldn't want it to be too loud! Although fidgets are beneficial for many children, they are especially helpful for kids with sensory processing disorder (SPD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and ADD/ADHD.
Some things I had for my 2 year old son in his fidget bag for our long car ride included: small cars, fuzzy ball, stretchy caterpillar, zip up bag full of various action figures, wind-up fish, mini See-n-Say, aquarium tubing (for chewing), and other odds-and-ends that were too large for him to swallow had he decided to put them in his mouth. I'm not going to falsely say that for the entire 9 hours my son forgot he was strapped into his car seat against his will and was as happy as a lark, but I will say when he fussed, having toys as a distraction helped immensely! Now for my six year old daughter, she enjoyed her bag of toys also, but she has always been a champion traveler and wouldn't fuss even if she had nothing to do at all. But the fidgets made it more fun for her!
Still not sure what to use with your little one? Here is a link I found for some fidget toys that might stimulate some thought:
Toys for Learners: Trainers Warehouse Product Departments
I have also seen some great fidget toys at Walgreen's, Wal-Mart, and other retail stores. The dollar stores sometimes have good fidgets- just have to dig! Try to get a variety of fidget toys, because what works at one moment may not at the next, so it is nice to have quite a few in your bag of toys. I even save party favors from birthday parties my children have attended and toss them into the bag of toys. You might even want to go through your children's toy boxes to find fidget treasures. Another thing that makes good fidgets is the toys that come with a child's meal from a fast food restaurant as well as the prizes from cereal boxes. One of my favorite fidgets came from McDonald's over 4 years ago; in fact, I would go through the drive through to buy more kid's meals just for more of this toy; it was one of those intriguing toys that helps visual and fine-motor skills. By the way, I rarely eat fast food!