A fidget toy pictured next to an Alzheimer's Society branded mug

How to make a dementia fidget toy to ease restlessness

Fiona Crouch shares a knitting pattern for her 'Snuggle Bear' fidget toy, designed to reduce anxiety for people with dementia who are feeling restless.

People living with dementia sometimes become restless or develop fidgeting behaviours as the condition develops. In some cases, fidget toys or twiddlemuffs can be a helpful way to relax the person or give them something to do with their hands.

Snuggle Bear is a fidget toy that can ease restlessness for people living with dementia. Fiona Crouch, a lifelong knitter whose mother-in-law had dementia, designed ‘Snuggle Bear’ as a sensory toy for people young and old. She describes the bear as ‘a companion, someone to chat to and a distraction from anxiety, fear or pain.’

Read her story below, alongside a knitting pattern so you can make your own ‘Snuggle Bear’ fidget toy.

Fiona’s story

Fiona Crouch, who designed the Snuggle Bear

Fiona Crouch, who designed the Snuggle Bear

I first started knitting when I was around six years old—my auntie still has my first piece on the original knitting needles! I have continued to craft, on and off, all my life.

The inspiration for the snuggle bear fidget toy came after I attended a study day where Suzanne Zeedyk was the keynote speaker. She uses the metaphor of sabre tooth tigers and teddy bears to illustrate her theories of attachment and anxiety. The next day the idea Snuggle Bear hit me!

It combines the best bits of a fidget spinner-type toy and the comforting reassurance of your favourite cuddly toy – something to do or distract and something to love. The bear fits over your fingers and nestles in your hand, so fine motor skills aren’t needed to keep him there. As he has a face, Snuggle Bear has a personality and can help engage his owner.

Dementia has touched the lives of my family and friends. My mother-in-law, Wendy, was a great knitter. Sadly, she died of a dementia-related illness in September 2017. She used to make knitted toys for children in the local hospital. I like to think that she would have loved snuggle bear too.

How to make Fiona's dementia fidget toy, Snuggle Bear

For fiddlers, twiddlers and anyone who needs a special friend. Snuggle Bear can be made in an evening and loved forever.

Equipment

  • 4mm knitting needles
  • Small amount of DK yarn
  • Black yarn for eyes and nose
  • Sewing needle
  • Small amount of toy stuffing

Skills Required

  • Cast on/off
  • Garter stitch
  • Simple button holes
  • Increase
Snuggle Bear fidget toy gripping onto a person's fingers

Snuggle Bear will grip your fingers, making it easy to hold and play.

Instructions

(Head and Body)

  • Cast on 12 stitches
  • Knit 12 rows
  • Knit 2 stitches, knit 2 stitches together, bring yarn forward, knit to last 5 stitches, knit 2 stitches together, bring yarn forward and knit to end of row (making simple buttonholes)
  • Knit 1 row (to finish buttonhole structures)
  • Knit 12 rows- legs next!

(Legs)

  • (Working on first 6 stitches only, slip remaining 6 stitches onto a stitch holder)
  • Knit 6 rows
  • Increase into every other stitch (9 stitches)
  • Knit 5 rows
  • To finish legs break yarn and sew through loops to make feet
  • Repeat with remaining 6 stitches to make other leg

(Arms)

  • Cast on 24 stitches
  • Knit 6 rows
  • Cast off
Our dementia advisers are here for you.

To make up

  • Sew arms along long seam using whip stitch and put to one side

snuggle bear process diagram

  • Sew legs up to body (as shown in bottom leg in above photo – this one piece makes the head, body and legs)
  • Sew body (seam is at back) up to buttonholes
  • Thread arms through the buttonholes and sew ends together
  • Secure arms in place by stitching an arm onto each buttonhole
  • Lightly stuff body (a plump tummy looks fab!) - leave legs unstuffed
  • Continue sewing up to top of head and stuff lightly
  • Sew along top of head, making ears by sewing triangles in corners (see diagram below)

snuggle bear head diagram

  • Embroider eyes and nose/mouth using black yarn
  • Ta da!! You have your Snuggle Bear

A finished Snuggle Bear ready to meet its new owner

Snuggle bear

Next steps

Think this page could be useful to someone? Share it:

87 comments

Add a comment

Hello, my daughter has knitted a few of these for her DofE. She would like to send them to somewhere that would use them? Any ideas? Thanks

can you send me one for my mnl.

Hi yes - of course. Do you want to send me your address - although not sure how to do that without you putting it on a public forum??

Do you have a crochet pattern for the snuggle bear please? I can’t knit but love crochet

I have adapted the knit pattern to crochet. Don’t know if there is an official crochet pattern but this is my version.
Hook 4 mm. Dk yarn ( thicker yarn will give a slightly bigger result).
Ch 13 . dc into second st from hook , dc to end
Row 1. Ch1, dc 11 .
Work 7 more rows.
Row 9. Ch1, dc1,ch1, miss a st, dc 6, ch1, miss a st, dc2.
Row10. Ch1 dc to end working dc in ch1 space (buttonhole).
Rows 11 to 17 rep row 10
Row 18. Ch1, dc5, turn. Work on these 6 sets for 5 rows
Next row . Ch1, dc1 ,work 2 dc in each of next 3 sts. ch2.
Work across these10 sts for 3 rows .fasten off. Rejoin yarn repeat for second leg.
Arms. Ch 25 loosely. Dc in 2nd st and across. Ch1, dc across , work 3 rows in all. Fasten off.
Making up as for knit version
Hope that makes sense.

Error.
Row 18 Should read work on these 6 sts for 5 rows.
Next row. Ch1, dc1 , dc2 into next 3 sts, dc 2.

Sorry about that .

Thanks for this. My bear will have slightly odd legs, but I don’t think it will notice too much!
Thank you too for translating into crochet!

I don’t know how to knit either, so thanks so much for providing a crochet version. Thanks also to the Fiona the original poster for providing such a delightful item.

Keep the faith and follow the instructions Alison, I'm just making my first one and will try to post a photo of progress!

now that i have time on my hands i thought I would knit a few of these--it´s such a simple pattern and I´m embarrassed with my question..
is it knitted in stocking stitch?? i thought it was all in plain but then how do you bring the yarn forward but still knit?? sorry for the question...

the bear is knitted in garter stitch (knit every row).
the yarn forward (I think it should be a yarn over to remove confusion) is after knitting 2 stitches together, which forms the buttonhole (decrease one to form the hole, increase one to replace it so the stitch count is the same in the next row - two buttonholes worked on one row to form the armholes). [apologies if this had already been figured out, as I know it's been a while since you posted]

I've made one that I've posted on ravelry with a small variation on how to work/attach the arms - search "zombear", and my username is judalea. I came back to the site as I want to make another for my mum who's recently gone into care, and couldn't find either the bear or the pattern.

I am starting a project to make twiddlemuffs for dementia patients in the UK, in order to help during this period of isolation during the coronavirus outbreak and social distancing.
If you know of any organisations who would appreciate receiving these items please could you let me know?
Many thanks, Jo

My mother has lived with me for the past 2 years . Just started the "fidgeting " phase and I would love to purchase some of the Snuggle Bears to see it can help. Currently she is wearing gloves but noticed after the holiday that she is rubbing her fingers thru the gloves.
I would try myself but seeing I cant cook or sew, being an older male:))
Thank you,
Tony

It was actually my best friends brother who taught me to knit. So Tony, you have no excuse. There are plenty of tutorials on You Tube to help you. Good Luck !

Hello, thank you very much for this pattern. It’s brilliant. I have made a couple, but wasn’t able to get a friendly face on my bear. So I used a not so thick Aran yarn & 10 (3 1\4mm)needles( I find dk yarn these days is rather fine), and cast on 16sts, used Stockinette stitch for 13 (I’m going to try 11 rows next to get a more square face) rows, then purl 3, purl 3 tog, purl 4, p3 tog, purl 3.
The rest of the pattern is as u have written it in garter stitch.
That way I was able to get a nice teddy face , but it still a nice very small bear.
I hope you think that this is ok . I can email a pic if it is of interest to you . I’ll be making a lot more and try to find recipients in pembrokeshire
Best wishes to you
Wendy

Could you tell me where I can find the crochet version for this please.

Looking for a link to the crochet patterns for any of the items discussed. Would be delighted to use with a Knit and Natter type group and donate where needed

do you have this in a crochet pattern please

Did you ever get a crochet pattern. The one i was sent doesn’t make up very well. But maybe that’s just me!!

I am work in domiciliary care in York , we have many clients with Dementia, I am in no way a knitter but would love to gift them a twiddle muff. Are there any groups local that i can purchase from? Thank you

Katie, I'm near Bridlington and have started making twiddle muffs to use up my ever growing oddments of wool. I'd love to give you some, if you still want some. I will end up with about 6 if you would like them,

Did you get your twiddle muffs ? I have 12 here if you want them just need some things added on.

Is there a crochet pattern?

Love the little guy but knitting is not my cup of tea could i have a crochet pattern please will really sppreciate it

Please delete my last comment, I have just had an email from a local care home who want some twiddlemuffs. So that’s great!

I am also looking to do a project creating Twiddle Muffs or fiddle boards for our Veterans with Dementia. Could you please share any plans on supplies and instructions?

Hi I have just made 11 of this little bears and I also would like to donate them - would anyone like them happy to post anywhere but I am based in Salisbury. If I know of more people that would like I would carry on making in between my other craft projects

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.