Fidget toy

How to make fidget toys for people living with dementia

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 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 a Snuggle Bear fidget toy

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 hand

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
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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

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17 comments

Add your own

What a lovely idea Fiona. Well done. I have passed on the pattern to a few friends who have knitted the traditional fidgets.

Cute little bear! My father-in-law has just got his memory tested. No very brilliant results...but worse of all was when he was told to write a sentence. He tried. When he said "I can't" he was asked, why. "Becouse of rheuma in my hands". He couldn't hold a pen.
How about these bears, are rheumatic Alzheimer-patients able to cuddle them? Should it be a little bigger for them?

Hi Mari, thanks for your comment and sorry to hear about your father-in-law's recent experience.

It's a little hard to say as different people will find different objects more comforting than others. The good thing about this design is that it fits over a finger so it doesn't need to be gripped, but something bigger may be appropriate. We do sell some sensory stimulation products in our shop which may be helpful depending on your father-in-law's needs: https://shop.alzheimers.org.uk/daily-living-aids/Sensory%20stimulation

Hope this is useful, and please let us know if you need any other support.

Hi, is there a crochet pattern for this?

Hi Debbie, we don't have a crochet pattern at the moment unfortunately. We may be able to share a version in the future or a similar design so will let you know! Thanks

Thank you for such a cute and easy pattern! I modified it to make a construction worker and a cat. I also plan to make Wonder Woman , a ballerina and Harry Potter. Pictures can be found on Ravelry.

Hello, is there a place to donate knitted bears to?

aged care facilities would appreciate some I'm sure that's so kind of you.

Dear Ami
I am the manager of Longacre nursing home in Worthing West Sussex
and would gladly accept any donations of knitted Fidgets, what i kind suggestion.
Thank you

Hello Ami,

I am the Volunteer Coordinator for Heartland Hospice of Orange in California and would gladly accept any donations. I have been looking for something like this for our patients and know they would absolutely love them! Please feel free to contact me with any questions. Thank you, Shannon

Hi Ami, we are a care home in Kingstanding, Birmingham, B44, some of our residents would love a donation of these x please contact us-Thank you- Sarah and the team

Hi I visit care homes with my owls (Hawkwise Falconry).
I would love to leave an owl shaped version of this as a momento of my visit.
Would anybody have a pattern or be willing to donate some please?

We have a knitting group and would like to make a range of items as some are more experienced than others. Are other patterns available for twiddle mats, cannula sleeves etc. so we could make a variety.

Hi l make twiddle muff on a knitting loom if anybody's interested l make any colours

I am looking for any donation of knitted items for ladies and gentlemen with dimentia.

Just been on your site and reading about the knitted items for people with dimentia. I work in a care home and would love any donation of these due to a number of residents having dimentia.

I've just made a crocheted version - if you look at the flat knitted version it's quite straightforward to work out. Start with 13 chains and then sc 12 across. Ch 1 and turn each row. Use ch2 and sk 2sc to make the arm holes then do 1 sc into each ch on the next row.
I'll tweet pictures to Alzheimers Society to show you.

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