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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71 comments

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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.

If you take a tennis ball and score a small x in the top and the bottom then push a pen/pencil/paint brush through it, it is much easier for a dementia resident with fine motor skill issues to be able to write/paint.

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

Has a crochet pattern ever been designed for this please?

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.

Can you post the link to find these pictures on Ravelry please.
Thanks.

Would really appreciate it if you can give me the link where i can find your modificationd i am from south africa and would like to make them have done teddy and elf and the people just live them

I am not the poster, but here is a link to her project on ravelry.
https://www.ravelry.com/projects/jfreeman/snuggle-bear

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 have you got a phone number my name is Tracey and l will make some l live in kingshurst so lm not too far away

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.

Emma, that’s great. And I’m assuming the arms and legs are simply done in amigurumi style.

How do I get to this site for the crochet version. I am starting to try and make different things like this to donate. I'm not sure if I can get back to this site for your answer could you please email it to me...

Hi i just made a couple of your bears do you no if their is somewere in Fergus Ont Canada that need stuff like this

Thank you for the bear pattern
I knitted one last night then when I visited the home where my mum was to show them they immediately thanked me as they had one resident who would adore it. I watched the pleasure it gave and will be knitting more for them to pass on.
Any other ideas you have would be greatly appreciated. I’ve already knitted twiddle muffs and fidget elves. I would love to find anything else that would benefit Alzheimer’s and Dementia sufferers.

Going to introduce this at local knit and natter group in our library
Thank you for the invaluable work you do.

Id love to help with this but i only crochet :( hopefully there will be a pattern soon 🤞🏻

We would love them Our twiddle bits are very well used

Im in no way at all a knitter, i wouldn't even know where to start, is there somewhere i could buy one or donate some money and get one for my Nan who has dimentia?! Thank you so much in advance x

Hi Amy - I would be happy to send a knitted fidget with my compliments for your precious Nan just let me know where to post it to. Warm regards x

Hi I am a nurse, deputy manager of 49 beds we care for people living with dementia disease, we use fiddle muffs but love the knitted cats etc , I would be interested in purchasing some please xx thank you xx

Hi Vanessa - where do you live? Most knitting groups will donate items you shouldn't need to purchase them.

What a great idea. I’m going to have a go at knitting a couple. My mum has Alzheimer’s and often fiddles with tissues- we find them everywhere! Going to see if this works for her. Thanks

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I currently have 10 twiddle muffs knitted and I am looking for someone or a home that needs them. I live in Chippenham, Wiltshire. I love the snuggle bears and will have a go at knitting them now.

Hi Lucy, I manage a care home in Bexleyheath Kent. We would love some of your twiddle muffs and would of course be more than willing to pay any postage costs. Please let me know if this is ok and I will provide contact details 😊 many thanks Gina

Hi Gina
Yes, of course, which carehome are you in Bexleyheath, shall I just send a couple to see if they are what you need? Lucy

Hi Gina,
Yes I can send some, can you let me know which care home and I can look up address, thanks
Lucy

Is it possible to have instructions for the twiddle muff p!ease,

Hi Carole
I can’t copy the link onto here. But if you are on the internet and put in a search on google for “twiddle muffs Ashford and St. Peter’s hospital” it’s the first listing that comes up a PDF that you will be able to print. Let me know if you can’t find it.

Hi Lucy. I work on medical ward in Salford royal and would be interested to receive some of these if they are still available. Please contact me if you’re able. Thanks Shannen.

Hi Shannen
Do you still need Twiddlemuffs?

I have just seen a Twiddle bear and as a part of a Church group Knitters can see this as a new project for those who want a choice of patterns .I can see the bear holding a small Easter egg .Thank you .

I would definitely like a crochet pattern. I know several ladies that would like to do these. We make prayer shawls for our church. Thank you for your generosity in sharing the pattern.

Thank you Fiona, I'm going to try to make some as I belong to Stockport Neighbourhood Crafters and we make twiddle muffs and mats for various places. This could be something else we make too.

Thank you for the pattern . I am going to make some. X

Found the comments really useful. Have started knitting a muff, just need to attach the bits and pieces. It took me some time! These little bears are ideal, also on the TV last night knitters are crocheting/knitting blanket squares so patients can find their own bed and also keep the blankets once they leave. (Maidstone hospital, hopefully other hospitals will follow. I am going to suggest this to my local knit and natter group.

Hi I’ve just made my first little bear, so quick to do! I also make Twiddlemuffs and have some work colleagues joining in. We are based in Buckinghamshire & Hertfordshire, could you please let me know the nearest places in need for these to be donated.

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