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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Just did a sample knit and although my wool was too thin I have fallen in love with my new friends w

I have just started making twiddle muffs and would love to donate them. I live in south west London. Please can you tell me where I can send or take them when completed.

I have made a crochet pattern, they look great. Made 10 different colours. Would love to send to a photo.

Hi Sue - we'd love to see photos of your crocheted bears! We'd also love to publish the crochet pattern on this blog, with your permission. Can you email us at [email protected]? Thanks, the Alzheimer's Society blog team.

Hi Sue, would love to use your crochet pattern if you don’t mind sharing. Thank you.

Hi Sue. I am at the early stages of dementia and would love to get your crochet pattern for this. Trying to make several different objects for donation. Hope to hear back from you.

Hi I am a nurse on a medical ward at Salford royal hospital and would like to receive any mittens/toys that are kindly ready for donation please contact me on [email protected]

Hi, I also have 10 Twiddle Muffs ready, and plenty of yarn to make more, but in spite of contacting several care homes, and being promised call backs, none have been forthcoming.
I am in the south east, near Lewes. Hope to hear from someone. Happy to deliver.

Hi,I hav started to crochet twiddle muffs and would like to donate them for dementia patients - or to homes/ hospitals where they are needed. I have also crocheted hats. I live I Midlothian, Scotland. Happy to post or deliver.

I've just started knitted snuggle bears and would like to donate them to people with Alzheimer's - I'm in east Lancashire.

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

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

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

Is there a crochet pattern?

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,

do you have this in a crochet pattern 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

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

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

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

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