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.
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.
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.
- 4mm knitting needles
- Small amount of DK yarn
- Black yarn for eyes and nose
- Sewing needle
- Small amount of toy stuffing
- Cast on/off
- Garter stitch
- Simple button holes
(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!
- (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
- Cast on 24 stitches
- Knit 6 rows
- Cast off
To make up
- Sew arms along long seam using whip stitch and put to one side
- 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)
- Embroider eyes and nose/mouth using black yarn
- Ta da!! You have your Snuggle Bear