If you’re the parent of a grade school-aged kid, you’ve probably lived through your share of annoying, expensive and/or downright bizarre toy trends (we’re looking at you, Beyblades, Pokémon cards and Shopkins). But we’re willing to bet that you never saw this one coming: the new fad sweeping the schoolyard didn’t even originate as a toy.
Parents of 2017, say hello to the fidget spinner.
If you’ve somehow managed to avoid encountering one so far, let us fill you in. The fidget spinner is a small, manual device that’s held between the fingers and silently spins around a central bearing, allowing the holder to engage in a repetitive, simple action while (theoretically) staying quiet and focused. And although the spinners were originally developed to give stressed execs something to do with their hands in meetings and help kids with attentional and anxiety issues in the classroom, they’ve recently started selling out online and in stores, prompting theNew York Times to christen them the “hula hoop for Generation Z.”
All of which begs the question: do these weird-looking thingamajigs actually do what they’re supposed to do? Well, according to the experts, not so much.
“I haven’t seen any benefit for most of the kids using fidget spinners,” says Robyn Weddepohl, a Burlington-based child and adolescent psychotherapist who specializes in treating learning differences and social communication deficits. “Most of my clients with ADHD suddenly have them, and part of me has empathy for the parents – I think, oh, that’s great, they’re trying to provide additional strategies to help their kids focus. But after a while, the spinners end up sitting in the corner of the child’s desk, and the child still has difficulty focusing. Unfortunately, fidget spinners don’t come with a manual on how to use them appropriately, so they’re getting used as toys and not in the way they were intended.”
“I haven’t found that fidget toys are working for most students,” agrees Toronto elementary teacher Velvet Lacasse. “In order to be successful, students need plenty of self-regulation and impulse control not to use the toys to interrupt or distract others. Right now, the spinners are being used as toys in my classroom, [and] they’re not helping my students to focus and listen.”
So is there ever an occasion when fidget spinners might actually help kids? “The only pro I’ve seen is with kids and young adults who are really addicted to technology,” says Weddepohl. “In this case, it can help get their hands and eyes off their phones – a spinner is less distracting than a screen.”
Good to know. But for the rest of us, it’s probably wise to assume that the recent craze for fidget spinners is just that, a craze – and that they won’t actually help our kids function better in the classroom, regardless of how many we buy.
Hey, look at the bright side: at least they’re small and quiet, right?