To Spin or Not to Spin

A dive into the controversy of popular fidget spinners

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What’s small, colorful, spins and causes teachers to loathe? Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the answer to this one: fidget spinners!

The low-down

A fidget spinner is a handheld device that allows the user to “fidget” by spinning it between their finger and thumb. The spinner has a stable middle disc, much like a ceiling fan or a helicopter propeller. The claim is that these spinners can cause relaxation and allow the user to do something with their hands, promoting increased focus, attention and stimulation.

You’ll find fidget spinners in the hands of almost everyone: children, teens, even adults have caught on to the craze.

Toy stores have taken the fidget spinner idea and run with it. Many stores struggle to keep spinners in stock because of the high demand. Spinners can be made of stainless steel, plastic, brass and other materials. Now spinners come in a variety of colors, patterns, themes, and even offer LED and Bluetooth settings.  You can sync your smartphone to the fidget spinner and play music through speakers, pair with flashing lights, etc. Although, warning: cases of Bluetooth spinners catching on fire while charging have been reported, one taking place in Gardendale, Alabama.

A spin a day keeps the doctor away?

Spinners have been a tool for therapists long before the toy craze started. Why? For many people with ADHD, there’s a need for constant stimulation. Although doctors won’t prescribe fidget spinners, a psychologist could list spinners as a recommendation to help with concentration and the need to be constantly moving.  While research has not yet been released about fidget spinners and ADHD, one similar study by UC Davis Professor Julie Schweitzer let children with ADHD fidget to see how it helped with performing a task. She found that more overall movement did help in performing a difficult cognitive task.

Spinners can also help with calming a person down by allowing them to focus on something tangible rather than their anxieties. Adults use fidget spinners while sitting in traffic, in conference meetings, anywhere that could typically be seen as a stressful situation. Fidget spinners didn’t create fidgeting, though. If you’ve ever clicked a pen repeatedly, fiddled with your keys, or picked at your nails, you’ve taken part in fidgeting. Spinners allow movement without a huge distraction. But some would disagree.

Schools banning

Many schools have banned fidget spinners. Besides distractions and lack of focus for some students, injuries have even been cited. One school in Australia claims a spinner injured a student’s eye. Students can use fidget spinners to perform tricks, such as balancing them on their noses, that can turn problematic quickly. Additionally, some spinners make noises when in use, so you can see how a classroom of twenty kids could start buzzing.

Schools in 11 states have banned fidget spinners.

In Virginia, a petition was started on change.org to reverse a ban on the spinners; one student wrote that they were signing the petition because fidget spinners help with staying awake in class (shout out to 8:00 AM college classes) and ultimately do more good than harm.

Making lemonade out of lemons

Fidget spinners don’t have to be all bad. By incorporating learning opportunities, such as using the spinner as a timer to complete multiplication facts before the spin ends, we can learn to utilize the idea of adding fun to learning. Furthermore, spinners can promote social activities and bonding with other users. With all the complaints about “kids these days” spending too much time on electronic devices, spinners do in fact allow users to do something else with their hands, compete with others, and just take a break from the stresses of daily life.

The fidget spinner is just one example of the latest fidget toy variety. Fidget cubes, complete with buttons to push and knobs to turn and click, are also a hit. In fact, every one of the top 10 selling toys on Amazon was a form of a handheld toy people could spin and do tricks with.  Experts believe this is not a fad and the idea of fidget toys is here to stay. In the short attention-span world we live in, being able to find a source of relief for stillness is a priority for many.

Whether you love them or hate them, it seems that spinners haven’t yet lessened up on their widespread fame. There’s a solid following for these toys; just search through YouTube videos to find millions of views on clips showcasing the tricks of spinners. Happy spinning!