Fidget spinners have been the biggest craze of 2017, but unlike animal bracelets or the Harlem Shake, this one may be here to stay. Teachers have been quick to ban the hand device and others like it, but do they actually help children do better in school?
The popular toy has an unexpected origin story. Young mother Catherine Hettinger suffered from an autoimmune disorder that left her feeling weak and unable to play with or pick up her daughter. To help the two interact, Catherine began creating toys with household products. She experimented with a variety of newspaper-and-tape creations, before they ‘co-invented’ a small device they could take turns spinning.
Catherine continued refining the design and sold thousands of spinners at local fairs, before patenting the design in 1997. When the patent lapsed in 2005, she couldn’t afford to renew it – and never imagined it would become the phenomenon it is today. Now, millions of units have sold around the world, and the trend shows no sign of slowing down.
People have a hard time staying still – a long phone call, uncomfortable conversation, or unexpected traffic all cause us to grab the nearest thing and start fiddling! Children and those with attention disorders are no different, and can often feel the pressure of staying still even more than we understand. Out of those situations came fidget spinners, an affordable and discreet way to increase focus and composure in – and out – of the classroom.
The science is clear – moving is good for the brain. Research suggests that physical activity increases the levels of chemicals that increase attention and improve focus. Even the smallest amount of movement is enough to make a measurable difference, like walking while studying notes or chewing gum during a test. Classrooms around the world are experimenting with new ways to get kids moving in the classroom, and fidget devices are just another tool they are experimenting with.
Mental breaks are becoming few and far between in the school day as districts are cutting the arts, extra-curricular activities, and even recess time. Small, non-intrusive movements allow students short mental breaks that help balance (but don’t replace) the missing enrichments.
There’s been a startling trend within schools around the world – behavior problems are on the rise. This epidemic has been hitting kids of every demographic, school level, and especially those with emotional or mental health issues. So how can schools better accommodate kids with extraordinary needs so behavior issues don’t escalate? Allow them to react to their emotions immediately.
Children and adults with ADD/ADHD, autism, anxiety disorders, and other neurological disorders often engage in what’s called ‘self-soothing’, where they perform a mindless, repetitive physical task over and over in high stress situations. This allows them to relax, re-center themselves, and de-stress in a variety of situations. Devices like fidget spinners give students a quiet way to engage in self-soothing, and reduce outbreaks of poor behavior.
So fidget devices can help students focus and keep themselves calm – but is it teaching them anything? Absolutely.
These devices are one of the only non-electronic devices kids are asking for, using, and creating. Yes, that’s right, kids are so eager to get their hands-on fidget spinners that they’ve turned to DIY tutorials and even 3D printing to make their own.
Since the trend took off in mid 2016, thousands of videos have been uploaded explaining the physics behind the spinners, the tactics to create a working model, and design ideas to customize a device. Building them makes for a great science or art project, or can become a cheap hobby for anyone.
Of course, kids will always find a way to entertain themselves in school. However, if implemented correctly, allowing these deceives can prove beneficial for your classroom. They can improve focus and composure of students, and discourage the more disruptive mental breaks, like unnecessary bathroom breaks, pencil sharpening, or walks to the garbage can. Here are a couple tips to help you effectively utilize spinners in your classroom:
If you’re interested in outfitting your classroom with fidget spinners and other stress-relieving toys, or looking for a place to send interested parents and students, check out our premium stress-relief devices. All our products are extremely durable, nearly silent, and have an extraordinary spin time. Take advantage of our Back to School sale today!
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