This past March, 2017, my 13 year-old son told me that we should add these “cool fidget spinners” to our product line.
In April, we tested a few spinners found one we liked and started selling them online, along with 100s of other vendors! My son even started a mini-business selling the popular toy to his friends (until his school asked him to stop). Since then the Fidget Spinner has gone viral.
In May, however, schools started banning Fidget Spinners, saying they were distracting and disruptive in class. I have to admit, I’m not surprised. Fidget Spinners are really cool, spinning fast for up to 3 minutes. But, I’m still on the fence about whether they are a fidget toy, or just a toy.
Fidget toys are best when they occupy your hands, not your brain. When they feel good, not look good!
By these tests, the question of whether Fidget Spinner is a toy or a fidget, depends on how you use it. If you spin it by holding it in one hand by a thumb and finger, spin it with the other hand, then sit and watch it, I believe it belongs in the toy category. But, if you quietly rotate it back and forth, in one hand, out of sight and out of mind, then yes, I’d call it a fidget toy.
Fidget toys can be extremely effective for kinesthetic learners, folks with ADHD, and others who are easily distracted. One of the reasons they work is because they use up our “floating attention,” that’s the excess attention we’ve been wired with to protect us in the wild. Nowadays, we’re more likely to use these attention reserves to daydream or check a mobile device, not protect ourselves from attack.
When you compare using a fidget toy to using an electronic device during meetings, classes, driving or other situations that require mental focus, it’s easy to understand why the toys are preferable. Not only are they less distracting than the alternative, they can actually help users stay focused.
True fidget toys activate different parts of the brain, than those required for language, communication or cognitive functions. In other words, you should have to think about them at all. Consider, for instance, how difficult it is to talk and read simultaneously. It’s also difficult to rotate one foot counterclockwise and move the other up and down because each of these paired actions uses the same parts of the brain.
So, just because Fidget Spinners might be a little distracting, let’s not rule out the effectiveness of fidgeting in general. If you want to find the perfect fidget toy, you may want to refer to this fidgets infographic (to be posted shortly!), which can help you sort through options based on use, cost, materials, motions, etc.
My recommendation? Keep fidgeting . . . but not with a Fidget Spinner!