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Pros and Cons of Fidget Spinners for Kids

If you have children I am sure that you have come in contact with the latest social craze. Fidget spinners. In the past several months there have been Pokémon GO, Minecraft, Roblox, and even YouTube. Like all of these fads, there are positives and negatives for children to using fidget spinners. Blog-Fidget Spinners-proscons-Main-Landscape-01

Pros of fidget spinners:

  1. Good social activity – Children often like to be a part of something that is going on. Having children partake in this healthy activity will help form bonds with other children and be topics of positive communication.
  2. Helps stay focused – Children who have been diagnosed with ADHD or other cognitive impairments are more successful in an activity or assignment if they are able to control their body and movements. One way of accomplishing this is to provide a fidget or other object so their body can get the needed stimulus without them having to leave the classroom or activity.
  3. Helps children get input they otherwise wouldn’t – Similar to play therapy, where a child is engaged in an activity to help them process events that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to, children who use fidget toys are able to get the sensory input they need to help them be successful. Because this sensory input is so important and can come from fidget spinners, we recently published another blog: Fidget Tools: The Bottom Line. In that blog, you will read about the importance of self-regulation when it comes to learning and why a fidget spinner may be necessary for certain children in class.

Cons of fidget spinners:

  1. Not all children are the same – Not all children require the same amount of sensory input to be successful. For the children who do not need it, the fidget toys becomes just a toy and distraction.
  2. Schools are banning them – Because they are becoming a distraction, many schools have been banning them causing students to find other ways to hide them or get around the rules. This can be even more distracting to the child in turn causing the child not to focus or learn in school.
  3. All in moderation – Similar to the other latest fads, when not used properly they do not function in the same manner. When children over use the fidget or do not use it for the intended purpose it just becomes the latest and greatest toy.

If you or your child are wanting to purchase a fidget spinner think about the reasons behind the purchase and decided if this spinner can be beneficial to the child’s learning or will just be a toy they are bringing to class.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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Brett Siegel

Brett Siegel

Brett Siegel received his Bachelor and Masters degrees in Social Work at The University of Kansas and Loyola University Chicago respectively. While completing his Master's degree, Brett's field practicum took place at Rainbow Hospice, providing therapy for children working through the grief process followed by an internship year at Lutheran General Hospital providing diagnosis and psychotherapy on the mental health adolescent unit. While attaining his LCSW certification, Brett moved to Bloomington, Illinois where he served as a crisis therapist for children and their families. Brett joins North Shore Pediatric Therapy with a plethora of experiences that have served to foster professional growth and development. He has worked extensively in the areas of case management and clinical/therapeutic interventions with children, adults, families and groups. His professional interests include, but are not limited to pediatric and adolescent mental health, the bullying epidemic and the impact of divorce on children and their families.

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Fidget Tools: The Bottom Line

A fidget tool is one sensory strategy used to help children achieve self-regulation. Self-regulation is the ability to maintain an optimum level of arousal in order to participate in daily activities.Blog-Fidget Spinners-Main-Landscape (1) Self-regulation is a critical component of learning, as it can impact a student’s attention, emotional regulation and impulse control; a child’s performance in the classroom is directly related to his regulatory state.

A child’s nervous system, specifically the sensory system, needs input to help achieve a regulated state to successfully complete tasks. The theory behind fidget tools is that it provides a sensory experience to increase self-regulation, attention, participation and performance.

During the school day, a child’s body works tirelessly to perform the functions necessary to participate in the classroom. Children need:

  • Muscle control and endurance to sustain a seated, upright position to sit at a desk or on the rug during circle time.
  • Auditory attention to attend to instructions and lessons, while also blocking out surrounding sounds of peers chattering, shuffling papers or chairs scooting across the floor.
  • Visual attention to read work instructions, look at the teacher during lessons and complete written work, while also blocking out other visual distractions around the classroom.
  • Impulse and body control to keep hands, legs and other body parts from touching objects or peers nearby.
  • Emotional control to regulate emotions when happy, sad, confident, frustrated or embarrassed throughout the day.

For some kids, the demands of the classroom environment exceed what their bodies can handle. This isn’t due to a lack of intelligence or willingness to learn; it stems from difficulty coping with a neurologic system that isn’t organizing and responding appropriately to a variety of sensory stimulation from the external world.

The result of a child’s inability to organize his nervous system during the school day is an increase in behaviors that are often deemed inappropriate or distracting in the classroom. Such behaviors may include inability to sit still, wandering around the room, constant touching of objects or peers, laying on the floor, emotional outbursts, not following directions or not understanding how to complete a task.

These behaviors are actually how the child attempts to regulate his body to participate in the classroom. To minimize these behaviors and increase positive participation, it is important that the child is set up for success by providing individualized strategies for him to sustain a regulated state throughout the day.

One of these strategies is the fidget tool. I frequently recommend that my clients use a fidget tool in the classroom to help sustain attention and increase performance. Fidgets come in a variety of forms including Koosh balls, stress balls, small weighted balls, small figurines or fidget spinners.

Fidget tool recommendations are always given with the stipulation that the student must understand that the fidget needs to be used appropriately. I suggest that the parent and teacher review appropriate uses for the fidget with the child (i.e keeping the fidget in the hands, under the desk in the child’s lap), inappropriate uses for the fidget (i.e. throwing the fidget, rolling the fidget, giving the fidget to a friend) and the consequences for inappropriate use of the fidget (i.e. having the fidget taken away). Laying out clear guidelines for the use of the fidget helps students know the expectations and follow the rules.

While several schools have banned the use of fidget spinners in the classroom due to the craze they have caused, as an occupational therapist I support fidget tools as a sensory, regulatory strategy, as long as clear expectations are set and rules are followed. I have seen great success in my clients’ performance and attention when they use fidgets appropriately and not as a toy.

Does that mean my child needs a fidget spinner?

Fidget spinners or tools may not be suitable for everyone. Each person’s sensory system will respond differently to various strategies and may be needed at different times during the day. Some children benefit from fidget tools during writing activities, some may benefit from the tool during lecture periods and others may require use of the fidget more frequently. There may also be children who have difficulty with self-regulation where fidget spinners or fidget tools cause increased distraction or dysregulation. Check out our other blogs for ideas on other strategies that may be incorporated in the classroom to promote optimal performance.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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Dana Pais

Dana Pais

Dana Pais, OTD, OTR/L is an occupational therapist who obtained her Masters of Occupational Therapy (MS) and Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (OTD) at the University of Illinois at Chicago. During her doctoral studies, she spent time working in Lima, Peru at the Centro Ann Sullivan del Peru (CASP), a center for families and their children with cognitive and physical disabilities, where she provided intervention for many children and their families in the areas of low vision accessibility, independent living, school inclusion and supportive employment. Her interests include sensory processing and its impact on daily life and managing visual deficits. She is passionate about helping children reach their full potential in every aspect of their lives.

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