Fidget Spinners: Yes or No?
2017 has been the year of the fidget spinner. There are different shapes, colours, and kids are going crazy over them.
What is a fidget toy?
Fidget toys are designed to give sensory output to individuals who need it for enhanced concentration. Not all kids (or adults) can sit perfectly still for an entire lesson and not lose focus. Some children need sensory stimulation to help them focus and not trail off.
Different fidget toys provide different sensory stimulation and the best toy for the child will depend on individual sensory needs.
Some people associate fidget toys with autism and while that is not incorrect, it is by far not the only market for fidget toys. Any child who struggle to sit still can benefit from fidget toys.
When you have your child's genetic brain profile done, you will find that we explain the stress profile as well. Any child who has a blocked profile (3 or 4 modalities that switch off during stress) can benefit from fidget toys as it prevents their brains from "switching off" in class.
Occupational therapists have been working with sensory integration for years and some even specialise in it. I asked a few occupational therapists what they think about fidget spinner in particular and the answer was the same every time: fidget spinners do not enhance concentration in an academic situation.
They are a distraction for other kids in the classroom. It moves and have flashy colours, sometimes they even make a noise and have flashing lights! Kids are challenging each other to see who can spin them the fastest. Besides being a distraction for both the user and the other kids in class, it also distracts the teacher.
Fidget spinners are nothing more than a toy. If you want to gift it as a stocking stuffer this Christmas, go ahead, but remember that it is just a toy and should not be used in an academic setting (classroom, during homework, studying).
The biggest problem when choosing a true fidget toy that can help a child in class, is that different children have different sensory needs. Some need to chew, some need to move, some need to stroke textured objects, some need deep pressure. Most importantly, fidgets need to be inconspicuous, not make a sound, and be able to be used without distracting others.
For deep pressure (proprioception) consider: stress balls, stretchy bands, squeeze toys, putty or clay, chewable pencil toppers.
For touch sensations consider: different textured fabric swatches, silicone "spike" balls, fluffy pipe cleaners, toys with different textures.
For movement seekers consider: Tangle snakes, marble tubes, fidget cubes, infinity toys.
Keep in mind that these toys should be able to be used without needing to look at them. They should be small enough to be held in one hand that can be manipulated in their laps under the table (where it can't distract others). If a toy needs visual input (such as fidget spinners) then it isn't effective for academic purposes.
If you are unsure of your child's sensory needs, make an appointment with an occupational therapist. She will help you identify your child's needs and also provide strategies that you can use both at home and at school.