If you know a middle school kid, or a parent or teacher of one, chances are you’ve seen the simple little colorful device that’s driving them all crazy lately.
It’s called a fidget spinner, and even its name gives you a clue as to why some classrooms are banning them — and some toy stores are selling out. The toy is the latest craze to sweep the globe, but it actually has a really interesting history as an educational tool.
What is it?
A fidget spinner is considered to be a type of fidget toy; a low profile, handheld device that people can, well, fidget with without making a big scene. A fidget spinner has a stable middle and a disc with two or three paddles that can be spun, much like a ceiling fan. The result is supposed to be relaxing and satisfying, and really good spinners can keep going for minutes at a time.
The little devices were originally designed to help students with attention disorders like ADD — expert say having something to occupy their hands may help improve concentration. However, the spinners caught on with the general population, and now come in every color and finish imaginable, with add-ons and doo-hickeys galore.
What’s the appeal?
Some spinners are made of smooth silicone parts, others aluminum, and other plastic ones are adorned with emojis and tie dye.
All of the spinners are relatively inexpensive; the ones in CTS store retail for $10 to $20, and more generic versions from Amazon can sell for half of that.
“It really appeals to the core kid ages, about seven through the high school years. Of course, some of the younger siblings want to be a part of it too.”
Youtube videos of spinner tricks and hacks have racked up millions of views since the toys got popular.
How does it help kids with ADHD?
Spinners might be new to the must-have toy aisle, but they’ve been a tool for teachers, guidance counselors and therapists for a while now.
“Promoting fidgeting is a common method for managing attention regulation.
“For some people [with ADHD], there’s a need for constant stimulation. What a fidget allows some people — not all people — with ADHD to do is to focus their attention on what they want to focus on, because there’s sort of a background motion that’s occupying that need.”
If you’ve ever watched people tap pencils, twist pieces of paper or even doodle in meetings, you’ve seen the power of fidgeting in action.
“A doctor won’t prescribe a fidget. But a psychologist could list it among the recommendations made at the end of an evaluation.”
Is this part of a larger trend?
Like all toy fads, fidget spinners will come and go, so it’s important to remember two things: One, that fidget spinners had a real, productive purpose before they became a fad; and two, that they are part of a larger trend of fidget gadgets that also has more mature followers
Products like fidget cubes are also seeing a surge in demand. These cubes look like very large dice and have different “functions” on each side that can be pressed, flicked or clicked to relieve nervous energy. They are often marketed to adults as well as children.
Executives are coming in and purchasing them, they are bored on conference calls, they’re stressed out in the car in traffic. People just find it calming.”
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