June 8, 2017

Fidget Spinners – Helping Children Focus or Just a Trivial Fad?

By Gabe Bryson

Fidget spinners – the relatively simple, easy-to-grasp objects – have taken over as the next big fad among children. Given their name, one may wonder if there is any practical purpose for the spinners outside of pure entertainment.

“The use of fidgets has long been a support option for many children who struggle every day to learn in the classroom,” said Laurie Towers, an Occupational Therapist within Mission Children’s Outpatient Therapies program. “The right fidget can keep active hands busy while allowing a child to look, listen and remember important information.”

Common fidget activities include twirling a pencil, tapping a foot or playing with one’s hair. While these are generally not disturbances to anyone, fidget spinners are sometimes different.

Fidget spinners emit a whirring noise when active, which can distract the user and those around them, taking them off task. In fact, many schools have implemented specific guidelines around spinners, such as requiring students to leave them in lockers during school hours, or not bringing them to school at all.

Though there are claims that using fidget spinners can result in decreased stress, anxiety and even PTSD symptoms, the scientific evidence backing these claims is limited. “The fidget spinners may indeed be a good support for some students but my guess is that most kids can manage just fine with or without them,” said Towers. “But please remember, some kids really need fidgets.”

Regardless of whether or not fidget spinners offer your child improved focus or concentration, many agree that they are entertaining gadgets – given they are used in the right time and place. “They are fun,” exclaimed Towers. Some adults are getting in on the fun, too. “I saw an employee in the cafeteria playing with one last week,” she added.

Laurie Towers, MS OT/L, is an Occupational Therapist within the Children’s Outpatient Therapies Program at Mission Children’s Hospital.

To learn more about the pediatric rehabilitation services and therapies offered by Mission Children’s Hospital, visit missionchildrens.org/pediatric-rehabilitation or call (828) 213-1725.