Spinning out of control: are fidget spinners a good or bad idea in the classroom?

They are the new toy craze hitting schools everywhere, but are these tri-pronged spinning devices a good idea in classrooms?

The fidget spinner is taking the toy world by storm, currently occupying the top spot on Amazon’s best seller list.

Fidget spinners are small, hand held devices which have proven popular amongst school-aged children.

They can be held from the device’s central axis and the prongs can be flicked by the user, causing them to spin.

This fidgeting device was invented by Catherine Hettinger as a way to ‘release pent-up energy’ and of ‘promoting peace’, which she thought of after a trip to Israel in the 1980s.

Ms Hettinger initially developed the device to assist children with ADHD, autism and other behavioural difficulties, claiming fidget spinners can help children stress less and focus more in the classroom.

 

Colourful fidget spinners
A selection of fidget spinners, the new toy taking classrooms by storm. Picture: Amazon.com

 

With no academic research, however, backing these claims, are fidget spinners just another disruptive toy?

Studies do exist in relation the potential benefits of fidgeting in general, but nothing explicitly outlines the benefits of fidget spinners; at least not yet.

Some of these studies suggest that fidgeting engages sections of the brain which would otherwise be distracted by random thought, therefore helping to increase focus and concentration.

Likewise, studies into ‘doodling while thinking’ found that those who doodled retained more information than ‘non-doodlers’ when tested on memory.

Although these studies are a loose link to fidget spinners in classrooms, they could help to explain some of the reasons they became so popular in the first place.

Some people, however, are not so convinced about this fidget spinner phenomenon.

Grade-two teacher at Alphington Grammar School, Anna Varkis, said she is having to ban the toy from her classroom.

“When they first came out, only one or two students had them, so it was more of a novelty,” said Ms Varkis.

“Now nearly every student has one and it’s becoming very difficult to get everyone’s attention for a full lesson.”

“I think they’re a great toy for children to play with outside class, but I no longer allow them inside my classroom because they’re just too distracting to students.”

“Students just can’t focus with a fidget spinner in their hand,” Ms Varkis said.

 

fidget spinners in action
Fidget spinners in action. Picture: Georgiana Vayenas.

 

Junior school assistant principal at Alphington Grammar School, Tracey Nicholson, said fidget spinners have become a problem in some classrooms.

“Some of our teachers are having to ban them entirely from their classrooms,” Ms Nicholson said.

When asked about the benefits on children with behavioural difficulties, Ms Nicholson said she could see the logic behind the theory, but didn’t really believe it.

“I can see the logic behind it, I can see why people would be lead to believe these claims, but there is no concrete evidence that these fidget spinners do help these children,” said Ms Nicholson.

 

What do you think of fidget spinners? Should they be banned from classrooms? Let me know in the comments below.

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