June 19, 2017

In Defense of the Fidget Spinner

I have to admit it: I have become addicted. I had wanted to get my son a fidget spinner at some point and my husband was super intrigued by them. They have become so ubiquitous that we actually found some for sale at the grocery store. We picked out two and brought them home.

My husband quickly got tired of his. He got it to spin quickly. I guess that was sufficient for him. My son took a little longer to figure out how to get it to spin since it's a little big for his small hands. But after spinning it a couple times, he sets it down and looks for something else to do.

Beth! his abandoned spinner calls. You want to play with me! Fine. I grabbed the spinner and got it spinning real fast. Now what? Although it's satisfying to watch it spin a few minutes the first time, it gets old quickly. I watched until it stopped then spun it again. Not feeling particularly patient, I stopped it. Then I spun it again and stopped it again by poking it with my free hand. This must be the key to this toy: the fun is in fidgeting with it and not so much watching it endlessly spin.

When I was in middle school, I had a particularly enlightened teacher who encouraged her students to bring a small object or toy to fiddle with. Having a way to channel our nervous energy was supposed to help us pay attention in class. I don't remember if it actually worked; I was just excited to have an excuse to bring my favorite stuffed animal to school.

But as I supervise my kids all day every day (yay summer break!) and feel like I'm losing my mind, keeping my hands busy with the little spinner helps stave off boredom. I imagine this is the beauty of these devices for kids who struggle with focusing in school: it helps prevent boredom but doesn't take so much concentration that it distracts from lessons. That's something I can get behind.

I get it. Some people are natural pen twirlers and can fidget with any writing utensil, some drum with their fingers, and some of us are content to repeated spin and stop a little toy. And then there are a lot of people who don't really fidget and think all these fidget toys are pointless. To those people, they are. But for others, they're an incredible tool. So don't dismiss the spinners as just another fad.

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