Fidget spinners, the popular plastic toy that is supposed to help people focus, have teachers from around the country begging for a reprieve. The small devices have become a widespread craze, marketed as a method for managing restless energy, but many educators say they are too distracting for their classrooms.
As reported by the Huffington Post, these spinners, considered sensory toys, were originally designed to assist children with ADD/ADHD, anxiety, and autism, giving them outlets for their physical energy while promoting memory development and focus. But the reality of fidget spinners in the classroom has led some schools to ban the toys completely while other teachers confiscate the devices when they become a problem.
Kate Ellison, the principal at Washington Elementary School in Evanston, Illinois, spoke with the Chicago Tribune regarding the negative effects of fidget spinners in the classroom. “Frankly, we’ve found the fidgets were having the opposite effect of what they advertise,” said Ellison. “Kids are trading them or spinning them instead of writing.”
Within just a few days, teachers started noticing the toys taking hold of their classrooms. While certain versions of the device cost over $20, some bargain versions cost only a few dollars. In some cases, the low price allows some older students to have multiple fidget spinners.
The distraction wasn’t the only catalyst behind the ban of fidget spinners at Washington Elementary School; it was also causing conflict amongst the students.
“[The children] are treating them like they would treat a toy,” said Ellison. “So we can’t have them in class or at recess.”
Fidget spinners aren’t the only tools available for children with excess energy; they are just one of the newest entries. And most schools don’t intend to prevent access to the spinner devices to students with special needs.
Also, fidgeting is a common activity amongst children and adults. Shaking or tapping one’s foot is a form of fidgeting, and is a frequently used method for managing energy when a person has to sit for extended periods of time.
Kristie Boenig, and associate professor at New York University and chair of the department of occupational therapy, believes the popularity of the device is based on a greater acceptance of students with special needs as well as trends like social media sharing.
Speaking regarding the fidget spinners, Boenig said, “They could help anyone,” continuing, “An outright ban could be counterproductive to kids who need them. However, she also understands that when the devices are used as toys or seen as collectibles, they could be regarded as a distraction.
Even as schools continue to ban the devices, the demand for fidget spinners has yet to slow, with some Chicago area stores still selling out of the toys before the next shipment arrives.