As a pediatric occupational therapist, I am delighted that these new fidget spinners are so popular! For years, I’ve been recommending different kinds of fidgets to kids who are antsy, nervous, hyperactive, or anxious. Before spinners came along, many children were hesitant of using fidgets because they felt “different” than their friends. But now with these fidget spinners gaining so much popularity, nearly all kids are using them regardless of whether they actually need to. Fidgets, like these spinners, are much more than just another fad toy, they can be excellent tools full of therapeutic benefits.
Unfortunately, the studies to back up benefits that are specific to spinners aren’t there, partly because they are so new, but there are plenty of research articles like this ADD Magazine article and this Wall Street Journal article supporting the effectiveness of fidgets. Since a spinner is simply a kind of fidget, the research about fidgets can be reasonably applied to spinners as well.
Fidget Spinners’ Therapeutic Benefits
- Spinners expel nervous energy-Think about the subconscious movements you make when you feel nervous (i.e. biting nails, pacing, tapping, mindlessly snacking). Spinners give your hands something constructive to do when you feel nervous.
- Spinners decrease anxiety- Fidgets can take away the focus of tension (i.e. a conversation, a test, etc…) and instead re-directs it to the spinner
- Spinners restore control to the individual- We cannot control all the factors that surround high pressure situations (likes tests or social events) which causes great anxiety for some. Spinners restore some control back to the individual during perceived “out of control” situations, empowering them with more confidence and security.
- Spinners provide calming visual stimulation- Because the spinners are predictable in their direction and speed, they are calming to the eye. Again, when situations feel out of control, individuals find security in predictable, reliable objects such as these.
- Spinners initiate conversation- Because spinners are a fun, unique fidget coming in all different sizes, shapes, and colors, many kids are curious about them and will strike up a conversation about them.
“Mom” Approved Benefits of Fidget Spinners
- Spinners are inexpensive! Yay!! Finally there’s a therapeutic gadget that only costs a few bucks!
- Spinners don’t require power– You don’t have to worry about batteries or charging them, they work on good, old-fashioned muscle power.
- Spinners are appropriate for all ages- Parents don’t have to worry about inappropriate content, violence, or innuendos with these spinners, unlike some popular toys on the market.
- Spinners don’t include screen time- Wow, there’s finally something available that kids love which doesn’t involve a screen! These are much healthier for their brains and eyes than the screens.
- Kids really do love these- These spinners are the craze right now and for once its a positive toy with great benefits.
Who Can Benefit From Fidget Spinners?
Spinners aren’t just for kids either, individuals of all ages can benefit from using fidgets, but especially individuals with the following:
- ADHD/ ADD
- Autism or Aspergers
- Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)
- Behavioral Problems
- Inattention/Difficulty Focusing
- Shyness/ Social Anxiety
Where Can You Find Fidget Spinners?
Although some retail stores are having difficulty keeping up with the demand, there are tons to choose from at Amazon- check out these
Why Are Fidget Spinners Getting a Bad Rap?
As with any gadget, its not a one-size fits all approach. Some children will use it inappropriately and they can turn into a big distraction. As an occupational therapist, I have learned to set limits and boundaries with kids when using fidgets to ensure they are being used properly. Teachers and parents can do the same to make sure these spinners don’t “spin” out of control.
Although this seems obvious, it needs to be stated, these spinners will not “cure” your child of any ailment or diagnosis they have, but rather they should be viewed as a tool to include in your therapeutic toolbox that may benefit your child in some way. As with ANY therapy tool, it will work for some and may not for others…. a lot is simply a matter of personal preference. If this isn’t working for your child, put it away and try something else….. maybe from one of these other great sensory activity ideas. Enjoy!