If you haven’t yet seen them, you will soon. In a matter of weeks, the latest kid craze has emerged, twirling in the hands of every middle schooler. Boys and girls alike now arrive in class with a plastic spinning whatchamacallit that they whirl ad infinitum throughout the day.
These popular trinkets are called fidget spinners, or some variation thereof. They are not new, but they are the newest trend. They feature either two or three prongs jutting out from a middle circle that, thanks to weighted bearings or loose-fitting rotators, allows the device to spin for long lengths of time between the thumb and forefinger. Some may have interchangeable parts. Some are made of plastic or steel. But all of them are currently occupying the idle minutes of children, many of whom have invented clever spinning stunts and tricks that can be seen across YouTube.
|Source: ASIDE 2017|
As with all kid crazes, it’s doubtlessly true that some teachers and schools are already in the process of outlawing them. Unfortunately, there is sometimes the impulse to ban first, think second. Pokemon cards, for example, have been largely prohibited from elementary classrooms, because they potentially lead to distracted and upset children. We would argue (as would one of our students, who wrote an editorial for our school newspaper) that teachers should help kids work through their interpersonal issues when a child, for example, gets upset after a Pokemon trade gone awry.
Perhaps fidget spinners are distracting. Perhaps they are “toys” that should remain at home. We would urge schools, however, to please embrace the spinners. Please celebrate the outlets of vibrancy and restlessness. Our seventh-graders let us try them out, and gosh darn it, they’re pretty neat.
Here are nine reasons that fidget spinners are the best fad of the decade:
1. They activate the mind - Kinetic energy of the hands translates to synaptic responses in the brain. Even repetitive tasks, such as spinning a widget, engage the mind and let the imaginative juices flow. Exercising or taking walks has long been recognized as helping with learning. Fidget spinners offer micro-exercise, to stimulate thinking at a child’s desk.
2. They (might) help distractible kids - A broad and worthy debate is taking place about whether these spinners truly help children with ADHD. Some argue that the trinkets are an outlet for excess energy. Others purport the opposite, that they distract rather than focus. Either way, all educators acknowledge that some kids are always going to lean back in their chairs and squirm in their seats. These toys do give active children an outlet to exercise their energy, spinning the prongs again and again and again.
3. They are harmless - At long last, here is a fad that is truly innocuous. Unlike bottle flipping (which makes a mess) or slime (which spreads its goo), these spinners have no injury quotient. They are all about one user and his or her play.
4. They are not about status - There is no prestige factor with fidget spinners. Unlike Ugg boots or Hamilton tickets, these are (relatively) inexpensive, available at local 7-Eleven stores. They are a novelty, a bauble, rather than a currency for popularity or exclusion.
5. They are non-gendered - Fidget spinners constitute one of the only trends in recent memory that is not boy- or girl-specific. It is not about cat headbands or jeggings or friendship bracelets. It is not about football cards or anime or numbers of Instagram friends. This whim is completely benign.
6. They invite creativity - Kids are currently figuring out clever and advanced ways to keep the widgets spinning. Take a look at YouTube to see all sorts of neat and inventive stunt.
7. They are personal - Twirling a plastic knickknack is an individual activity. There is no competition and no trading. Instead, the activity welcomes a sense of mindfulness, to center one’s thoughts for a moment.
8. They involve the hands - In a world of passive screen time and binge television watching and all-night video gaming, these spinners actually celebrate motor coordination. They keep the student moving, and they enhance the dexterity of actual digits, rather than digital electronics.
9. They are a single investment - Students only need one. They are not collectibles. They don’t require scrapbooking or updating or charm-braceleting. They are a one-time purchase, to be enjoyed as long as the fad lasts.