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Fidget Spinners: Fitness or Fancy?

The same day I saw a sponsored post for fidget spinners while surfing online, both of my children (ages 8 and 11) came home from school begging for one! Available in a variety of colors and patterns and ranging in price from $2 – $300 and up (because we could all use a gold fidget spinner, right?) these little spinning gadgets were originally created to help people with sensory and anxiety issues.

The day after my kids begged to each have their own fidget spinner, the frustrated teacher memes started showing up, quickly followed by outcry from occupational therapists pleading with parents to urge their children to not abuse this product unless. Fifteen fidget spinners can be very distracting in a classroom, and some school are already banning them, leaving kids with true needs in a bind.

But are fidget spinners a fancy? Are they a quick trend that will rapidly fade? Or is there a real benefit to them beyond therapy for kids who simply need more motion?

Why I let my kids buy their own fidget spinners

Here is why I decided to let my kids buy their own fidget spinners. Please note the key words here: buy their own. My daughter spent some of her allowance money on a fire-red patterned one. My son was instantly jealous, but he had no allowance left (cause: Legos) so we bartered and agreed that he could earn $10 for vacuuming and wiping down the inside of our car. He picked a spinner worth $6.44 so I now owe him $3.56… Smart kid.

  • I’m not a fan of kids sitting still all the time. I believe we listen better while doing something. Bodies meant for motion, lifting, walking, running, pushing, pulling, jumping, climbing, and – yes – even fiddling – really aren’t meant to sit still in desks for 8 hours a day “learning.” Science has even proven that we learn better when we’re allowed to fidget.
  • My daughter bites her nails, and my son picks his nose when they’re reading. Hey, no pedestals here. They’re real kids, and I’m a real mom, and yes I’ve tried all the things. I hoped these fidget spinners (I also got my son a fidget cube) would help to keep their hands better occupied. It’s working!!! Less biting and picking, my friends!
  • Taking a breather when we’re upset or stressed or confused is a healthy coping mechanism. Before my children got their fidget spinners, I had the chance to watch other kids with theirs while volunteering in a school. While appearing to zone out and focus on their fidgeting — notedly not interrupting others as much — as the spinner slowed down, they would suddenly set it down and begin writing or speaking, more concisely and clearly than before. I’m not saying the answers were right, just that it seemed to give them a break to think, process, and then communicate easier. Note that these are just my anecdotal observations.

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How fidget spinners are affecting the children who use them

Now, once the fidget spinners arrived at our house, immediate comparisons of speed, color, and personal skill began. I’ll admit, at first the blasted things were more of a distraction while my kids mastered their spinning abilities, but here is what I see them doing with their bodies:

  • Developing motor skills: Having to pinch the center of the spinner with one hand while making a chopping motion with the other not only gets the spinner going really fast, but it also speaks to fine and large motor skills. My kids often switch hands when playing with their fidget spinners, naturally balancing the motion between both sides of their body.
  • Squatting to pick it up: If they hold it wrong or hit it wrong, they drop it. Then they have to bend over, squat, or lunge to retrieve it.
  • Practicing hand/eye coordination: They have to watch the spinner while manipulating it. They will also balance it on a finger of their non-dominant hand while continuing to write or hold something with their dominant hand.
  • Using more than their fingers: They use various fingers, not just their first finger and thumb to pinch it. The spinners also get placed on toes, knees, elbows, heads…
  • Standing taller and walking more carefully: Spinning and walking require major proprioception (a.k.a. knowing where your body is in relation to what’s around you so you don’t trip and fall). My son has also figured out how to spin and ride a bike at the same time.

In this digital age of holding phones, pushing buttons, and swiping right, kids are losing strength and dexterity as evidenced by this study of 6-year-olds. The devices they hold the most require the least amount of motion. If an inexpensive device can calm an anxious mind and bring more motion to the table, then I say it’s not a fancy, it’s a bit of fitness.

Of course, because, like I already said, they can also be a distraction, and we don’t want to ruin it for kids whose occupational therapists have prescribed them for serious issues. We’ve already had to make a few rules in our own household for proper fidget spinner usage:

Our family’s rules for fidget spinners:

  1. No comparing: Everyone is different and every fidget spinner will look a little different, too. Be content with what you have and don’t compare your fidget spinner to others or put down someone else’s fidget spinner.
  2. Be respectful: Fidget spinners don’t need to be out all the time. Keep it in your pocket when it’s not appropriate to have it out. For our family, this means anytime you need both hands for something, and also prayer time when we take just a few moments to bow our heads, fold our hands and close our eyes. And if an adult asks for your full attention give it to them, and put it away.
  3. Stay safe: No showing off. I’ve noticed a lot of kids trying to best each other by doing daring stunts while spinning. I hear things like, “Oh yeah? But can you do THIS without dropping it?” My son instantly wanted to see what else he could do while keeping his fidget spinner spinning. Like the aforementioned bike riding. Let’s be safe, people.

Back to You

I’m interested in hearing your stance on the fidget spinner debate! Join the discussion by leaving a comment below and sharing your thoughts.

Click here to see Fidget Spinners on Amazon

Click here to see Fidget Cubes (which I prefer as they’re less flashy and have more options)

Click here to see other ways I invite motion into our home.

7 thoughts on “Fidget Spinners: Fitness or Fancy?

  1. Mary says:

    I read somewhere that some tested VERY HIGH for lead and there doesn’t seem to be any way to tell which ones these are. I’ll try to find it

  2. Sandra M says:

    Our daughter ordered a couple on Amazon with her own money, and she received one from us as a gift at end-of-school-year dance performances (she did great!). My only concern is a couple of articles I’ve seen recently involving potential lead poisoning related to fidget spinners. The one she has right now is heavy (it’s painted metal not plastic). The others she ordered are coming from overseas apparently so I don’t know if they will be safe or not. Do you know anything about this? I’m wondering about testing them for lead levels – I think I could probably get a test kit online, right?

    • Beth Learn
      Beth Learn says:

      The day I was posting this was the day I started seeing articles about the potential of lead poisoning. I told my kids from the beginning to keep them out of their mouth. I need to look up the brands we got.

  3. Sandra M says:

    Hi Beth, I tried commenting once but it didn’t seem to go through. Sorry if this is a repeat! My only concern about these ubiquitous toys is that I read a couple of articles recently that expressed concerns about possible lead poisoning. I realize not all of these will have lead but there was a possibility that some could – there is a mom who posted about her children’s lead poisoning from other toys (not the spinners) which has made her quite vigilant about this happening to other people. Do you know anything about this? I’m thinking I can probably get a lead testing kit online (hopefully inexpensively). Your thoughts? Thanks!

  4. Courtney says:

    I’m a teacher. I understand what you’re saying about the lack of motor skills kids have these days. But I teach band. If you’re spinning your fidget spinner instead of playing your musical instrument I’m going to take it away! Funny story though. I did take one away a week or so ago and then immediately started spinning it almost unconsciously. The kids called me on it, but I pointed out I could still do my work at the same time 😉.

  5. Tri Tran says:

    I use my fidget spinner as a timer for weight traning. When the fidget begins to spin ,I do 1 set of leg press, triceps raise, and other routines. .Instead of counting the reps as I do, I do as many reps without counting until the fidget spinner stops going through the pointbof failure or pass the burning point. THIS HAS TO BE DONE WITH LIGHT WEIGHT ONLY. When I lift heavy, I don t use the fidget because I count the rep when I do heavy weights.

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