Listen: The Children’s Doctor, Dr Anne Marie Christie, talks fidget spinners with Laura & Duncan.
For kids with attention disorders, toys like the fidget spinner have given their hands something to do while they sit in class and try to pay attention.
But it’s now such a fad that it seem every child suddenly ‘needs’ one, and the endless Youtube videos detailing the many tricks you can do with a fidget spinner, are evidence that they’re used for much more than concentrating!
To find out if spinners are a help or a hindrance for childrens’ learning, Hope 103.2’s Duncan and Laura chatted to The Children’s Doctor, Dr Anne Marie Christie.
She says there’s a lot of merit to the idea of a fidget toy, because “a lot of people need to do two things at once in order to concentrate”. But she believes fidget spinners aren’t a good classroom solution.
Why Fidget Spinners are Driving Teachers Crazy
“They aren’t really suitable for that use for a couple of reasons,” she said. “One is that they’re too big. A true fidget toy is designed to fit in your pocket, so that nobody else can see what you’re doing with your hands. And a fidget spinner doesn’t work if it’s in your pocket.
“And in the classroom, everybody can see it and it’s very distracting to the children sitting around the child who’s using one, not to mention the teacher as well. They make a noise too, and some have flashing lights. If you want to drive teachers crazy, keep taking those fidget spinners to school.”
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Toys to Use for Fidgetting
Dr Christie recommends small, quiet toys and even simple objects from nature for kids who tend to fidget.
“There are little fidget cubes which are fine, as long as you get a noiseless one,” she said. “A fidget toy shouldn’t make any noise. Some of them will click. If it’s an audible click to the person sitting next to you, it’s not a good toy. But if you can just feel it clicking under your finger, then that’s appropriate.
“The old fashioned one is just to get a really smooth pebble and put that in your pocket and run it through your fingers, or worry beads that you slide through your fingers continuously. Or get a squeezy ball or a ball of blue tack or putty that you play with in your pocket.”
Talk to Your Child’s Teacher
If you give your child a fidget toy, make sure it won’t disturb their classmates.
“I think if the child keeps it in their pocket out of sight, it’s not disturbing anybody else in the classroom and they’re able to concentrate, then I don’t have a problem with it,” she said. “But if you start giving these toys to a whole class full of seven- or eight-year-olds, they don’t stay in their pocket. From a teacher’s point of view they just need to confiscate them if they see them.
“Lots of teachers have fidget toys in the classroom already that the kids can use if they feel they need to. And the teachers are really good at spotting the kids that need to use them.
“We should consult with the teachers a little bit more and they can guide us as to who actually needs something.”