June 22, 2017

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Tired of Fidget Spinners? Embrace Them As Teaching Tools, Not Just Toys

There is always some new fad running rampant through schools and communities. I know I’m showing my age when I admit that pogs were the big thing for my age in elementary school. They got banned except for during recess; teachers claimed they were distracting. A short time later, they were banned altogether, to the disappointment of many 90s-era kids.

It’s hard to believe that just a few short months ago teachers were dreading water bottles. Now, the fad making teachers cringe, even into the summer months, is the fidget spinner.

You can’t avoid them. The whirring noise, the flash of color, the twinkle of metal, and sometimes even

Fidget Spinner: Toy or Teaching Tool?

lights. Originally marketed as an aide for students with special needs, many retailers have dropped all pretense when displaying the product: they’re for everyone.

While some professionals say that allowing the hands to fidget lets the mind focus on the task at hand, others claim that these are just toys with no therapeutic benefit at all. It seems as though it depends on need and use. They can be recommended by a psychiatrist after an evaluation. When used correctly, spinners can remove the physical need to fidget so the student can pay attention. With added distractions of sound and sometimes lights, the function fades. On the plus side, children with ADD, ADHD, or autism can use a spinner and not feel alienated or singled out. They appreciate being part of the “cool thing.” I tried one for myself and I must admit: it was calming. Unfortunately, many schools have already taken steps to ban them.

When asked, middle schoolers have expressed their frustration with the ban of spinners in schools. They feel that they’re not trusted to use the spinners appropriately.  One tween commented that “it gave [them] something to do while staring at a smartboard all day.”

This seems like a tragically missed opportunity for educators—for both classroom teachers and librarians. There are innovative ways educators can pair the spinners with a lesson plan, after-school activity, or summer program.

Instead of fighting the spinner trend, embrace it! Direct the hype into a creative outlet. We value the importance of the library as a safe place, and that includes being a haven for spinners and their users. When we direct the use from toys to tools, we may not only gain new users, but earn their trust as an ally, and teach them some cool skills in the process.

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Christina Keasler About Christina Keasler

Christina is currently the middle school librarian at Glen Ellyn Public Library, IL. She's responsible for the middle school collection and programming and serves as the youth department’s 3D printing and technology expert.

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