Fidget spinners: Are they a tool or a toy?

They’re popular, but some schools are calling them a distraction

Does your back-to-school shopping list include a fidget spinner? If so, you may want to check with your child’s school — the gadgets are being banned from some classrooms because they are becoming a distraction.

Why are fidget spinners so popular? Manufacturers claim they help children with attention deficit and autism spectrum disorders to focus. The concept is a fidget spinner replaces a habit the child might use to calm down or become more alert, such as tapping a pen, biting nails or twirling hair, allowing the child to focus. However, they’ve also become popular with kids who use them only to play with and do tricks.

Fidget spinners are so popular, in fact, that stores are having trouble keeping them in stock. How-to videos showing spinner tricks are going viral. So, where do you draw the line between tool and toy?

Have questions?

If you have concerns about your child’s behavior, it’s best to speak with your child’s pediatrician. If you need help finding a pediatrician, call (502) 629-KIDS.

Randal Pearson, M.D., pediatrician, has seen many of his patients with sensory needs benefit from fidget devices or techniques, including the spinners.

“Subtle movement, like what a fidget spinner can provide, may be just enough to calm the body and keep the mind focused,” Dr. Pearson said. “However, movement is essential for all children, not just those with sensory needs. All kids should have an opportunity for real exercise every day to help them stay attentive.”

Dr. Pearson offers these considerations before buying your child a fidget spinner:

  • Does your child need to fidget to focus and remain attentive?
  • Spinners don’t necessarily help any better than or replace other fidgeting outlets.
  • Overuse of fidget spinners may be more distracting than useful.
  • Does your child’s school allow fidget spinners?
  • Spinners may be more effective when used in an individual, private setting.
  • The spinners have removable parts that are considered a choking hazard and should not be used by small children.
More Back-to-School coverage