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Are Fidget Spinners Really a Fix or Is It Just a Fad?

Unless you live in a cave and have a pet dinosaur snoozing under your stone bed you’ll have heard something about fidget spinners by now.

But have you actually seen one?

What is a fidget spinner

How does a fidget spinner work?

The idea is that while holding the center part steady, you flick their outer fingers with one of YOUR fingers to see how fast and how long it can spin! It’s simple and really quite satisfying for a while. Truth be told, however, I did find it a little tedious after a few goes. And now of course you can get them in different colours, sizes and weights – so buying one is obviously not enough – you definitely NEED at least three or four… deffo…

Psychotherapist’s analysis on fidget spinners

They were originally marketed to concerned parents as a ‘fix’ for kids diagnosed with ADHD and/or anxiety. The premise – promise even – being that it would act as a salve, an activity and soother of sorts. The proposed settings for spinning were both the classroom and the home where the child found it particularly hard to focus. 

About 6.4 million children aged four to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. And their parents, who are in need of help and reliable evidence based tips and information are vulnerable to potentially false marketing. Naturally are also vulnerable to feeling pressured into buying something that has gained huge international traction as a potential ‘treatment’.

expert analysis on fidget spinners

And guys, that’s a lot of parents.

If I had a dollar (although honestly I’d prefer a euro!) for every time a parent has asked me about fidget spinners this year…

The problem is that there are no true evidence of its effectiveness for the treatment of ADHD. In fact, no proper research has been done at all. Yes, there are surveys, but let’s not confuse this with actual research.

With surveys, dramatic, unfounded claims are often made and parents who are conscientious about being ‘good’ parents are being targeted. Scaring parents and following up with an offer of hope in the form of a one stop cure all for complex psychological states is how unscrupulous companies make money.

I feel like this is what’s happening here on a large scale and in case you haven’t already sensed it – I have the rages. And the secondary problem is that now they’ve become an accessory, a toy. What’s more is that they are toys which already spun out (sorry) parents, and not necessarily ADHD kids’ parents are being asked to buy – along with all the other fad gadgets that come … and go …

experts say about fidget spinners

And go they will – indeed they seem to be going already – which I’m sure is a relief to hopeful teachers everywhere as the summer holidays roll in giving everyone time to become bored of fidgeting with their spinners! It seems they deliver the opposite of what the marketers offer – they facilitate a deficit of attention. Indeed many schools in different regions have already banned them from their classrooms.

The teachers I know personally are quietly hoping the spinners will spin off into oblivion over the next two months and that a new, less irritating and  less distracting gadget will be in vogue by September.

Is there one or more in your house? How do you feel about them? I’d love to hear!

Looking for alternative stress relief toys?


Sally O'Reilly

Sally O'Reilly

Sally O’Reilly is an IAHIP, ICP and EAP accredited Counselling Psychologist, Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor with nearly twenty years of professional experience. Her particular area of expertise and interest is work with teenagers. She enjoys a busy full-time private practice and has developed and facilitated a personal development, substance misuse and sexual health programme for teenagers for over 15 years. She is a regular contributor to national print and radio media.
Sally is also the co-author of Two Wise Chicks.
Feel free to follow Sally on: Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin

29 comments

  • Amen! My 7 year old son was diagnosed with ADHD this year. I have been doing extensive searches for things that may help him in any way but especially things that may help him with his fidgeting in school. I looked at the fidget spinner for all of about two seconds and rejected it as helpful in any way. It might have been marketed for those needing the help with occupying their hands but is clearly just the latest toy fab.

  • It is definitely a fad, just like everything else that is a big deal fora short period of time just before it disappears completely. I just wish that I invented it because it sure seems like whoever did should be a millionaire by now. What a great idea, everyone seems to need something in their hands these days so this is the perfect way to appease them it seems.

    • Yes indeed Melissa! we seem to have trouble just sitting with ourselves these days. It’s behind a lot of our discomfort I think. We cold all do with emptying our hands once in a while, for a good, long, while… Thanks for reading! Warmly, Sally

    • Yes indeed Melissa!we seem to have a lot of trouble just being and sitting with ourselves these days. We could all do with emptying our hands for a while… a good, long, while… Thanks for reading! Warmly, Sally

  • Tell me about it. First of all, I’m a teacher…so imagine my stress! I made quite the collection of fidget spinners in my desk this year! I agree however, with the strategy because I see distracted children all day long.

    • Hi Bites for Foodies! SO I assume your collection was made up of confiscated spinners? How I don’t envy you your job 🙂 (I’m sure it’s also super fun and rewarding though!) Enjoy your holidays, and thanks for reading, warmly, Sally

  • My son eventually joined the craze when he saw his cousins playing with fidget spinners. I bought him one just to feed his curiosity, but he grew tired of playing with it after a few days.

  • I am not a parent but I have nieces and nephews and I dont like it. I am so happy it is cheaper than the hoover board trend but this is one annoying toy. It is going to spin out of oblivion!

  • we don’t have fidget spinners at home and i don’t intend to have one. I think it’s a fad and it can be harmful to kids. I’ve seen a lot in social media how this fidget spinner can be harmful. I think rubiks cube is more helpful to kids because it exercises the brain. anyway, thank you for sharing.

    • Kelly Hi! As I was saying to another reader yes, I am a major fan of the Rubiks cube and am thrilled they’re still around in various guises. Thanks for reading! Warmly, Sally

    • Hi Julie and thanks for taking the time to comment. Yes, I’m not sure if they’re very bad, but I’m pretty sure they’re not super good – not in the way that we’ve been told at least. But they are a neat little toy for a while.. if not somewhat limited..!! Warmest wishes,
      Sally

  • I’m hoping it is just a fad that will soon grow old. Hee-hee. I see them everywhere and I’m actually quite surprised they are so popular. Most children are obsessed with their phones, so I’m surprised they would put them down and play with fidget spinners. Thankfully, my kids are not interested in spinners, but just try to get the iphone out of their hands and that’s another story. lol 🙂

  • It seems to be a fad to me. Just like any other little toy, like those silly bands that were popular for a while. Kids are always going crazy for the latest toy that all the kids in school have.

    • Hi Sarah – loom bands? What I loved about them was getting gifts of bracelets from little clients 🙂 And with my therapist hat firmly on what I really liked about them was that they exercised creativity and they facilitated connection with other kids and adults. Spinners don’t offer that. But I guess you won’t be finding bits of spinner stuffed down the back of your sofa for years…LOL Thanks for reading , Sally

  • They remind me of those dollar toys we used to buy that kept us busy doing something absolutely worthless. They were called clappers or something like that. What’s funny is that my 40-year old husband is the one that brought the fidget spinner home and continues playing with it. LOL

  • Oh man, people are crazy about these things. Even my step-cousin has it (and we live in Southern Africa mind you!)

  • Interesting take on the fidget spinners. I had to laugh when they first came out and quickly sold out. A marketers dream! Reminds me of every other gadget, toy or even just chewing a pencil it’s all been done before in some shape or fashion.

  • I think of it as more like a fad. My kids never seemed interested but I got two for work. My son never touched his and my daughter liked hers for a fully day. Crazy!
    I really loved my childhood toys – Rubik’s cube, Lego, puzzles for soothing my brain!

    • Hi Tamara, yes, I’m thinking a LOT of people are seeing it as a fad now , which is a good thing I reckon. Lego is still a huge favourite and it’s great for therapeutic work with kids too! Thanks for reading, warmly, Sally

  • I LOVE Marie’s comment on rubik’s cubes! I kind of forgot about them, but yeah, figuring out that puzzle was a great way to pass the time!

    I’m very much with you about the fad-ness of fidget spinners. IF studies truly indicate that these spinners are a great way for children with ADHD to handle their day-to-day, then I’m so very happy that this toy is easily accessible.

    BUT, my nephews aren’t in need of something like this, and I rue the day their grandmother decided to pick one up because their grandson begged for one while they were out together. :/ She doesn’t know what fidget spinners are, other than a toy that is available at the local corner store for $10, and that her oldest grandson REALLY wanted one in three different colours, because all the cool kids at school have them. I’m just glad she put her foot down at one spinner and not three.

  • I agree with many points in this article. And I lean more to the ‘fad’ side than the fix…it was a good marketing strategy perhaps that it has boomed this much. 😀

    My kids have rubik’s cube in different versions, because like you said, you can’t just have one of a fidget spinner considering the weight, colors, sizes…it’s the same for rubik’s cubes… 😀 I find that it helps them when they’re anxious about something, too.

    • I spent many happy and brain-growing hours on a Rubik’s cube as a child – I LOVED it! And it was never (mis) sold as a treatment. You are right – the marketing was excellent – indeed I admire the strategy on one level. But I still have a moral issue with it. Thanks so much for reading! 🙂 Warmly, Sally

  • About Author

    Sally O'Reilly

    Sally O'Reilly

    Sally O’Reilly is an IAHIP, ICP and EAP accredited Counselling Psychologist, Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor with nearly twenty years of professional experience. Her particular area of expertise and interest is work with teenagers. She enjoys a busy full-time private practice and has developed and facilitated a personal development, substance misuse and sexual health programme for teenagers for over 15 years. She is a regular contributor to national print and radio media.
    Sally is also the co-author of Two Wise Chicks.
    Feel free to follow Sally on: Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin

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