They were a craze that most parents and teachers were getting sick of. “Fidget spinners” are small, ball-bearing devices that the user can rotate between his or her fingers. While they were first marketed as a tool for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and autism, they are now banned in classrooms across the country. And while they have figuratively lost their momentum as a pop culture trend, there are still those who find the tool helpful.

However, there isn’t actually much science to back up the claims in regard to fidget spinners and attention spans. There isn’t a lot of data supporting the idea that kids have less focus today than they did in the past. But some research does suggest attention spans have decreased. That is because as we continue moving and evolving into the digital, so too does our habit of multitasking. Hence why tools such as the fidget spinner are becoming a popular way to bring kids’ focus back to the present.

The School Controversy

 A lot of the controversy regarding fidget spinners is about their place in school. An elementary school principal in Evanston, Illinois, Kate Ellison, told the Chicago Tribune that the spinners have been a distraction in classrooms in her school, and that children with special needs have other, school-friendly options for fidgeting. And it’s great that these children have other coping mechanisms. But fidget spinners have almost helped “normalize” coping tools in general. Those kids were always singled out and made to feel different and isolated before fidget spinners. Now, all kids are playing with the same device, making them cool. One mother wrote:

“For her, the fidget spinner is not a must-have craze to be like her friends. But more a stress release from the demands placed upon her during her school day. Much the same as she uses a stress ball or her twist-and-lock blocks. When schools decide to ban sensory and fidget toys, they risk isolating the very children they’ve spent years trying to include.”

Benefits to Fidgeting? 

Fidget spinners have caught on for a reason. Occupational therapists often use sensory toys like tactile discs, Koosh balls and even putties or clays to soothe kids who have sensory-processing issues. There is research that shows that movement can help kids with ADHD to focus. And exercise has also been proven to be helpful for kids with ADHD.  However, there are no studies that specifically look at fidget spinners. The movement required for use of the spinner isn’t the mass gross kind we previously talked about.

There are a couple of theories of why spinners seem to help, nonetheless. One thought is that fidgeting may occupy parts of your brain that otherwise would distract the rest of your brain with random thoughts. Another possibility is that fidgeting serves as a ritual, which can offer comforting predictability, familiarity and structure. For some, it may act as a sort of meditative state and help the body truly rest.

What Your Child Can Do Instead 

If a fidget spinner truly helps your child manage their stress, by all means let them use it. But if spinners are banned in your classroom, or you simply don’t want to annoy those around you, there are a few other tools your child can utilize:

  • Doodling:Studies have found that releasing your creative side in the form of doodles can be a helpful stress reliever
  • Mini-Meditation: Mini-meditations are meditations that last only a few minutes,. And they can be a quick and effective way to lower your stress. Try counting your breath or doing a short “come to your senses” mindfulness practice.
  • Knitting or Crocheting: Many people find that knitting, crocheting and other similar crafts like needlepoint can be wonderful stress relievers. This is because they use the same repetitive-motion hand movements. And as a bonus, you’re left with a beautiful and creative result!

If That Doesn’t Fully Help: Try Counseling for Kids

 These coping strategies and tools may help, but sometimes they just aren’t enough. If you think your child is suffering, we would love to help. Cristina Panaccione and Associates has two locations in the South Hills and one office in Robinson Township. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients, so check out our videos to learn more about how we can help your child through counseling for kids.


* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.

Scott Cunningham 

For the past 20 years, Scott has been providing a safe and supportive environment where people feel comfortable talking about their depression, fears, stresses, and hopes for life. Having a collaborative relationship with clients is important to him. Scott brings hope and knowledge into his sessions and provides psycho-education to aid in the effectiveness of therapy. He works with clients coping with issues such as, but not limited to anxiety, trauma, depression, partner-relational issues & phase of life transitions. My experience entails couples, adolescent, family and adult counseling. He is certified in Chemical Dependency Counseling, ASIST Suicide Intervention, Crisis Intervention Stress Management, and Comprehensive Crisis Management. He has earned his Master’s Degree in Counseling Education from the University of Pittsburgh and a Bachelor’s of Science in Christian Counseling from Fort Wayne Bible College.

Scott’s goal is to help people struggling with trauma to regain stability and strength as well as insight into their issues. He believes that everyone has an innate ability to grow and learn. He enjoys helping people accomplish that goal and live better and more productive lives.