To spin or not to spin, that is the question

August 18, 2017 | by Anne Schneider, D.O.
Categories: Healthy Driven Moms

Many moms are familiar with the latest trendy toy known as the fidget spinner. Kids of all ages can be found spinning these small ball-bearing devices in between their fingers, on their knees, sometimes on their foreheads. The spinners come in different colors and shapes, and some light up or make noise when spun.

If you think about it, these gadgets are not much different than others of the past. Remember the Rubik’s cube? Stress balls? Or silly putty? Kids (and adults) have been fidgeting for years.

But do fidget spinners have a purpose other than being just another fun toy?

Marketers will say fidget spinners can be an effective tool for anxiety and stress management. Some experts go further and say kids with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and sensory processing issues may benefit from spinners, although these benefits have yet to be backed up with scientific evidence

The thinking behind these claims is that some toys that allow kids to fidget have been known to benefit kids with autism, and sooth kids with sensory processing issues. And for kids who can’t sit still or have a hard time focusing, a small amount of movement may help to improve concentration and focus. Maybe there’s something to these spinners after all.

Yet, fidget spinners have seen some backlash too, particularly among teachers. As the spinners gain appeal with kids beyond those with special needs, it has caused a distraction among students. As a result, some schools banned the toys from their classrooms.

Fidget spinners also come with safety risks. These gadgets can be dangerous if they get tossed in the air and accidently hit someone. What’s worse, fidget spinners also present a potential choking hazard.

In May, a 10-year-old girl in Texas had a close call with a fidget spinner, when she started choking on a part from her spinner. She needed to have surgery to remove a piece of it that was lodged in her throat. Then, a 5 year-old boy in Oregon choked on a piece of his spinner and had to undergo surgery to remove the portion he swallowed.

While a ban on spinners may sound extreme, there obviously needs to be ground rules about when and how fidgets are used. Parents need to be smart about choosing age-appropriate toys for their kids, and use caution when a new popular toy hits the market.

How can you keep your kids safe while fidget-spinning?

  • Keep fidget spinners away from young children (under age 8 or older)
  • Use caution even with older kids
  • Check the toy for broken parts
  • Make sure the toy complies with U.S. safety standards
  • Tell your child to never put the spinner near his/her mouth
  • The toy should not be tossed in the air
  • Wash hands after handling the spinner, as some contain lead

As kids continue to spin away, we have yet to learn the potential usefulness of fidget spinners as a therapeutic tool.

By the time we find out, there’s a good chance this fad could be replaced by a new one!

If you have a child with ADHD or any behavioral/developmental diagnosis, talk with your doctor about any questions you may have regarding use of fidget spinners as therapeutic.

What do you think about fidget spinners? Share with us in the comments below.

Learn more about children’s services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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