Fidget Spinners, Take 4: New Learning Thanks To Some Recess Friends!

You would think that at this point, I would have worked through my fidget spinner thoughts, but I’m not done … yet. Some interactions with a couple of students during an indoor recess have me thinking more about the problems with “banning them.” And yes, I realize how hypocritical I sound, when my last post was about the very idea of imposing a ban. When we listen to — and really hear — kids though, sometimes our thinking changes. This is what happened to me.

On Thursday, we had a very rainy day at school, and with the rain steadily coming down, there was an indoor recess in the afternoon. I was on duty. As I wandered between the classes, two students came up to me. They asked if they could walk with me. Their class was listening and dancing to some music, and these two did not like the song choice. They were hoping to get out of the room, but also have a little movement time of their own. As a Self-Reg advocate, I was so proud of these students for recognizing their needs and approaching me with a solution, so of course, I had to say, “Yes!”

I noticed that both of these students brought fidget spinners with them, so I asked them why they needed the spinners at this time. It was their answer that caused me to pause and think. They said, “We don’t … but we’re not allowed to use fidget spinners during class time. We can use them at recess time though, so we’re using them now.” Before I comment, let me start by saying, I get it! On Tuesday, I made a similar comment to students when the use of these spinners dysregulated me and a number of children that were both watching their use and using them. But sometimes when we hear somebody else say what we’re thinking, we view these words differently.

This conversation stuck with me for the rest of the week, and made me think again when I commented on Doug Peterson‘s blog post from yesterday

Here is where I’m stuck: it all revolves around the question of, why would, or should, children be using these spinners? If it’s because it helps them focus, then when would they need them? I would think that would be during class time, and particularly, group meeting times, as this is when it’s often the hardest to pay attention. It’s also when students may not be able to easily use other focusing strategies, such as moving around, as this could distract others more and make it harder to see teacher and student demonstrations. And if I were to think back to my first experience with these fidget spinners — just over a week ago now — when they were used by children that needed them, they actually worked well. 

Maybe my biggest issue here is that these spinners are being embraced by everyone as a “self-regulation tool,” but are they truly needed by everyone? There are lots of other fidget toys out there: from squishy balls to elastic bands. I’ve had students use many of them in the past, and some have really benefited from their use. Initially, other students are intrigued by them, and some want to try them out as well, but it doesn’t take long for those children that don’t need them to lose interest in them, and the children that do, to find a way to use them well. The fidget spinners have changed what “fidget toys” look like in the classroom, and by marketing to everyone, are they losing their value to those that could benefit the most? 

This brings me back to thinking about my role as an educator: to support and teach students. 

  • If I ban the use of fidget spinners in the classroom, am I helping students understand why they might benefit some children?
  • If I only allow children to use them at recess time (which we don’t actually have in Kindergarten), am I making a statement that these spinners can only be used as “toys” and not “tools?” Is this truly the case? 

I still believe that these spinners were not the right tool for the children that used them this weekbut maybe, through questioning, I have to help students understand this as well. I also believe that the toy/tool distinction is an important one, and maybe fidget spinners can be both, but is it valuable to help children understand which way they’re using them, and why that might impact on when they can use them? I’m still not convinced that these spinners are the best tool for Kindergarten children, but after this week’s recess conversation, I’m reconsidering how I might respond the next time that I see them in action. I’m hopeful that I won’t have too many opportunities to practice this response, 🙂 but maybe a different outlook is exactly what I needed here. What do you think?


4 thoughts on “Fidget Spinners, Take 4: New Learning Thanks To Some Recess Friends!

  1. Aviva I’ve been meaning to reply to your last post but I think this one hit my thoughts exactly.

    For me we often jump to banning because we are selves are not regulated and jump to banning because it’s easier.

    For me it is about who needs it and who doesn’t while asking why or how do we use it.

    If as a class or school these conversations are being discussed I think any decision is a good one. Students need to understand why things are happening and how they can use things properly.

    Thanks for your post

    • Thanks for your comment, Jonathan! I agree with you about the importance of these conversations, and even when I considered “banning,” it was even the conversation through Twitter and through my blog post that helped me clarify my thinking more. We need to converse … and we need to converse with kids. I’m thankful for these students that kept me company on Thursday’s duty, and helped me do some re-thinking. Fidget spinners may not be my favourite tool, but I think I have a clearer picture now of my thinking and of student thinking. Now to work on some ongoing problems together.


  2. Is this the new never-ending topic?

    I can’t help but think, once again, that if you replaced “fidget spinners” with “placeholder” that so many things have the same conversation and resolutions!

    I think that well established routines and expectations will make for the management in the classroom and student awareness of regulation and when it’s important for student well-being.

    • Oh yes, Doug … this may be the never-ending topic. I would like to think that this blog post could be it. I just couldn’t resist one final one.

      I think your final paragraph here sums things up perfectly. I may have to come back to this one the next time that fidget spinners start getting to me. 🙂


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