Fidget Toys: Why This Teacher is Not Sold

By Florian Schäffer

They appeared in my fifth-grade classroom overnight. First, it started with the fidget cube, quickly followed by fidget spinners. Yes, I understand the research behind their use: Students with ADHD or other types of hyperactivity may benefit with improved attention if they are allowed to fidget with these toys. However, there are many reasons why I am cautious to bring them into my classroom.

1. These will not solve all problems. The research is specific on who these toys help, and even those students will not all benefit. If your child is not paying attention, there could be many reasons. A fidget spinner will not be the solution to larger problems of hyperactivity.

2. Most students are using these as toys. My students love these things. With parents pushing them, they feel they have tacit approval to bring toys into the classroom saying, “They help me learn.” No, for most students, they do not. For most students, they distract.

3.  If the toy takes two hands, students are not paying attention. Fidget cubes can be used in a very subtle way. Students are not staring at them. They are simply moving a hand across the buttons and switches, but fidget spinners are different (Trust me, I have played with them.). They are held in one hand and spun with the other. In my classroom, students are expected to do a lot of writing, whether it be note taking or in-class assignments.

4. Students need recess, not toys. I think we are ignoring the real problem: Students need recess. My students get 15 minutes a day if they are lucky. There is an inverse relationship between hyperactivity and amount of recess. If we were to increase the number of physical activity breaks, we would see a reduction in the fidgeting in the first place.

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