Fidget spinners are the new craze among students much like Pokémon Go was last summer. And while these are driving teachers crazy, some people suggest that these spinners can actually help students focus. Is there any science behind this claim?

1. Squirming and spinning are not the same thing.

To date, there are no studies investigating the potential benefits of fidget spinners on either cognitive functioning or mental health.

However one study found that students with ADHD benefit from squirming and wiggling around to help to direct your focus rather than just sitting still. Does this mean that fidget spinners are helpful for those with ADHD? The authors of the study suggest that the spinning motion could actually be more distracting as it takes attention away from what the children are focusing on. In contrast, squirming or wriggling is a full body movement which engages the brain to focus attention.

2. Spinning as a stress relief?

A review article looked at the effectiveness on different types of sensory approaches  like touch and sound and smell to destress. Unfortunately it was hard to draw clear conclusions  from the study so we don't have any proof that fidgeting maybe useful as a stress relief.

3. Moving is still the best.

If parents are classroom teachers are looking to improve academic outcomes and grades among the students exercise is still the best way to achieve this. Numerous studies show that physical exercise are greatly beneficial  for all students, and improve attention, grades, and memory.

TAKE AWAY – As a toy, it’s better than staring at a screen. Just don’t rely on it to help your child pay attention.

About the Author

Tracy P Alloway Ph.D.

Tracy Packiam Alloway, Ph.D., is a psychology professor at the University of North Florida. Formerly, she was director of the Center for Memory and Learning in the Lifespan, U.K.  

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