does fidget spinners work

Do fidget spinners work?

An aid or a distraction for kids

If you work with kids or have kids, you are probably familiar with this new toy craze going around. It’s a new toy called the fidget spinner. 

A toy that has been claimed by its sellers as an aid for anxiety and ADHD. The questions that’s going around is: does fidget spinners work?


What is a fidget spinner?

If you’ve ever watched people tap pencils, twist pieces of paper or even doodle in meetings, you’ve seen the power of fidgeting in action. This action can be both soothing and/or distracting to some.


As described by one of my son’s friends “it’s a toy that has three blades and you spin around, and if you are really good you can do tricks with it”


A fidget spinner has two or three paddle-shaped blades attached to a central core. Hold it by the core with two fingers and flick the blade to cause it to spin.  What’s the game? That’s it. To hold it in your hand and make it spin.


What’s the game? That’s it. To hold it in your hand and make it spin. The result is supposed to be relaxing and satisfying, and really good spinners can keep going for minutes at a time.


You don’t get it? You don’t get how this toy has caused such a popularity with kids making it a top seller? Well, neither do most adults and that in itself drives and even more appeal to kids.


Did you know that the fidget spinners rank #16 in Amazon’s toy ranking

does fidget spinners work

Who invented the fidget spinner and why?

The little devices were originally designed by Catherine Hettinger as a toy that would distract kids with pent-up energy 20 years ago. She got the idea when she saw a kid throwing rocks at a police officer’s car.

Catherine Hettinger created the fidget spinner 20 years ago.Source:The Advertiser

She approached Hasbro – they toy manufacturer in 1997 who rejected her patented toy. The patent has since expired and now it is the latest toy that you will find in most kid’s hands. The small toy where Walmart and Toys R us are even having a hard time keeping the shelves restocked she is not getting a dime for it.

Ms. Hettinger, who insists she’s not upset about missing out on the toy industry’s latest fad says that she is ok with the situation. “Maybe if it was some kind of exploitative product — like a new style of cigarettes — and my only motivation was to make money, I’d have a different attitude,” she said. “But I am just thrilled.”


Fidget spinners at school – love them or hate them?

Depends on who you ask. Some teachers don’t mind them, others hate them with passion.

Others tolerate them because it’s supposed to help the kids. But problems have arisen when the fidget spinners are causing the opposite effect on what the claims tend to be. Distraction in the classroom. When a tool moved from tool to toy.


fidget spinners a distraction


There are definitely times that kids don’t know how to use a fidget spinner and it becomes the primary focus instead of the background focus.


Spinners are visually distracting, and they can make some noise, so it’s not an ideal fidget for the classroom. But should they be banned from schools altogether? I don’t believe so. There are cases where these toy or tool does help children.


Mark Rapport, a clinical psychologist at the University of Central Florida who has studied the benefits of movement on attention in people with ADHD states that the spinner like gadget is more likely to serve as a distraction than a benefit for individuals with ADHD.


A different type of tool and now toy that has been popularized in the market, is the fidget cube.– a plastic cube with various buttons and dials for fidgeting hands. Katherine Isbister, a professor of Computational Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz recommends the fidget cube as opposed to the fidget spinner for classroom usage as the cube doesn’t require visual attention.


“[The fidget cube]  can serve the same purpose as the spinners, but are more classroom-ready and less distracting”


Fidget spinners: Do they really help with mental health?

Many companies market these toys as relievers for stress, anxiety, and help kids suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) or anxiety. But are these claims even real? Are they legit? should we believe what they say? or are they using the false claims to sell more?


Some experts say that these spinners have been given to kids who have anxiety or attention disorders like ADD –  having something to occupy their hands may help improve concentration by offering a focused outlet for their energy.

Elaine Taylor-Klaus - |
Elaine Taylor-Klaus –


Taylor-Klaus the co-founder of ImpactADHD, a coaching service for children with attention disorders and their parents says that “For some people with ADHD, there’s a need for constant stimulation,” she says.

“What a fidget allows some people — not all people — with ADHD to do is to focus their attention on what they want to focus on because there’s sort of a background motion that’s occupying that need.



One theory is that fidgeting may occupy parts of your brain that otherwise would distract the rest of your brain with random thoughts.

Roland Rotz and Sarah D. Wright explain how fidgeting can prevent the distractions that come from boredom in their book Fidget To Focus: Outwit Your Boredom: Sensory Strategies For Living With ADHD. Fidgeting may prevent your mind from being occupied by obsessive and unhealthy thoughts.


Occupational therapists often use sensory toys like tactile discs, Koosh balls, and even putties or clays to soothe kids who have sensory processing issues.  Research has shown that movement can help kids with ADHD to focus.


A 2015 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology by Rapport and his colleagues found that kids who participated in gross motor activity — meaning the movement of limbs or large parts of the body — performed better than those who sat still during tasks involving working memory, which is a type of memory used for processing incoming information. Exercise has also been proven to be helpful for kids with ADHD.


Without studies that specifically look at fidget spinners, it’s impossible to say for sure whether the devices could help kids with ADHD, Rapport told Live Science.


Fidget spinners are not likely to help much as they do not require gross body movement, which is what appears to be responsible for increasing activity in the frontal and prefrontal brain areas that are responsible for sustaining attention.


Rapport says the spinners are visually distracting, so instead of helping they could be competing for the child’s attention so they focus on the toy instead of the chalkboard or teacher.


Last Thoughts

The reality is that there is conflicting information put there about the benefits of this toy.

There is a lack of research that links the fidget spinner to have a direct benefit with its management for ADHD or anxiety.


Without studies that specifically look at fidget spinners, it’s impossible to say for sure whether the devices could help.


Anxiety and ADHD do not get managed the same way for everyone. There is not one tool that will work for all kids with ADHD or even anxiety. There are different tools that are given, different coping strategies to deal with and manage what one must be facing daily in order to help cope.


Like all toy fads, fidget spinners will come and go, but it was invented with a real, productive purpose before they became a fad.


My invitation to you and your kids is that if you are looking for tools to help you manage your anxiety or ADHD that you try the fidget spinner or the fidget cube. It might, or it might not help and rather than rejecting or implementing the tool as the one solution, seek research-backed treatment options and different tools that you can use as a way to get help.