Fidget Spinners:Everything old is new again

Have you all seen fidget spinners? They are the newest, hottest fad toy to hit the small fry in every school and neighborhood. If you haven’t heard of them, you can look at this CNN article about the fad here.  They were originally developed as an concentration aid for children with…what else can I call it…fidgeting disorders?…who seem to be able to concentrate better with their minds when their hands are occupied with something endless, mindless, but physically absorbing. But the toys have become so popular with kids of all thinking styles, that teachers are complaining that fidget spinners have become more of a distraction than the original fidgeting that fidget spinners were designed to help curb. Hmm. My sister has been looking high and low for a fidget spinner for my 7 year old nephew, and every place she’s looked has been sold out. I found a supply and picked up several of them in different colors, not knowing his preferences in the matter. (At Ocean State Job Lots in Rockland, Maine if you’re in similar straits and can’t get ahold of one) All the time with a nagging sense that I may be missing an opportunity.

See, I was recently encouraged to stock some fidget spinners as an impulse item on my counter top. All I could think of by way of reply was, “If you’re standing in the yarn shop and need something to fidget with, why don’t you just take up knitting…or crochet, or tatting, or…well SPINNING, for the love of wool.” I mean, really? Occupy the hands with a gadget that produces nothing, and produces nothing? I don’t think so, thanks.

Once upon a time, I was an education major. I’m also a mom. I know kids need to play. I know they need to bounce around and hop and skip and climb things. I also know there are kids who can learn better if they are engaged in meaningless physical activity while listening and looking at learning materials. I really, really understand that sitting still and absorbing like a sponge is not the ideal learning situation for most kids much of the time. They can do it in short bursts if they must, but then they’ll need to burst out into something more physical.

I also understand that kids like to feel accomplished and helpful. they like to know that they are making something, contributing in some way. In the way old days before there were public schools, children learned about the world at home from their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, older siblings, anyone who was around. And they were set to work early. Gathering eggs, milking goats, herding sheep, tending gardens, sweeping, washing, and fixing things. Their learning wove in and around all this physical activity. Guess what else they learned? How to card, wool, spin and knit…to keep their hands busy while they did other things. Even into the 20 century in USA schools, and even now in European ones, children learn to knit as part of their curriculum. Yup, right there in school, along side reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. Turn the heel of you sock while listening to a lecture on the capitals of Africa.

How have we forgotten so? When I did a Google search for “children learning to spin,” I got an image page that looked like this… I don’t know about you, but I didn’t see anything on this that looked like learning to spin. Entertainment, maybe, but nothing to do with what I was looking for.

But if I Googled, “children learning to spin wool,” I got this. Ahh. Now that’s more like it. If children benefit from having something to do with their hand while they listen and learn, why not give them something useful to do? And actual skill that produces something?

All I can say is, if you’re looking for a fidget spinner for your kids, come in and we’ll hook you up with the original gizmo that children have been learning with for millenia. Look at that face. Works for me.


Written by mim


2 Comments on “Fidget Spinners:Everything old is new again

  1. Amen, Mim!

    And in addition to your points, knitting involves fine motor development (used to teach handwriting) and sensory perception; math and pattern identification; creative design, planning and organization – and how to follow directions!; it can be connected to history and cultural lessons; it’s a fantastic social activity that can involve helping and encouraging others; it can be calming to behaviorally challenged children; and it builds self esteem as there is a tangible product at the end a child can be proud of.

    When my children were in primary school in the 1980s, they had an incredible teacher (in her 60s) who knitted through part of each school day and the result was a highly coveted pair of slippers and mittens for each child in the class as well as a wonderful example to follow. She taught many of her students to knit, crochet and embroider, with asides of origami thrown in.

    I later taught special education and taught a group of middle school students to weave for all of the above reasons as well as planting the idea that if they learned the craft and art well enough, it could also be a means of employment – a nice option for young adults who don’t see themselves succeeding in the general work place.

    Every school should teach and enjoy knitting!

  2. Great article. Children like to make things if given the chance and a little nudge. Just need to make it the “thing to do ” and it will be a craze…marketing needed?

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