There has been a backlash in the media recently regarding allowing children to use fidgets in the classroom. Two fidgets, in particular, seem to be the cause of most of the problems, the ultra-cheap spinner and the more expensive, but still reasonable, cube fidget.
I am a huge advocate for the use of fidgets because while it may seem counter-intuitive, fidgeting actually helps us to focus. Our bodies are designed for movement. Physicists would tell us that we are never still. That nothing is truly still. Everything vibrates.
However, I cannot condone using the fidget spinners in the classroom. Not everybody needs to use a fidget in order to help them to focus. The awful thing now is, that the baby is going to be thrown out with the bath water and schools will, in an attempt to regain control, ban ALL fidgets.
When children come to us at Hummingbird Learning Centre, their parents stay for the session as well. Thinking that the fidgeting must annoy me, parents will often interject, telling the child to put things down or to sit still. The truth is; I’m never bothered by it, in fact, I will often give a child something to fidget with. You see, it’s not the child fidgeting that is the issue. It is the way the observer reacts to the fidgeting that is the issue.
However, I use very specific, but ordinary fidgets. AND there are rules for the usage! All of the fidgets are quiet, so as not to draw attention to them. I use Velcro that it separated & stuck to a ruler or pencil case. Blu-tak is another favourite along with pipe cleaners. All of these can be used without looking at them. They are as cheap as chips and easily replaced.
In my experience, a fidget that draws attention to the user is not a fidget – it is a toy! Anything that clicks when pressed or hums as it spins will interrupt everyone around them. The fidgets doing the rounds in schools at the moment may be marketed as aids for focus for children with conditions such as ADHD, but the fact that they have now become a fad means that their therapeutic value has now diminished.
If your child (or student) tends to fidget, allow them to. Give them something to fidget with, using one of the fidgets I have described earlier. Put a boundary on it – ‘you can play with that as long as you keep looking up’. Check in to ensure that they are listening. Ask open-ended questions or for their opinion on what was discussed – you’ll be amazed at how much more they are taking in. If they are very distracted, remove the fidget and tell them they will get it back once they pay attention. The need for that physical release will motivate them to get the fidget back and remain focused.
Believe me, there was a time when watching or listening to someone fidgeting would have driven me crazy. Now I realise that it is simply fulfilling a physical need and not a sign of disinterest. I know from experience that fidgeting actually helps many children to focus, so I made a conscious decision to change my reaction to it. I cannot control how any child fidgets, but I can control how I react to those actions. By choosing to see a fidget as a positive it no longer bothers me. When it no longer bothers me, the kids can only use it to help themselves get focused rather than attempt to distract me with it.
For a teacher with a class full of those awful fidget spinners, well I can understand why they are confiscating them from everyone! So if your child needs a fidget to help them focus, then help them to choose one that will not draw attention to it. Have a chat with the teacher & explain that having a less distracted child in class will benefit everyone and agree the use of a quiet fidget.
Thankfully, the summer holidays are just around the corner. Hopefully, by September the fidget fad will over and only those who truly need a fidget will be quietly using them!